In 1996, Al Franken wrote a book called “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot.”
I understand Limbaugh is working on his book about Franken, which he will call “Al Franken is a Big Fat Sexual Predator.”
What comes around, goes around.
After 20 years as a writer and cast member for Saturday Night Live, Franken concluded that he had much to offer to the political realm. He wrote a series of books critical of conservative politics. In addition to his Limbaugh book, Franken wrote: “Why Not Me” (1999), “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them” (2003), “The Truth” (2005), and “Giant of the Senate” (2017).
Franken also decided to sign with Air America Radio and go head-to-head with Limbaugh on the radio. Franken got crushed, and Air America folded after a few years.
The death of Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone in an October 2002 plane crash would create a new political opportunity for Franken. Minnesota Democrats selected former senator and Vice President Walter Mondale to replace Wellstone and take on Republican St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman.
Coleman pulled off a surprising upset of Mondale, defeating him 50 to 47 percent.
Six years later, Franken moved back to his native Minnesota and was positioned to take on Coleman. Franken led the field of Democratic challengers until a Playboy article that he wrote in 2000 surfaced. The article was about a virtual reality sex institute where men were free to do whatever they wanted with women. Feminists were outraged, and Franken apologized and was able to secure the nomination.
On election night, both Coleman and Franken received 42 percent of the vote, with Franken leading by 206 votes. A recount increased Franken’s led to 312 votes and July 7, 2009, eight months after the election, Franken was sworn in as Minnesota’s junior senator. As the 60th Democrat in the Senate, Franken was critical in securing passage of Obamacare.
After defeating Coleman, Franken worked hard to suppress any comedic impulse flowing through his veins. Franken wanted to be considered as a serious politician, not a funny politician. He impressed senators across the aisles, who praised Franken for his hard work and serious demeanor.
In 2014, Franken easily won re-election, defeating his Republican opponent Mike McFadden by a 53-43 percent margin.
After Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in 2016, speculation immediately arose about Franken running for president in 2020. Progressives created a “Why Not Al” movement along with a “Draft Al Franken” website. Few doubted that Franken would be a serious candidate.
Franken’s announced resignation from the Senate not only ends his Senate career but also any talk of a presidential campaign.
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton will now appoint a replacement for Franken until a 2018 special election. Speculation is that Dayton will appoint Tina Smith, his Lieutenant Governor.
Smith is the likely replacement for Franken for three reasons. First, Dayton picked her as his Lieutenant Governor, so he is a close personal and political friend. Second, a female replacement seems appropriate since seven women have come forth and alleged they were assaulted by Franken.
Finally, Smith has indicated that she will be a caretaker replacement and is not interested in running in the 2018 special election.
Possible Democratic candidates in the 2018 special election include Betty McCollum who represents Congressional District 4, Keith Ellison from District 5 and Rick Nolan in District 8. Another possibility is Ileana Omar, a state representative, who would become the first Somalia-American in the Senate.
Republican candidates include members of Congress Tim Walz of District 1, Erik Paulsen of District 3 and Tim Emmer of District 6. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty is another possibility, along with former Sen. Norm Coleman. A final candidate might be Stuart Mills, heir to the Fleet Farm fortune, who narrowly lost a campaign against incumbent Democrat Richard Nolan for the Congressional District 8 seat.
Whoever the nominee, the open seat race will force the nominees to raise $20 million if they want to seriously contend.
Although Minnesota has voted for the Democratic presidential nominee since 1976, longer than any other state, the Republicans hold the state Senate by one seat, the state House by 20 seats and Clinton carried the state by just 1.5 percent, her smallest margin of victory of any state other than New Hampshire.
Minnesota is turning redder than most observers note, and this will create a very interesting 2018 special election.
Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.
While the pundit class may gnash its teeth over President Donald Trump announcing a move of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, Gov. Rick Scott stands with his “partner in the White House.”
In a video released Wednesday, Scott made comments at the Western Wall.
“This is a great day,” Scott said. “President Trump is going to declare that the capital of Israel will be Jerusalem, and commit to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. I stand with Israel. I stand with all the citizens of Israel. The state of Florida stands with all the citizens of Israel. This is an outstanding day.”
Scott, currently on a trade mission to Israel, indicated support before leaving the state.
“As we prepare for this important trade mission, it is clear that our entire nation must also continue to strengthen this partnership with Israel. I strongly believe that the U.S. Embassy belongs in Jerusalem and I am hopeful that a decision will be made to finally move the embassy to the its rightful destination in Israel’s capital city,” Scott said in a press release.
