Alvin Brown Archives - Page 7 of 52 - Florida Politics

Is Al Lawson in trouble? Re-election to Congress may be in doubt

Alvin Brown, the former Jacksonville mayor running in the Democratic Primary for Florida’s 5th Congressional District, may be positioning himself to do the unthinkable and capsize incumbent U.S. Rep. Al Lawson.

Brown enjoyed a two-to-one fundraising advantage during the first quarter of 2018: $167,088 to $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.

Can Brown maintain the momentum? That remains to be seen.

Some interesting donors populated Brown’s Q1 report, though not really enough of them.

One such donor: 2016 Democratic Presidential candidate Martin O’Malley, who went in for $250.

Local NAACP head Isaiah Rumlin checked in at $2,000. Former CSX head Michael Ward gave $2,700, as did John Baker and JU President Tim Cost.

Brown is light on corporate PAC money, and that’s where Lawson has an edge. Walmart, Boeing, Duke Energy, Rayonier, CSX, cotton and peanut interests all contributed.

Lawson also got Republican money, again, this time from “Friends of Mike H,” the political committee of lobbyist and former Senate President Mike Haridopolos.

Brown officially launches his campaign next Saturday, with a late morning event at Jacksonville’s IBEW Hall — the meeting place of Duval Democrats.

Lawson, who vowed to retire Brown when the former Mayor entered the race, has got to get his campaign architecture right. While he has hired a senior consultant, the fact remains that Lawson’s campaign apparatus was essentially untested in 2016.

Recall that his victory was over Corrine Brown, who was facing indictment and eventual conviction for the “One Door for Education” scheme. Corrine Brown’s fundraising was anemic, due to not being able to campaign effectively.

Alvin Brown is facing no indictments, no legal clouds. The worst that can be said about him was he was too centrist as Jacksonville Mayor.

Al Lawson needs to show some real fundraising and real momentum, and needs to figure out outreach to Jacksonville.

His staff’s major connection to the city, the connected Jenny Busby, has moved on to Gwen Graham’s gubernatorial campaign.

Lawson has had almost two years to figure it out. Now he has four months.

Can he get it done? Or will Alvin Brown finally (recall that he ran in 1994) go to Congress?

Jacksonville Bold for 4.20.18 — Can’t knock the hustle

In Jacksonville, tales of the next year of elections have just begun.

In this edition: congressional fundraising. For those needing a guide to both contenders and pretenders, a look at the money (months before voters cast ballots) will tell that tale.

Down the page, our story on City Council fundraising. Some candidates who are not faring so well saw it, as indicated by the relative paucity of glad-handing for our Jacksonville correspondent by players not really in the game.

For those who decry the “horserace coverage” of politics — is it indeed not a race? Courting the donor class, pandering to “the rubes,” emotional appeals, gaming the outcome — they are all hallmarks of a competition.

And for the title of this week’s Bold, we borrowed (stole) from Jay-Z — and not just to ensure Lenny Curry reads it.

“Can’t knock the hustle” serves as a reminder to all of those working this cycle that, even as the physical days get longer, the time to decide your fate is closer to the end than the beginning.

The anxiety of influence

“It’s good to have all these relationships in D.C., but as Senator, you have more influence.”

The above quote, by far, was the most notable offered during Gov. Rick Scott’s tightly messaged “business roundtable” in Jacksonville. It also illustrated a unique dual message; that of the outsider who can play the inside game.

Rick Scott’s ‘influence’ line was the most interesting of the 45-minute event.

Scott reprised his critique of term limits, coupled with a vision of what he would do as Senator to redress constituent concerns.

Scott vowed, for example, that he would be positioned to help get JAXPORT’s dredge federally funded.

In response to a question about waterways, Scott vowed to talk to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who (depending on who you ask) may or may not have exempted Florida from offshore drilling.

Scott also vowed to meet with heads of other federal agencies.

Scott’s tacit pitch: being able to play the inside game from day one, while still using outsider rhetoric, such as he did on taxes.

Read more here.

$300K for the Sheriff

Rep. John Rutherford, the former Jacksonville Sheriff who is now representing Northeast Florida’s 4th Congressional District, cleared the $300,000 on-hand mark by the end of March.

John Rutherford has the only money tree in CD 4.

Rutherford had not been aggressively fundraising before the just-concluded quarter. Rutherford ended 2017 with $183,748 on hand.

Among Rutherford’s more interesting supporters: Jacksonville donor Peter Rummell, who has said he would only give money to candidates who backed an assault weapons ban. Rutherford never took that position.

Corporate donors include Clear Channel, Viacom, Walmart, and Rayonier.

Rutherford faces no credible primary opponent; however, the Democratic field in the deep-red district is still shaking out, even as none of them thus far enjoy any fundraising traction.

Read all about Monday’s Democratic candidate forum here.

Brown closes cash gap

In the Democratic primary for Florida’s 5th Congressional District, there appears to be a money race after all.

Per a news release from Alvin Brown, the former Jacksonville Mayor enjoyed a 2:1 fundraising advantage in Q1 2018.

Can Alvin Brown eclipse Al Lawson? Money (so far) says yes.

And that means that Brown has pulled close to incumbent Rep. Al Lawson regarding cash on hand.

For the quarter, Brown brought in $167, 088.73; Lawson $83,866.34.

By the end of 2017, before Brown entered the race, Lawson had $100,000 cash-on-hand. Now Lawson has just under $160,000; Brown has a little over $127K.

Brown is “humbled by the widespread grassroots support for our people-powered campaign, which will allow us to connect with voters across the 5th District. Floridians have proved they are ready for new leadership as Washington politicians continue to care more about self-preservation than fighting for the people back home.”

Ward, Waltz self-finance to replace DeSantis in DC

What’s clear about the race to succeed Ron DeSantis in Florida’s 6th Congressional District: There will be a lot of money spent to get the nomination.

Ponte Vedra businessman John Ward still leads with cash-on-hand in the seat that encompasses southern St. Johns, Flagler and Volusia counties; however, Fox News contributor Mike Waltz is close behind.

Mike Waltz is very much in the game in CD 6. (Image: Facebook)

As of the end of March, Ward had $709,340 on hand (with $555,000 of that from his own checkbook). Waltz, who loaned his own campaign $400,000, has $653,354 on hand.

On the Republican side, Ward and Waltz are demonstrating the most fundraising ability. Former state Rep. Fred Costello has $15,720 on hand. St. Johns County Commissioner Jimmy Johns has yet to report fundraising.

Two Democrats, meanwhile, also show a talent for fundraising.

Democrat Stephen Sevigny said Friday that his campaign brought in $250,000 in the first quarter. Sevigny’s total includes $50,000 in candidate loans. He finished the quarter with $227K on hand.

Nancy Soderberg, a former Ambassador to the United Nations under Bill Clinton, currently leads the primary field with $920,000 in total fundraising after reporting $375,000 raised for the quarter. With $595K on hand, she is keeping pace with the Republicans, without spending her own money on the campaign so far.

JAXBIZ picks Duggan for HD 15

On Tuesday, JAXBIZ (the political arm of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce) endorsed Wyman Duggan in House District 15.

JAXBIZ endorsed Wyman Duggan at a pivotal time, with challenges emerging and money drying up.

“Wyman is an experienced, conservative leader who can make an immediate impact for our community in Tallahassee,” JAXBIZ Chair Dane Grey said. “Wyman understands the importance of growing jobs for hardworking families and attracting investment in our community.”

Duggan faces two Republican opponents in the primary and a lull on the fundraising front. For the second straight month in March, he raised just over $2,000; he has just over $95,000 cash on hand.

Duggan, a land-use attorney with deep connections in Jacksonville, has amassed a phalanx of endorsements since entering the race to succeed Rep. Jay Fant, and the JAXBIZ endorsement confirms his position as the choice of Jacksonville’s political and business establishment.

Sports complex improvements coming

On Tuesday, the Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee approved moving $1.945 million from the Sports Complex Capital Maintenance Fund to fund improvements at the Sports Complex.

Improvements are coming to the Sports Complex soon. (Image: Getty)

The bill is now ready for the full Council to vote on it next week.

The money was available, per a city representative, because of “excess debt service” funds from FY 17.

Among the projects to be funded: “Seating bowl repairs and widening of the front entrance plaza at the Arena, steel painting, lighting upgrades, bleacher repairs, upgrading of video control room equipment and concourse televisions, and turf equipment replacements at the baseball grounds, and replacing aging food service equipment, upgrading the phone system, seating bowl repairs, and building system upgrades at the stadium.”

The city has spent big money on the sports complex in recent years.

In recent years, Jacksonville taxpayers have authorized $88 million of city-funded capital improvements to the Jaguars’ stadium: $43 million for the world’s biggest scoreboard, and half of a $90 million buy-in that secured a new amphitheater, a covered practice field, and club seat improvements.

