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Mike Williams, Tim Tebow to speak on Monday in Jacksonville

A current Jacksonville Sheriff and a former Heisman Trophy winner both have speaking engagements in Jacksonville Monday evening.


Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute students will have a unique opportunity to hear local Sheriff Mike Williams on Monday at 6 p.m.

Williams will be involved in a “classroom presentation and policy discussion” via a class at the JU PPI, in room 128 at the Davis College of Business.

RSVPs are requested and strongly encouraged for this event; email ppi@ju.edu for more information.


Williams is not the only speaker of note in Jacksonville Monday.

Former Florida Gators QB Tim Tebow takes a break from Spring Training with the New York Mets to speak at the Florida Forum at 7:30 p.m.

Expected to be at the event at the Times-Union Performing Arts Center: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who has the event on his official calendar for Monday.

Jay Fant for Attorney General? Intrigue in Jacksonville

Republican State Rep. Jay Fant has the safest of safe seats on Jacksonville’s deep-red Westside.

However, in the even deeper-red Florida House, he found himself on the losing side of this week’s debate about Enterprise Florida.

Fant spoke passionately and futilely about the need to maintain incentive programs, a position not shared by most of the legislative body.

However, there is a narrative suggesting the Florida House is not Fant’s end game.

Rep. Fant, who has not filed for re-election, is reportedly mulling a run for Florida Attorney General in 2018, multiple credible sources asserted Friday.


Last week, a strong source tells us that Fant held a finance meeting at the home of Jacksonville power broker John Rood, where he urged people to donate to his political committee, Pledge This Day.

If Fant intends to run statewide, that meeting had better have been beneficial: at the end of February, Fant had $38,000 on hand.

While one can buy a solid new car with that, one would not be able to run a campaign against a more deep-pocketed candidate, such as fundraising machine Ron DeSantis or a number of other people who may want to be AG.

Locals, meanwhile, are bearish on Fant’s chances, questioning his ability to raise money and citing his limited statewide profile in their assessments.

The end result of a Fant run for Attorney General, they suggest, would be more interesting in terms of the shakeup in House District 15 than in terms of Fant running a competitive campaign for AG.


The prospect of a statewide run gives an interesting context to Fant’s decision in October, running unopposed, to spend $70,000 on a television ad in the Jacksonville market to expand his name identification.

Fant needs some help there: in a Spring 2016 poll of prospective candidates for what was an open seat in Florida’s 4th Congressional District, Fant came in at 6 percent, with a favorable rating of +3 among likely GOP primary voters.

We’ve reached out to Fant regarding the rumored run for Attorney General, and will update when we get his take.

Pastor challenges ‘missing in action’ Reggie Gaffney for Jacksonville City Council seat

Chaussee Gibson may not be a household name in the Jacksonville area.

But Gibson, a native of Jacksonville who preaches at the St. Johns Baptist Church on Jacksonville’s Eastside, has name identification in Jacksonville City Council District 7.

And he filed this week to run for the seat, currently held by first-term Democrat Reggie Gaffney … giving us the first competitive city council race in the 2019 cycle (assuming Gaffney files for re-election, that is).

Gibson’s decision was a culmination of a “lot of concerns” about Gaffney’s tenure in recent months, he told FloridaPolitics.com on Friday.

“The city councilman in our area has not done anything,” Gibson said, and “people want to move forward.”

Gibson — no relation to Sen. Audrey Gibson — emailed Gaffney with concerns, but got no response.

Those concerns?

Struggles the youth face on the Eastside — Jacksonville’s most challenged community.

Crime and drug activities in the district. And safety issues, such as cars approaching 70 MPH on neighborhood streets.

In that context, Gaffney is “missing in action.”

And regarding Gaffney’s history of questionable business dealings, which include Medicaid overbilling at his business, a homestead exemption double-dip, and other seeming anomalies, Gibson said Gaffney was “in a shady area.”

And according to Gibson, Gaffney wasn’t even the best member of his own family to hold the council seat.

Reggie Gaffney succeeded his brother Johnny Gaffney in the seat; Gibson contends that Johnny, who resigned to get trounced by Reggie Fullwood in a special election for State House, was the better of the two Gaffneys.

