Lenny Curry Archives - Florida Politics

Jacksonville Bold for 8.10.18 — Contenders, pretenders

We’ve hit the stretch of the primary season; where the money is being spent, not raised.

Where ads are cut, and voters engaged.

And where candidates know if they are still in the game.

No one comes out and says “well, it looks over.”

But losing candidates seem different.

We saw it with Adam Putnam, who won a Potemkin straw poll Monday in Jacksonville, but clearly seemed to be losing the war, even ahead of Wednesday’s debate.

Adam Putnam wins a Jacksonville-area straw poll, but is it enough?

We see it with Alvin Brown, whose campaign — and political career — seem to have gone up in smoke.

The Democratic candidates for Governor — well, four of them will lose, despite all maintaining a brave face in Thursday’s forum.

Optimism of months ago? Gone.

Soon enough, the cycle begins anew, with the necessary polarities of the general election.

But for now, we see the endgame of what has become a very long primary season.

Nelson, DeSantis win St. Johns straw polls

More than 550 votes were cast in straw polls from the St. Johns County Supervisor of Elections office during the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce’s “Politics in St. Johns” series of events.

Candidate meet-and-greet style events were in Ponte Vedra on July 16 and St. Augustine on August 1.

While the polls were informal, there was at least one interesting result: Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson took a 19-vote victory over Gov. Rick Scott for the U.S. Senate contest.

Ron DeSantis takes the lead in a St. Johns Chamber straw poll.

In the race for Governor, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis enjoys a 6-point lead, according to the straw poll, with 26 percent of the total vote. This result over Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam more closely reflects the nine-point lead DeSantis enjoys in a statewide done held by the Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative.

The leading Democratic vote-getter — Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum — took 19 percent of the total vote, leading the next closest Democratic candidate Gwen Graham, who earned 13 percent.

Republican Congressman John Rutherford also led his Democratic rival, George “Ges” Selmont, by 40 votes. In Florida’s 6th Congressional District, former Ambassador Nancy Soderberg took a significant lead over the field, besting the next highest vote-getter, Republican Michael Waltz, by nearly 40 votes (96-47).

The Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican Rep. Paul Renner in House District 24 race, Adam Morley, also scored a 10-vote victory.

Combined, the Chamber estimates nearly 1,000 people attended Politics in St. Johns events in 2018, the largest attendance since the Chamber launched the series in 2012.

“I am very pleased to see how this series has grown over the years; it means that people are becoming more engaged. We are proud to be able to provide a platform that will help St. Johns County residents make an informed voting decision,” Chamber President Isabelle Renault said.

Dullsville

Just hours after U.S. Rep. Al Lawson and former Jacksonville Mayor Brown threw elbows in a meeting with the Florida Times-Union editorial board, the two Democrats made their respective cases at a Jacksonville AME political forum.

Alvin Brown and Al Lawson seemed subdued Monday night.

The two have jousted throughout the campaign, exchanging jabs on everything from Lawson’s positions on Stand Your Ground and ICE, and Brown’s closeness to Corrine Brown and his alleged “failure” as Mayor.

After the two sat patiently through almost two hours of forums for school board and tax collector candidates, they finally got mic time (along with Republican Virginia Fuller, who is the party’s nominee by default) as the 9 p.m. hour approached.

Judging from the mailed-in performances, it may have been past all of their bedtimes. There was no new ground in answers. No new attacks. Just sedentary pantomimes of the kind of fiery oratory seen more often in these candidates’ news releases than their live deliveries.

Neither Brown nor Lawson was on his game. Brown had the gaffe of the night, however, saying he backed a “living wage — 15 cents an hour.”

He corrected himself.

“Fifteen DOLLARS an hour,” he amended.

Supplementary reading: Is Alvin Brown a hypocrite on charter schools?

CBC backs Lawson

On Tuesday, the majority of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus endorsed Lawson ahead of the Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District against Brown.

Is Al Lawson in position to run out the clock? (Image via Roll Call)

“I am honored to have the endorsement of so many of my colleagues in the CBC,” Lawson said. “They understand, as I do, the importance of fighting against some of the unfair policies of this current administration, protecting affordable health care for all Americans, protecting voting rights, ensuring access to quality public education, and strengthening marginalized communities all across the nation.”

Alvin Brown, according to sources who saw him in D.C. last year, was making the rounds of CBC members with former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown to solicit D.C. support. The en masse endorsement of Lawson suggests that strategy failed. Brown got one CBC endorsement, from Missouri U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver.

Brown has pilloried Lawson as “Trump’s favorite Democrat,” painting him as out of step with the Democratic Party on some issues. The two have jousted throughout the campaign, exchanging jabs on everything from Lawson’s positions on “Stand Your Ground and ICE, to Brown’s closeness to Corrine Brown and his alleged “failure” as Mayor.

Lawson’s endorsements include prominent names, some with connections to Brown’s political past. One such: CBC chairman, Rep. Cedric Richmond, is especially notable support given that Richmond campaigned for Alvin Brown in Jacksonville in 2015 when he lost his re-election bid for Mayor.

Still another endorsement for Lawson that must feel like a cruel cut: the backing of Brown’s former political mentor, Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, who Brown also namechecked during the Monday evening forum.

Bradley, Cummings back DeSantis

In a sign of the changing times in the Republican gubernatorial race, state Sen. Rob Bradley and state Rep. Travis Cummings endorsed U.S. Rep. DeSantis for Governor on Wednesday.

These endorsements, rolled out hours before DeSantis debated Putnam in Jacksonville, show the influential Clay County Republicans breaking with many Jacksonville elected officials and Republican activists, who fell in line behind Putnam when he seemed certain months back.

Count Rob Bradley on #TeamDeSantis.

“I’m proud to endorse Ron DeSantis for Governor of Florida.” Sen. Bradley said in a statement. “Our state needs strong, dependable leadership and Ron DeSantis is a proven conservative who will make a great Governor. He’s an Iraq veteran with a solid conservative record and the support of our President.”

“He’s demonstrated a fierce commitment to principle in Congress, and he will bring the same values to Tallahassee. I look forward to working with him to strengthen our economy, improve our education system and bring accountability to our government,” Bradley, who serves as the Senate Appropriations chair, said Wednesday.

“Ron DeSantis is a proven conservative leader with a strong record of service to our country both in Congress and in the military.” asserted Cummings, who chairs Health and Human Services in the House.

The open question: Will other Jacksonville-area endorsements fall into line for DeSantis?

While many Jacksonville pols, including U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, state Sen. Aaron Bean, and Jacksonville City Council Vice-President Aaron Bowman, have backed Putnam, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has — at least up until now — reserved an endorsement.

Bradley defends MMJ law

Despite a Tallahassee judge declaring significant parts of the state’s medical marijuana law unconstitutional, the law’s chief architect on Tuesday said he was confident the law would be affirmed.

No smoke, no problem, says Rob Bradley, who stands behind medical cannabis law on books.

“The trial court ruling injected unnecessary uncertainty into the emerging medical marijuana marketplace,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican. “I’m confident that our appellate courts will uphold (its) constitutionality.”

In 2017, lawmakers passed, and Gov. Rick Scott signed the measure (SB 8-A) into law to implement the state’s medicinal cannabis constitutional amendment, passed by 71 percent of voters the year before. Bradley was the primary sponsor.

In recent months, however, judges have been chipping away at the law, beginning with Circuit Judge Karen Gievers‘ ruling that Tampa strip club mogul Joe Redner can grow and make juice of his own marijuana.

In another case, Gievers struck down the law’s ban on smoking medical marijuana, saying that conflicts with the amendment. The state is appealing both of those rulings.

Bradley disagreed: “Medical marijuana is being grown, processed and sold in a safe, orderly fashion today in Florida,” he told Florida Politics.

“As more companies come online, and the Department (of Health) fully implements an integrated seed-to-sale system and a delay-free ID card system, the system will develop into a model for other states,” he added.

The department regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use.

“Floridians rightfully expect to have access to safe, quality medical marijuana, and also expect that the product be regulated properly like any other medicine,” Bradley said. “SB 8-A accomplishes both goals.”

Senators’ green to keep Tallahassee red

Two influential Northeast Florida Senators, Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley and Regulated Industries Chair Travis Hutson, spent big in late July as part of an effort to maintain the Republican majority in the chamber.

Rob Bradley and Travis Hutson share hugs … and an interest in a GOP Senate majority.

