Lenny Curry Archives - Florida Politics

Jacksonville CFO Mike Weinstein to retire from City Hall

One of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry‘s most trusted lieutenants, Chief Financial Officer Mike Weinstein, will leave City Hall Nov. 9.

“Since 2015, during the transition between my administration and my predecessor’s, Mike Weinstein has been both trusted adviser and friend. His expertise and depth of knowledge helped me prepare balanced budgets that met our city’s priorities, create a solution to the pension crisis, and set Jacksonville on a sound financial path,” Curry said.

“It’s hard to imagine many people who have such a wide range of experience and success as a public servant. Although he will be missed, there is no one more deserving of the time he will now be able to spend with family and friends. The people of this city are better for the years Mike devoted to making a brighter future.”

Weinstein, whose career spanned decades, served in the Florida House between 2008 and 2012. One of his bills proved to be prescriptive for Jacksonville’s solution to its pension liability: a measure to allow discretionary sales surtaxes to fund indigent health care facilities.

When Weinstein and Curry came into Jacksonville’s City Hall, the city’s general fund budget was throttled by pension obligations of over $300 million a year.

Weinstein’s discretionary sales surtax concept came into play, with the city able to negotiate defined contribution plans for new city hires, while routing post-2030 collections of the city’s 1/2 cent sales tax currently used to fund Better Jacksonville Plan projects to the pension liability.

The city also reamortized pension debt, creating flexibility in the near term, and banking on growth to help pay off a pension obligation that is between $3 and $4 billion now.

Weinstein also served last year of the interim CEO of the Kids Hope Alliance, serving an important bridge role as the city reorganized its children’s programs.

Jacksonville is enjoying a renaissance in terms of its municipal credit standing, getting its first AAA rating for a standalone municipal bond just last week (even as local utility JEA is under a “credit watch” from another ratings agency).

Internal candidates who could step into the Weinstein role include Treasurer Joey Greive.

There are those who have suggested that the next high profile departure from City Hall could be Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa, who like Weinstein has spent decades in the public sector, and who also like Weinstein came in to help stabilize a new administration.

Weinstein is also known for having one of the catchiest campaign themes in Jacksonville history, one that seemed to borrow freely from Kenny Loggins‘ “Footloose”. The video is below.

Jacksonville Bold for 9.14.18 — Time marches on

The primaries are now well behind us.

The parties have unified. Ops for losing candidates have moved into other campaigns (or endeavors).

If you pay attention, there is — at times — a crispness in the morning air.

And while that coolness may be fleeting, it’s an augury of the inevitable march of time.

The days will shorten. By late October, we will have a sense of who is in the best position to win state races — including a state House and a local Congressional race, each of which could be an augury of the oft-discussed “blue wave.”

Campaign season feels endless during the primary slog. But as we get inside of eight weeks before the general election, the news cycles speed up, and what was hypothetical moves ever closer toward the inevitable.

DeSantis leaves Congress

Per Fox News, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis has resigned from Congress, with the pressures of the gubernatorial campaign requiring a full-time commitment to the race.

More of this for Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis, whose district runs from St. Johns County south past Daytona, was a third-term Republican.

DeSantis sent a letter Monday to House Speaker Paul Ryan announcing his immediate resignation.

“As the Republican nominee for Governor of Florida, it is clear to me that I will likely miss the vast majority of our remaining session days for this Congress. Under these circumstances, it would be inappropriate for me to accept a salary,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis’ Democratic opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, has not indicated he would resign his post in kind.

Soderberg builds momentum

While it’s by no means certain that Ambassador Nancy Soderberg will be successful in her Congressional bid, the facts are that she is showing a lot of strength as the general election campaign kicks off.

Nancy Soderberg expects to win the money race in CD 6.

Soderberg’s campaign crossed the $2 million threshold on the strength of over 7,500 contributions this election cycle, a campaign release trumpeted Monday.

“We continue to be blown away by the grassroots support driving our campaign,” Soderberg said.

Soderberg’s Republican opponent, Mike Waltz, a former Green Beret and aide to VP Dick Cheney, has raised over $1 million for the campaign, and doesn’t expect to have to raise that much to beat Soderberg in a district that has voted Republican in the last two election cycles, including +17 for President Donald Trump.

On Monday, Soderberg’s campaign produced a poll showing the race too close to call. Waltz’s campaign was skeptical, suggesting that Democrats may have been oversampled to get that result.

Bean cash haul

State Sen. Aaron Bean, whose district encompasses Nassau and part of Duval County, crossed the $200,000 cash on hand threshold as of his latest finance report.

Four more years? We’ll know in eight weeks.

Bean brought in $2,525 to his campaign account and $6,666 to that of his Florida Conservative Alliance political committee between Aug. 24 — 31. He has just over $100,000 in his campaign account and another $102,000+ in his committee kitty.

The Jacksonville Association of Firefighters donated the maximum $1,000 to his campaign account, offering the most locally notable name on his donor roll.

