Jacksonville Archives - Page 7 of 50 - Florida Politics

Despite Richard Corcoran’s opposition, City of Jacksonville will still have lobbyists

Incoming Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry are allies on more issues than not.

A year ago, at the Sunshine State Summit, Curry and Corcoran lambasted the “liberal media” as impediments to a conservative governing agenda.

Corcoran holds Curry in such high regard he’s even been known to make book recommendations to him. The speaker-designate recommended “Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverance” to the Jacksonville mayor in June.

Whether Curry has actually read that book or not is unknown. However, when it comes down to hiring lobbyists to advance the city’s interest in the state capital, it appears Curry and his team will present a measure of “perseverance” in spite of Corcoran’s objections.

Earlier this week, Corcoran said cities and counties hiring lobbyists amounted to a disgrace.

“I think it’s a disgrace that taxpayer dollars are used to hire lobbyists when we elect people to represent them,” Corcoran told the Times/Herald. “The state doesn’t do it and neither should the locals.”

Last session, the city of Jacksonville hired lobbyists in what was a reversal of policy from the previous mayoral administration.

The Fiorentino Group helmed the city’s lobbying efforts, which were carefully orchestrated and purposefully documented outside of electronic mail systems that the press often peruses for stories. As Jacksonville Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa, wrote last December:

“The mayor has decided to have Marty Fiorentino of the Fiorentino Group to become the lead in managing and coordinating our state legislative actions with Southern Strategy and Ballard. Marty needs to ensure that all are on the same page and that all our legislative desires and actions are properly assigned, managed, and coordinated with all parties.”

At the time, Curry explained the decision to the Florida Times-Union as being motivated by Jacksonville not having “made its case in Tallahassee.”

“Look, I’m all about return on investment,” Curry said at the time. “I have an expectation that using those firms will return exponential dollars and resources to the city of Jacksonville.”

FloridaPolitics.com asked a few questions to the mayor: Has Curry’s mind changed in light of Corcoran’s position? Conversely, given the turnover in the Duval County legislative delegation, are lobbyists even more necessary?

“I have a very productive relationship with the current Duval delegation, and I will continue to build relationships with the new members of the delegation. I have and will continue to work with a team of professionals who ensure getting the highest return for the investment of taxpayers. The successes of our team include a solution to the pension crisis and earned us state resources for infrastructure and public safety,” Curry said in a written statement earlier this week.

The use of lobbyists, the Times-Union article pointed out, was a shift from the campaign rhetoric of a political committee supporting Curry at the time.

That political committee lambasted another mayoral candidate, Bill Bishop, for advocating for lobbyists when he was president of the Jacksonville City Council in 2012.

Curry has had historical connections with Jacksonville lobbyists from the Fiorentino Group.

Marty Fiorentino was the finance chairman of Curry’s 2015 mayoral campaign.

Mark Pinto, also with the Fiorentino Group in Jacksonville, was special assistant to Curry when he was chair of the Republican Party of Florida.

Steve Schale: Notes on the 11th day of early voting in Florida

To: A tired, weary nation, and the Trump tech guys in Macedonia
From: Steve Schale, Florida Man
Re: Why in the world did I start doing these?

*1 day since the leader of the free world did the #swoop at UNF.
*4 days until the election.
*6 days until I am home for a nice long time.
*8 days until FSU basketball tips off.
*106 days until pitchers and catchers.
*131 days to get your NCAA basketball bracket complete — and your $20 in.

It is Friday.

The greatest Friday in like two years, because it is the final Friday of this quadrennial renewal of our federalist experiment in self-governing.

I can only imagine the letters that Adams and Jefferson are sending via pigeon carrier in heaven right now. Or maybe they have texting now —  guess we’ll find out one day.

Ballots. Barack Obama flew to Florida to tell you to return your ballot. Please listen to the man.

Speaking of President Obama, I had the honor to welcome him back to Jacksonville yesterday on what was a strangely emotional day. It is hard to believe it has been eight years. And while I have rather enjoyed having a life this cycle, it was good for the ol’ bloodstream to jump in for a day.

We’ve also reached the part of the campaign that is tough for the people who are in them, on both sides. Once you get to Friday, the die is mostly cast.

You’ve made your final moves, and other than ordering some robocalls or adjusting canvass operations, you just must trust your plan, and trust the kids on the ground to execute.

I went and banged on doors in ’08 for a few hours the last weekend, just to get out the nervous energy.

It is also the point where exhaustion has long since been replaced with a zombielike consciousness, fueled by an occasional morsel of pizza, or candy, or whatever else you can find, mixed with coffee, Coca-Cola, and whatever cheap beer is in the fridge.

In hack-lingo, this is the “October Diet,” and by this point in 2008, I was lucky if I was getting three or four hour’s sleep. And this is true, whether you are at the top of the org chart, or an organizer at the bottom.

In other words, you aren’t thinking well, and campaigns become defensive.

I say this to give some perspective to what is happening right now: tired kids in offices full of pizza boxes and beer bottles in trash cans that haven’t been emptied in weeks, pulling 16-18 hour days, often sleeping on couches or in spare rooms of “supporter housing.”

For most of them, this is the only campaign they will ever work on — most be doing something different soon, grad school, teaching, etc. Even if their team wins, most will never go to Washington. There is something romantically heroic about it.

That is how early voting and Election Day gets done: kids grinding out this thing, one voter at a time. I used to tell them I had the easy job, and I couldn’t do what they do.

With all the elevation publicly of hacks, the media (and pretty much everyone) often forgets in these things, but how they do their job will determine not only who wins this state, but potentially who is president. I used to tell my crew their job was simple: just do your job. And if you do, you will change the course of history.