The last straw for Gibson: a Gaffney no-show to the “Eastside Movement” parade last month, though he donated money to the event.

“We don’t want his money. We want to see his face in the district. He neglected us. We expected him to do better,” Gibson said.

Gibson is ready to debate Gaffney on the issues. Gibson also claims to have financial commitments from donors, though he was not willing to give specifics.

The April campaign finance report will tell the money story.

In the meantime, does Reggie Gaffney have the fire in the belly for a re-election campaign starting two years out?

Jacksonville re-ups Friends of Hemming Park contract for 6 months, $415K

In Jacksonville, friendships aren’t meant to last forever. But in the case of Friends of Hemming Park, they are renewable in six-month terms.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry wrote senior staff this week with the news that the once-controversial FOHP contract would be re-upped through the end of September.

“Based on our discussions with Bill Prescott, it is clear he is passionate about the future of Hemming … committed to performance metrics and accountability,” Curry said.

The mayor wants to give them a 6 month extension, though he wants the board to know the mayor’s office is “serious about results.”

An ordinance (2017-198) has been filed for the allocation.

“The Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department will transfer a total of $415,000 to the Friends of Hemming Park. $240,000 from Parks Playgrounds & Centers for operational expenses and $175,000 from completed capital projects and Countywide Parks Upgrades/Maintenance/Repairs to upgrade the landscaping and make hardscape improvements within Hemming Park,” asserts the fact sheet.

“These capital improvements include landscaping and hardscape improvements throughout the entire park. All impovements will be contracted out. It is anticipated that the improvements will be completed by the end of FY 2017,” continues the document.

Deferral of an amendment to the FOHP contract, asserts the fact sheet, “will be detrimental to the best interests of the community because the Friends of Hemming Park will be working to leverage our dollars with private contributions.”

Ron Salem clears $30K in first month of Jacksonville council candidacy

Republican Ron Salem, running to replace termed-out John Crescimbeni in the Jacksonville City Council’s At-Large District 2, cleared $30,000 in February.

Salem, an establishment favorite, had the kind of donations typically associated with that status.

Among the $1,000 donors: local land use lawyer and lobbyist Steve Diebenow, whose wife hosted a Salem “meet and greet”; the Driver, McAfee, Peek & Hawthorne Law Firm; Ernie Issac; the Vestcor Companies (John Rood); a couple of groups associated with developer Toney Sleiman; the Jacksonville Kennel Club and the Orange Park Kennel Club.

Salem, whose campaign is being run by Tim Baker and Brian Hughes, is running unopposed.

A hallmark of their candidates: strong fundraising at the outset of the campaign, which can often discourage candidates without resources from jumping into the race as nuisance candidates.

Former Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Bishop is mulling his own run for the AL-2 seat.

Were that to happen, there would be a reprise of the 2015 mayoral campaign, in which the Baker/Hughes team seemed to relish scoring shots on the Bishop campaign.

Jacksonville to redouble efforts against human trafficking

On Monday morning, Jacksonville City Councilman Tommy Hazouri will meet with representatives from the State Attorney’s Office, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, and others with an aim toward eliminating the scourge of human trafficking.

Hazouri, who was successful in a push to get a law through in 2016 (2016-130), which mandated awareness signs to be posted at massage parlors and strip clubs, believes that the 2016 legislation was a “small step forward,” allowing more to be done.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office was indispensable in enforcing sign placement, and volunteer groups took the initiative of posting signs elsewhere also, Hazouri said.

The signs include the national hotline number, allowing those who might be victims of human trafficking, and those who might be aware that it is happening, to call up and offer law enforcement tips.

Hazouri would like to see signs in labor camps, at JAXPORT, and other places where international victims of human trafficking may be present.

Additionally, Hazouri wants to ensure that efforts from the State Attorney’s Office (which is ramping up a Human Rights division) and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office complement, rather than duplicate, each other.

Hazouri also believes that the victim services building has capacity to offer housing and treatment to victims of human trafficking.

The ultimate goal: “to stop human trafficking in our city.”

The coordinated effort, of course, will be multi-jurisdictional.

In October, the FBI made 26 arrests in Jacksonville, via the Operation Cross Country human trafficking sting.