Regarding the $6,666 to his committee account, that came from Spring Hill Hospital and Brooksville Hospital, both sharing an address in Antioch, Tennessee.

Bean’s opponents face cash flow deficits compared to the incumbent.

Democrat Billee Bussard, a Jacksonville journalist of long standing, raised $1,660 in the week between Aug. 24 — 31. She has nearly $5,000 on hand.

Libertarian Joanna Tavares has not raised money, and has $40 on hand.

Senate District 4 has a strong GOP plurality. Of its just over 360,000 voters, almost 175,000 are Republicans, with 94,000+ Democrats and the rest being NPAs.

Polson builds cash lead 

Democrat Tracye Polson is confident in her ability to take what is now a Republican-held seat in House District 15, and that confidence will only be bolstered after the latest financial reports in the race.

The Blue Wave may spill over the banks of the St. Johns into Jacksonville’s Westside.

During the period from Aug. 24 to 31, Polson stretched her lead over Wyman Duggan, a Republican lobbyist whose backing from the Jacksonville establishment has not translated into winning the money race.

Polson brought in $6,042 to her campaign account, giving her $145,000+ in hard money. She also raised $3,100 for her committee account, which now has $41,000 on hand.

Duggan, conversely, raised $187,000 ahead of a primary, which he won with just 40 percent of the vote despite being the only candidate on television, with over $100,000 committed to ads where Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry vouched for the candidate.

He has less than $7,000 on hand now, with no money raised in the week after the primary. Polson has, at least for the moment, a more than 25-to-1 cash on hand edge over the establishment candidate.

Despite the cash lead, expect Polson to keep pushing. She knows that the machine never runs out of gas.

Fischer draws $11K in one week

While Duggan may have some issues, another Curry ally is winning his own fundraising war.

Jason Fischer isn’t wasting time amassing resources against a Dem challenger.

State Rep. Jason Fischer, a first-term Republican from Jacksonville, faces a general election challenge — and judging from the first week of post-primary fundraising, he takes it seriously.

Between his campaign account and that of his political committee, Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville, Fischer brought in $11,000 in the week leading up to Aug. 31, giving him roughly $200,000 on hand as he faces his first election against Democratic opposition.

Fischer’s campaign account saw $10,000 of the action, buoyed by donors with organizational interests, including the National Federation of Independent Businesses, Rep. Travis Hutson‘s First Coast Business Foundation political committee, and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Fischer’s opponent, retired CSX lifer Ken Organes, is at a cash disadvantage, with just over $31,000 on hand as of Aug. 31.

HD 16 is decidedly GOP, with 55,612 Republicans compared to 35,750 Democrats and 27,788 NPA voters.

Curry favored by donors, again

Curry has raised over $2.5 million for his re-election bid next year, after $221,000 in August receipts between his campaign account and that of his Jacksonville on the Rise political committee.

Lenny Curry calls this part of the campaign ‘just staying warm.’

Curry’s campaign account took in $33,000 of that number; it now has $428,730 raised, with over $414,000 on hand. The committee raked in $188,000, boosting it to $2.138 million raised and $1.66 million on hand.

The committee donors reflect a statewide interest in Curry’s re-election, exemplified best by the First Amendment Fund (a committee primarily funded by the committees of Sens. Joe Negron and Bill Galvano and Rep. Gayle Harrell) going $25,000 deep.

Local interest abounds also. The Rogers Towers funded Committee for Economic Development and Advocates for Business Growth accounts donated, as did the JAXBIZ political committee of the Jacksonville Chamber.

Thus far, Curry faces nominal competition for the March election. Between them, his four opponents have raised less than $2,500.

Speculation swirled that Jacksonville City Councilwoman Anna Brosche (a Republican like Curry) was to file this week, and some of those speculators contend she has over a million dollars in commitments should she run.

Former Times-Union columnist (and seeming future campaign asset) Ron Littlepage poured petrol onto the fire Monday evening.

Parental leave props

The conservative Washington Examiner lauded Jacksonville’s soon-to-be-ratified policy ensuring six weeks of parental leave for new biological parents under city employ.

National plaudits for Lenny Curry’s latest policy reform.

“Only three states require paid parental leave: Rhode Island, California, and New Jersey. This development in Florida is exceptional because the mayor has found a way to offer it to his employees, without being forced to, and in a way that doesn’t cost taxpayers additional funds,” the Examiner contends.

“Paid parental leave is a controversial topic, particularly among conservatives, who are usually against it, because politicians usually want a state to force employers to offer it or raise taxes to pay for it,” the editorial continues, noting that Curry’s friend Marco Rubio is one of the few conservatives to push for the policy on a federal level.

Firefighters make NYC trip

WJXT offered the best report in the local market on last weekend’s trip to New York for the Jaguars’ season opener. Curry and local firefighters were on hand.

Lenny Curry with fire union members before the Jags’ season opener.