So with that, here’s where we stand:

Yesterday, we blew past the 5 million mark, pushing over 5.25M votes.

I do want to note — especially because as you will see, the margin is razor-close — that there are discrepancies between the data the state reported and data you can get off county election’s offices. In some cases, those differences would benefit the D’s, in some the R’s. In other words, these numbers could change a little during the day.

Total Ballots cast: 5,267,750
Total Vote By Mail: 2,370,567 (45 percent)
Total Early Vote: 2,897,183 (55 percent)

Republicans: 2,093,586 (39.74 percent)
Democrats: 2,091,753 (39.71 percent)
NPA: 769,241 (20.55 percent)

Total Margin: GOP +0.03 percent

Dems won VBM and EV today, the first time the former has happened. I wouldn’t be surprised if this continues, largely because of math.

There are a lot more Dem ballots out there than GOP ballots, in part because the Dems pushed VBM later in October, and in part because I have no freaking idea why people haven’t mailed back their ballots.

Right now, I think about 57 percent of the likely electorate has voted. At this pace, if the next few days of early and VBM returns look like the last few days, we will be at 70 percent of the likely electorate done by E-Day.

One caveat, given the number of low-propensity voters who are showing up, I might revise my turnout estimate upward, in which case, that 70 percent number will become more like 67-68 percent, but still, at that rate, we are going to have a pretty good sense where Florida is headed darn early Tuesday.

And yes, there are still almost a million vote-by-mail ballots sitting out there; and yes, Democrats have more outstanding mail-in ballots than Republicans. Unreturned vote-by-mail ballots look like this: 41D-34R-25NPA, meaning 82,873 more Dem ballots are out there.

PRO TIP: AT THIS POINT, DON’T MAIL YOUR BALLOT BACK — TAKE IT TO AN EV SITE, THE SOE OFFICE OR YOUR POLLING LOCATION ON TUESDAY.

Hillsborough

Hillsborough had a bigger day yesterday than the day before, with 26,164 ballots in the door. Democrats won by about 6 percent, equal to their overall margin lead, or about 1,500 voters. NPA voters, though, continue to show up late in early voting, as yesterday 26.5 percent of all Hillsborough voters were NPA. Throughout all early voting, NPA = 21 percent, so this is an uptick.

Staying in the Bay area, I get a fair amount of questions from my Pinellas readers. For those unfamiliar with Pinellas, it is home to St. Petersburg and Clearwater, the peninsula of land that is on the west side of Tampa Bay (remember, Tampa is the city, Tampa Bay is the water). It was one of the first places where Republicans in Florida did very well, an homage to the area’s ties to the Midwest.

Since about 2004, party affiliation there has been very close, though Democrats tend to do better than the party affiliation at the top of the ticket since it tends to have a more moderate Republican voter. It is also unique in that the county votes overwhelmingly VBM, so we will know a lot of results very quickly.

Right now, Dems did win yesterday, and the GOP has about 1,500 voter lead in the county (Dems have about the same lead in voter registration).

Metro Orlando and the rest of I-4

Looking at the rest of I-4, the big news yesterday is the continued explosion of NPA voters.

Of the five remaining I-4 counties, Polk, Osceola, Orange, Seminole, and Volusia, none had NPA’s share of the day equal less than 24.5 percent. As I wrote about yesterday, this is primarily driven by Puerto Ricans voting in substantial numbers.

One thing also noteworthy from yesterday, the two places with the highest Puerto Rican populations, Orange and Osceola counties, both outperformed their projected share of the statewide vote. In other words, more people turned out there than you’d expect based on their likely proportion to the rest of the state.

In fact, both are above their projected share for the entirety of early voting. Polk is a little below where it should land, and both Seminole and Volusia are pretty much on marks.

As I wrote on a blog earlier, the dynamic in this market is whether GOP turns out more voters in the surrounding counties than Dems can win in the urban counties. In both Lake and Flagler, Republicans are doing well, though I don’t think well enough to balance out what is happening in Orange and Osceola.

Hillary Clinton doesn’t need to win the Orlando media market. Romney did narrowly in 2012, but she does need to keep it close. Right now, it looks close.

South Florida

Miami and Broward blowing up. There is no other way to look at it.

Look at it this way: I expect Broward to be just under 9 percent of all statewide votes. Yesterday it was 10.3 percent. And Miami-Dade should land somewhere around 10.5 percent of all votes.

Yesterday it was 12.1 percent.

What is driving that? NPAs.

In Broward, 26 percent of voters yesterday were NPA, and 30 percent of Miami-Dade. Look at it another way: 74 percent of all voters in Dade yesterday were either Democratic or NPA, and 79 percent in Broward.

The story in Palm Beach isn’t the same, and if I were a Democratic hack working in a campaign, I would be raising a flag. The margins are solid, but the turnout is lagging. While Broward and Dade are both exceeding their projected shares, Palm Beach is well behind it.

The Broward partisan margin us up to 160,000, and Miami-Dade is now over 80K, but in frankly bigger news there, total NPA vote now trails GOP votes by about 30K.

Duuuuuuval

Well, the president flew into town, dropped a #DUUUVAL on the crowd, and did the Osprey “swoop” inside UNF Arena.

*Side note about my ex-boss — it is hard to imagine either of the 2016 front-runners pulling those two things off. I am pretty sure, Trump didn’t do either at his West Side (is the best side) rally.

*Side Note 2: Had I realized Trump’s rally was on the west side, I would have encouraged my press buddies to hit Intuition Brewing as a place where they could file their stories without Trump supporters yelling at them. Their IPA is much tastier than the water at the Equestrian Center.