All parties — federal, state, and local — would concur that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Jacksonville Bold for 3.10.17 — Dialing down expectations

First Coast Delegation dials down expectations

Earlier this week (and last week), we detailed a few reasons Northeast Florida legislators may not have the best Session in 2017; among them, inexperience and lack of stroke.

In the Florida Times-Union, Tia Mitchell offered some more examples of diminished expectations this week.

Much of this you read already with different formatting. Jay Fant wants to save Enterprise Florida. Kim Daniels wants money for an NW Jax YMCA. Tracie Davis intends to work across the aisle. And Clay Yarborough wants to learn the process.

The Duval Delegation is a paradox: temperamentally conservative, it doesn’t line up with other urban delegations. But it is very much an urban delegation, expected to carry water for the city as efficiently as delegations in Tampa, Orlando and Miami.

The delegation’s two Democrats – Daniels and Davis – go out of their way to cross the aisle and embrace Republicans. Will that help with their priorities?

The Republicans are all cut from the same cloth: Red-meat conservatism of the type that made Fant’s stance on Enterprise Florida notable for deviating from the position taken by House Speaker Richard Corcoran’.

Ultimately, proof of the delegation’s effectiveness will be the bacon brought home. How much of that will there be?


Lenny Curry, Rob Bradley committees score big in February fundraising

Among the clubhouse leaders in February fundraising: the political committees of Jacksonville Mayor Curry and state Sen. Bradley.

Both committees cleared the $100K mark in February, as speculation mounts about Curry potentially leaving Jacksonville for a statewide run.

Of the area’s state representatives, Orange Park’s Travis Cummings brought in $34,000, outperforming Jacksonville representatives.

With no Jacksonville candidate looking at a competitive re-election race in 2018, amassing a war chest may not be a present-tense concern.

Still, the money is always worth watching.


JAXPORT in the news

The Florida Times-Union also reported this week that the JAXPORT Board approved a $457,000 allocation to buy 53 acres of land necessary for dredging the St. Johns River.

The land, owned in part by JEA and in part by JEA and Florida Power and Light, is “lined up” so it can be purchased before the dredging commences.

The goal: a 47-foot depth.

Throughout the dredging process, expect tons of sand to be displaced … in a way that could be likened to the JAXPORT Board throwing over CEO Brian Taylor this week.

First Coast News reports on the unrest of the board about Taylor, going on since last year.

At a time when the port seeks federal and state money for the long-delayed dredging project, the next few months will tell a tale of the wisdom over this latest shake-up.


A beautiful friendship

The Jacksonville Jaguars offered a presentation on the State of the Franchise highlighted by conceptual renderings (hosted here by Action News Jax) of Shad Khan’s proposal to transform the area near the stadium.

While Khan’s Iguana Investments is just one of three groups bidding for the project, expect the Downtown Investment Authority to make the right call and allow Khan to execute his vision.

Since buying the Jaguars, Khan parlayed his own personal branding (remember the novelty mustaches that were big a few years ago?) into an effort to symbiotically brand the city and the team as one In the same.

Khan was able to sell skeptical locals on the provenance of playing in London. Then he sold wavering local politicians on the wisdom of bringing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights to Jacksonville … perhaps (if you believe insiders in the debate) in response to the urging of our own A.G. Gancarski, a lonely voice insisting Khan – and his chief lobbyist, Paul Harden – could close the deal.

Khan is perhaps the ultimate pragmatist. He knows his market. And he also has a vision 4 what the city can be.

The other proposals: great. Give them a hearing. Let’s pretend we care about Sea Glass by the Shipyards. But downtown is Shad Khan’s to transform. He has an equity stake that no outside concept can match.


Body camera discussion gets candid

A Tuesday town hall hosted by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at Jacksonville’s HBCU, Edward Waters College, dealt with the rollout of the JSO body camera pilot program.

Sheriff Mike Williams, who was not present, has moved from a John Rutherford-styled skepticism on the issue in 2015 to embracing the concept fully in 2017.

The discussion was raucous at times, straightforward all the time, with activists having their say on cameras and what they see as insufficient citizen review of footage.

Some council members appeared; some did not.

Among those who showed, Council VP John Crescimbeni, who at this writing is just three pledges away from locking up the presidency.

Among those who no-showed: Finance Chair Anna Brosche, Crescimbeni’s opponent.

