One of two things could happen this weekend.
The Jacksonville Jaguars can shock the world Sunday and beat the New England Patriots.
Or the convergence of Tom Brady, home-field advantage, and the referees can create a more predictable outcome.
We will see soon enough.
The question that many outside of the 904 may be asking: have we reached Peak Jaguar?
And Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum bet a case of beer with a Massachusetts politician on the game outcome; both of them running for Governor of their respective states.
And more fuel for the hype machine: Vice calling the Jaguars “America’s Team.”
“When you throw in your lot with the Patriots, you do so with celebrity fans like [Donald] Trump and Mark Wahlberg; when you get behind the Jaguars, you stand with … um … remember the woman that growled into the camera that time? Her. Who represents your ideal America more? Two wannabe tough guys that think they could have prevented 9/11? Or Roberta, a homeless woman who loved the Jaguars unconditionally through their darkest times?”
It’s hard to bet against the Patriots — the talent level, the refs, the coaching.
But it’s easy to cheer against them.
Jacksonville is in a unique position this week — able to shock the world and stymie a dynasty.
Feels good, right?
Two more years for John Rutherford, Al Lawson?
Reps. Rutherford and Lawson confirmed to Florida Politics plans to run for re-election in Florida’s 4th Congressional District.
“It is a tremendous honor to serve my fellow Northeast Floridians in Congress,” Rutherford asserted, “and I am proud of all our hard work over the last year fighting for jobs, veterans, a renewed military and secure borders.”
“But a great deal of work remains ahead,” Rutherford added, “and I look forward to seeking re-election to continue this work on behalf of the fine people I am so humbled to serve.”
This confirmation is a prelude to a formal announcement later in the election cycle.
There were those in Northeast Florida Republican circles who speculated that Rutherford would stand down, setting off decision-making for local Republicans — incumbents in other offices and otherwise — who might seek to replicate the costly and occasionally fractious 2016 primary.
However, Rutherford has never given any indication that he wouldn’t run to serve at least one more term. And now it is clear that any shaking of the #jaxpol snow globe will wait until at least 2020.
Rutherford faces a clear path to re-election in what Congressional Quarterly calls a solidly Republican district.
Lawson’s district is solidly Democratic; the most significant challenge he may face — a primary battle from former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.
Lawson defends FISA vote
A controversial national security bill cleared the U.S. House last week, with Lawson joining the Republican majority in affirming governmental surveillance rights.
Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows data monitoring via transnational fiber optic cables. While foreign nationals are the target, Americans are subject to surveillance.
The ACLU called it a “dangerous bill.” Lawson sees it differently.
“With today’s increasing reliance on advanced technology, threats present themselves in forms that have never been encountered and are becoming increasingly harder to detect. It is important that we provide law enforcement and national security agencies with the appropriate tools needed to secure the safety of all Americans,” Lawson asserted.
“While I agree there should be stronger warrant provisions protecting the rights of our citizens,” Lawson continued, “this program equips our agencies to defend the nation against domestic and international terrorism threats.”
“Voting ‘yes’ on this bill does not give a free pass for the National Security Agency, or any law enforcement agency, to spy on Americans, and the actions of NSA under FISA should be reviewed when necessary,” Lawson maintained.
“Though some of my colleagues and I were split on this legislation,” Lawson added, “I voted to provide our law enforcement and intelligence communities with the necessary resources that will ensure the greater safety of our country.”
Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine made his way to Jacksonville as part of his campaign for Governor. And the story ended up being about Airbnb, per the Miami Herald.
Levine — who, per the Herald, went hard after Airbnb owners — had his Jacksonville event at an Airbnb property.
When asked about it by Herald reporters, Levine’s response was interesting.
“Maybe that’s what Airbnb wants you to think,” Levine said as his bus headed from Jacksonville to Tallahassee.
Levine’s spokesman clarified his position, saying that Levine’s local opposition to Airbnb was about “local control.”
