Wishful thinking predicates much of election season. Aspirational ads for Democrats; appeals targeting nonexistent issues (hello, “sanctuary cities”) for Republicans.
Ultimately, these moves — whether pulled by a winning or losing campaign — are strategic. How a Republican is to eliminate sanctuary cities or how a Democrat is by force of will to create Medicare for All or legalize cannabis is left to the voters’ imaginations.
From the embryonic, conceptual phases of campaigns, where voters can convince themselves that radical shifts can happen, thinking evolves eventually. Pretenders fall off. People start thinking strategically about their vote. And, in the cases of early front-runners, we often see how shallow that support is once the game changes.
As you will see below, there’s not a lot of drama in certain races. We have a good sense of who will win area Congressional primaries. Less of a good sense as to who will win a couple of state House races.
As is the case every year, none of this is too surprising. Polls are transparent. Campaign finance is easy enough to figure out. And most reading this can read candidates and their chances pretty well also.
Levine in Jax
Jacksonville was the fourth and final stop on Philip Levine‘s barnstorming tour of local early voting locations Monday.
This tour happens as tensions have boiled over between Levine and another Democratic contender, Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene.
As the two work to drive up each other’s negatives, polls show that U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham holds an advantage.
Levine was not especially dismayed by the turn the campaign has taken.
“The bottom line is this,” Levine said. “I think the people deserve to know what someone’s track record is” vis a vis Trump.
Levine estimated having been “on television … a hundred, two hundred times … during the 2016 election, warning America that this guy would be a terrible president.”
“I think that when someone pretends [he’s] fighting them while being at his country club by the ocean — we call it Kremlin-by-the-Sea — and passing the Grey Poupon across the table and thinks that’s fighting Donald Trump,” Levine added, “the people have a right to know.”
“You don’t want Donald Trump’s friend — you want who Donald Trump fears,” Levine said. “The people of Florida should understand who is who, and that’s why we’re doing it.”
Curry endorses DeSantis
According to WJCT, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said he and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis align on prominent issues — being tough on crime and investing in youth — and they both come from similar working-class backgrounds and want others to have the same opportunities.
“Ron’s a good conservative,” Curry told reporters. “I’ve been about disrupting the status quo locally, and I think that that’s what’s got to happen everywhere, and Ron’s going to disrupt the status quo as the governor of the state of Florida and I’m supporting him, voting for him and encouraging folks to get out and vote in the primary.”
DeSantis called Curry “innovative.”
“What he’s done here is showing that you got to be bold, you just got to keep pushing,” he said. “And that’s obviously what I would want to do as governor.”
Tale of two districts
For nearly three decades, two congressional districts split the city of Jacksonville.
One of them, what is now Florida’s 4th Congressional District, was represented for years by reliable — and by today’s standard, moderate — Republicans Tillie Fowler and Ander Crenshaw.
The other district, currently the 5th Congressional District, was Democrat Corrine Brown‘s sinecure. The maps on that district changed periodically, seemingly always under legal challenge, a process that ended in 2016 with Brown’s district being moved from its south/southwest jog toward the Orlando area to a straight east-west configuration.
Jacksonville, as of yet, doesn’t have the population to house two districts within Duval County — and given the cartographical challenges of minority access districts, that may not be the case after the next apportionment either.
However, a look at book closing data for CD 4 and CD 5 reveals two districts that ultimately will be decided in primary elections, proving that some things really don’t change in the 904.
Brown going down
A survey of 445 likely Democratic primary voters shows Lawson with 50 percent of the vote, with opponent Alvin Brown at 28 percent. The balance of voters are undecided. The margin of error is 4.6 percent.
Lawson has strong leads of 15 percent and up among all surveyed demographics with appreciable data: whites and blacks, men and women, and every age cohort.
Among those who already voted, Lawson is up 52-42; among those yet to vote, Lawson’s lead balloons to 49-26.
Despite the negative messaging in this race in recent weeks against Lawson, the incumbent has not seen his favorable ratings damaged. Fifty-four percent of Democrats in the district regard him favorably, giving him a +36 rating (Brown, with 36 percent of Democrats regarding him favorably, is at +16).
The winner of this race will face Republican Virginia Fuller, a first-time candidate without an appreciable campaign infrastructure.
Notable: the Florida Times-Union also endorsed Lawson this week, another sign this is over.
Last dance for Waltz foes
A new survey conducted by St. Pete Polls shows Republican Michael Waltz pulling ahead of primary opponents John Ward and Fred Costello in the race to succeed DeSantis in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.