Council still hashing out cannabis conundrum

Ordinance 2018-75 would revise extant code relative to medical cannabis. However, a Jacksonville City Council committee can’t figure out a way forward, with a deferral on the bill again Monday

The code was formulated in response to “Charlotte’s Web” low-THC cannabis being the single legal strain, and after an extended period of debate, processing and dispensing were allowed in commercial districts, with cultivation permitted in agricultural regions.

Council’s mellow harshed again over controversial language in cannabis bill.

That debate was tortuous; so too is this one, with the second deferral of this legislation in Monday’s Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health & Safety Committee pushing back the bill two more weeks.

“This bill puts our code in compliance with Florida statutes,” said a representative from the Office of General Counsel. “The statute prohibits cultivation and processing facilities within 500 feet of a school” but allows a dispensary given a waiver within 500 feet.

However, given a wide range of concerns addressed this week in committee, it is clear that a public-notice meeting will be needed to refine bill language.

Curry draws challenger

Curry faces a challenge on the 2019 ballot, and it all stems from a beef over a boat show.

Former Atlantic Beach Commissioner Jimmy Hill, a Republican like Curry, took issue with a scheduling snafu over a 2017 boat show that led to him being edged out of promoting boat shows altogether, leading ultimately, he says, to Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Can Jimmy Hill be king? Or will Lenny Curry retain the crown?

Now Hill hopes to have the last laugh … and edge Curry out of the Mayor’s office next year.

Hill believes his group was edged out of the boat show because it used Metro Park and was “the last remaining obstacle to getting rid of Metro Park.”

“The Lenny Curry administration is wholly responsible,” Hill said, for the boat show issues.

And now the ultimate revenge: a challenge on the ballot.

Hill, who worked for Curry’s election, asserts that he “misjudged [Curry’s] character and willingness to do the right thing for people.

Moreover, the challenger says he’s not alone in his chagrin with the incumbent.

“There’s a groundswell of people disappointed in the Mayor,” Hill said. “Key players in his administration are steering him in the wrong direction.”

Read more here.

City Council fundraising update

Some noteworthy news and notes from March fundraising reports for Jacksonville City Council candidates.

The first candidate to hit $250,000 raised, Matt Carlucci, is suspending fundraising for his at-large race against Don Redman.

Leanna Cumber, pictured, looks to replace the likely-irreplaceable Lori Boyer on Council.

Also starting off extremely strong: LeAnna Cumber, who has raised over $170,000 for a district race against Democrat James Jacobs, who has under $500 on hand.

Not every race is seeing robust fundraising, however; For those wanting to get money out of politics, the District 10 race offers a unique illustration. Only one of the six candidates (Kevin Monroe) has more than $1,000 on hand.

Surprising that property or union interests aren’t floating a candidate, bankrolling him and her for reliable votes on issues that may come before the council. But there’s still time.

Read about all the races here.

New JEA CEO wants privatization ‘pause’

New JEA interim CEO Aaron Zahn took over this week after a board meeting saw a vote go his way over CFO Melissa Dykes.

How long does a ‘pause in discussion’ last? (Image: Action News Jax)

There are those close to the process who believe Dykes’ tenure will be short-lived in this role, with other opportunities opening for her elsewhere.

This was not a move many predicted before recent weeks and was presaged with a game of musical chairs, in which Zahn resigned his position to pursue the interim CEO position, one filled by Dykes for the prior week, after longtime JEA CEO Paul McElroy stepped down 10 days ago.

Dykes and Zahn both lobbied board members for the position. But members, appointed by Curry, voted for the Mayor’s man.

Zahn noted that he wanted a “pause” in privatization talks, though he would not say how long that pause needed to be. We got reactions to that from some leading members of the Jacksonville City Council.

Supplementary reading: New bill would give JEA Board control to City Council.

Neptune Beach gets $375K for storm upgrades

Sen. Aaron Bean and Rep. Cord Byrd this week presented a $375,000 check to Neptune Beach’s Mayor and City Council.

The money was part of an appropriation to bolster the beachfront city’s stormwater drainage system on Florida Boulevard. The Northeast Florida Republicans helped secure the money state budget during the 2018 Legislative Session.

Aaron Bean and Cord Byrd present a $375K check to the City of Neptune Beach.

“Once this project is complete, Neptune Beach and the Beaches community will be better prepared for the next storm and have safer access to Florida Boulevard during emergencies,” Bean said.

Byrd added that the project “will improve the Beaches stormwater system and ensure a safe evacuation route for residents during a natural disaster.”

Neptune Beach Mayor Elaine Brown thanked the lawmakers for pushing for the funding and said it “will go a long way toward alleviating our drainage problems in our city and, most importantly, will restore safety to our evacuation route.”

Bean presents $975K to STEM advancement

On Monday, Bean presented a $975,000 check to Kathleen Schofield, executive director of STEM2 Hub; Gary Chartrand, chair of STEM2 Hub Corporate Board and a group of aspiring Northeast Florida STEM students.

During the most recent Session, Bean worked to secure funding for STEM2 Hub’s Northeast Florida 21st Century Workforce Development project, which increases the availability of STEM-related educational programs.

Aaron Bean presents $975K in state funding to the Northeast Florida Regional STEM2 Hub.

STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — represent some of the fastest-growing, most in-demand career fields in today’s workforce.

“STEM education is vital to the future workforce of our state,” Bean said. “I envision a Florida where all children have the chance to learn these critical skills, so they can realize their truly unlimited potential. This funding moves us closer to fulfilling this vision and provides Northeast Florida’s students with the opportunities needed to compete and excel in the 21st Century.”

The STEM2 Hub project helps schools to continue offering 21st Century Skills Development programs to students in Northeast Florida, with a focus on robotics, coding and workforce-aligned after-school programs and high-quality math instruction. The goal of schools working with the STEM2 Hub is to increase the number of STEM-capable graduates.

“It is so important that we give all students the opportunity to grow competent in the skills of problem-solving and critical thinking,” Schofield said. “We must make students feel connected to community and business leaders, as well as to their schools, so that they see a pathway to their own success.”

More information about the STEM2 Hub is at

​More money: ​Alvin Brown closes​ fundraising ​gap with Al Lawson

It appears there is a money race in the Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District.

According to a press release from Alvin Brown, the former Jacksonville mayor 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. Al 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.

Brown is “humbled by the widespread grassroots support for our people-powered campaign, which will allow us to connect with voters across the 5th District. Floridians have proven they are ready for new leadership as Washington politicians continue to care more about self-preservation than fighting for the people back home.”

Expect updates as reports surface on the Federal Elections Commission website Monday, with details as to donors for each candidate.

Jacksonville Bold for 4.13.18 — Infrastructure week

In campaigns, there is always a watershed moment when all the gauzy, aspirational rhetoric fades — like so many temporary tattoos — replaced by the hard realities of campaign finance and infrastructure.

For races on the 2018 ballot, we are there — even if some candidates haven’t figured it out.

If one is looking to win a primary in August, as many Democrats have to do this year locally, one might think that the campaign would be in high gear. The money would be in place. The team would be working.

We see that with some candidates (for example, who is working harder this cycle than Tracye Polson in her state House race?). With others, we don’t (consider Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown, who hasn’t done anything in his challenge to Sen. Audrey Gibson but buy campaign T-shirts).

The most prominent campaign event this week was the Governor’s rally Wednesday. Lots of incumbents and prospective candidates on hand; some should have taken notes.

In some quarters, People malign Rick Scott as a checkbook candidate. But he assembles the best team, has resources to message, and understands the discipline needed for such message.

He’s been working the same speech around the state, but he keeps refining it, getting more comfortable with the material. And, despite mourning a trusted aide, he has learned to reflect the affinity of the crowd. His smiles seem natural now.

And Bill Nelson is in for a fight.

As any incumbent can tell you: build the infrastructure before you need it. Because you will need it sooner than you think.

Scott Senate rollout

Gov. Scott rolled out his Senate campaign in the Jacksonville market Wednesday, with a stop at Ring Power on the Southside.

Rick Scott is already refining a credible stump speech, running with enthusiasm.

Scott’s political committee has sent out prepared remarks for each local event that have been the same as those sent out for the launch in Orlando Monday.

However, at least in Jacksonville, he deviated from the remarks, adding new details about retiring $9 billion in state debt during his tenure — a tacit allusion to the Congressional Budget Office predictions of increasing deficits over the next decade, subtly noting that Florida is not on that fiscal path under his watch.

Throughout his 10-minute speech, the Governor was upbeat, in “happy warrior” mode.

The local Democratic Party had called for protests; however, if there were protesters, they were not noticed by this reporter or other media on hand.

Scott drew a crowd of roughly 300, including numerous members of the Duval County Legislative Delegation and the Jacksonville City Council, as well as people who hope to serve in Tallahassee or City Hall.

In contrast to other events on tour, the Governor took questions. Included were answers about an elections complaint against the New Republican PAC and on Syria policy.

Soderberg rakes in more campaign donations

Democrat Nancy Soderberg, a former Ambassador to the United Nations during the Bill Clinton presidency, posted another impressive quarter of fundraising in her bid to succeed Republican Ron DeSantis in Congress.