On July 25, Bradley’s “Working for Florida’s Families” committee moved $150,000 to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, the vast majority of the committee’s spend in the week between July 21 and 27.

Defraying much of that spend was $70,000 worth of contributions from six groups, including the Florida Medical Association PAC and Florida Power & Light.

Bradley’s committee has nearly $800,000 on hand, suggesting flexibility for further support to the FRSCC or other friendly interests down the stretch.

Hutson’s First Coast Business Foundation committee also ponied up $50,000 on July 27.

Hutson’s two committees, FCBF and Sunshine State Conservatives, have between them $371,761. Hutson also has another $67,000 in his 2020 campaign account.

‘SYG’ Special Session?

Senate Minority Leader-designate Audrey Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat, submitted her petition to call the Legislature into special session to address problems with the “Stand Your Ground” law.

Audrey Gibson’s “SYG” gambit won’t fly in a GOP state capital.

“Today I signed a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner to poll members of the Legislature for a special session to amend or repeal the ‘Stand Your Ground’ provisions in Chapter 776, Florida Statutes,” Gibson asserted.

“I signed the letter because a little boy watched his father be shot, and then die, after defending his mother from an irate man. The current statute has enabled murderous behavior, subjective interpretation, and questionable application by a sheriff, allowing an individual to potentially exact another murder in the same fashion as he roams free,” Gibson added.

“This presents a public safety hazard and is counter to the protections that should be afforded to all Floridians. While the Governor has the power to act through a Declaration of a State of Emergency in matters of public safety, his silence on Markeis McGlockton’s murder is clear indication that he is ignoring public safety and will do nothing.”

Michael Drejka killed McGlockton July 19 after a dispute over a parking space at a convenience store in Pinellas County got physical.

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Drejka’s response to the altercation conforms with his read of the “Stand Your Ground” statute: “I’m not saying I agree with it. I don’t make the law. I enforce the law. Others can have the debate if it is right or not.”

Worst Democrat in Florida?

One of the smartest electoral analysts in the state, Democratic analyst Matthew Isbell, isn’t stoked about Rep. Kim Daniels winning her open Democratic primary this month against Duval County School Board chair Paula Wright.

Matt Isbell may complain, but Kim Daniels looks well-positioned.

“On Aug. 28, voters will go to the polls in Florida to cast votes in the primary election. The gubernatorial primary and a slew of congressional primaries are dominating the news. In an era where a politician can lose a primary for either being ‘not conservative enough’ or ‘not liberal enough’ — despite no other scandals — it is a shame to see one Florida politician appearing to escape serious threat: Kim Daniels,” Isbell notes.

“The frustrating thing for folks like myself is that Kim Daniels appears set to win reelection despite years of controversy and unacceptable views. Daniels only got an opponent at the last minute, and the primary wasn’t closed, ensuring Republicans could play spoiler in a race between two Democrats,” Isbell adds.

“Meanwhile, as conservatives flood in to aid Daniels, liberal aid has been more modest. The race just does not appear to be on the radar of Florida’s left-wing interests. State Democrats do not like Daniels at all, yet little effort is being made behind the scenes to aid Wright. Wright is fighting an underfunded and uphill battle against an incumbent mired in scandal and controversy. Daniels may well win on Aug. 28, despite being the least deserving of reelection of any Democrat in the state,” Isbell notes.

Daniels has a fundraising edge and has been hard to beat in Northwest Jacksonville. In this case, she is positioned to end Paula Wright’s political career.

Freeman Friday

Jacksonville’s motion to intervene in a legal challenge filed last month to a City Councilman appointed by Gov. Rick Scott will be heard in a Duval County hearing room at 2 p.m. Friday.

Terrence Freeman is settling in, but the legal challenge continues.

Judge Waddell Wallace, appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush in 1999, will decide whether the city has legal standing regarding the case of Terrance Freeman, whose residency in District 10 is under challenge after the announcement of his appointment in July.

Filing the challenge is Brenda Priestly-Jackson, a Democrat and former Duval County School Board chair who was passed up for the appointment to fill the unexpired term of suspended incumbent Democrat Reggie Brown,

Priestly-Jackson says Freeman, who established residency in the district by renting two rooms in a private home the day he was appointed, was not a legitimate pick because he moved to Northwest Jacksonville solely to serve on the Council.

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

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

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

Wallace to JAXBIZ

According to the Jacksonville Daily Record, Downtown Investment Authority CEO Aundra Wallace is on the move: he will be president of the JAXUSA Partnership starting in October.

Aundra Wallace. (Image via Folio Weekly)

He will replace outgoing Jerry Mallot.

Wallace, observed Daily Record commentator David Cawton, has been involved in much of the downtown development action the last five years — a time that included a drastic change in the Mayor’s Office.

However, Wallace was impervious, working well with the Curry administration on priority projects — most recently, the District development, which donor Peter Rummell will have city incentives to help him get going on the Southbank.

Man in the mirror

In 1984, there was no more prominent pop icon in the world than Michael Jackson. With the songs from 1982’s Thriller still resonating on the charts, he and his brothers thought the time was right for a family Victory tour.

Michael Jackson’s philanthropy will finally be put to use in Jacksonville.

The tour came to Jacksonville: a three-night Gator Bowl stint in a metropolitan area much less populous than it is today, with $30 tickets a measure of what a hot gig it was.

The concert was out of Jacksonville’s league, but proving that some things never change, the city spent $275,000 to make the gig happen.

That era is long gone now. The King of Pop has passed on. In a strange twist of fate, a small piece of his legacy will remain, to impact Jacksonville youth with musical aptitude.

Jacksonville Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa says Jackson “gifted the city $100,000 for music scholarships to deserving Duval County students seriously interested in and actively pursuing the study of music. The funds were placed in a City of Jacksonville Trust Fund; however, only the interest earnings therefrom may be spent on scholarships.”

“To the best of my knowledge and research,” Mousa asserted in an email last week, “no scholarships have been provided from the trust fund.”

The fund has earned $73,600 in interest, Mousa said. And while the $173,600 must remain in the fund, the city can use an anticipated $5,500 of projected interest this next fiscal year for scholarships, administered via the Kids Hope Alliance, Mayor Lenny Curry‘s reformed structure for children’s programs that budget at $41 million this year.

Airbnb follies

Unlike the majority of Florida counties, the city of Jacksonville can’t figure out what to do about Airbnb taxes. A recent audit suggests missed opportunities, with Duval County losing out on $366,000 in taxes due to an inability to match municipal code with reality.

The losses, a recent audit showed, are substantial: “$366,000 in Tourist Development and Convention Development Taxes just from Airbnb in the calendar year 2017 alone.”

Additionally, there are other companies like Airbnb so that collections could be more.

The problem: Single-family homes, per the city’s zoning code, do not permit what one city councilor called “transient” housing.

However, finding a solution won’t be so easy, Mousa said, noting that the arrangement is fundamentally illegal in Jacksonville.

Mousa is “reluctant to chase tourist development taxes” of “rentals in violation of ordinance code.”

To “chase the tax,” Mousa noted, is to “validate their existence … like going to the corner to the guy selling marijuana and asking where’s my sales tax.”

Mousa did not elaborate on where such corners may be.

However, other counties have figured it out. A misconception expressed in Council committees was that Airbnb would be averse to audits and the collection of back taxes. However, other counties have negotiated such deals, and it’s a mystery why Jacksonville can’t figure it out.

Expect movement on this issue in the coming months from Council President Aaron Bowman. For now, however, the city is left out of revenue collection, much as is the case with vehicles for hire — another gap in the code that has been unaddressed for years.

Too late

A state appeals court has blocked a Clay County judicial candidate from appearing on the ballot because she filed her paperwork too late.

“We recognize that the public policy of Florida generally favors letting the people decide the ultimate qualifications of candidates,” the 1st District Court of Appeal concluded Wednesday, in an opinion by Judge Kent Wetherell II. Judges Ross Bilberry and Kimberly Thomas concurred.

“However, absent special circumstances, public policy considerations cannot override the clear and unambiguous statutory requirement that all of the candidate’s qualifying paperwork must be received by the filing officer by the end of the qualifying period.”

The court upheld a ruling by a trial judge from the 7th Judicial Circuit, who heard the case because it originated in a motion filed by incumbent Clay County Judge Kristina Mobley.

According to the court record, Lucy Ann Hoover arrived at the county supervisor of elections office at 11:55 a.m. on May 4, just shy of the noon deadline. She filed her qualifying check at 11:57, but her candidate oath at 12:01 and her financial disclosure form at 12:12. The office accepted the late documents, and certified Hoover as a candidate, under a policy of requiring only that prospective candidates be physically present and filling out their paperwork before the deadline falls.