With body cameras a priority in the African-American community, it would have been advisable for Brosche to have shown up to this particular town hall, as there are four unpledged council members from the so-called “minority access districts” [7 through 10], and she will need them if she has any chance of upsetting Crescimbeni.

Currently, Brosche lags behind Crescimbeni 7-3 in pledge count.


State Attorney’s ‘human rights’ focus gets pushback

The Florida Times-Union reports that 4th Circuit State Attorney Melissa Nelson is instituting the first human rights division of any Florida SAO — in yet another radical departure from her predecessor, Angela Corey.

“The attorneys will work closely with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office’s integrity squad, which handles criminal investigations of officers,” writes Andrew Pantazi.

Controversially (to some), the SAO seeks comments from defense lawyers on when officers should get charged.

Fraternal Order of Police head Steve Zona called the development “chilling.”

“Activists and defense attorneys will decide when police officers should be charged. Nothing to see here folks, move along,” Zona said.

The police union backed Nelson’s opponent, leading to an interesting back and forth between Zona and the police union, and Brian Hughes, a political operative for Mayor Curry who was working on Nelson’s campaign.


D.C. law firm ‘compelling platform’ for Ander Crenshaw

Florida Politics reported Monday on the next move for Ander Crenshaw.

The former congressman has moved on from Capitol Hill to a prominent D.C. law and lobbying firm: King & Spalding.

“King & Spalding’s roster of former government officials — elected and unelected, both Democrat and Republican — was a compelling platform as I contemplated life after Congress,” said Crenshaw.

Crenshaw was fond of saying, while preparing to leave Congress, that he “won’t miss the circus, but will miss the clowns.”

It appears that the Jacksonville Republican won’t get too far from the circus after all, as senior counsel in the firm’s Government Advocacy and Public Policy practice.


DUIs down in Jacksonville

According to a report by Jacksonville ABC affiliate First Coast News, the number of DUI arrests in Jacksonville had fallen 25 percent since 2013, when ride-sharing companies came to town.

From 2011 to 2013, there was an average of 1,655 DUI arrests a year, but Sheriff’s Office data show that average dropped to 1,236 for the three years beginning in 2014. Alcohol-related crashes also went down by about 14 percent during the same stretch.

Whether the drop can be credited to companies such as Uber and Lyft is debatable, with some pointing to a study done by American Journal of Epidemiology that refutes some of Uber’s claims. Still, the rise in awareness has helped.

“We have free rides in Fleming Island, Tow to Go that has a schedule, Farah and Farah has constantly gone out on new year’s eve and paid for your taxi to go home,” said Carl Harms of JaxImpact. “There are other options here, there is a raise of awareness, but the problem still is that one [DUI] is too many.”


Jacksonville Zoo Manatee Care Center is almost ready 

The Jacksonville Zoo’s Manatee Critical Care Center, which came with a $2 million price tag, is almost ready for its first patient.

The center can hold up to six manatees at a time and has two large freshwater pools, one for treatment, the other for recovery. The treatment pool features a special platform that can be raised for a manatee to be examined and receive medications and then lowered down into the water.

When complete, the center will be the only state and federally approved site in North Florida to provide temporary housing and urgent care for manatees.


JAXPORT opening jobs program for ex-cons

JAXPORT announced a new program Tuesday to give non-violent former offenders an opportunity to re-enter the workforce.

“JAXPORT’s success hinges greatly upon a viable and sustainable workforce,” said Eric Green, JAXPORT senior director of government and external affairs. “The training and on-going support provided by the Jacksonville Port Academy will create real economic stability for those who deserve a second chance.”

The Jacksonville Port Academy will start with later this month with an inaugural class of 15 students. Program participants will learn from a curriculum developed by the University of North Florida and Jacksonville University.

JAXPORT says more than 10 companies doing business at the port have pledged to make hires out of the program.


UF Health North awarded advanced certification for stroke care

UF Health North announced Monday that it has been earned an advanced certification as an “Acute Stroke Ready” facility by independent health care accreditation group Joint Commission.

“We are incredibly proud of this recognition from the Joint Commission because it once again shows just how dedicated we are when it comes to our patients,” said Russ Armistead, CEO of UF Health Jacksonville. “Thanks to UF Health North, that care now extends into Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia.”

