Taylor’s charge: The special election in District 12 was not publicly announced in a publication of record. The only qualified candidate, Republican Randy White, won without opposition.
Jacksonville General Counsel Jason Gabriel framed the decision to throw the case out as a victory for consolidated government.
“In summary, the plaintiff, David Taylor, sought to invalidate the special election because he claims he was not provided notice of the qualifying period established by the City Council. In misapplying state statute, Mr. Taylor argued that the Supervisor of Elections was required to publish notice of the election in the newspaper because there is a requirement for such notice to occur in special elections called by the Governor and Florida Secretary of State,” Gabriel asserted Tuesday.
“The complete dismissal of Mr. Taylor’s complaint is significant because the Court reviewed the requirements necessary to set a local special election for Council vacancies and acknowledged all of our arguments that it is the City Charter and local Ordinance Code that dictate the requirements of the special local election, and such were followed,” Gabriel added.
Indeed, in a seven-page decision, the court repeatedly struck down Taylor’s petitions for relief, effectively saying that even if there were a legitimate petition for redress, it couldn’t be provided in a timely way.
White had filed as the only candidate for the 2019 race before incumbent Doyle Carter filed a resignation letter and had a head start with $86,000 (and political consultant Tim Baker) on his side. Qualifying for the 2019 race is Jan. 7 through 11, and Taylor hasn’t opened a campaign account for it.
The Florida Constitution offers scant guidance in Section 100.501 regarding local special elections: “County commissioners or the governing authority of a municipality shall not call any special election until notice is given to the Supervisor of Elections and his or her consent obtained as to a date when the registration books can be available.”
That happened in this case, with the Jacksonville City Council approving legislation to authorize the special election on the 2019 ballot.
This was Election Supervisor Mike Hogan‘s take last month: “The City Charter controls Municipal Elections — no requirement for Public Notice in the Charter. Was noticed by City Council and on our website.”
The charter does not require published notice, and SOE and the Council did notice the vacancy and the process.
Jacksonville General Counsel Jason Gabriel, when the suit was filed, was “confident that the City’s special election set in the upcoming election complies with all applicable laws.
Taylor’s lawsuit asserted that state statute 100.141 prevails, however, requiring notice published twice within 10 days in a paper of record at least 10 days prior to qualifying. He contended that Hogan broke the law because no notice was published.
“No one that lived in District 12 knew there was going to be an election,” Taylor said in July, even as two candidates filed (though one, Sharol Noblejas, did not qualify). “If you’re in some inner circle … that’s great. But the law is the law, and it requires posting in a newspaper of general circulation.”
Taylor later added that those candidates had insider knowledge and that when he called the SOE for guidance on qualifying, he was told to call back. (He did not record those attempts in emails, he said).
Taylor erroneously noted that the legislation was on no Council agenda. Indeed, it was passed on a one-cycle emergency, which would have necessarily been added to the agenda, but Taylor stopped short of advocating a remedy of ending emergency legislation altogether.
Taylor asserted in July that city ordinance on special elections requires that, if language is “void or vague,” then state statute that he cited shall prevail; his attorney, former Duval Democratic Party chair Neil Henrichsen, later told us the arguments were supported by Jacksonville Ordinance Code Sec. 350.103(b)(3) and Fla. Stat. Sec.100.3605.
In July, Taylor did not indicate interest in the 2019 election, saying that the special election should have been “properly noticed” and that officials should “comply with the law.”
In an irony of sorts, Judge Foster — retiring in a few months — is ensnared in an election challenge regarding his seat, which Gov. Scott seeks to fill by appointment, while a Jacksonville lawyer says it should be on the ballot.
The 1st District Court of Appeal sided with Scott in July and the case is headed to the Florida Supreme Court.
Taylor offered a statement that equated the court decision with “communism.”
“This isn’t right. We may have to bring city council in as a defendant and/or appeal but that’s to be decided. It’s not democratic or American for a SOE/Hogan to whisper to one man when qualifying is and intentionally withhold same said information from everyone else. We know that’s what SOE did because every other election/special election has been noticed in the paper consistent with state election law except this one,” Taylor asserted.
