Alvin Brown – Florida Politics

Jacksonville Bold for 5.25.18 — Game theory

We’ve reached the point in the primary cycle where, by now, campaign groundwork and infrastructure should be well underway.

Bold is offering evidence of that proposition.

Smart candidates are bringing out the big endorsements, and less seasoned candidates making career-killing gaffes.

The operatives are talking. If our Jacksonville correspondent isn’t typing, odds are good he is fielding a call from one or another.

Sometimes, what they say may even be true.

For those who have been reading Florida Politics in the Jacksonville market since 2014, what’s clear is that we much of the work — explaining why someone is winning (or losing).

Moments have predictive value. Trends emerge from specific phenomena. And the savvy players, whether donors, consultants, pols or endorsers are making rational transactional decisions.

Some like to sentimentalize politics. But they are soon disappointed when it is revealed (yet again) that the business is a discipline — and well-organized people, and operations, tend to do the best business.

Scott trumpets yet another record low crime rate

Tuesday morning, Gov. Rick Scott was in Jacksonville with what his office called a “major announcement” on “Florida’s safe communities” and the 2017 FDLE Crime Report.

Rick Scott, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, Mayor Lenny Curry talk crime-fighting.

Crime rates have decreased during the Scott era (from a 40 year low to a 46 year low and now, a 47 year low), and his trumpeting of the statistical decreases have become a yearly tradition, which allows the outgoing Governor and current Senate candidate to spotlight budget allocations for public safety measures.

“This year, our budget invested more than $5.2 billion in public safety, a more than $300 million increase over last year,” Scott said. “This investment includes $22.8 million to pay increases for state sworn law enforcement officers, which includes the 5 percent raise I signed last year.”

Scott also trumpeted a 10 percent raise for juvenile probation officers and increased funding for prevention programs for at-risk youth.

“As our economy continues to grow,” Scott said, “we continue to invest more money in law enforcement. These investments are clearly working. Crime in our state is at a 47-year low.”

“The crime rate dropped by 6 percent in 2017, including a reduction in violent crime of 3 percent,” Scott said.

Scott spotlighted several officers who died since mid-April, including Officer Lance Whitaker of Jacksonville, asking for a moment of silence in commemoration.

Scott was accompanied by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams, who spotlighted local efforts, including hiring more police officers and a 36 percent decrease in nonfatal shootings in Q1 2018.

Graham returns to Jacksonville

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Gwen Graham found herself on familiar turf Monday evening, addressing the monthly meeting of the Duval Democratic Party.

Gwen Graham works the crowd in Jacksonville Monday.

In Jacksonville, Graham — once seen as a prohibitive front-runner for the nomination — made at least one “comeback kid” posture, noting that in her 2014 race for Congress, some political reporters bet against her and others said she couldn’t win.

Graham also noted her commitment to progressive ideals in the remarks, including education, public option for health care, and gun control measures, before saying that “these things don’t matter if you can’t win.”

Graham espoused a commitment to the “67 county strategy,” a phrase also used by opponent Philip Levine. While a candidate has to do well in South Florida and the I-4 Corridor, “elections are won or lost north of Orlando.”

And Graham insisted that went beyond just Jacksonville, noting that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton “did well in Duval but got beaten badly west of here,” by way of making the case that the key is to “not get beaten so badly in places where Democrats have lost in the past.”

“Look at the data, and you will see: the reality is you have to do well everywhere,” Graham added. “You can’t write off any part of the state and think there’s a path to victory.”

Curry backs Waltz in CD 6

A major regional endorsement from Mayor Curry went to Mike Waltz Monday in the three-way GOP primary in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

The machine comes through again. [Photo: Jax Daily Record]

Curry and Waltz share some of the same political advisers; judging from the quotes of mutual admiration, there is ideological affinity as well.

“Michael Waltz is a leader and a warrior with a servant’s heart,” Curry said.

“From the battlefield to the halls of power, Mike has already demonstrated a deep reverence for the Constitution and a willingness to fight for the conservative values we share. Washington needs people who instead of saying what they want to do will simply get things done. Florida needs more conservative voices in Congress, and that’s why I am proud to endorse and support Michael Waltz for Congress,” Curry asserted.

“Mayor Lenny Curry is a true leader, visionary and champion for real conservative reform,” said Michael Waltz. “He has worked tirelessly to enact a positive conservative agenda with real results for the people of Northeast Florida. I am humbled by Mayor Curry’s support and look forward to working together in the months ahead.”

The GOP race in CD-6, where candidates vie to replace outgoing Rep. Ron DeSantis, has been an interesting one, with Waltz and John Ward both raising serious money for what will be an expensive primary straddling three media markets (Jacksonville, Daytona and Orlando).

Ward: Puerto Ricans shouldn’t vote here

John Ward, a Republican running to succeed DeSantis in CD 6, looks to have made the biggest gaffe of his political career recently.

John Ward’s comments drew fire from inside and outside his party.

According to Fox News, Ward asserted that displaced Puerto Ricans shouldn’t be allowed to vote in Florida.

“I don’t think they should be allowed to register to vote,” Ward said, given that “the Democrat Party is really hoping that they can change the voting registers in a lot of counties and districts, and I don’t think they should be allowed to do that,” Ward said at an April forum.

Instead, Ward added that Puerto Ricans “belong” in Puerto Rico.

Per the Orlando Sentinel, likely Democratic nominee Nancy Soderberg blasted the comments:

“Puerto Ricans are citizens of the United States, plain and simple, and every bit as American as John Ward,” Soderberg said in a statement. “Every American citizen, regardless of where they come from, deserve a vote.”

DeSantis — who took issue with Ward filing for the seat before he was officially running for Governor — blasted his would-be replacement via POLITICO, saying the comments were “beyond the pale.”

Gibson investigates ‘problem spa’

Per Action News Jax, Sen. Audrey Gibson investigated a “problem spa” on Jacksonville’s Southside late last week.

When she walked up to the building, Gibson’s reaction: “Who the hell would want to come here for a massage? It’s seedy!”

Audrey Gibson and reporter Tenikka Hughes (above) investigated a seedy spa late last week.

Gibson and reporter Tenikka Hughes had an interesting dialogue with spa staff, which we include below.

Gibson: “Do you know there’s been illegal activity at this place? Did you know about that?”

Worker: “I don’t know.”

Hughes: “You see, it says sweet, young Asian girls. None of these girls work here?”

Worker: “No, no, no.”

Hughes: “Did you know it was being advertised like this?”

Worker: “I don’t know. That’s the first time I saw.”

Gibson: “Can we come in and see your massage rooms?”

Worker: “No.”

Doubts of Gibson permeate Senate Dem caucus

Two new political committees speak to doubts about the way forward for Senate Democrats, for which Sen. Gibson is Leader-Designate.

Audrey Gibson. (Image via Sarasota Herald-Tribune)

This is the “latest, most indelible sign of a growing rift within the caucus and yet the divide may be improving the minority party’s chances of retaking the chamber.”

“In late April, Friends of Kevin Rader PC was established by David Ramba, a prominent Tallahassee lobbyist who administers dozens of political committees on behalf of a broad range of political clients. Also recently formed was Future Democratic Majority PC and, in addition to Rader, involves Sens. Randolph BracyLauren Book from Plantation, Linda Stewart from Orlando, Bobby Powell from West Palm Beach, and Darryl Rouson from St. Petersburg.”

Per one consultant: “It’s about a crisis of confidence in Audrey (Gibson) and a fear of what the caucus might become if Gary Farmer is eventually given the reins.”

Gibson faces a primary challenge from Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown. What’s clear, however, is that the issues around the state are at least worthy of monitoring for the incumbent.

Expect big money for Hutson committee

Sen. Travis Hutson was this week supported at a fundraising reception for his First Coast Business Foundation, and Curry was the special guest at an event heavy on names of prominent politicos, donors and lobbyists.

Travis Hutson is consolidating regional support, which will allow him to reach out statewide.

Event chairs included Marty Fiorentino, former Congressional candidate Hans Tanzler (endorsed by Hutson in 2016), JEA Board member Husein Cumber, Jaguars’ lobbyist and all-around problem solver Paul Harden, and bestbet’s Jamie Shelton.

Among the standout names on the host committee: charter school impresario Gary Chartrand and the Jax Chamber mainstay Daniel Davis.

A similar group of players came together last year for a fundraiser in support of future House Speaker Paul Renner, whose political committee had a $261,000 month because of it.

Hutson is pursuing the Senate presidency in 2022, and fundraisers like this for his political committees will fuel the work to secure support for his bid.

In April, his Sunshine State Conservatives political committee got a boost reflective of similar support from different players.

The committee brought in $155,000 in April, with much of that money coming from other committees.

Firefighters back Polson in HD 15

Democrat Tracye Polson is still waiting to find out which of three Republicans will emerge from the August primary to face her in the House District 15 race.

Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters head Randy Wyse addresses a crowd downtown.

But she doesn’t have to wait any longer for the endorsement of one of Jacksonville’s most influential public-sector unions.

The Jacksonville Association of Firefighters gave its imprimatur to Polson, meaning that no matter what happens in the GOP battle, she can count on union backing.

“I am humbled to have earned the support of the men and women of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters. This endorsement is particularly meaningful to me. As a licensed mental health professional, I’ve spent many years treating victims of trauma and I know the critical impact first responders have when they arrive on the scene of fire and medical emergencies. District 15 continues to battle the opioid epidemic, having two ZIP codes with the highest rate of overdoses in the city,” said Polson.

“Furthermore, because of the stressors first responders are exposed to every day, they have increased rates of PTSD and suicide. And this impacts their loved ones and our entire community, too. I will be a staunch advocate for them and their families,” Polson added.

The local Fraternal Order of Police had previously endorsed Polson, giving her a public safety sweep.

Bowman, Wilson take Jacksonville City Council helm

The top job starting July 1 in the Jacksonville City Council will go to current Vice President Aaron Bowman, elected President-Designate Tuesday.

Aaron Bowman and Scott Wilson will lead the Council starting July 1.

There was little surprise: Weeks prior, Bowman had 13 of the 19 councilors pledging support.

Bowman, a VP for the Jacksonville Chamber‘s business recruitment wing JAXUSA Partnership, will represent a break from the chaotic, parlous dynamic between current President Anna Lopez Brosche and Mayor Curry.

Republican Scott Wilson took the VP spot — notable because he entered Tuesday with no pledges and overcame intense lobbying from the head of the Republican Party of Duval County for his opponent, Danny Becton.