To get the certification, a hospital needs to have a dedicated stroke program, staff trained in stroke care, and access to stroke expertise around the clock, among other requirements.

Joint Commission CEO Mark Pelletier said accreditation from the organization “provides hospitals with the processes needed to improve in a variety of areas from the enhancement of staff education to the improvement of daily business operations.”

“We commend UF Health North for its efforts to become a quality improvement organization,” he added.


JIA takes the top spot in airport customer service rankings

Jacksonville International Airport earned the top spot among North American airports in customer service last year, according to the Airports Council International.

The ranking was part of the trade group’s Airport Service Quality Awards. JIA also took the No. 3 spot in “Best Airport by Size” for the 5 million to 15 million passengers a year category.

“These awards validate our team approach to customer service where the entire airport community has a stake in our travelers’ experience,” Jacksonville Aviation Authority CEO Steve Grossman said. “It also confirms the value of listening to our travelers and adapting to their needs.”

The ranking is based on a survey conducted by ACI that covers 30 customer service areas, including check-in, security and food options. JIA tied with the Indianapolis and Toronto airports for the top spot.


Mayo Clinic announces $70.5 million in projects

The Jacksonville Mayo Clinic announced Tuesday that it will spend $70.5 million to add four floors the Mayo South building and renovate the Davis Building.

The projects are part of CEO Gianrico Farrugia’s 2015 commitment to spend $300 million on upgrades and expansions to turn the clinic into a destination medical center for the Southeast.

“This gets us closer,” Farrugia said. “We’re not done yet. But this is a big step.”

The projects announced Tuesday will provide new space for cardiovascular, cardiology and cardio-thoracic surgery; expand the spine center and pain rehabilitation programs; develop available laboratories, and provide space and equipment for a molecular imaging center for radiology.


JTA gets three national marketing awards

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority took home three awards from an annual advertising competition held by the American Public Transportation Association. JTA won first place for its monthly television program Making Moves, and took the first-place spot in the education and partnership and electronic media categories for its Pocket Pledge Safety Campaign and its Skyway Economics Video, respectively. “I am so proud of the talented team of professionals at the JTA,” said JTA Chief Executive Officer Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. “We have an amazing group of creative individuals who come up with these outstanding marketing campaigns.”

The Pocket Pledge Safety Campaign aims to discourage distracted driving, and the Skyway Economics video covers maintenance of the iconic people mover.


Couple donates $3 million to JU nursing school

The Jacksonville University nursing school is now named the Keigwin School of Nursing due to a $3 million gift from Beverly and Jack Keigwin. The couple said the donation was one of the most meaningful gifts they had ever given. Jack is a trustee and executive-in-residence at JU, while Beverly is a former nurse who serves on the external advisory board of JU’s Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences.


Opioid overdose crisis becomes top priority for Jacksonville policy makers

The numbers are stark for those who care about public policy in Jacksonville. And the need for solutions is urgent.

Overdoses, at last count, end four times as many lives as homicides in Duval County, with 2016’s count of 464 casualties more than doubling 2015’s count of 201.

Caucasians represent 86 percent of the deaths, and over half of those passing away are in their 30s and 40s

911 calls for ODs to the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department have tripled, with a call every two hours now. Narcan administrations: up 500 percent. JFRD responded to over 3,411 calls in 2016, and the cost of transporting OD victims could near $4.5M this year.

Councilman Bill Gulliford and other city council members were on hand — as was Mayor Lenny Curry.

Curry noted that he “moved some things around to be here,” to address the “tragic epidemic.”

“We take this seriously. We understand that families have suffered because of this. And we have to get it right.”

Councilman Gulliford noted the statistics, including the “131 percent increase” year over year.

The goal of the meeting: to talk awareness, prevention, and solutions, Gulliford noted.

Gulliford noted that extends to his own family. He spent time last weekend talking to his grandchildren about these issues.

“I hope I made an impression on them. I pray I made an impression on them,” the councilman said.


Richard Preston, a recovered addict, told his “hellacious story” of recovery from drugs and alcohol, using the exhorting style that blended the rolling cadences of an evangelist with the patter of a traveling salesman.

He has been sober for 11 years.