“This was the SOE trying to hand deliver his longtime political ally, Randy White, the job. It stinks, especially since Randy White’s wife works at the SOE’s office as the SOE’s assistant. White has been SOE’s biggest supporter for over 10 different elections over several decades. SOE was trying to repay White but went too far,” Taylor added.
“Worse case scenario White will be city councilman for less than a year, because the next election is March 19. No one in District 12 will vote for White after learning his involvement in this conspiracy to defraud the voters of a choice, which is exactly what they did. Equivalent to communism,” Taylor concluded
Though Jacksonville City Councilman Terrance Freeman continues to function on the local elected body, the legal dispute over whether he lived in District 10 when he became a member of the council lingers on.
On Tuesday, Judge Waddell Wallace was to hear from lawyers for Brenda Priestly-Jackson, a Democrat who was passed over for the appointment to the position by Gov. Rick Scott.
However, that hearing was cancelled due to discovery not being complete, and Wallace’s aide asserted that the hearing may be rescheduled or an order may be issued resolving the case.
Plaintiff lawyers sought to expedite public records requests that they contend have been stalled out by the Governor’s office, in addition to obtaining a temporary injunction in the case.
Defendants’ lawyers, which include attorneys for the state of Florida, the city of Jacksonville, and Freeman himself, contend that the case should be thrown out of court.
In a memo earlier this month, Freeman’s attorneys contended, as they did in a hearing earlier this month, that there was no basis for the legal challenge. At the time he was sworn in on July 12, they contend, Freeman had established residency.
The plaintiff asserts the operative date is July 10, when Scott announced the appointment; this contention is rejected by the defense.
The Governor’s Office likewise contends that it has latitude to appoint that can’t be impeded by interpretations of local charter advanced by plaintiffs’ lawyers, that the court lacks jurisdiction, and that there is no remedy available to the plaintiff by legal action.
The city of Jacksonville, granted its motion to intervene, likewise contends that the case should be thrown out.
Even if the case proceeds, it may ultimately be for naught. One potential cure, per Judge Waddell, could be for the Governor to simply re-appoint Freeman.
On Monday, a group of Jacksonville Democrats made their push to expand early voting sites to local colleges and universities.
The goal: to get early voting sites at the University of North Florida and, perhaps, other colleges.
However, logistical roadblocks remain.
At a press conference on the steps of City Hall, a number of politicians and activists addressed the matter ahead of a meeting between city councilors, the supervisor of elections, and several dozen community activists.
State Sen. Audrey Gibson noted that there has been a “steady chipping away at early voting,” part of a larger pattern of disenfranchisement.
While Duval County does enjoy two weeks of early voting, the hours (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) overlap with work, and “college campuses provide additional opportunities” for voting.
State Rep. Tracie Davis, who ran for supervisor of elections in 2015, noted that 830,000 students are enrolled in college, and in 2016 43 percent of them early voted.
Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan, said Davis, needs to “do his job … follow the law.”
Hogan had told local media that “criteria of selection of an early voting site involves more than just that it is available. Public access, adequate parking for our staff and voters, facility security, ADA compliance, proximity to other early voting sites and of course do we have the money budgeted for an additional location.”
After the presser, a meeting between Jacksonville City Councilors, SOE Hogan, a representative from the University of North Florida, and many of the presser participants ensued.
Councilman GarrettDennis, a former Duval SOE worker, said that for early voting to expand, there has to be a “will and a way” to do so.
“Whether one person at UNF votes or 100,” it should be done.
SOE Hogan noted that the court decision allows SOE “discretion” in opening sites on campuses.
In Orlando, where University of Central Florida had early voting, there was low participation, Hogan said.
Hogan noted that he and University of North Florida have been working to find a way forward on an early voting site, but the logistics mentioned have proven to be prohibitive.
Chris Warren of UNF noted that two buildings on Kernan could potentially “host a site if things line up.”
Edward Waters and Jacksonville University are also under consideration, but “time is very limited” given the scope of the election.
“The Russians are in our database,” Hogan added. “All we know is what the Senators have told us and they can’t give us real information.”
The primary election, Hogan added, won’t be over until Sept. 10 or 11, when results are certified. On Oct. 7, the final list of early voting sites has to be submitted to the Secretary of State office.
