Jacksonville – Florida Politics

Jacksonville files to intervene in Terrance Freeman appointment challenge

On Tuesday, the city of Jacksonville filed a motion to intervene in a legal challenge of a Jacksonville City Councilman appointed by Gov. Rick Scott.

Brenda Priestly-Jackson, a Democrat and former Duval County School Board chair who was passed up for the appointment to fill the unexpired term of suspended incumbent Democrat Reggie Brown, charged that Freeman, who established residency in the district by renting two rooms in a private home the day he was appointed last week, was not a legitimate pick because he moved to Northwest Jacksonville solely to serve on the Council.

The city contends that it has leeway to determine residency, and that the suit actually names Freeman as a defendant in his official capacity.

“However, the City contends the controlling law clearly establishes that City Councilmembers’ terms in office do not commence until they have sworn the required oath, among other things. As such, application of City laws, policies and procedures will be a critical component of this litigation,” the filing contends.

“While Plaintiff purports to bring her allegations against Councilmember Freeman in his individual capacity, by alleging that he assumed his mantle as an active member of the City Council immediately upon appointment, Plaintiff has actually sued Councilmember Freeman as an active, sitting member of the City Council in his official capacity,” the filing adds.

Jacksonville has, per the filing, an “important governmental interest in participating in discussions, analysis and arguments over the application of its own laws.”

Philip Levine: In politics, six weeks is ‘eternity’

Hot on the campaign trail for Florida Governor, Philip Levine offers a political truism: Six weeks can be “an eternity.”

Anything can happen.

Firmly in the top-tier of Democratic hopefuls in the race, the former Miami Beach mayor swung through Jacksonville over the weekend, part of a three-city tour of the state.

Saturday afternoon, Levine met with volunteers, canvassers and reporters during a stop at his downtown headquarters.

While Levine’s camp is pushing internal polls showing strength along both the I-4 corridor and south, traction in Jacksonville appears not to be as solid.

Gwen Graham, Levine’s main Democratic opponent, is reaping many of Northeast Florida local endorsements. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has the rest, as well as drawing the most impassioned crowds on swings through Duval.

Levine, in the campaign headquarters visit, rallied roughly two dozen volunteers and staff with brief remarks. Jacksonville was the third stop of the day.

Northeast Florida is pivotal to the Levine operation, which has 11 field organizers here. Now with 14 offices statewide, Levine was able to say (with some credibility) that his campaign is “literally everywhere” with “sneakers on the ground.”

Nevertheless, while the campaign downplays internal polls of his Northeast Florida performance, it is safe to wonder if Levine is as strong in Northeast Florida as elsewhere.

Talking to Florida Politics, complete with his family in tow, Levine was confident, yet shying away from remarks that other camps would consider bulletin-board material.

“From what we see, we’re doing well across the state of Florida,” Levine said. “This is a very competitive primary. I believe it will be a competitive general election. What do we have, six weeks to go? We are running hard, going to every county, every town.”

When asked if his campaign was the front-runner, Levine was diplomatic.

“So they say,” he replied. “We take nothing for granted. We have to fight every day. Things are always going to be competitive in a race like this.”

A reporter also inquired about the entry of Jeff Greene, the billionaire from Palm Beach, and if it was especially dragging on Levine’s momentum.

“What I think it does,” Levine said, “is truly makes it more competitive for everybody … gives a greater selection.”

“People get to look at your strengths, see what’s right for them and what’s not,” he added. “We’re obviously very different, all five of us.”

Levine also appraised the candidacy of Andrew Gillum, in light of his “victory” in the George Soros/Tom Steyer primary.

On Gillum as a leading candidate, Levine again took a diplomatic tack: “I think everybody in this race is a top-tier candidate. I say it everywhere I go: if any of us become governor on the Democratic side, the state’s in a better place than it is today.”

“Six weeks is an eternity in politics,” Levine quipped.

This cycle, that has proved to be the case, as seemingly inevitable front-runners early in the governor’s race (from both parties) return to the pack as the home stretch to the Aug. 28 primary begins.

Jacksonville Bold for 7.13.18 — Media mutters

Next week, the new Jacksonville City Council year begins, and we will (likely) see two new additions.

The names of Terrance Freeman and Ju’Coby Pittman were leaked Monday to the Jacksonville Daily Record, many hours ahead of the Governor’s official announcement.

Jacksonville’s newest City Council members, Terrance Freeman and Ju’Coby Pittman.

Someone, for some reason, made the decision to advance the message. Historically the Governor’s Office is pretty leakproof.

Yet it came from somewhere.

Meanwhile, another big story came this week from a different place: Foreign operators fleeced Mayor Lenny Curry’s PAC.

The Florida Times-Union wrote up the story, one that percolated for some weeks in gossip circles. And they got mileage out of it, via publisher GateHouse’s reach and retweets from many key state reporters.

While the story as written was “just the facts,” there was no reason to spice it up; the damning details alone (see below) were enough.

It’s hard, however, to see this story outside of the context of the frayed relationship between the mayor and the news side of the local paper, a war that has run hot and cold for years now.

Curry right now faces no serious competition for re-election, and he has the money to buy ads and steer the 2019 elections, including down-ballot, his way.

But second terms are always interesting in Dirty Duval. The Mayor will want to rebuild relationships with the T-U (and others in the local media, specifically television, who felt bamboozled during the JEA Sale debate).

Will he do so? Probably not. Curry and his inner circle embrace intransigence as a bargaining position, and three years in, they are dug in for trench warfare, with no diplomats in sight.

Pelosi in for Lawson

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, facing a competitive Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District against former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, is bringing in some star power in support Friday.

If the Blue Wave hits, Nancy Pelosi could be Speaker. Al Lawson would vote for her.

That player: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who despite being embattled with prospective leadership challenges from younger members of the Democratic caucus, nonetheless serves a key purpose as a powerful backer of Lawson’s re-election campaign.

Lawson and Pelosi plan a Friday evening press availability at Lawson’s campaign headquarters (1680 Dunn Avenue, Suite 38), along with a meet and greet that kicks off at 5 p.m.

Since Jacksonville Republicans such as Shad Khan have endorsed Brown, Lawson has messaged around the theme of Republicans trying to buy the seat.

With Pelosi at his side, expect Lawson to make similar claims Friday evening.

While we wait on Q2 finance data for Brown and Lawson, Q1 showed parity in cash on hand. Lawson had, at the end of March, $159,000 on hand; Brown, $127,000.

Meanwhile, Brown wants debates with Lawson in each county in the sprawling east-west district.

Godbold backs Brown

On Thursday, former Jacksonville Mayor Jake Godbold endorsed another former Mayor Brown, for Congress.

Brown, mounting a challenge to Lawson, sees this as a key endorsement.

In a short video, Godbold said he’ll be a “big guy in Congress, and we need somebody from North Florida, somebody from Jacksonville, so we can call him and get in touch with him.”

To watch the video, click the image below:

“Alvin’s a good man,” Godbold added.

Godbold was mayor from 1979 to 1987. Brown, from 2011 to 2015.

Will this make a dent in a news cycle? With Lawson bringing Pelosi to town Friday, and with Brown not exactly publicizing the media event, it could be argued Brown did not maximize the value of this endorsement.

Doctor’s orders

State Sen. Aaron Bean faces both a primary challenge and, if he wins, a general election battle in Senate District 4. However, the Fernandina Beach Republican has advantages his challengers don’t, such as key endorsements.

Expect more endorsements for Aaron Bean ahead of the August primary.

The latest, via the Florida Medical Association PAC, was rolled out Tuesday morning.

