Alvin Brown – Page 4 – Florida Politics

Alvin Brown scores endorsement from former Congressional Black Caucus chair

The second day of former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown‘s primary challenge to Rep. Al Lawson in Florida’s 6th Congressional District brought Brown his first endorsement.

Emanuel Cleaver II, a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, endorsed Brown Wednesday.

“Alvin Brown has been my friend for more than two decades. However, I am not just supporting him for the 5th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives out of our friendship. I have extraordinary respect for Alvin Brown — as a leader, a family man and as a man of outstanding character,” Cleaver said.

“Alvin is a leader. To be sure, his style of leadership is thoughtful but direct. He will not spend valuable time in fault finding but [will focus on] fault fixing. The people of Florida will never regret sending Alvin Brown to The House,” Cleaver continued.

“I am humbled and honored to receive Congressman Cleaver’s endorsement as I’ve known the Congressman for many years and greatly admire what he’s been able to accomplish for the people of his district, and for African Americans across the country. I look forward to working with him to increase wages and put more money in Americans’ pockets, to ensure every child has access to a quality education, and to make affordable health care a reality for every Floridian,” Brown said.

Brown worked with Congressional Black Caucus members early in his political career, in roles with then-Vice President Al Gore and at HUD with Secretary Andrew Cuomo.

In Brown’s losing 2015 re-election campaign for Mayor, South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn extolled Brown, whose “roots run deep” in Clyburn’s Low Country South Carolina district, and who provided a huge help to Clyburn when he was in Washington.

“This young man, when he was in the White House, we never had to worry about our issues getting through,” said Clyburn. “He knows how to get the job done. Take issues to him; he knows the system.”

Much of the insider chatter before this race formally began had to do with how aligned Lawson was with CBC priorities.

In an interview with Florida Politics Tuesday, Lawson didn’t seem worried about CBC attrition.

“The leadership in the CBC is all behind me. I meet with them every week,” Lawson said.

Lawson’s confidence was unshaken by Corrine Brown bringing Alvin Brown to D.C. last year to test the waters.

“Corrine had Alvin up there, but the CBC does not get involved in primary elections,” Lawson said. “We’ll be in great shape to run.”

Clearly, one CBC member — a former chair, no less — is involved.

This endorsement comes on the heels of Edward Waters College President Nat Glover disputing Lawson’s claim that Brown tried to become EWC President but “didn’t make the short list.”

Alvin Brown camp blasts ‘privileged Congressman’ Al Lawson

Day one of the nascent CD 5 primary campaign between incumbent Congressman Al Lawson and former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown hasn’t lacked for fireworks.

Late this morning, in response to Brown entering the race, Lawson blasted the Jacksonville Democrat as being a careerist looking for his next gig, after failing as mayor.

“Alvin failed as mayor,” Lawson said bluntly, “and a lot of people in Duval are saying he’s just looking for a job. If he’s looking for a job, this is the wrong place to look.”

“People I speak to weren’t thrilled with [Brown] as Mayor,” Lawson said, adding that he believes Brown is running because “he needs a job.”

“He was trying to be Edward Waters College President,” Lawson said, “but he didn’t make the shortlist.” 

[NOTE: EWC President Nat Glover denies the claim in comments to POLITICO Florida.]

Lawson saw it as ironic that Brown was running against him, given that at multiple points in the past, “he wanted me to help him raise money” for campaigns.

Lawson vowed that his campaign would “retire” Brown

Brown’s campaign fired back Tuesday afternoon, calling Lawson a “privileged Congressman” who’d “gone Washington.”

“After Mayor Brown heard from voters in CD-5, there is a clear sense that Lawson seems generally uninterested in serving the district and has gone Washington,” Brown’s campaign asserted.

“At a time when civil rights, voting rights, immigrant rights and women’s rights are under attack, Lawson seems content to live the life of a privileged Congressman who refuses to fight for the people of his district,” Brown’s camp added.

We have reached out to Lawson’s camp for response to this riposte from the Brown campaign.

Lackluster fundraising for Al Lawson, while John Rutherford continues to bank

First-term Jacksonville area Congressmen Al Lawson, a Democrat, and John Rutherford, a Republican, reported their final fundraising numbers for 2017 this week.

Lawson is going to have to step up his fundraising game this quarter, or trouble may be ahead.

Lawson, the incumbent in Florida’s CD 5, closed 2017 with $100,531 on hand, off of $235,281 raised.

Perhaps worryingly, Lawson brought in just over $44,000 ($36,500 from PACs) with $41,000 of expenditures in the same period. The bulk of the spend was on fundraising consulting and campaign management, raising questions of ROI at least in the short term.

Among Lawson’s Q4 donors were CSX, labor union LIUNA, Anheuser-Busch, NextEra, Clear Channel/iHeart Media, AT&T, and Northrup Grumman.

Lawson’s numbers are of particular interest, as former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown announced a long-expected decision to primary Lawson on Tuesday.