The new poll commissioned for Florida Politics asked likely primary voters who they would support if the election were today. Waltz, a St. Augustine Army veteran, would take 40 percent of the vote, results show. Ward, a Palm Coast Navy veteran, would win 21 percent, while former Ormond Beach state Rep. Costello would get 16 percent. Another 23 percent of those polled remain undecided.
The poll, taken Aug. 10, shows an even more pronounced lead for Waltz among voters who already cast their ballot in the race. Waltz won support from 41 percent of those polled. Interestingly, Costello outperformed Ward among those eager voters, winning 22 percent to Ward’s 21 percent.
More than 23 percent of those surveyed already voted in the Republican primary.
The poll shows significant movement from a survey by St. Pete Polls conducted July 18. Then, the three Republicans appeared to be in a dead heat, with Costello just over 21 percent, Ward just under 21 percent and Waltz at 20.
HD 14, 15 still in doubt
Both the Democratic primary in House District 14 and the Republican race in HD 15 offer a soupçon of drama as early voting continues.
In HD 14’s Democratic two-way, challenger Paula Wright finally has cash on hand lead over incumbent Kim Daniels.
Wright has continued to raise money. Between July 28 and Aug. 3, the last dates for which campaign finance numbers are available, Wright raised $7,675, with cash from Realtors, AFSCME, and a sheet metal local union contributing.
Wright has just over $14,000 on hand (more than Daniels), and according to her campaign finance report, will spend a lot of that money on canvassers (the majority of the nearly $2,800 spent between July 27 and Aug. 3 went for such purposes).
Wright has some advantages. A current chair of the Duval County School Board, she is no political neophyte. And she’s backed by Democratic elected officials, including Sen. Audrey Gibson, state Rep. Tracie Davis, and Councilman Garrett Dennis.
Daniels, who has had her share of scandals and apostasies from Democratic orthodoxy, is seen as beatable by those close to Wright.
In HD 15, meanwhile, the Republican side of the ledger is where the action is, with lobbyist Wyman Duggan trying to close the deal against primary opponents Joseph Hogan and Mark Zeigler.
Duggan has spent more than $85,000 on television in July. He continues to raise money ($10,000 between July 27 and Aug. 3, including donations from pharmaceutical and Realtor trade group political committees) and has roughly $75,000 between hard money and committee money as he heads into the stretch run.
Public polling of this race has yet to surface. However, a recent mailer from Duggan’s political committee slammed Hogan for his support for former Jacksonville Mayor Brown in the 2015 race against current Republican incumbent Curry.
Hogan “stands with anti-Trump progressives,” the mailer charges, as Hogan said Jacksonville was “better off” with Brown.
The Duggan bet seems to be that district voters need reminding of that particular deviation from doctrine.
Justices issued an order Thursday accepting the case and scheduled arguments Oct. 2. But the order showed a divided court, with Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, Peggy Quince and Jorge Labarga backing the decision to take up the case and Chief Justice Charles Canady and justices Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson opposed.
The case stems from the upcoming retirement of Judge Robert Foster in the 4th Judicial Circuit, which is made up of Duval, Clay, and Nassau counties. Foster was expected to leave office Jan. 7, 2019, which would be the end of his term, because of mandatory retirement age.
But on April 2, Foster sent a letter to Scott making the retirement effective Dec. 31, four business days ahead of schedule.
The Scott administration argues — and the 1st District Court of Appeal agreed — that the governor’s acceptance of a judicial resignation before the start of an election-qualifying period creates a vacancy that should be filled by appointment, rather than election.
If Foster retired Jan. 7, the post would be filled by election. Jacksonville lawyer David Trotti filed the legal challenge arguing that the opening should be filled in this year’s elections. Trotti tried this spring to qualify to run for the judicial spot but was denied. The Supreme Court arguments will come about a month before the Nov. 6 general election but after ballots are printed.
Hogan on blast
Early voting is allowed on college campuses — but Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan isn’t having it at the University of North Florida.
Via Folio Weekly, Megan Newsome — a UNF student who was a plaintiff in the lawsuit intended to secure that access for college students — is not happy.
“Students have been fighting for this change for years, and now that the option is finally on the table, officials in Alachua and Hillsborough counties have already taken steps to make early voting on UF and USF campuses a reality. Leon County’s Supervisor of Elections has remained open to the possibility, too. But Hogan will not even “entertain the option” because it would be “just too darn difficult,” Newsome writes.
“The closest early voting location to UNF’s campus is over 3 miles away,” Newsome notes.
No, thank you
DeSantis may want Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams to be his Lieutenant Governor.
But it’s not happening, Williams told WJXT this week.
Williams will not accept the offer, “slamming the door” on the bid.
“As long as the people of Jacksonville want me to serve them, I will honor that trust,” Williams said.
Williams, a candidate for re-election in 2019, faces nominal competition.