Per media release from the Bean Team, FMA PAC President Dr. Mike Patete asserted: “Bean has worked tirelessly for the constituents of his district on many important issues including health care. Serving on various health care committees during his time in the Senate and House, the FMA has worked closely with Senator Bean and we look forward to continuing our work to help make Florida the best state to practice medicine.”

Among Bean’s priorities: telemedicine legislation. His bill passed the Senate without a “no” vote in 2018 but died without hearing in the House.

Bean is “honored to receive the endorsement from such a premier professional organization for physician leadership, patient care and education in Florida.”

“I look forward to the opportunity to work with the FMA members and leadership, to continue to serve my community and constituents, and know together we can play a vital role in shaping effective and innovative health policy in Florida,” Bean added.

The FMA imprimatur will boost Bean, an established incumbent, against a field full of less established challengers.

Scam something that lasts

Some bad news for Curry, via the Florida Times-Union, which reported that Curry’s “Build Something That Lasts” political committee was $120,000 poorer after its treasurer, Eric Robinson wired the money to four different addresses across the country at the behest of a political consultant, Kevin Hofmann.

Eric Robinson (Image via Sarasota Magazine/Salvatore Brancifort)

As it turned out, a “phone scammer duped Robinson,” who didn’t figure out the hustle until Hofmann called Robinson while Robinson was on the phone with a scammer.

Robinson, a Sarasota school board member who handles accounting for dozens of GOP candidates, apparently doesn’t have Caller ID.

Hofmann’s computer was hacked out of Nigeria and the phone hoaxer was in Luxembourg, adding to the mystery.

Robinson, the master of pass-through political committees, donated to another political committee (“Making a Better Tomorrow”), which then gave the money back to Curry’s committee, per the T-U report, making it whole.

Will donors care? Probably not. Curry brought in $244,000 in June, with four opponents raising just over $1,500 against him … combined.

Duly selected leaders

Gov. Rick Scott chose a Republican and a Democrat to replace indicted and suspended Jacksonville City Council members Katrina and Reggie Brown.

Lenny Curry gets two easy votes for the next year.

The news was first reported by the Jacksonville Daily Record,

The Republican: Terrance Freeman. He is connected, has deep Chamber ties and equally deep political ambition, reportedly replacing Reggie Brown in District 10.

One potential problem: he lived outside the district until this week, which could set the appointment up for a legal challenge. However, city officials are confident that he meets requirements.

The Democrat: Ju’Coby Pittman. Liked on both sides of the aisle, the Democrat will take over District 8.

What’s interesting: Scott’s office would not confirm the picks when we asked. Monday night saw the Governor’s office assert that they have “not made any announcements regarding these appointments.”

It is still a mystery where the story came from, if not the from the Scott administration. Also mysterious is the precise amount of collaboration between the Curry and Scott teams on the selections.

Curry told Florida Politics in June that, if needed, his team would provide “advice” on the picks. Asked weeks later, Scott said that while he didn’t talk to Curry’s team, someone in his office might have.

It’s hard to imagine picks more agreeable to the mayor’s office.

Freeman is a very careful politician, mindful of the need to preserve relationships with the donor class. Pittman, meanwhile, is not going to be inclined to rock the boat rhetorically. The periodic tempests caused by the Browns, in other words, will calm down just in time for election year.

Read more of our take here.

Monumental decision, redux

In the wake of violence in Charlottesville last year, former Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche compelled the city’s parks and recreation department to “inventory” Confederate monuments and markers on city property.

This monument has stood since 1898. Has its time passed?

The goal: “propose legislation to move Confederate monuments, memorials, and markers from public property to museums and educational institutions where they can be respectfully preserved and historically contextualized.”

That legislation never materialized in the 2017-18 Council term, and Brosche told us Monday that she wasn’t planning to file any.

However, 14 members of the Task Force on Civil Rights History Brosche convened during her presidency asserted last week in a memo that the process of discussion (one that smoldered in public comment despite a lack of legislation) should be resumed.

The Confederate monument discussion was not part of the task force charge; however, it was an issue that members such as Hope McMath, Rodney Hurst, and Richard Danforth believe merits discussion.

The memo notes that since 1898, Hemming Park has been home to a 62-foot monument to Confederate soldiers. The monument loomed over the carnage of the 1960s “Axe Handle Saturday,” where marauding whites assaulted African-American shop patrons.

“Many Jacksonville residents believe that the reason for the Confederate monument’s placement was to serve as a reminder to former slaves and descendants of their ‘place in society’,” the memo asserts.

Holland pads war chest

June extended a familiar narrative in Duval County property appraiser Jerry Holland‘s re-election bid, as the Republican incumbent again raised a five-figure sum against an undercapitalized Democratic challenger.

Jerry Holland is on track for re-election next year.

Holland raised $12,750 off 26 contributions, many of which are from politically connected Jacksonville residents with an interest in maintaining continuity in office.

Real estate investors and developers, including the Vestcor Company, ponied up, comprising half the contributor list. So too did Gate Petroleum, the family business of former Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton.

Politicians also cut checks, including Jacksonville City Councilman-elect Randy White and state House candidate Wyman Duggan, a lobbyist by trade.

Holland has what appears to be an insurmountable cash advantage. In three months as an active candidate, he has raised over $123,000, and retains all of it on hand.

Holland’s Democratic opponent, Kurt Kraft, has yet to report June numbers. However, he finished May with under $300 on hand, with the bulk of that money self-financed.

Cameras on pause

Jacksonville’s body camera program, launched in the pilot phase, is now on pause.

The current issue: procurement.

The open question: how long the process takes.

An end … or a new beginning? JSO says the program is on track.

The Florida Times-Union reported Thursday that 200 officers will get cameras in 2019.

“Once the procurement process is complete, JSO will use the awarded funds to acquire and deploy the devices in a phased approach,” JSO told the FTU.

Sheriff Mike Williams confirmed Thursday to Florida Politics that the department is “still working through” procurement, and “we believe we have” a vendor selected.

“We’re still working in the contract pieces and all that to make sure we get procurement done the right way. The city’s working the procurement side for us,” Williams said.

Williams said that these cameras could be rolled out by the fall, “earlier than anticipated because we thought we would have to wait until the 18/19 budget to start that process, but with the [Department of Justice] grant … we’ll actually be online sooner than anticipated.”

“We received the grant July 1,” Williams added, “so it’s ready to spend, so we can start the procurement process. We were having to hold off until October before that.”

Money go round

News and notes from Jacksonville City Council races, with June fundraising in.

In Jacksonville City Council District 6, Rose Conry still holds the money lead over former WJCT CEO Michael Boylan, as the two Republicans competing to succeed termed-out Matt Schellenberg.

Rose Conry continues to stave off Michael Boylan in the CD 6 cash dash.

And cash on hand sees Conry with an almost 2-1 advantage. Conry has raised $86,585 and has over $77,000 on hand. Boylan has raised $61,150 and has just over $42,000. Boylan did raise more in June than Conry, however …

In District 14, Republican Randy DeFoor remains the cash leader, Democrat Sunny Gettinger gained ground again last month, setting the stage for what will be a costly race (at least by district Council standards), which likely won’t be decided until the May general election.

Despite nearly $80,000 on hand, Gettinger will have to continue outperforming DeFoor to attain parity. Even after a month where DeFoor, a senior vice president and National Agency Counsel for Fidelity National Financial, raised just $9,800 between her campaign account and that of her political committee, the Republican still has over $142,000 on hand ….

Incumbents Tommy Hazouri and Danny Becton got the party started, right and quickly. Each running unopposed, each brought in strong hauls. Hazouri: north of $55,000; Becton, upward of $62,000.