Sen. Marco Rubio likewise backed the move.
“I commend President Trump for following U.S. law and recognizing Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Jewish state of Israel. The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, which Congress passed during the Clinton administration, requires the United States not only to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but also to eventually move the American embassy to Jerusalem,” Rubio said.
“Today’s announcement is an important step in the right direction. Unequivocal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will be complete when the U.S. embassy is officially relocated there,” Rubio added.
Some South Florida Democrats joined with Republican members of Florida’s congressional delegation in also calling for the move. Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton went so far as to issue a joint press release with Republican U.S. Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami.
“The President’s decision today is a recognition of existing U.S. law that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and that the U.S. embassy should ultimately be located in the capital,” Deutch and Ros-Lehtinen stated in their release. “There is no debate that the Jewish people have a deep-rooted religious, cultural and historic tie to Jerusalem, and today’s decision reaffirms that connection. The fact is that Jerusalem – an ancient and holy city to all three monotheistic faiths – will remain the capital of the Jewish state in any iteration of a negotiated two-state solution. Today’s decision does not preclude our shared goal of two states for two peoples to be negotiated between the parties themselves. Now is the time for urgent progress towards the President’s stated objective of achieving a real and lasting peace.”
Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston declared, “My longstanding view is that Jerusalem is and will remain the undivided capital of Israel, and it should remain a city accessible to people of all faiths. I strongly believe that we must continue to work toward a two state solution that achieves two states for two peoples. We must work toward a day where the entire world recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and that can be achieved through final status negotiations. I remain as committed as ever to safeguarding Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, at peace with its neighbors, with Jerusalem as its undisputed capital.”
Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach stated, “Our nation’s embassy is currently in Tel Aviv, which is disrespectful, dismissive, and wrong. Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem will send the Palestinian Authority a message that their days of denying Israel’s existence are over, and that they must become an honest partner in peace. I commend President Trump today for honoring our friend and ally Israel and moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem — the eternal, undivided capital of Israel.”
At around 6:30 p.m. Friday — the day Michael Flynn pled guilty in federal court, in case you’d forgotten — Florida state Senator and Democratic primary candidate in the crowded CD 27 field, JJR (née José Javier Rodriguez) sent an email with the subject line “Impeachment.”
Interesting, I thought, as JJR has the rap against him (one which I’ve previously written about) of being almost doctrinaire in his tendency toward moderation, even as he runs — for the first time in his career — in a competitive Democratic primary.
But it made sense: the primary electorate is both liberal and rabidly anti-Trump; one of JJR’s fellow candidates, former judge Mary Barzee Flores, came out forcefully for impeachment in a Miami Herald op-ed back at the beginning of November. Another candidate, state Rep. David Richardson, regularly sends out emails with subject lines like, “Impeachment isn’t enough,” and called for Trump’s resignation a few months ago.
Then I read the email.
After reading it a few times, I still can’t figure out whether JJR is for impeachment.
JJR prefaces his non-call for impeachment by saying that he’s “not one for hyperbole.”
First, Senator, based on that statement alone you might want to rethink a career in politics. Second, on that note, I most certainly AM one for hyperbole.
But after having read and reread his email from Friday, I don’t think it hyperbolic to say that JJR hasn’t explicitly come out for impeachment, nor does he appear to have a clear understanding of the impeachment process itself, the role Congress plays, or the authority of the special counsel, Robert Mueller.
JJR says that the Flynn guilty plea is “the first step that could lead to Donald Trump’s impeachment.”
I get what he’s saying, but it’s just inaccurate. The first step — all the steps to impeaching a president — lie in the U.S. House of Representatives, the very body where JJR wants to get a new job.
But most mind-bogglingly, he closes with a pledge that, if elected to Congress, he will “make sure Robert Mueller can build the best case for Trump’s impeachment.”
There is virtually nothing that Robert Mueller and Donald Trump are likely to agree on, but one such thing is that the special counsel’s job is unequivocally NOT to “build the best case for Trump’s impeachment.”
Mueller’s ability to issue indictments doesn’t extend to the sitting President of the United States. That responsibility lies solely in Congress.
Indeed, Mueller’s inquiry could lead to a conclusion that Trump likely broke the law, but that too would not obligate or trigger impeachment. Likewise, the special counsel might leave Trump himself mostly unscathed, and he could still face impeachment in the House.
You would think that a lawyer, a graduate of Harvard Law at that, and an ostensibly experienced legislator, would have a high school social studies-level command of the United States Constitution.