BBQ botch

Earlier this month, the city filed suit against Councilwoman Katrina Brown, a first-term Democratic member of the Council’s Finance Committee, for breach of guaranty, relative to a defaulted loan of $380,000 to the Browns’ family business, CoWealth LLC. [COJ v Katrina Brown]

Questions remain about Katrina Brown’s political future after a city lawsuit was filed against her.

CoWealth defaulted on the loan after Jan. 1, 2017, per the filing, which noted that the city is owed over $346,000 in principal, in addition to interest, late charges and so forth.

The city has retained Burr and Forman LLP to represent its interests.

To recap, the city fronted CoWealth $380,000 of loans from the city of Jacksonville and $220,000 of grants in 2011 to build a BBQ sauce plant in Northwest Jacksonville. The grant money was conditional on the company creating 56 permanent jobs, but none were created.

The city won a default judgment against the businesses, but that was effectively worthless. Brown’s parents, including her mother who ran the businesses, filed for bankruptcy months ago.

This news is ill-timed for Councilwoman Brown, who has drawn no fewer than seven challengers for her District 8 seat.

Brown will stay on the Council, she said Tuesday, and will continue her run for re-election.

Another one bites the dust

Jacksonville’s latest Inspector General, James Hoffman, took all of six sentences in a terse resignation letter late Friday to end his twelve-month tenure.

James Hoffman. (Image via Jacksonville Daily Record)

Hoffman is the second permanent inspector general to leave the role in recent years, and the second one to last a year or less.

“I would like to thank you for the trust placed in me to lead the Office of Inspector General. The last 12 months have been personally and professionally rewarding. I have enjoyed learning and working in the consolidated government. I have been inspired by the professionals within the Office working tirelessly every day to make our government more effective and efficient. However, for personal and professional reasons, I resign as the Inspector General for the City of Jacksonville,” Hoffman wrote.

The resignation will be effective June 8.

Back in 2016, Thomas Cline left the position, after less than a year. Steve Rohan, a former city lawyer, also served on an interim basis in between the two permanent hires.

It took the Inspector General Selection and Retention Committee roughly that long to secure Hoffman as a permanent replacement.

Jacksonville City Council members, including the president of the body and the body’s chief advocate for an IG position, didn’t see the departure coming.

Land Trust honored for fort preservation

The North Florida Land Trust was recognized recently with the 2018 Florida Preservation Organizational Achievement award for the work they did to acquire and preserve the 1898 Spanish-American War Fort.

The property had been purchased at a tax deed sale, and the buyer had considered demolition. However, a combination of $162,500 in city funds, a $100,000 donation from the Delores Barr Weaver fund, and other support combined to meet the $400,000 purchase price.

NFLT brings home the hardware.

Per a media release: “NFLT was chosen for the Florida Trust’s Preservation Award in the organizational achievement category for the capital campaign they led to preserve the 1898 Spanish-American War Fort. NFLT partnered with the National Park Service in 2015 to serve as the acquisition and fundraising partner to save the fort. They negotiated with the landowner who had acquired the property at a tax deed sale and had planned to destroy the fort to build a house. The staff then set out on a yearlong capital campaign to raise the money needed to purchase the property and save the fort.”

“This is an example of what a community can achieve when we work together to save an important part of our state’s history,” said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT. “When we took this on in 2015, it was the largest capital campaign our organization had ever undertaken in its 16-year history. Our then small staff of six worked very hard to achieve our goal to save the fort. With help from the City of Jacksonville, the Delores Barr Weaver Fund and many in the community who contributed to the campaign, we were able to raise the money needed to purchase this property and save a piece of Jacksonville history.”

The National Park Service will be the ultimate custodians of the fort.

Tim Nolan takes helm of TOTE

Per media release: Tim Nolan has been named the next President and CEO of TOTE Inc., the parent company to TOTE Maritime and TOTE Services.

Tim Nolan, current President of TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico, will take over July 16.

“I am honored and excited to step into this new leadership role with TOTE,” commented Nolan. “The TOTE team is an exemplary group of people and I am confident that together we will make this a successful transition. I look forward to working closely with customers, vendors and key stakeholders as well as all of the TOTE companies.”

TOTE’s corporate headquarters is moving to Jacksonville, where both TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico and TOTE Services are currently based.

Nolan will key in on selecting his replacement in his previous role: the next president for TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico.

Art attack

WJCT reports that Jacksonville’s decision to sell “Iva,” a painting by Joan Mitchell that had not been displayed in a decade, will mean big profits for city coffers.

“Leaders in the arts community now have $2.8 million in their pockets, thanks to the auction seller’s fees being waived by Christie’s grant of a 104 percent return.”

“Iva” by Joan Mitchell.

The money will be split 50/50 by the city and its Museum of Contemporary Art.

The city’s share will go toward its Arts in Public Places program, which has $700,000 in unmet maintenance needs.

Black Creek land deals cut

The state has acquired the land needed for a project to pump water out of Black Creek and into aquifers at Keystone Heights, reports the Florida Times-Union.

The Black Creek project is expected to replenish area lakes, such as in Keystone Heights.

“The project calls for using Black Creek — which floods frequently — as an alternative water supply to meet the region’s future water needs by helping replenish the Floridan aquifer, the state’s main water source. It is the first attempt in Northeast Florida to use water from a creek or river to recharge the aquifer.”

There are critics, including HD 19 Democratic candidate Paul Still.

Still got in the race against incumbent Bobby Payne in part because of the “Black Creek boondoggle,” and he still is unmollified.

“It should be clear that the wetlands associated with Black Creek at Penney Farms require frequent high creek levels to keep them functioning and that withdrawing water at the proposed rate for the Black Creek Project would harm those wetlands,” said Still.

Chambers wins eco dev award

Via a news release from the Jax Chamber: “Cathy Chambers, JAXUSA Partnership senior vice president of strategy and business development, was honored with the prestigious Eunice Sullivan Economic Development Professional of the Year Award at the 2018 Florida Economic Development Council (FEDC) Annual Conference on Tuesday.”

“The FEDC recognized Chambers as a leader of business development success and advocacy for the profession, the region and women in the field,” the release continues. “During her tenure at JAXUSA Partnership, Chambers spearheaded efforts to attract more than 10,000 jobs and capital investment to the Northeast Florida region, including significant projects such as Deutsche Bank, Macquarie, Citibank, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Web.com, PNC Mortgage and EverBank, among others.”

“Cathy is a highly respected voice for economic development in the Northeast Florida region and the state,” said Jerry Mallot, president of JAXUSA Partnership and 1997 recipient of the Eunice Sullivan Award. “Many business decision-makers and site consultants have recounted that they are drawn to the region because of Cathy’s professionalism, credibility and knowledge. She consistently impresses our clients resulting in their investment in the region which is good, not only for them but also for our community.”

Jags’ Ramsey makes plans for fatherhood; trolls Bills’ QB

With Father’s Day just three weeks away, Jaguars’ cornerback Jalen Ramsey is looking forward to his first. He is already making plans for the future when it comes to the young Ramsey.

Whether he becomes the father of a boy or girl, he would like for the child to follow in the footsteps of his or her parents. He sees a potential track star in the 2030s.

Jalen Ramsey looks forward to Father’s Day.

Both Ramsey and his girlfriend both ran track in high school back in Tennessee. The former FSU All-American was also a track star in Tallahassee.

“Hopefully he or she will be a little track star,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ramsey is getting ready for training camp by doing something else he does well. One of the league’s best shutdown corners is also one of the league’s most prolific agitators.

The target this time was Buffalo Bills’ rookie quarterback Josh Allen. When the Bills spoke of the impending first pass of Allen’s career during a rookie workout, Ramsey retweeted “that’s a pick waiting to happen.”

Ramsey later deleted the post, but Allen was asked about it later.

Allen said Ramsey’s barb did not bother him at all. “That’s one of the best corners in the league,” he said.

One of the best talkers, too.

Alvin Brown slams Al Lawson for voting for Trump-backed Dodd/Frank rollback bill

A lull in the media releases in the Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District ended Thursday, with Alvin Brown pillorying Rep. Al Lawson for voting with Republicans on a Donald Trump approved bill that would undo much of the Dodd-Frank protections instituted in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

Only 33 Democrats voted for the Dodd-Frank rollback, with 158 voting against.

The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act has, per the Washington Post, “several controversial provisions.”

“Among them: it would relax rules on regional and community banks; free some large banks from the reach of ‘too big to fail’ regulations that placed especially large banks under tighter government supervision; and raise the threshold where banks need to report potentially risky mortgage-lending activity to regulators,” the Post reported.

Brown’s statement palpitated with populist indignation.

“Just a decade after the global economic meltdown,” Brown asserted, “Congress has moved to roll back regulations on big banks, irresponsibly putting our country’s economy at risk of another financial crisis.”

“Despite claims it will help consumers and offer relief for community banks,” Brown added, “this dangerous legislation dismantles Dodd-Frank’s post-crisis safeguards and is yet another example of my opponent standing side by side with the Trump administration and Wall Street at the expense of hardworking families across North Florida.”

“Floridians were hit hard by the financial crisis and Great Recession, and have not forgotten the lost jobs, homes and life savings they experienced as a result. In Congress, I will always fight in the people’s best interest and demand Wall Street be held accountable for their reckless practices. We need leaders who will stand up to the big banks, not undermine consumer protections and put us on the brink of another economic collapse,” Brown concluded.

Lawson defended his vote Thursday afternoon, via statement.

“I voted in favor of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S.2155) because it provides common sense bipartisan relief to our small and community banks from some of the overly burdensome restrictions of the Dodd-Frank Act. Smaller community banks and credit unions are a vital source of capital in rural and underserved communities. They help our neighborhood businesses start and grow, allow farmers to get loans and support families in achieving homeownership. The bill also puts in place new consumer protections for seniors, renters and veterans,” Lawson asserted.

The race in CD-5, a sprawling east-west district encompassing part of Jacksonville on one end of the district and part of Tallahassee on the other, is competitive in terms of financial resources.

Lawson has just under $160,000 cash on hand and Brown has just over $127,000.

Jacksonville Bold for 5.18.18 — Relationship business

As Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is fond of saying: politics is a “relationship business.”

So, this edition of Bold spotlights the utility of political friendships.

Whether running for Congress or state or local office, you’d better have your friends’ endorsements (well-timed) and the interest of the donor class (early, and often).

In each category, there will be examples of the haves — and have-nots.

File this edition away, come back to it in 100 days or so. You will see a direct correlation (if not causation) between who got the help they needed and who had juice with the voters.

Biden backs Soderberg for Congress

Ambassador Nancy Soderberg rolled out her most high-profile endorsement for her Congressional race yet Monday, with former Vice President Joe Biden backing the Clinton administration alum.