Vote-by-mail and shuttling, said Hogan, are two potential options under consideration.
“We’re going to try to get two new sites,” Hogan said, noting that funding from the Jacksonville City Council, procuring equipment, and other logistics prove to be challenges.
“We’ll work toward it,” Hogan said, “if we have the cooperation of the universities.”
Getting equipment from suppliers, getting money from the Jacksonville City Council, and other logistics will be a challenge, Hogan related, describing it as “logistically impossible” with slim margin for error.
Some meeting attendees were skeptical of Hogan’s commitment, and expressed those concerns in blunt language.
Conditions are looking favorable for U.S. Rep. Al Lawson to win his primary battle over former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown in Florida’s 5th Congressional District.
Lawson, ahead by more than 20 points in the only public poll of the race, endorsed by Brown’s local Florida Times-Union and Jacksonville state Rep. Tracie Davis in recent days, is also ahead in cash on hand as of Aug. 8 — the last date for which candidates have filed financial reports.
Lawson, who has raised just over $503,823, had $131,143 on hand. Brown, who has raised $388,649, had $84,361.
Lawson seems confident in his chances, posting to Facebook that “FiveThirtyEight’s ongoing forecast of 2018 House elections currently places me at a 99.9% chance of winning back the 5th District seat.”
Brown’s touting some backing that he hopes will flip that script, however, including from one progressive group that will text people in the district in the next week.
“In the current political climate, it is unacceptable to have a conservative-Democrat representing a safely blue district. That’s why Build the Wave is proud to endorse Alvin Brown, a true progressive leader, for Congress in Florida’s 5th Congressional district,” said Nate Lerner, Grassroots Director for Build the Wave. “We’re confident Alvin will be a strong progressive voice in Congress who holds Trump and his allies accountable.”
As well, he’s touting endorsements from Jacksonville preachers, which coincide with Souls to the Polls during early voting weekends: “more than 30 faith leaders representing a large swath of the local faith community.”
Preachers had been part of Brown’s base during his term as a “conservative Democrat” Mayor of Jacksonville, and the big names backing him include Pastor John Guns, Bishop Rudolph McKissick, and Pastor Reginald Gundy.
Can these moves turn around a 22 point poll deficit?
Brown, who had a segment Monday on Jacksonville radio station WJCT (Lawson canceled the day before), expressed confidence despite what host Melissa Ross called a “David and Goliath battle,” citing a “strong outpouring of support” from local grassroots, teachers’ groups, and the AFL-CIO.
Brown also noted that his team has been campaigning aggressively, with a “good ground game” and support from the Democratic Party.
“Just yesterday, I spoke at seven houses of worship,” Brown said.
Duval County has 141,305 of District 5’s 255,673 Democrats, so this could help.
In the last two weeks, the Brown campaign has knocked on more than 5,000 doors and made nearly 2,000 phone calls, according to a Friday media release.
If Brown is able to overcome a 22 point deficit in the polls through grassroots and text messages, it would be a comeback for the ages.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry made another late-game endorsement in a statewide race Monday, backing Rep. Baxter Troutman for Agriculture Commissioner.
This endorsement indicates the value of relationships. Curry’s chief of staff Brian Hugheshad been running the Troutman campaign before Hughes took a city job. Now, the operation is run by another Jacksonville op, Carlo Fassi.
The timing of the endorsement’s release seems less than coincidental, counterprogramming Sen. Marco Rubio campaigning in Hialeah on Monday for Rep. Matt Caldwell, one of Troutman’s three opponents (whose campaign manager Brian Swensen had the same role in Curry’s 2015 campaign for Jacksonville mayor).
Curry, a statement from the Troutman campaign said, is “happy to endorse Baxter Troutman … a farmer and rancher, a businessman who has created thousands of jobs, and … a genuine conservative.”
“Of all those seeking this job,” Curry emphasized, “Baxter is clearly the most qualified and ready to help keep Florida growing.”
In accepting the endorsement, Troutman noted Curry’s “proven record of problem-solving.”
“He’s demonstrated that executives can implement conservative policies, stand by their convictions, and get things done despite our current heated political climate,” Troutman remarked.