“I know that Jacksonville can be the city against which others are measured in the war against opioids,” Preston, a Jacksonville native said, describing how cocaine and other drugs derailed his promising academic career, then his work life.

“This is our opportunity,” Preston said to the politicians on hand.

“We need to bring hope to those who don’t have hope themselves,” Preston said, before shilling his second memoir about his addiction issues.


Jeff and Edie Carlson spoke next; their youngest son is a heroin addict.

Mrs. Carlson attributed the issue to a lack of education on addiction, and the stigma attached, noting that another Mr. Carlson’s brother — a former undercover police officer — died of an overdose.

“The education needs to start with the parents of elementary school students. Middle school may be too late,” Mrs. Carlson said, before describing their son’s struggle with overdose and rehab trips.

During one post-rehab overdose, her son had stopped breathing. Timely arrival of medics kept him alive.

Currently, he is in a 90-day rehab.


Medical Examiner Valerie Rao spoke of the agony of the calls, when parents ask her what she can do, and when she asks if “they believe in God.”

When they say they do, Rao (a religious person) is relieved.

However, the relief is short-lived.

“We have to somehow personalize this. If you start thinking like that, we can come up with solutions. If you don’t,” Rao said, “it’s not going to work.”

Miami-Dade, Seattle, Orlando — all have task forces.

Rao advised that Jacksonville have something similar.

“Everybody’s talking about heroin,” Rao said, “but fentanyl is cheap. Carfentanil is cheap … who ever heard of these drugs? But that’s what the drug dealers are using to cut the heroin.”

The casualties come quick from these lethal cocktails.

“I’m dealing in truth, not fiction. And this is what I deal with every day,” Rao said, noting that unlike in the case of cocaine, when someone can taste the powder and identify anesthetic, there is no analogue for heroin and its variants.

Rao went through recent cases, including ten just today: the common threads are a history of doing drugs and ubiquitous drug paraphenalia in many of the cases.


The hope, as advanced by Susan Pitman of Drug Free Duval, is for a sustained community response.

Much of that, said Ron Lendvay of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, revolves around supply interdiction and prevention, via undercover officers infiltrating the communities of users.

Still, the impact builds.

One homicide sergeant had to go to five overdoses in one day recently, and as Rao said, the most corrupted drugs tend to be most deadly.

“The heroin is an organic material … fentanyl is as bad if not worse than heroin,” Lendvay said, noting that Mexican cartels are manufacturing the synthetic cutting agents.

“If anybody hears these speakers and doesn’t think there’s a crisis,” Gulliford said after Lendvay wrapped, “you must have been sleeping.”


Audience members had their say, and the disagreements were passionate about the merits of methadone and Nar-Anon, and the limits on treatment for the uninsured.

“Magically,” said one mother, “if you are uninsured, you’re healed in three days.”

Beds at rehab facilities — River Region and Gateway — are filled for months, meanwhile, meaning that the issue for many of those struggling with addiction can’t get help.

Over the course of the meeting, what was generally clear: a sincere desire to somehow stop the epidemic, yet a realization that resources are scarce, and that interdiction of the drugs coming from Mexico has proved daunting.

Perhaps a “great, big, beautiful wall” will stop it.

Perhaps trends themselves will change, as historically has been the case with illicit drug use.

But the reality is that in Jacksonville, as is the case in major and minor cities and hamlets across the country, overstretched local governments have yet to mount a meaningful counter to this epidemic.

In Jacksonville, Thursday evening’s town hall is a start — a step forward on a long journey, one where the finish line is nowhere near being in sight.

Jay Fant is down on bill that would end Enterprise Florida

State Rep. Jay Fant says he will not vote for a bill, backed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, that seeks to abolish the Enterprise Florida economic development organization.

After Thursday’s floor session, he told FloridaPolitics.com he doesn’t “like going against leadership on a vote, and I stick with them on just about everything, but this just isn’t one of those things.”

The Jacksonville Republican had asked critical questions of bill sponsor Paul Renner, a former political rival, in the floor session.

Fant, first elected in 2014, said killing Enterprise Florida “will hinder our ability to bring businesses to Florida.” He instead favors heightened scrutiny of the agency, which is funded mainly with public dollars.

The entity is “the right thing at the right time,” he said.