Nancy Soderberg was instrumental in Bill Clinton-era foreign policy.

“I’ve known Nancy for three decades since she first started her work in the Senate,” said Vice President Biden. “She is a lifelong public servant who has served at the highest levels of government. At the White House and as an Ambassador to the United Nations, Nancy brokered international peace deals and helped develop and promote U.S. national security policy. She understands what it’s like to bring both sides to the table and solve complex issues. She’s been tested and she’s delivered.”

Biden is “supporting Nancy because she’s a problem solver, and will fight for the values of the 6th District: growing the middle class, creating jobs you can raise a family on, ensuring every family has access to affordable health care and every child can get an affordable education. She has the knowledge and experience to make a difference and get things done for the people of the 6th District.”

Soderberg, meanwhile, is “honored to have the support of Vice President Biden, who has dedicated his life to standing up for American men, women and children.”

Florida’s 6th Congressional District, currently represented by Rep. Ron DeSantis, extends from St. Johns County south to Volusia on Florida’s east coast.

Dems rally behind Lawson

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson hinted earlier this month about a swath of endorsements from Florida Democratic colleagues in Congress, and Monday he delivered.

Rep. Al Lawson (shown with French President Emmanuel Macron) trumpeted a swath of Congressional endorsements this week.

In total, eight endorsements came his way: Reps. Darren SotoVal DemingsCharlie CristKathy CastorLois FrankelTed DeutchDebbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson.

“I am humbled to receive the support of my colleagues as we continue to make our economy stronger, communities safer and produce results that all North Florida families can be proud of,” Lawson said.

These endorsements come at a key time for Lawson. Alvin Brown, the former Jacksonville mayor currently primarying Lawson, enjoyed a two-to-one fundraising advantage during the first quarter of 2018.

And that means that Brown has pulled close to incumbent U.S. Rep. Lawson in terms of cash on hand.

For the quarter, Brown brought in $167, 088, while Lawson hauled in $83,866.

Lawson had $100,000 cash on hand at the end of 2017 before Brown got in the race. Now Lawson has just under $160,000 and Brown has just over $127,000.

A. Brown lauds Ramadan; decries anti-Muslim discrimination

As incumbent Lawson collected endorsements, challenger Brown staked out the high ground.

Former Jacksonville Mayor and current 5th Congressional District Democratic hopeful Brown became the first and so far only North Florida candidate this cycle to laud the beginning of Ramadan.

Alvin Brown made his first public statement in his career on Ramadan this week.

In a statement released this week, Brown lauded the beginning of the annual celebration, while decrying discrimination against American Muslims.

“At sunset, Muslims in my district and across America will begin their monthlong celebration of the holy month of Ramadan. The month is an auspicious time for the Muslim community when the faithful will use the month to not only fast from dawn to dusk each day but also spend time to renew the spirit of their faith,” Brown asserted.

“Our nation is founded on the creed ‘E Pluribus Unum’ and this creed affirms that diversity is our national strength. We celebrate that diversity by recognizing religious pluralism as foundational to our national unity,” Brown added.

“At a time when the American Muslim community is facing unprecedented bigotry and discrimination, I join all Americans of goodwill and conscience to uphold the dignity of all our citizens. May this Ramadan be a source of blessings and joy to all those who choose to celebrate this month. Santhea and I wish all my American Muslim neighbors a very Blessed Ramadan,” Brown concluded.

Gibson stretches lead over hapless primary challenger

Jacksonville political watchers are beginning to wonder about the strategy of City Councilman Reggie Brown, who opted to primary Democratic Senate Minority Leader-Designate Audrey Gibson in August but has not yet actually raised any funds.

Reggie Brown is having problems getting traction against a heavily backed incumbent.

Through April, Gibson was far in the lead fundraising wise with more than $132,000 banked, with Brown far behind, closing the month with just $4 on hand.

Gibson has been quiet about her challenger but has committed to fundraising, with strong April receipts measuring over $17,000, pushing her over $156,000 raised and to the aforementioned $132,000 cash on hand.

Gibson brought in receipts from unions, such as the police and fire locals, as well as racing interests, Crowley Maritime, and traditional Republican donors such as John Rood and John Baker.

FOP crosses party lines in state House races

Jacksonville’s local Fraternal Order of Police went bipartisan with its latest swath of endorsements for state House, including choosing a Democrat over a field of Republicans running to replace Jay Fant.

In House District 15, the FOP endorsed Tracye Polson over Republicans Wyman DugganJoseph Hogan and Mark Zeigler.

The language of the endorsement lauded Polson’s “dedication to her community.”

Trayce Polson continues to build momentum in what has been a disciplined campaign.

Polson is the safest bet of the four candidates in the race, in that she is unopposed for her party’s nomination. Between her campaign account and that of her “Better Jacksonville” political committee, she has raised $211,000, with $135,000 on hand.

The FOP offered two other endorsements in the latest rollout, backing incumbent Republicans over underfunded Democrats.

In HD 11 and 12, the union went with Cord Byrd and Clay Yarborough.

Democratic opponents in both those races are struggling with real fundraising, which augurs poorly for their challenges to safe Republican seats.

Moran backs Polson over Republican field

In 2011, which was a different time in Jacksonville politics, Republican Audrey Moran was a strong candidate for Mayor.

Audrey Moran. (Image via Wave Magazine Online)

Though Moran fell short of the runoff election, her candidacy is still seen by many as an intersection of purpose and politics.

Moran’s days of running for public office appear to be over; however, she is still active in the scene, and crossed party lines to endorse Polson in HD 15.

“Dr. Tracye Polson will bring fresh ideas and strong leadership to Tallahassee,” said Audrey Moran in a statement from the Polson campaign.

“She is smart, collaborative and courageous. Tracye is a first-time candidate for public office and a breast cancer survivor. She knows our community and is ready to fight for what Jacksonville needs. Tracye will represent all of the people in her district and I am proud to endorse her,” Moran added.

“Earning the trust and support of such an influential community presence is an indication our campaign continues to extend its reach, connecting with a wide range of voters including business leaders. Because of her experience and insight, Audrey’s counsel will be invaluable and I am deeply grateful to have her endorsement,” said Polson.

Davis pads coffers, Jackson lags

Duval Democrats are noted for their internal wars, and a good current example of such is the House District 13 Democratic donnybrook between Rep. Tracie Davis and Roshanda Jackson, a former district secretary for state Rep. Kim Daniels.

Tracie Davis wants two more years.

The Davis/Jackson contest is one of two major primary votes awaiting some Jacksonville voters, the other being Davis’ political ally, Sen. Audrey Gibson, being challenged by Daniels’ ally, Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown.

The Gibson/Brown contest is one-sided in terms of cash-on-hand, $132,000 to $4.00 in favor of the incumbent. And at least in the early going, the Davis/Jackson contest is lopsided in favor of the current officeholder.

Davis raised $3,100 in April, pushing her over $40,000 on hand out of $41,815 raised. Her top donors, at the $500 level: AT&T Florida PAC, Florida Dental PAC and Fiorentino Group.

Davis, who had a fundraiser in Springfield Monday evening at Crispy’s on Main Street, looks to have a stronger May than April.

Jackson, meanwhile, has raised $830 in her two months in the race and has $800 of that on hand.

Per LobbyTools, the seat “is safely blue with Democrats outnumbering Republicans 54,686 to 22,554 with another 15,550 registered as independents.”

Developer dosh finds K. Brown

Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown has drawn no fewer than seven challengers for her District 8 seat.

Katrina Brown will have access to capital her many opponents won’t.

Six of them were from her own Democratic Party. One of the challengers died soon after filing, leaving five Democrats and one NPA candidate in the mix.

Brown, who dealt with bad news cycles including issues with her family business defaulting on city-funded economic development loans and grants, and an altercation with local police when a Council colleague was arrested, nonetheless is running for re-election.

And April’s receipts indicate that Brown will have help from developers in her re-election bid.

In her first month of actual fundraising, Brown raked in $7,000, from $500 and $1,000 checks.

Advocates for Business Growth ponied up, as did developers (the Sonoc Company, Leone Development and Nocatee Development, along with Sleiman Holdings), and attorneys interested in development (Driver, McAfee, Hawthorne & Diebenow).

Brown is still in a distant third place in terms of total money raised. The leader, Tameka Gaines Holly, brought in $3,458 in April (much of the money from within the district), leaving her with roughly $19,000 on hand.

Another shot for Daniels

Recent electoral setbacks weren’t the last call for the peripatetic political career of Jacksonville’s Jack Daniels, as he again has filed to run for the Jacksonville City Council.

Daniels, who shares his name with a consumer product, has taken many shots at public office. Yet, despite his efforts, the glass has come up empty time after time.

Still, he continues his efforts. And in 2019, he will get an electoral rematch against District 2 Republican Al Ferraro, the man who beat him three years prior.

Al Ferraro will face Jack Daniels, again.

Daniels, who raised less than $8,000 for his race, had good ROI: he got 27 percent of the vote.

“Since I hadn’t accepted any political money, my campaign for city council consisted of almost nothing but a year of door-to-door visits. In contrast, since my opponent accepted it, his campaign consisted of paid advice from expert political consultants, continuous paid advertisement promoting his candidacy in the media, numerous paid campaigners for him who made thousands of door-to-door visits to frequent voters, a multitude of campaign signs, many mailings to frequent voters promoting his candidacy, etc.,” Daniels contended.

Despite all of this drama, Daniels endorsed Ferraro — the “opponent.” Daniels told The Florida Times-Union that Ferraro is “a really hard worker, and I think he’d be a very good person to be a council person.”

 Daniels begins the race with a considerable financial disadvantage to incumbent Ferraro, who has over $35,000 on hand after raising $7,105 in April.

Sunshine Law charges cloud Council prez race

A public notice meeting Tuesday morning called by Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis addressed “allegations made by Council Vice President Aaron Bowman on the topic of Sunshine Violations for the upcoming Council Leadership vote.”

Anna Brosche and Garrett Dennis were the only two city officials to show up.

The vote comes Tuesday; Bowman has the majority of Council’s support pledged to him as he chases the top job.

However, clarity was not to be provided this week, as Bowman was not at the meeting. And neither was the head of the city’s ethics office, Carla Miller, expected to be at the meeting.

Bowman was “told by multiple sources that Dennis has been [negatively] talking about [Bowman’s] leadership endeavor.”

Dennis called the meeting to confront his “accusers,” but except for Council President Anna Brosche, no one was there.

In remarks to the media after the brief, inconclusive meeting, Dennis would not say directly that Bowman violated the Sunshine Law.

“I’ve been instructed by the General Counsel not to say that,” Dennis said.