Brown raised big money as an incumbent mayor in his failed re-election bid; however, it is an open question as to how the donor class will regard Brown’s political comeback.

It is by no means a sure thing that the Jacksonville business community will back Brown, given that there is a comfort level with local stakeholders with how Lawson has fought for Jacksonville interests in Congress.

However, that comfort level has yet to translate into a massive nest egg, and Q1 numbers for Brown and Lawson will be of major interest throughout the sprawling North Florida district.

Meanwhile, Republican Rutherford, who represents Florida’s CD 4, which includes Nassau, much of Duval, and St. Johns, is right on track for an uneventful re-election bid.

Rutherford ended 2017 with $183,748 on hand, bringing in $74,800 in Q4 and spending just over $37,000 of that.

Rutherford got PAC donations, including from the Republican Main Street PAC and More Conservatives PAC.

Corporations — from Comcast to Crowley Maritime, and from General Dynamics to General Electric — likewise backed the former Jacksonville sheriff. As did trade groups, such as national realtors and broadcasters committees.

Al Lawson on Alvin Brown: ‘We’re going to retire him’

As Florida Politics predicted since Corrine Brown‘s legal fate was still in doubt, former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown is making his move.

Less than 24 hours after the former Democratic congresswoman reported to prison, Brown declared to the Florida Times-Union that he was running for Corrine Brown’s old seat.

“These challenging times call for each of us to stand up and speak out about the kind of community in which we want to live,” Alvin Brown said in a statement Tuesday. “North Florida deserves a pragmatic, visionary leader who will aggressively champion policies that create good-paying jobs, ensure economic and financial security for all, and improve our overall quality of life.”

Alvin Brown, since last spring, has told people that he would file as soon as Corrine Brown was out of the news.

And lo! It came to pass.

Now Alvin Brown is attempting to do what Corrine Brown couldn’t: beat U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a popular Tallahassee politician who beat Corrine Brown in all but two counties in the district.

The Times-Union article spotlights the perceived Tallahassee/Jacksonville divide in the district, calling Brown’s bid a “race of redemption not just for his own political career, but also for Jacksonville, which saw its decades-long hold on the congressional district end in 2016 when Lawson defeated former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown.”

Rep. Lawson, in a candid phone conversation with Florida Politics Tuesday morning, eviscerated his primary challenger, painting him as an opportunist looking for his next gig.

“He’s been telling people for months he is going to run,” Lawson said. “We welcome the challenge.”

Lawson rejected the idea that the race is Jacksonville versus Tallahassee.

“The district stretches from Gadsden County to Duval,” and Alvin Brown’s strategy, said Lawson, is “similar to what Corrine tried to do.”

“It won’t work. You have to be concerned about the whole district. You can’t just run a campaign out of Duval,” Lawson said.

Lawson was unsparing in his assessment of Alvin Brown’s single term as Jacksonville mayor.

“Alvin failed as mayor,” Lawson said bluntly, “and a lot of people in Duval are saying he’s just looking for a job. If he’s looking for a job, this is the wrong place to look.”

Alvin Brown, said Lawson, “wants to split the district. We don’t have enough clout to do that. We need to work together.”

To that end, Lawson has built a strong alliance with John Rutherford on regional issues. Laying the groundwork for that, Lawson said, was when both men ran in 2016.

“During the course of the campaign,” Lawson said, “I met with [Rutherford] a couple of times.”

They keep each other looped in when it comes to regional issues; it almost goes without saying that Alvin Brown, were he to win, wouldn’t be able to have that kind of relationship with Rutherford, a former sheriff with whom he battled during his term.

Lawson also touted his work with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry as key, saying that party affiliation doesn’t preclude collaboration and that Curry and Lawson have a “strong relationship.”

“I have served with many Republicans in Tallahassee,” Lawson — an expert in the legislative process — said.

Lawson wasn’t nearly finished talking about the race.

When asked if the Congressional Black Caucus would back Alvin Brown, Lawson was blunt.

“That won’t happen,” Lawson said. “The leadership in the CBC is all behind me. I meet with them every week.”

Lawson has been a voice of reason, he said, successfully cautioning against a proposed walkout of Tuesday evening’s State of the Union address.

And Lawson’s influence with the CBC happened despite Corrine Brown bringing Alvin Brown to D.C. last year to test the waters.

“Corrine had Alvin up there, but the CBC does not get involved in primary elections,” Lawson said. “We’ll be in great shape to run.”

Lawson, over the last two years, has “a lot more inroads in Jacksonville than ever before,” and is meeting Friday with the Jacksonville Chamber and Florida Blue.

And Lawson isn’t worried about what comes next in Jacksonville.

“People I speak to weren’t thrilled with [Alvin Brown] as Mayor,” Lawson said, adding that he believes Alvin Brown is running because “he needs a job.”

“He was trying to be Edward Waters College president,” Lawson said, “but he didn’t make the shortlist.” [NOTE: EWC President Nat Glover denies the claim in comments to POLITICO Florida].