Campaign manager Fassi asserts that the Troutman campaign is poised to win, leading “outside the margin of error in every statewide poll conducted in this primary to succeed Adam Putnam.”
“Our internals have had Baxter anywhere from 6-10 points ahead of our nearest competitor,” Fassi adds, “while industry polls have shown the race even less competitive.”
The GOP race comes down to Troutman, Caldwell, state Sen. Denise Grimsley, and Mike McCallister.
The Democratic race in House District 14 between incumbent Rep. Kim Daniels and Duval County School Board chair Paula Wright continues to get more interesting as the primary approaches.
Wright, whose campaign account fundraising has been lackluster ($25,085 raised through Aug. 10; just over $12,000 on hand) is enjoying a television ad buy from the New Direction Now political committee.
The spot hits positive, autobiographical themes, including addressing former teacher Wright’s commitment to education.
Through Aug. 10, the committee has been seeded with $27,000. Of that sum, $15,000 comes from the Florida Education Association.
It’s telling that the FEA has funded a positive spot for Wright, as Daniels’ attempts at educational policy improvements in her two years in Tallahassee have been idiosyncratic and seemingly unaligned with the agendas of most public school advocates.
One Daniels’ bill passed in the 2017 session: House Bill 303, the “Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act,” would ban school districts “from discriminating against students, parents, and school personnel on basis of religious viewpoints or expression,” and would require a school district “to adopt limited public forum policy and deliver a disclaimer at school events.”
A 2018 Daniels’ bill, which also passed, likewise blurred the boundaries between the pulpit and pupils, requiring all schools to display the state motto, “In God We Trust,” in a “conspicuous place.”
Daniels, who has benefited from contributions from Gary Chartrand and Charter Schools USA, seems to have an agenda at odds with traditional education interests.
Despite support from Chartrand and other traditional GOP stalwarts (Peter Rummell, Rep. Travis Cummings‘ “First Coast Conservatives” committee, and the GEO Group), Daniels has almost exhausted her campaign account.
In the past three weeks, Daniels raised just over $3,000 and has roughly $4,000 on hand.
Daniels has access to liquidity other candidates don’t, being a preacher. However, she has been absent from the campaign trail and skipped out on forums and even an endorsement interview with the Florida Times-Union.
Could Daniels lose her second re-election campaign in three years?
State Rep. Tracie Davis and former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown both ran, and lost, as Democrats on the Duval ballot in 2015.
Davis lost her elections supervisor race in March; Brown lost the mayorship in May.
That link, however, was not enough for Davis to endorse Brown for Congress. On Friday, she broke with her fellow Duval Democrat and backed incumbent U.S. Rep. Al Lawson for re-election to Florida’s 5th Congressional District.
Quotes were provided by the Lawson campaign.
“I’ve seen the work that Congressman Lawson has done for the district and, specifically, for my hometown of Jacksonville,” Davis said. “He has done so much to support our veterans, defend affordable healthcare, and to secure funding to improve our infrastructure and the quality of life for our community.”
“His record shows that Congressman Lawson is the right man for Jacksonville and Florida’s 5th District. I’m honored to endorse him and I am throwing my full support behind him,” Davis added.
Lawson said, “As one of my peers in government, Rep. Davis understands exactly what we’re up against when it comes to creating meaningful change for the people we represent. This is why it means so much to receive such support from her. I look forward to continuing to work with her to improve the quality of life for all of those who call Jacksonville home.”
Davis’ endorsement may be a bellwether for other Jacksonville endorsements. Typically, she moves in lockstep with Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis and state Sen. Audrey Gibson.
It will be worth watching, meanwhile, to see if Alvin Brown can score any endorsements to counteract this message.
The Brown campaign is stumbling toward the finish line. He was down by more than 20 points in the only public poll of the race, and the local Florida Times-Union endorsed Lawson over him.
Wishful thinking predicates much of election season. Aspirational ads for Democrats; appeals targeting nonexistent issues (hello, “sanctuary cities”) for Republicans.
Ultimately, these moves — whether pulled by a winning or losing campaign — are strategic. How a Republican is to eliminate sanctuary cities or how a Democrat is by force of will to create Medicare for All or legalize cannabis is left to the voters’ imaginations.