Nancy Soderberg is running to win Ron DeSantis’ current seat.

Per a media release: Soderberg raised $375,000 in the first quarter of 2018. Soderberg raised $920,000 during her bid for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

The media release does not give an indication of what’s been spent this quarter; however, by the end of 2017, Soderberg raised $544,636, with $376,000 on hand.

This puts her ahead of other Democrats in the race. Stephen Sevigny has nearly $227,000 on hand; John Upchurch, just over $123,000.

Republicans running for the seat have yet to file fundraising reports or issue media releases.

The cash on hand leader as of the end of 2017 was Republican John Ward, a businessman living in Ponte Vedra, somewhat to the north of the district that runs from southern St. Johns to Volusia counties.

Ward, who loaned his campaign $500,000, had $644,000 on hand.

Brown, Lawson make moves in congressional primary clash

The Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, a cartographical anomaly that sprawls from downtown Jacksonville west to Tallahassee, saw some moves this week by both incumbent Al Lawson and challenger Alvin Brown.

Alvin Brown again reaches out to the right wing … odd strategy in Dem primary

Lawson’s campaign showed its first signs of engagement, with the hire of self-styled “hip-hop lobbyistPhillip Singleton as the campaign’s “senior adviser,” handling fundraising and outreach.

Singleton’s comments in the media release seem to suggest that Lawson’s efforts thus far in the campaign have been lacking.

“I am ready to hit-the-ground-running and re-energize our donor and voter base,” said Singleton.

Alvin Brown also is making moves, though it is difficult to tell if his latest will help in a Democratic primary.

Brown dined with right-wing talk radio host Ed Dean this week, a curious move … even with Dean hosting a straw poll this weekend on the Southside.

Dean’s listeners tend to be Tea Party/Trump Republicans, few of whom will vote in the Democratic primary in CD 5.

Brown, of course, is no stranger to outreach to the right wing — a triangulation strategy he used when running for Jacksonville Mayor.

In an ordinary Democratic primary, it would be easy to imagine a digital ad proclaiming Brown to be a tool of the right.

However, those with memories going back two years will recall Trump’s Florida co-chair Susie Wiles helping to pitch Lawson to Jacksonville media as he ran against Corrine Brown.

Gibson slams Scott, lauds ‘moderate’ Nelson

Senate Minority Leader-Designate Audrey Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat, excoriated Scott upon his U.S. Senate campaign launch Monday.

Will voters agree with Sen. Audrey Gibson that Bill Nelson is a better deal maker than Rick Scott?

“Rick Scott cannot erase seven years of leaving behind my constituents and others throughout this state and now try to take his same show to Washington. His jobs incentive programs have not provided real jobs to the average Floridian because he counts failed potential job creation as a Florida job,” Gibson said.

Scott’s relationship with President Donald Trump, Gibson asserted, is something voters should “definitely” consider, given Trump’s lack of “decorum” and “predictability.”

Besides, Gibson joked, Trump may not be President for very much longer.

As well, Gibson doubted Scott’s ability to be a “consensus builder,” which “moderate” Nelson has been for years.

“He may not necessarily characterize himself that way,” Gibson said of Nelson as a moderate, but lauded his ability to “build a bridge” and bring “balance to his position as a Senator.”

Additionally, Scott is as much a “career politician” as Nelson, Gibson said, given that he’s running for one office from another.

Could Dem take Fant House seat?

The race to replace Rep. Jay Fant in Jacksonville’s House District 15 continues, and March showed evidence of more traction from Democrat Polson.

For one thing, she’s up nine points in a poll her campaign commissioned — a major shock when one considers that for years no Democrat even bothered to run in the traditional GOP sinecure.

Blue wave in Jay Fant’s old seat? Time will tell, but the Trayce Polson campaign keeps raising money.

Polson, the sole Democrat running to replace the Attorney General hopeful, reports a combined March fundraising total of $30,821.00. She’s raised $174,103 between her campaign and political committee accounts, with $113,635 on hand.

“We have been knocking on doors since Veterans Day and one thing is very clear,” said Polson. “Voters are looking for a new leader to send to Tallahassee.”

To win that race in November, Polson will have to beat a Republican; currently, three are vying for the nomination.

In HD 15, Jacksonville land use attorney Wyman Duggan now faces two Republican opponents in the primary and trouble on the fundraising front. For the second straight month, he raised just over $2,000; he has just over $95,000 cash on hand.

Duggan leads Republicans Mark Zeigler and Joseph Hogan in fundraising.

Other races were less interesting, but you can read more about them here.

Brosche goes in on Curry

More harsh words between Jacksonville’s City Council President and Mayor.

Lenny Curry went on TV and put Anna Brosche on blast. Brosche responded in kind.

More drama on the fourth floor of City Hall this week. Like every week these days.

“As for his messaging against me, I am, quite frankly, surprised to be an object of his constant attention, one requiring a messaging campaign. While he is focused on the dynamic of our unhealthy relationship, I am going to continue my efforts to serve the people of Jacksonville, and keep asking questions to make sure everything adds up for the people,” Brosche added.

Of course, the central battleground for this conflict, at this point, is the special committee to explore the potential sale of Jacksonville’s utility, JEA.

After two consecutive Thursdays in which he took tough questions from that committee, JEA CEO Paul McElroy decided his time was up and stepped down from the highest paying public position in the city.

For Brosche, this decision adds to the current “uncertainty” surrounding the utility.

“Uncertainty has been a frequent term used in the process of evaluating a potential sale of JEA; Paul’s departure brings no exception,” she added.

Read More Here.

Speaking of JEA … a new ad

“Tell Lenny JEA is not for sale”: the latest digital ad from Florida Committee for Infrastructure Investment.

The spot, which will have a $5000+ ad buy, will appear starting Monday on digital channels and Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, per the news release.

Can unions keep up with Lenny Curry in the ad game?

The spot weaves together a narrative from local media accounts, charging Curry with taking actions to move forward with a sale of Jacksonville’s public utility despite a declared agnosticism to the topic beyond a “mature conversation” about the value of the “asset.”

“Everyone connected with the sale is also closely connected to the mayor,” asserts the copy. “According to a city auditor, Curry’s administration has been working behind your back preparing for a sale.”

A local union head expressed the rationale for the spot.

“While Lenny Curry continues to say that he is not a proponent of selling JEA, his actions are not matching his words. Our ad simply connects the dots based on evidence provided by local media. We do hope that the Mayor will listen to the will of the people and stop this push to sell JEA,” asserts D. Jason Baber, vice president of the Professional Employees Association.

“While we understand it takes a vote of council to actually sell JEA, we are asking that the Mayor as the leader of this city publicly end what we believe he started. We are asking that he publicly come out and say he is against the sale of JEA,” Baber adds. “If he is unwilling to do this, we know he and any candidate he supports wishes to sell JEA against the will of the people.”

Local unions released a statement opposing the exploration of a sale of the utility last week; this week, they continue pushing the narrative.

It remains to be seen if this will ultimately affect Curry’s re-election bid, however. The Mayor faces no credible opposition and raised $1.5 million in campaign funds in March, his first month as a filed candidate.

Sheriff raises $400K for re-election

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams is back to fundraising in earnest for his re-election bid, and both committee and hard money coffers are healthy after a strong March.

Tom Petway is one of Sheriff Mike Williams’ big donors.

Williams brought in $27,500 off 43 contributions to his campaign account, his most active month since launching last year.

He has raised $179,450 and has over $175,000 on hand.

His political committee, A Safe Jacksonville, brought in $38,000 in March. The committee has $232,000 on hand.

All donations to the committee came either from the family of Tom Petway, the former JEA Board member who kicked off the latest debate regarding privatizing the utility, or the Sorensen family of Firehouse Subs fame.

Williams’ opponent, Democrat Tony Cummings, raised no money for the second straight month, and has just over $200 banked.

District double-think?

Some interesting quotes in the Florida Times-Union regarding The District project.

Politicians will fall in line behind this development. What choice do they have?

The Peter Rummell development on Jacksonville Southside could result in $56 million of tax breaks, and $25 million of city infrastructure investment.

Yet some raise questions about the concept, currently being pushed hard by Councilwoman Lori Boyer.

Matt Schellenberg, who has said the project should have been put out for rebid years ago after the first of many stalls, questioned the wisdom of the investment.

“I would say if the city has that much money floating around, there are other areas in Jacksonville for that money,” the Mandarin Republican says.

This project would not be constructed for a few years, which leads to another question … one of timing, posed by Councilman Bill Gulliford.

“I don’t know that I would want to invest my money in it because we’re looking at a cyclical economy that’s at the top of the cycle right now.”

Indeed, what will things look like in three years?

Regardless, the City Council will make the call. To the surprise of no one, the Downtown Investment Authority approved the deal this week.