Dennis, who chairs the Finance Committee, likely won’t have that prerogative next year. Bowman, per Dennis, is a “staunch supporter of the Mayor” — Dennis’ political enemy.

As well, with re-election campaigns looming ahead of the March 2019 “first election,” Dennis may see his opponent backed by the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce — for which Bowman is a VP for the business recruitment arm, JAXUSA.

Newby drops VP bid, leaves three candidates

The clouded picture in the race for Jacksonville City Council vice president cleared up Tuesday, with Sam Newby dropping out to focus on his re-election bid.

Sam Newby, an ally of Lenny Curry, opted to stand down in the VP race.

Newby, an at-large Councilman, faces one opponent thus far for re-election.

The first-term Republican’s exit from the race leaves three candidates standing: Democrat Tommy Hazouri and Republicans Danny Becton and Scott Wilson. And thus far, none of the candidates have galvanized much support.

Hazouri, a political veteran who has been Jacksonville Mayor as well as a State Representative and School Board member, sees the VP role as the logical next level. However, he hasn’t been put in the spotlight during his time on Council, and pledges have eluded him.

Becton, a fiscal watchdog from the Southside, is a Republican in his first-term. Jim Love is a pledged supporter.

Wilson, likewise a Republican in his first term, sought the VP role last year but was steamrollered in the vote by current VP Aaron Bowman.

Council votes on these offices Tuesday, and pledge meetings will take place throughout the next week.

New officers take control July 1.

Bean, Daniels present check to YMCA

State Sen. Aaron Bean joined state Rep. Daniels this week to present a $250,000 check on behalf of the state of Florida to Eric Mann, president and CEO of YMCA of Florida’s First Coast, the YMCA’s Metropolitan Board of Directors and the YMCA’s Senior Leadership Team.

During the 2018 Legislative Session, Bean and Daniels worked together to help secure state funding for teen programming at the James Weldon Johnson Family YMCA in Northwest Jacksonville.

Aaron Bean, Kimberly Daniels present a $250K check in state funding to the Johnson Family YMCA.

“The YMCA is consistently a leader in advocating for Florida’s youth by providing programs that positively impact their lives and give them the opportunities needed to succeed,” Bean said. “This funding will allow the YMCA to increase programming for at-risk adolescents in the most underserved areas of Jacksonville, which will truly change lives and benefit our entire community.”

Daniels added: “It was an honor working with Senator Bean on the Johnson Family YMCA appropriation … This facility is strategically placed between Cleveland Arms and Washington Heights, which are high crime housing areas. The youth in these neighborhoods will benefit from the program expansion, and I am excited about what is ahead for our community.”

The funding will allow the Johnson Family YMCA to launch new programming and grow programmatic opportunities for teens and pre-teens in Jacksonville’s most disadvantaged areas. The Johnson YMCA will also use the funding to provide life skills training, job and career preparation, health education and summer employment opportunities for teens. These new programs will serve approximately 120 additional youth in the community.

Not so fast on ‘no sale’ bill

On Monday, the Jacksonville City Council’s Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health & Safety committee deferred a bill expressing opposition to selling the local utility, a hot-button issue in recent months.

The bill will be considered in three weeks when committees next convene.

2018-248, a resolution introduced by Councilors Jim LoveJoyce Morgan and Reggie Gaffney, would put the kibosh on moves to potentially sell JEA.

This discussion comes at a time when moves to sell or privatize all or part of the utility find a phalanx of detractors and no public advocates in the present tense.

Though official positions of both JEA Interim CEO Aaron Zahn and Jacksonville Mayor Curry boil down to advocating a pause of some indeterminate length in a discussion of privatization of the utility, many observers of the process do not take those assertions at face value.

The deferral motion from Councilman Love seemed to catch co-sponsor Morgan and Councilman Garrett Dennis by surprise.

Dredge, baby, dredge

The Jacksonville Business Journal reports that “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is soliciting bids for the second phase of the harbor deepening project, estimated to cost between $125 million and $200 million.”

Dredging continues in Jacksonville.

This phase, “Project B,” is expected to cost $187 million and will deepen miles 3-8 of the shipping channel.

Project A, still in progress, is expected to be wrapped next year.

Federal funding, which has been in place, is not assured for this part of the project. Jaxport could front the funds in hopes of eventual federal reimbursement.

The dredge, all told, will go from 11-13 miles, deepening the channel to 47 feet.

C. Brown drama lingers

A year has passed since Corrine Brown was found guilty of various counts of fraud and tax evasion related to her former nonprofit, “One Door for Education.”

Brown is imprisoned, yet the appeal process continues, predicated on whether the removal of a juror who claimed to be guided by a “higher power” was the reason she was found guilty.

Corrine Brown’s defense and appeals have been fruitless thus far.

This week, prosecutors again rejected the proposition that the discharged juror was the difference maker.

“The decision to remove a sitting juror is a significant one that justifiably warrants careful, albeit deferential, review by this (appeals) court,” the document said. “The district court’s decision here handily withstands that review. The court took this issue very seriously and removed the juror only after having carefully considered whether that juror would be able to follow the court’s instructions and decide the case based on the evidence. And the court did so only after having concluded that the juror’s decision — that he had been told by the Holy Spirit before deliberations had even begun, that Brown was not guilty of all 24 charged crimes — was not based on the juror’s evaluation of the sufficiency of the evidence.”

Brown, who was convicted last year on 18 felony counts and sentenced to five years in prison, has focused her appeal on the decision by U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan to dismiss the juror.

Bestbet doubles down

In another gambling case that could reach the state Supreme Court, a Jacksonville casino is appealing the state’s decision to end its quest for a slot machine license.

Bestbet doubles down on slots hopes.

Jacksonville Kennel Club, which does business as bestbet, filed a notice of appeal Tuesday to the 1st District Court of Appeal after the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) turned down its application last month. The department regulates gambling through its Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering.

Any expansion of slots is opposed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which pays the state millions each year for the exclusive right to offer slots at its casinos outside South Florida.

And a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot this November would require the statewide approval of voters before any expansion of gambling — and its backers say the measure would have retroactive effect.

The crux of the Jacksonville appeal is last May’s Supreme Court decision denying slots to a track in Gretna, Gadsden County, and in other counties that passed local referendums allowing them. Duval was one such county; bestbet Jacksonville wants to add slots to its poker and simulcast wagering.

Jags’ Bortles plays a little defense

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles was in the rare position of playing defense last week. Not on the football field, but in his own home.

News4Jax reported that a young neighbor, Joseph Horton, was able to get into Bortles’ truck parked outside his home while the quarterback was hosting a party. The 18-year-old Horton tried to steal the truck, but was unable to navigate through multiple cars belonging to those attending the party.

Blake Bortles is playing defense at home.

Not satisfied to take Bortles’ wallet, which was in the truck along with the keys, the teenager went into the house full of partygoers and went upstairs. When no one recognized him, police were called.

When they arrived, Bortles and two friends were standing guard over the young man, who claimed to enter the house in search of a girlfriend. No one had heard of her.

In the end, Horton was arrested, where it was later learned that he lived in a multi-million-dollar home with his parents on the Intracoastal Waterway. He was charged with burglary, trespassing, and grand theft and later released on bond.

A Twitter account called Blake Bortles Facts used the incident to take a gratuitous slap at the Cincinnati Bengals tweeting “Blake Bortles has prevented more truck thefts (1) than the @Bengals have Playoff wins since 1991.”

For the record, the Jaguars and Bengals do not play each other this year.

As primary challenge looms, Al Lawson plans May 29 town hall in Jacksonville

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson plans a May 29th town hall in Jacksonville, as he looks to repel a challenge in the Democratic primary from former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

The meeting kicks off at 6 p.m. in the auditorium at Florida State College Jacksonville’s downtown campus.

Among the topics: food insecurity, gun control, affordable healthcare, disaster relief and recent legislation Lawson has introduced.

Lawson hosted a town hall in the same location in 2017, at a point in his term before the Alvin Brown challenge had yet to manifest.

Lawson has started his re-electioncampaign slowly and with a high burn rate.

As of the end of March, his campaign had just under $160,000 on hand — roughly half of the almost $320,000 raised, with very little laid out in the way of a campaign infrastructure.

Brown, who raised $167,000 in his first quarter in the race, had almost $128,000 on hand.

Brown has yet to seize on local issues as campaign talking points, preferring instead to message on gun control primarily.

Those on hand Tuesday, meanwhile, will watch to see how Lawson makes the sale to people on the eastern flank of the sprawling east/west 5th Congressional District.

Alvin Brown lauds Ramadan, decries anti-Muslim discrimination

Former Jacksonville Mayor and current 5th Congressional District Democratic hopeful Alvin Brown became the first and so far only North Florida candidate this cycle to laud the beginning of Ramadan.

In a statement released Tuesday morning, Brown lauded the beginning of the month-long celebration, while decrying discrimination against American Muslims.

“At sunset, Muslims in my district and across America will begin their month long celebration of the holy month of Ramadan. The month is an auspicious time for the Muslim community, when the faithful will use the month to not only fast from dawn to dusk each day but also spend time to renew the spirit of their faith,” Brown asserted.

“Our nation is founded on the creed ‘E Pluribus Unum’ and this creed affirms that diversity is our national strength. We celebrate that diversity by recognizing religious pluralism as foundational to our national unity,” Brown added.

“At a time when the American Muslim community is facing unprecedented bigotry and discrimination, I join all Americans of goodwill and conscience to uphold the dignity of all our citizens. May this Ramadan be a source of blessings and joy to all those who choose to celebrate this month. Santhea and I wish all my American Muslim neighbors a very Blessed Ramadan,” Brown concluded.

Brown is primarying Rep. Al Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat, in the safely Democratic North Florida seat that sprawls west from Jacksonville through the state capital.

The race thus far is a tight one in terms of fundraising.

As of the end of March, Lawson’s campaign had just under $160,000 on hand — roughly half of the almost $320,000 raised, with very little laid out in the way of a campaign infrastructure.

Brown, who raised $167,000 in his first quarter in the race, had almost $128,000 on hand.

Florida congressional Democrats fall in behind Al Lawson’s re-election bid

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson hinted earlier this month about a swath of endorsements from his Florida Democratic colleagues in Congress.

On Monday he delivered.

In total, eight endorsements came his way: U.S. Reps. Darren Soto, Val Demings. Charlie Crist, Kathy Castor, Lois Frankel, Ted Deutch, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Frederica Wilson.

“I am humbled to receive the support of my colleagues as we continue to make our economy stronger, communities safer and produce results that all North Florida families can be proud of,” Lawson said.