It’s easier here.

Also see: Is Shad Khan picking winners in Council races?

Harassment claim in Clay schools

Folio Weekly reported this week that “Three women have alleged that Michael Kerekes, coordinator of community and strategic partnerships at the Clay County School District, has ‘intimidated … cornered … harassed’ and ‘bullied’ them, also saying they feel the sheriff’s office under former Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler has covered it up.”

School’s out … but the drama continues in Clay.

The most lurid of the claims via one complainant: “She reportedly told police that Michael Kerekes confronted her late one night in 2014 when she was walking to her car after a school board meeting. She alleged Kerekes called her ‘one evil f***ing bitch’ because she was friends with Charlie Van Zant.”

Van Zant was a former candidate for superintendent.

Kerekes, who worked on the campaign of Superintendent Addison Davis, is now on leave.

JAA wins inclusion award

The Jacksonville Aviation Authority is being honored with the 2018 Inclusion Champion Award presented by Airports Council International-North America. JAA is recognized as the 2018 Medium Hub Inclusion Champion for encouraging greater working relationships with disadvantaged businesses in the community while promoting workforce diversity, outreach and advocacy.

Zoo celebrates Friday 13th with ‘zooperstition’

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is celebrating Friday the 13th with “Night at the Zoo: Zooperstition,” a family-friendly event beginning 6:30 p.m. through 10 p.m.

Animals will be on exhibit until 8:30 p.m., as part of the event.

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens to celebrate Friday the 13th with nighttime ‘Zooperstition.’ (Image via News4Jax)

There will be live music, animal encounters and a chance for visitors to see the “Dinosauria” exhibit after dark.

For adults, cash bars will be available with beer and wine. Several food trucks will be on hand, such as Sonny’s BBQ, Pie Daddy and Mr. Potato Spread.

“Night at the Zoo” event tickets are limited and only available online at the zoo’s website. An adult ticket for $7 for members; $5 for children.

Standard zoo admission is $14 for adults, $12 for children. Children under age two are free and do not need a ticket.

Jags open 8 preseason practices to the public

NFL training camps are about to open. Some camps open as early as next week (Cleveland), but the Jaguars all report on July 25.

Fans wishing to sit in the heat, the Jaguars are allowing fans to watch practices on 8 occasions. The first comes on the second day of camp beginning at 10:30 a.m. while the July 27 practice will also be open to fans.

Are you ready for some football?

The first practice in full pads comes on July 28 at 6:30 p.m. This session will be open only to Jags365 season ticket members.

“We always appreciate the incredible support of our passionate fan base,” said Jags coach Doug Marrone. “We look forward to once again hosting fans at training camp, as they consistently add energy and competitiveness to our practices. We’re excited about the hard work that lies ahead in 2018, beginning in a few weeks with training camp, and are grateful for the fans that will be with us every step of the way.”

Practices on Monday, July 30, through Thursday, Aug. 2 all begin at 10:30 a.m. and are open to the public. The final open practice will be Friday, Aug. 3 beginning at 6 p.m.

The practices take place at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex on the grounds of TIAA Bank Field. The Aug. 3 practice is Florida Blue Family Night and will take place at TIAA Bank Field.

Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis and obtained in advance. Those wishing to attend any of the open practices must register online at jaguars.com/trainingcamp.

The first preseason game is Thursday, Aug. 9 against the New Orleans Saints at TIAA Bank Field.

Jacksonville officials: Rick Scott’s City Council appointee poised to meet residency requirements

As we reported this morning, Republican Terrance Freeman was selected by Gov. Rick Scott to represent Jacksonville City Council District 10.

District 10 is just 19 percent Republican, which suggests that an appointment (in the wake of the suspension of the incumbent) would be the only way a GOP member would get seated.

But Freeman, an agreeable pick to the Jacksonville business community, looked to have some logistical blocks going forward, with seeming doubts as to whether he could even serve due to residency issues.

District 10 is in Northwest Jacksonville, a world away from Freeman’s homestead residence, which is in deep Mandarin near Julington Creek. As of Tuesday morning, that was also the address listed on his voter registration.

This residency issue looked to create some potential problems for Freeman, whose last campaign was for a state House seat in the Arlington area of Jacksonville’s Southside.

However, Freeman told us late Tuesday that he has “taken all the steps necessary to be sworn in.”

The Mandarin house will have a “for sale” sign on it soon, Freeman said, and the family will move to a newly-leased residence in District 10.

Freeman, confident the issues have been resolved, is looking forward to serving District 10. He believes his experience on the council will allow him to be effective in addressing district needs.

And he intends to have a town hall soon, where he will be able to hear from his new constituents. But, as of now, he’s not committing to run — or not to run — in the 2019 election.

Gov. Rick Scott‘s office offered a statement affirming the legality of the move: “Mr. Brown was suspended from office by the Governor following very serious felony charges. Mr. Freeman was appointed to serve in his seat on an interim basis due to the suspension. This temporary appointment complied with the law. Any questions regarding the city’s charter should be directed to the city.”

Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan also expressed confidence that Freeman resolved the issue.

The candidate updated on Tuesday his voter registration with an address in the district, technically establishing residency in time to run for election to the seat.

The deadline to establish residency is 183 days before qualifying (which starts Jan. 7 and ends Jan. 11).

This date (per a document from the SOE) appeared to have been July 8. But it is in fact July 12, per Hogan.

That would put Freeman in ahead of the statutory deadline; Scott officially appointed Freeman to the council July 10.

As well, Freeman (as he is not sworn in yet) is eligible to serve as a newly-minted resident of District 10.

General Counsel Jason Gabriel noted that the threshold for eligibility to serve, per Gabriel, is when Freeman is sworn in. The governor’s appointment is not the time marker, per Gabriel’s interpretation.

Municipal code explains it this way: “Every member of the council shall be continuously throughout his or her term of office, a resident and qualified elector of Duval County, and of his or her district or residence area,” per Section 5.04.

Residency questions have emerged before in Jacksonville politics: Jay Jabour, a former councilman, resigned after not meeting residency requirements for an at-large seat.

Council President Aaron Bowman, who employed Freeman as a council assistant earlier in his term, asserted earlier that Freeman meets requirements.

“It is my understanding that as long as he has residency prior to swearing in, he is good,” Bowman texted.

Bowman followed up with a confirmation from the Office of General Counsel. Freeman, asserted Bowman, simply “needs residency prior to swearing in.”

As well, per Bowman, Freeman “needs residency by tomorrow for the 2019 election.”

Mayor Lenny Curry seems fine with the appointment.

Duval Democrats, meanwhile, are already making waves: “We applaud Governor Scott for appointing a resident Democrat to represent Council District 8, a overwhelming majority Democratic district. However, it flies in the face of reason why Scott would appoint a Mandarin Republican who lives 20 miles away in District 6, to Democratic Council District 10 on the city’s Northside. Its hard to find the connection between the needs of the constituents of District 10 with this appointment.”

The Duval Democrats amplified this statement Tuesday afternoon.

“The Party’s position is that Freeman is not eligible to serve as District 10’s Councilman because he does not live within the District. The city charter is clear: ‘Every member of the Council shall be continuously throughout his or her term of office, a resident and qualified elector of Duval County, and of his or her district.'”

“Every elected official in Duval County is legally bound to follow this standard. Freeman should be no exception. Additionally, he would not be eligible to run for District 10 because he has not been an elector in the district for 183 days before qualifying (Section 5.04),” the Democrats assert. “The fact Governor Scott choose to appoint Freeman in spite of these obstacles defies reason.”