Delaney joins Rogers Towers/Fiorentino Group initiative

The next move for former Jacksonville Mayor and University of North Florida President John Delaney was revealed Wednesday via media release. He will work as part of a strategic alliance between Rogers Towers and the Fiorentino Group.

John Delaney’s next move is into the influence sphere.

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.

Delaney is singularly positioned to help in these matters.

“John’s professional career has been one of the ‘most unique’ and diverse of almost anyone I know, and he brings to our clients’ needs a special perspective that will be of great value as they deal with legal issues as well as the ever-changing landscape of both the political world and government affairs arena,” said Fred Franklin, Rogers Towers managing director.

“John has been a part of some of Jacksonville’s most successful public policy initiatives,” said Marty Fiorentino, president of The Fiorentino Group. “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.”

“As I made my decision to retire from UNF, I looked for a new chapter to open in my career that offered me the chance to bring together the skills and experiences I have harnessed since starting out as a young lawyer working for former Mayor Ed Austin, when he served our community as State Attorney,” said Delaney.

“Having known Marty and Fred both personally and professionally over the years, I was aware of the great work their firms were doing. We collectively started a conversation that led to this decision. I look forward to working with the two of them and their teams to represent clients in a variety of areas both here in Northeast Florida and around the state and nation,” Delaney added.

Overton makes a political comeback

Jacksonville political veteran Jim Overton became the first of what could be many candidates for Duval County Tax Collector.

Overton, who filed this week, is no stranger to Duval County voters.

A familiar face seeks a new office.

With Tillie Fowler‘s blessing, he ran to serve her unexpired term on City Council in 1992, serving two full terms after that. Overton subsequently served three terms as Duval County Property Appraiser.

Overton tells us that current tax collector Michael Corrigan, who is under consideration to be CEO of Visit Jacksonville, encouraged him to run.

Corrigan and Overton are friends outside of the political sphere, and Overton believes that Corrigan has done a “good job” in the role, and, if elected, he will keep the office on an “even keel” for the next couple of years.

Overton notes that the tax collector’s office is a “bigger shop” than the property appraisers, but otherwise believes it’s an “easy fit.”

Overton already knows many staff members in the office he seeks, and some encouraged him to run.

Overton’s entry in the race will likely force certain termed-out members of the Jacksonville City Council who have been eyeballing a run at the office to make moves or cut bait.

Council candidate Carlucci clears $250K raised

Jacksonville political veteran Matt Carlucci, a Republican running for City Council in at-large Group 4, became the first candidate this cycle to clear $250,000 raised.

And, audaciously, he is taking a break from fundraising … having hit his campaign budget.

Matt Carlucci (center) continues to bank campaign funds.

Carlucci, who seeks to return to Jacksonville’s legislative body, drew from a diverse group of contributors again in March, as he brought in over $29,000.

Republicans, such as U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, former City Council President Kevin Hyde, and former Council colleague Dick Kravitz, gave to Carlucci, as did Democrats, such as School Board member Warren Jones and City Council candidate Sunny Gettinger.

Corporate interests, such as the Haskell Company and J.B. Coxwell Contracting, likewise featured on the contribution list.

The $29,150 raised by Carlucci is his most significant single month haul since July 2017, and comes after another former councilman, Don Redman, became the second candidate in the race.

Boylan makes up ground in Council race

Two Republicans — former WJCT CEO Michael Boylan and Chamber candidate Rose Conry — are squaring off to replace termed-out Matt Schellenberg in Jacksonville City Council District 6.

Conry, while still the front-runner regarding money both raised and on-hand, lost some ground to Boylan in March.

WJCT Board of Trustees Chair Sandra Cook and WJCT President and CEO Michael Boylan.

Boylan raised $11,400, in his second straight month over five figures in fundraising. As evidence of a genuinely divided donor class in this race, such Jacksonville heavyweights as former Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver, former Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton’s Gate Petroleum, Preston Haskell and Jaguars/FPL lobbyist Paul Harden all ponied up for Boylan.

Conry’s operation is being run by Curry’s political adviser, Tim Baker; however, her $2,275 haul was the weakest of her six months as an active candidate. Among the donors to Conry in March: Bold City Strategic Partners and John Baker.

Despite the reversal in fortunes in March, Conry still holds leads in total money raised ($69,635 to $41,875) and cash on hand (approximately $63,400 to roughly $31,400).

Diamond banks $8K more

For those who might want to challenge Republican Rory Diamond as he runs to succeed termed-out Bill Gulliford on the Jacksonville City Council, it’s getting late.

Rory Diamond keeps banking campaign money. Will anyone challenge him?

Diamond, whose campaign is being handled by Curry’s political adviser Tim Baker, banked another respectable month of fundraising in March, raising $8,350. He now has raised $119,000, with over $113,000 on hand.

Among the names on Diamond’s latest report: Jacksonville investor Ashton Hudson, and University of North Florida Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Chris Warren.

Diamond has already outraised Gulliford in each of his runs. Gulliford, unopposed in his 2015 re-election bid, raised $95,000.

In 2011, when Gulliford initially won the office, he raised just over $47,000 (though he defeated Danny Becton, who raised $115,000).

JEA straw vote on November ballot

Two bills of note passed by the Jacksonville City Council Tuesday evening.


Straw ballot for JEA sale: 2018-141 will prime a straw ballot referendum for November to test the voters’ mood on a JEA sale.

The measure, sponsored by Garrett Dennis and John Crescimbeni (two skeptics of the need to sell), would, in theory, serve as a corrective to an impending sales pitch to sell from many directions.

Garrett Dennis and John Crescimbeni combined to push through the JEA sale straw ballot vote.

Crescimbeni noted in committee that the straw ballot is nonbinding and merely gives direction on whether to “participate in that process … weigh in and tell us they’re interested, or they’re not interested.”

A rumor the bill would be pulled from Consent ultimately proved unfounded.


Board reform: 2018-165, also sponsored by Dennis, will bar an active member of a board from applying for a paid position with the organization controlled by the board.

This bill was drafted after Joe Peppers, a member of the Kids Hope Alliance board who has since stepped down, made a successful play for that organization’s CEO position.

Dennis, one of the council’s most strident opponents of the reforms that brought KHA into being as a replacement for the Children’s Commission and the Jacksonville Journey, saw Peppers as unqualified to be CEO and as someone who is parlaying relationships with the board and Curry’s team into a high-paying job.

Dennis said the bill would foster “transparency and fairness.”

Leading pot lawyers expand to Jacksonville

Bold City has a new pot law firm, which will practice out of the Riverside shopping center.

Denver-based Vicente Sederberg LLC, described as “one of the nation’s leading marijuana law firms,” is opening a Jacksonville office — serving the largest city in Florida’s burgeoning medical marijuana markets.

Vicente Sederberg partner Bryan Vicente and Jacksonville office head Sally Kent Peebles.

The extension of Vicente Sederberg — which claims to have “guided” one of the state’s five original medical marijuana licensees — is the latest development in the growing legal community for the marijuana industry.

Sally Kent Peebles will head the Jacksonville office, according to a news release.

Several lawsuits are expected after Tallahassee Judge Karen Gievers ruled that Tampa strip club entrepreneur Joe Redner can grow his own pot to treat his lung cancer.

The firm is also sponsoring the “National Cannabis Industry Association’s Quarterly Cannabis Caucus” in Tampa next week, as well as taking part in North East Florida NORML’s 420 on the Beach event in Jacksonville Beach set for (you guessed it) April 20.

T-U praises Ford’s ‘dynamic change’ at JTA

Nat Ford recently celebrated five years as CEO of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority.

“These have been the most enjoyable five years of my career,” Ford told the Florida Times-Union.

The Florida Times-Union lavishes praise on Nathaniel Ford Sr., CEO of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA). Photo: James Crichlow/Jacksonville Business Journal.

“And they have been five of the best years in JTA’s history, too,” the editorial board praises in a new op-ed. “In short, JTA has become a more modern, more responsive and more relevant transit system.”

Since taking over JTA, Ford:

— Completely overhauled JTA’s antiquated route system, increasing the on-time rate for buses to 80 percent.

— Launched the first two lines of the premium First Coast Flyer traveling into the Northside and Southside with fewer stops; a third Flyer to the Beaches will start later this year.

— “Skillfully united the community’s stakeholders” to support revamping the Skyway, transforming the old automated aerial structure into a roadway with a ramp system that can accommodate driverless vehicles.

— Installed a test track to test driverless vehicles.

— Broke ground on the Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center in the LaVilla neighborhood.

— Spearheaded JTA takeover of the St. Johns Ferry, with substantial infrastructure improvements. “The ferry’s ridership numbers are now booming, and it has shed its reputation for being woefully underutilized.”

“We’ve built up a reputation that has transcended Jacksonville,” Ford told the Editorial Board. “At the state and federal level, there is a lot of confidence in our agency.”

Greyhound ready for big move

Jacksonville’s Greyhound Intercity Bus Terminal is ready to make the big move from its longtime home at 10 N. Pearl St. to a new location about seven blocks west near the Prime Osborn Convention Center.

Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s new hub will connect national, regional and city bus service, as well as the Skyway and nearby Interstate 95.

As reported by the Jacksonville Business Journal, the Greyhound terminal at 1111 W. Forsyth St. is the first phase of a $57.3 million JTA Regional Transportation Center project, funded by a combination of federal, state and local money.

To see video of the new facility, click on the image below:

Andy Rodgers, JTA project administrator, told the Business Journal the 9,660-square-foot facility was both on budget and schedule after about a year of construction.

The same food vendors as the current Greyhound station will operate the restaurant area.

JTA owns the building, and Rogers said it will lease it to Greyhound Lines Inc., which will move in April 17. The facility also will handle Megabus and RedCoach bus services.

UNF executes lease in historic downtown Jacksonville building

The University of North Florida is leasing the fourth and fifth floors in the historic Barnett National Bank Building in Downtown Jacksonville

The Coggin College of Business satellite campus will occupy about 16,000 square feet.

The UNF Coggin College of Business satellite campus will occupy about 16,000 square feet in the historic Barnett National Bank Building in Downtown Jacksonville.

According to the Jacksonville Business Journal, the Barnett Building is under restoration as the first phase of a $100 million “adaptive reuse program” through a partnership of SouthEast Development Group LLC and The Molasky Group of Companies.

Rehabilitation will include a complete historic preservation of the building as well as the Laura Street Trio, a structured parking facility on the adjacent city lot at 28 W. Forsyth St.

Classrooms and faculty support facilities can accommodate as many as 200 students and a new Entrepreneurial Center to develop and support new businesses. UNF interns will earn credits through the center, working with entrepreneurs in a business incubator program.

“Most cities that have thriving entrepreneurship ecosystems usually have a university involved as part of that,” Mark Dawkins, dean of the UNF Coggin College of Business, told the Business Journal.

The UNF Coggin College of Business has four departments offering eight majors: accounting, economics, finance, financial planning, international business, management, marketing, and transportation and logistics.

“UNF wants the center to benefit not only students but the Jacksonville community as a whole,” Dawkins added.

Al Lawson hires ‘hip-hop lobbyist’, Alvin Brown plays to right-wing radio

The Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, a cartographical anomaly that sprawls from downtown Jacksonville west to Tallahassee, saw some moves this week by both incumbent Al Lawson and challenger Alvin Brown.

Lawson’s campaign showed its first signs of engagement, with the hire of self-styled “hip-hop lobbyist” Phillip Singleton as the campaign’s “senior advisor,” handling fundraising and outreach.

Singleton’s comments in the media release seem to suggest that Lawson’s efforts thus far in the campaign have been lacking.

“I am ready to hit-the-ground running and re-energize our donor and voter base,” said Singleton. “Congressman Lawson has the credentials and insight needed to put politics aside and bring the necessary resources back to Florida’s 5th Congressional District.”

Questions raised: was the donor and voter base somehow divested of energy? And how does one “put politics aside” in a Democratic primary.

Alvin Brown also is making moves, though it is difficult to tell if his latest will help in a Democratic primary.

Per Karen Bowling, Brown lunched with right-wing talk radio host Ed Dean this week, a curious move.

Most interesting lunch today with Ed Dean, host of the Ed Dean show, Florida’s #1 radio show, broadcast daily from 6 to 9 on AM 600 and FM 101.1 and Alvin Brown, who recently announced that he is running for Congress in the 5th Congressional District!”

Bowling is the former chief executive officer of Solantic Urgent Care, a company she cofounded with Gov. Rick Scott in 2001. After Solantic’s sale in 2011, Bowling joined the senior staff of Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

Dean’s listeners tend to be Tea Party/Trump Republicans, few of whom will vote in the Democratic primary in CD 5.

Brown, of course, is no stranger to outreach to the right wing — a triangulation strategy he used when running for Jacksonville Mayor.

In 2011, Brown won the Mayor’s Office with the help of GOP money and crossover votes.

In 2015, Brown attended a luncheon hosted by Billie Tucker, an activist known for Tea Party work and organizing the first Donald Trump rally in Jacksonville later that year.

In an ordinary Democratic primary, it would be easy to imagine a digital ad proclaiming Brown to be a tool of the right.

However, those with memories going back two years will recall Trump’s Florida co-chair Susie Wiles helping to pitch Lawson to Jacksonville media as he ran against Corrine Brown.

Chicken beef spawns assault and battery charges for Congressman’s son: Report

Squawking about chicken this week led to a parking lot showdown, then lockdown, for a Congressman’s son.

The Tallahassee Democrat reports that Alfred Lawson III, the son of Rep. Al Lawson, “is facing battery and aggravated assault charges after investigators say he tried to run over a gas station clerk on Tuesday.”

As of Thursday evening, Lawson was still in jail.

Per the Democrat, Lawson and another man entered the store, wondering where the proprietors “bought their chicken.”

Chaos ensued: Lawson punched a clerk, who then chased him outside with a baseball bat, leading to Lawson eventually leaving the premises and coming back in an Acura.

Lawson, per the report, accelerated toward the victim, but eventually fled on foot.

Lawson’s father, a Democrat, represents the Fifth Congressional District in Congress.

He faces a primary challenge from former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

Jacksonville Bold for 4.6.18 — Shiv season

In this week’s Bold, a recurring motif … pitched political speech.

From a senator saying the president could kick off the next Great Depression, to a gubernatorial campaign telling an opponent is DOA, the knives were out.

Shivs went toward Jacksonville’s mayor for exploring the value of JEA. And toward a chair of a local party … for her committeeman husband using a phrase at a party dinner that many on hand saw as objectionable.

Don’t worry, there were shivs for him as well.

Almost five months before primaries, and nearly a year before the first city elections, Northeast Florida politics are like a Ginsu ad.

The knives are out. And Jacksonville Bold is the whetstone.

Nelson: Metal tariffs = Smoot-Hawley Act

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson met with Anheuser-Busch executives in Jacksonville Monday to address business concerns about the Trump administration’s plan for tariffs on foreign products.

Meanwhile, Spuds MacKenzie remains silent on the issue of tariffs.

Beer execs were concerned that an imposed 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum would cost them millions of dollars and slow down investment in growing their business.

For Nelson, the tariffs signal a more significant issue.

“What it portends,” said Nelson, “is the starting of a trade war.”

“We get into a trade war, and the prices of a lot of consumer goods we buy from overseas are going to rocket up,” Nelson said. “A trade war ultimately runs into a recession, which was part of the reason for going into the Depression back in the 1930s.”

Nelson noted the Smoot-Hawley Act, which raised 900 import duties all at once, ultimately was what “plunged us into a Depression.”

“This could be the beginning,” Nelson said, saying 9 million people have jobs that will be affected by this imposition of aluminum and steel tariffs.

WaPo wallops Wiles

The Washington Post delivered a hit on inexperienced political appointees in the Donald Trump White House. Caroline Wiles got fragged.

Brutal hit on Caroline Wiles from The Washington Post.

The Post reminded readers that Wiles “was one of six White House staffers dismissed for failing FBI background checks” then was “made a special assistant to the president, a post that typically pays $115,000.”

Susie Wiles, the mother of Caroline, ran Trump’s Florida campaign as it got momentum. That, asserts the Post, is why she was hired.

“The younger Wiles has an unusual background for a senior White House official. On a résumé she submitted to the state of Florida, she said she had completed coursework at Flagler College … On her LinkedIn page, she simply lists Flagler under education. A Flagler spokesman said she never finished her degree,” the report says.

Another shot of nepotism followed: “Wiles has had a string of political jobs, including work at her mother’s lobbying firm and as a campaign aide for candidates her mother advised, including Florida Gov. Rick Scott  and Trump.”

And then, the rap sheet: “Over the years, she has had multiple encounters with police. In 2005, she had her driver’s license suspended for driving while intoxicated … In 2007, she was arrested for driving while intoxicated and arrested for passing a ‘worthless check.’ She was found guilty of a misdemeanor for driving under the influence. The charge related to the bad check was dropped in a plea agreement.”

Go figure; she didn’t sit for an interview for this piece.

Defense lawyers: Brown jobbed out of fair trial

Per First Coast News“The Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is asking for a new trial for Corrine Brown after she was convicted on multiple counts of fraud and corruption and sentenced to five years in federal prison.”

Corrine Brown’s latest appeal enjoyed a tail-wind this week via an amicus brief.

At issue: the dismissal of a juror who claimed to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Brown and her defense have consistently contended that juror was dismissed in error and this group agrees, saying that “seeking guidance from God does not amount to jury misconduct and is not a basis to remove a juror who is otherwise qualified to serve.”

Brown’s attorney filed a 64-page brief last week in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals arguing the Jacksonville Democrat’s conviction should be tossed out because the juror was improperly dismissed from the case due to his religious statements.