These endorsements come at a key time for Lawson.

Alvin Brown, the former Jacksonville mayor primarying Lawson currently, enjoyed a two-to-one fundraising advantage during the first quarter of 2018.

And that means that Brown has pulled close to Lawson in terms of cash on hand.

For the quarter, Brown brought in $167, 088, while Lawson hauled in $83,866.

Lawson had $100,000 cash on hand at the end of 2017, before Brown got in the race. Now Lawson has just under $160,000 and Brown has just over $127,000.

Jacksonville Bold for 5.11.18 — Buy the ticket, take the ride

August primaries are close to three months away. Vote by mail ballots will go out sooner than that.

What that means is the time is now for candidates to show what their operations on the state and federal level really look like. And on the local level, where elections are still farther away, it’s infrastructure-building time.

In federal races, we have already seen pretenders separate themselves from ostensible pretenders. State qualifying is next month; some will take passes on those races, too.

Adding to the intrigue: An opening in the Duval County Tax Collector office. While not a thrilling position, it has four candidates (as of this writing) who have real political resumes. And that election, a special, is on the August/November schedule.

As the saying goes, “buy the ticket, take the ride.” Through next May, it’s all elections, all the time — that’s when Jacksonville’s municipal races finally close out.

Rutherford seeks federal penalties for targeting police

Rep. John Rutherford is a congressional co-introducer of legislation to make it an additional federal crime for criminals to attack law enforcement officers.

John Rutherford, a former Sheriff, has a personal stake in this legislation.

House Resolution 5698, the “Protect and Serve Act of 2018,” would create federal penalties for people who deliberately target local, state, or federal law enforcement officers with violence.

In addition to any sentences they may receive for the standard crimes, the fact that the crime was committed against a law enforcement officer could add 10 years, or a life sentence if the officer dies, or the perpetrator kidnapped the officer during the course of the crime.

“As a career law enforcement officer and sheriff of Jacksonville for 12 years, I know what officers go through every day when they put on their uniform, say goodbye to their families, and go out on the streets doing the important work of protecting our communities,” Rutherford stated in a news release from his office.

“With an uptick in ambush attacks on law enforcement, like we saw last month in Trenton, Florida, we must ensure that there are steep consequences for anyone who targets our law enforcement officers. The Protect and Serve Act will serve as a significant deterrent for anyone who deliberately targets officers with violence. I want to thank my friend, Congresswoman Val Demings [a co-sponsor and former police chief] for her leadership on this bill and for her support of law enforcement officers across the country.”

Hutson makes moves

Sen. Travis Hutson is pursuing the 2022 Senate presidency, and recent activity for his primary political committee (Sunshine State Conservatives) reflects that long-range goal.

The committee brought in $155,000 in April, and much of that money came from other committees.

Travis Hutson’s goal: Senate presidency.

The “Free Speech PAC” and “Citizens First,” both of 5730 Corporate Way Suite 214″ in West Palm Beach ponied up $40,000 each.

“Florida Jobs Alliance” and “Conservative Choice,” each of which share an address with Sunshine State Conservatives, were in for another $25,000.

These committees all appear to be pass-through committees, with money coming from other committees, and so on.

Also of interest: The contributions, dated April 27, represent a break from previous contribution trends for the committee, which predominantly (though not exclusively) has been from corporate and industry PACs.

The committee doled out $10,050 in April, including contributions to campaigns of Sen. Kelli Stargel, Rep. Joe Gruters, and a secondary Hutson committee, “First Coast Business Foundation.”

More significant spending could be found in March for the committee, which gave $50,000 to the FRSCC, to help with fundraising efforts.

As the race for the eventual Senate leadership continues to unfold, expect more interesting committee transfers … and, if April receipts for this committee are an indication, they will at least sometimes be hard to track.

Yarborough, Byrd pad cash leads

April told a familiar story in House Districts 11 and 12, where Republican incumbents Cord Byrd and Clay Yarborough expanded leads over Democratic challengers.

In HD 11, Byrd raised $3,470 in April, bringing his cash on hand to $38,500. Among his donors: the Fiorentino Group.

While less than $40,000 cash on hand doesn’t sound like much, thus far his Democratic opponent (Nathcelly Rohrbaugh) has yet to show real fundraising prowess.

Cord Byrd and Clay Yarborough both increased their money leads. 

Rohrbaugh raised $560 in April and has $1,010 on hand.

HD 11 is solidly Republican, with 66,830 of them compared to 30,574 Democrats as of 2016.

Though there are rumors that Byrd may face a primary challenger, thus far they have been all sizzle and no steak.

HD 12 saw a similar scenario: an entrenched incumbent continuing to plug away against a Democratic opponent in a deep-red district.

Though Yarborough brought in just $1,000 (and spent more than that on consulting), he nonetheless has over $103,000 on hand.

Yarborough, who was a two-term Jacksonville City Councilman representing a big swath of his current House district, is also one of the better grassroots candidates in the area.

Even with just $1,000 coming in, Yarborough outraised Democrat Tim Yost, who brought in only $745 off eight contributions.

Yost has nearly $4,000 cash on hand.

Polson continues to bank in HD 15

In Jacksonville’s House District 15, Democrat Tracye Polson continues to stack chips in her campaign account, with the hope of flipping the seat from red to blue.

Trayce Polson may prove the naysayers wrong, flipping a red seat blue.

Between her campaign account and that of her “Better Jacksonville” political committee, she raised $36,983.03 in April. The total raised is over $211,000 now, which is far and away the biggest nest egg for any Jacksonville state House candidate, Republican or Democrat.

However, given that the seat was uncontested by a Democrat in recent campaign cycles, and given that in most other local Republican-held seats Democrats are not well-funded, Polson’s campaign stands out as one with sufficient resources to make the race competitive.

“When I got into this race, we knew people wanted change, improvement over the same politicians and lobbyists who fail to provide results that improve the lives of working families in Jacksonville,” Polson said in a media release.

Democrat fundraises for Fischer challenge

House District 16, on the Southside of Jacksonville, is typically a secure Republican hold.

The district leans Republican with a 55,593 to 35,171 voter registration advantage over Democrats, according to LobbyTools.

Ken Organes’ family is willing to help him overcome a Republican registration advantage in HD 16.

Rep. Jason Fischer faced no Democratic opposition in 2016. And predecessor Charles McBurney had the same luck.

However, 2018 is a different matter, with Ken Organes carrying the Democratic banner.

Organes, buoyed by $7,500 of his own money, tallied $11,743 off 34 total contributions. Aside from the candidate’s stake, the vast majority of donations were $100 and below.

The former CSX employee still has a way to go to catch Fischer, who recorded no April fundraising either for his campaign account or that of his Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville political committee.

The campaign account has $82,000 on hand, and the committee has nearly $35,000.

Elsbury to replace Korman Shelton

Jacksonville’s director of intergovernmental affairs, Ali Korman Shelton, is moving on as of the end of next week.

And Monday, the office of Mayor Lenny Curry revealed the path forward for the team, with one promotion and two internal hires effective May 21.

Jordan Elsbury, a previous “30 under 30” honoree on this site, will replace Shelton going forward.

Leeann Krieg and Jordan Elsbury, pictured here with Councilman Greg Anderson.

Elsbury had already been working with Korman Shelton in intergovernmental affairs. A veteran of the campaign side who moved over to policy when Curry got elected, Elsbury has been a quick study in both the politics and personalities of City Hall.

Additionally, the team will be boosted significantly with two key hires from City Council staff to serve as Council liaisons.

Leeann Krieg, the Council assistant for Greg Anderson, and Chiquita Moore, the assistant for Sam Newby, will be moving over as coequal “Council liaison” positions.

Moore and Krieg will be charged with helping to move the Mayor’s agenda through Council, a process that may get easier at the end of June when Council President Anna Brosche relinquishes the gavel to Curry ally Aaron Bowman.

Tax collector special election

The position of Duval County Tax Collector is poised to open up in the coming weeks.

Incumbent Michael Corrigan is moving on, to become CEO of Visit Jacksonville. His resignation letter suggests that he couldn’t serve his entire term before taking that position.

While Michael Corrigan is moving on, taxes won’t collect themselves; hence, a special election.

Providentially, a group of Republican hopefuls, including Councilman Doyle Carter, former State Rep. and City Councilman Lake Ray, and former Councilman and Property Appraiser Jim Overton (who staked his campaign with $51,000) are already filed to run on the Republican side.

One Democrat has filed, and she is a major one: former Councilor and State Rep. Mia Jones.

There will be a special election.

The first election would be on the August ballot. If no one gets a majority of votes, the general election ballot in November would be decisive.

Qualifying for this race will occur between June 18 and June 22.

White ready to replace Carter on Council

Jacksonville City Councilman Carter was already termed out in 2019 before he threw in for the soon-to-be-vacant Duval County Tax Collector position.

And Carter made it clear that he backed his old friend Randy White for the Westside seat.

Doyle Carter is backing old friend Randy White as his replacement. (Image via Jax Daily Record)

Like Carter, White is a Republican. And despite the absence of any real competition for the seat, White has maintained consistent fundraising of the sort that would discourage any late-breaking challenge for the political newcomer.

White, now in his sixth month as an active candidate, brought in a relatively modest April haul: $3,700, highlighted by donations from Duval Teachers and Nassau County Fire and Rescue employee funds.

The candidate has raised $83,386 and thus far has spent just $1,402 of that sum.

Conry presses advantage over Boylan

April continued what is becoming a familiar narrative in the two-person race in Jacksonville City Council’s District 6.

Rose Conry still holds the money lead over former WJCT CEO Michael Boylan, as the two Republicans vying to succeed termed-out Matt Schellenberg.

Rose Conry continues to build a cash lead over her fellow Republican opponent.

And cash on hand sees Conry with an almost 2-1 advantage.

Conry brought in $8,050 in April, which pushed her over $77,000 raised and $70,000 on hand.

Among notable donors for the first time candidate: Michael Munz and a political committee associated with State Rep. Jason Fischer.

Worth noting: Fischer and Conry share a political consultant, Tim Baker.

Boylan lost ground during the month in the money race, bringing in $6,250, pushing him over $48,000 raised and $36,000 on hand. Not only is Boylan raising less money than Conry, but he’s also spending more of it.

Boylan is in a more precarious position than he might expect. Conry’s political operation is situated to make attacks down the stretch count. He will want to step up his fundraising, lest he becomes unable to counter them.

Soft April for Newby

Jacksonville City Councilman Sam Newby won his at-large seat on the Jacksonville City Council three years ago on a shoestring budget of just over $9,000, defeating a candidate who raised 15 times what he did in the May 2015 unitary general election.