Mobley is a Rick Scott appointee. Joe Mobley, her husband, is a member of the Fiorentino Group.

Downtown Jax plans $63M ‘innovation corridor’

Plans are emerging for a multimillion-dollar high-tech corridor to run through downtown via Bay Street, connecting Jacksonville’s budding transportation center to TIAA Bank Field. The Jacksonville Business Journal reported that a bid for federal grant funding by city agencies include a $62.9 million plan for an “innovation corridor” — with 15 autonomous shuttles deployed between the Skyway infrastructure to surface streets, as well as an array of sensors that could detect gunshots, flooding and more. The corridor would also provide an incubator for emerging technologies.

A $63 million ‘innovation corridor’ could be down Bay Street. (Image via Jacksonville Business Journal)

The joint proposal — from the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization, JEA, the City of Jacksonville and Jax Chamber — is seeking $25 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation in a competitive grant program.

The innovation corridor is meant to be a proof of concept for two current initiatives: JTA’s Ultimate Urban Circulator (U2C) — the evolution of the Jacksonville Skyway system — and the TPO’s Integrated Data Exchange. A fleet of autonomous vehicles would descend from Skyway’s 2.5-mile elevated infrastructure via offramps onto surface streets throughout downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, transforming the people-mover system into a 10-mile network.

JIA speeding security with bomb-sniffing dogs

Beginning this week, bomb-sniffing dogs are being employed to help speed up security checks at Jacksonville International Airport.

Transportation Security Administration spokesperson Sari Koshetz told Jenna Bourne of Action News Jax, that the dogs are helping travelers get through security lines faster. Passengers standing in line who are cleared by the dogs could move into an expedited security lane, eliminating the need to take off shoes, belt or jackets and leaving laptops in bags.

(Image via Action News Jax)

Dogs will also sniff passengers and airport employees at the gate.

TSA K-9 handler Donald “Bubba” Deason told WJAX that travelers should not be frightened by his K-9, Boomer.

“Some people have a fear of dogs. And they look at the dog and then they get, ‘I don’t want to go near the dog. I don’t want to go past the dog,’” Deason said. “And basically, we tell them the dog’s not going to hurt you. It doesn’t attack. All it wants to do is sniff.”

JIA to welcome new VIP lounge

A new VIP lounge is coming to Jacksonville International Airport, Jacksonville Aviation Authority unanimously approved this week.

Will Robinson of the Jacksonville Business Journal reports that the Authority agreed to enter a contract to develop a premium lounge, which will be available to customers from multiple airlines and customers who are willing to pay for a day of access.

A new premier lounge is heading to JIA.

“I think we’d be the smallest airport in the country with two VIP lounges,” said JAA CEO Steve Grossman.

Club JAX will open February 2019. It will be a 2,726-square-foot facility featuring a buffet with menus from local chefs, restrooms with showers and a children’s play area.

Texas-based ALD Development Corp. will spend at least $1 million to develop, manage and operate the 49-guest lounge,” Robinson noted. ALD is the nation’s largest developer of independent shared-use lounges, with 18 airport lounges in 13 airports internationally.

First-class passengers can use the lounge as part of an airline or card member rewards programs. Day passes will also be available.

“We are very confident this will be a busy lounge even without Frontier, JetBlue or Allegiant,” Graham Richards, ALD director of strategic network development, told the Business Journal. This includes airlines that don’t yet have lounge reward programs.

JAA will receive part of the lounge revenue, or $80,000 for the first contract year, whichever is higher. The initial agreement will be for seven years, with options to renew every year.

T-U praises JAA for inclusion

A Florida Times-Union mini-editorial is praising the Jacksonville Aviation Authority for winning a “nice award” from a leading airline industry trade group.

The JAA received an Inclusion Championship Award from the Airports Council International-North America for its promotion of local small businesses and workforce diversity.

“The JAA has held workshops, forums and other events to make business opportunities available for small businesses — and particularly for minority entrepreneurs.”

The Authority also won the inclusion award for embracing diversity within its organization.

Flagler Hospital employing AI for better patient care

Saint Augustine’s Flagler Hospital is turning to artificial intelligence to reduce costs and provide better care for patients.

Will Robinson of the Jacksonville Business Journal reports that Flagler is licensing software from California-based Ayasdi, an AI and data science company, for a Clinical Variation Management (CVM) application.

St. Augustine’s Flagler Hospital.

CVM will help standardize frequent care conclusions — pairing antibiotics with certain infections, length of stay decisions and defining appropriate testing, among others.

Clinical variations make up as much as 30 percent of typical health care costs, according to the Institute for Medicine. AI examines big data, taken from electronic medical records, billing and more, to help lower costs.

“We are delighted to engage with Ayasdi on this mission-critical task of creating clinical pathways for our patient population,” said Flagler chief medical informatics officer Dr. Michael C. Sanders. “Our ability to rapidly construct clinical pathways based on our own data and measure adherence by our staff to those standards provides us with the opportunity to deliver better care at a lower cost to our patients.”

New way to watch Jags games this year

Per WJCT, for the first time this year, Jaguars fans can watch preseason games on their smartphones, simply by visiting Jaguars.com/live.

The technology was rolled out Thursday for the game against the Saints, and will be used for the rest of the preseason — a useful and long-awaited add for those who might not have access to television or radio.

Almost as good as being there? Smartphone streaming available for preseason games.

“This season, the NFL has allowed us to expand access to our preseason game broadcasts via a digital stream, affording the Jaguars the opportunity to connect with more fans on multiple platforms and in more than one language,” said Jaguars President Mark Lamping in an email to WJCT News.

The Jaguars have been playing one home game in London since 2012. “The demand for NFL football continues to grow internationally, and the Jaguars have benefited from our aggressive support of the league’s global movement,” said Lamping.

Coaches get a good look at many players in preseason opener

The first preseason game brought excitement to fans, coaches and players for different reasons. Jaguars fans are looking to see those players who took them within an eyelash of last year’s Super Bowl.

Most of those in attendance knew that guys like quarterback Blake Bortles, running back Leonard Fournette and cornerback Jalen Ramsey were likely to play only the first quarter. Those watching on television knew the same thing leading some to go on to do or watch something else.

The Jacksonville Jaguars may have looked good, but looks aren’t everything. (Image via Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)

Doug Marrone and his coaching staff already knew what those three and other starters could do. They were anxious for the second and third strings to show why they should be on the team or on the starting unit.

Obviously, those players wanted to show the coaches what they could do.

Going into Thursday’s game against the Saints, one of the questions was who would be Fournette’s backup on opening day? Would it be T.J. Yeldon or fourth-year back Corey Grant?

Would backup quarterback Cody Kessler look like he could fill in if Bortles missed any time during the season? How about impressive rookie wide receiver D. J. Chark, who has looked great in training camp?

Bortles looked terrific in his brief appearance, leading his team on a 79-yard touchdown drive to start the game. For those who stuck around, Kessler was poised during his two-plus quarters of play.

Yeldon maintained his hold on the backup running back position, while Grant was only able to gain 6 yards on 8 carries. Third-string receiver Shane Wynn showed a lot of speed, meriting a closer look.

The Saints won the game, 24-20, but Marrone will consider the night successful, if for no other reason than avoiding major injuries. Next Saturday, the Jaguars travel to Minnesota to face the Vikings.

Five Jacksonville City Councilmen back Baxter Troutman for Ag Commissioner

State Rep. Baxter Troutman, in a competitive three-way race for Agriculture Commissioner, picked up a straw poll win at a meeting of the Jacksonville Young Republicans Monday — and scored five local endorsements while in town.

Worth noting: all five endorsers were at the straw poll event, where Troutman and opponent Sen. Denise Grimsley both spoke.

Troutman did have local advantage in closing the deal, as campaign manager Carlo Fassi offered a Duval tie not present on Grimsley’s side.

“As someone who focuses on job creation in Northeast Florida,” said Council President Aaron Bowman, increasingly willing to endorse candidates, “I value the private sector experience Baxter’s candidacy brings to this race.

