Jax – Page 5 – Florida Politics

Andrew Gillum slates Jacksonville town hall for Thursday evening

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, firmly in the mix of the Democratic gubernatorial field with less than 60 days before the primary, will court Jacksonville voters Thursday evening at a town hall event.

The event kicks off at 6:30 p.m at the Gateway to Heaven church located at 7700 N. Pearl Street.

Attendees, especially those who have followed Gillum throughout his campaign, should expect to hear road-tested talking points, if the Orlando event last week was any indication.

“He dogged the incumbent for not expanding Medicaid and turning away federal cash for high-speed rail; he gave a full-throated endorsement for Amendment 4; and he detailed an extensive list of education priorities he’ll push for if elected — a $50,000-a-year base salary for teachers, better early education, and more opportunities for K-12 students who aren’t college-bound to learn skills that can land them a place in the workforce,” wrote Florida Politics’ Drew Wilson.

Gillum, who is fond of reminding audiences that he’s the only “non-millionaire” in the Florida Governor’s race, nonetheless has serious financial help also, via two prominent billionaires.

One of them (George Soros) in late June ponied up $250,000 to Gillum’s Forward Florida political committee, bringing Soros money in total to $750,000. And as Florida Politics reported first last week, billionaire Tom Steyer committed $1 million to the Gillum effort via NextGen America, Steyer’s progressive super PAC.

While Gillum lacks the resources of the other Democratic contenders (not to mention the Republicans), what is clear is that his benefactors believe he is worth the investment.

Sugar, citrus money powers $10K reporting period for Audrey Gibson

Senate Democratic Leader-designate Audrey Gibson avoided a primary challenge when her fellow Democrat, Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown, was indicted on a federal scheme to defraud in June.

However, Gibson was not assured of Brown’s decision not to run until three weeks into the month, and the Senator raised money from the kind of deep pocketed interests who typically don’t give to Northeast Florida Democrats.

Gibson brought in $10,508 from some interesting donors, with $5,000 of the haul coming in five $1,000 checks from Clewiston.

Four of those checks were related to Southern Gardens citrus processing; a fifth came from United States Sugar, an interesting donation given that a hot topic in the Democratic primary for Governor has to do with the inappropriateness of taking money from Big Sugar.

Another interesting $1,000 contributor: Duke Energy.

Gibson also had $2,426 in in-kind contributions via the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee for payroll.

Now elected officially after drawing no competition, she won’t need that kind of help.

Gibson has $141,000 in her campaign account, and it’s reasonable to expect that she will invest a significant portion of those funds into helping strengthen the position of Senate Democrats as she readies to lead the party.

Garrett Dennis plans Tuesday town hall to ‘stop the murders’

Jacksonville City Council may be on its traditional early-July “summer break,” but Councilman Garrett Dennis isn’t even taking a pause.

Dennis, along with political consultant Dwight Brisbane and others, will host a community discussion Tuesday evening with an eye to “stop the murders.”

The event kicks off at Edward Waters College’s Milne Auditorium at 6:00 p.m.

Dennis’ Council district, which encompasses areas ranging from Murray Hill to New Town, deals with violent crime on par with almost any area in the city in some parts.

However, there are some who believe Dennis’ ultimate goal is moving beyond Council toward a mayoral run as soon as 2019.

Dennis, a Democrat, has said repeatedly that Lenny Curry, a Republican, will be a one-term mayor.

If Dennis does run, he will face opprobrium from one already-filed candidate, activist Connell Crooms.

“Several people approached me … and had complaints about the media pushing Garrett Dennis to run for Mayor,” Crooms said.

“I would welcome a debate (in fact I relish it) with Garrett Dennis and Lenny Curry because I more than either one having been here before either one were in office and understand it’s about the People. The contradictions of Dennis and Curry will expose itself, and there are MANY,” Crooms added.

Dennis has yet, as of the time of this writing, to express an opinion on Crooms’ remarks.

Jacksonville City Council President relieves Anna Brosche, Sam Newby of filling in for suspended colleagues

On June 1, Gov. Rick Scott suspended two Democratic Jacksonville City Council members who face 38 federal counts in a scheme to defraud local and federal taxpayers.

While Scott has not yet picked replacements for the currently suspended Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown, former Council President Anna Brosche arrived at a solution for their constituents weeks ago.

That solution: Councilman Sam Newby and Brosche filling in for the suspended duo until replacements were appointed.

