We’ve reached the point in the primary cycle where, by now, campaign groundwork and infrastructure should be well underway.
Bold is offering evidence of that proposition.
Smart candidates are bringing out the big endorsements, and less seasoned candidates making career-killing gaffes.
The operatives are talking. If our Jacksonville correspondent isn’t typing, odds are good he is fielding a call from one or another.
Sometimes, what they say may even be true.
For those who have been reading Florida Politics in the Jacksonville market since 2014, what’s clear is that we much of the work — explaining why someone is winning (or losing).
Moments have predictive value. Trends emerge from specific phenomena. And the savvy players, whether donors, consultants, pols or endorsers are making rational transactional decisions.
Some like to sentimentalize politics. But they are soon disappointed when it is revealed (yet again) that the business is a discipline — and well-organized people, and operations, tend to do the best business.
Scott trumpets yet another record low crime rate
Tuesday morning, Gov. Rick Scott was in Jacksonville with what his office called a “major announcement” on “Florida’s safe communities” and the 2017 FDLE Crime Report.
Crime rates have decreased during the Scott era (from a 40 year low to a 46 year low and now, a 47 year low), and his trumpeting of the statistical decreases have become a yearly tradition, which allows the outgoing Governor and current Senate candidate to spotlight budget allocations for public safety measures.
“This year, our budget invested more than $5.2 billion in public safety, a more than $300 million increase over last year,” Scott said. “This investment includes $22.8 million to pay increases for state sworn law enforcement officers, which includes the 5 percent raise I signed last year.”
Scott also trumpeted a 10 percent raise for juvenile probation officers and increased funding for prevention programs for at-risk youth.
“As our economy continues to grow,” Scott said, “we continue to invest more money in law enforcement. These investments are clearly working. Crime in our state is at a 47-year low.”
“The crime rate dropped by 6 percent in 2017, including a reduction in violent crime of 3 percent,” Scott said.
Scott spotlighted several officers who died since mid-April, including Officer Lance Whitaker of Jacksonville, asking for a moment of silence in commemoration.
Scott was accompanied by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams, who spotlighted local efforts, including hiring more police officers and a 36 percent decrease in nonfatal shootings in Q1 2018.
Graham returns to Jacksonville
Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Gwen Graham found herself on familiar turf Monday evening, addressing the monthly meeting of the Duval Democratic Party.
In Jacksonville, Graham — once seen as a prohibitive front-runner for the nomination — made at least one “comeback kid” posture, noting that in her 2014 race for Congress, some political reporters bet against her and others said she couldn’t win.
Graham also noted her commitment to progressive ideals in the remarks, including education, public option for health care, and gun control measures, before saying that “these things don’t matter if you can’t win.”
Graham espoused a commitment to the “67 county strategy,” a phrase also used by opponent Philip Levine. While a candidate has to do well in South Florida and the I-4 Corridor, “elections are won or lost north of Orlando.”
And Graham insisted that went beyond just Jacksonville, noting that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton “did well in Duval but got beaten badly west of here,” by way of making the case that the key is to “not get beaten so badly in places where Democrats have lost in the past.”
“Look at the data, and you will see: the reality is you have to do well everywhere,” Graham added. “You can’t write off any part of the state and think there’s a path to victory.”
Curry backs Waltz in CD 6
A major regional endorsement from Mayor Curry went to Mike Waltz Monday in the three-way GOP primary in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.
Curry and Waltz share some of the same political advisers; judging from the quotes of mutual admiration, there is ideological affinity as well.
“Michael Waltz is a leader and a warrior with a servant’s heart,” Curry said.
“From the battlefield to the halls of power, Mike has already demonstrated a deep reverence for the Constitution and a willingness to fight for the conservative values we share. Washington needs people who instead of saying what they want to do will simply get things done. Florida needs more conservative voices in Congress, and that’s why I am proud to endorse and support Michael Waltz for Congress,” Curry asserted.
“Mayor Lenny Curry is a true leader, visionary and champion for real conservative reform,” said Michael Waltz. “He has worked tirelessly to enact a positive conservative agenda with real results for the people of Northeast Florida. I am humbled by Mayor Curry’s support and look forward to working together in the months ahead.”
The GOP race in CD-6, where candidates vie to replace outgoing Rep. Ron DeSantis, has been an interesting one, with Waltz and John Ward both raising serious money for what will be an expensive primary straddling three media markets (Jacksonville, Daytona and Orlando).