“The fact that he’s helped place more than 50,000 Floridians in jobs across the state adds serious credibility to his candidacy. That, coupled with his lifetime of experience in production agriculture, makes him the most qualified, conservative candidate in this year’s race to succeed Adam Putnam as Commissioner of Agriculture,” Bowman added

Council VP Scott Wilson also is on board: “Florida’s agriculture industry is facing a turning point. With diseases plaguing commodity products statewide and natural disasters decimating crop production, it’s important we have a Commissioner who empathizes with what farmers are dealing with and has a plan to address this dire situation.”

“Baxter’s plans to help Florida Agriculture are unmatched by any candidate in this race. As a fellow conservative,” Wilson added, “I’m proud to endorse him.”

Councilman Bill Gulliford opined that Troutman “understands the proper role of government and how it should assist, not impede, a thriving economy. He’s thetrue conservative we need as our next Commissioner.”

Councilman Sam Newby called Troutman “the most qualified conservative candidate in this race,” lauding his “agricultural expertise, private sector success, and public service in the House of Representatives.”

“We need our next Commissioner of Agriculture to be someone who understands from experience how burdensome government regulations can be on job creators. As a business owner myself, I trust Baxter Troutman to help create a level playing field for business owners and entrepreneurs throughout the Sunshine State. He’s a proven conservative with the background needed to be an effective Commissioner of Agriculture.”  asserted Councilman Al Ferraro.

“I’m proud to have the support of these Jacksonville City Council members. They are fine public servants with significant experience in the private sector. Their addition to Team Troutman demonstrates the momentum we continue to build along the First Coast. We are going to win this primary,” asserted Troutman.

As is the case in the gubernatorial race, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has not endorsed here. However, if he were to endorse, it likely would be Troutman.

The five endorsers rolled out Thursday are reliable allies on most issues. And Curry’s chief of staff Brian Hughes was running Troutman’s operation before handing it off to Fassi when he began his stint with the city at the beginning of the year.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams endorses Ron DeSantis

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams endorsed U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis for Governor late Wednesday, breaking with almost 50 elected sheriffs and police unions that have long since backed Adam Putnam.

“I am pleased to endorse Ron DeSantis for Governor of Florida.  I greatly respect his military service in the United States Navy in Iraq,” Williams asserted.

“When I talk with Ron DeSantis, his view of law enforcement mirrors my own: protecting innocent citizens and holding bad actors accountable. I believe that as Governor Ron DeSantis will prioritize law enforcement and will be good for the citizens of Jacksonville.  I am proud to offer him my support,” Williams added.

This endorsement came on the same day the head of the local Fraternal Order of Police was waving signs for Putnam outside the Jacksonville debate.

Two other major Northeast Florida players, state Senate Appropriations chairman Rob Bradley and his Clay County colleague, Rep. Travis Cummings, endorsed DeSantis Wednesday ahead of the debate.

Meanwhile, one other major Northeast Florida endorsement, that of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, still waits to be conferred.

Curry’s mayoral chief of staff, Brian Hughes, was watching the debate with Curry’s political adviser Tim Baker from the balcony Wednesday evening.

Hughes and Baker ran DeSantis’ 2012 campaign for Congress, suggesting there may be an opportunity for synergy on that front also.

Lenny Curry re-election fundraising slows to $110K in July

Even as rumblings persist that Jacksonville City Councilwoman Anna Brosche is eyeing the 2019 mayoral race, incumbent Lenny Curry continues actively fundraising and running ads.

July was Curry’s weakest month since announcing he wanted four more years, with Curry bringing in $85,000 to his Jacksonville on the Rise political committee and an additional $24,950 to his campaign account.

The $109,950 haul brings Curry up to just under $382,000 in the campaign account ($395,000 raised) and another $1,501,000 in the committee pot ($1.95 million raised).

Curry, running an active campaign against nominal competition, has nearly $2 million on hand.

The more interesting donors were on the committee side.

Names to be filed away for future reference include Auld and White ($25,000); mainstay Fidelity National Financial ($25,000); Dream Finders LLC ($20,000) and BNY Mellon and its subsidiary Pershing Advisor Solutions ($20,000 total).

Between them, Curry’s four opponents have under $1,200 on hand.

The first election is in March. Should one candidate not get a majority of the vote, the top two face off in May.

JEA ‘no-sale’ bill appears to be ‘black flag dead’ in Jacksonville City Council

It is rare that a Jacksonville City Council resolution gets four committee stops, but such is the case with 2018-429, a resolution of disinclination to sell local publicly owned utility JEA.

It is even rarer that a bill can’t get a second to move into consideration.

That was the case in Monday’s Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health and Safety Committee, where the bill could not get a second, and the committee moved to withdraw the bill over the objections of the sponsor.

The final report from the Jacksonville City Council special committee on the future of JEA revealed a consensus to keep the utility local and publicly owned, which seemingly would bode well for the legislation.

However, that wasn’t the case.

Bill sponsor Garrett Dennis, who expended a lot of political capital last year trying to stop what he saw as machinations to sell the utility, asserted late last week his belief that the four committee gauntlet is an attempt to kill the bill.

“Council President (Aaron) Bowman has shown an interest in carrying out this administration’s orders,” Dennis said, “so I wouldn’t be surprised if he is trying to kill the bill.”

Bowman denied that claim when asked.

“It’s time for my colleagues to make a decision. They need to get a backbone and stand up for what is best for our city and not for what Lenny Curry and his cronies want,” Dennis, who is on just one committee currently, said.

As it turned out, committee members asserted they had made their position clear.

Councilman Tommy Hazouri, a Democrat like Dennis, wondered “how many times we have to do a black flag dead on this issue,” given the JEA Special Committee made that statement.

“I’m not here to watch us get embarrassed. You’ve continued to do this on every issue, to go against the mayor. We have spoken,” Hazouri said, proclaiming the bill meaningless.

Committee chairman Sam Newby wondered “why we bring this back up again. It’s a dead issue,” then motioned to withdraw the bill.

Dennis protested the withdrawal motion, but the other four committee members overruled him.

The bill has three more committee stops, and Dennis is on none of those committees, meaning there is a good chance the bill never gets taken up.

Jacksonville Bold for 8.3.18 — Home stretch

For political watchers, August offers an embarrassment of riches in this market.

A number of competitive and contested primaries, including one open Democratic primary and a citywide race for tax collector.

Not to mention the state races, including one competitive primary for governor and one that appears to be all but decided.

For those keeping score, at this point, it’s pretty easy to keep score.

The months of fundraising and endorsement hunting, of compromises and negotiations, of meet and greets — all but over now, with vote-by-mail underway and early voting soon enough.

Did they put in the work? Voters know that about candidates by now.

No election is won without a long-range plan. Politics is a game of ambition tempered with deliberation.

It’s true everywhere, a truth reflected in this week’s Bold.

Alvin Brown stumbles in radio hit

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown continued his recent media blitz on Jacksonville outlets by taking calls on WJCT‘s First Coast Connect Tuesday morning.

Can Alvin Brown win back Corrine Brown’s seat? (Image via Jax Daily Record)

Brown, who had managed not to say anything newsworthy in his two television spots over the weekend, described himself as “the Democrat who’s going to stand up to Donald Trump” and “challenge the status quo” — a marked shift from four years in City Hall where he offered little challenge to extant paradigms.

And ultimately, as was the case when we interviewed him in late June, questions about his tenure in City Hall still loom over his campaign, three years after he left the St. James Building.

When confronted by host Melissa Ross with a quote from his opponent, U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, saying that Brown’s record as mayor was subpar and that Brown called him and said “he wanted to be just like me,” Brown dodged the question, returning to talking points like “36,000 new jobs” familiar to those around in his 2015 re-election bid.

Brown was also asked about his pivot to the left from a “conservative Democrat” posture he asserted as recently as the 2015 reelection bid, including a failure to get Human Rights Ordinance expansion through after a 2012 vote against LGBT rights expansion.

Brown said he “focused on the issues that mattered the most,” which involved the economy and pushing for a “living wage,” again dodging the question that nettled LGBT and progressive voters in Jacksonville.

When asked if his move left was genuine, Brown dodged that question too, saying that he opposed “bullying, discrimination, and violence,” and that he enacted LGBT protections in City Hall.

Actually, though, that was Lenny Curry’s executive order.

Indivisible bets on Soderberg in CD 6

Ambassador Nancy Soderberg scored another key endorsement Monday in her bid for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, when the local Indivisible United Florida 6th District endorsed her candidacy.

Nancy Soderberg looks like the favorite in CD 6. She has deep Jacksonville ties.

“Nancy exemplifies the leadership qualities we seek in an individual to represent the constituents of this district in Washington, D.C.,” said Becky Berman, Co-Leader of Indivisible United Florida 6th District.