Lawson saw it as ironic that Brown was running against him, given that at multiple points in the past, “he wanted me to help him raise money.”

Now he’s going to help Alvin Brown with something else.

“We’re going to retire him,” Lawson said.

Lawson has made his plays to prove his Jacksonville bona fides.

Among them: spending lots of time in Jacksonville after Hurricane Irma, taking a Jacksonville guest, Paul Tutwiler, to the State of the Union Tuesday evening, and filing the Flood Water Relief Act — which would bring $116 million to Jacksonville to help with storm hardening.

Alvin Brown will have some fence-mending ahead of him.

Some Jacksonville Democrats were less than enthused by his mayoral re-election bid, in which he essentially rejected Democratic orthodoxy until he started falling behind now-Mayor Curry in public polls.

Alvin Brown began to embrace proposals as a candidate, such as a minimum-wage increase, that he never embraced as mayor.

Alvin Brown also took heat from white liberals for failing to support an expansion of Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance to include the LGBT community — something that happened, ironically, only after he left office.

Some Democrats on City Council at the time said Alvin Brown worked to squash the bill in 2012.

“There was pressure to not vote for it,” Johnny Gaffney said, echoing allegations made by Denise Lee to this reporter that rumors were that Mayor Brown pushed Gaffney not to vote for it, that rumors were that “Johnny Gaffney was pressured to change his mind,” and that rumors said that he would veto it if it passed (an echo of persistent rumors since 2012).

There are also questions as to Alvin Brown’s support in the African-American community, and how much buy-in he has from the Duval donor class.

We asked Lisa King, leader of the Duval Democratic Party, for comment.

“Mayor Brown has a strong record of accomplishment and will be a formidable candidate,” King texted.

That record will be part of the discussion — though how much it matters west of the county line is up for debate.

All of that said, it boils down to one thing.

Alvin Brown wanted a battle.

And Al Lawson will give it to him.

We reached out to Brown’s campaign for response, and they offered it Tuesday afternoon.

“After Mayor Brown heard from voters in CD-5, there is a clear sense that Lawson seems generally uninterested in serving the district and has gone Washington. At a time when civil rights, voting rights, immigrant rights and women’s rights are under attack, Lawson seems content to live the life of a privileged Congressman who refuses to fight for the people of his district,” the campaign said via written statement.

With Corrine Brown gone, does Alvin Brown run?

A persistent pitter-pat has dripped from the rumor mill of Jacksonville politics for close to a year now, regarding the inevitable Jacksonville challenge to Al Lawson.

Once Corrine Brown was out of the headlines, former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown would launch his run for Congress to take back Corrine’s seat.

“Word in the halls is that former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown is waiting until Queen Corrine is out of the headlines before launching his Congressional bid.”

That was from a story we did in May of last year.

A variation on the same theme, from November: “Brown has told at least one leading Jacksonville Democrat that his plan was to launch a campaign after Corrine Brown is out of the news.”

Corrine Brown dominated her last news cycle on Monday. She’s now in lockdown downstate, for five years.

So now, for Alvin Brown, it’s go time.

Does he jump into the race for Congress?

Some locals have suggested such — connected Jacksonville and D.C. Democrats, in conversations with this writer, say he’ll get into the race this week.

If not now, when?

Jumping into the race gives him six months until the primary.

While we are still waiting to see Rep. Lawson’s year end financial report, the cash on hand he had at the end of September — $97,768 — won’t scare anyone off.

Jaguars owner Shad Khan routinely writes those kinds of checks for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry‘s political committee.

Fun fact: Alvin Brown was in Shad Khan’s box at the last Jaguars home game. Word is he really wanted to be there. And lest we forget, Brown and Khan did a lot of business together, as a $41 million city investment in EverBank Field scoreboards shows.

And Khan, who has not backed Lawson financially, was a big Brown backer through the 2015 election.

Other Jacksonville donors also can make that action happen very quickly.

Lawson has struggled to connect with Jacksonville — which is not to say he hasn’t tried.

He’s taking a Jacksonville guest, Paul Tutwiler, to the State of the Union Tuesday evening.

And he’s filed the Flood Water Relief Act — which would bring $116 million to Jacksonville to help with storm hardening … but he hasn’t gotten that one through committee.

One wonders how some Jacksonville Republicans would deal with U.S. Rep. Alvin Brown; recall that Jacksonville Republican John Rutherford was at war with the Mayor’s Office for much of Brown’s sole term, before working as a shiv-out surrogate for Curry during the 2015 campaign.

Brown said Rutherford had enough budget to run the Sheriff’s Office. Rutherford said Brown was starving the department.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, when we asked him months back, was noncommittal to any particular advantage that Brown would bring to Jacksonville.

“I have a great working relationship with Al Lawson,” Curry said.

However Republicans feel about Alvin Brown, conditions may be conducive to juicing Duval primary turnout, with a must-see primary shaping up between Senate Minority Leader Designate Audrey Gibson and Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown.