Ron DeSantis to White House
Rep. DeSantis is Trump’s choice for Florida Governor — nettling Adam Putnam, who has run to the right as much as possible for months in the hopes of keeping the president’s supporters in play.
Trump reminded Florida voters of his choice — however subtly — this week, inviting a DeSantis to the White House for a women’s forum, via the Miami Herald.
Casey Black DeSantis, the congressman’s wife, was on hand — along with Attorney General Pam Bondi.
Mrs. DeSantis, of course, has been a fixture on Jacksonville television — her current slot is hosting the infotainment-heavy First Coast Living on weekday afternoons.
Modest December fundraising for Northeast Florida Senators
Northeast Florida tate Senators Audrey Gibson, Aaron Bean, and Travis Hutson face no serious opposition; however, fundraising continued apace in December.
Gibson, who may face a 2018 primary battle from Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown, brought in $12,750 in December off 16 checks — half of them from consultants and political organizations.
Bean, unopposed this year, topped $90,000 on hand after raising $18,250 in December through 25 checks from industries and lobbyists. He spent over $12,000, much of it on political consultants, which would seem curious given that he is a safe Senator in a safe seat.
Bean brought in $19,000 more via his Florida Conservative Alliance political committee, which now has $115,000 on hand.
Sen. Travis Hutson, who won’t face voters until 2020, raised $2,000 in hard money in December; this gives him $38,000 in hard money.
His Sunshine State Conservatives political committee raised nothing and has $90,000 on hand, after $1,000 contributions to the campaigns of Reps. Keith Perry and Debbie Mayfield, and $6,000 to the Responsible Leadership political committee.
Hutson is locked in a sub rosa race for the 2022 Senate presidency with Dana Young. Young has a sizable financial advantage, which may or may not prove dispositive.
House incumbents keep trucking; HD 15 still a race
In Northeast Florida for state House races, unopposed incumbents kept trucking in December, while the race for HD 15 remained competitive in fundraising.
HD 11: Incumbent Cord Byrd, a Jacksonville Beach Republican, brought in $12,400 to push him to $29,700 cash on hand. Among the donors backing the unopposed lawyer: The Geo Group.
HD 12: Incumbent Republican Clay Yarborough was just one more check away from $100,000 cash on hand. A $9,000 December — driven by insurance, CPA, and restaurant and lodging committee checks — brought the Southside Jacksonville conservative over $99,000.
Democrat Tim Yost raised nothing in December and has $1,800 on hand.
HD 13: Unopposed Democratic incumbent Tracie Davis brought in $7,000 in December, with beer wholesalers and firefighter unions standing out. Davis has raised $35,715 and reported no spending thus far in her campaign.
HD 14: Unopposed Democratic incumbent Kim Daniels raised $4,000 in December; $2,000 was from the Fraternal Order of Police, and $1,000 came from beer wholesalers to Daniels, whose day job is as a charismatic evangelist.
HD 15: Republican Wyman Duggan, a Jacksonville lawyer seeking to replace departing Jay Fant in House District 15, scored big in December on two fronts.
Duggan finally hit six figures in fundraising, reporting $10,124 of new December money, which pushed him up to $103,674 raised (and over $92,000 on hand).
Close behind: presumptive Democratic nominee Tracye Polson. Polson closed December with $69,642 cash on hand: she has raised $89,345 in hard money and an additional $15,665 in the account of her political committee, Better Jacksonville.
HD 16: Unopposed Republican incumbent Jason Fischer brought in $4,500 of hard money in December; he closed 2018 with over $76,000 in his campaign account. $5,000 of new money into his Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville committee left that tally near $40,000.
HD 17: Down in St. Johns County, Republican incumbent Cyndi Stevenson brought in $10,481; she closed the year with just over $80,000 on hand.
HD 18: Safe incumbent Travis Cummings, a Clay County Republican, brought in $16,000, closing 2018 with $80,000 on hand.