A legal challenge to the appointment seems possible, in this context. But city officials seem to agree that Freeman is eligible to serve.

The other Council appointee, Democrat Ju’Coby Pittman, has two residences in her District 8, and faces no such concerns regarding eligibility

Jacksonville Bold for 7.6.18 — Fireworks or fizzle?

After a brief sabbatical, Bold is back.

The campaign season — local state House and Senate races and special elections, and statewide battles — is in full swing.

Competitive races abound up and down the ballot, along with more than a few cakewalks.

Since we took our break, we’ve also seen a new Jacksonville City Council president.

Jacksonville celebrates the return of Bold.

Aaron Bowman, an ally of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, is expected to presage an era of good feeling.

Will this happen? The mayor’s office hopes so.

With Jacksonville’s municipal elections running through May of next year, the local political season is a different matter than just the August/November cycle we see in state and federal races.

Ahead of us: close to a year of campaign finance watching, ad analysis, guessing and second-guessing, tips that do (and sometimes don’t) pan out.

People often say that FloridaPolitics.com covers the miscellany of the political scene, which otherwise would be ignored.

They’re right.

And for those of you who miss the content during the week, we try to bring together the best of the best (even in a slow week such as this) to you in Jacksonville Bold.

Great to be back!

LGBT group backs Lawson over Brown

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown faced questions about his commitment to LGBT rights during his four-year term, and those questions have continued to dog him as he mounts a primary challenge to Congressman Al Lawson.

The latest example: the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus choosing to endorse Florida’s 5th Congressional District incumbent, a first-term legislator from Tallahassee.

No surprise: Al Lawson gets backing from a prominent LGBTA group.

“Congressman Lawson has always been on the right side of the issues for the LGBT community,” said Terry Fleming, president of the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus.

“We are proud he’s our representative in Washington who will stand up for equal rights for all, and that’s why the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus is pleased to endorse Congressman Al Lawson for re-election,” Fleming added.

Lawson was “humbled by this endorsement from the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus.”

“Throughout my career,” Lawson added, “I have believed in true equality for all and fought to ensure no person is ever discriminated against due to his or her age, race, sex, religion or sexual orientation. We have made great strides in our nation, but there is still so much more we can do. I will continue to work to drive that path forward.”

Bean in cash cakewalk thus far

In Northeast Florida’s Senate District 4, incumbent Sen. Aaron Bean continued to hold a commanding lead over three opponents as of June 22, the most recent reportage date for state candidates.

The first three weeks of June, however, saw slow fundraising for Bean, who raised nothing for his political committee (Florida Conservative Alliance) and $4,500 in hard money, including maximum $1,000 contributions from Friends of Dana Young and GrayRobinson.

Boon times for Aaron Bean, as challengers struggle for cash.

Between the two accounts, Bean has roughly $160,000 on hand.

Bean will face a primary challenge, via Carlos Slay, a candidate widely seen as being backed by Bean’s political rival, former Rep. Janet Adkins.

Slay has not raised any money, and paid his filing fee via a personal loan.

The winner of the Bean/Slay clash will face two general election opponents, Democrat Billie Bussard and Libertarian Joanna Tavares.

Bussard has $4,500 on hand, having raised money between June 5 and June 22.

Tavares has less than $40 on hand after paying her filing fee.

What Bean is up to

The Fernandina Beach Republican will speak to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Jacksonville and will provide a postmortem of the 2018 Legislative Session Thursday, July 12, 9:30 a.m., Maggiano’s, 10367 Midtown Pkwy., Jacksonville.

Later that day, Bean will be honored with an award from the First Coast Apartment Association in appreciation for being a friend to their industry, 7:00 p.m., Sheraton Jacksonville Hotel, 10605 Deerwood Park Blvd, Jacksonville.

Yarborough dominates in HD 12 cash dash

State Rep. Clay Yarborough, a Jacksonville Republican in his first term, maintained his money lead over Democratic challenger Tim Yost through the first three weeks in June.

Clay Yarborough continues to hold a strong lead over Tim Yost.

Neither candidate has a primary challenge in House District 12, a Southside Jacksonville district that encompasses the Arlington area, which means this is a race to November.

Yarborough brought in $6,700 off ten contributions in the period, with Waste Management and the Southeast Florida Chamber of Commerce pacing the political veteran’s haul.

The Republican spent nearly as much as he took in during the reporting period, with $5,755 heading out the door, mostly to consultants and for a qualifying fee.

Yost had his best reporting period of fundraising since filing last summer, bringing in $2,521 ($1,781 of it from the candidate himself, to cover his filing fee).

Yost has almost $4,300 on hand, but Yarborough holds serve, with just under $107,000 in cash available.

Duggan closes in on Polson in HD 15 money battle

Democrat Tracye Polson will carry the party’s flag against one of three Republicans in a November race for exiting state Rep. Jay Fant‘s Westside Jacksonville seat.

GOP voters will pick Tracye Polson’s opponent. Donors are leaning toward Wyman Duggan thus far.

The bookkeeping through the first three weeks of June reveals a tightening financial picture between Polson, a well-funded first-time candidate, and Wyman Duggan, a Jacksonville lobbyist.

Polson brought in $3,647 to her campaign account, which now has roughly $115,000 on hand; her political committee added another $800, pushing that tally to $14,000 on hand.

Polson still leads the money race, but on the strength of his best reporting period since October 2017, Duggan is closing in.

Duggan brought in $13,800 to his campaign account in June (pushing the total near $121,000 on hand), driven by establishment support from J.B. CoxwellW.W. Gay, and CSX Transportation.

Running behind Duggan and Polson: the two other Republicans in the race.

Yacht broker Mark Zeigler brought in $5,325, pushing the first-time candidate over $33,000 on hand.

And Joseph Hogan, whose $1,500 in the first three weeks of June pushed his total over $8,000, may be trailing in fundraising. Nonetheless, he had the biggest name contributor of the four HD 15 hopefuls this cycle: former House Speaker Allan Bense.

Fischer stays strong against Dem challenge

In the first three weeks of June, state Rep. Jason Fischer, the incumbent Republican in Mandarin (Jacksonville) House District 16, lengthened his money lead against Democratic challenger Ken Organes.

Jason Fischer continues his fundraising lead.

Neither candidate faces a primary opponent, making the race in 16 a sprint toward November.

Fischer’s political committee, Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville, brought in $21,000; his campaign account received another $8,500.

School choice money, via Step Up for Students founder John Kirtley, comprised $10,000 of the committee’s haul; Florida Power and Light, a company with lobbyists in Jacksonville’s City Hall during the lapsed debate over potential privatization of the city’s utility, ponied up $5,000.

The $8,500 of new money in Fischer’s campaign account came from 10 contributors, including long-term care apothecary Senior Care Pharmacy, the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association, and the Southeast Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Fischer’s committee had at the time of filing $80,000 on hand; his campaign account had another $93,000.

Organes, meanwhile, raised $6,484, pushing his campaign account over $20,000 on hand.

Among Organes’ backers: former CSX CEO Michael Ward, notable as Organes retired from the Jacksonville railroad, former State Attorney candidate Jay Plotkin, and the local Sheet Metal Workers.

What Nelson is reading

Melissa Nelson, the State Attorney for the 4th Circuit Court, couldn’t have commissioned a stronger endorsement of her job performance thus far than this paean to “smart justice” in the Florida Times-Union.