“Me stepping in to help handle things in District 10 is a very temporary situation,” Brosche said to one of many impassioned speakers at a June public notice meeting.

And indeed, it was temporary, as now current Council President Aaron Bowman exercised his authority and relieved the two at-large Republicans of those duties this week.

“That was not a legal assignment,” Bowman said. “They have five at-large representatives to represent them.”

Bowman made the move because, per his interpretation of charter, there was “no authority” to make the moves, and thus “no mechanism to continue.”

Brosche had appointed Newby and herself to the roles, she said Tuesday, because she believed that a point person was needed for concerns specific to those districts.

The move “wasn’t about legal authority,” she added; rather, it was about ensuring the constituents had representation.

Brosche also noted that, in her understanding, similar moves were made to fill in the gap when councilors were suspended in the past.

For now, a call to the District 10 office — the one previously represented by Brosche in an ad hoc manner — says the “District 10 Council seat is currently vacant.”

Gov. Scott, who is in Kuwait currently, is mulling a list of replacements with some interesting names on it.

Two Republicans are among the most interesting names: Bowman’s former council assistant, Terrance Freeman, a Chamber Republican is one; Pastor Mark Griffin, a Republican who ran a competitive race in House District 13 in 2016, is another.

No timetable for replacement has been provided by the Governor’s Office.

Lake Ray retains cash lead in Duval County tax collector race

As of June 22, former State Rep. Lake Ray leads his three opponents in fundraising for the Duval County Tax Collector election to be held this August.

The election, which will see the top two candidates move to the November ballot if no one gets a majority of votes, was necessitated by former tax collector Michael Corrigan moving on to a role with Visit Jacksonville.

Ray, a Republican, has raised $128,660, with $17,350 hauled in between June 1 and June 20. He has over $119,000 on hand.

Ray’s closest competitor is also a Republican, former property appraiser and city councilman Jim Overton, who has raised $90,000 total, with almost $79,000 on hand.

During the most recent three week reporting period, Overton brought in $15,650.

Running third in the money race: current Jacksonville City Councilman Doyle Carter.

Carter, also a Republican, had the best three-week period of all the candidates. His $22,050 haul included an interesting donation, via the “Jacksonville Conservative Action Fund” committee, seeded solely by the Republican Party of Florida.

Carter has over $53,000 on hand.

Running fourth: the sole Democrat in the race, former State Rep. Mia Jones.

Jones raised $9,740 in the three-week reporting period, and has just over $12,000 total.

More legal woes for Katrina Brown

Suspended Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown is, at this point, better known for the legal actions against her than for anything she’s done legislatively.

A 38-count federal indictment, spotlighting a scheme to defraud with another suspended councilman (Reggie Brown), is the reason why.

However, the feds aren’t the only ones suing Katrina Brown. Also coming after her in Duval County Court as of this week: “OneMain,” a servicer for Wells Fargo, which loaned her money using a 2000 Ford Explorer as collateral, is now suing her for a non-performing loan.

It is Katrina Brown’s second lawsuit regarding lapsed car payments since she has been on Council: the first one involved a 2006 Porsche Cayenne SUV.

In this case, OneMain loaned Councilwoman Brown $8,300 at 25 percent interest using a 16-year-old truck as collateral on Nov. 2016, just weeks before the FBI, the IRS, HUD, the Small Business Administration and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office raided her family’s BBQ sauce plant.

Councilwoman Brown stopped making payments on the loan last summer, per the lawsuit.

Timing of this loan tracks with two of the counts against Katrina Brown in the federal indictment, which asserts that she was trying to secure a loan for $60,000 for “working capital” for her KJB Specialties from a company called LendCore through Nov. 2016, and $50-$55,000 from Credibly and Webbank in the same time frame. Part of the scheme to defraud, per the indictment, included materially altering bank statements.

Katrina and Reggie Brown, at this writing, are expected to see their federal trials begin on Sep. 4.  

Al Lawson to open Jacksonville campaign HQ Tuesday

Congressman Al Lawson, who faces a competitive Democratic primary from former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown in his bid for re-election in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, intends to compete for votes in Brown’s backyard.

The latest example: Lawson opening up a campaign headquarters Tuesday evening in Duval.

The HQ opening kicks off at 4:30 p.m., at 1689 Dunn Ave. A “volunteer meeting” kicks off at 6:00 p.m.

Notable: the Lawson HQ location is just blocks away from the Brown HQ (900 Dunn Ave.).