Between his campaign and committee accounts, Williams raised just $1,450 in July. He is left with roughly $440,000 on hand.
Williams is not in any appreciable danger at the ballot box. His sole opponent, Democrat Tony Cummings, has $700 on hand.
Mayfield seeks audit of JEA nuclear costs
State Sen. Debbie Mayfield is calling the Florida Legislature’s auditing and accountability office to look into JEA involvement an expensive nuclear power project — blasting it as an “alarming example” of “potential mismanagement” at the city-owned utility.
Nate Monroe of the Florida Times-Union reports that JEA’s involvement in the Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion project served as a backdrop for a contentious debate at City Hall over the privatization of JEA.
JEA’s share of Vogtle — as much as $4 billion over 20 years — is raising alarm bells with both city officials and credit-rating analysts.
While JEA is telling Plant Vogtle co-owners to cancel the project, Monroe noted that utility officials are “actively searching for ways to get out of the contract it has with the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, one of the co-owners.”
Mayfield represents Senate District 17, which covers Brevard and Indian River counties — about 150 miles south of Jacksonville. The Mayfield Republican is requesting the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability Office to complete a full examination of JEA’s contract with MEAG. She also wants a report submitted to the House and Senate leadership by Feb. 1.
“Citizens from the community have expressed concern over recent events and published reports that suggest serious issues surrounding the spending and operation decisions of the JEA,” Mayfield wrote to auditors this week.
JEA interim CEO Aaron Zahn told reporters he welcomed the review but disagreed that the decision to invest in Vogtle was evidence of mismanagement.
“JEA has just been taken for a ride,” Zahn said.
Khan ready to build
Jaguars owner Shad Khan, according to the Jacksonville Daily Record, is prepared to get moving on big projects.
The paper writes: “The plan is to commence construction on a parking structure, entertainment complex, hotel, office tower and residential building at the same time so that most of the construction occurs during the NFL offseason.”
“Based on what we talked about today, I’d say any deal would need to be in place by the end of the year to hit that mark,” said Jags President Mark Lamping.
“Shad is anxious to get moving on these projects because he’s a big believer in momentum,” Lamping said. “It’s one of the hardest things to get, it’s one of the easiest things to lose.”
Lamping added that movement on development at the Shipyards and Metropolitan Park wouldn’t happen until the Hart Bridge offramps go down.
Should any city incentives be required, Khan is well-positioned as both Curry’s most prominent supporter and a donor in most Council races already.
Social Grounds gets props
At this week’s Cabinet meeting, Gov. Rick Scott recognized Jacksonville’s veteran-owned Social Grounds Coffee Company with the Governor’s Business Ambassador Award.
Scott said, “I’m proud to recognize Social Grounds Coffee Company with the Business Ambassador Award today. Florida is the most veteran-friendly state in the nation, and it’s great to see veteran-owned companies succeed in Florida.”
Social Grounds Owner and Marine Corps veteran Jason Kelloway said, “I am truly honored to receive the Business Ambassador Award from Governor Scott on behalf of the entire team at Social Grounds. We love our city and will continue to use our coffee to help change lives and make a difference in our community.”
In July, the release from Scott’s office notes, the Governor visited Kuwait and took coffee from Social Grounds to serve to the troops.
Ramsey, Fowler stay home as Jags visit Minnesota
The Jaguars are in Minnesota practicing with the Vikings before getting together in the second preseason game on Saturday. They are there minus two players.
Both cornerback Jalen Ramsey and defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. are back in Jacksonville serving a one-week suspension. Fowler’s banishment came after two altercations with teammates, the most heated between the former Florida Gator and fellow defensive end Yannick Ngakoue.
Ramsey, the All-Pro from Florida State, stuck up for his one-time rival by going after a reporter who was recording Fowler’s altercation with Ngakoue. After Philip Heilman of the Florida Times-Union reported on the incident, Ramsey tweeted, among other things “if y’all want war, we got sum for y’all.”
With team management, let alone the media relations department, working to generate positive coverage of a young, up-and-coming team, good relations with the local media is a priority. Ramsey’s actions, as well as Fowler’s, were determined to be “a violation of team rules,” prompting the suspensions.
Ramsey said his coaches had urged him to speak his mind. He recalled a recent meeting where coaches said “Yo, Jalen, we need you to say this,” and “come Thursday, we need you to say this on the media.”
This is probably true, but it is also likely the coaches never urged him to attack the media on Twitter. On the other hand, coaches can smile broadly when Ramsey’s incessant trash talking on the field leads opponents to take silly penalties.
The altercation last year with Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green, which led to Green body slamming Ramsey on the field, is a prime example.
When Ramsey and Fowler return to practice Monday, hopefully, the messages will have been delivered.