Fundraising is only part of the formula for Sam Newby’s political career. Connections help also.

And, if his first month in the race is any indication, Newby figures he can win re-election without eye-popping fundraising totals.

Newby brought in just $4,600, with a $100 personal loan and $4,500 in outside contributions from five donors.

Nevertheless, those donors are noteworthy.

Among them, a “big three” of sorts: the Orange Park Kennel Club, the Jacksonville Kennel Club, and Jacksonville Greyhound Racing.

All three gambling entities gave the maximum of $1,000, as did Sleiman Holdings, which is currently in a legal imbroglio with the city of Jacksonville over busted docks and other issues at the Jacksonville Landing.

These donors suggest that if Newby needs to raise more serious money going forward, he could.

However, he didn’t in April.

Newby has one opponent currently, Democrat Chad McIntyre, who thus far has yet to report fundraising.

Another Bishop belly flop

When then-Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Bishop finished a strong third in the 2015 mayor’s race, the Republican vowed that he would run for Mayor again, before endorsing Democrat Alvin Brown over Curry, the eventual Republican winner.

Bill Bishop is struggling in his latest campaign [Photo: WJXT]

Both the early declaration of a mayoral redo and the cross-party endorsement of Brown seemed like a safe bet at the time to many.

Bishop has long since abandoned his dreams for the mayor’s office and settled into a bid for an at-large City Council seat.

But fundraising continues to elude him, as another distressing tally in April suggests.

Bishop brought in just $1,225 during the month … much less than he is spending on campaign management ($3,000), via the RLS Group.

April was the second straight month in which the belly-flopping Bishop campaign spent more on campaign management than it raised.

The leading fundraiser in the race, Republican Ron Salem, continued to bank in April. He added $4,000 to his political committee and an additional $2,850 to his campaign account.

The committee has $11,000 on hand after April receipts; Salem’s campaign account, meanwhile, is over $150,000 cash on hand.

New judges in Duval

Two unopposed judge candidates will move on to the bench in Duval, reports the Florida Times-Union.

Assistant State Attorney Collins Cooper, a former Gators kicker who has faced criticism from supervisors over his perceived incompetence, will be one of Jacksonville’s newest circuit judges … Katie Dearing, a respected business attorney and the daughter-in-law of retiring Probate Judge Peter Dearing, was also unopposed and will assume office next year.”

Duval lawyers are likely to be hangin’ with Judge Collins Cooper next year.

There is one contested election: “Former state Rep. Charles McBurney and former prosecutor Maureen Horkan will face off in an election this fall for circuit judge.”

McBurney, recall, ran afoul of Marion Hammer and the National Rifle Association when he sought a gubernatorial appointment to a judgeship in 2016.

Do they have long memories?

Jacksonville Medical Examiner exits

The “challenging” tenure of “embattled” Duval County Medical Examiner Valerie Rao, per the Florida Times-Union, is at an end.

Rao wrote Gov. Rick Scott last week signaling her intentions.

Valerie Rao dealt with bad press from the start.

Rao’s tenure went from bad news cycle to bad news cycle, with early issues of employee turnover due to what the T-U summed up as “conflicts.”

“Rao, ironically, is retiring before she was ever reappointed to the position. She was up for reappointment in 2012, but Gov. Scott never reappointed her. Instead, he said he wanted more names to consider. Eventually, in 2014, the Medical Examiner’s Commission recommended two more candidates, but both ended up accepting other jobs. Since 2012, Rao has served as interim medical examiner.”

Record tourism for Jacksonville

Per Visit Jacksonville, 2018 is on a record-setting pace for local tourism.

Tourism is booming in Jacksonville, convention traffic a driver.

Behold, the highlights of a news release on the subject.

Total hotel revenue: up 12 percent year over year. Occupancy: up 3.5 percent. And average room rate is also up $5 year over year, to $96.39.

March hotel occupancy: 82.2 percent, with 462,000 rooms sold in the county, leading to $45.7 million in revenue.

Good news for policymakers counting on the bed tax. Convention traffic has been a driver, with 52 meetings through March locally. Targeted marketing and advertising, per Visit Jacksonville, have worked.

UF Health dumping outpatient dialysis

Tourism may be up … but it’s not helping the fiscal picture at Jacksonville’s UF Health.

Money’s tight at UF Health; changes are in the offing.

In a letter to Jacksonville City Council President Anna Lopez Brosche, CEO Leon Haley notes that the hospital is negotiating to sell its outpatient dialysis service to a national, not-for-profit provider by the end of June.

The seeming deciding factor seems to be that the move is made necessary by what Haley calls “significant federal and state funding shortfalls.”

State funding, per Haley, has dropped by $31 million in the last three years. Additionally, $12.7 million in federal cuts will happen this calendar year.

Feds fund ferry

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority announced Tuesday a $3,356,900 Passenger Ferry Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration.

A big win for Jacksonville, courtesy of the Donald Trump administration.

The money is earmarked for improvements for the ferry slips, the vessel and terminal.

JTA took over the ferry’s ownership and operations two years ago, noted its CEO.

“We have made a lot of improvements since JTA assumed ownership and operations of the ferry on March 31, 2016,” said JTA Chief Executive Officer Nat Ford.

“Ridership continues to grow, and improvements to the ferry’s infrastructure will continue thanks to grant awards that the JTA has received from the FTA,” Ford said. “With this recent award, the JTA will continue to strengthen the ferry’s infrastructure, and give our riders a safe and reliable service.”

In a media release, JTA thanked Florida’s Senators and Jacksonville’s two Congressmen, Rutherford and Al Lawson, for their work on behalf of the project.

Homeless rights bill filed

The Jacksonville City Council will consider in the coming weeks a “Homeless Bill of Rights,” legislation that will codify civil rights for the city’s dispossessed populations.

Jacksonville to enter the national conversation about homeless rights.

Ordinance 2018-308, filed by Councilwoman Katrina Brown, contends that “the basic rights all people should enjoy must be guaranteed for homeless individuals and families,” and attempts to “assure that basic human rights are not being trampled simply because someone happens to be homeless.”

The bill would guarantee the right to move freely for homeless people, as well as rights to be “protected by law enforcement,” to prayer, to voting, to quality emergency health services, to “occupy” legally parked cars, and to have a “reasonable expectation of privacy over personal property.”

Undoubtedly, at least some of the enumerated prerogatives will be major talkers in City Council committees.

The National Coalition for the Homeless has pushed for this legislation, and Brown’s bill aligns with the goals of that organization.

Smackdown for hit-free zone

A solid month of deliberation over a bill that initially intended to make all of Jacksonville’s public spaces “hit-free zones,” then was gradually watered down to just include City Hall and still make spanking permissible, ended with a 9-9 vote and the bill being killed Tuesday.

Big government won’t get in the way of parental spankings in City Hall.

Two weeks ago, the bill was deferred, with concerns about everything from “big government” overreach and inhibiting parental discipline to effects on employees tasked with stopping people from hitting each other in offices like the tax collector and supervisor of elections shops.

Last week, the legislation slogged through committees. Two panels voted the bill up 4-3; the third group downed it 3-4.

On Tuesday, despite the changes, the bill couldn’t get over the hump. As has been the case for a month, Council members defended the use of spanking to discipline children during the discussion, while fretting about unintended consequences of the legislative proposal.

Councilman Garrett Dennis, the bill sponsor who has been at odds with the Mayor’s Office, hasn’t been shy about saying that his bills aren’t getting a fair hearing because of City Hall internal politics.

This was the latest example.

Oddsmakers still unconvinced about Jaguars

The NFL draft is history, the first rookie minicamp is yet to begin. The regular season is still four months away. Many of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ players, coaches and management can’t wait.

After coming within five minutes of heading to the Super Bowl and adding some core skill players, the Jags and coach Doug Marrone believe they can take the next step. Those giving odds believe their chance is average at best.

Oddsmakers still not sold on Doug Marrone and the Jacksonville Jaguars. (Photo via Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

The bookies at Bovada place three AFC teams ahead of the Jaguars and one alongside when it comes to winning the conference championship. The team that kept Jacksonville out of the Super Bowl, the New England Patriots, are again favored to defend their title in the next one.

Bovada has the Patriots as 9-4 favorites to win the AFC, but the Pittsburgh Steelers, whom the Jags defeated twice in Pittsburgh last year, are second at 9-2. The Houston Texans face 10-1 odds followed by Jacksonville and the Los Angeles Chargers at 11-1.

As the season progresses, Jacksonville’s odds will improve if the play of quarterback Blake Bortles resembles the Bortles displayed in the playoffs against the Steelers and Patriots.

With the draft providing Bortles with more help on offense, as well as fortifying an outstanding defensive unit, the Jags know they can now play with anyone. With the talent with the confidence and swagger — exemplified by shutdown cornerback Jalen Ramsey — they have a chance to prove last year was no fluke.

If betting were legal in Florida, the Jaguars might be worth risking a few bucks.

Jacksonville Bold for 5.4.18 — Qualifying Week

Congressional candidates finish qualifying this week, setting the stage for a 3+ month sprint to nominations.

Virtually every Congressional incumbent, save John Rutherford, will face a primary. Ted Yoho faces nominal competition for what could be his final term; Al Lawson faces more than a symbolic challenge in the form of Alvin Brown in Congressional District 5.

We are a few weeks out from qualifying for state offices, but what is clear already is that incumbency is less safe locally than it might have been in recent cycles. With redistricting imminent in the next few years, what we are seeing is the beginning of a transition period in the region.

Welcome to qualifying week!

These districts, which came into being in their current conformations in time for 2016, won’t last. And population continues to move into the area, meaning that after 2020, we may see two Jacksonville-majority districts soon enough.

For now, however, the field is set. We get to field questions, such as those about Alvin Brown being able to close the deal with Democrats locally and beyond. And questions about the Democrats opposing Rutherford in Congressional District 4 bear watching also.

Soon enough, it will be November, and the local elections in Jacksonville will come into sharper relief (maybe sooner, with Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche floating a mayoral trial balloon this week in a radio interview).

But this week and this summer, the federal scene necessarily takes center stage … with state elections co-headlining once qualifying ends next month for those offices.

Yoho, Rutherford officially in for re-election

Popular Northeast Florida Republican Congressmen Rutherford and Yoho, heavy favorites for re-election, have qualified for the 2018 ballot.

John Rutherford is back in the game, as is Republican colleague Ted Yoho.

Rutherford, whose district encompasses Nassau, Duval, and northern St. Johns Counties, has $300,000 in the bank for his re-election campaign.