“Grassroots groups like Indivisible United Florida 6th District are helping lead the movement for new leadership in our district,” Soderberg said.

“Their hard work and dedication is critical to winning this seat in November. Our people-driven, grassroots campaign will continue working with committed local groups like Indivisible to bring change to FL-06. I am thrilled to have their endorsement and am proud to fight alongside these local leaders,” Soderberg added.

The endorsement from the local Indivisible group is another boost for a strong, disciplined campaign intent on flipping the east-central Florida seat from Ron DeSantis red to Democrat blue.

A survey released last week from St. Pete Polls showed Soderberg up big, with her 30 percent support amounting to more than opponents Steve Sevigny (10 percent) and John Upchurch (13 percent) combined.

Casey DeSantis goes national

Casey Black DeSantis, one of the most familiar faces on the Jacksonville media landscape, went national this week via an ad for the Ron DeSantis gubernatorial campaign.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

“Everyone knows my husband Ron DeSantis is endorsed by President Trump. But he’s also an amazing dad. Ron loves playing with the kids,” Casey DeSantis says, kicking off an ad that attempts to meld humor and the presentation of her husband as a family man.

The spot features DeSantis exhorting a child to “build the wall” using giant construction blocks, reading to a child from “The Art of the Deal,” and teaching a child to read from a Trump sign.

“Make America great again,” DeSantis reads to one of his offspring.

“People say Ron is all-Trump, but he’s really so much more,” Mrs. DeSantis quips, as the camera pans to a child of tender age in a crib, wearing a Make America Great Again onesie.

“Big league,” the candidate says, “so good.”

The ad was derided on social media; however, the campaign estimates that the total reach equaled a million dollars of paid exposure.

Greene works Northeast Florida

On Monday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Greene made the rounds in Northeast Florida, a bus tour that included a number of Jacksonville stops.

Jeff Greene gave out backpacks (and campaign swag) at a Jacksonville school.

At one of them — a back-to-school backpack giveaway at Northwestern Middle School — we caught up with the candidate, who per at least one recent poll of the race is within 6 points of leader Gwen Graham.

Greene, as one might expect, projected confidence.

Noting that he has only been in the campaign since mid-June, Greene asserted that he’s “running against candidates who have been running for a year and a half.”

“I’m really thrilled,” Greene said, “that an electorate that had not been excited is suddenly getting excited and we’re doing better than we even expected.”

“The reaction I’m getting as we drive down the road — people honking their horns, thumbs up. We get off the bus and crowds have been great everywhere. The message has been getting through; Democrats are tired of losing,” Greene said.

Dirty campaign?

With the Democratic gubernatorial primary fast approaching, some of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum‘s most controversial allies are pushing an ad attacking front-runner Gwen Graham.

Some hand-wringing from Jax Dems about third-party spending on behalf of Andrew Gillum.

It started Monday: a $500,000 ad buy in Jacksonville, Tampa, and West Palm Beach via the Collective Super PAC.

This is not the first ad buy by the group hitting a negative message on Graham.

The new spot, “Zero Regrets,” attacks Graham for touting “progressive credentials despite voting with banks, supporting the disastrous Keystone XL pipeline, and publicly undermining President Obama’s Affordable Care Act to get reelected,” asserts the Collective group.

The group, after this buy, will have committed over $1.75 million to Gillum.

A pair of Jacksonville Democratic members of the Jacksonville City Council blasted Gillum for the ads.

“Andrew Gillum is running a dirty campaign. He is the only candidate in the race supporting negative Super PAC ads and he is the only candidate attacking his fellow Democrats — more than the Republicans are even attacking our party,” Garrett Dennis said.

“Mayor Gillum likes to say we need to give voters something to vote for — not against. If his campaign and Super PAC followed his own advice, maybe they would be doing better in this race,” Dennis added.

Dennis’ colleague Tommy Hazouri added that “The Republicans are loving to watch as Andrew Gillum embraces secret money and attacks Gwen Graham with Super PAC money. This irresponsible sham weakens our party, and makes it harder for us to win the General Election.”

Daniels holds cash lead

As of July 20, the last date for which campaign finance data is available, House District 14 incumbent Rep. Kim Daniels is still well ahead of Democratic challenger Paula Wright.

Kim Daniels, per the Florida Chamber, is the best Dem bet for business in the House.

In the money chase ahead of the open Democratic primary, Daniels raised $7,642, and spent $13,420, between July 7 and July 20. She has just over $21,500 on hand.

Of the contributions, $5,000 came in five $1,000 checks from a North Miami Beach address housing a gaggle of dialysis companies. Also contributing: former Republican candidate for 4th Circuit State Attorney Wes White, as well as Harry Rummell of the Peter Rummell family.

Of the over $13,000 spent, the majority was on campaign materials, food for workers, et al. Daniels is also employing a consultant with some name value, former state Rep. Terry Fields, who was paid $1,700 during the period.

Wright, whose fundraising was slow out of the gate, showed some improvement on the last report filed in June; she raised $5,364 and spent $1,020. All told, she has roughly $7,000 on hand.

More endorsements for Polson

More and more Jacksonville Democrats are lining up to endorse first-time candidate Tracye Polson in House District 15.

The Trayce Polson campaign is not fading away, and the seat could flip blue this fall.

HD 15 is currently Rep. Jay Fant‘s seat, but he opted to leave it months back to run for Attorney General. Polson — the cash leader in the race — hopes to turn the typically deep red seat blue.

And Jacksonville Democrats back her, almost without exception. Three more endorsements — from Rep. Tracie Davis, Jacksonville City Council Member Garrett Dennis and former Rep. Mia Jones — dropped Tuesday.

More will be coming.

Davis lauded Polson’s “passion for improving education” and “endorsement of Duval County teachers,” describing her as a “professional listener” with “compassion and vision.”

Polson lauded the trio’s “commitment and dedication to our city … not just Democratic values, but for policies that reflect and help every community and neighborhood in Jacksonville.”

For Polson, the endorsements are the latest sign of momentum.

Sen. Audrey Gibson, who aligns with the three latest endorsers, backs her. As do EMILY’s List, the Sierra Club, and Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Gwen Graham.

Her endorsements come from beyond her party as well: the nonpartisan Jacksonville Firefighters and the Fraternal Order of Police threw down, as did former GOP mayoral candidate Audrey Moran.

And what’s more, she has the cash lead.

Fischer in control in HD 16

Rep. Jason Fischer, a first-term Republican from Jacksonville’s House District 16, continued to maintain a strong lead over his Democratic opponent Ken Organes in the latest filings.

Jason Fischer seeks a second term in the House.

Neither faces primary opposition; this is a race to November.

In the two weeks between July 7 and July 20, Fischer brought in $7,800 to his campaign account, with an additional $11,500 raised by his political committee, Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville.

Contributions of over $1,000 came from familiar names: the Jacksonville Kennel Club; JAX BIZ (the political committee of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce); Wayne Weaver; CSX Transportation; Duke Energy PAC; and Peter Rummell were all represented on the committee or hard money side.

Between committee and campaign account funds, Fischer has roughly $185,000 on hand.

Organes, a first-time candidate and a retiree from the aforementioned CSX Transportation, brought in $5,326 in the two week period, giving him approximately $27,500 on hand.

Ray tax collector bid backed by gun lobby

The National Rifle Association has an interest in the four-way race for Duval County Tax Collector, with the gun lobby backing former state Rep. Lake Ray.

A familiar orange mailer from the group trumpets Ray’s A+ rating on gun issues, giving the Jacksonville Republican another boost ahead of the August primary.

Ray has maintained a cash lead over his three opponents, and that continued in reports released by the four campaigns Friday.

Lake Ray is enjoying support from the NRA in his bid for tax collector.

Ray has raised and self-financed a total of $143,435, with roughly $109,000 of that on hand still. Of the $6,500 brought in during the most recent two-week reporting period (July 7-20), the biggest name contributor was Sleiman Holdings.

Worth noting: Toney Sleiman, the strip mall magnate embroiled in ongoing litigation with the city of Jacksonville over the dilapidated Landing, is at odds with fellow Republican Mayor Lenny Curry. It will be interesting to see if Curry endorses someone besides Ray, who at times has proved to be too independent of the mayor’s priorities.

Ray is spending money now: He dropped $22,863 in the most recent reporting period, the bulk of it on printing and mailing costs.