Firefighters make the pilgrimage every year, commemorating the first responders whose lives were taken on 9/11/2001. This year, with the Jags playing in East Rutherford, things went a bit different, courtesy of Jaguar defender Malik Jackson.

“When he heard Jacksonville firefighters were going up to the 9/11 ceremony, he provided them with custom jerseys and tickets to the game between the Jaguars and Giants. He even met up with them on the sidelines for photos,” WJXT reports.

Morgan gets establishment nod

Jacksonville City Councilwoman Joyce Morgan faces a former two-term Councilman, Bill Bishop, in her re-election bid.

Joyce Morgan, a pragmatic Democrat, looks to have support from the machine against Bill Bishop.

After one month of running an active campaign, Morgan, a Democrat representing the Arlington area, has taken the cash lead over the stalled-out operation of Bishop, who is just three years removed from drawing nearly 20 percent citywide in the Mayor’s race.

The Morgan/Bishop race is the latest piece of evidence that political prominence in Jacksonville can be an ephemeral thing.

Bishop abandoned his citywide run for an easier race earlier this year, but Morgan’s early momentum suggests that even a district race may prove daunting for his political comeback.

From the Jacksonville Jaguars and owner Shad Khan to the powerful bestbet empire and the Fraternal Order of Police, what’s clear is that the donor class backs Morgan over Bishop.

Morgan raised $15,697 and has nearly $14,500 in hand after her first month’s fundraising, which puts her over the peripatetic Bishop operation, which continues to combine slow fundraising and high recurring costs.

Bishop has just over $12,000 on hand after 11 months of fundraising, including a $700 haul in August that merely defrayed some of the costs of his campaign consulting.

Bishop and Morgan are the only two candidates in the District 1 race.

Fiorentino, Delaney named Florida’s ‘most influential’

The Fiorentino Group’s Marty Fiorentino and John Delaney are among those listed on Florida Trend’s inaugural list of the 500 Most Influential Floridians.

In establishing the roster, Florida Trend began with categories used by the Bureau of Economic Analysis of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Also, there were some rules of thumb: No elected officials, and no more than three people from any one firm.

Marty Fiorentino
Mr. Influential, Marty Fiorentino.

Both Fiorentino and Delaney — a former Jacksonville Mayor and recently retired as president of the University of North Florida — made the cut in the category “professional services.”

“When I was chairman of the Jacksonville Port Authority, we created separate airport and seaport authorities,” Florida Trend quotes Fiorentino in his entry. “This was a big community issue and was greatly debated. It took a lot of outreach and advocacy to get this done.”

Delaney is noted as part of a “collaborative governmental relations effort between the Fiorentino Group, one of the city’s leading consulting and advocacy groups, and Rogers Towers, an old-line law firm that’s a fixture in Jacksonville.”

Personnel notes

Per the Jacksonville Daily Record, some big names have board action.

“The Jacksonville Port Authority elected four officers to its board of directors. Chair John Falconetti, chairman and CEO of Jacksonville-based Drummond Press Inc.; vice chair John Baker, executive chairman of FRP Holdings Inc.; treasurer Jamie Shelton, president of Bestbet Jacksonville; and secretary Wendy Hamilton, president, Eventide Investments of Florida Inc,” the JDR reports.

Additionally, “Kerri Stewart, JEA’s chief customer officer, joined Groundwork Jacksonville’s board of directors. Before joining JEA, Stewart served as chief of staff for Curry and chief administrative officer for Mayors John Peyton and Alvin Brown.

On the campaign side, Jenny Busby (the former aide to Tommy Hazouri and U.S. Rep. Al Lawson) will be on the ground this fall helping Polson in the HD 15 race. Busby is the second Hazouri aide to be enlisted in the Polson quest (Haleigh Hutchison being the first).

Groups unite for affordable senior housing

Aging True, a nonprofit organization that provides senior housing services, and Tampa workforce housing developer Blue Sky Communities are receiving $16.6 million in federal funding to renovate a third Aging True senior apartment building in downtown Jacksonville.

Cathedral Townhouse, a 50-year old 177-unit apartment building located at 501 North Ocean Street, will receive an update of its major building systems, life safety, accessibility, and energy efficiency. All units will receive new kitchens, lighting, flooring, and upgrades of plumbing and electrical systems and exterior painting. The work is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2019 and be completed by late next year.

Cathedral Terrace Apartments is getting a facelift.

Renovation of Cathedral Townhouse is the third Aging True senior affordable apartment building renovated by Blue Sky.

In 2016, Blue Sky completed a $10 million renovation of Cathedral Terrace, a 240-unit tower built in 1974 and located 701 North Ocean Street. Funding for the project came from Florida Housing Finance Corp. 4% tax credits, Jacksonville Housing Finance Authority and the City of Jacksonville State Housing Initiative Program (SHIP).

This year, Blue Sky will complete the $12 million in renovations for Cathedral Tower, a 203-unit apartment building located at 601 North Newnan Street that was built in 1968.