You would think, but you’d be wrong.
It now seems increasingly likely that the Legislature will pass and send to Gov. Scott a bill reforming Florida’s “resign to run” law that would force JJR to abdicate his Senate seat to run for Congress.
If he continues to run the sort of campaign he’s been waging, JJR might want to consider staying put in the Senate.
Should he choose to keep pursuing a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, he might want to brush up on his knowledge of what that body actually does.
Earl Testy, a Republican candidate in Jacksonville City Council District 14, took a provocative position on the current tsunami of sexual harassment charges Monday.
Testy took women to task, asserting “they have themselves and their libidos to blame for much of their own abuse by men.”
“Feminists have no more call to be proud of their abuse of sex than men do, albeit seemingly passive,” Testy asserted.
Testy equated the current spate of revelations with “Gay Pride logic.”
“Sin is sin,” Testy asserted, “regardless of male, female, homosexual or heterosexual orientation.”
Testy advanced his insights in reaction to an article on National Review Online by longtime conservative pundit Mona Charen, a woman who has never asserted that the female libido is “to blame.”
Florida Politics attempted to set up an interview with Testy earlier in November. He declined based on this writer’s “political worldview,” saying that he sought “no further contact” with this reporter.
However, Testy did offer a statement.
“If you like (Donald) Trump/(Mike) Pence and despise Kublai Khan, Get Very Testy for City Council District 14!”
The reference to Kublai Khan is not driven by an aversion to Romantic poetry; rather, it is a slam of Jaguars’ owner Shad Khan.
Testy has one Republican opponent in the District 14 race, Randy DeFoor.
DeFoor has raised over $77,000; Testy has yet to raise anything.
My eyebrows arched a bit when reading the Saint Leo University pollthat showed Rick Scott with a 10-point lead over incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson in next year’s election for the U.S. Senate.
That’s not because I believe for a second that Scott will win by 10 points. As Democratic strategist Steve Schale tweeted, the last four major races in Florida – two gubernatorial, two presidential – were decided by no more than 1.1 percent.
But Rick Scott has made a political career of confounding convention and beating the odds, something beating a three-term incumbent senator would complement.
We remember 2011, when a Quinnipiac poll showed Scott was the most-despised governor in the country after cutting thousands of state jobs, turning down federal money for high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando, and taking a broadsword to public education funding.
His approval rating of 29 percent was a political pit of misery. He was despised by his own Republican Party because he vetoed many of the lawmakers’ pet projects. Yet, he won re-election in 2014 and has kept a single-minded focus on creating jobs. It has worked.
Scott also was widely praised for how he handled preparations during the last two hurricane seasons, although the Miami Herald reported cleanup in Key West has gone slowly and some residents are still living in tents.
Scott will never bring thunderous oratory, either. As a public speaker, he remains stiff and wooden. His environmental record could become an issue as well. Under his administration, regulations to protect Florida’s fragile lands have been shredded.
Even with all this, Floridians seem pleased on balance with the way Scott has done his job.
It’s a cautionary tale for Democrats, for multiple reasons.
Nelson isn’t the most charismatic candidate either. He was front and center with Republican counterpart Marco Rubio when Hurricane Irma was approaching this year, but a poll in October from the University of North Florida carried a serious warning for Nelson.
That survey showed an astonishing 49 percent of Floridians say they don’t know how Nelson is doing as their senator. That led Michael Binder, faculty director of the Public Opinion Research Lab at UNF, to note: “When a three-term sitting U.S. senator has almost half of the sample unable to assess his job approval, you have a problem.”
As always, our state will be a key player in next year’s midterms and beyond. Democrats can’t take for granted that Donald Trump’s low approval numbers will stay that way.
They seemed to believe Scott couldn’t possibly win election to the governor’s mansion when he first ran. Then, surely voters wouldn’t give him a second term.
How did that work out?
Scott might not really be ahead by 10 points, but by now Democrats should know better than to take any comfort in that.
President Donald Trump plans to hold a re-election campaign rally in Pensacola next Friday, his fourth visit to the city since he first began campaigning for president in 2015.
The Donald J. Trump for President campaign announced he will be appearing at a 7 p.m. Dec. 8 rally at the Pensacola Bay Center.
“We are pleased to confirm that President Trump will be attending a campaign rally in Pensacola next Friday evening,” Michael Glassner, executive director of the campaign said in a media advisory.