Shaver dithers, dumps consultant

This week saw movement in a story we covered last week, regarding St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver and a political consultant with whom she and other St. Augustine pols did a lot of business.

Bad for business: Mayor Nancy Shaver dumps controversial consultant, but may be too late to matter.

St. Augustine’s Daniel Carter accused well-connected local political blogger Michael Gold, whose Historic City News website attracts advertising from many prominent local politicians, of sending him a racist email.

As Carter wrote on Facebook: “Calling out a news outlet for being a racist piece of ____ and in turn, the editor-in-chief responds with overt racist remarks confirming that he is, in fact, a racist piece of ____.”

Shaver, when we talked to her, feigned ignorance. Yet, as WJCT reported this week, she evolved, asserting that the consultant’s email was “vile,” and that she would pull advertising.

Shaver, per campaign finance records, was spending less with Gold than she had in previous cycles. However, with an election just weeks away, it’s by no means certain that her delayed reaction to a consultant calling a constituent “lazy and shiftless” (among other racist phrases) will reassure anyone.

Dogs to relieve anxious flyers at JIA

Jax Paws, a program where K-9s and their handlers will help comfort anxious passengers at Jacksonville International Airport, launched this week, reports Action News Jax.

There are several advantages for having comfort dogs at the airport, says Anne Bell with Jax Paws: “It really has been proven that physiologically it calms the person, lowers the blood pressure … people seem to respond well to the dogs.”

Specially trained dogs help relieve anxiety at Jacksonville International. (Image via Action News Jax)

More than a dozen dogs are part of the program, which will begin at JIA from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and weekends.

volunteers can soon begin walking dogs in the airport, after passing the licensing process.

“Probably give this two or three months to see how this goes and then open this up to other handlers,” Bell told Action News.

JTA expands bus service to Yulee, Nassau County

JTA will soon be offering direct bus service between Yulee and Jacksonville.

On Tuesday, JTA Board approved an interlocal agreement with the Nassau County Council on Aging/NassauTRANSIT, creating the Nassau-Duval Regional Express Bus Service, per WJCT.

Service will start Dec. 3.

Starting December, JTA will begin service to Nassau County.

“We will be launching the Red Line which is the next corridor, known as the East Corridor, of the First Coast Flyer Bus Rapid Transit System,” said JTA spokeswoman Leigh Ann Rassler in a statement to reporters. “And so, when we launch the Red Line, we’ve got some other enhancements, and this fits nicely into those changes,”

The service will include two morning and three evening trips between Yulee and Jacksonville.

“We are excited about offering another public transportation option to all residents in Nassau County,” Janice Ancrum, NCCOA President and CEO, told WJCT. “JTA has the expertise and resources to leverage NassauTRANSIT’s mobility services within and across our own county.”

The Florida Department of Transportation will fund the program for the first three years.

___

Appointed Arezou Jolly (reappointed) to Jacksonville Transportation Authority.

Jaguars: We’re number 8!

Training camp is in full swing with workouts designed to get the team ready for the season opener. Goal number one is to survive the next four weeks with no devastating injuries.

If that happens, the Jaguars are projected to be one of the NFL’s elite teams in 2018. As a sign of the respect they gained by their postseason run last year, USA Today’s NFL Power Rankings lists Jacksonville as the eighth-best team in the league.

We’re No. 8! (Image via Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Of course, all of these rankings are subjective and those involved in ranking the teams clearly believe the NFC is much stronger than the AFC. No fewer than 6 of the top 7 teams come from the NFC.

The New England Patriots are the highest-rated AFC team, coming in at number two. The Jaguars are the next-highest team, just as the two teams finished the 2017 season.

Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia is the top-ranked team.

AFC South Division foes Houston and Tennessee came in at number 11 and 12, respectively. Indianapolis is ranked No. 31 out of 32 teams.

There are good reasons for the high rankings for the Texans’ and Titans’ ranking. They have the easiest, and second-easiest schedules in the league for 2018 while Jacksonville’s strength of schedule is listed as a tie for No. 25.

The Jaguars open their preseason schedule on Thursday against the New Orleans Saints at TIAA Bank Field.

If they avoid the injury bug through four preseason games, they will be completely satisfied to still be ranked number 8 heading into the season opener on September 9 against the New York Giants.

Jacksonville police, fire unions want four more years of Lenny Curry

The symbiotic relationship between Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and the city’s public safety unions was memorialized anew Tuesday, with the police and fire unions both endorsing Curry’s re-election.

The Fraternal Order of Police endorsement lauded Curry for “budgets that give us the tools we need to do our jobs” and “the resources we need to take care of our families.

The Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters likewise lauded Curry for “realistic public safety budget requests.”

For Curry, these were priority endorsements, earned by working out a solution to the city’s unfunded pension liability, by closing defined benefit plans to new hires in exchange for well-funded defined benefit plans and raises for public safety employees totalling 20 percent over three fiscal years.

Curry has devoted budgetary resources to police and fire, including in the most recent proposed budget.

All told, $47 million in new money will be split between the departments.

Christian Whitfield launches bid for Anna Brosche’s Jacksonville City Council seat

Christian Whitfield, a Republican whose last run for elected office resulted in a 34-percentage-point loss to state Rep. Kim Daniels in 2016, is launching a bid for Jacksonville City Council.

Whitfield is running in At-Large Group 1, a citywide position now held by former Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche.

Brosche was at odds with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry on several issues before her presidency wrapped last month. She is mulling a run for mayor.

“It’s a very big decision. It’s not something to be taken lightly. And I tell people from time to time I’m a recovering overthinker, and that’s where we are,” Brosche said, noting a “different vision and different style of leadership” would suit the Mayor’s office.

Whitfield’s entry ensures that whether Brosche runs against Curry or for reelection, her path to elected office in 2019 will force her to go through a Republican who is better liked by party activists than her.

It’s worth remembering that in February, the chair of the Duval Republicans savaged Brosche for not acting in an “honorable fashion” when she refused to allow Curry to speak at a meeting Brosche thought was a pretext to push for a quick sale of JEA, the publicly owned local utility.

The relationship between Brosche and the Duval Republican Party has been rocky for years.

When Brosche ran for Council in 2015 against DINO Daniels, many local Republican Executive Committee members asserted that they would prefer it if Daniels won, arguing that Brosche’s willingness to support LGBT rights was a deal-breaker.

While Chairwoman Morton supported Brosche in her 2017 election to the Council presidency, Brosche noted that backing was likely only because she was running against a Democrat.

Whitfield notes that he “did not speak with the Mayor or his team prior to filing and … was not approached or encouraged to run by anyone associated with the mayor or his office.”

For her part, Brosche welcomed Whitfield to the race: “I applaud Mr. Whitfield on filing to run for at-large group 1; having competitive races strengthens our democracy.”

The question of which competitive race awaits Brosche is central to Jacksonville’s 2019 landscape.

Jacksonville Bold for 7.27.18 — Same s**t, different place

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry stirred things up on Twitter this week, essentially declaring total war against his electoral competition.

“Same s%#t different place. Elected office is loaded w/amateurs. Folks w/no ability to implement ideas. Many are full of empty rhetoric & a false sense of self. They survive on the bottom w cheap talk. We will retire some in the fights that matter When it matters,” Curry said.

As compared to the anodyne public personae of his immediate predecessors, Curry’s unvarnished criticisms of “amateurs” with “empty rhetoric,” a “false sense of self,” and “cheap talk” are brutal.

Lenny Curry: ‘Same s**t, different location.’

Curry has not been shy this cycle about supporting friends. His political consultant is handling a number of local campaigns, both for state House and Jacksonville City Council.

Curry, with roughly $1.75 million banked, may or may not face electoral competition. Former Council President Anna Brosche is mulling a run, even as Curry keeps banking a quarter-million dollars or so every month.

Media members have mocked the declaration. Unaffiliated Republican consultants wonder what’s wrong with the mayor. Some say he sounded unhinged. Others opine that the tweet is unprofessional.

Whatever it is, though, Curry — much like President Donald Trump — is setting the narrative, compelling opponents and critics to react.

How and when do they throw down? Is it already too late?

‘This girl, or whatever she is’

Rep. Ron DeSantis wasn’t expected to say anything particularly off script in his Orange Park appearance Saturday, but an offhand remark got national attention.

Ron DeSantis was more quotable in Orange Park than Jacksonville.

The Republican candidate for governor, per Huffington Post, “referred to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democratic congressional nominee who is seen as a rising star in her party, as ‘this girl Ocasio-Cortez or whatever she is.’”