UNF named a ‘Best Regional University’

For the eighth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report has named the University of North Florida among its “best regional” universities in the South.

UNF was ranked No. 42 in the region this year, up six spots from last year. The university was also ranked No. 14 in the “Top Public Schools” list, No. 29 in the “Best Colleges for Veterans” list, No. 58 in the list of the “Best Value Schools,” and No. 82 in the list of “Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs.”

UNF: Among the nation’s best regional universities.

“I take great pride in being able to lead a university that is of the caliber of the University of North Florida,” UNF President David Szymanski told WJCT. “The University is showing up in nearly every national college ranking, putting UNF at the top of some very impressive lists. These accolades are a true testament to our outstanding faculty and staff as well as the talents of our phenomenal students.”

In its rankings, U.S. News & World Report use a combination of a school’s academic reputation, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources and alumni donations.

Jacksonville Zoo offers discounted admission for Hurricane Florence evacuees

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is offering $10 general admission to the Zoo to evacuees from Hurricane Florence. The discount applies at the gates to those with IDs from Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

Hurricane Florence could bring 24 hours of hurricane conditions to Carolinas.

As Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens recovered from damage sustained from Hurricane Irma one year ago, the Zoo understands that routines can be disrupted, particularly when people are away from home and worried.

A day at the Zoo can be just the thing to lift spirits.

To entertain those seeking shelter from Florence, the zoo is celebrating the opening of the great ape African Forest exhibit, and Dinosauria in its final weeks. Also, the Fiesta del Jaguar event is set for Saturday, Sept. 15.

The Zoo would also like to extend good luck to all the zoos and aquariums in the path of the storm and the dedicated keepers who are there to take care of their animals.

For more information on the fun happenings at the Zoo, visit www.jacksonvillezoo.org.

Jags’ much-anticipated rematch with Patriots almost here

Sunday will mark 237 days since that Sunday afternoon in Foxborough, Massachusetts when the Jacksonville Jaguars were five minutes away from going to the Super Bowl. Jacksonville was hanging onto a 20-17 lead over the New England Patriots, but could not hang on long enough, especially with Tom Brady on the other side of the ball.

The lead should have been bigger earlier in the period when Jags’ linebacker Myles Jack stripped Dion Lewis of the ball for a fumble and had clear sailing into the end zone and a 27-10 lead. The officials inexplicably said Jack was down, so no touchdown and eventually, no Super Bowl.

For Jaguars fans, Myles Jack wasn’t down.

Jaguars’ fans have been waiting for Sunday’s appearance by Brady and the Patriots since the day the schedule was announced in the spring. So have the Jaguars’ players.

Myles Jack wasn’t down” shirts, posters and maybe even a flyover, will be present in and around TIAA Bank Stadium. The noise level will be as great as it has ever been.

In other words, imagine tens of thousands of Jalen Ramseys out there.

This is as good of a time as any to play the Patriots, who are without their star wide receiver Julian Edelman as he serves a four-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. Other Patriots are also dinged up, but all-world tight end Rob Gronkowski is ready to go and will be targeted early and often by Brady.

For the Jaguars, workhorse running back Leonard Fournette is nursing a sore hamstring, which could press T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant into leading roles if Fournette cannot play. Coach Doug Marrone said, “we’re going to give it some time and see where we are when it’s time to start testing it.”

That would be some time Friday, which means it could be a game-time decision on whether the second-year back can give it a try. If not, the backup running backs will be counted upon, or if that doesn’t work, call on quarterback Blake Bortles to pass the Jags to victory, or the league’s top defense may be able to add some points themselves.

While winning Sunday will not compensate the painful loss in January, it can put a good-sized Band-Aid over the wound.

Duval Republicans fall in line behind Ron DeSantis with big-ticket fundraiser

Duval County was the epicenter of some of the most savage attacks against Ron DeSantis in the Republican Gubernatorial primary.

Many prominent Republicans, including U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, state Sen. Aaron Bean, state Rep. Cord Byrd, and Jacksonville City Council President Aaron Bowman, strongly backed Adam Putnam.

And in an illustration of the ultimate utility of straw polls, Putnam’s forces engineeered a 75-2 victory over DeSantis in the Jacksonville Young Republicans straw poll weeks before the election.

However, the candidate who “knew Florida best” didn’t prevail. And Jacksonville area Republicans will have a chance later this month to get right with the nominee, via a star-studded funder at the tony Ponte Vedra Country Club Sept. 26.

Driving DeSantis’ Northeast Florida finance efforts: Kent StermonJohn Rood, and Jay Demetree. Expectations are that this event could exceed Rick Scott‘s take eight years ago in similar circumstances.

DeSantis, who at least temporarily is behind Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum in fundraising, will seek to close the gap with the help of some of Jacksonville’s deepest pocketed patrons and most prominent local pols.