Melissa Nelson gets her most robust endorsement yet. (Image via Folio Weekly)

“Among the brightest spots in Nelson’s vision is expanding diversion and civil citation programs, which seek to steer individuals away out of the criminal justice system. Diversion programs use alternatives to the usual criminal court system to process certain low-level, nonviolent offenders. Rather than rely on criminal sanctions that often do little more than force offenders to languish in a jail cell, diversion programs require these individuals to undergo substance abuse, mental health or other treatment,” the editorial from the right-leaning R Street Institute reads.

“By embracing “smart on crime” justice, Northeast Florida finds itself in good company. Conservative-led jurisdictions across the country are beginning to experiment with new ideas and reap prodigious returns on the back of evidence-based reforms,” the piece continues.

Read more here.

Ray retains tax collector cash lead

As of June 22, former State Rep. Lake Ray leads his three opponents in fundraising for the Duval County Tax Collector election to be held this August.

The election, which will see the top two candidates move to the November ballot if no one gets a majority of votes, was necessitated by former tax collector Michael Corrigan moving on to a role with Visit Jacksonville.

Ray, a Republican, has raised $128,660, with $17,350 hauled in between June 1 and June 20. He has over $119,000 on hand.

Doyle Carter, languishing third in the money race.

Ray’s closest competitor is also a Republican, former property appraiser, and city councilman Jim Overton, who has raised $90,000 total, with almost $79,000 on hand.

During the most recent three-week reporting period, Overton brought in $15,650.

Running third in the money race: current Jacksonville City Councilman Doyle Carter.

Carter, also a Republican, had the best three-week period of all the candidates. His $22,050 haul included a noteworthy donation, via the “Jacksonville Conservative Action Fund” committee, seeded solely by the Republican Party of Florida.

Carter has over $53,000 on hand.

Running in fourth place: the sole Democrat in the race, former State Rep. Mia Jones.

Jones raised $9,740 in the three-week reporting period and has just over $12,000 total.

Task force hits Jacksonville government for transparency failings

In its final report, the Jacksonville City Council Task Force on Open Government offered an indictment of Curry’s administration and the Jacksonville City Council on transparency issues.

The media has long wondered why Lenny Curry’s emails lack real discussions of city issues.

The panel, co-chaired by trial lawyer Hank Coxe and former Jessie Ball DuPont Center head Sherry Magill, says city government makes it “difficult for the public to understand governmental processes and decisions.”

Mayoral staff review of public records requests and disallowing journalists to interview department heads: two of the black marks identified.

The City Council also gets dinged for not posting text messages and emails to a public portal. Indeed, the only Council communications available without a public record request are emails to the whole Council. And text messages, for anyone in city government, are not made available without said PRR.

Critics of the city website say it’s hard to navigate, and lacking attention to SEO or navigation; the city budget for being hard to understand; public notice processes are “archaic.”

Whether legislation will emerge from this or not is a different matter.

The task force was a priority of former Council President Brosche, and it is by no means certain that her Council colleagues share her interest in increasing transparency in the ways the task force recommends.

Jacksonville leads in emerging economic centers

Some good news for once, and kudos to the Jax Daily Record for providing it.

Per a recent study from the Urban Land Institute, Jacksonville is among a leader in “emerging economic centers.”

Photo of St. Johns Town Center, via Visit Jacksonville.

Jacksonville, with 11.9 percent of urban residents living in emerging economic centers, is seeing “new urban cores” emerge.

The study spotlighted Riverside and the Town Center.

What is missing: “mixed-use districts,” with high-density housing and upscale retail.

Perhaps the District will solve that problem once it is built on the Southbank.

Car trouble

Suspended Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown, at this point, is better known for her legal woes than anything she’s done legislatively.

Another legal action against the compromised councilor.

38-count federal indictment, spotlighting a scheme to defraud with another suspended councilman (Reggie Brown), is the reason.

However, the feds aren’t the only ones suing Katrina Brown. Also coming after her as of this week: Wells Fargo, which loaned her money using a 2000 Ford Explorer as collateral, is now suing her for a nonperforming loan.

This is Katrina Brown’s second lawsuit regarding lapsed car payments since she has been on Council: the first one involved a 2006 Porsche Cayenne SUV.

In this case, Wells Fargo subsidiary OneMain loaned Councilwoman Brown $8,300 at 25 percent interest using a 16-year-old truck as collateral on Nov. 2016, just weeks before the FBI, the IRS, HUD, the Small Business Administration and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office raided her family’s BBQ sauce plant.

Councilwoman Brown stopped making payments on the loan last summer, per the lawsuit.

This loan’s timing tracks with two of the counts against Katrina Brown in the federal indictment, which asserts that she was trying to secure a loan for $60,000 for “working capital” for her KJB Specialties from a company called LendCore through Nov. 2016, and $50-$55,000 from Credibly and Webbank in the same time frame. Part of the scheme to defraud, per the indictment, included materially altering bank statements.

Katrina and Reggie Brown, at this writing, are expected to see their federal trials begin Sep. 4.

Pretty vacant

On June 1, Gov. Rick Scott suspended two Democratic Jacksonville City Council members who face 38 federal counts in a scheme to defraud local and federal taxpayers.

While Scott has not yet picked replacements for Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown, former Council President Anna Brosche solved the issue for their constituents weeks ago.

That solution: Councilman Sam Newby and Brosche will fill in for the suspended duo until replacements are appointed.

“Me stepping in to help handle things in District 10 is a very temporary situation,” Brosche said to one of many impassioned speakers at a June public notice meeting.

And indeed, it was temporary, as now current Council President Aaron Bowman exercised his authority and relieved the two at-large Republicans of those duties this week.

“That was not a legal assignment,” Bowman said. “They have five at-large representatives to represent them.”

Brosche appointed herself and Newby to the roles, she said Tuesday, because she believed the need for a point person to address concerns specific to those districts.

The move “wasn’t about legal authority,” she added; rather, it was about ensuring the constituents had representation.

Brosche also noted that, in her understanding, similar moves in the past filled in the gap for suspended councilors.

School super speaks out

WJCT interviewed Dr. Diana Greene, the new superintendent of Duval County Public Schools, this week.

(Image via WJCT)

She’s not quite sure what needs changing first.

“I don’t think what I know right now is enough information to make that determination. What are the areas that need the most improvement? But there are general areas it would matter what district I’m in. Academics is always going to be something that we can always improve. Ensuring safety and security of our students, making sure that our employees are safe in their locations at work,” Greene said. “Those are things that are happening not only in Duval but across the country, and we want to continue to focus on those same issues so that our students, when they come to school, they know that they’re in a safe environment, when our teachers come to work, they’re in a safe environment and that the No. 1 priority is doing what’s best for students to ensure their success.”

Greene also seemed open to a millage hike via referendum:

“I think any passing of a referendum requires a coalition of involved and engaged citizens in the process and stepping in July 2, being my first official day, I need to again get to know people, introduce myself to the community … It does take time. It takes time to understand what are the issues? And 1) will a referendum help solve those issues? My first role is to No. 1 get to know everyone, but No. 2, identify what are our issues?”

The board appointed Greene, who started this week.

Save the date

St. Johns Chamber of Commerce is holding a Candidate Meet-and-Greet, Monday, July 16, at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall, 1050 A1A North. The nonpartisan event – from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. – will feature a straw poll conducted by the St. Johns Supervisor of Elections. It’s free and open to the public.

JTA bond rating stays strong

Bond rating agency S&P is upholding the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) ‘AA’ rating, giving stability for the regional transit agency’s local option gas tax (LOGT) revenue bonds, series 2015.

Series 2015 bonds represent JTA’s first direct debt issuance; money helps fund roadway and mobility improvements. This rating reflects an assessment of the prospects of LOGT revenues relative to the required JTA debt service payments, along with future capital needs.