Reggie Brown doesn’t BS.

“I am running [because] I believe I can bring more state $ to North Florida and the time to do it is now!”

Reggie Brown is all in. He knows he has a generational opportunity. He believes he can knock over the person who would otherwise be the most powerful Democrat in the Senate.

Alvin Brown doesn’t lack for confidence either.

If not now, when?

Al Lawson won’t walk out of State of the Union, even if Congressional Black Caucus does

President Donald Trump will give the State of the Union address next week and, according to Buzzfeed, the Congressional Black Caucus plans action.

“We could go, we could go and walk out, we could go and hold up fists … or we could not go, or we could hold our own State of the Union,” CBC Chair Cedric Richmond said.

“We don’t really care what [Trump] thinks about us,” Richmond added.

If a protest action is planned by the CBC, there is no guarantee of universal participation.

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a Democrat whose district runs from Tallahassee to Jacksonville, won’t walk out, per his office.

“Congressman Lawson will be in attendance for the entire State of the Union,” asserted Stephanie Lambert, Lawson’s comms director, Tuesday.

Lawson, a moderate Democrat who has been able to collaborate with conservative Republican colleagues John Rutherford and Neal Dunn on issues of Florida import, has not walked in lockstep with the CBC — and this deviation from caucus orthodoxy is but the latest example.

In December, Lawson broke with CBC members who asserted that Rep. John Conyers was being judged more harshly on sexual harassment than other Congressmen by asserting that there was no “double standard” being applied.

Lawson’s lack of fealty to the caucus has become an issue, of sorts, in his nascent re-election campaign.

Primary challenger Rontel Batie asserted that Lawson broke with the caucus on issues like vouchers and charter schools.

Batie, a former Corrine Brown staffer, has gone through political training via the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

Batie, meanwhile, may not even be the choice of Corrine Brown — or CBC members.

Sources tell us that Corrine Brown was in Washington with Alvin Brown earlier this year, giving CBC members the stamp of approval, should Alvin Brown primary Lawson as expected.

Corrine Brown is held in high esteem with CBC members, so much so that many of them wrote on Brown’s behalf after her trial, calling for leniency in sentencing.

In his re-election campaign in 2015, current CBC Chair Cedric Richmond came to Jacksonville to stump for then-Mayor Brown’s re-election campaign.

Alvin Brown also worked for another CBC legend — South Carolina’s James Clyburn — years back, another indication of strong networking that Lawson won’t have access to should a competitive primary manifest.

Two more years: John Rutherford, Al Lawson plan re-election runs

There will not be an open seat in Jacksonville’s U.S. Congressional Delegation in 2018, confounding those who expected otherwise.

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford confirmed to Florida Politics Monday evening that he does, in fact, plan to run for re-election in Florida’s 4th Congressional District — a Jacksonville-centered district that includes Nassau and northern St. Johns County.

“It is a tremendous honor to serve my fellow Northeast Floridians in Congress,” Rutherford said. “I am proud of all our hard work over the last year fighting for jobs, veterans, a renewed military, and secure borders.”

“But a great deal of work remains ahead,” Rutherford added, “and I look forward to seeking re-election to continue this work on behalf of the fine people I am so humbled to serve.”

On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Al Lawson‘s chief of staff, Tola Thompson, confirmed that Lawson would be running for re-election in Florida’s 5th Congressional District — an east/west map that runs to Tallahassee.

Rutherford and Lawson, allied on local issues in Congress, face different paths to re-election. Rutherford won’t face meaningful competition; Lawson may have a primary challenge.


First: Rutherford.

There were those in Northeast Florida Republican circles who speculated that Rutherford would stand down, setting off decision-making for local Republicans — current incumbents in other offices and otherwise — who might seek to replicate the very expensive and occasionally fractious 2016 primary.

However, Rutherford has never given any indication that he wouldn’t run to serve at least one more term. And now it is clear that any shaking of the #Jaxpol snow globe will wait until at least 2020.

Rutherford faces a clear path to re-election in what Congressional Quarterly calls a solid Republican district.

Rutherford has one primary opponent so far, Palatka petition collector Rob Ficker. But he is a political non-entity, and does not match up well against popular Rutherford, a former three-term Jacksonville sheriff.

The general election holds no real challenge either. While Democrat Monica DePaul has filed for the race, there is scant evidence of campaign architecture from the political novice.

Rutherford won election with 71 percent of the vote against Democrat Dave Bruderly and two NPA candidates in 2016.

Rutherford’s predecessor, Ander Crenshaw, won all eight of his races by at least 30 points.


Rep. Lawson’s CD 5, per CQ, is solid Democratic also. But Lawson could face a primary challenge from the Jacksonville area.

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown has flirted with a run, telling local Democrats last year that they would see his name on a ballot.

He was present for the sentencing portion of former Rep. Corrine Brown‘s trial; Corrine Brown, according to sources in D.C., made the rounds with Alvin Brown to court support from Congressional Black Caucus members.