“The record in this case supports only one conclusion: that this juror was basing his verdict on his view of the sufficiency of the evidence, after prayerful consideration and as he saw it, in his mind, guidance from the Holy Spirit,” Brown’s attorney, William Mallory Kent, wrote in the brief.

Big Mo for DeSantis

An internal memo from the Ron DeSantis campaign for governor made the rounds this week. And he may be winning the nomination.

The memo notes that DeSantis is winning with little effort against an “establishment candidate … who has spent more than $6 million … and has been running quietly for eight years.”

Ron DeSantis’ campaign says it is ‘winning’ the race with Adam Putnam.

DeSantis has the best name ID, per internal polling, along with strong favorables and the lead in a two-way race against Adam Putnam and a three-way race with a “potential third challenger.”

Also, Trump Twitter came up bigly: “The president’s job approval is strong, and so is his endorsement.”

DeSantis also has good oppo against Putnam’s pre-Tea Party voting record in Congress, and wins the “blind bio” test, per his polling, 55 to 29 percent.

Payne draws challenger in HD 19

A Starke Democrat entered the race for North Central Florida’s House District 19, where they will take on incumbent Republican Bobby Payne, as well as Libertarian Ryan Ramsey.

(Paul) Still waters run deep, but the Dem says Black Creek project is a boondoggle.

Paul Still, an elected Supervisor for the Bradford County Soil and Water Conservation Board, was motivated to run by a water issue Payne supported that he sees as a “boondoggle.”

The issue at hand is the $42 million Black Creek Water Resource Development Project.

While Still won’t face primary opposition, the struggle is real in deep red HD 19 for the former chair of the Bradford County Democrats, as the party is not well-organized throughout much of the district.

Duval DEC committeeman out over ‘colored people’ comment

Lisa King‘s tenure chairing the Democratic Party of Duval County has been marred by the aftermath of her husband, state committeeman John Parker, committing the gaffe of using the term “colored people” during a dinner in January.

John Parker resigns, but will Lisa King hold on to the Dems’ gavel?

In the last week, Parker and King have dealt with some adverse press, related to an ongoing outcry both within and outside the party about her husband, with the offensive comments framed as a cause for both Parker and King to step down.

In a statement Monday, King said she had advised Parker to resign, but he told Florida Politics he “absolutely would not” last week. (King got backup Tuesday from party secretary Daniel Henry).

King notes that she has “told John from the beginning that the most appropriate course of action for him was to resign. Although we disagree on this action, our members are committed to respecting the process to resolve this issue.”

Meanwhile, the chair of the Duval GOP finally, a week after this controversy blew up, issued a call for King and Parker to resign.

On Wednesday, Parker acquiesced, resigning both leadership positions.

“Today, I accepted the resignation of John Parker as state committeeman and DNC member,” King said in a statement. “I do this with the certainty that it is the right thing for our party. Although he has dedicated over 35 years of service, his statements and actions necessitated his departure.”

Newby, Holland want four more years

Monday saw two incumbent Jacksonville politicians file for re-election.

Sam Newby won a close race in 2015 on a shoestring budget. Expect him to have more help this time.

At-large Group 5 Republican Sam Newby filed for re-election, as did Republican Property Appraiser Jerry Holland.

Newby, who won a narrow race against Democrat Ju’Coby Pittman in 2015, thus far faces no ballot opposition.

Holland, who was a popular Supervisor of Elections for two terms, faced no ballot opposition in 2015 but will face a Democrat next March.

Kurt Kraft has just over $600 on hand. To put that number in context, Holland raised over $154,000 in his unopposed run in 2015.

Committee slams Curry on radio

A political committee (Florida Committee for Infrastructure Investment) designed to stop the exploration of selling Jacksonville’s utility in its tracks rolled out its first radio ad in a mass email to media.

The 30-second spot, which employs a child’s voice, includes a plaintive, heart-tugging script.

To hear the video, click the image below:

“Mommy and daddy, they’re saying that Lenny Curry is trying to sell JEA,” says the youth in the spot, a child who is remarkably hip to the mechanics of municipal utilities for his age.

“Don’t let him sell JEA,” the youngster continues. “Don’t let him sell our future.”

The call to action: to call 630-CITY and tell Curry not to sell JEA.

This particular political committee has ties to one of Curry’s chief political rivals. Its registered agent and treasurer, Heather Pullen, has connections to Lisa King, the chair of the Duval Democrats.

“Baseless attacks and lies from a political committee affiliated with and supportive of Democrat Lisa King are not how we will protect the value of taxpayer assets at JEA. The mayor remains committed to ensuring that facts inform all future plans for our utility, and that those plans respect taxpayers and the promises made to JEA employees,” said Brian Hughes, Curry’s chief of staff.

Meanwhile, Council President Anna Brosche wants more disclosure from the city finance department on JEA. CFO Mike Weinstein stonewalled the Jacksonville City Council requests for financial information, saying in an email last week: “They’re on their own.”

There is, however, one positive JEA augury for the Mayor’s Office. Curry met with linemen Tuesday; per WJXT, it went well.

Hughes noted that the mayor’s “meeting with JEA lineman this morning was part of his continued commitment to having conversations about the future of JEA with all stakeholders. The meeting went well offering him the opportunity to hear feedback and information from the people who put their lives on the line, not only in emergencies, but every day to provide service to the citizens of Jacksonville.”

Council bills teed up

Straw ballot for JEA sale: This bill had some controversy before unanimous passage in Finance Tuesday morning.

The vote would be in November.

2018-141 would set a straw ballot referendum on the November ballot to test the voters’ mood on a JEA sale.

The measure, sponsored by Garrett Dennis and John Crescimbeni (two skeptics of the need to sell), would, in theory, serve as a corrective to an impending sales pitch to sell from many directions.

Crescimbeni pitched the bill to Rules, noting that the straw ballot is nonbinding and merely gives direction on whether to “participate in that process … weigh in and tell us they’re interested, or they’re not interested.”

The bill cleared Rules without a single no vote.


Board reform2018-65, also sponsored by Dennis, would bar a member of a board from applying for a paid position with the organization said board controls while serving on that board.

This bill was drafted after Joe Peppers, a member of the Kids Hope Alliance board who has since stepped down, made a play for that organization’s CEO position.

Dennis, one of Council’s most strident opponents of the reforms that brought KHA into being as a replacement for the Children’s Commission and the Jacksonville Journey, sees Peppers as a) unqualified to be CEO and b) parlaying relationships with the board and Mayor Lenny Curry‘s team into a high-paying job.

Dennis said the bill would foster “transparency and fairness.”

Gaffney lawsuit rolls on

A whistleblower action involving Community Rehabilitation Center, the nonprofit of Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney, continues to be hashed out in the 4th Judicial Circuit Court; it is now a discrimination suit.

Reggie Gaffney gaffe: Where are the documents, plaintiff lawyer wonders.

Former CRC employee Darlene Peoples contended in a late-May whistleblower lawsuit in Florida’s 4th Circuit that she was “unlawfully terminated” by the nonprofit … after she was allegedly exposed to risk from HIV-positive clients without proper training and licensure. [Complaint against CRC]

Peoples worked for CRC from 2013 to Sept. 2016. In June 2016, Peoples was reassigned to be a “mental health counselor” from her previous position, “substance abuse counselor,” in a move her original filing describes as “ill-advised.” She claimed training deficiencies were rampant in her preparation to deal with HIV positive clients, and when she attempted to get redress (including from CEO Gaffney), she was fired.

The latest motion from Peoples, a “motion to compel,” came Mar. 22. At issue: an alleged inability to comply promptly with plaintiff requests for discovery regarding interrogatories and documents (emails).

Read more here.

Mallot out

From the JAX Chamber: “Jerry Mallot announced today that he will retire from his roles as President of JAXUSA Partnership and Executive Vice President of JAX Chamber. Mallot’s retirement is effective Sept. 1.”

“This is truly the best city and region in the country to live and to do business — and that certainly helps when you’re bringing top companies to the region,” Mallot, who has been with the Chamber since 1994, said.

Jerry Mallot retiring from JAX Chamber Sept. 1.

Mallot helped to broker deals with Fidelity, Deutsche Bank and Amazon, per the Chamber. Those were three big gets.

“The investment he’s helped attract to our city is remarkable,” said JAX Chamber Chair John Peyton, who served as Jacksonville’s mayor from 2003-11 and worked with Mallot on several high-profile projects. “Jerry is so incredibly skilled at finding ways to get a deal done; it’s been a privilege to work with him over the years.”

“It’s amazing to look around at different projects and see how far we’ve come,” Mallot said. “We have so much momentum here, and I look forward to seeing it continue.”

Nassau’s Lincoln Day dinner sells out

Nassau County Republican Executive Committee (REC) announced its 2018 Lincoln Day Dinner has reached capacity with 116 tickets distributed, a first for the annual event.

The 2018 Lincoln Day Dinner is among the various Republican fundraising events to honor Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth U.S. president and first from the Republican Party. The Nassau County event was held Thursday at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island beginning with a cocktail hour and silent auction.