“Nothing inspires President Trump as much as connecting with hard working Americans at campaign rallies across the country. He especially enjoys meeting with our courageous veterans and their families at these patriotic events. As the President’s historic tax reform plan, which he has said will be like rocket fuel in our economy, gets closer to passage, the timing for our campaign rally in Pensacola could not be better.”
Florida’s members of Congress are describing the FBI plea deal announced Friday with former White House Security Advisor Michael Flynn as the window they expect will shed light on broader and higher allegations of collusion between President Donald Trump‘s campaign team and Russia.
“Flynn’s guilty plea is another significant step in making the case that there was collusion with the Russians,” declared U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings, a former Orlando police chief, said the news tells her the Trump administration thinks it is above the law.
“Let us be clear about this fact: a member of President Trump’s inner circle just admitted to a felony crime. As a 27-year law enforcement officer, it is deeply offensive to me that this administration has repeatedly hidden behind cries of ‘law and order’ while breaking the law themselves,” Demings stated in the release.
“Every American should be disturbed that the Trump administration considers themselves above the law,” she continued. “Before now, the question was whether this went all the way to the top. President Trump and his inner circle will have a sleepless night.”
She pledged to “do everything in my power to allow the special prosecutor to continue his independent investigation unimpeded. The American people deserve the truth.”
Alcee Hastings of Miramar called Flynn’s deal “the latest step in uncovering the degree to which the Trump administration colluded with the Russian government.”
“Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has admitted to contacting the Russian Government, under instruction from President Trump’s transition team, and then lying about it to the FBI. Even though today’s guilty plea was not unexpected, it is still an outrageous and shameful admission of purposefully misleading the American people.”
He said it is “profoundly telling” that Flynn is the fourth Trump campaign official to be charged in the investigation.
“Congress must take every step necessary to ensure that this independent investigation proceeds without interference from the Trump White House. We need answers, not misinformation.”
U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton said Flynn’s guilty plea only raises more questions about potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“As I have repeatedly said, Special Counsel [Robert] Mueller must be allowed to continue his work unobstructed by the White House, and the House Judiciary Committee must independently examine any possible obstruction of justice,” Deutch said.
U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando said, “Flynn has dodged this investigation from the start, so this perjury charge is not surprising. The information he may reveal could be, though.”
Taking up President Donald Trump‘s challenge that the media ought to award a “Fake News” trophy, Rasmussen Reports conducted a survey this week that finds stark differences, with Republicans on one side and Democrats and independents on the other, as to who ought to win it.
Overall, Fox News was the top pick among more than 1,000 likely-voters nationally whom Rasmussen surveyed by phone and online on Nov. 28 and 29.
Fox News was the one national television network Trump did not mention when he proposed a trophy in a tweet Monday morning.
We should have a contest as to which of the Networks, plus CNN and not including Fox, is the most dishonest, corrupt and/or distorted in its political coverage of your favorite President (me). They are all bad. Winner to receive the FAKE NEWS TROPHY!
Not surprisingly, the survey found a huge divide of opinion not just by party affiliation, but by loyalty to Trump. CNN was the top choice for the trophy among Republicans, but finished 15 points behind Fox News, overall.
And the more a respondent supports Trump, the more likely he or she is to think fake news is a really bad problem.
Rasmussen reported the survey has a 3 percent margin of error 3 percent.
Support or opposition to Trump very much colors respondents of the media, Rasmussen showed.
“Among voters who [indicated they] Strongly Approve of the job Trump is doing, 85 percent say fake news is a Very Big problem; 53 percent think CNN should win the first annual Fake News Trophy,” with MSNBC finishing second at 23 percent, Rasmussen reported.
“Just 21 percent of voters who Strongly Disapprove of the president’s job performance regard fake news as a Very Big problem. Among these voters, 67 percent say Fox News should take home the fake news honors, and no one else is even close.”
In this issue of Bold, there’s not a lot of unwelcome news.
— Travis Hutson potentially ascending to Senate leadership.
— The local paper’s editorial board finally noticed Hutson’s Senate colleague, Rob Bradley.
— A popular local politician — Sheriff Mike Williams — is (finally) officially running for re-election.
— If you read far enough, you’ll find the latest “big idea” in Jacksonville politics — a potential privatization of the local utility.
— And two new Sumatran tiger cubs — a “critically endangered” species — were born at the Jacksonville Zoo.
Some issues of Bold — and undoubtedly many future ones — will be packed with scandal and drama.
This one, luckily for the local political class, is not.
6th Congressional District race has Duval flavor
Though Duval County is now comfortably north of Congressional District 6, it’s worth watching as — at least by proxy — it could be argued to be a Jacksonville seat.