Alvin Brown was also seen in Jaguars’ owner Shad Khan‘s box at the last home game for the NFL franchise this postseason.

Whether Alvin Brown launches his campaign or not, Lawson likely will have at least one challenger — a former Corrine Brown staffer, Rontel Batie.

For any challenge to work, the opponent would have to consolidate Jacksonville support — including the donor class

A.G. Gancarski’s 10 predictions for Jacksonville politics in 2018

For the third straight year, Florida Politics is attempting to predict how politics in the 904 will go.

And hopefully the predictions will go better than they did the previous two years.

2016’s predictions were as reliable as a coin flip: Six right, six wrong.

2017 saw six wrong… and four right.

Batting .400 is fine for a baseball player; however, it indicates room for improvement in terms of political prognostication.

Without further adieu, let’s see if the third time is the charm.


1. Al Lawson will win Democratic primary in CD 5

In 2016, Al Lawson took advantage of Corrine Brown having legal problems and a concomitant inability to fundraise, and won a primary election in a re-configured Congressional District 5.

In 2018, Lawson looks poised to defend his crown — with a Jacksonville challenger, at this writing, being slow to materialize.

While former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown has teased a candidacy, Lawson has a number of factors in his favor.

Incumbency, and the fundraising networks that allows, works in Lawson’s favor. As does playing ball with the Jacksonville business community. And working well with his Jacksonville House colleague, Republican John Rutherford.

Lawson had a slow third quarter, but carried $97,000 cash on hand into the final three months of the year; it’s not as if he’s been dynamic in fundraising up until now. But Lawson has the western part of the district on lock. Brown’s challenge: to engage the donor class, and to convince skeptical Jacksonville Democrats that he’s for real.

Because make no mistake — Brown would have to sweep Jacksonville Democrats, and drive high turnout.

Brown, however, may have another option.


2. Democratic challenger will emerge for Lenny Curry

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is polling well, at least according to a University of North Florida survey in the fall.

Sixty-nine percent approval citywide, 57 percent approval with Democrats and 59 percent with African-Americans.

So it’s all clear for his re-election bid, right?

Not exactly.

Democrats hold a registration advantage. And there is a lot of time between now and March 2019.

One worry — which may surprise some — is that Alvin Brown makes another bid for City Hall.

The case: Brown was above 50 percent favorables even when he lost the election, a loss that had much less to do with Brown than it did with the shambolic, disengaged campaign on his behalf.

Brown’s messaging was a mess, with the mayor accepting cataclysmic help from the Florida Democratic Party, and taking positions that were out of their playbook — and out of step with the Jacksonville electorate — such as a push for an increased minimum wage.

Brown was ill-prepared to deal with realities as a result of not being true to his messaging, such as a shot up school bus on the evening of a debate.

All that said, he lost by fewer than three points.

While those close to Brown tell us that he’s looking at Congress rather than City Hall, there are those in Curry’s orbit who don’t want a rematch.


3. FEMA $ delay will lead to hard budget choices

As hard as it is to believe, the Donald Trump administration may not have it all together when it comes to FEMA.

Per the Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville is waiting on $85 million from FEMA for Hurricane Irma. That’s added to an additional $27 million the city is waiting on from Hurricane Matthew.

Is the city sitting pretty? Depends on how you look at it.

While the city has roughly $200 million in fund balance, per the Times-Union, the reality is that even before Irma, senior staffers from Lenny Curry’s office were talking of the need to boost the emergency reserve — as the city’s bond rating was capped below AAA by low reserve levels.

Of course, that’s not the whole story.

Part of the issue: high fixed costsdespite pension reform.

Another part of the issue: a surfeit of tangible steps to deal with climate change, particularly salient after a year when epic flooding hit Jacksonville after Irma — weeks after Harvey doused Houston with a year’s worth of rainfall.

Another budget without real attention to storm budgeting — and infrastructure — will lead to consequences down the road.

The feds aren’t going to help.


4. John Rutherford waltzes to re-election

The Duval Democrats are making some interesting moves, but one of them doesn’t seem to be fielding a viable candidate against John Rutherford for re-election.

Rutherford is a nice guy and an enthusiastic advocate for the Trump agenda — which, at least conceivably, could make him worth targeting.

However, Duval Dems don’t seem interested in fielding a candidate — like Nancy Soderberg in Congressional District 6 — who can challenge him.

Maybe it’s not a winnable seat. But a serious candidate should emerge. But hasn’t yet.


5. JEA privatization push gets ugly

The cleanest distillation of the Lenny Curry administration’s case for JEA privatization was made in Sunshine State News weeks back, by South Florida journalist Allison Nielsen.

The city could get a lump sum of money by selling the utility to outside investors. But there would be consequences, including the loss of the near $115 million JEA contribution, and property tax revenues. Not to mention how accountable an outside operator would be to Jacksonville politicians.