The host committee (still in formation) includes local powerbrokers: JEA Board member Husein Cumber (a strong fundraiser going back to the George W. Bush administration) is on board, as is lobbyist Marty Fiorentino, and Jamie and Ali Shelton of bestbet fame, the aforementioned Stermon/Rood/Demetree troika.

Also expected to be on board: Peter Rummell and Tom Petway, two more bulwarks of the Northeast Florida donor class.

Co-chairs include former Duval GOP Chair John Falconetti and former Congressional candidate Hans Tanzler III.

But it’s the honorary host category that shows the greatest party unity, as many of its members were on Team Putnam.

Sen. Aaron Bean, Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels, U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, and former U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw are all now on DeSantis’ side, joining Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, Sheriff Mike Williams, and Rep. Travis Cummings (who endorsed DeSantis before the primary).

The decision is pragmatic. Where else are they going to go?

But after a vituperative primary fight, one full of colorful turns of phrase and de rigueur character assassination, it’s worth noting how quickly the healing begins for Duval Republicans.

For those interested in RSVPing, contact Brianna Jordan (Brianna@FrontStreetFlorida.com) or Heather Barker (Heather@RonDeSantis.com).

Lenny Curry ‘Sacksonville’ branding takes a hit with intellectual property dispute

The Jacksonville Jaguars returned to prominence in 2017, and Mayor Lenny Curry — the team’s most high-profile fan — was along for the ride.

In December 2017, Curry went so far as to issue a mayoral proclamation — deeming defensive end Calais Campbell the “Mayor of Sacksonville.”

The city and the mayor capitalized on the co-branding. As the Jaguars’ launched their playoff run, ESPN took interest in the Sacksonville brand.

“We are heading down to Jacksonville this week to speak to the Jaguars defensive line, and Calais Campbell, who last month you proclaimed as the ‘Mayor of Sacksonville.’ Would you have a window of availability any time on Thursday or Friday to be interviewed on camera about your proclamation,” the producer wrote.

As the Jaguars move into a year in which they and the Sacksonville brand are feted by the league, a former Jaguar (linebacker Dan Skuta) contests the team’s attempt to trademark the brand.

Skuta first established the brand in 2015, and per his legal filing, merchandised the Sacksonville brand. The brand, which Skuta’s company had failed to trademark, was compromised when the Jaguars began to appropriate the hashtag.

There is an active legal challenge, but the glacial pacing of it suggests that it is likely that Sacksonville will find its place next to Dilly Dilly in the cultural graveyard before it is resolved. The current schedule has an oral hearing set for March 2020.

However, the trademark dispute illustrates both the fungible nature of NFL careers and how quickly a trademark can move from obscurity to prominence.

We’ve reached out to the Jaguars and Curry for comment, and will update when we hear.

Tracye Polson builds HD 15 cash lead over flatlining Wyman Duggan

Democrat Tracye Polson is confident in her ability to take what is now a Republican-held seat in House District 15, and that confidence will only be bolstered after the latest financial reports in the race.

During the period from Aug. 24 to 31, Polson stretched her lead over Wyman Duggan, a Republican lobbyist whose backing from the Jacksonville establishment has not translated into winning the money race.

Polson brought in $6,042 to her campaign account, giving her $145,000+ in hard money. She also raised $3,100 for her committee account, which now has $41,000 on hand.

Duggan, conversely, raised $187,000 ahead of a primary, which he won with just 40 percent of the vote despite being the only candidate on television, with over $100,000 committed to ads where Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry vouched for the candidate.

He has less than $7,000 on hand now, with no money raised in the week after the primary. Polson has, at least for the moment, a more than 25-to-1 cash on hand edge over the establishment candidate.

Despite the cash lead, expect Polson to keep pushing. She knows that the machine never truly runs out of gas.

“[Duggan’s] a land use lobbyist and lawyer … Mayor Curry‘s handpicked candidate,” Polson said last week.

Despite the slight lean in voter registration toward Democrats, HD 15 has been a Republican seat for a long time. Jay Fant is the current representative.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry over $2.5M raised for re-election bid

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has raised over $2.5 million for his re-election bid next year, after $221,000 in August receipts between his campaign account and that of his Jacksonville on the Rise political committee.

Curry’s campaign account took in $33,000 of that number; it now has $428,730 raised, with over $414,000 on hand. The committee raked in $188,000, boosting it to $2.138 million raised and $1.66 million on hand.

The committee donors reflect a statewide interest in Curry’s re-election, exemplified best by the First Amendment Fund (a committee funded largely by the committees of Sens. Joe Negron and Bill Galvano and Rep. Gayle Harrell) going $25,000 deep.

Local interest abounds also. The Rogers Towers funded Committee for Economic Development and Advocates for Business Growth accounts donated, as did the JAXBIZ political committee of the Jacksonville Chamber.

Thus far, Curry faces nominal competition for the March first election. Between them, his four opponents have raised less than $2,500.

Speculation swirled that Jacksonville City Councilwoman Anna Brosche (a Republican like Curry) was to file this week, and some of those speculators contend she has over a million dollars in commitments should she run.