The bill (HB 7005) gets rid of the organization and many business incentive programs favored by Gov. Rick Scott. Corcoran regards them as “corporate welfare.”

“I’m not passing judgment on particular projects,” Fant added. “I would just love to see us back off from where we are on the bill now.”

The bill could go to a final vote as early as Friday; as a Corcoran priority, it’s virtually ensured to pass.

But it faces an uphill slog in the Senate, where Republican leaders—including Appropriations Committee chair Jack Latvala—back Scott on keeping Enterprise Florida and incentives in general.

Lenny Curry, Rob Bradley committees and Travis Cummings pace Northeast Florida February fundraising

No Northeast Florida incumbents face competitive races in 2018. Yet the fundraising continues anyway, as February evidenced.

Notable for performance: two Northeast Florida political committees that cleared the $100K threshold for February money.

And one Clay County legislator who had a strong month.


One of the PACs that hit six figures: “Build Something That Lasts,” the political committee of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry,

Curry’s committee raised $110,000 in February. That sum follows a $63,000 January, and brings the committee near $240,000 on hand.

Curry’s committee secured the $110,000 from five donors, including the Jacksonville Jaguars, Peter RummellGary Chartrand, and J.B. Coxwell.

While these are usual donors, the committee also got a $25,000 donation from Mori Hosseini, the CEO of ICI Homes who is a noted power player in GOP politics.

For those monitoring Curry’s appeal outside of Northeast Florida, the Hosseini donation is a strong indication of what may be a trend.

Curry still hasn’t filed to run for re-election in 2019, and his name is still in the rumor mill to replace Jeff Atwater as CFO.


The strongest committee performance in February in NE Florida: “Working for Florida’s Families,” the committee of Sen. Rob Bradley.

Bradley’s committee brought in $120,500 in February, bringing total cash on hand over $360,000.

The leading donor at $25,000, RAI Services, the parent company for R.J. Reynolds, American Snuff, and other fine tobacco products available at stores near you.

American Traffic Solutions gave $10,000, as did licensed medical marijuana company Costa Farms (a regular supporter of Bradley), and Floracann, the cannabis subsidiary of Jacksonville’s Loop Nurseries.


The best month for any legislator, by far, was from Rep. Travis Cummings in Clay County’s HD 18.

Cummings brought in $34,150 of new money, pushing his total cash on hand over $47,000 – a good indication that the pressure the governor put on him over not supporting Enterprise Florida hasn’t affected Cummings’ bottom line.

PACs and physicians were the main drivers for Cummings: Anesthesiologists, Physical Therapist, Beer Distributors, Realtors, and other such groups that know to back a winner.


Of local Senators, SD 4 Republican Aaron Bean brought in $6,200 in February, pushing the Republican near $20,000 on hand.

Among the donors to the Bean team: Service Corporation International, which runs the Dignity Memorial funeral home chain, and donated $1,000.

Also maxing out: SmartHorizons, an online education company. And petroleum giant Chevron donated $500.


In SD 5, Audrey Gibson has yet to report February numbers; we will update this piece when she does.


In HD 11, Cord Byrd raised $5,500 of new money in February, giving him $10,100 on hand – not bad for someone who won in November with 98 percent of the vote.

Gunster, The Fiorentino Group, Southern Gardens Citrus, and Pinch-a-Penny were among the donors.

Over in HD 12, Clay Yarborough brought in $5,000 in new February money, pushing his total raised to $7,500 for his re-election.

Gunster and Fiorentino ponied up for the former Jacksonville City Councilman, who also had a max contribution from the Florida Harbor Pilots Association.


In HD 13, HD 14, HD 15, and HD 16, there is nothing as yet to report.

Tracie Davis and Jason Fischer have yet to do a February filing. And Kim Daniels has yet to file for re-election, though a staffer told us last week that delay is just a function of travel and other commitments, and Daniels will run for re-election in a safe Democrat district.

Likewise, Rep. Fant has yet to file to re-election


In HD 17, Cyndi Stevenson, who was re-elected without the formality of a primary or general election challenge last year, had even a better February, with $8,150 of new money.

Among her contributors: the AIF PAC, Florida Blue, the Florida Chamber, Ronald Book, Bitner and Associates, and Southern Gardens Citrus. Stevenson had just over $20,000 on hand.

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