Incumbent Ron DeSantis has not decided whether to run for re-election or run statewide, yet wife Casey Black DeSantis is and presumably will continue to be a fixture on Jacksonville television.
The likely Democratic nominee — Ambassador Nancy Soderberg — has been a longtime professor at the University of North Florida.
And a potential GOP candidate — former Green Beret Mike Waltz — was an alumnus of Stanton High School (Go Blue Devils!)
At a time when Congressional District 5 (a seat currently held by Tallahassee’s Al Lawson) may or may not be in play for a Jacksonville politician such as former Mayor Alvin Brown, it’s worth watching to see if CD 6 will end up as a Jacksonville seat by proxy.
St. Johns County Sen. Hutson may be on the Senate Leadership track.
But it’s going to take some time to find out, as Florida Politics reported this week.
The two front-runners to be potential Senate Majority Leader in 2022 are Hutson and Tampa’s Dana Young, according to more than a dozen sources, including several members. Beyond Hutson and Young, sources say Dennis Baxley and Greg Steube should be seen as dark horses.
There’s a lot of time between now and the 2020 vote. However, Hutson atop the Senate and Renner atop the House would make for a unique and welcome convergence for Northeast Florida.
Paul Renner previews Legislative Session, talks harassment
Palm Coast Rep. Renner — a Jacksonville lawyer who chairs Ways and Means and is on track to be Speaker in 2022 — spoke to a crowd on the Southside Wednesday.
While Florida has “the right policies,” is headed in “the right direction” and has a “bright future,” the state nonetheless faces challenges.
Among those challenges: population growth, including a near-term influx from storm-ravaged Puerto Rico and long-term expectations that Florida could add 6 to 8 million people in the coming years. And roads and other infrastructural issues.
“Two points: one is that human beings being are who they are, in any organization you’re going to have five to 10 percent who can’t help themselves in their personal conduct. We need to identify that and ask them to return home because they’ve lost the trust of the people who elected them,” Renner said.
Renner’s second point: term limits.
“You see some of these problems. You look at John Conyers in Congress: he’s 88 years old and has had some serious allegations against him,” Renner added. “Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, there’s a period of time after which people become co-opted, happier to be there than to do what the people sent them there to do.
“They’d rather spend time drinking scotch at the club or doing things that they don’t have any business doing than to do the people’s business,” Renner added. “Do I think that’s widespread among elected members? I do not. But it is an issue, it is a problem, and it’s something we have to take seriously. And as these things arise, it’s something we have to address.”
Staff boosts for Jay Fant AG campaign
When it comes to the GOP race for Attorney General, Fant is in it to win it.
Fant faces former circuit court judge Ashley Moody and fellow Republican Reps. Frank White and Ross Spano in the GOP primary for AG, and has seen his campaign lag in recent months as his rivals, particularly Moody and White, have picked up steam.
The Jacksonville Republican’s revamp effort includes bringing in Randy Enwright and Jim Rimes of Enwright Consulting Group to lead his political team and turning to The Tarrance Group for polling. Former Rick Scott communications chief Melissa Stone is also coming on board via Cavalry Strategies.
Fant is also going all in on advertising with the Strategy Group, which helped President Donald Trump last election cycle and have worked on 11 other Attorney General campaigns nationwide.
Josh Cooper’s Strategic Information Consultants will be handling opposition research, while Strategic Digital Services, founded by Matthew Farrar and Joe Clements, will handle the digital media operations.
Fant has messaged to the right of the field, but has seen his credibility hamstrung by a shoestring operation. Now that problem has been solved.
Fant wants Franken gone
Rep. Fant — as is often the case — is holding forth on issues beyond the state Legislature in which he serves, and the Attorney General’s office in which he would like to serve.
Fant’s latest rhetorical broadside: a full-throttle smackdown on Sen. Franken, accused of letting his hands wander during photo ops.
Fant wants Franken gone.
“Senator Marco Rubio said yesterday that Senator Al Franken should resign, and I fully agree with him on this. Senator Franken has already admitted to mistreating women in a way that would be offensive to come from any person, but is completely out-of-bounds for an elected official representing our public trust. He must go,” Fant said.
“As the father of two daughters, I am sickened by public officials misusing the power of their office for harassment. Sexual harassment is wrong in any workplace,” Fant added, “but is especially disgusting when it involves someone who represents the public trust.”
Fant is embroiled in a crowded four-way race for the GOP nomination for Attorney General. Two of his opponents — White and Spano — are House colleagues. A third competitor, Moody, is a retired Hillsborough County judge.