From the embryonic, conceptual phases of campaigns, where voters can convince themselves that radical shifts can happen, thinking evolves eventually. Pretenders fall off. People start thinking strategically about their vote. And, in the cases of early front-runners, we often see how shallow that support is once the game changes.
As you will see below, there’s not a lot of drama in certain races. We have a good sense of who will win area Congressional primaries. Less of a good sense as to who will win a couple of state House races.
As is the case every year, none of this is too surprising. Polls are transparent. Campaign finance is easy enough to figure out. And most reading this can read candidates and their chances pretty well also.
Levine in Jax
Jacksonville was the fourth and final stop on Philip Levine‘s barnstorming tour of local early voting locations Monday.
This tour happens as tensions have boiled over between Levine and another Democratic contender, Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene.
As the two work to drive up each other’s negatives, polls show that U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham holds an advantage.
An internal poll released last week by Levine has him behind by four points. A Graham poll shows her up on Levine by 16 points. Greene was behind the top two in both cases.
Levine was not especially dismayed by the turn the campaign has taken.
“The bottom line is this,” Levine said. “I think the people deserve to know what someone’s track record is” vis a vis Trump.
Levine estimated having been “on television … a hundred, two hundred times … during the 2016 election, warning America that this guy would be a terrible president.”
“I think that when someone pretends [he’s] fighting them while being at his country club by the ocean — we call it Kremlin-by-the-Sea — and passing the Grey Poupon across the table and thinks that’s fighting Donald Trump,” Levine added, “the people have a right to know.”
“You don’t want Donald Trump’s friend — you want who Donald Trump fears,” Levine said. “The people of Florida should understand who is who, and that’s why we’re doing it.”
Curry endorses DeSantis
According to WJCT, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said he and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis align on prominent issues — being tough on crime and investing in youth — and they both come from similar working-class backgrounds and want others to have the same opportunities.
“Ron’s a good conservative,” Curry told reporters. “I’ve been about disrupting the status quo locally, and I think that that’s what’s got to happen everywhere, and Ron’s going to disrupt the status quo as the governor of the state of Florida and I’m supporting him, voting for him and encouraging folks to get out and vote in the primary.”
DeSantis called Curry “innovative.”
“What he’s done here is showing that you got to be bold, you just got to keep pushing,” he said. “And that’s obviously what I would want to do as governor.”
Tale of two districts
For nearly three decades, two congressional districts split the city of Jacksonville.
One of them, what is now Florida’s 4th Congressional District, was represented for years by reliable — and by today’s standard, moderate — Republicans Tillie Fowler and Ander Crenshaw.
The other district, currently the 5th Congressional District, was Democrat Corrine Brown‘s sinecure. The maps on that district changed periodically, seemingly always under legal challenge, a process that ended in 2016 with Brown’s district being moved from its south/southwest jog toward the Orlando area to a straight east-west configuration.
Jacksonville, as of yet, doesn’t have the population to house two districts within Duval County — and given the cartographical challenges of minority access districts, that may not be the case after the next apportionment either.
However, a look at book closing data for CD 4 and CD 5 reveals two districts that ultimately will be decided in primary elections, proving that some things really don’t change in the 904.
If the election in Florida’s 5th Congressional District were today, U.S. Rep. Al Lawsonwould cruise to victory, according to a St. Pete Polls survey of the race released Monday.
A survey of 445 likely Democratic primary voters shows Lawson with 50 percent of the vote, with opponent Alvin Brown at 28 percent. The balance of voters are undecided. The margin of error is 4.6 percent.
Lawson has strong leads of 15 percent and up among all surveyed demographics with appreciable data: whites and blacks, men and women, and every age cohort.
Among those who already voted, Lawson is up 52-42; among those yet to vote, Lawson’s lead balloons to 49-26.
Despite the negative messaging in this race in recent weeks against Lawson, the incumbent has not seen his favorable ratings damaged. Fifty-four percent of Democrats in the district regard him favorably, giving him a +36 rating (Brown, with 36 percent of Democrats regarding him favorably, is at +16).
The winner of this race will face Republican Virginia Fuller, a first-time candidate without an appreciable campaign infrastructure.