OK, back to Duval. President comes to town and what happens? In-person early vote had a record day. #ThanksObama

Democrats continue to chip away at the margin here, which is under 2,500 voters, and now just 1.1 percent. There remain a huge number of African-American voters who have not voted, as African-American turnout here lags the state.

But, all in all, turnout here is lagging a bit, which means it isn’t crushing for Trump either.

Additional notes

The electorate continues to get more diverse. The electorate is now under 68.6 percent white (67 in 2012), with Black and Hispanic voters continuing to grow in share of the electorate.

And let’s talk about the Hispanic vote a little.

First, through Wednesday, 170,000 more Hispanics had voted early (or VBM) in 2016 than voted early or by VBM in the entire 2012 cycle. And keep in mind, because Hispanic is a self-identifying marker, studies have found the real Hispanic vote is larger than the registration.

So, while Hispanics might make up 14.2 percent of the voters who have voted so far, in reality, the number is larger.

And it isn’t just that Hispanics are voting, it is the types of Hispanics who are voting.

Here is one way to look at it: Right now, statewide, 16 percent of early voters are either first-time Florida voters, or haven’t voted in any of the last three elections. Across party lines, 24 percent of all the Hispanic votes today come from these first-time voters.

Among Hispanic Republicans, it is 14 percent, among Democrats, it goes up to 26 percent, and among Hispanic NPAs, a whopping 32 percent have no previous or recent voting history.

When you expand it out to voters who voted in one of the last three, which is what I define as “low propensity,” it goes up to 53 percent of Hispanic Democrats and 60 percent of Hispanic NPAs.

That, my friends, is the definition of a surge.

Right now, Democrats hold a 117K vote advantage among all low-propensity voters, in large part due to this Hispanic surge. So far, 32 percent of Democratic voters are low propensity voters, compared to 26 percent of the GOP voters. But among NPA, the number rises to 48 percent. That’s right, 48 percent of NPAs who have voted so far are low propensity — and 25 percent of those are Hispanic.

In fact, of the NPA low-propensity voters, a full 42 percent of them are nonwhite. That right there is the Clinton turnout machine edge.

One last thing on these NPA voters, right now, the overall electorate is 68.6 percent white, but among NPAs, that number drops to 65 percent. In other words, NPA voters are more diverse than the electorate as a whole. That almost certainly bodes well for Clinton.

Why do I mention all this?

Well, it is because so much attention is paid to the top-line EV numbers: R versus D. But the more I think about it, the more I think the fact D’s have trailed later into EV than normal, the more I wonder it has more to do structurally with HRC’s coalition than it does any partisan advantage.

As I told a reporter, I think the R vs. D number now is more of an optics problem than an electoral one.

One other thing about that GOP advantage. Between 2012 and 2016, a significant number of white Democrats switched parties. Many them came from places where the odds of them voting for any Democrat in recent history was very low, and certainly not one for president. For those not from here, you should remember that large parts of the state are still very “Southern” and as such, has retained some of that Southern Democrat identity, even though many of those voters have long stopped voting for Dems for president.

The Obama second term and the rise of Trump — plus the fact that Republicans are winning more local offices, gave them the nudge to shed the label and “re-categorize themselves” into the party where they belong.

So, I asked some data people a question: is there a chance that part of the GOP lead is built with people who four years ago, were Democrat early voters — even if they were Dems in name only. The answer is yes.

Almost 50,000 2016 Republican early voters were Democratic early voters in 2012. In other words, if none of those voters had switched, Dems would have an 80-90K vote lead over the GOP today — even though that lead would have been meaningless.

One last key stat from Wednesday: African-American and Caribbean Americans had their largest day of 2016, with 55,000 Black voters voting early. The Black share of the electorate now stands at a solid 12 percent and growing.

A couple of last observations. Right now, Republicans should be feeling good about turnout in Southwest Florida, as well as around the Villages, where the areas are turning out at a larger share of the electorate than projected. For Democrats, areas with high Hispanic are high, including the counties mentioned earlier in Southeast Florida and around Orlando. North Florida is getting better for Republicans, but still is lagging.

Which leads me to my final point. My buddy Peter Hamby, who works at Snapchat and who I think is one of the smarter people around, tweeted something last night which I think is both likely — and reminiscent of 2012:

There’s more likelihood polls are overlooking disconnected Millennials, African-Americans & Hispanics than ‘closet Trump’ supporters.

From my observation, particularly with the NPA growth and the number of low-propensity voters in Florida, I think this could be happening here, and is one of the reasons I am less concerned about the party delta than I was earlier in the week.

All of this has me leaning a bit that the state is shaping up nicely for HRC, but while I think that, in no way is it in the bag, or close to it. Donald Trump could still very well win Florida, and it remains exceptionally close.

The race will go to the side that does the best job over the next 96 hours. I used the term “crazy close” yesterday, and I think it still works today.

OK — little scheduling news:

Starting Saturday, I am hosting a group of Turkish party leaders through the American Council of Young Political Leaders, who will be in Florida observing the elections. It is a joint project with the State Department to introduce foreign leaders to American democracy.

Since the 2012 Presidential, I have gotten engaged in the political exchange community — it is easily some of the most meaningful work I do (if you are curious, I have written extensively about it on my blog).

I bring this up because my plan is to write a memo Saturday for Friday, publish some notes Sunday from Saturday, and write a longer read Monday that goes into more depth about where we stand.

Tuesday morning, I hope to do a short piece that is simply what to look for on election night. I also will do an election wrap-up, though it might be a few days after. We’ll just see if I am still standing on 11/9.