“This bond rating assessment strengthens the financial position of the Authority,” said JTA Board Chair Isaiah Rumlin. “The rating allows the Authority to continue to improve safety, reduce congestion on major roadways, provide mobility options and enhance the quality of life for the community.”

JTA works with the City of Jacksonville to identify specific roadway, transit and mobility projects. Construction is underway for roadway development as well as enhancements for bicycle, pedestrian, transit and ADA accessibility. Since its inception in 2015, the program is installed 7.5 miles of sidewalk.

“The 2015 bond issuance has enabled the JTA to aggressively implement the JTAMobilityWorks initiative,” said JTA Chief Executive Officer Nathaniel Ford. “I want to thank our board of directors for their governance and commitment to effective financial management.”

JAA head to retire

Jacksonville Aviation Authority (JAA) Chief Executive Officer Steve Grossman is retiring at the end of 2018. Named CEO in September 2009, Grossman oversees the operation, maintenance, development and marketing of authority assets such as Jacksonville International Airport (JAX), Cecil Airport/Spaceport, Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport (JAXEX) and Herlong Recreational Airport. He also serves as the primary JAA representative to the community.

Retiring JAA CEO Steve Grossman. (Image via News4Jax)

Under Grossman’s leadership, JAA achieved annual operating profit margins of at least 30 percent.

JAA Chair Giselle Carson said in a statement: “Under Steve’s leadership, JAX saw a recovery in passenger traffic after the Great Recession, celebrated its 50th anniversary, launched our Aviation Hall of Fame, developed Cecil Airport bringing over a thousand new jobs to the area and watched Cecil Spaceport bring in new technology that will take us into the future.”

Grossman has been a member of the Airports Council International World Governing Board and is a past chair of Airports Council International-North America. He currently serves on the City of Jacksonville Tourist Development Council, the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce board of trustees, and the University of North Florida Transportation and Logistics Advisory Council.

Flagler Hospital breaks ground on Murabella Health Village

Nearly 100 people attended the groundbreaking of the Flagler Health Village at Murabella.

When completed by the summer of 2019, the new facility will include 20,000 square feet dedicated to urgent care, advanced imaging, laboratory services, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, primary care and specialty care. Additionally, plans for the site include a 25,000 square foot healthy lifestyle center with fitness, prevention and education program offerings for all ages.

Flagler Hospital is expanding with a new satellite facility.

“As we broaden our reach into new markets, we do so with great enthusiasm. It is important for us to heal people when they are sick and also to support a healthier, more vibrant community,” Flagler Hospital President and CEO Jason Barret said in a news release.

Special guests at the event included Kalilah Jamall, staff assistant in the office of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who brought along special message from Nelson; State Sen.Travis Hutson; Jackie Smith, aide to Congressman John Rutherford; City of St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver; City of St. Augustine Vice Mayor Todd Neville and St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Operations, Greg Voss.

Jax neurosurgeons bring lifesaving work to Philippines

In June, Jacksonville pediatric neurosurgeon Philipp Aldana joined other health care professionals on a volunteer educational medical mission to his native Philippines. They make the 9,000 trip every two years to teach new neurosurgical techniques to Filipino doctors and consult on neurological cases.

As the Florida Times-Union reports, the trip is a reminder of the vast difference between health care services available in the Philippines and the United States.

Aldana, who is based at Wolfson Children’s Hospital and UF Health Jacksonville, along with his wife, Carmina Montesa Aldana, founded the Jacksonville-based Neurosurgery Outreach Foundation to help close that health care gap.

A group of Jacksonville surgeons volunteer in the Philippines. (Image via Jacksonville Business Journal)

This trip, the Aldana’s were joined by a group of volunteers that included Ricardo Hanel, an endovascular neurosurgeon with Baptist Health and Lyerly Neurosurgery; H. Gordon Deen Jr., a neurosurgeon at Mayo Clinic; and Karen Lidsky, another pediatric critical care physician with UF Health Jacksonville and Wolfson Children’s Hospital.

During their trip, the gave lectures to 50 Filipino health care providers, including 20 neurosurgeons, as well as $100,000 worth of donated surgical clips to treat aneurysms, a treatment unfamiliar in the Philippines. Also, more supplies and $15,000 for an indigent patient fund.

Working with Filipino colleagues, the group provided free surgical care to four children and four adults who had brain and spinal cord tumors, brain aneurysms, neck instability and hydrocephalus.

“It’s always something new,” Aldana told the Times-Union. “We never really know what cases we’ll encounter until a week or two before. … There is no shortage of cases.”

First Coast YMCA becomes Florida’s first Armed Services affiliate

The First Coast YMCA, partnering with the Armed Services YMCA, became the first affiliate in Florida – and one of 20 in the nation – in its mission to support service members and families in the Jacksonville military community.

First Coast YMCA. (Image via Jacksonville Business Journal)

According to the Jacksonville Business Journal, First Coast YMCA has 12 branch locations across the five-county region, giving it a “unique position to serve as a central support system for Jacksonville’s military community.”

As an affiliate, First Coast YMCA can now provide armed service members and their families affordable access to wellness solutions, special rates for membership and summer camps for all military ranks, as well as free programs in Healthy Living Centers. Special rates are also available for all Honorably Discharged Service Veterans.

Cecil Spaceport tests prototype

Per the Jacksonville Business Journal: Atlanta-based Generation Orbit Launch Services Inc. tested a prototype liquid rocket engine at Cecil Spaceport.

By late 2019, the GOLauncher1 hypersonic flight test booster is expected to launch satellites from horizontal aircraft.

One of a half-dozen such facilities in the U.S., Cecil Spaceport is the only spaceport approved for horizontal launches on the East Coast.

Cecil Spaceport tests the GOLauncher1 hypersonic flight test booster. (Image via Generation Orbit)

The GO1 is “an affordable and flexible hypersonic testbed” for technology experiments in conditions between Mach 5 and Mach 8, according to a news release.

According to the Journal, GO1’s combustion engine, powered by liquid oxygen and kerosene, performed as expected during tests, the first of their kind to be conducted at Cecil. The engine test demonstrated a capability of cruising at Mach 6 at heights between 80,000 and 90,000 feet, a crucial point for hypersonic flight testing.

Jaguars fans will see more teal in 2018

If Jaguars fans like seeing their team sporting a different look from time to time, they will have the opportunity this year. The NFL has reportedly told all 32 teams they may wear alternate or throwback uniforms three times in 2018 as opposed to two last year.

Jacksonville changed their alternate uniform during the offseason, responding to those fans who have expressed their satisfaction with the teal look. Team management is equally pleased.

“True to our current identity and what we want to represent for years to come, our new uniforms are no-nonsense, all business and unmistakably Jaguars,” said owner Shad Khan. “Tradition has returned to Jacksonville.”

Teal and black are in this season.

At least one publication agrees with the fans. The Jaguars teal is ranked 11th best among those polled in a national ranking and easily the best among AFC South teams (Tennessee is next best at 21).

The question arises as to which games the Jags should wear the new look. A look back to 2017 shows they brought out the best in the Jaguars and worst in their opponents.

On November 5, they hounded the Cincinnati Bengals 23-7, with Jalen Ramsey nagging Bengals’ Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green into an ejection. On December 10, Seattle Seahawks’ defensive end Quinton Jefferson was ejected, then tried to go into the stands after a fan after Jacksonville’s 30-24 victory.

This publication suggests the best choices would be the home opener on September 16 vs. the Patriots, the October 28 game in London against Super Bowl champion Philadelphia, and the November 18 Sunday night home game against the Steelers. The pro football world will be focusing on all three games.