December saw some significant numbers for state and local candidates alike.
December fundraising for 2019 Jacksonville City Council candidates saw at-large Group 4 Republican Matt Carlucci leading the pack: $200,000 raised — with nearly $189,000 of that on hand — after $18,374 in December.
In City Council District 5, Republican LeAnna Cumber has raised $145,000; $142,000 on hand.
Three other Republicans — AL-2’s Ron Salem, District 13’s Rory Diamond, and District 14’s Randy DeFoor — are likewise over the $100,000 threshold. Only Salem faces competition as of yet.
Amazon says no
This week, Amazon narrowed down options for its HQ2 site selection to 20 cities. Jacksonville is not among them.
“We expect sometime before the end of the first quarter, maybe that Amazon will come out and say, ‘OK, we’ve done all our research, and we’ve narrowed it down to X number of cities.’ We don’t know how many those will be,” Bowman told a business group earlier.
Initially, 238 cities were in the running.
We covered the pitch weeks back, in which Jacksonville proclaimed itself to be “Amazon-centric,” with an ambitious futuristic vision for a future Amazon campus at the Shipyards property.
Miami is the only Florida city in the running; the Shipyards, meanwhile, will likely find another purpose.
Sheriff Mike Williams draws 2019 opponent
It looks like a competitive-ish 2019 race for Jacksonville Sheriff is imminent; incumbent Republican Williams will be challenged by Tony Cummings, a reform-minded Democrat.
Cummings got just 6 percent in a seven-way vote in 2015, so he definitely has room to increase his turnout.
His platform: stopping violent crime; the murder rate has continued to spike throughout the Williams era, with 148 murders last year.
His most prominent challenge: getting the money right.
After just two months in the race, Williams has amassed $138,800 in hard money and has another $192,000 in his political committee.
There is no way Cummings approaches those numbers anytime soon. And there is plenty more money for the incumbent out there.
Power switch not subject to popular vote
The people don’t have the ability to decide on whether or not Jacksonville’s JEA utility can be sold off, per the city’s general counsel.
The Florida Times-Union reports that General Counsel Jason Gabriel said: “It’s a process that would result in the City Council and mayor ultimately making that decision.”
Council President Anna Brosche has tasked the City Council auditor with a report detailing what can be gained from privatization.
Two other reports have been done on this front since 2007; thus far, they have not convinced Council to move toward this.
Challengers line up against Katrina Brown
How vulnerable is Jacksonville City Councilwoman Brown, 14 months out from the first election? Six people already filed to replace her (Brown has not filed for re-election yet).
And two of them were in just the last week and a half.
Last week, community activist Tameka Gaines Holly added her name to the race. A Leadership Jacksonville graduate with an aversion to taking strong positions on issues, she will try to win the seat by taking the high road.
This week, former Soil and Water Commissioner Albert Wilcox filed.
Wilcox, current Teacher of the Year at a local elementary school, cited Brown’s “problems” as creating a “void in leadership.” [Among those problems: a city lawsuit against her family business, which is now on its way to resolution; and a recent beef with the local police union about racial profiling].
Wilcox, a former legislative assistant for Sen. Betty Holzendorf, also has interned for then-Councilman Terry Fields and former Rep. Corrine Brown.
Holly and Wilcox have competition. Diallo Sekou–Seabrooks, Michael Sell, Brandon Byers, and Joenetta Dixon are all in the race, almost ensuring a May runoff will decide this.
The only other incumbent facing a challenge: Katrina Brown’s ally, District 7 Democrat Reggie Gaffney, who has four opponents.
Beyond those races, the other crowded race — five entrants and counting — is in District 10, where five people are in to face termed-out Reggie Brown.
Project Volt moves forward
‘Project Volt,’ an economic development deal moved Wednesday through a Jacksonville City Council panel, could potentially juice the local economy — bringing hundreds of solar jobs into the area, and allowing Jacksonville to enter a new industry that will grow in the coming years.