However, because of my responsibilities with ACYPL and this delegation, I probably won’t have time to banter for hours on Twitter, though I will continue to try to respond best I can.

Steve Schale: Notes on the 10th day of early voting in Florida

To: Curious Americans and President Vladimir Putin
From: Steve Schale, Proud FloridaMan
Re: 5 Days out — and eight years later, POTUS returns to Duval

*5 days until the election.
*7 days until the first Thursday after the election.
*9 days until FSU basketball tips off.
*23 days until the Tallahassee Turkey Trot 15K.
*113 days until Daytona 500.

Welcome to the last Thursday, and before I begin, a note to Democrats:

REALLY? What are you waiting for? Return those ballots!

So, beginning today with a point of personal privilege. After hitting send on this memo, I am headed to Jacksonville for President Obama’s rally. Eight years ago today, then-Sen. Barack Obama was in Jacksonville, for his last rally in Florida, and his first of the final day. It was also the day he lost his grandmother.

After the rally, I sat down with the soon-to-be president to explain where we were in the early vote.

As I tried to explain it in my overly data-centric way (we are ahead by more than John Kerry lost by, etc.), he finally asked me what I meant, to which I said, “it means we’ve won.”

He left Jacksonville with a little smile, and I went back to Tampa completely freaking out that I just essentially guaranteed him that we had won, thinking ‘holy crap, if somehow we lose this thing, he’ll always remember me as that jerk in Florida who said we had won.”

So, thank God we won.

It is hard to believe it’s been eight years. For a guy who grew up in a small town in rural Illinois and a small town in North Florida, it has been both the ride, and the professional blessing of a lifetime.

Basically, I spend most days wondering how I’ve gotten to do these things.

But why Jacksonville? Forgive me for making this point daily, but Florida is all about managing margins. For Dems to win, we must run up very big margins in a handful of places, then hang on. For GOP to win, they run up strong margins in more counties. Thus, both sides want to take away one of the other’s strengths.

The GOP, for example, in the last few presidentials, has worked to erode Democratic support in Palm Beach. For Dems, the most obvious place to do the same is Duval, because of the county’s large African-American population.

Part of what makes such a great place to work is it is ever changing. You can never say you “know Florida,” because just when you think you figure it out, something changes. And in 2016, we are seeing two pretty big changes: the real rise of NPA voters, and the rise of Hispanics — and the two are intertwined. But more on that later.

Yesterday was a big day for early voting. Several counties, including Orange (Orlando), Palm Beach, and Alachua (where UF is) had their biggest days. Many others were close to their best day. And as a former Draft Biden guy, I want to point out the two places the VP visited today saw big increases in early voting over yesterday.

Basically, Wednesday was a day Florida got its vote on.

And while there has seemed to be a collective surprise that Florida has gotten close, a note that the three polls today were C+1, C+2, C+3. There were 31 million votes over the last four presidentials, and 70K separate the two parties.

Yes, it is gonna be close. How close? Well, I’ll tell you a little secret: one of the models I ran in early October had the race come back to a tie. Not a tie like “48-48,” an actual, vote-specific tie.

So with that, here is where we stand:

Yesterday, we pushed close to the five million vote mark, a total which will happen today.

Republicans won vote-by-mail by a 1K vote plurality, and Dems won VBM by 7K. In total, 400,489 people voted yesterday. One other note, NPA participation is increasing, a trend which started over the weekend. Statewide NPA participation to date is 20 percent, but yesterday, statewide NPA participation was 24.

Total Ballots cast: 4,687,113
Total Vote-By-Mail: 2,273,978 (46.7 percent)
Total Early Vote: 2,593,135 (53.3 percent)
Republicans: 1,948,126 (40.0 percent)
Democrats: 1,936,240 (39.8 percent)
NPA: 769,241 (20.2 percent)

Total Margin: GOP +0.22 percent.

Right now, I think about 52 percent of the likely electorate has voted.

And there are still 1,085,676 vote-by-mail ballots sitting out there, and yes, Democrats have more outstanding mail-in ballots than Republicans. Unreturned vote-by-mail ballots look like this: 41D-34R-25NPA, meaning 84,088 Democrats apparently think getting daily calls from organizers is more fun than voting.

PRO TIP: IF YOU VOTE, THE EVER-INCREASINGLY ANXIOUS CALLS STOP. SAY #NEVERROBO BY RETURNING YOUR BALLOT TODAY.

Hillsborough

It was a very good day for Democrats in Hillsborough. Almost 25K ballots were processed today, and Dems won the day by 1,400 votes, carrying both the VBM returns and the in-person vote. Also, NPA made up 25.5 percent of all votes today, as Dems maintain their six-point edge over the GOP (+18,600).

There is a Hispanic surge happening here. So far, 26 percent of Hispanic voters have no voting history, compared to 13 percent for both whites and blacks. What is interesting about Hillsborough is, while it is known for its Cuban roots, it is home to the largest populations of Mexicans in the state, a demographic that has begun to change the county’s politics. Right now, the county is about 66 percent white, 14 percent black, and 13 percent Hispanic, but it will be interesting to watch it change in the coming days. Given the rise of NPA, I suspect it will get more Hispanic.

Metro Orlando

Rather than looking at I-4, I wanted to take a deeper look at the metro Orlando area.

It is easy to think about what is happening politically in Central Florida as an Orlando phenomenon, but the demographic shifts that have occurred in the region spread out over the three-county metro Orlando area (Seminole, Orange, and Osceola). The difference from the Bush wins to the Obama wins has been stunning: In the two Bush wins, Bush carried the three-county area by an average of 22,000 votes. In the two Obama wins, the president carried them by a margin of roughly 100,000 votes — a nearly 122,000-vote margin improvement for the Democrats.