Jacksonville candidates Joceline Berrios and Monica DePaul, as well as Ponte Vedra businessman George Selmont, comprise the three candidates from the Democratic Party. Of the three, Selmont is the only one to report fundraising; he has $6,000 on hand.

Rutherford is guaranteed to face a familiar opponent, however; Gary Koniz, an NPA candidate who is in the habit of sending long, discursive emails to office holders and press outlets, is on the ballot.

Yoho, who represents the 3rd District that runs southwest from Orange Park through Gainesville, is likewise qualified and enjoys a fundraising cushion with $355,000 cash on hand.

That puts him ahead of primary challengers Judson Sapp ($23,915 on hand) and Chuck Callesto (no fundraising).

Brown launches campaign

Former Jacksonville Mayor Brown launched his campaign for Florida’s 5th Congressional District on Saturday morning at the IBEW Hall in Jacksonville — the same place he began his first mayoral campaign eight years ago.

The Comeback Kid? Alvin Brown is in the game.

“They said it wouldn’t happen,” Brown said of that 2011 race. “Let’s do it again.”

The location, where the Duval Democrats hold their monthly meetings, is a metaphor for the Jacksonville vs. Tallahassee dynamic of the Democratic primary race between Brown and incumbent U.S. Rep. Lawson.

Read more here.

Shoar backs Waltz

The Sheriff of St. Johns County is endorsing Michael Waltz in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

Waltz, a former Green Beret and White House staffer, is a current Fox News commentator.

The Sheriff backs the Green Beret to replace Ron DeSantis.. (Image: Facebook)

“Lieutenant Colonel Michael Waltz is a great American and patriot,” said St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar. “He has given a lifetime of selfless service to our nation, state, and community. He is exactly the type of consistent conservative we need leading the fight in Congress to support President [Donald] Trump’s agenda for our community and Florida. I’m proud to endorse Michael Waltz for Congress.”

Currently, there are three candidates on the Republican side of the race to replace Rep. Ron DeSantis.

John Ward, a Ponte Vedra businessman, is the cash leader.

As of the end of March, Ward had raised $912,000 and had $709,340 on hand (with $555,000 of that from his own checkbook).

Waltz, who loaned his campaign $400,000, has $653,354 on hand of the total $706,000 in receipts.

Ward and Waltz thus far have demonstrated the most fundraising ability on the Republican side. Former state Rep. Fred Costello has $15,720 on hand.

The 6th Congressional District runs from St. Johns to Volusia counties.

Per the St. Augustine Record, the candidates raised $3 million as of the end of March.

McMahon visits peanut plant

Per WJCT: “Head of the U.S. Small Business Administration Linda McMahon learned how brothers David and Jeff Turbeville run their Jacksonville peanut butter company, Tuesday. It was the launch of her Southeast small business tour.”

Linda McMahon goes nuts in Jacksonville. (Photo: Lindsey Kilbride — WJCT)

The company processes peanuts for institutions, such as schools and prisons.

The company is in a so-called “HUBZone” on Jacksonville’s Westside, meaning that it has to employ 35 percent of its workers from its struggling neighborhood.

McMahon is touring similarly situated businesses throughout the Southeast this month.

Troutman makes NE Florida hire

Ag Commissioner hopeful Baxter Troutman named Kaley Slattery as the campaign’s new Northeast Florida Regional Director this week.

Kaley Slattery joined Team Baxter Troutman this week.

That role sees the recent University of North Florida graduate handling grassroots, fundraising, and digital operations in the region.

Slattery, a former UNF College Republicans President, is “thrilled to be joining Team Troutman.”

“The addition of Ms. Slattery is another signal to the Tallahassee political elites that Baxter Troutman is serious about this race,” said campaign manager Carlo Fassi, who himself is a UNF alum.

Political comeback for Ray

Lake Ray, a former State Representative, Jacksonville City Councilman, and Congressional candidate, launched his campaign for Duval County Tax Collector Monday.

Lake Ray is making moves again.

“Jacksonville needs someone with a proven record of management, a proven record of trust and a proven record of making sure the government uses its resources correctly,” Ray said. “If entrusted with this office, I will be there to serve you the taxpayer — to make the process as painless as possible.”

Ray will face Jim Overton, who likewise is a former City Councilman, in addition to having served as property appraiser for twelve years.

Both Overton and Ray are Republicans. A Democrat could enter this race before the end.

Mayor’s office shake-up

Jacksonville’s director of intergovernmental affairs, Ali Korman Shelton, sent a letter to Mayor Lenny Curry Monday announcing her departure from city government later in May.

Ali Korman Shelton, a significant force in City Hall, is headed out the door in two weeks. (Image: Jacksonville Business Journal)

“After much contemplation, and despite the positive future I foresee, it is now time for someone else to serve you, your administration, and the city in this important capacity,” Shelton wrote, citing family concerns as a reason for resignation in a letter sent Monday evening.

Shelton’s letter lauds accomplishments, including a positive relationship with the Jacksonville City Council, three healthy budgets, and improving Jacksonville’s visibility publicly.

As well, Shelton handled much of the lobbying push for the pension reform referendum approved in Tallahassee in 2016 and voted up by 65 percent of Duval County residents.

David Cawton of the Jax Daily Record, who broke this story on Twitter, got a comment from Curry, who deemed Shelton’s contributions to be “integral and substantial.”

The last departure of this magnitude was that of former Chief of Staff Kerri Stewart. It took the Curry team months to replace her, a job filled at the beginning of the year by former Curry political adviser Brian Hughes.

Curry raises $250K, as Brosche mulls challenge

Informed sources confirmed that Curry raised over $250,000 in April, his second straight strong month after a $1.5 million March.

Lenny Curry is aggressively fundraising. Probably for a reason.

The breakdown: $46,000 for the campaign (bringing its total raised to just over $300,000) and $206,000 for the “Jacksonville on the Rise” political committee (pushing it over $1.45 million raised or transferred from other committees).

Big donors in April include John Campion ($50,000), and Black Knight Financial Services, Fidelity Information Services, and Borland-Groover Clinic ($25,000 each).

The fundraising haul comes at a time when challengers for Curry, a first-term Republican elected in 2015, are lining up for next year’s ballot.

Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche is mulling a run for mayor, with a decision to be made this summer, after her term as Council president wraps in June.

While she is “focused” on her “responsibilities as Council president and some important initiatives launched recently,” Brosche notes that once her term ends, she will have “the opportunity to get clarity on [her] next steps.”

A Brosche/Curry matchup would bristle with drama, were it to happen.

Crooms launches mayoral bid

Curry drew his third challenger for the 2019 unitary election, with Connell Crooms filing Friday to run without party affiliation.

From protest to the mayor’s race, Connell Crooms offers a unique alternative for voters.

Crooms became known to Jacksonville residents in the wake of a protest that went awry in Hemming Park last April.

The protest became violent when Gary Snow, a noted provocateur at left-wing and Democratic events in 2016 and 2017, ran through the crowd provoking protesters.

Crooms, who is deaf (and an activist for the deaf), ended up being beaten into unconsciousness by Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officers at that protest as a result of Snow’s actions.

Crooms was one of five protesters arrested; the charges were dropped against Crooms in June, with community sentiment on the side of Crooms and the rest of the Jax 5 protest contingent.

$100,000 pyramid for Holland

Though $80,000 of it came via a personal loan, Duval County Property Appraiser Jerry Holland turned heads in April with $100,000 raised.

Will a serious opponent challenge Jerry Holland? Time will tell.

Holland, a popular Republican in his first term on the job, faces nominal opposition … but, given the potential of more serious opposition getting into the race, he’s not taking chances.

Among the donors: some local development companies; former Jacksonville Jaguars owner Wayne WeaverPreston Haskell; and the insurance agency of current City Council candidate Matt Carlucci.

Holland’s sole opponent, Democrat Kurt Kraft, is entirely self-financed and has under $700 on hand.

Unless a particular termed-out Democratic Jacksonville City Councilman gets in this race, Holland looks like a safe bet for re-election on the 2019 ballot.

Zahn talks long-term JEA plan

JEA CEO Aaron Zahn is settling into his interim (at least for now) role and to that end a round of media interviews. Wednesday saw this outlet’s turn.

Aaron Zahn is building media relationships this week. (Image: WJCT)

Zahn has faced criticism.

Navigating a tricky political climate, a neophyte to the world of municipal utilities (he was on the board weeks before he made the CEO bid), Zahn has faced a unique pressure.

We discussed this and more with him in a sit-down interview Wednesday morning at the JEA Tower.

“It would be great ten years from now to be looking back with the wonderful team we have, with all the great employees, having added jobs, having driven economic development, and show we can run a utility while lowering rates and lowering emissions. I think that’s possible, but we’ve got to start having bold ideas,” Zahn said.

“The question I’m asking: How does JEA continue to be a trusted partner for the next five, ten, fifty years,” Zahn said.

“I would not have made the position to run for the interim office if I weren’t interested in running for the permanent office,” Zahn said, adding that his qualifications would need to match with a “scorecard” crafted by the JEA Board.

A bill headed to Council would block Zahn from applying. 

Fourth candidate in Council District 14

The race to succeed termed-out Republican Jim Love in Jacksonville City Council District 14 got more crowded Tuesday, with Democrat Jimmy Peluso entering the scrum.

Peluso, a former Naval officer, is now a reservist in the same branch.

Jimmy Peluso is the second Democrat in the race to replace Jim Love.

Peluso will have to make up ground against the two leading fundraisers in the race, Republican Randy DeFoor and Democrat Sunny Gettinger.

Gettinger has over $43,000 on hand. DeFoor has over $91,000 on hand.

The fourth candidate in the race, Republican Earl Testy, is not a factor regarding fundraising.

The first election in this race is in March 2019. The top two vote-getters move on to the general election.

District under fire because of Rummell’s gun views

The District, proposed by developers and political influencers Peter Rummell and Michael Munz, is headed this month to Jacksonville City Council for approval.

Some members have questioned the generous incentives (a $30 million capital improvement plan and a Rev Grant for 75 percent for up to 22 years capped at $56 million).

Could Peter Rummell’s gun position kill the deal? Doubtful, but that’s one group’s hope.

Now, Empower Jacksonville, a religious right organization founded last year in a thus-far unsuccessful challenge to Jacksonville’s LGBT protections, objects to the incentives that City Council will vote on.

The reason? Rummell‘s stated opposition to backing candidates who don’t support an assault weapon ban (an assertion belied by the facts, as Rummell backs Curry and Rep. Rutherford).