Keynoting the Lincoln Day dinner was Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis; featured guests includedCongressman John Rutherford, state Sens. Aaron Bean and Denise Grimsley, state Reps. Cord Byrd and Matt Caldwell, as well as various local leaders and candidates.

“Although we are still days away from hosting the event, the revenue and enthusiasm for this banquet have exceeded all expectations,” Nassau REC Chair Justin Taylor said. “In fact, we had to add seats to accommodate demand. We are seeing about a 50 percent participation increase from last year’s Lincoln Day, and I think that is a direct reflection of our party’s enthusiasm leading into this year’s election cycle.”

Jacksonville Bold for 3.30.18 — And the campaigns begin

Flowers are blooming. The chill of March fades into April and May heat. And just like the cycle of nature, the cycle of campaigns is kicking off anew.

In Congressional races, we are starting to see real action. Political action committees are kicking up, and so is the end of quarter fundraising.

What this means: all the paper tiger campaigns will be tested by the heat of the process, an unforgiving sunlight illumination that offers no quarter.

Who are the contenders? Who are the pretenders?

Soon we shall know the difference.

PAC targets Waltz in CD 6

Fox News viewers in Florida’s 6th Congressional District starting Monday saw the first of many ads in the Republican primary.

The very first ad in the district that includes Volusia, Flagler and southern St. Johns counties, however, was from a political action committee targeting candidate Mike Waltz.

Mike Waltz takes incoming early from well-funded John Ward PAC.

The committee seems to support opponent John Ward.

Via Advertising Analytics: “American Jobs and Growth PAC” bought $19,000 in ad time on Fox News Channel. Spots will run from Monday to Friday.

The PAC is opposed to Waltz, per the Federal Elections Commission webpage for the committee.

The 15-second ad features a Waltz voice-over from the 2016 campaign, saying “look at Donald Trump‘s real record and stop him now,” with graphics proclaiming Trump’s “real record” as being the tax cut package, and appointing Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

The committee has only begun to spend money, per its list of contributions.

John Foley, a business associate of Ward, leads all donors with $100,000 contributed in what thus far is a ~$140,000 nest egg.

DeSantis denies Cambridge Analytica ties

Moving from the CD 6 race to the incumbent in CD 6 … Florida Democrats questioned, per the Daytona Beach News-Journal, whether or not Rep. Ron DeSantis may have used controversial data-mining op Cambridge Analytica for his campaign.

Oppo suggests the Dems take Ron DeSantis seriously.

The connection: the PAC of new National Security Adviser John Bolton, which donated to DeSantis, also paid Cambridge.

No dice, says the DeSantis campaign.

“No, we didn’t,” wrote spokesman Brad Herold to the Daytona paper. “And tell the FDP, if they spent more time trying to figure out why their message hasn’t resonated with Florida voters in over two decades and less time playing Inspector Clouseau with finance reports, they’d win more elections.”


Peanut, tomato dumping drives Lawson to back NAFTA revamp

Florida’s 5th Congressional District is far-flung, as Al Lawson’s town hall last weekend shows.

In Tallahassee, it focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the Jacksonville end of the district: peanut and tomato dumping.

Nearly 100 North Florida and South Georgia farmers gave Al Lawson their ideas on what should be included in a federal farm bill.

“While Central and South Florida are major hubs of citrus and sugar production, North Florida and South Georgia produce peanuts and tomatoes. And those two crops, in addition to dairy, are being squeezed by overproduction from Canada and Mexico, say local farmers. For that reason, Congressman Lawson says he’s in support of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement,” reports WFSU.

“Most farmers here, if you talk to the people who are tomato farmers they’ll tell you they have a big problem. So I think something is going to happen in that regard,” Lawson told the Tallahassee outlet.

Trump wants NAFTA renegotiated, but the movement has been slow.

Peanut interests support Lawson strongly as a candidate.

Brown fundraises

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, a candidate for Florida’s 5th Congressional District, had what he called a “big fundraiser” Wednesday evening.

Alvin Brown is finally fundraising. Did he wait too long to start?

Accompanying Brown was Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Congressional Black Caucus member who endorsed him over incumbent Democratic Rep. Lawson.

At the end of the last quarter, before Brown declared as a candidate, Lawson had lackluster fundraising.

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

Duval legislators extol Legislative Session … for the most part

With the Legislative Session in the rearview mirror, Northeast Florida legislators are looking back at the 60 days with a sense of accomplishment, tempered in some cases with a sense that there are more battles to fight and win.

While the $12.5 million of state money for the Talleyrand Connector was the most significant win, every legislator Florida Politics talked to mentioned other wins as well.

Audrey Gibson was characteristically blunt on the 2018 Session.

The most candid comments were from Senate Minority Leader Designate Audrey Gibson, who was very out front about difficulties of the process: “Go figure, it’s life in an unbalanced Legislature which I am on a mission to change!  I am so honored to serve and am on the battlefield in and out of Session because Session is not the only measure of success.”

Gibson, of course, will face a primary challenge from Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown.

Read the whole recap here.

Gains in rough year, say St. Johns legislators

The St. Augustine Record was on hand for St. Johns County legislators talking about gains in a rough year.

John Rutherford says his introduction to Congress was ‘informative.’

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford said his introduction to Congress was “quite informative.”

Sen. Travis Hutson discussed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.

“Two words: We delivered,” said Rep. Paul Renner about the budget.

Rep. Cyndi Stevenson said it was a bit of a “rough” year, but not one without “a strong footing to go forward on.”

Full write-up here.

Patronis in Jax to highlight expansion of PTSD benefits

This week, CFO Jimmy Patronis joined Mayor Lenny Curry, state Sen. Gibson, Reps. Cord Byrd, Tracie Davis and Jason Fischer, as well as Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Chief Kurt Wilson and members of the fire service and law enforcement communities to highlight the signing of Senate Bill 376, expanding mental health benefits for first responders.

Stress’ relief: CFO Jimmy Patronis was joined by lawmakers, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Chief Kurt Wilson and fire service and law enforcement members to mark the signing of a bill expanding mental health benefits for first responders.

Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill this week in Tampa surrounded by hundreds of first responders from across the state. Sen. Lauren Book and Rep. Matt Willhite sponsored SB 376.

Zeigler running against unfair taxation in HD 15

Yacht broker Mark Zeigler entered the GOP primary in House District 15 last month.

Incumbent Jay Fant is currently running for Attorney General. Zeigler will face Joseph Hogan and Wyman Duggan.

Zeigler, alone among the field, is known for his tenure as a drummer in Pretty Boy Freud, the legends of Jacksonville’s club scene decades ago. As a drummer and an entrepreneur, his motivations for running are pretty straightforward and are rooted in unfair taxation.

The drumbeat of business taxes drives Mark Zeigler. Is that the rhythm of HD 15?

One of the issues facing businesses like his, Zeigler says, is the estimated tax from the Department of Revenue.

“If you collect $200,000 in sales taxes [in a given year], in January you get a love letter,” Zeigler said.

That epistle contains an estimated tax, an added burden for businesses just as they try to navigate the January doldrums. And that tax affects investment in the business, including but not limited to new hiring and new equipment.

The National Federation of Independent Business is “looking hard at this issue,” Zeigler said. “I think I’m the messenger who can carry it.”

Read more here.

Pill suit moving forward

The Jacksonville Daily Record notes that the city of Jacksonville has retained lawyers with a track record for its lawsuit against Big Pharma.

Purdue brought OxyContin to market and is one of many parties named in the suit.

Since 2007, Scott and Scott have brought in more than $1.2 billion in these cases, per the “144-page complaint for damages and injunctive relief filed in the 4th Judicial Circuit by the city against Perdue Pharma LLP and 24 other defendants.”

“The complaint alleges that the defendants engaged in a systematic plan to deceive doctors and patients about the products’ efficacy in the management of chronic pain and the addictive nature of their products,” the Daily Record asserts.

Read more here.

‘Open government’ task force

Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche wanted a task force to look at transparency in local government.

She got it.

Anna Brosche’s year atop Council has been full of conflict with Team Curry.

The bill (2018-133) cleared Tuesday’s Council agenda after having passed the Rules Committee unanimously last week.

“The Task Force on Open Government” will “undertake an in-depth review of Jacksonville’s legislative process and the methods by which the public accesses government” and “make recommendations for how the City of Jacksonville can be more open and accessible to the public.”

Brosche originally wanted one-cycle approval of the concept so the task force would have more time to operate, but relented after Mayor Curry‘s office raised concerns that emergency legislation contravened the goal of “open and accessible government.”

The panel wraps by the end of June. As does the Brosche presidency.

JEA special committee not so special anymore

Big news from Jacksonville City Council amounted to a setback for Council President Brosche when her 19 colleagues decided to subvert her five-person “special committee” on the JEA sale by including all 19 members on the panel.

Committee chairman John Crescimbeni will deal with significant changes going forward.