No place is starker than Osceola County, a place Bush won by five in 2004, but Obama won by 24 just eight years later. That, my friends, is what Puerto Rican growth is doing to politics.

It is obvious, but still important to stress, that the reason Puerto Ricans are changing the politics so fast is, unlike all other Hispanic migrants to Florida, they can vote on Day One as U.S. citizens, so their growth has an acute impact on politics. Orange County, for example, once one of the whitest, and most-Republican places, is now majority-minority in registered voters, and overwhelmingly Democratic. The changes aren’t as significant in Seminole, but they are still happening.

Regarding total early voting there, you can see how the NPA’s compared yesterday to previous voting. What you see, in part, is Puerto Rican surge.

Seminole: 43R-35D-22NPA — Total: +8,907R (Yesterday: 41R-33D-26NPA)
Orange: 47D-30R-23NPA — Total +46,974D (Yesterday: 46D-28R-28NPA)
Osceola: 48D-28R-24NPA — Total +15,430D (Yesterday: 46D-24R-30NPA)

So to that point, let’s dig a bit deeper. In Orange County, 29 percent of Hispanics who have voted were first-time voters. In Osceola, it is 31 percent. In Orange County, 55 percent Hispanics have voted in no more than one of the last three elections, a number that rises to 59 percent in Osceola. And many are registering NPA, not Democratic, which is why it is significant that yesterday, on the biggest day in early voting in Orange County, 72 percent of voters were Dem and NPA.

South Florida

Yesterday, 114K people voted in South Florida, of which 27 percent were NPA. In total, Democrats won the day by almost 29K votes, with the margins 48D-25R-27NPA, and total votes in the Palm Beach and Miami media markets accounted for 30 percent of statewide votes. Miami continues to over-perform, and Palm Beach is a little low. If Palm Beach can catch up to its historical levels, South Florida is going to turn in some very high margins for Hillary Clinton.

You can see the NPA surge below.

Palm Beach: 48D-29R-23NPA — Total +53,135 D (Yesterday: 45D-29R-26NPA)
Broward: 57D-23R-20NPA — Total: +146,704 D (Yesterday: 54D-21R-25NPA)
Dade: 44D-31R-25NPA — Total +73,185 (Yesterday: 43D-27R-30NPA)

Duuuuuuval

The president is going to arrive in a Duval that looks a lot more like it did in his two elections than the previous two.

As a reminder, Bush in 2004 won Duval by 17 points, or about 61,000 votes. In Obama’s two wins, the margin averaged around 10,000 votes. In 2008, we lost by only 8,000, and honestly, I am still annoyed we didn’t get closer. That and losing Sarasota by 227 votes are the two places that still burn me. In my opinion, anything under a 20K-vote loss in Duval is a win.

More than 20,000 people voted yesterday, mostly through in-person early voting, which the Democrats won, leading to the Dems winning the day by about 100 votes. Not a ton, but succeeding in keeping the margin in check. The GOP margin now stands at 1.3 (43.2R-41.9D). This is a place where African-American turnout is a little low, about 25 percent to date (compared to about 30 percent statewide). But this is also a place where African-American turnout rises in the final weekend and into Election Day, so the president is right on time.

Additional notes

The electorate continues to get more diverse. Through the Sunday vote, Hispanics are now 14 percent of the votes so far, with Black voters (African-American and Caribbean) at 11.8. White is down to 69. Keep in mind, it was 67 in 2012, and it has come down from 71 in just a few days.

I use Black voters, and not African-American for a very specific reason: a rather sizable piece of the Florida Black population isn’t actually African-American but instead is Caribbean-American.

I wanted to look at turnout another way, though. As of the voter-specific data I have available (ending Tuesday — this runs a day behind), about 34 percent of the state has voted. But when you look at it from an ethnic perspective, it looks like this: about 36 percent whites, 30 percent Hispanics and 30 percent Black voters.

Now, when you keep in mind that the vote-by-mail electorate is quite white, one would expect the white turnout to be way out front, then come back to the rest of the state. This is basically what is happening.

So, let’s revisit briefly this black turnout piece from yesterday. If you think about the state as a pie, each ethnicity takes up a piece. Between 2012 and 2016, the white piece got smaller; the black piece stayed about the same, and the Hispanic and other pieces all grew. Also, when you think back to 2012, Black voters exceeded their voter registration share.

That is not normal, thus when people talk about black turnout being down, it is important to remember there are two reasons: 1. Barack Obama was a historic figure and isn’t on the ballot, and 2. Hispanics own more of the pie.

As I described to someone today, comparing 2016 Clinton black turnout to 2008 or 2012 is like comparing the ’91 Bulls to the ’96 Bulls. The ’91 Bulls won 61 games and the championship. The ’96 Bulls won 72 with arguably the greatest pure team of all time. We all like to talk about the ’96 Bulls, but the ’91 team was damn good and has a ring.

Clinton doesn’t need 08/12 turnout, she needs the Black share of the electorate to approach its share of registered voters. And when you look at Black turnout today as it relates to whites, as well as how the share has grown since the start of in-person early voting (Blacks have been 15 percent of in-person early voting), it is trending well toward that goal.

One last piece, because I don’t think it has gotten the attention it deserves: the early Republican leads have been built — not completely, but in part — by cannibalizing their own Election Day vote. The conventional wisdom is the GOP wins Election Day, but honestly, specifically in 2008 and to a lesser extent in 2012, they won Election Day because we were basically done, and thus won Election Day, not because they were better at it, but because they had a larger pool of highly likely voters left to vote.