The unnamed company, which makes solar panels at eight locations around the world, is new to America: per the fact sheet, Jacksonville would serve as the company’s American headquarters.
And at least 800 jobs would be created and retained for at least four years locally — and those jobs would be on the Northside and Westside, economically challenged areas that could use employment diversification. While 100-150 people would come to get things started, city officials expect that most permanent hires would either move here from elsewhere or be of local origination.
Eight of the top 10 solar panel manufacturers in the world are in Asia, which means chances are very good that this would be the American outpost for a Chinese or Korean company.
It would occupy two buildings on the Westside: a manufacturing plant at the Cecil Commerce Center and an assembly and distribution facility on Faye Road. And they would put their money where their incentive pitch is, dropping $153 million into real estate upgrades and another $275 million into equipment (imported from Germany) in what is called “project investments.”
District hurdle cleared
Peter Rummell is one of the leaders of Jacksonville’s political donor set, and for the second straight week, he got news from a Jacksonville board regarding his District project.
The news was different from that coming out of last week’s Downtown Investment Authority meeting, which had the city of Jacksonville buying the land from JEA for the private development.
That proved controversial to City Council. The latest changes — a return to earlier expectations and terms — remove that controversy.
On Tuesday, the JEA Board approved a plan for Elements, the development company of Rummell and Michael Munz, to purchase the former Southside Generator Plant from the utility for $18.6 million.
Closing would be in July.
That was the deal before the DIA meeting last week.
The city may also invest over $26 million into infrastructure, though that’s still to be determined.
Munz explained the decision to remove the step that had the city purchase the land from JEA as a practical one, as the city component made the deal “more complicated than it should be.”
There was much acrimony last week from Rummell toward Council members. Apparently, it was only theater.
Corrine Brown clickbait
Tongues wagged in the comment thread set when the Florida Times-Union reported that Brown spoke at a Martin Luther King Jr. event Monday.
But no one should have been surprised.
Dr. King’s son — Martin Luther King III — has been a friend of Brown’s for decades, often appearing with her at political events.
During what passed for her 2016 re-election campaign, Brown brought King in as a special guest.
King showed up for a court hearing in 2017 with Brown, and held another fundraiser for her then.
Notable: King spent the day honoring his father making news of his own, comparing Trump to former to Alabama Gov. George Wallace, a well-known segregationist.
University of North Florida police embracing body cameras
To increase student safety, the University of North Florida police department will equip all officers with body cameras. A $29,000 grant, plus a similar amount from the college, will be used to help pay for the program.
“There’s a lot of measures that go into making me feel safe here on campus,” UNF student Hannah Melendez told Action News Jax.
A recent overview of reported campus crimes in 2016 shows 5 rapes, 3 burglaries, 2 aggravated assaults and 5 motor vehicle thefts. UNF officials hope the body cameras will help cut those numbers down.
While the department already has about a half-dozen body cameras, officers say that isn’t enough.
UNF will hold a student feedback session on the body camera policy Friday, March 2, from 11 a.m. to noon.
First Jacksonville Zoo manatee critical care patient released
The Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens’ Manatee Critical Care Center released the first manatee patient into her new Florida home this week, reports News 4 Jax.
Carolina the manatee arrived at the Center Nov. 28, one of more than 10 of the sea mammals relocated from cold waters in South Carolina to warmer waters of Florida. Carolina, rescued from Charleston, South Carolina, was the first critical care patient at the Zoo’s facility. She was part of a larger operation to save those manatees that wandered into the Cooper River as temperatures quickly dropped in November.
Showing symptoms of cold stress, rescuers decided to wait before releasing Carolina. She spent six weeks in rehabilitation, before her release with another manatee rescued from Brevard County.
“We helped give her some tube feedings and antibiotics and pain medications and made sure she was eating well and that her systems were working right,” said Zoo veterinarian Meredith Persky. “That’s how we were able to successfully release her.”