When asked Friday, Brosche likened the talk to an “echo chamber.”

Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis has also hinted at running. Dennis, a Democrat, has joined Brosche in the last year in standing athwart administration proposals.

For Tracye Polson, flipping HD 15 means defeating ‘special interests’

Dr. Tracye Polson, running in Westside Jacksonville’s House District 15, is the most likely Northeast Florida Democrat to flip a Republican seat.

However, she understands that to win that battle, she will have to run a gauntlet of attacks from the statewide Republican establishment.

Incumbent Jay Fant stepped down, and Republican nominee and lobbyist Wyman Duggan emerged from a bitter primary that he won with just over 40 percent of the vote. The healing has yet to begin.

Duggan introduced himself to the district with heavy television ad buys. He had to spend. Duggan, supported by the Jacksonville establishment (including political patron Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who was featured in multiple ads), battled attacks against his lobbying for a company looking to buy local utility JEA.

Duggan raised over $187,000 but had less than $13,000 on hand after the primary election receipts were counted. That said, hard money only tells part of the tale.

Primary mailers from Central Florida Conservatives for Truth, a political committee with a seemingly unlikely interest in Jacksonville politics, were ultimately funded by Citizens Alliance for Florida’s Economy, chaired by uber political consultant Anthony Pedicini.

That committee has raised $5 million in the last four years, and has been called one of the largest “dark money” committees by the Florida Times-Union. Recent contributions have come from House Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s Watchdog PAC, Disney, and the Associated Industries of Florida-yoked Voice of Florida Business.

While it is certainly more than possible that similar dynamics will play in the general, where appeals will be microtargeted by Duggan’s political team to suppress Polson’s vote, the Democrat is in a stronger position: at least on paper.

Polson had no primary challenge, and was able to spend the summer canvassing the district — one that has roughly 1,000 more Democrats than Republicans.

She emerged with roughly $140,000 in her campaign account and another $38,000 in her political committee.

Her early messaging post-primary has largely been biographical, exemplified by a video (entitled “Transformation”) released to the public Wednesday.

In the 111-second video, Polson describes her reasons for running: to “transform our lives for the better.”

That urge to transform informs the video’s narrative arc, in which Polson describes the struggles her Vietnam veteran father had after leaving the service and the “issues returning veterans face.”

“As a mental health professional,” Polson says, “I see people’s struggles up close.”

Those struggles include “veterans confronting PTSD, combat stress, and traumatic brain injury.” Not to mention children who survive school shootings, addicts in recovery, and first responders who “face daily horrors to protect us.”

“Too often, we accept problems as permanent,” Polson says. “I can’t accept the status quo any longer.”

“Big special interests tell us meaningful change is impossible. They’re wrong. We have the power to transform Florida,” the candidate says in closing.

Polson will hold what is being billed as a community town hall Wednesday evening at “Fatballs Sports Bar and Grill” on 103rd Street. The event starts at 6:00 p.m.

Polson’s video is below.

November will tell the tale of the strength of the Lenny Curry ‘machine’

Tuesday was very arguably a mixed bag for Mayor Lenny Curry‘s political interests, as endorsements of Frank White and Baxter Troutman in the AG and Ag Commissioner races went for naught.

However, many of the big bets Curry made paid off. And the remaining ones will show the strength of his political operation if they pay off … and reveal gaps (perhaps exploitable in city elections next year) if they don’t.

The biggest bet Curry made: a late-game endorsement of Ron DeSantis in the Governor’s race.

“We agree on many things,” Curry said just weeks ago. “Got to be tough on crime. Got to get bad guys off the street. Invest in young people.”

“Ron and I have similar backgrounds,” Curry related. “We come from working-class families. Worked our butts off to get a good education.”

“Ron’s a good conservative. I’ve been about disrupting the status quo locally, and I think that’s what’s got to happen everywhere,” Curry added. “Ron’s going to disrupt the status quo in the state of Florida. I’m supporting him.”

Curry and various regional political allies (Sen. Rob Bradley, Rep. Travis Cummings, and Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams) endorsed DeSantis in that time frame, with Curry’s endorsement last — and, to the consternation of certain Democrats, at a city of Jacksonville governmental event.

But a win’s a win. And Curry — and Jacksonville — will be a bulwark against Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum, if the Mayor’s political capital still holds like his team and donors believe should happen.

Two Democratic races went Curry’s way, putting those on his ever-growing enemies list on check. The first: U.S. Rep. Al Lawson fending off a challenge from former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, in the Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District.

Curry would not criticize Lawson when asked, saying they had a strong working relationship. Even as GOP donors swung behind Brown (to bring the seat back to Jacksonville), Curry didn’t engage. And it seemed like much of the oppo Lawson used was recycled from Curry’s 2015 campaign for Mayor against Brown.

Meanwhile, another Democratic race in House District 14 served as a shiv at the heart of Curry’s political enemies.