A new survey conducted by St. Pete Polls shows Republican Michael Waltz pulling ahead of primary opponents John Ward and Fred Costello in the race to succeed DeSantis in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.
The new poll commissioned for Florida Politics asked likely primary voters who they would support if the election were today. Waltz, a St. Augustine Army veteran, would take 40 percent of the vote, results show. Ward, a Palm Coast Navy veteran, would win 21 percent, while former Ormond Beach state Rep. Costello would get 16 percent. Another 23 percent of those polled remain undecided.
The poll, taken Aug. 10, shows an even more pronounced lead for Waltz among voters who already cast their ballot in the race. Waltz won support from 41 percent of those polled. Interestingly, Costello outperformed Ward among those eager voters, winning 22 percent to Ward’s 21 percent.
More than 23 percent of those surveyed already voted in the Republican primary.
The poll shows significant movement from a survey by St. Pete Polls conducted July 18. Then, the three Republicans appeared to be in a dead heat, with Costello just over 21 percent, Ward just under 21 percent and Waltz at 20.
HD 14, 15 still in doubt
Both the Democratic primary in House District 14 and the Republican race in HD 15 offer a soupçon of drama as early voting continues.
In HD 14’s Democratic two-way, challenger Paula Wright finally has cash on hand lead over incumbent Kim Daniels.
Wright has continued to raise money. Between July 28 and Aug. 3, the last dates for which campaign finance numbers are available, Wright raised $7,675, with cash from Realtors, AFSCME, and a sheet metal local union contributing.
Wright has just over $14,000 on hand (more than Daniels), and according to her campaign finance report, will spend a lot of that money on canvassers (the majority of the nearly $2,800 spent between July 27 and Aug. 3 went for such purposes).
Wright has some advantages. A current chair of the Duval County School Board, she is no political neophyte. And she’s backed by Democratic elected officials, including Sen. Audrey Gibson, state Rep. Tracie Davis, and Councilman Garrett Dennis.
Daniels, who has had her share of scandals and apostasies from Democratic orthodoxy, is seen as beatable by those close to Wright.
In HD 15, meanwhile, the Republican side of the ledger is where the action is, with lobbyist WymanDuggan trying to close the deal against primary opponents Joseph Hogan and Mark Zeigler.
Duggan has spent more than $85,000 on television in July. He continues to raise money ($10,000 between July 27 and Aug. 3, including donations from pharmaceutical and Realtor trade group political committees) and has roughly $75,000 between hard money and committee money as he heads into the stretch run.
It gives him more cash on hand than Zeigler (~$28K) and Hogan(~$28K) combined.
Public polling of this race has yet to surface. However, a recent mailer from Duggan’s political committee slammed Hogan for his support for former Jacksonville Mayor Brown in the 2015 race against current Republican incumbent Curry.
Hogan “stands with anti-Trump progressives,” the mailer charges, as Hogan said Jacksonville was “better off” with Brown.
The Duggan bet seems to be that district voters need reminding of that particular deviation from doctrine.
The Florida Supreme Court has agreed to take up a dispute about whether Gov. RickScott has the authority to appoint a Northeast Florida circuit judge.
Justices issued an order Thursday accepting the case and scheduled arguments Oct. 2. But the order showed a divided court, with Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, Peggy Quince and Jorge Labarga backing the decision to take up the case and Chief Justice Charles Canady and justices RickyPolston and AlanLawson opposed.
The case stems from the upcoming retirement of Judge RobertFoster in the 4th Judicial Circuit, which is made up of Duval, Clay, and Nassau counties. Foster was expected to leave office Jan. 7, 2019, which would be the end of his term, because of mandatory retirement age.
But on April 2, Foster sent a letter to Scott making the retirement effective Dec. 31, four business days ahead of schedule.
The Scott administration argues — and the 1st District Court of Appeal agreed — that the governor’s acceptance of a judicial resignation before the start of an election-qualifying period creates a vacancy that should be filled by appointment, rather than election.