In 2016, they have gotten a larger share — and number of their traditional Election Day voters to vote early, which has left an interesting scenario: Democrats have more “2012 voters” left to vote than do Republicans.

Quickly looking at how the state is playing out: It looks like Fort Myers, which has gotten a lot of ink for high turnout, is coming back to Earth, an indication that it might have just voted quickly, instead of expanding. The Fort Myers media market yesterday made up just 3 percent of all the votes (it is about 6.7 percent of statewide votes historically). The market is still over-performing, at about 8 percent of statewide totals, but that is down from about 10.5 percent last Friday.

On flip-side, for Republicans, North Florida did come out yesterday, making up about 25 percent of statewide votes, raising its statewide share to 17 percent, which is closer to being in line with where it typically falls. Granted some of that is strong Dem days in Leon and Alachua, but overall, more North Florida voting is good for Donald Trump.

Dems can take heart that Miami and Orlando continue to be strong, with 22 percent of statewide votes yesterday coming from the Miami DMA, and 20 percent from Orlando, keeping both markets above their historical shares. In the back of my mind, a 500K-vote margin out of Broward and Dade is probably the upper end of HRC numbers — and, possibly the number that makes it tough for Trump to win. If Miami can continue to stay about 20 percent of the state, getting close to that 500K margin looks attainable.

With that, I am off to Jacksonville. Talk to you all tomorrow.

First-time voters bring energy to Donald Trump ‘movement’ in Jacksonville

A factor that makes the current presidential race difficult to handicap: Donald Trump tapping into “unlikely voters” — either young voters newly engaged by the process, or older voters who, after years of being disappointed by “establishment” politicians, appreciate what they see as candor from the GOP nominee.

Illustrating this phenomenon is sunrise in Jacksonville, where a couple hundred Trump supporters queued up ahead of a rally set to start at noon.

The earliest showed up hours before dawn. And many of them were women — establishing the premise that at least some were immune to the “first woman president” trope advanced by the Hillary Clinton campaign.

For example, there was Yvonne Fisher, a wheelchair-bound lady in her 40s who was one of the very first in line.

Her reason for showing early?

“We wanted a place at the rally,” Fisher said.

“St. Augustine” — where a rally had a turn away crowd last month — was “closed down,” Fisher said, and her daughter had a similar experience in Colorado Springs.

“I was running out of hope until I started listening to Donald Trump speak,” Fisher said, calling him “inspiring” and saying he “instilled hope.”

Regarding Clinton, Fisher declaimed that “I want a woman president, but not that woman.”

Clinton, said Fisher, would be the “end of America as we know it.”

And then there was Jennifer Brecht, a “proud Navy wife” who also appeared to be in her 40s, who said, “I consider this a movement.”

Brecht has supported Trump “since Day 1,” which is to say the day he descended via escalator and announced his candidacy.

“I know him from the ’80s on the Oprah Winfrey show. He’s always wanted to change the country,” Brecht said.

When asked about Trump’s evolution on issues, such as abortion, Brecht said Trump’s “positions didn’t change.”

“Back in the day,” Brecht said, “they didn’t do third-trimester abortions.”

Meanwhile, millennials were among some early arrivals, such as Jordan Foster, an 18-year-old female student at Jacksonville University who offered issues where she supports Trump, such as a “temporary suspension of immigration” and a “foreign policy based on how he looks at business.”

Foster looked like the type of young woman the Clinton campaign would expect to have as support, was it not for her “Lead Right” shirt and her red “Make America Great Again” hat.

“I’m not worried about the first woman president,” Foster said. “I want a damn good president.”

And then there were those who came from far away, such as 18-year-old Colton Palmer, a student at the University of Central Florida who travels to rallies like hippies to Phish shows.

Palmer attended the Trump rally in Orlando the day before.

“I sat behind him,” Palmer said, “but I want to see him from the front.”

Also on hand as the sun came up were vendors, such as John’s Rock and Ride from Daytona Beach.

The husband and wife team running the booth had been to three previous Trump rallies and had merchandise that included the candidate’s face superimposed over a Confederate Flag and various “deplorables” items.

Shirts are priced to move: the Trump as Captain America shirt was marked down to $10.

“If he’s in,” John said, “we boost merchandise.”

And if Clinton wins? There will be merchandise for her as well.

Just as in political journalism, the show goes on for merchandise vendors no matter who wins or loses.

Transformational thing: Lenny Curry’s pension reform includes defined contributions for new hires

On Tuesday, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry offered remarks ahead of a collective bargaining session with the Jacksonville Supervisors Association, presaging a series of negotiations with the city’s seven bargaining units that he said could be a “big, transformational thing.”

If successful, he told FloridaPolitics.com yesterday, it could “set the stage for a dialogue beyond Jacksonville.”

As part of the mayor’s reform of Jacksonville public pensions, which currently bear an unfunded liability approaching $3 billion, Curry was able to get a referendum passed dedicating a current infrastructure sales surtax to pension liability once that tax sunsets in or before 2030.

However, that revenue source is conditional on renegotiating terms with at least one of the city’s pension plans: general employees, corrections, or police and fire.

With that in mind, media was very interested to know how Curry would address the delicate issue of renegotiating terms from the current defined benefit framework, which the mayor believes to be unsustainable.

Curry has spoken before about balancing the needs of two sets of stakeholders: taxpayers and employees. His remarks Tuesday to the JSA were delivered in that vein.

For current employees, there would be some immediate benefit, if the terms advanced by the administration are accepted.

These benefits include salary increases and a one-time, lump-sum payout to employees, which would vary across unions.

“Raises are simply to make employees whole,” Curry said.