“Peter Rummell’s anti-Second Amendment rhetoric is not in line with Empower Jacksonville’s values,” said Harry Lewis, co-chair of Empower Jacksonville. “We cannot support hardworking Jacksonville citizens’ tax dollars lining Mr. Rummell’s pockets through the development of The District. We will engage our supporters to put their councilman or councilwoman on notice that a vote for The District is a vote against the Second Amendment.”

Hit-free zone

For the second straight committee cycle for the Jacksonville City Council, members mulled potential legislation to make city property a “hit-free zone.”

Garrett Dennis’ bill was pummeled in committees this week. (Image: Florida Times-Union)

However, though it cleared committees two weeks ago, problems cropped up for Resolution 2018-171 which would turn all city property into “hit-free zones”: “areas in which no adult shall hit another adult, no adult shall hit a child, no child shall hit an adult, and no child shall hit another child.”

Monday saw the first of three committees — Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health & Safety — mull the bill. Once the proposal was limited to apply just to City Hall, it passed 4-3, even amid concerns about potential overreach.

Tuesday morning saw the Finance Committee, chaired by Garrett Dennis, approve the bill by a 4-3 margin.

By Tuesday afternoon, Rules had the bill. That committee offered considerable headwinds as did the previous panels, with now-typical consternation over the concept of the bill (which some said divested parents of their rights to discipline) and potential overreach.

Rules downed the bill 3-4, with chairman Doyle Carter casting the deciding vote.

Read more here.

Food desert fix

The Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee Tuesday approved a bill that may alleviate food desert conditions in one of the city’s most challenged areas.

Grocery woes spurred Council action.

2018-195 will, if passed by the full Council next week, approve encumbering $3 million from the Northwest Jacksonville Economic Development Trust Fund to recruit grocers or other “food options” to move into the area, which is about to see two grocery stores close.

The money will pay for a consultant, and will potentially provide up to a 25 percent grant for a vendor. As well, other incentive programs may be presented by said consultant as an alternative.

Discussion in a public notice meeting last week balanced the goal of opening a store with the reality that the reason that the stores are closing to start with is that there wasn’t enough business to make them profitable.

Those concerns resurfaced during the discussion Tuesday, with suggestions including food trucks delivering groceries to the needy. The conversation revealed a fundamental disconnect between Councilors on the bill, with Finance Chair Garrett Dennis noting that a delivery solution may not work for many of those in the affected areas.

As a result of the discussion, the other food options were added, beyond brick and mortar groceries.

Baymeadows bonanza

The former Baymeadows Golf Club saw its last tee shot in 2004, and since then development has dashed the Southside property.

Rendering via The Jacksonville Daily Record.

Now, reports WJCT, a change is going to come.

“A $15 million project to revitalize the defunct Baymeadows Golf Club is supposed to include a hotel and a retail center, though tenants have not been named yet. The project, which will cover close to six acres, will feature a 100-room hotel and 35,000 square feet of retail space.”

Curry asserted that “this sends a message to every neighborhood, where citizens rally and work together and make it their cause, they can change things and make a difference.

Kouvaris leaves WJXT

Per the Florida Times-Union, longtime sportscaster Sam Kouvaris is headed out after 37 years.

Sam Kouvaris will be back on local airwaves.

“While the 62-year-old Kouvaris — the longest-tenured, on-air talent in WJXT history after news anchor Tom Wills — wanted to keep working, he couldn’t come to an acceptable resolution with the independent TV station. Kouvaris says he offered WJXT several full-time and part-time proposals at a salary reduction up to 50 percent, but the station had other options in mind, which led to the breakup,” wrote Gene Frenette Wednesday.

Kouvaris would prefer to stay in the Jacksonville market.

With the respect of all of his peers, it’s hard to imagine that won’t happen.

Delaney chats with Fiorentino before joining alliance

Last month, former Jacksonville Mayor and University of North Florida President John Delaney announced he will be joining the strategic alliance between The Fiorentino Group and Rogers Towers.

Before officially starting, Delaney sat down with Fiorentino Group founder Marty Fiorentino for a quick two-and-a-half-minute interview, which can be viewed by clicking the image below:

The alliance, formed five years ago, includes collaboration on business and government affairs issues; business counsel; higher education issues; complex environmental matters and a variety of other government affairs needs at the local, state and federal levels.

“John has been a part of some of Jacksonville’s most successful public policy initiatives,” Fiorentino said in April. “His decades of experience in local, state and federal politics and tenure as president of one of Florida’s leading educational institutions has involved him in many complex issues where his leadership has had a real and positive impact. His addition to our team will provide exceptional added-value services as we develop winning strategies for our clients to influence public policy.”

After quality draft, Jaguars rank fourth in NFL power rankings

It has been a week since the Jaguars selected University of Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan with their first pick in the NFL draft. They added LSU wide receiver D.J. Clark and Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison with their next two choices.

Grades are in!

Overall, the Jags received good marks for their draft. NFL.com gave them an A, while Bleacher Report bestowed them with a B. Bleacher Report marked them down because key needs of an inside linebacker, offensive guard, and possibly a quarterback went unmet.

In addition, Jacksonville seems intent on sticking with quarterback Blake Bortles for the foreseeable future. Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee did not come until late in the draft.

This had an effect on Jacksonville’s power ranking. With a good, but not spectacular draft, the Jags dropped from third to fourth in the power rankings, according to NFL.com. The Los Angeles Rams jumped to the No. 2 position, moving ahead of Jacksonville and the New England Patriots.

“Ignore the tiny fail,” said NFL.com’s Elliot Harrison. “Faith in Blake Bortles is riding high, apparently — which is fine, provided he can progress off his performance in the playoffs (versus the Steelers and Patriots … not the Bills).

With a solid draft and an already-strong roster, the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles are at the top of the power list, followed by the Rams, Patriots, Jaguars and Minnesota Vikings. Among Jacksonville’s fellow AFC South competitors, the Houston Texans are ranked No. 12, the Tennessee Titans No. 13, and the Indianapolis Colts coming in dead last at No. 32.

Voluntary workouts will take place in May and early June, while the first mandatory minicamp is set for June 12-14.

Al Lawson confident in campaign against ‘failed’ Alvin Brown

On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Al Lawson talked to Jacksonville media about his congressional campaign against former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

Lawson and Brown both qualified this week, setting up a primary election that matches up a Tallahassee politician against a Jacksonville pol in the race for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s sprawling 5th Congressional District.

Lawson said he feels “very good” about his chances in the Jacksonville side of the district, where he got 20 percent of the vote in 2016 against then-incumbent Corrine Brown.

“I’ve been in office a year and four months, and I’ve been coming over here several times a month,” Lawson said, adding that he and Rep. John Rutherford “have been able to do quite a few things here.”

“We’ve got people thinking about Jacksonville. In Congress,” Lawson said, “they don’t refer to me as from Tallahassee. They refer to me as ‘Al Lawson from Jacksonville’.”

“I feel pretty confident,” Lawson said, “that we’re going to work hard and do well. I have the endorsement of every Democrat Congressperson in Florida except two. They said they’d wait until after qualifying [to publicize the endorsements].”

Lawson has started his campaign slowly and with a high burn rate given his campaign’s torpidity up until now.

As of the end of March, his campaign had just under $160,000 on hand — roughly half of the almost $320,000 raised, with very little laid out in the way of a campaign infrastructure.

Brown, who raised $167,000 in his first quarter in the race, had almost $128,000 on hand.

When Lawson defeated Corrine Brown, he benefited from several tail winds, such as a Jacksonville spoiler candidate, an incumbent under indictment, and on-hand cash advantage (as Corrine Brown, awaiting a fraud trial, was not able to fundraise.

We asked Lawson if he was worried about not being able to keep up with Alvin Brown in terms of money.

He was not.

“Our campaign’s already ramped up,” Lawson said. “We’re getting ready to open a campaign office here and in the western part of the district. We feel very confident that we have the money that we need. We have a very good budget.”

Lawson noted that Brown’s strong quarter might be a function of his campaign having “just come out of the blocks,” adding that “during this next quarter, we just need 50 or 60 thousand dollars.”

“We’re in good shape,” Lawson contended. “It’s a 200 mile stretch between Gadsden and Duval.”

“We’d like to see his record. I’ve got a long record in politics. He only has four years, and it looks like it was a failed administration, simply because he couldn’t get re-elected,” Lawson said of the candidate he vowed to retire once he got in the race.

Alvin Brown, Al Lawson qualify for primary, setting up Jacksonville/Tallahassee clash

The battle of the Als is now confirmed.

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown qualified Wednesday to run against incumbent Rep. Al Lawson in North Florida’s sprawling, east-west Congressional District 5.

Lawson, who ended Corrine Brown‘s political career in 2016, seeks to “retire” Alvin Brown, maintaining his hold over the cartographically schizoid Jacksonville-to-Tallahassee seat.

Brown announced his qualification Wednesday, via media release and aspirational quotes.

“I am proud of the strong grassroots campaign we are building, and as I speak with people across the district, I hear time and again that North Florida needs a results-oriented fighter in Congress who will work in their best interest — not protect the status quo. I couldn’t agree more, which is why I am honored to qualify for the ballot,” Brown said.

“The people of the 5th District deserve a champion who will be their voice in Washington and promote policies that can help create real economic opportunity,” Brown continued. “I am confident that, together, we can do better as we work to raise wages, foster innovation and job creation, make smart investments in education and infrastructure, expand access to quality, affordable health care, and give our servicemen and women the respect, dignity, and care they deserve while serving our country and after they return home. I pledge to always have our community’s back and fight for the issues that matter to North Florida.”

Brown launched his campaign Saturday in Jacksonville, at an event that drew about 100. His rhetoric and persona were similar to his mayoral candidate personal honed in the campaigns of 2011 and 2015.

Lawson filed to run Tuesday, and WTXL of Tallahassee was there, grabbing quotes.

“While I served in the Legislature, I served almost 20 years under Republican leadership, so it’s time that Florida come back,” said Lawson. “Florida is always viewed as a more conservative state, but I think, in light of the things that have happened, the problem that we have with guns and gun violence in the state, I think we need a Democratic perspective to change a lot of that.”

Lawson has started his campaign slowly and with a high burn rate given his campaign’s torpidity up until now.

As of the end of March, his campaign had just under $160,000 on hand — roughly half of the almost $320,000 raised, with very little laid out in the way of a campaign infrastructure.

Brown, who raised $167,000 in his first quarter in the race, had almost $128,000 on hand.

When Lawson defeated Corrine Brown, he benefited from several tail winds, such as a Jacksonville spoiler candidate, an incumbent under indictment, and on-hand cash advantage (as Brown, awaiting a fraud trial, was not able to fundraise.

It will be interesting to see how Lawson deals with an opponent who can run a functional campaign.

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