Ward: Puerto Ricans shouldn’t vote here
John Ward, a Republican running to succeed DeSantis in CD 6, looks to have made the biggest gaffe of his political career recently.
According to Fox News, Ward asserted that displaced Puerto Ricans shouldn’t be allowed to vote in Florida.
“I don’t think they should be allowed to register to vote,” Ward said, given that “the Democrat Party is really hoping that they can change the voting registers in a lot of counties and districts, and I don’t think they should be allowed to do that,” Ward said at an April forum.
Instead, Ward added that Puerto Ricans “belong” in Puerto Rico.
Per the Orlando Sentinel, likely Democratic nominee Nancy Soderberg blasted the comments:
“Puerto Ricans are citizens of the United States, plain and simple, and every bit as American as John Ward,” Soderberg said in a statement. “Every American citizen, regardless of where they come from, deserve a vote.”
DeSantis — who took issue with Ward filing for the seat before he was officially running for Governor — blasted his would-be replacement via POLITICO, saying the comments were “beyond the pale.”
Gibson investigates ‘problem spa’
Per Action News Jax, Sen. Audrey Gibson investigated a “problem spa” on Jacksonville’s Southside late last week.
When she walked up to the building, Gibson’s reaction: “Who the hell would want to come here for a massage? It’s seedy!”
Gibson and reporter Tenikka Hughes had an interesting dialogue with spa staff, which we include below.
Gibson: “Do you know there’s been illegal activity at this place? Did you know about that?”
Worker: “I don’t know.”
Hughes: “You see, it says sweet, young Asian girls. None of these girls work here?”
Worker: “No, no, no.”
Hughes: “Did you know it was being advertised like this?”
Worker: “I don’t know. That’s the first time I saw.”
Gibson: “Can we come in and see your massage rooms?”
Doubts of Gibson permeate Senate Dem caucus
Two new political committees speak to doubts about the way forward for Senate Democrats, for which Sen. Gibson is Leader-Designate.
This is the “latest, most indelible sign of a growing rift within the caucus and yet the divide may be improving the minority party’s chances of retaking the chamber.”
“In late April, Friends of Kevin Rader PC was established by David Ramba, a prominent Tallahassee lobbyist who administers dozens of political committees on behalf of a broad range of political clients. Also recently formed was Future Democratic Majority PC and, in addition to Rader, involves Sens. Randolph Bracy, Lauren Book from Plantation, Linda Stewart from Orlando, Bobby Powell from West Palm Beach, and Darryl Rouson from St. Petersburg.”
Per one consultant: “It’s about a crisis of confidence in Audrey (Gibson) and a fear of what the caucus might become if Gary Farmer is eventually given the reins.”
Gibson faces a primary challenge from Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown. What’s clear, however, is that the issues around the state are at least worthy of monitoring for the incumbent.
Expect big money for Hutson committee
Sen. Travis Hutson was this week supported at a fundraising reception for his First Coast Business Foundation, and Curry was the special guest at an event heavy on names of prominent politicos, donors and lobbyists.
Event chairs included Marty Fiorentino, former Congressional candidate Hans Tanzler (endorsed by Hutson in 2016), JEA Board member Husein Cumber, Jaguars’ lobbyist and all-around problem solver Paul Harden, and bestbet’s Jamie Shelton.
Among the standout names on the host committee: charter school impresario Gary Chartrand and the Jax Chamber mainstay Daniel Davis.
A similar group of players came together last year for a fundraiser in support of future House Speaker Paul Renner, whose political committee had a $261,000 month because of it.
Hutson is pursuing the Senate presidency in 2022, and fundraisers like this for his political committees will fuel the work to secure support for his bid.
In April, his Sunshine State Conservatives political committee got a boost reflective of similar support from different players.
The committee brought in $155,000 in April, with much of that money coming from other committees.
Firefighters back Polson in HD 15
Democrat Tracye Polson is still waiting to find out which of three Republicans will emerge from the August primary to face her in the House District 15 race.
But she doesn’t have to wait any longer for the endorsement of one of Jacksonville’s most influential public-sector unions.
The Jacksonville Association of Firefighters gave its imprimatur to Polson, meaning that no matter what happens in the GOP battle, she can count on union backing.