The debate was bruising, elliptical and lasted for hours; all kicked off by a floor motion from Councilman Matt Schellenberg to kill the committee. That didn’t fly. Neither did a move by Councilwoman Lori Boyer to keep the committee at five but kill its subpoena power.

Essentially, this will derail the committee from deep dives into relationships between JEA execs and the Mayor’s Office, moving the discussion to the pros and cons of a sale from “what did _______ know and when did he know it?” style questions.

After the discussion had wrapped, one prominent lobbyist was heard to remark that some of those who fought hardest against changing the committee were guaranteed political opponents in next year’s elections.

The principal opponent of kneecapping the committee structure, Councilman Garrett Dennis, on a Wednesday radio hit described a City Hall that pivots on intimidation tactics, and a Mayor’s Office that will get its way by any means necessary.

Ray Charles can see who’s behind selling JEA,” Dennis quipped near the program’s end, after describing a “climate” where Curry’s team rules by fear, with “the stick and the stick.”

“If you don’t do this, we’ll do this”: Dennis’ summation of the strategy.

Dennis reiterated claims of “threats” levied on him “in offices,” “comments from the Mayor” in which Curry purportedly said that he would “make sure the money spigot is turned off in [Dennis’] district.”

“Now you see the full staff at Council meetings,” Dennis said, with “all the [Mayor’s] top lieutenants on the first and second row” with an “intimidating” look and “subliminal tactics.”

Kids Hope CEO hopeful feels hopeless, withdraws from search

The Florida Times-Union reports that the field of Kids Hope Alliance CEO hopefuls is a bit narrower after one candidate said the process was unfair and withdrew.

Afira DeVries, who leads the United Way of Roanoke Valley in Virginia, withdrew via email.

Afira DeVries says goodbye to KHA search, citing unfairness in process.

“After carefully reviewing the qualifications for the position in contrast to the current scoring and ranking outcomes, it seems that inherent relational advantages enjoyed by other candidates impair my chances of being awarded the position,” DeVries wrote. “Although I remain confident that my talents, skills and experience align perfectly to this exciting role, continuing at this point appears to be more of an exercise than a progressive action toward a viable opportunity.”

Among those candidates: former board member Joe Peppers, who launched his run while still on the board.

Councilman Garrett Dennis, a frequent antagonist of the Curry administration, says there is a “cloud” over that candidacy and that Peppers should withdraw his bid.

District pushback dominates ‘lunch and learn’

Jacksonville’s former Southside Generating Station was the subject of a City Council “lunch and learn” Monday.

Specifically, the proposed District redevelopment, which was described as a “labor of love” by the head of the Downtown Investment Authority, but which was not regarded quite so uncritically by Jacksonville City Council members.

City Council members remain skeptical about the District proposal.

Politically connected developers Peter Rummell and Michael Munz have a deal, as of January, to buy the land for $18.6 million from the JEA Board. The city proposes also putting $26 million into infrastructure, though that’s still to be determined.

Councilwoman Lori Boyer, liaison to the Downtown Investment Authority, noted there were “questions and concerns” about the process in January, and that the meeting Monday was to “share where we are, get input, answer questions.”

While some questions were answered, others remain to be addressed.

Read more here.

Jax opportunity zones have urban core flavor

Jacksonville advanced some proposed “opportunity zones,” and many of them will be in the Urban Core.

The City of Jacksonville last week advanced suggestions to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity for Opportunity Zones, each with an urban core focus.

Per Neighborhoods Director Stephanie Burch, five census tracts have been chosen in the downtown area, under the aegis of the Downtown Investment Authority.

San Marco’s Southbank is on the list of ‘opportunity zones.’

The areas chosen have the existing infrastructure, can absorb private capital, and have community redevelopment agencies, Burch wrote in a letter to DEO Director of Strategic Development Michael DiNapoli.

San Marco’s Southbank likewise is on the list, even as metrics show a real upswing, with an unemployment rate of just 2 percent (down from 32 percent in 2000). Curiously, the opportunity zone there overlaps with the District development, which could see $26 million in infrastructure spending and an additional $56 million in REV grants from the city, benefiting political power broker Peter Rummell‘s long-delayed development.

Gov. Scott will nominate these areas by April 20; ultimately, it will be the federal Department of Treasury‘s decision. Areas chosen will be eligible for tax breaks that expect to spur private investment and economic growth.

This week in appointments

Florida State College at Jacksonville District Board of Trustees

Laura DiBella, 39, of Fernandina Beach, is the port director of the Fernandina Ocean Highway and Port Authority and the executive director of the Nassau County Economic Development Board. DiBella succeeds Jimmie Mayo for a term ending May 31, 2019.

The Fiorentino Group looks back on Session

Jacksonville-based The Fiorentino Group takes a comprehensive look back on the 2018 Legislative Session, “one of the most unusual in recent memory.” Session began with calls for the Senate to address sexual harassment claims, and finishing with the Parkland tragedy, which brought “thousands of students and citizens to Tallahassee to push for gun safety regulations.”

Marty Fiorentino of The Fiorentino Group.

Early funding priorities for both Gov. Scott and legislative leaders took a back seat to the aftermath of the February 14 mass shooting At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which left 17 students and adults dead and shifted the focus of lawmakers to passing “comprehensive legislation relating to school safety, the purchase of firearms in Florida, and mental health services.”

But, in the eyes of The Fiorentino Group, Session was mostly successful for leaders, particularly in a “major election year” where politics played a role for Gov. Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron.

The firm’s website offers a detailed breakdown of all the critical issues addressed in 2018, including the budget, public safety and firearms, transportation, environment, gaming, education, health care, hurricane response and preparedness, and economic development, taxes and incentives.

Alvin Brown: JEA a ‘tremendous asset … should remain with the people’

Jacksonville’s City Hall has been roiled for weeks with claims and counterclaims about whether or not Mayor Lenny Curry wants to sell the local utility, JEA.

Tuesday evening saw a floor motion to successfully kneecap a five-person special committee that was evaluating whether or not JEA should be sold; the committee now includes everyone on the City Council, and has been divested of subpoena power.

Curry’s predecessor, Alvin Brown, was in Jacksonville for other events Wednesday; however, when Florida Politics caught up with Brown.

He was willing to discuss JEA — as a public asset that should not be for sale.

“I can honestly say that JEA is an asset — a tremendous asset for the city. It gives over $100 million a year to the general fund,” Brown said.

“Making sure that a utility that is owned by a people remains with the people,” said Brown, was reflected in his board appointments (most of which were removed from the board by Mayor Curry months after his election, moves which got intense media coverage at the time).

“At the end of the day, you have members of the City Council and the board and JEA officials and members of the community who are starting to have that conversation, and that’s their focus,” Brown said. “They have a process. I don’t know about the process. It’s their process.”

Alvin Brown talks health care, congressional campaign

On Wednesday, former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown picked his home turf for his first official campaign stop in his congressional campaign.

Brown, running against Tallahassee Democrat Al Lawson in the August primary in the east/west North Florida district, picked AGAPE Health to message on health care. The location was not incidental: AGAPE CEO, former state Rep. Mia Jones, was Brown’s former “health commissioner” in City Hall.

Brown was accompanied by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Missouri Congressman and former Congressional Black Caucus chair who endorsed him against Lawson, a first-term incumbent, as he discussed exclusively with this outlet the federal role in health care.

“I think the Affordable Care Act is very important for our country and clearly for Florida,” Brown said. “Particularly Jacksonville. I had the opportunity to work with the [Barack] Obama administration on the Affordable Care Act. I think it’s needed.”

“Health care is a human right,” Brown continued. “And I think everyone should have access to decent, affordable health care.”

Of course, Brown’s tenure as Mayor (2011-2015) overlapped with Gov. Rick Scott not expanding Medicaid.

“What we did was we literally focused on enrolling people into the Affordable Care Act,” Brown said. “We hosted Secretary Kathleen Sebelius here and brought all the stakeholders together and made it happen.”

“We opened up our community centers, worked with all the health care providers and non-profits to market it, to educate the community,” Brown said. “We were number one — I think number one in the country for the city, and we led in a lot of areas.”

“The partnership worked,” Brown said. “We had a good team of people … in spite of the state not receiving that funding, we were very pro-active.”

The conversation pivoted to the campaign, including whether Brown would have the resources to compete with Lawson.

“I think we’re going to do everything we can to make sure we have the resources to compete and win,” Brown said. “We’re reaching out to everyone who believes in the vision … we’ll have a lot of support.”

We asked Brown about Lawson’s Republican support in 2016, including from donor Peter Rummell (a Brown supporter in 2011 who supported Brown’s 2015 opponent, Lenny Curry, for Mayor) and from Susie Wiles, who helped Lawson make inroads to Jacksonville while she worked on the Donald Trump campaign.

Could Brown shear off some of that support that proved helpful two years prior?

“I can’t speak for the incumbent, but I can say what we’re doing, we’re reaching out to everybody, and I’m very thankful for the people who will support my candidacy and we’re just going to work hard and make it happen.”

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