“You look at this girl Ocasio-Cortez or whatever she is, I mean, she’s in a totally different universe,” he said to laughs. “It’s basically socialism wrapped in ignorance.”

David Vasquez, a spokesman for DeSantis’ campaign, said that the congressman’s comments were “expanding on the importance of education” and that teaching students more about the Constitution might “prevent more socialists like Ocasio-Cortez calling for ‘free’ everything.”

Soderberg up big with CD 6 Dems

A poll released Tuesday shows that if the Democratic primary were held today in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, former U.S. Ambassador Nancy Soderberg would defeat both her male opponents.

Hours after the poll dropped, Nancy Soderberg pushed out a fundraising pitch.

The survey from St. Pete Polls gave Soderberg 30 percent support, more than opponents Steve Sevigny (10 percent) and John Upchurch (13 percent) combined.

However, there is still room for movement; 46 percent of respondents are currently undecided.

The poll has a sample size of 420, 4.8 percent margin of error and a 95 percent confidence level.

With female voters, Soderberg has a 22-point lead over her nearest opponent. Nevertheless, the survey also suggests she is having a harder time closing the deal with men, with whom Soderberg only has an eight-point lead over Upchurch.

As well, per the poll, the older the voter is, the more likely that voter will support Soderberg. The former ambassador has double-digit leads with voters aged 30-49 (12 percent), 50-69 (18 percent), and 70+ (18 percent).

Soderberg is well-positioned to make her case with undecided voters, with nearly $1.5 million in total fundraising since she entered the race and $981,790 cash on hand.

ICE heats up Dem primary in CD 5

The Democratic primary battle in Florida’s 5th Congressional District between U.S. Congressman Al Lawson and former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown is heating up.

And ICE is one reason why.

Al Lawson, Alvin Brown continued jousting on the issue of ICE this week.

Last week, Lawson found himself voting with Republicans (and against many Democrats) on a key issue: the future of the controversial Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Lawson was just one of 18 Democrats voting in favor of ICE, which is under fire of late due to the internment of migrant children.

Suffice it to say Lawson had no regrets over his vote.

“You’ve got to have some kind of border security. You can’t just have open borders,” Lawson said. “They need to be reformed, but they do other things besides immigration. Protection [against] traffickers — drug traffickers, human traffickers and everything else.”

“The Democrats — someone had a protest vote to say ‘present,’ but there’s no such vote as ‘present.’ They would refuse to vote to get rid of them. They voted present. I’m just not that kind of person.”

“You’ve got to reform them, but you can’t just get rid of them. That’s probably the worst decision that we made, saying that we’re going to get rid of ICE,” Lawson said.

“They were led by Maxine Waters, you know, in California. But really, it’s not the issue.”

Brown took the weekend to formulate a response to the incumbent’s ICE advocacy, but once he finally did it was full of fire.

Read more here.

Also see: Lawson, Brown serve BBQ in Leon County.

U.S. Senator backs Polson in HD 15

In yet another sign House District 15 Democratic nominee Tracye Polson is getting some interest from well outside Jacksonville, the campaign touted an endorsement from a U.S. Senator.

First-term Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen endorsed Polson in the race to succeed outgoing Rep. Jay Fant, citing firsthand knowledge of what the candidate brings to the table.

Chris Van Hollen is the latest big endorsement for Trayce Polson’s campaign.

“I have firsthand knowledge of Dr. Tracye Polson’s remarkable expertise and leadership having been a board member of an organization — where Tracye spent 12 years ending in the role of Executive Director — whose mission is focused on early childhood mental health and education. She is expert, caring and trustworthy,” Van Hollen asserted.

Polson said it was “an honor to be endorsed by U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen who has earned bipartisan respect and worked across the aisle to file this year a bill to protect our democracy through the Defending Elections Act (DETER).”

This bill, co-sponsored with Florida Republican Marco Rubio, would use economic and criminal sanctions to punish foreign interference in American elections.

Polson and Van Hollen go back almost two decades.

Polson, with $127,000 on hand as of the most recent report, still holds a narrowing cash lead against the Republican field. Lobbyist Wyman Duggan had almost $123,000 on hand (and is already up on television), with opponents Mark Zeigler ($32,482 on hand) and Joseph Hogan ($12,537) well behind.

If Polson/Duggan is the general election, expect this to be one of the most expensive state House races in Florida. Polson appears poised to have help, including staffers, from the Florida Democratic Party. Duggan will have all the help he needs from the Jacksonville business and political establishments, along with state interests.

Daniels late with campaign finance report, ahead in money race

State Rep. Kim Daniels, a first-term Democrat in Northwest Jacksonville’s House District 14, has been fined for filing a campaign finance report late earlier this summer.

Kim Daniels appears to have the inside track in an open primary.

Daniels missed the deadline for the June 29 report, per the Division of Elections, with the report eventually filed on July 7, resulting in a fine of $450.96.

That report covered the first three weeks of June, a period in which Daniels reported no fundraising and a primary expenditure of paying her campaign filing fee. The fine appears to be the maximum 25 percent of that filing fee.

Despite this glitch, Daniels appears to have a strong advantage in what is an open primary race in HD 14.

Daniels, a first-term lawmaker often friendly to GOP interests, has $47,227 raised with almost $28,000 of that on hand.

Much of that was Republican money. Democrats have called Daniels a DINO and worse off record, but for the second straight cycle, they seem unable to do anything about the GOP picking a winner in a Democratic primary.

Opponent Paula Wright is far behind in fundraising, with just $3,501 on hand.

See also: How the Florida Star slimed Paula Wright.

NRA says ‘ABC’ to McBurney’s latest judge bid

“Anybody but Charles”: that’s the message from the National Rifle Association regarding former state Rep. Charles McBurney‘s bid for a judgeship in Florida’s 4th Circuit.

A mailer in Duval County mailboxes this week reprises a number of charges against McBurney, with the idea of stopping his current electoral bid for a judgeship just as the gun lobby did McBurney’s bid for an appointment from Gov. Rick Scott in 2016.

The candidate’s “actions as a legislative chairman,” per the NRA, make McBurney “unfit for the bench — any bench — anywhere.”

Anybody but Charles McBurney: A movement is rising against the former state Rep.

“It’s as simple as A-B-C: vote for anybody but Charles McBurney,” the mailer adds.

The pique between the gun lobby and the former four-term Republican legislator from Jacksonville goes back to the 2016 Legislative Session.

McBurney, who chaired the House Judiciary Committee in 2016, tabled a bill that would have shifted the burden of proof from defendants to prosecutors under the state’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law.

McBurney was passed over for the gubernatorial appointment that went to Judge Robert Dees.

Opponents say it’s easy as A-B-C.

McBurney holds a significant cash on hand advantage, thus far, over his opponent — former prosecutor turned family law attorney Maureen Horkan.

Heavily self-financed Horkan has roughly $4,300 on hand. McBurney, backed by an impressive cross-section of the legal community, has over $105,000 in cash.

However, the NRA imprimatur may help shake some of the conservative support McBurney has down the stretch.

Election year budget for Curry

Curry rolled out on Monday his administration’s fourth budget, one continuing an upward trajectory of spending since 2015, without a tax increase.

A fat CIP and no millage rate increase. Could this create problems down the road?

As compared to the $1.19 billion general fund budget in FY 16-17, and the $1.27 billion budget last year, the general fund budget is up this year to $1.31 billion.

The stated reason: savings realized from pension reform, which the Mayor’s Office says contributes to $331 million of savings over two years.

“Without pension reform,” Curry said, “millions and millions of dollars would be diverted away from making our city better.”

A big part of the spend: capital improvements. FY 18-19 will see $161.4 million allocated to improvements, with big spends on Hart Bridge offramp removal ($12.5 million from the city matching the same sum from the state), a new fire station ($5 million), road resurfacing ($12 million), money for infrastructure at U.F. Health ($15 million, part of a $120 million commitment) and sidewalk projects (many of them delayed for years).

The Hart Bridge project is budgeted for the first phase, per Curry, who expressed confidence that — as he has demonstrated for the past three years — he “gets things done.”

“Without pension reform,” Curry reiterated in the media availability, “there would not be [this level of investment]” in capital projects.

Also, drainage rehab and septic tank phaseout continues, and over $60 million will be spent on the Emerald Necklace and McCoys Creek projects. And $10.8 million will be devoted, over three years, to remedy dilapidated African-American cemeteries ($2.5 million this year).