The other competitive primary in the Jacksonville area was the HD 14 Democratic clash between incumbent state Rep. Kim Daniels and Duval County School Board chair Paula Wright.

This was an open primary. And Daniels, written off by her party, taught them a political lesson.

She was helped along by mail from political allies of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, which targeted Wright and lauded Daniels, in part to teach a lesson to Duval Democrats for opposing him. The pass-through Conservatism Counts committee blamed Wright for crime in Duval County schools in mailers and the like.

Wright was the Duval Dems establishment choice, endorsed by Sen. Audrey Gibson, state Rep. Tracie Davis, and Councilman Garrett Dennis. Daniels, conversely, was targeted for myriad scandals and apostasies from party orthodoxy.

In the end, voters went with the incumbent, who was backed by many Jacksonville Republicans. Daniels won by 10 points, beating a Democrat favored by the party for the second time in two years.

In House District 15, a similarly salutary result, where lawyer/lobbyist Wyman Duggan won Tuesday over yacht broker Mark Zeigler and Joseph Hogan (son of Elections Supervisor Mike Hogan), in the GOP primary to succeed Rep. Jay Fant in House District 15.

Duggan, supported by the Jacksonville establishment (including multiple ads featuring political patron Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry), battled attacks against his lobbying for a company looking to buy local utility JEA.

Nonetheless, he had 40 percent of the vote, an 8 point win over Hogan. And despite criticism, Curry got his candidate through. And did it despite JEA being the primary messaging out of the campaign.

Duggan’s fundraising advantage allowed him roughly a $25,000 a week spend on television ads, an option foreclosed to Hogan and Zeigler.

Duggan will go on to face Democrat Tracye Polson, a candidate unopposed in her party’s primary.

Polson, a well-funded candidate with a deep capacity for self-financing, has roughly $150,000 in hard money and another $55,000 in her political committee account.

Curry’s team intends to “torch” Polson. Expect the oppo to fly.

Farther downstate, Curry-endorsed Mike Waltz won the Republican nomination to succeed Ron DeSantis, setting up a high profile clash in Florida’s 6th Congressional District with Clinton administration alumna Ambassador Nancy Soderberg.

Northeast Florida primary narratives poised for resolution

Mercifully, primary Election Day is upon us in Northeast Florida, the culmination of months of spirited campaigning, big time spending, and the occasional calumny or two.

And now that it’s finally Tuesday, we will see the resolution of a number of narratives that have percolated for these many months.

Moving from the top of the ticket down, here are a few storylines worth watching.


Establishment picks in Governor’s races

By and large, the Jacksonville political establishment settled early behind its presumptive nominees: former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham on the Democratic side, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam for the Republicans.

Despite the twists and turns in polling, the Democrats have not indicated buyers’ remorse. Though there is still room for the myriad polls that show Graham ahead to be belied, the Graham campaign has weathered heavy ad buys from opponents and their friendly committees, and seems headed toward a strong finish.

Less certain is Putnam’s fate. Despite endorsements from U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, state Sen. Aaron Bean, Jacksonville City Council President Aaron Bowman, and various of Bowman’s colleagues, Putnam has been down in most polls (including a 23 point deficit in the latest St. Pete Poll).

Endorsements down the stretch went to DeSantis. Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams endorsed, and then said he wasn’t interested in the Lieutenant Governor gig. Mayor Lenny Curry endorsed, calling DeSantis a “brother from a different mother.” From Clay County, Senate Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley and Rep. Travis Cummings likewise endorsed.

The proxy battles haven’t spilled out into public view, and with Jacksonville having been racked by high-profile mass shootings after a high-school football game and a Madden video game tournament  this weekend, the focus of the governing class may be on governing. Still, it will be interesting to track Putnam’s performance in Duval Tuesday, and how it tracks compared to the rest of the state.


Endgame for Alvin Brown?

Months back, former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown launched a Democratic primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Al Lawson.

The idea was to take back a “Jacksonville seat” from the Tallahassee Democrat — U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown lost to Lawson, months before an even more catastrophic loss (numerous guilty verdicts in a federal fraud trial).

However, it wasn’t quite that clean: Lawson enjoyed a number of important Jacksonville endorsements, critical to his race against former Mayor Alvin Brown. The local Fraternal Order of Police and Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters endorsed him, as did state Rep. Tracie Davis and the Florida Times-Union.

The latest polls suggest that Brown couldn’t make the sale. Surveys from University of North Florida and St. Pete Polls suggest this is a 20 point race, with Lawson having all the momentum west of 295, and with Brown unable to consolidate his Jacksonville base.

This may not be a 20 point race in the end, of course. Duval still holds the population edge, and Brown has been a frequent and vocal presence this weekend, in the wake of the aforementioned violence in Jacksonville.

If Brown does not win tonight, what’s next for him? That’s the open question. There are those who see his evolution into a “pragmatic progressive” on the campaign trail as real. BUT would the Lenny Curry machine let him back into City Hall?