Times-Union gives props to Bradley
Sen. Bradley was lauded by the Florida Times-Union editorial board last month, and — as it ran during the Thanksgiving holiday — some of our readers may have missed it.
Bradley, the current Senate Appropriations Chair, was celebrated for sponsoring a bill that would earmark $100 million for the state’s “Florida Forever” conservation program.
If this sounds like déjà vu, it’s probably because Florida Politics wrote about the bill two months ago.
“This ought to be easy. Florida voters approved that funding by a whopping 75 percent vote three years ago. But the Legislature has a maddening habit of ignoring the will of the voters,” the T-U ed board remarked.
With the Times-Union yet to announce a replacement for the respected Tia Mitchell, it will be interesting to see how the Jacksonville paper covers Bradley — and the Florida Legislature — in 2018.
Kim Daniels settles disputed election spending
Rep. Daniels cut a deal this week with the Florida Elections Commission. She will spend $1,500 to settle claims that she paid campaign money from her 2015 Jacksonville City Council re-election bid on promoting her book, “The Demon Dictionary.”
As Jacksonville’s Folio Weekly reported in February 2015, Daniels spent $4,000 of campaign funds to promote her book, The DemonDictionary, in a religious magazine called Shofar.
Daniels also offered editorials in the magazine, and no disclaimers marking the communiqué as campaign communications were included.
A local activist/journalist, David Vandygriff of JaxGay.com, filed an FEC complaint, and in March 2016, staff recommended to the commission that there was probable cause to believe that an election code violation might have occurred.
Daniels faces no opposition thus far in her 2018 bid for re-election.
Second Democrat jumps into HD 15 fight
Many connected Jacksonville Democrats are solidly behind Tracye Polson in her bid to replace Fant in House District 15.
But to get to the general election against a Republican (Wyman Duggan is the only one to have filed yet), Polson must fend off a primary challenge.
Jacksonville Democrat Matt McAllister filed last month for the seat.
Jacksonville Sheriff Williams filed for re-election Tuesday, opening a campaign account and launching an operation well ahead of the 2019 vote.
Despite the formal filing for re-election, it’s clear that Williams has been working in that direction for months.
Williams’ political committee, “A Safe Jacksonville,” has raised $154,000, and has $131,000 on hand.
The committee’s spending in September and October reflected a nascent re-election campaign, with a $10,000 October spend with Jacksonville consultant Bruce Barcelo on constituent polling, after a September spend of $8,900 with Data Targeting Research for the same.
While we don’t have access to the internal polls, the most recent public poll shows that Sheriff Williams is popular, with 67 percent approval countywide … including 60 percent of Democrats.
Bad trip? Or hit piece?
The Florida Times-Union offered a long-form look at the political symbiosis between Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan.
The subtext may be more interesting than the text.
Historically, there has been a pattern when the T-U would go in on Curry’s administration on one issue or another; a Cold War of some length, followed by rapprochement.
“Curry’s current travel practices have blown up the old system,” writes the T-U’s Nate Monroe, who adds that “Curry considers himself a reform mayor who championed hard-won changes to the old ways of doing business, often touting his interest in increased transparency and accountability for the massive consolidated government he oversees. But Curry might be sidestepping that goal when it comes to his own office.”
In a media market like this, with a few dedicated City Hall reporters between print and television, the relationship between Curry and the local paper is worth watching. While the T-U editorial board is pretty much on lock, the news side is more skeptical — as Monroe’s article suggests.
Curry faces no imminent challenges to re-election, and — as compared to Alvin Brown, who attempted to stay above politics — is exceedingly well prepared for a re-election campaign.
But the path forward can get more treacherous if articles like this one occlude the larger narrative.
Tree canopy tango
Jacksonville City Councilman John Crescimbeni introduced legislation this week that opposes a state bill (HB 521/SB 574) that would cut the heart out of the city’s protections of its tree canopy.
The state bill, filed by Republican Greg Steube in the Senate and Democrat Katie Edwards in the House, would prohibit cities such as Jacksonville from stopping landowners from removing trees located on their own private property.
Crescimbeni’s Jacksonville City Council bill (2017-822) contends that the legislation is “harmful to the environment and contrary to the overwhelming wishes of Jacksonville citizens,” and that the state legislation is an “assault on home rule.”
The Crescimbeni bill, if it moves through committee, will be voted up or down by the full Council in 2018.
Price of sex discrimination to be paid by Jax taxpayers
WJXT reported on the city of Jacksonville getting ready to dole out almost half a million dollars to settle two sex discrimination cases.