“If accepted by union membership, and approved by the Jacksonville City Council, JSA employees will receive salary increases of 9.5 percent over the next three years and a one-time, 2 percent lump-sum payout. In addition, new employees will be placed in a new defined contribution plan as a retirement benefit,” read the proposal from the mayor’s office.

There would be a 4 percent raise in Oct. 2017, a 3 percent raise a year later, and a 2.5 percent raise after that.

“For fiscal year 2017, all employees would receive a one-time, lump-sum consideration equal to 2 percent of their annual salary,” the proposal continued.

For new employees, “new plans” would be in order; specifically, cost-sharing defined contribution plans, which would give them more control while liberating the city from “legacy pension plans.”

The city contribution would be 10 percent in the first 15 years of a given employee’s plan, and 12 percent thereafter. The employee match would be 8 percent throughout.

“This final step is bold,” said Curry, and “I am asking all of you to be bold.”

For Curry, the stakes are big.

The city is, said the mayor, “on the cusp of putting the $2.7 billion pension debt behind us.”

Employees have made sacrifices, said Curry, and the “hardworking people of Jacksonville” understand those sacrifices.

Yet, added Curry, most people outside of government simply don’t have “guaranteed” pension plans, which Curry called “things of the past.”

“This offer walks away from dinosaur plans that no one can afford,” the mayor noted, adding that “defined contribution plans are used all over.”

Of course, given the Balkanized nature of Jacksonville’s unions, nothing is easy.

For the plan to fly with general employees, all unions representing them will have to agree to the terms.

“Without agreement,” Curry said, reform “doesn’t happen.”

And police and fire, as well as corrections, offer their own challenges in the days ahead.

While it is possible Jacksonville city employees (some at least) could end up in the Social Security system also, the option of the Florida Retirement System has been ruled out.

“We would not have control over the cost structure,” Curry said.

Curry noted the referendum gave him a mandate to negotiate.

“When 65 percent of taxpayers said yes,” Curry said, they were “counting on us to represent them in the process.”

Jacksonville has had a long and tortuous road toward striking a balance between satisfying general fund needs and keeping the unions happy.

It hasn’t been easy.

It hasn’t been pretty.

But at long last, meaningful resolution may be approaching.

Counterprogramming POTUS, Donald Trump schedules Jacksonville rally for Thursday

On Thursday, Jacksonville will be the center of the political world, at least for a few hours.

President Barack Obama is set to speak on behalf of Hillary Clinton at the University of North Florida on Thursday afternoon.

Not to be outdone, GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump will be in Jacksonville at noon Thursday, speaking at the Equestrian Center.

Doors for the Trump event open at 9:00 a.m.

These facilities have roughly similar capacities.

The arena holds 6,300; though the Equestrian Center holds 3,700 in permanent seating, it can accommodate 2,800 more on the floor.

After one week of early voting, Duval Republicans ahead in turnout battle

After one week of early voting in Duval County, including one Souls to the Polls activation, GOP turnout is still outpacing that of the Democrats.

As of Sunday evening, 151,644 people had voted.

Of that 151,644, 66,426 (or 43.8 percent) were Republicans. Democrats comprised 63,903 (or 42.1 percent) of that number.

NPA voters comprised the balance — roughly 14 percent.

Republicans lead Democrats by 6,601 votes by mail (25,656 to 19,085).

Democrats maintain a substantial advantage (44,792 to 40,717) in early voting itself.

In 2012, turnout was effectively even between Duval Democrats and Republicans on Election Day itself, with 65 more Democrats than Republicans voting on Election Day (63,072 to 63,007).

Republicans won the vote-by-mail battle that year by 9,531 votes (31.62 percent). Democrats, however, won the early voting battle by 22,430 votes (35.21 percent).

Through one week, neither the VBM nor the in-person early voting spreads approach 2012 proportions.

Democrats that year had a registration advantage of over 32,000 votes; this year, the Democratic advantage is under 20,000.

GOP turnout in 2012 was 80.4 percent, compared to 75 percent turnout among Democrats.

If that ratio were to hold in 2016, and 80.4 percent of the 220,817 Republicans voted, while 75 percent of the 240,386 Democrats voted, 177,534 Republicans will end up voting, compared to 180,260 Democrats.

If that turnout model holds, Democrats could feel confident about carrying Duval County … except for the reality of a certain, albeit dwindling, number of Blue Dog Democrats registered.

They, in theory, could vote for Trump.

Meanwhile, turnout at three heavily Democratic early voting locations — the Bradham and Brooks Library, the Legends Community Center, and Gateway Town Center — is the lowest of any location in the city. Those three locations, and the Supervisor of Elections main office downtown, are the only four locations with fewer than 3,000 votes cast.

Conversely, GOP sinecures — the beaches, Pablo Creek Library, South Mandarin, Southeast Regional Library — are all over 8,000 votes cast as of the end of tallying on Sunday.

The next week will tell the tale for Jacksonville area Democrats, who hold out hope that even if they can’t turn Duval into “Blu-val,” they can at least keep it more or less even between Trump and Clinton atop the ballot.

Barack Obama to campaign for Hillary Clinton in Jacksonville and South Florida

The Hillary Clinton campaign is playing its most important hold card in Jacksonville and South Florida next week, bringing President Barack Obama in to make the closing argument.

From the Clinton campaign:

“On Thursday, Nov. 3, just days prior to Election Day, President Barack Obama will return to Florida to campaign for Hillary Clinton. At public ‘Get Out the Early Vote’ events in the South Florida and Jacksonville areas, President Obama will urge Floridians to take advantage of early voting and lay out his support for Clinton and her vision of an America that is stronger together, with an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top.”