Demonbuster busted?

One of the most competitive races on a Jacksonville ballot Tuesday: HD 14’s Democratic two-way between challenger Paula Wright and incumbent Kim Daniels.

Notable: this is an open primary, so Republicans and NPAs can vote — and on both sides, GOP donors are expressing preferences.

Beyond that particular anomaly, it will be interesting to see if Wright can pull it off. A political committee (“New Direction Now”) put $40,000 into advertising on her behalf. A poll commissioned by parties friendly to Wright showed the race as a dead heat a couple of weeks back; when the push poll type questions were asked to gauge how oppo hit Daniels, Wright was up.

For a recent review of anti-Daniels oppo, check out Matthew Isbell‘s article on the subject.

But oppo goes both ways.

Daniels, as has been the case throughout the campaign, has gone light on ad spends, though she did spend $1,000 on an ad in the Florida Star — notable for running a vicious piece against Wright weeks back that Wright said was libel.

Meanwhile, district residents have received robocalls slamming Wright, hitting many of the same themes in that Star piece.

The case for Wright over Daniels comes down to cohesiveness with the rest of the delegation. The working relationship between Daniels and the other Duval Democrat in the Legislature, Tracie Davis, is not exactly functional.

How dysfunctional? Davis (and Sen. Audrey Gibson) back Wright. And they had salient reason to, as Daniels allies teased primary challenges to each of them — challenges that ultimately did not materialize.


Can a lobbyist win? 

HD 14’s Democratic donnybrook isn’t the only state House race of note. The three-way GOP race in Westside Jacksonville’s House District 15 between Wyman DugganJoseph Hogan, and Mark Zeigler is also of interest.

The race devolved into a series of recriminations and character assassinations, with two relatively underfunded candidates scoring some hits against Duggan, the candidate backed by pillars of the Jacksonville Establishment ranging from the Mayor to the Chamber.

One talking point: Duggan lobbying for Emera, a company that engaged him contemporaneously to a discussion of privatizing Jacksonville’s public utility JEA. This concept, favored by many close to the mayor’s office, has yet to get traction with ratepayers — and voters.

Duggan’s television ads have had over $100,000 behind them, but have not been dynamic. The Duggan appeal been branded around Mayor Curry, with assurances that Duggan will be a stalwart for public safety and that he opposes what clearly is the biggest threat to such: sanctuary cities.

In the end, the election may be uglier than the 2014 Special Election primary clash between incumbent Rep. Jay Fant and then-challenger Paul Renner, a two-vote win for Fant after a campaign that got more personal and bitter as it went on.

The irony is that this divisive battle may make post-primary healing a tough sell, at a time when there is a very serious general election challenger.

Democrat Tracye Polson has roughly $150,000 in hard money and another $55,000 in the committee account. She will have buy-in from the state party and has personal resources that just might be able to match whatever buy-in the Jacksonville business community would offer Duggan.

If one of the other two candidates wins, it likewise is far from certain that financial support would be as robust as it would for Duggan.

The district is almost perfectly purple: of the 103,293 voters in HD 15, there are 39,997 Republicans and 40,323 Democrats. The rest are third party and NPA, and one wonders how receptive they will be to Republican messaging against a Democratic pragmatist who has support from Jacksonville’s public safety unions and even Republicans like Audrey Moran.

Democratic gubernatorial candidates decry triple-shooting at Jacksonville high school

A triple shooting in Jacksonville at a football game between Lee and Raines High Schools left one dead, two wounded, and brought forth lamentations of the violence that seem all too familiar.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum was the first candidate for Governor to address the violence Saturday morning.

Gillum said that the “shooting at Raines High School is another senseless tragedy in this countless, unacceptable gun violence epidemic.

“I’m deeply saddened that the beginning of this school year has begun under a cloud of violence, and we must take smart, common-sense measures to keep our children safe. As Governor, I’ll work directly with our school districts to ensure they have the support they need,” Gillum added.

Soon thereafter, Gwen Graham and Philip Levine responded to a video of a grieving survivor, calling for gun law reform.


Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown (a candidate in the Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, of which Raines is a part) likewise had a response, rendered via Twitter.

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, Brown’s opponent, likewise had a response.


State Sen. Audrey Gibson, the next leader of the party in the Senate, likewise offered a statement to television media Saturday.

One response — that from Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry — was late in coming, as Councilman Garrett Dennis observed.

But Curry did put out a statement in the early afternoon, stressing that “we must redouble our commitment to showing young people that crime and violence is not the path.”

“For those who do not understand that fact,” he said, “I will continue my support for law enforcement personal and programs that ensure that perpetrators of crime pay the full force of the criminal justice system.”

Curry ran on a public safety platform three years ago, and attributes the unabated murder rate increase to former Mayor Brown cutting police positions earlier this decade.

Dennis’ trolling Tweet seems to be a response to this sentimental reflection from the Republican Mayor.


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