The best case against the home opener is a desire to wear white in the September late afternoon heat and force the Patriots to wear dark blue. In that case, the October 14 road game at Dallas or the December 16 home finale with Washington could be worthy substitutes.

Andrew Gillum, backed by billionaires, delivers populist sermon in Jacksonville

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is fond of reminding audiences that he’s the only “non-millionaire” in the Florida gubernatorial race.

The Democrat did just that in Jacksonville Thursday evening at a town hall event held at a Northside church, in cadences appropriate for the venue.

Despite being of modest means personally, Gillum has the help of two prominent billionaires, with one of them, George Soros, again in late June ponying up $250,000 to Gillum’s Forward Florida political committee. In total, the Soros family has pumped $750,000 into Gillum’s quest for the Governor’s Mansion.

The other big name on the billionaire left, Tom Steyer, committed $1 million via his NextGen super PAC. Half of that total was directly linked to Steyer.

And those numbers may not be the ceiling for those commitments.

What they are, Gillum told Florida Politics, is opportunity: “to let voters, particularly those who are going to be an important part of our base, know that we are a choice on the ballot.”

“What most people are counting on is that we won’t be able to communicate so that voters in this state don’t know that I’m a choice on the ballot. We’re convinced that we don’t have to be all over television. We don’t have to be the campaign that raises the most money even,” Gillum added.

Digital, traditional mail, and personal voter contact (as Gillum said, “showing up on their doorsteps”) are among the ways to maximize resources.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be an air war,” Gillum said, with his appeal to a “built-in constituency” serving as a force multiplier.

Gillum acknowledged the backing from Steyer in the town hall, and his mention of the million-dollar donation scored a round of applause, the first of many throughout the evening.

But opponents — both in the other party and in the primary field — have fired off with criticism.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, in his speeches to GOP audiences, positions his campaign as a bulwark against the influence of the two billionaires. And Putnam’s rhetoric is echoed on the Democratic side by Jeff Greene, a billionaire in his own right who entered the race in recent weeks.

“If you want to have Florida managed by George Soros and whatever he wants, regardless of whether the governor likes it, and Tom Steyer, then you can go with Andrew Gillum,” Greene said last weekend.

Gillum, as one would expect, dismisses these critiques.

“I have known Mr. Soros for about fifteen years,” Gillum said, “and he has contributed to work I’ve supported at the People for the American Way Foundation and the youth leadership work I’ve done around the country. He has never called up and asked me for a single thing.”

“It’s easy for someone like Jeff Greene to want to dismiss someone getting support from someone else. He’s the same candidate who made his fortune by shorting the market. Now, he did well, but a lot of people did not do well during that terrible housing downturn,” Gillum added.

“I don’t have the luxury of his three-plus-billion-dollar fortune to try to buy a race,” Gillum continued, “but I don’t believe that’s what’s going to win.”

Rather, Gillum believes his appeal rests in “the kind of authentic, real energy that’s showing up on the ground from everyday people.”

Though by the standards of the gubernatorial field, one where Democrats Philip Levine and Greene have a so-far bottomless capacity to self-finance, and where Republican Adam Putnam cleared $30 million raised some weeks back, $1.75 million is real money — especially for a campaign like Gillum’s, uniquely capable of galvanizing the grassroots and (at least theoretically) expanding the universe of primary voters.

Seventeen months ago, Gillum described an “eighteen-month view of engagement” approach to the campaign, one that involved reaching out to voters who wouldn’t turn out otherwise.

Gillum noted the task as the election approaches is “narrowing our focus on the parts of the state that will allow us the best yield for our time.”

Time will tell if that prevails.

Most polls have shown Levine and Gwen Graham ahead of Gillum, Chris King, and Greene.

And in the Jacksonville market, the biggest names to endorse Gillum have been former state Sen. Tony Hill and former state Rep. Mia Jones, with other Democrats, such as Jacksonville City Councilmen Garrett Dennis and Tommy Hazouri, backing Graham.

However, the Gillum approach seems predicated on the kind of variables that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld referred to as “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns.”

Are the pollsters and pols wrong?

That’s Gillum’s bet. And that of the billionaires bankrolling his populist bid.

Gillum is delivering a message that Democratic voters yearn for, regarding such issues as criminal justice and rehabilitation (including the regressive “money bail” system), veteran homelessness, jobs with a living wage (including teaching), Medicaid expansion and indigent health care, the judiciary and others.

And he is delivering that message with a messianic verve and commitment, as well as a definite generational appeal to voters under the age of 40, that eludes many in the field.

Gillum kept his remarks positive in the town hall, though he did note a disagreement with Graham on “the issues.”

“She voted against President [Barack] Obama 52 percent of the time … to ban Syrian refugee immigration … in favor of the Keystone Pipeline,” Gillum said, noting that while “it isn’t personal,” he doesn’t trust Graham “when [our] back is against the wall.”

As the candidate told us Thursday, it’s a five-way race for the nomination. And 20 percent plus one vote, in theory, can win it.

“My conversation and my comments are informed,” Gillum said, “by the people I’ve come in contact with on the trail.”

“We’ve been written off more times than I’ve got fingers for. I believe we come back after every one of them. We’re beginning to peak,” Gillum said, “right at the time that we need it.”

Andrew Gillum slates Jacksonville town hall for Thursday evening

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, firmly in the mix of the Democratic gubernatorial field with less than 60 days before the primary, will court Jacksonville voters Thursday evening at a town hall event.

The event kicks off at 6:30 p.m at the Gateway to Heaven church located at 7700 N. Pearl Street.

Attendees, especially those who have followed Gillum throughout his campaign, should expect to hear road-tested talking points, if the Orlando event last week was any indication.

“He dogged the incumbent for not expanding Medicaid and turning away federal cash for high-speed rail; he gave a full-throated endorsement for Amendment 4; and he detailed an extensive list of education priorities he’ll push for if elected — a $50,000-a-year base salary for teachers, better early education, and more opportunities for K-12 students who aren’t college-bound to learn skills that can land them a place in the workforce,” wrote Florida Politics’ Drew Wilson.

Gillum, who is fond of reminding audiences that he’s the only “non-millionaire” in the Florida Governor’s race, nonetheless has serious financial help also, via two prominent billionaires.

One of them (George Soros) in late June ponied up $250,000 to Gillum’s Forward Florida political committee, bringing Soros money in total to $750,000. And as Florida Politics reported first last week, billionaire Tom Steyer committed $1 million to the Gillum effort via NextGen America, Steyer’s progressive super PAC.

While Gillum lacks the resources of the other Democratic contenders (not to mention the Republicans), what is clear is that his benefactors believe he is worth the investment.

Garrett Dennis plans Tuesday town hall to ‘stop the murders’

Jacksonville City Council may be on its traditional early-July “summer break,” but Councilman Garrett Dennis isn’t even taking a pause.

Dennis, along with political consultant Dwight Brisbane and others, will host a community discussion Tuesday evening with an eye to “stop the murders.”

The event kicks off at Edward Waters College’s Milne Auditorium at 6:00 p.m.

Dennis’ Council district, which encompasses areas ranging from Murray Hill to New Town, deals with violent crime on par with almost any area in the city in some parts.

However, there are some who believe Dennis’ ultimate goal is moving beyond Council toward a mayoral run as soon as 2019.

Dennis, a Democrat, has said repeatedly that Lenny Curry, a Republican, will be a one-term mayor.

If Dennis does run, he will face opprobrium from one already-filed candidate, activist Connell Crooms.