This was, said Curry, a “decade-long backlog” of needs.

The $161.4 million CIP — up more than double from Curry’s first $72 million CIP.

#JayZonTheRise

The London Daily Mail brings us an interesting story with the convergence of Curry’s favorite rapper and favorite donor.

Kismet is NOT in Jacksonville this week, apparently.

Per the paper, “Jay Z and Beyoncé splash the cash when it comes to their holidays — including on their current break in Italy, during which they have chartered the Kismet yacht, worth an eye-popping £180 million, for the height of luxury on the vacation.”

“The couple have been spotted on the jaunt around the Amalfi coast where they have been enjoying the spoils of the yacht, owned by US billionaire Shahid Khan, who is also the owner of NFL team the Jacksonville Jaguars, and includes luxuries including a beauty salon and on-boat cinema,” the piece adds.

Khan’s yacht has often been docked outside the Jacksonville Landing, a vision of opulence adjacent to a crumbling mall.

JTA talks transit, Smart Cities

On the latest JAX Current, experts at the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) and the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) discuss the future of regional transit and how Jacksonville is taking part of the Smart Cities Initiative.

Jacksonville is taking part in the Smart Cities Initiative.

The JAX Current is a monthly podcast hosted by leaders of the JAXUSA Partnership, the economic development arm of the JAX Chamber. Each month, the podcast highlights company executives, civic leaders and national location consultants to discuss ‘Why JAX’ and emerging economic trends and how Jacksonville’s role in the global marketplace.

The JAX Current is available on iTunes, SoundCloud and other outlets.

Jacksonville creates over 21K new jobs last year, third highest in state

Per news release: The Jacksonville area added 21,600 new private-sector jobs in the past year, creating the third-highest number of jobs among all Florida metro areas. Jacksonville’s unemployment rate was 3.7 percent in June, down 0.5 percentage point from one year ago.

Jacksonville is open for business.

The industries with the highest growth over the year in Jacksonville were trade, transportation, and utilities, and leisure and hospitality each with 4,500 new jobs, and professional and business services with 4,400 new jobs. Jacksonville once again rounded out the top five metro areas in job demand, with 18,248 openings, and had the fifth-highest number of openings for high-skill, high-wage STEM occupations with 4,829 online openings.

 As of June, Florida’s unemployment rate remained at 3.8 percent, a drop of 7 points since December 2010; this drop is faster than the national decline of 5.3 percentage points. In the past year, 130,000 people entered Florida’s labor force, a growth of 1.3 percent, which is greater than the national labor force growth rate of 1.2 percent.

State signs off on Jacksonville trauma center

The Florida Department of Health issued a final order rejecting a challenge to a new trauma center at Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville, reports the News Service of Florida.

A judge clears the way for a new trauma unit at Jacksonville Memorial.

The rejection was based on recommendations by Administrative Law Judge Robert Cohen, who ruled against UF Health Jacksonville, which has long operated a trauma center. Last year, the Department of Health gave “provisional” approval for Memorial to open a trauma center. UF Health Jacksonville filed a challenge to the approval on a series of grounds, including whether a “slot” was available in the state trauma system to open another trauma facility in Northeast Florida.

In his recommendation, Cohen said: “Memorial met its burden of establishing that its trauma center application met the applicable standards” and rejected UF Health Jacksonville’s argument that the department wrongly gave approval to the Memorial trauma center without an available slot.

Crowley adds natural gas-powered ship to fleet

Crowley Maritime is adding the world’s first LNG-powered ship for container and roll-on/roll-off cargo. VT Halter Marine Inc. built the El Coqui specifically for Crowley, for use on the Jacksonville-Puerto Rico trade line.

Named after a Puerto Rican species of frog, El Coqui will make its first voyage to San Juan from Jaxport this month. According to the Jacksonville Business Journal, its sister ship Taino is being assembled at the VT shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi, to begin service later this year.

Crowley Maritime’s newest Liquid Natural Gas-powered ship, El Coqui.

At 720 feet long and weighing 26,500 deadweight tons, El Coqui can carry up to 2,400 container units at a cruising speed of 22 knots. The ship can hold a range of container sizes, up to 300 refrigerated containers and a mix of about 400 cars and larger vehicles.

“This delivery represents another milestone in our unwavering commitment to Puerto Rico and the Jones Act,” CEO Tom Crowley said in a statement. The Jones Act is a 1920 maritime law mandating that cargo shipped between U.S. ports must use U.S.-built, owned and manned ships.

Are you ready for some futbol?

In what is clearly an indication of stronger branding and a recognition of Jacksonville’s changing demographics, the Jaguars will have Spanish language broadcasts this year.

Long time coming: Jaguars offer Spanish broadcast, first since team’s beginning.

Tico Sports will air the games on WBOB 600 AM and 101.1 FM, the team’s Jacksonville flagship Spanish radio partner, and on 107.3 Solos Exitos in Orlando. The broadcasts will also be digitally streamed on a mobile application.

“We look forward to reaching a new and growing audience with a Spanish language airing of our games this season,” said Jaguars President Mark Lamping. “Our efforts to develop new fans and expand our fan base internationally are well-established, and this initiative is a new avenue for us to reach and develop new Jaguars fans in the Latino communities. We look forward to our partnership with Tico Sports and to bringing to our fans Jaguars game action in Spanish.”

The grind begins; Jags open training camp, but without Ramsey

When last seen, the Jacksonville Jaguars were trudging off the field at Gillette Stadium after coming up on the short end of a 24-20 thriller to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. On Wednesday, they made their first appearance of this season as training camp opened at TIAA Bank Field complex.

The cool temperatures of January were replaced this week with the heat and humidity of northeast Florida. To get to another title game, or beyond, the drudgery of July and August must come first.

Jalen Ramsey will not open training camp for the Jaguars.

“I think it’s a grind. We talk about coaching stamina, player stamina — how do we keep that focus for that long a time?” said Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone. “You’re talking about starting a day at 7 a.m., and by the time you’re ending the day, it’s 9 o’clock at night. You’re going through a lot of different things — football, in the weight room, out on the field, nutrition … all of that stuff is going on.”

The first day of training camp was uneventful, other than the absence of star cornerback Jalen Ramsey. That absence will be excused because Ramsey remained in Tennessee for a few days after the birth of his daughter.

“Today starts a new chapter in my life, as Bre and I are blessed to welcome our baby into this world,” he tweeted. “With that said, I want to let everyone know that I’ll be in Tennessee with my family, and as soon as I’m comfortable knowing my family is healthy and happy, I’ll return to Jacksonville to rejoin my teammates on our quest to handle some unfinished business.”

There will still be plenty of the grind left when he returns.

Lenny Curry in total war mode, Anna Brosche mulls ‘different vision’ for mayor’s office

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry raised eyebrows on Twitter Tuesday evening with a declaration of war against his political enemies.

As compared to the anodyne public personae of his immediate predecessors, Curry’s unvarnished criticisms of “amateurs” with “empty rhetoric,” a “false sense of self,” and “cheap talk” are brutal.

“We will retire some in the fights that matter when it matters,” Curry vowed.

Curry, running hard for re-election without a plausible challenger yet to file, even referred to opponents during his budget rollout Monday.

Curry alluded to political opponents, calling them “cynics” pushing narratives of “fear.”

In the media avail, Curry wouldn’t name them, only saying they were the “same ones who showed up in [his] campaign, during pension reform.”

One potential opponent, who has been mulling a run for mayor for months now: former Council President and fellow Republican Anna Brosche.

Brosche, on WJCT’s First Coast Connect Wednesday, did not tip her hat regarding whether a run is imminent.

“It’s a very big decision. It’s not something to be taken lightly. And I tell people from time to time I’m a recovering overthinker, and that’s where we are,” Brosche said.

Brosche did allow that someone should challenge the mayor, spotlighting her “different vision and different style of leadership” for the mayor’s office.

“That’s all part of the calculus,” Brosche said, noting that she will “take the time that it needs to reach a decision.”

The calculus, as it were, may include simple arithmetic.

All told, the Curry operation has nearly $1.75 million on hand, against four filed candidates who have raised, between them, just over $1,500.

Brosche, meanwhile, is caught in a trap: if she is to run for re-election to Council, the Curry machine will target her with a candidate.

Curry’s other Council antagonist, Democrat Garrett Dennis faces the same trap.  If he runs for re-election rather than mayor, Curry’s political operation will target him as well.

Threats Curry is making to “retire” political opponents are all-too-real.

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