“I am humbled to have earned the support of the men and women of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters. This endorsement is particularly meaningful to me. As a licensed mental health professional, I’ve spent many years treating victims of trauma and I know the critical impact first responders have when they arrive on the scene of fire and medical emergencies. District 15 continues to battle the opioid epidemic, having two ZIP codes with the highest rate of overdoses in the city,” said Polson.
“Furthermore, because of the stressors first responders are exposed to every day, they have increased rates of PTSD and suicide. And this impacts their loved ones and our entire community, too. I will be a staunch advocate for them and their families,” Polson added.
The local Fraternal Order of Police had previously endorsed Polson, giving her a public safety sweep.
Bowman, Wilson take Jacksonville City Council helm
The top job starting July 1 in the Jacksonville City Council will go to current Vice President Aaron Bowman, elected President-Designate Tuesday.
There was little surprise: Weeks prior, Bowman had 13 of the 19 councilors pledging support.
Bowman, a VP for the Jacksonville Chamber‘s business recruitment wing JAXUSA Partnership, will represent a break from the chaotic, parlous dynamic between current President Anna Lopez Brosche and Mayor Curry.
Republican Scott Wilson took the VP spot — notable because he entered Tuesday with no pledges and overcame intense lobbying from the head of the Republican Party of Duval County for his opponent, Danny Becton.
Earlier this month, the city filed suit against Councilwoman Katrina Brown, a first-term Democratic member of the Council’s Finance Committee, for breach of guaranty, relative to a defaulted loan of $380,000 to the Browns’ family business, CoWealth LLC. [COJ v Katrina Brown]
CoWealth defaulted on the loan after Jan. 1, 2017, per the filing, which noted that the city is owed over $346,000 in principal, in addition to interest, late charges and so forth.
The city has retained Burr and Forman LLP to represent its interests.
To recap, the city fronted CoWealth $380,000 of loans from the city of Jacksonville and $220,000 of grants in 2011 to build a BBQ sauce plant in Northwest Jacksonville. The grant money was conditional on the company creating 56 permanent jobs, but none were created.
This news is ill-timed for Councilwoman Brown, who has drawn no fewer than seven challengers for her District 8 seat.
Brown will stay on the Council, she said Tuesday, and will continue her run for re-election.
Another one bites the dust
Jacksonville’s latest Inspector General, James Hoffman, took all of six sentences in a terse resignation letter late Friday to end his twelve-month tenure.
Hoffman is the second permanent inspector general to leave the role in recent years, and the second one to last a year or less.
“I would like to thank you for the trust placed in me to lead the Office of Inspector General. The last 12 months have been personally and professionally rewarding. I have enjoyed learning and working in the consolidated government. I have been inspired by the professionals within the Office working tirelessly every day to make our government more effective and efficient. However, for personal and professional reasons, I resign as the Inspector General for the City of Jacksonville,” Hoffman wrote.
The resignation will be effective June 8.
Back in 2016, Thomas Cline left the position, after less than a year. Steve Rohan, a former city lawyer, also served on an interim basis in between the two permanent hires.
It took the Inspector General Selection and Retention Committee roughly that long to secure Hoffman as a permanent replacement.
Jacksonville City Council members, including the president of the body and the body’s chief advocate for an IG position, didn’t see the departure coming.
Land Trust honored for fort preservation
The North Florida Land Trust was recognized recently with the 2018 Florida Preservation Organizational Achievement award for the work they did to acquire and preserve the 1898 Spanish-American War Fort.
The property had been purchased at a tax deed sale, and the buyer had considered demolition. However, a combination of $162,500 in city funds, a $100,000 donation from the Delores Barr Weaver fund, and other support combined to meet the $400,000 purchase price.
Per a media release: “NFLT was chosen for the Florida Trust’s Preservation Award in the organizational achievement category for the capital campaign they led to preserve the 1898 Spanish-American War Fort. NFLT partnered with the National Park Service in 2015 to serve as the acquisition and fundraising partner to save the fort. They negotiated with the landowner who had acquired the property at a tax deed sale and had planned to destroy the fort to build a house. The staff then set out on a yearlong capital campaign to raise the money needed to purchase the property and save the fort.”
“This is an example of what a community can achieve when we work together to save an important part of our state’s history,” said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT. “When we took this on in 2015, it was the largest capital campaign our organization had ever undertaken in its 16-year history. Our then small staff of six worked very hard to achieve our goal to save the fort. With help from the City of Jacksonville, the Delores Barr Weaver Fund and many in the community who contributed to the campaign, we were able to raise the money needed to purchase this property and save a piece of Jacksonville history.”