JEA also carries debt, and has been dinged by Moody’s for an unwise investment in nuclear power, per the Florida Times-Union.

In short, there are a lot of caveats.


6. Serious challenges for City Council incumbents

Three to watch: Anna Brosche, Katrina Brown and Garrett Dennis.

All three were elected in 2015; all three will face serious re-election challenges, essentially because they pissed someone off.

Brosche has sparred with Mayor Curry on a number of issues, including but not limited to pension reform and the Kids’ Hope Alliance.

Brosche also upset police union head Steve Zona in commenting on disproportionate stops of African-American jaywalkers; Zona, on Twitter, advised Brosche to clean up the City Council.

By that he means Councilwoman Katrina Brown.

Brown accused Jacksonville police of racially profiling a Council colleague during a traffic stop. She would not walk it back, despite national Fraternal Order of Police leadership showing at Council to force her hand.

Expect FOP candidates to come after both women’s Council seats. A retired cop, perhaps, for each.

Councilman Dennis, meanwhile, has been (along with the aforementioned Brosche) the sole source of antagonism for the Mayor’s office.

He clowned Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa during budget hearings, and fought Mayor Curry on issue after issue over the summer.

He will be a target of the Mayor’s political operation.


7. Another hurricane impacts NE FL

As the Governor likes to say, I’m not a scientist, but with water temperatures warming up farther and farther north every year, odds look good for a third storm year in a row. If you are investing in generators, beat the rush.


8. Lenny Curry distances self from Donald Trump as scandal builds

Mayor Curry spent a lot of 2016 and 2017 answering for Trumpiness. The best — or worst, depending on how you feel — example was when questions came in at a presser about the Paris Accord.

Curry has yet to actually have to say President Donald Trump is wrong about something. But conditions are changing.

Robert Mueller is for real. And so are conditions that are conducive to a wave election. And the utter frustration with having one’s own agenda hijacked by some idiotic tweet or soundbite from the White House.

Trump has, by and large, been a bust for Jacksonville. See the above section on FEMA money. Even when a Republican mayor walks the line, Jacksonville is still shorted.

In 2018, Curry will have occasion to put distance between himself and the president. On some issue, somewhere.

The base might not like it, but it will happen. Trump is only becoming more erratic, in terms of messaging, as he sits on Pennsylvania Avenue.


9. Murders continue spike, but no challenge to Mike Williams

Murders are up for the third straight year — at this writing, the final number isn’t in, but it is at least 131.

Last year saw 118 homicides.

This, despite additions of ShotSpotter and NIBIN — a national database that takes fingerprints of bullets to find killers. And additions of new police officers and equipment in the last three city budgets.

Ambitious politicians would make a real run at Williams. However, there don’t seem to be many of them.

Williams has consolidated support in the JSO, and has a $300,000+ campaign nest egg.

Thus, even if murders go up again in 2018 — a safe bet, given that there is no real change in conditions or legislation that drive them — Williams is on the glide path to re-election.


10. Jaguars win the Super Bowl

In this year of inverted reality, the Jacksonville Jaguars are as good as any team in the league. Even with wide receivers plucked from obscurity. 

The playoffs — Buffalo at home, then Pittsburgh on the road — shape up well for them.

And the Patriots are beatable. So too are the Vikings — or any NFC team.

Now, the question: do they remake this classic?




A.G. Gancarski’s 10 people to watch in Northeast Florida politics: 2018 edition

Politics in Northeast Florida is about to heat up, with state races in 2018 and Jacksonville municipal elections in 2019. Here are ten names worth watching.

Alvin Brown: Is he running for the U.S. House against Al Lawson? Mayor against incumbent Lenny Curry?

He will have to decide, one way or another, this year.

We’ve gone into the challenges Brown would face against Lawson: among them, primarying an incumbent; not being known west of Duval County; a lack of buy-in among Jacksonville Democrats (who think he disappeared after losing the Mayor’s race in 2015, only returning ahead of running for whatever this year or next); and a lack of buy-in among the donor class.

The Peter Rummell-types have moved on, some to Lawson. And the trial lawyers probably aren’t that hyped up on taking Alvin to the next level.

That said, there almost has to be a Jacksonville candidate — and Alvin Brown looks like the best bet. Still.

Those familiar with Brown’s thinking say it’s Congress or bust. Time will tell.

Lisa King: The new chair of the Duval Democratic party is fired up and ready to go when it comes to the 2018 cycle.

Expect King, an establishment Democrat from the Hillary Clinton wing of the party, to manufacture media coverage every time there is an opportunity.

Unifying the party and building donor confidence will be key this year, as King tries to turn Duval into “Bluval.”

Carlo Fassi: One of the sharpest political minds in Northeast Florida that most people outside of downtown haven’t heard of.

Fassi is running Baxter Troutman’s campaign for Agriculture Commissioner — sort of the Royal Rumble battle royal of GOP primary races.

Before turning his attention to statewide work, Fassi worked for State Attorney Melissa Nelson, first as her campaign manager, then handling public affairs in her office.