If Foster retired Jan. 7, the post would be filled by election. Jacksonville lawyer David Trotti filed the legal challenge arguing that the opening should be filled in this year’s elections. Trotti tried this spring to qualify to run for the judicial spot but was denied. The Supreme Court arguments will come about a month before the Nov. 6 general election but after ballots are printed.
Hogan on blast
Early voting is allowed on college campuses — but Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan isn’t having it at the University of North Florida.
Via Folio Weekly, Megan Newsome — a UNF student who was a plaintiff in the lawsuit intended to secure that access for college students — is not happy.
“Students have been fighting for this change for years, and now that the option is finally on the table, officials in Alachua and Hillsborough counties have already taken steps to make early voting on UF and USF campuses a reality. Leon County’s Supervisor of Elections has remained open to the possibility, too. But Hogan will not even “entertain the option” because it would be “just too darn difficult,” Newsome writes.
“The closest early voting location to UNF’s campus is over 3 miles away,” Newsome notes.
No, thank you
DeSantis may want Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams to be his Lieutenant Governor.
But it’s not happening, Williams told WJXT this week.
Williams will not accept the offer, “slamming the door” on the bid.
“As long as the people of Jacksonville want me to serve them, I will honor that trust,” Williams said.
Williams, a candidate for re-election in 2019, faces nominal competition.
Between his campaign and committee accounts, Williams raised just $1,450 in July. He is left with roughly $440,000 on hand.
Williams is not in any appreciable danger at the ballot box. His sole opponent, Democrat Tony Cummings, has $700 on hand.
Mayfield seeks audit of JEA nuclear costs
State Sen. Debbie Mayfield is calling the Florida Legislature’s auditing and accountability office to look into JEA involvement an expensive nuclear power project — blasting it as an “alarming example” of “potential mismanagement” at the city-owned utility.
Nate Monroe of the Florida Times-Union reports that JEA’s involvement in the Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion project served as a backdrop for a contentious debate at City Hall over the privatization of JEA.
JEA’s share of Vogtle — as much as $4 billion over 20 years — is raising alarm bells with both city officials and credit-rating analysts.
While JEA is telling Plant Vogtle co-owners to cancel the project, Monroe noted that utility officials are “actively searching for ways to get out of the contract it has with the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, one of the co-owners.”
Mayfield represents Senate District 17, which covers Brevard and Indian River counties — about 150 miles south of Jacksonville. The Mayfield Republican is requesting the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability Office to complete a full examination of JEA’s contract with MEAG. She also wants a report submitted to the House and Senate leadership by Feb. 1.
“Citizens from the community have expressed concern over recent events and published reports that suggest serious issues surrounding the spending and operation decisions of the JEA,” Mayfield wrote to auditors this week.
JEA interim CEO Aaron Zahn told reporters he welcomed the review but disagreed that the decision to invest in Vogtle was evidence of mismanagement.
The paper writes: “The plan is to commence construction on a parking structure, entertainment complex, hotel, office tower and residential building at the same time so that most of the construction occurs during the NFL offseason.”
“Based on what we talked about today, I’d say any deal would need to be in place by the end of the year to hit that mark,” said Jags President Mark Lamping.
“Shad is anxious to get moving on these projects because he’s a big believer in momentum,” Lamping said. “It’s one of the hardest things to get, it’s one of the easiest things to lose.”
Lamping added that movement on development at the Shipyards and Metropolitan Park wouldn’t happen until the Hart Bridge offramps go down.
Should any city incentives be required, Khan is well-positioned as both Curry’s most prominent supporter and a donor in most Council races already.
Social Grounds gets props
At this week’s Cabinet meeting, Gov. Rick Scott recognized Jacksonville’s veteran-owned Social Grounds Coffee Company with the Governor’s Business Ambassador Award.
Scott said, “I’m proud to recognize Social Grounds Coffee Company with the Business Ambassador Award today. Florida is the most veteran-friendly state in the nation, and it’s great to see veteran-owned companies succeed in Florida.”
Social Grounds Owner and Marine Corps veteran Jason Kelloway said, “I am truly honored to receive the Business Ambassador Award from Governor Scott on behalf of the entire team at Social Grounds. We love our city and will continue to use our coffee to help change lives and make a difference in our community.”
In July, the release from Scott’s office notes, the Governor visited Kuwait and took coffee from Social Grounds to serve to the troops.