Lawson has made moves to bolster his Duval operation, including hiring Darren Mason, a former Duval Democrats’ vice chair, to helm the campaign’s Jacksonville moves.

Mason defended his decision to work for Lawson in an interview with this writer last week.

“I keep hearing this is a Jacksonville seat. And I should just fall in line,” Mason said.

“But to me, it’s not [a Jacksonville seat], it’s the people’s seat of the 5th Congressional District,” Mason said. “And we need someone that has a heart to lead the entire district.”

There has yet to be a public poll of the Brown/Lawson race, but conventional wisdom dictates that any inroads the incumbent can make in Jacksonville against Brown’s base bode well for Lawson’s re-election chances.

Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus backs Al Lawson re-election

During his four-year term as Jacksonville mayor, Alvin Brown faced questions about his commitment to LGBT rights; those questions have continued to dog him as he mounts a primary challenge to Congressman Al Lawson.

The latest example: The Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus is choosing to endorse the incumbent in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, a first-term legislator from Tallahassee.

“Congressman Lawson has always been on the right side of the issues for the LGBT community,” said Terry Fleming, president of the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus.

“We are proud he’s our representative in Washington who will stand up for equal rights for all,” Fleming added, “and that’s why the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus is pleased to endorse Congressman Al Lawson for re-election.”

Lawson was “humbled by this endorsement from the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus.”

“Throughout my career,” Lawson said, “I have believed in true equality for all and fought to ensure no person is ever discriminated against due to his or her age, race, sex, religion or sexual orientation. We have made great strides in our nation, but there is still so much more we can do. I will continue to work to drive that path forward.”

The media release from Lawson’s campaign notes he is a co-sponsor of the Equality Act, “which amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity as prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation in public places.”

Brown, meanwhile, has been attempting to move toward the Democratic mainstream on the issue of LGBT rights.

The former mayor has been pilloried on the left for not backing the Human Rights Ordinance, a bill that in 2016 finally codified LGBT protections in the areas of housing, employment, and public accommodations, the former mayor rejects the idea that he opposed the measure.

“All Americans deserve equal treatment. No one should face discrimination,” Brown said last week, asserting that he enacted LGBT protections and “never at any time said [he] was against the legislation.”

Brown noted that, in 2015, he ordered the general counsel to “review all forms of discrimination” in Jacksonville.

“Our policy is enacted in City Hall today,” Brown said.

If elected, Brown vows to fight for protections in the areas of both sexual orientation and gender identity — a statement some will see as a dramatic policy evolution.

However, an evolution too late for this endorsement.

Aaron Bean holds big cash lead in contested Senate re-election bid

In Northeast Florida’s Senate District 4, incumbent Aaron Bean continued to hold a commanding lead over three opponents as of June 22, the most recent reportage date for state candidates.

The first three weeks of June, however, saw slow fundraising for Bean, who raised nothing for his political committee (Florida Conservative Alliance) and $4,500 in hard money, including maximum $1,000 contributions from Friends of Dana Young and Gray Robinson.

Between the two accounts, Bean has roughly $160,000 on hand.

Bean will face a primary challenge, via Carlos Slay, a candidate widely seen as being backed by Bean’s political rival, former Rep. Janet Adkins.

Slay has not raised any money, and paid his filing fee via a personal loan.

The winner of the Bean/Slay clash will face two general election opponents, Democrat Billie Bussard and Libertarian Joanna Tavares.

Bussard has $4,500 on hand, having raised money between June 5 and June 22.

Tavares has less than $40 on hand after having paid her filing fee.

Clay Yarborough maintains money lead in HD 12 re-election bid

State Rep. Clay Yarborough, a Jacksonville Republican in his first term, maintained his money lead over Democratic challenger Tim Yost through the first three weeks in June.

Neither candidate has a primary challenge in House District 12, a Southside Jacksonville district that encompasses the Arlington area, which means this is a race to November.

Yarborough brought in $6,700 off ten contributions in the period, with Waste Management and the Southeast Florida Chamber of Commerce pacing the political veteran’s haul.

The Republican spent nearly as much as he took in during the period, with $5,755 heading out the door, mostly to consultants and for a qualifying fee.

Yost had his best reporting period of fundraising since filing last summer, bringing in $2,521 ($1,781 of it from the candidate himself, to cover his filing fee).

Yost has almost $4,300 on hand, but Yarborough holds serve, with just under $107,000 in cash available.

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