“The city tried unsuccessfully to get both lawsuits dismissed, and in each case, the city’s general counsel said the agreed upon settlement would be far less than what the city might have to pay after a jury trial and lengthy court battle,” reports WJXT’s Jim Piggott.
For a taste of what these women had to endure, consider the example of 65-year-old Deborah Jones, a jail employee.
Jones claimed her boss called her an “old, demented, worthless whore” and who “didn’t need to worry about inmates hanging around a dark parking lot because ‘they don’t rape old, ugly women.’”
Reggie Gaffneyraises $10K in re-election bid
It appears that, despite issues during his first two years in office, that Jacksonville City Councilman Gaffney will have the resources he needs to best lightly-funded opponents.
October revealed fundraising that, while slow compared to many other candidates in the city, dwarfs opponents in Council District 7, which includes Downtown, Springfield and points north.
Gaffney brought in $9,100 in October, pushing him to $10,100 raised — with all but $228 of that cash on hand.
Gaffney’s money came in chunks: $2,500 in three checks from local dog track interests; $2,000 from three property management entities housed at the same address (437 E Monroe St. Ste 100); and $2,000 more from two property management companies with the same post office box in Yulee.
One opponent has $1,800 banked; the other has $0 in reserve.
Privatize JEA? Tom Petway says yes.
The big news out of Tuesday’s meeting of Jacksonville’s JEA Board wasn’t on the agenda.
Board member Petway — one of the earliest supporters of the candidacy of Jacksonville Mayor Curry — announced his intention to leave the board Dec. 31. And he revived a major conceptual proposal on his way out.
Petway suggested that perhaps the time has come for the municipal utility to move into a “private sector marketplace” model.
“The majority of people in Florida are served by a private-sector marketplace,” Petway said, asking the board to consider where JEA “fits” in that emergent paradigm.
At a press availability Wednesday, Curry further discussed the audacious proposal by one of his staunchest political supporters.
“[Petway and] I’ve had abstract conversations about challenging the utility to think big,” Curry said. “Numerous times.”
“I’ve been about reform, challenge, changing the status quo,” Curry added. “And he certainly challenged the organization to think big yesterday.”
This concept has been floated twice in the last decade, and couldn’t get traction.
However, some City Councilors — notably, Council liaison to JEA Matt Schellenberg and Finance Chair Garrett Dennis — are receptive, even as Council President Anna Brosche wants to know more.
Two candidates have emerged in the hopes of replacing Gibson.
The names: Lisa King, the county party committeewoman who lost a race for state chair to freshly-resigned Stephen Bittel; andHazel Gillis, VP of the Duval Dems’ Black Caucus.
“Democrats can win elections in Jacksonville. To do so,” King said, “we must be brave, build trust and be ready to work.”
Gillis, in an email announcing her bid, noted that she will “work diligently to unify our party and work for inclusion.”
The party will choose Monday evening.
Scott reappoints two to Jacksonville Aviation Authority
Gov. Rick Scott announced the reappointment of Patrick Kilbane and Giselle Carson to the Jacksonville Aviation Authority.
Kilbane, 38, of Jacksonville, is a financial adviser with Ullmann Brown Wealth Advisors. He received his law degree from the University of Notre Dame. Kilbane is reappointed for a term beginning ending Sept. 30, 2021.
Carson, 49, of Jacksonville, is an attorney and shareholder with Marks Gray PA. Carson received her bachelor’s degree from McGill University and her law degree from the Florida Coastal School of Law. Carson is reappointed for a term ending Sept. 30, 2021.
Wildlight UF Health facility plans filed
Wildlight LLC has filed plans with the St. Johns River Water Management District this week for a proposed University of Florida health and fitness complex at Wildlight, the master-planned community in Nassau County.
Karen Mathis of the Jacksonville Daily Record reports that Wildlight developer Raydient Places + Properties and UF is seeking to construct two medical office buildings, with parking facilities, on 6.38 acres in Yulee at Florida A1A and William Burgess Boulevard.
In August, Raydient — Rayonier Inc.’s real estate subsidiary — and UF announced groundbreaking would begin in 2018.
Plans include a 23,331-square-foot medical office building and a 5,888-square-foot building. GAI Consultants of Jacksonville is serving as the project agent.
Wildlight is a 2,900-acre development with 7 million square feet of office, commercial, medical, industrial and residential space. The project will include 3,200 residential units.