Ramsey, Fowler stay home as Jags visit Minnesota
The Jaguars are in Minnesota practicing with the Vikings before getting together in the second preseason game on Saturday. They are there minus two players.
Both cornerback Jalen Ramsey and defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. are back in Jacksonville serving a one-week suspension. Fowler’s banishment came after two altercations with teammates, the most heated between the former Florida Gator and fellow defensive end Yannick Ngakoue.
Ramsey, the All-Pro from Florida State, stuck up for his one-time rival by going after a reporter who was recording Fowler’s altercation with Ngakoue. After Philip Heilman of the Florida Times-Union reported on the incident, Ramsey tweeted, among other things “if y’all want war, we got sum for y’all.”
With team management, let alone the media relations department, working to generate positive coverage of a young, up-and-coming team, good relations with the local media is a priority. Ramsey’s actions, as well as Fowler’s, were determined to be “a violation of team rules,” prompting the suspensions.
Ramsey said his coaches had urged him to speak his mind. He recalled a recent meeting where coaches said “Yo, Jalen, we need you to say this,” and “come Thursday, we need you to say this on the media.”
This is probably true, but it is also likely the coaches never urged him to attack the media on Twitter. On the other hand, coaches can smile broadly when Ramsey’s incessant trash talking on the field leads opponents to take silly penalties.
The altercation last year with Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green, which led to Green body slamming Ramsey on the field, is a prime example.
When Ramsey and Fowler return to practice Monday, hopefully, the messages will have been delivered.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis visited an afterschool program in Jacksonville Thursday, and even before the formal endorsement, Curry made it clear he aligned with DeSantis.
At one point during the tour, he used the phrase “brothers from a different mother.”
Curry, during a subsequent media availability, removed all suspense and endorsed DeSantis over Adam Putnam.
“We agree on many things,” Curry said. “Got to be tough on crime. Got to get bad guys off the street. Invest in young people.”
“Ron and I have similar backgrounds,” Curry related. “We come from working-class families. Worked our butts off to get a good education.”
“Ron’s a good conservative. I’ve been about disrupting the status quo locally and I think that’s what’s got to happen everywhere,” Curry added. “Ron’s going to disrupt the status quo in the state of Florida. I’m supporting him.”
Curry will help with fundraising.
“I will do whatever it takes,” Curry said.
While Putnam’s a “friend,” Curry thinks DeSantis “is the right guy right now.”
Notable: Curry’s chief of staff and political op, Brian Hughes and Tim Baker, ran DeSantis’ first campaign for office in 2012.
Jacksonville Republicans are split in this race.
Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams endorsed DeSantis last week, along with Clay County Rep. Travis Cummings and Sen. Rob Bradley.
This co-appearance happens two days before Putnam campaigns in Jacksonville, with City Council President Aaron Bowman, Sen. Aaron Bean, and others supporting him.
However, with DeSantis as the seeming frontrunner in the race, it’s incumbent on Curry to build the kind of bond he has, for the most part, enjoyed with Gov. Rick Scott.
It’s notable, however, that Curry made no such effort with Putnam during the months he was ahead in polls.
A federal court in Jacksonville sided Wednesday with the city of Jacksonville over a challenge filed by former Police and Fire Pension Fund head John Keane because of cuts in his pension benefits.
Keane saw his benefits boosted to $234,000 a year by the board instituting the Senior Staff Voluntary Retirement Fund. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said the fund was created improperly and ordered that Keane be pensioned at the level of the General Employee Retirement Fund only ($187,000).
Keane wanted damages and injunctive relief as well as the court saying the fund was valid. The city position was it was outside of the purview of the board to create the second fund.
Keane’s challenge was rooted in the idea that he had a constitutionally guaranteed right to the pension, yet the court was not moved, and the complaint was dismissed.
Jacksonville has wrestled with pension issues for over a decade now, with the defined benefit plan that applied to pre-2016 hires racking up over $3 billion in unfunded liabilities.
In 2016, the city instituted a defined contribution plan, in exchange for agreeing to raises across the board from employees.
Police and fire fared the best, receiving 20 percent salary hikes over the course of three years.