The National Park Service will be the ultimate custodians of the fort.
Tim Nolan takes helm of TOTE
Per media release: Tim Nolan has been named the next President and CEO of TOTE Inc., the parent company to TOTE Maritime and TOTE Services.
“I am honored and excited to step into this new leadership role with TOTE,” commented Nolan. “The TOTE team is an exemplary group of people and I am confident that together we will make this a successful transition. I look forward to working closely with customers, vendors and key stakeholders as well as all of the TOTE companies.”
TOTE’s corporate headquarters is moving to Jacksonville, where both TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico and TOTE Services are currently based.
Nolan will key in on selecting his replacement in his previous role: the next president for TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico.
WJCT reports that Jacksonville’s decision to sell “Iva,” a painting by Joan Mitchell that had not been displayed in a decade, will mean big profits for city coffers.
“Leaders in the arts community now have $2.8 million in their pockets, thanks to the auction seller’s fees being waived by Christie’s grant of a 104 percent return.”
The money will be split 50/50 by the city and its Museum of Contemporary Art.
The city’s share will go toward its Arts in Public Places program, which has $700,000 in unmet maintenance needs.
Black Creek land deals cut
The state has acquired the land needed for a project to pump water out of Black Creek and into aquifers at Keystone Heights, reports the Florida Times-Union.
“The project calls for using Black Creek — which floods frequently — as an alternative water supply to meet the region’s future water needs by helping replenish the Floridan aquifer, the state’s main water source. It is the first attempt in Northeast Florida to use water from a creek or river to recharge the aquifer.”
There are critics, including HD 19 Democratic candidate Paul Still.
Still got in the race against incumbent Bobby Payne in part because of the “Black Creek boondoggle,” and he still is unmollified.
“It should be clear that the wetlands associated with Black Creek at Penney Farms require frequent high creek levels to keep them functioning and that withdrawing water at the proposed rate for the Black Creek Project would harm those wetlands,” said Still.
Chambers wins eco dev award
Via a news release from the Jax Chamber: “Cathy Chambers, JAXUSA Partnership senior vice president of strategy and business development, was honored with the prestigious Eunice Sullivan Economic Development Professional of the Year Award at the 2018 Florida Economic Development Council (FEDC) Annual Conference on Tuesday.”
“The FEDC recognized Chambers as a leader of business development success and advocacy for the profession, the region and women in the field,” the release continues. “During her tenure at JAXUSA Partnership, Chambers spearheaded efforts to attract more than 10,000 jobs and capital investment to the Northeast Florida region, including significant projects such as Deutsche Bank, Macquarie, Citibank, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Web.com, PNC Mortgage and EverBank, among others.”
“Cathy is a highly respected voice for economic development in the Northeast Florida region and the state,” said Jerry Mallot, president of JAXUSA Partnership and 1997 recipient of the Eunice Sullivan Award. “Many business decision-makers and site consultants have recounted that they are drawn to the region because of Cathy’s professionalism, credibility and knowledge. She consistently impresses our clients resulting in their investment in the region which is good, not only for them but also for our community.”
Jags’ Ramsey makes plans for fatherhood; trolls Bills’ QB
With Father’s Day just three weeks away, Jaguars’ cornerback Jalen Ramsey is looking forward to his first. He is already making plans for the future when it comes to the young Ramsey.
Whether he becomes the father of a boy or girl, he would like for the child to follow in the footsteps of his or her parents. He sees a potential track star in the 2030s.
Both Ramsey and his girlfriend both ran track in high school back in Tennessee. The former FSU All-American was also a track star in Tallahassee.
“Hopefully he or she will be a little track star,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ramsey is getting ready for training camp by doing something else he does well. One of the league’s best shutdown corners is also one of the league’s most prolific agitators.
The target this time was Buffalo Bills’ rookie quarterback Josh Allen. When the Bills spoke of the impending first pass of Allen’s career during a rookie workout, Ramsey retweeted “that’s a pick waiting to happen.”
Ramsey later deleted the post, but Allen was asked about it later.
Allen said Ramsey’s barb did not bother him at all. “That’s one of the best corners in the league,” he said.
One of the best talkers, too.