“Several people approached me … and had complaints about the media pushing Garrett Dennis to run for Mayor,” Crooms said.

“I would welcome a debate (in fact I relish it) with Garrett Dennis and Lenny Curry because I more than either one having been here before either one were in office and understand it’s about the People. The contradictions of Dennis and Curry will expose itself, and there are MANY,” Crooms added.

Dennis has yet, as of the time of this writing, to express an opinion on Crooms’ remarks.

In HD 16, incumbent Jason Fischer expands money lead over Democratic challenger

In the first three weeks of June, state Rep. Jason Fischer, the incumbent Republican in Mandarin (Jacksonville) House District 16, lengthened his money lead against Democratic challenger Ken Organes.

Neither candidate faces a primary opponent, making the race in 16 a sprint toward November.

Fischer’s political committee, Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville, brought in $21,000; his campaign account received another $8,500.

School choice money, via Step Up for Students founder John Kirtley, comprised $10,000 of the committee’s haul; Florida Power and Light, a company with lobbyists in Jacksonville’s City Hall during the lapsed debate over potential privatization of the city’s utility, ponied up $5,000.

The $8,500 of new money in Fischer’s campaign account came from ten contributors, including long-term care apothecary Senior Care Pharmacy, the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association, and the Southeast Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Fischer’s committee had at the time of filing $80,000 on hand; his campaign account had another $93,000.

Organes, meanwhile, raised $6,484, pushing his campaign account over $20,000 on hand.

Among Organes’ backers: former CSX CEO Michael Ward, notable as Organes retired from the Jacksonville railroad, former State Attorney candidate Jay Plotkin, and the local Sheet Metal Workers.

State political candidates and committees face a deadline to file reports showing finance activity through June 30.

What to watch for in July in Jacksonville politics

The Jacksonville City Council begins its summer break (July 2 — 13). This is advantageous: It allows them to order more plaques and picture frames for proclamations, and allows some time to plan more creative escapes from the dreaded Sunshine Law.

The schedule has a lull, but that doesn’t mean things are getting dull. What follows: some political phenomena to watch in Dirty Duval in that dread interregnum between July 4 and the beginning of Jaguars’ preseason.

New Budget July 23: Mayor Lenny Curry’s budget presentation to July 23, as City Council President Aaron Bowman will be traveling the week before, and the late reveal will require serious budget meetings by the Finance committee that may impact Council members’ Labor Day travel plans.

That’s the bad news. The good news is, if the capital improvement budget is any indication, there will be lots to run on and little to grouse about.

As the Florida Times-Union reported, a draft CIP has $189 million in projects and includes such big-ticket items as beginning to tear down the Hart Bridge ramps and $20 million for U.F. Health.

This is up from a CIP that was close to $100 million in the last budget, and $78 million before that.

Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa said a couple of years ago the city could use a $400 million capital budget. What is clear: this election year budget uses budget relief from pension reform and still-cheap-for-now borrowing to attempt to make a dent in Jacksonville’s capital needs.

More murders? More problems: A narrative persists in Jacksonville that the public safety rhetoric that Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams ran on has not led to a reduction in the murder rate.

Even though both first-term Republicans are candidates with a real cash advantage, this could be a problem in the quickly-approaching 2019 campaign.

The 4th of July through Labor Day is a time that historically is conducive to murders, including but not limited to the turf war variety by competing gangs. If there are headline-grabbing weekends, it will be exploitable by those challenging incumbents.

Mayor’s race moves: Will Anna Brosche file once she finishes her vacation? Will Garrett Dennis?

Brosche and Dennis seem to be testing the waters. Brosche has said as much to media numerous times. Dennis, meanwhile, has said repeatedly that Lenny Curry will be a one-term mayor.

I’ve said this on electronic media, and I’ll type it here: Dennis and Brosche, whether they run against Curry or run for re-election, will have oppo against them shopped.

Tim Baker does not play around.

Curry is well-positioned with Chamber Republicans for his re-election. It remains to be seen how he will bring the cultural conservatives, piqued over the non-veto of the Human Rights Ordinance expansion to protect LGBT people, back in the fold.

Curry did visit the Duval Republican Party recently, a sign that he’s going to try to shore up his right flank. But expect a lot of folks to stay home. Both from knocking on doors and voting.

What’s clear is that he has problems with a number of different groups. How many people who voted for Alvin Brown in 2015 are lined up for Lenny in 2019? It’s hard to see this one being a coronation like the re-elections of John Delaney and John Peyton.

However, there are strategies to muddle the field. One such strategy that forces friendly to Curry can use, especially to keep Dennis/Brosche in check: find a way to build up activist Connell Crooms.

Crooms likely won’t have the capital to market his campaign beyond the social media space, but he made it clear last week that he is ready to counter-message Dennis.

“Several people approached me … and had complaints about the media pushing Garrett Dennis to run for Mayor. Local Democrat leaders have long been upset that I won’t run under their party banner. I’ll say this, I don’t care and I would welcome a debate (in fact I relish it) with Garrett Dennis and Lenny Curry because I more than either one having been here before either one were in office and understand it’s about the People. The contradictions of Dennis and Curry will expose itself, and there are MANY.”

If you are Lenny Curry (and if you’re him, you’re probably watching Good Morning Football on NFL Network instead of reading this), you want Crooms to get some traction. Find a way to make him a vessel for all the oppo that undermines Dennis’ (or Brosche’s) bona fides. Find a way to get money to him, even through a dizzying maze of Eric Robinson political committees. Impose false purity tests via proxy on the left, and stay in the center-right lane.

And insist that, no matter how marginal an opponent is, said opponent is in the debates. You’re on TV as often as you want. Your opponents, like Eminem in “Lose Yourself,” get one shot, one opportunity to seize everything they ever wanted.

And they likely don’t have the campaign guidance to know how to exploit it, creating one of those “mom’s spaghetti” moments the fortysomething rapper lionized in that hit.

The goal: 50.01 percent in March. With the best polling and messaging operation in the area, and a bunch of late-starting campaigns in opposition, there is a way to create a demolition derby in the field even before the first debate.

Al against Al: City business may be in a lull, but the titanic battle for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 5th Congressional District continues.

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown scored arguably the biggest individual endorsement of the campaign season, via Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan last week.

Word from a Khan confidant: Congressman Al Lawson didn’t even try when it came to building a relationship with Khan over two years. Whether that’s true or not is less important than the fact that it’s Khan’s perception. He owns the town. And every politician is little more than a glorified keyholder.

Perception, including nationally, is that Lawson is vulnerable. Roll Call lists Lawson as a potential Democrat who could go down in the August primary, in the wake of Rep. Joe Crowley’s defeat in NYC.

The Roll Call analysis elides certain details, among them, being that Brown is, despite messaging on Lawson’s purported softness on gun control and non-revulsion by President Donald Trump, not some progressive reformer, but a fairly conservative Democrat.

Another elided detail: the Jacksonville Vs Tallahassee dynamic of this race. Locals aren’t especially excited about Alvin Brown, but the “this is a Jacksonville seat” belief was never shaken, even after Corrine Brown lost to Lawson in 2016.

New Councilors: We know that by the time the Jacksonville City Council reconvenes that there could/should be new Councilors. But who?

Weeks into the application process, three Republicans jumped in who have run, and lost, before.

Terrance Freeman, who finished second in a five-man primary in the Southside’s HD 12 is one. Rev. Mark Griffin, who lost a surprisingly competitive race in the HD 13 general election, a second. And Chris Whitfield, thumped in the general election in HD 14, is the third.

Scott very easily could pick two Republicans to replace indicted/suspended Democrats Katrina and Reggie Brown.

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