Fassi is not a self-promoter by trade — and that may seem anomalous to fans of the political consultant game.

But expect this: no matter how Troutman fares this year, Fassi will be increasingly sought after for Republican candidates down the road.  

Reggie Brown: Is he running against Audrey Gibson for the state Senate?

To us, that sounds like a suicide mission. And we’re skeptical it’s going to happen.

Brown, a Jacksonville City Councilman, would run into some of the same issues Alvin Brown would run into versus Lawson. How does he credibly challenge a Senator who is poised to lead the caucus after the November election? Specifically, one who has institutional buy-in with corporate and institutional donors.

Rory Diamond: Diamond, an alumnus of the George W. Bush White House, the California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger administration, and head of the charitable non-profit “K9s for Warriors,” is highly regarded among local Republicans.

He’s a current Neptune Beach City Councilman, and he’s making a run for Jacksonville City Council in 2019.

He also has roughly $100,000 banked.

Yet he will face a competitive race.

There are those who contend that Diamond isn’t enough of a social conservative to replace termed-out Bill Gulliford on the City Council.

There will be a candidate that attacks Diamond on those grounds.

Garrett Dennis: With Brian Hughes moving into the office of Mayor Lenny Curry as chief of staff, there are strong expectations that the political and the policy sphere will essentially become one.

With that in mind, it’s worth watching the only Democrat on Council who has acted like a Democrat: Garrett Dennis.

Alone among Council Democrats, of whom at least a few have functioned like adjuncts of the Mayor’s office, Dennis has embodied an actual attempt to put checks and balances on the Curry agenda.

He’s taken risks. Taken slings and arrows for his trouble. But on a City Council that has not offered much resistance to any of the reforms in the last thirty months, Dennis is the sole reminder that there are two political parties in this town, each with their own agendas.

Empower Jacksonville: There’s not a breakout star of this group — a Christian conservative Liberty Counsel front that would like to see, ultimately, a City Council referendum to overturn the LGBT protections in the Human Rights Ordinance expansion of 2017.

But the group is very much worth watching. It seeks to have two ballot items next August. The first: a referendum to change the city’s charter to allow citizens to challenge any law via referendum.

The second measure: a straw ballot on whether or not the HRO should be subject to a citizen referendum. The specific area of contention: the additions to the law this February, not the previously extant law.

Those additions: protections of LGBT people in the areas of housing discrimination, workplace protections, and public accommodations.

This underscores a larger rift in the Republican Party between religious conservatives and more pragmatic conservatives; naturally, the latter category is called RINOs by those in the religious camp.

Aaron Bowman: A VP for business recruitment for the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, Bowman also is City Council VP.

And he will walk into the presidency next year.

Bowman has been an interesting case. A dyed-in-the-wool Republican, the former Mayport base commander nonetheless is the kind of Republican who embodies the “kinder, gentler America” former President George H.W. Bush talked about.

He ran for office against a Christian conservative, vowing to push for the aforementioned Human Rights Ordinance expansion. And that went through this February.

The book on Bowman among some on Council was that he thought he should have been in leadership from the start. That didn’t sit well with some Council veterans.

He’s there now, of course, and the way he won the Council VP election in 2017 was notable. Pledges materialized seemingly from thin air, with Bowman becoming the runaway choice.

Meanwhile, during the presidency of Anna Brosche, Bowman avoided making waves on hot-button issues like Confederate monuments. He clearly is amassing political capital. Will he use it during his presidency? Or does he have more ambitious plans down the road?

Earl Testy: Why Testy?

Despite having just $13 cash-on-hand, the self-styled “radical Republican” has already become the most quotable Jacksonville candidate since Rep. Kim Daniels.

Testy is known for mansplaining about how sexual harassment was a function of the female libido.

“They have themselves and their libidos to blame for much of their own abuse by men,” Testy posted to Facebook.

And if that isn’t enough, he also advocates the “conversion of Negro Democrats to the Republican Party.”

“I devote a portion of the time remaining in my life to facilitating the conversion of millions of Negro Democrats back home to the Republican Party,” Testy remarked.

Testy is running against an establishment Republican — Randy DeFoor — who will have all the endorsements and money she needs.

There likely will be a Democrat in this race — and other candidates — before all is said and done.

So why are we watching him? The reality is that he will get a sizable chunk of the vote… in the most liberal district in the city. Which says quite a bit about where Duval County really is.

Tracye Polson: Can Polson, a clinical social worker by trade, do the seemingly impossible and turn Rep. Jay Fant’s red district blue?

The Democratic candidate for House District 15 is about to find out.

Polson is keeping pace with the Republican in the race — Jacksonville lawyer Wyman Duggan — in terms of fundraising.

She also is aggressively canvassing the Westside Jacksonville district, an approach that she and her volunteers hope overcome the tendency of some voters in the district to just vote for the Republican.