Originally in downtown Jacksonville, Rayonier moved its headquarters to Wildlight, a new town that it refers to as “Florida Lowcountry.”
In all, Wildlight will offer homes, townhomes and rental apartments along with shops, restaurants, parks, gardens, playgrounds, a new elementary school that opened and a trail and pathway system to connect it.
JTA holiday bus offers free rides, candy canes, music
Weekdays through December 22, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) is offering a special holiday bus, located on any one of its routes during the holiday season.
If you find the holiday bus, you can ride for free.
JTA says riders on this holiday bus will also get holiday music, candy canes, and decorations.
For more information on the holiday bus, contact JTA customer service at (904) 630-3100.
Jacksonville Zoo celebrates birth of endangered Sumatran tiger cubs
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is celebrating the healthy birth of two critically endangered Sumatran tiger cubs. The cubs’ mother, 6-year-old Dorcas, gave birth at 11:40 a.m. November 20. The tigers’ keepers were able to keep an eye on the process using a closed-circuit camera system.
Both cubs are male; they are the second litter for Dorcas and father, Berani. The Zoo’s first Sumatran tiger birth in its 102-year history is big sister Kinleigh Rose, born on November 19, 2015 — two years and a day before the arrival of her little brothers.
“One of the biggest pleasures as the Zoo’s tiger-management program evolves, is watching the effect that it has on the wellness of our animals,” said Dan Dembiec, Supervisor of Mammals. “Dorcas started out as a skittish and shy tigress, but she is now a confident and skilled mother. She is a natural at providing her cubs with the necessary care to help them develop, and this is reflective of the care that she has received from the staff at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.”
The cubs received their first medical exam on November 28. Zoo Animal Health staff were able to quickly and efficiently examine the cubs because of the exceptional bonding and training the keeper staff has conducted with the mother. Dorcas was willing and trusting to be separated from the cubs at the request of the keepers.
Not even three months after Hurricane Irma comes an indication, via Moody’s, that a storm may be brewing in municipal credit markets.
Via Bloomberg: “If cities and states don’t deal with risks from surging seas or intense storms, they are at greater risk of default.”
Moody’s considers six indicators to measure exposure, like how many homes are in a flood plain — an issue for Jacksonville.
During Hurricane Matthew, Jacksonville issued mandatory evacuations in Flood Zones A, B, and C; these encompassed 450,000 people.
During Irma, Jacksonville evacuated zones A and B, which encompassed 256,000 people.
Despite those evacuation orders, life was imperiled: 350 residents had to be rescued in the hours after the storm churned out of the area. Downtown Jacksonville suffered historic flooding, as did neighborhoods on the river, such as Avondale, Riverside and San Marco.
While Moody’s has yet to actually downgrade a city for not addressing climate change, Jacksonville has physical vulnerability.
As well, the city has backed away from nationwide initiatives — such as the Rockefeller Foundation’s “100 Resilient Cities,” which offered $1 million a year to participating municipalities.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry — who created a media kerfuffle earlier this year in backing President Donald Trump‘s intention to leave the Paris Accord, an international agreement to curb emissions and other environmental impacts, is not worried about potential future credit downgrades, he told us Wednesday.
“Sea levels are rising, in Jacksonville and the state. We certainly experience catastrophic storms … and we in Jacksonville are doing everything we can to invest in proper infrastructure on the front end, and [working] to keep our people safe on the back end,” Curry said.
“Our Public Works Department has a comprehensive plan they are currently re-evaluating and have been prior to these storms. So I would say we face the reality in front of us and those rising sea levels and those storms are a reality in front of us, and we will adjust accordingly,” Curry added.
But will that convince the bond ratings agencies?
“Budgets — real budgets and real investments speak to bond rating agencies. Not a bunch of feel-good talk that a lot of elected officials like to do that result in no real investments and no real budgets,” Curry said.
“I stand by my budgets. I stand by my work with City Council. I stand by our investments in neighborhoods and infrastructure,” Curry added.
However, Moody’s already expressed concern about pension reform, specifically about the deferred payment model on the $3.2 billion unfunded actuarial liability from the city’s defined benefit plans.
“The Aa2 Issuer Rating reflects the city’s high fixed costs, which are elevated by weak pension funding levels. Despite a new pension reform plan, pension payments will continue to constrict the city’s financial operations. The rating also reflects the city’s rebounding, large and diverse economy, coupled with a strengthened balance sheet position, that both help buoy the rating at the current level. Moody’s will closely monitor the city’s ability to control rapidly increasing fixed costs,” the agency asserted in August.