Ahead of his 2008 election, Obama held a couple of massive rallies in Jacksonville.

The day before the election, he packed the Veterans Memorial Arena.

In September, Obama had an overflow crowd of 20,000-plus at Metropolitan Park.

Expect a big venue and a big message from Obama for his former secretary of state, as the Democrats seek to turn Duval blue.

More details will be forthcoming on the event in Jacksonville and the one in South Florida, which is one in a series of presidential forays to the Sunshine State and other battleground states on behalf of Clinton.

Obama will be in Orlando today on Clinton’s behalf; the Donald Trump campaign issued a statement on the visit from Rep. Joe Gruters, vice-chair of the Republican Party of Florida.

“America faces very serious issues at home and abroad. Instead of campaigning for Hillary Clinton,” Gruters said, “President Obama should be doing his job and helping grow the economy and get Americans back to work.”

“Then again, it only makes sense that the president would be jetting around Florida helping Hillary win a third Obama term, and attempting to distract from her pay-to-play scheme at the State Department where she traded official access for contributions to the Clinton Foundation and six-figure speaking fees for her husband. Floridians are tired of corruption and backroom deals from decades-long insiders like Hillary, and will vote for change in November,” Gruters added.

One can expect reactions along these lines to the latest announcement of an Obama campaign trip to the Sunshine State.

Jacksonville continues ‘aggressive’ approach to post-Matthew cleanup

Note: a previous version of this piece asserted a connection between the family of Jacksonville CAO Sam Mousa and J.B. Coxwell. That connection was limited to Mousa having been an employee in the past. No current connection exists. We regret the error.

Duval County and Jacksonville were spared the absolute worst of Hurricane Matthew’s fearsome brunt. Yet local government is still working through recovery efforts.

And it is an all-consuming effort, requiring city resources galore, and pushing city leaders and contractors to their limits.

At a Thursday morning media event at a park on Jacksonville’s Southside, Mayor Lenny Curry told a story about a contractor working on storm recovery efforts.

During the first week after the hurricane, Curry bumped into him at Starbucks, and noted that he wasn’t his usual cheerful, energetic self.

“Mayor,” the contractor said, “I’ve been up at 4 a.m. every morning this week.”

These yeoman’s efforts, three weeks after the storm, are paying appreciable dividends, Curry said.

“We continue to aggressively work on debris pickup,” Curry said, describing the “most aggressive push in recent memory.”

“We continue to push each other hard,” Curry said.

Curry’s Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa noted the team “began preparation well before the storm,” with resources “ready, primed, and in place” starting at 7 a.m. the day after the storm, with toss crews working Duval County streets through Monday.

“The city planned on the front end,” Curry said, with trucks and a contractor in place.

Debris pickup, meanwhile, has been ongoing: the current quantity collected is 434,000 cubic yards, of an estimated 800,000 to 1 million cubic yards.

To put that 434,000 figure in perspective, that’s more than was picked up in six months after previous storms.

Even today, 206 vessels are working Jacksonville’s streets in the ongoing effort, and there are nine active sites for processing the debris.

Despite this accomplishment, Curry cautioned that his team is not resting on its laurels.

“We’re not asking people to be patient. We’re not patient,” Curry said.

Mousa messaged on debris sorting, saying that whatever can be bagged up and placed curbside should be, adding that yard waste should be separated from construction and demolition debris.

When asked about mitigation of wayward branches and limbs going forward — specifically those tree canopies looming over power lines within the city right of way — Curry noted that while his team “inherited many neglected things over the years,” a “stabilized budget” will facilitate more preemptive maintenance going forward.

Mousa added that JEA’s tree crews will work to “make sure the canopy is clear” of power lines and fixtures.

Beyond debris removal, the city also is exploring repair options for the iconic Jacksonville Beach pier, which had a partial collapse as the Atlantic Ocean battered it during the height of the storm earlier this month.

Mousa noted an “emergency purchase order” is in place, and that structural engineers and divers are evaluating the condition of the pier, as well as what happened to the collapsed portion.

That analysis is expected to be completed in a matter of weeks; from there, the city will evaluate options, including repair or demolition, and subsequent replacement.

Construction plans for the pier will be evaluated as well.

Curry noted that, in his “One City, One Jacksonville” vision, that “repair and restoration are not a zero sum game.”

Contractors from J.B. Coxwell are handling the debris removal, hewing to FEMA guidelines for reimbursement, which include a monitor on the job site to ensure that removal accords with federal guidelines.

Meanwhile, Curry noted there is recourse for those who have been rendered homeless or dispossessed by the storm, including FEMA reimbursement and the First Coast Relief Fund for help meeting insurance deductibles.

‘Airport-style security’ for Bill Clinton event in Jacksonville

Attendees of Bill Clinton‘s appearance in Jacksonville Friday afternoon should prepare for “airport-style security,” according to an email from event organizers.

The email, sent out Friday morning under the aegis of “updated details,” offers fairly detailed logistics for the event, held in the secured space of Jacksonville’s main public library.

“Please arrive early and expect airport-style security upon entry. Prohibited items include homage signs, large bags, alcohol, weapons, or noisemakers. No food or drinks are allowed inside the event. Water will be provided inside the event,” the email from FL Together reads.

“In order to ensure that the security process is quick and effective please help us by leaving large bags and liquids at home or in the car. Getting through security is much like at the airport,” the email continues, again presenting the reassuring comparison of event security to the loving ministrations of the TSA, “and we want to make sure everyone in line is able to attend the event.”

“By leaving large bags and removing all items from your pockets, and removing large belt buckles, it will make the process move much faster,” the message concludes.

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