Polson does have a primary opponent, but he is essentially unknown to local Democrats. Polson, by contrast, is a known quantity.

Behold, the wreckage: A look at A.G. Gancarski’s 2017 predictions

Another year is mercifully almost in the books, and with that comes another chance for this writer to offer self-recrimination for yearly predictions that looked good in January.

Prediction 1 [TRUE]: The Duval Delegation will struggle to deliver.

On this one, I have to consider what the Mayor told me was the key priorities.

One of them was money for septic tank removal.

The city and JEA have committed to a five-year, $30 million shared process of removal of old septic tanks, with the idea of getting these properties onto city water and sewage.

The city wanted $15 million from the state; however, the Duval Delegation didn’t even carry the bill — which was instead carried by Rep. Travis Cummings of Clay County.

The measure died in committee.

So on that issue, the Delegation didn’t get it done.

Prediction 2 [TRUE]: Nothing for Hart Bridge offramp removal

The big ask last year: $50 million for removal of Hart Bridge offramps, with the idea of moving traffic onto surface streets by the Sports Complex.

Another called pitch strikeout.

No one even carried the bill. Delegation members told this reporter that they hadn’t been told about the project before it was introduced at a Duval Delegation meeting.

Delegation Chair Jay Fant said in March he would have been “happy to carry the bill,” but that the mayor’s office “backed off” because the concept “needed some validation” and wasn’t just a “request and get.”

The city is now pursuing a $25 million federal infrastructure grant, and wants $12.5 million from the state to help with that.

Thus far, crickets.

But long story short, the city didn’t get what it wanted there.

Prediction 3 [FALSE]: Collective bargaining with unions won’t wrap in time for 2018 budget

We were pessimistic that collective bargaining with unions, regarding pension reform, would take longer than it did.

We were wrong.

The unions traded pay raises for current members with the end of defined benefit plans for new members, who are all now into defined contribution plans.

This saved the city money in the short term.

As CFO Mike Weinstein said, the savings add up to “$1.4B less out of the general fund over the next 15 years,” and “without that revenue” from the half-cent sales tax, the city would have “difficulty matching revenue to expenses.”

The city was able to defer what is now a $3.2 billion obligation until 2030, when the Better Jacksonville Plan half-cent sales tax will be repurposed to dealing with what is now a pension plan playing out the string.

This allowed the city to have a bigger budget than in previous years, with more money for infrastructure spending.

In any event, we botched that one.

Prediction 4 [FALSE]: Human Rights Ordinance expansion won’t go through.

After five years of trying to find a way to add LGBT people to the city’s HRO, activists got their wish on Valentine’s Day; the expanded ordinance passed by a 12-6 margin in City Council.

The expansion added sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression to the list of protected categories under the ordinance, which ensures that people aren’t discriminated against in the workplace, the housing market, or public accommodations (restrooms, locker rooms, and so on).

Mayor Lenny Curry returned the bill to the city council without his signature; the bill is now law.

Instrumental in the push: Jaguars owner Shad Khan,

Khan, per some sources, read an article of this writer’s that suggested that Khan lean on Council for a yes vote.

Whether that’s true or apocryphal, who knows.

But a win’s a win.

Prediction 5 [TRUE]: The murder rate won’t abate.

Sad to be right about this one, but as the T-U’s homicide tracker says, the city is at 128 murders with two weeks to go this year.

Last year saw 118 homicides.

Curry and Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams probably won’t get real electoral challenges for re-election.

If they did, however, they would be vulnerable on this issue.

Prediction 6 [TRUE]: Alvin Brown continues to resurface.

This reporter has seen more of Alvin Brown this fall than he has his own mother … which means that he probably should visit home more often.

It also means that Brown is around; a fixture at everything from meetings of Duval Democrats to Corrine Brown hearings.

Brown, who is still mulling running against Al Lawson for Congress, is out there for a reason.

Prediction 7 [FALSE]: Local Dems vie to replace Al Lawson

While Brown is mulling, no one seems to be moving.

Audrey Gibson is in Democratic caucus leadership in the Florida Senate. Tony Hill is on Lawson’s payroll.

The expectations of a battle royale between Democrats, thus far, have been dashed.

Prediction #8 [FALSE]: There will be a homeless day resource center in Downtown Jacksonville

This was a priority of activists; this was not a priority of the Lenny Curry administration.

The contention: the day center had “mixed results.”

As is the case with other social-service legislation, such as the Jacksonville Journey, the mayor’s office wanted a data-driven approach. And the data showed that a day center serves a supplementary, not a primary purpose.

Prediction #9 [FALSE]: The city will reassume control of Hemming Park.

Jacksonville has found a rapprochement with a restructured Friends of Hemming Park group, meaning that this is not under direct city control.

Prediction #10 [FALSE]: Political scofflaws will skate on charges

This is false solely because Corrine Brown did get sentenced to five years in prison. At her age, that essentially is a life sentence.

All told, batted .400, with four correct and the rest junk.

Better luck next year!

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