Raymond Johnson – Florida Politics

Jax GOP consultant defends Kim Daniels, says Irma was message from God

As Jacksonville recovers from Hurricane Irma, certain local Republicans and Democrats wonder if the storm’s destruction was God’s will.

Hours after State Rep. Kim Daniels repeated assertions — at a launch of an Irma relief fund, no less — that “prophets” saw the dreaded storm coming as a way of God sending the Sunshine State a message, a local Jacksonville Republican political consultant saw her theo-sophistry and doubled down.

That consultant: Raymond Johnson, a Jacksonville social conservative who has assisted a number of local candidates, and worked vigorously against LGBT rights in the city.

Johnson’s post has more grammatical and usage errors than a Twinkie has ingredients; to preserve the authenticity of his cadence and integrity of his ideas, we will quote him in the absolute vernacular.

“I do not always agree with rep Daniels but she is with us on moral issues. That said its about time someone call out AG, and Florida politicis, they are an extremely liberal poltical blog and get way to much credit. They do a good job of reporting inside poltical happenings but are extremely liberal and bias and they so intentionally target conseratives that they deam as making to much of a difference and they inetionally target good people to tarnish their reputation to further isolate them with the poltical establiment. Establishment republicans work with AG and Florida polticis to collude with people they want to target to attack,” Johnson muses.

Leaving aside the contradictions between an “extremely liberal political blog” and the aims of “establishment Republicans,” one wonders which “good people” Johnson could be referring to. Should we start linking to old posts about some of the fine folks who raised Hell against HRO expansion in 2016?

Having attempted character assassination, Johnson moves on to attempted assassination of God’s word.

“Now the fact is the bible is clear about God judging sin and sending signs of warning to draw people back to him. This hurricane will do two things, Bring a few people to repentance to God and the majority of others will continue to be blind to spiritual things,” Johnson said.

An example of blindness for Johnson: the passage of the HRO.

“On February 14th after the city council passed the HRO I read Proverbs chapter 1 to the city council and warned them and asked God to have mercy on our city,” Johnson said.

Did God heed Johnson’s call? He says no.

“We had a major spike in violent crime this past summer, and had been spared from major devastation from hurricanes all 36 years of my life, but Not this year. Yes hurricane season happens at the same time annually yes its a part of nature and also natural for flooding along the water. But no one was expecting the flooding that accurd even the mayor mentioned the surprise at unexpected flooding with cat 3 stage flooding in a tropical storm or at most cat 1 hurricane,”

Johnson was not at many Emergency Operations Center briefings, nor was he at the myriad press events where the Mayor warned about the potential for flooding, nor was he in remedial English apparently.

Johnson then goes in, making his fundamental argument: that Hurricane Irma’s storm surge was God’s attempt to flush out a fairly toothless HRO that has yet to see any cases brought using it, beyond two housing disc

“While it is natural to expect the flooding along the river notice also the flooding was downtown jacksonville, San Marco and riverside. The area representing the LGBT HRO agenda. The Downtown establishment/ chamber group pushing the HRO. You have probably seen the picture of the chamber of commerce sign flooded. So 7 months after passing the HRO, (7 is Gods number of completirion) and on 9-11 our city floods with historic flooding? Our city had given God no reason to spare us with the wicked disobedience it committed. Gods love and mercy comes with these types of judgement signs as they are calls to repentance before the final judement.”

Johnson closes by asking readers to repent.

Jay Fant set to run for Attorney General, with Raymond Johnson helping with event

In Jacksonville Tuesday, state Rep. Jay Fant will officially declare he will be running for Florida Attorney General.

The Jacksonville Republican opened a campaign account Friday, precluding a run to replace term-limited Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Fant plans a special announcement for the Omni. He’s scrubbed his website of “Jay Fant for State Representative” ephemera (that type of thing was so “last year”). And he has about $70,000 in the account for his political committee, Pledge This Day, which beats nothing.

However, his launch may be less notable for the announcement — made to the donor class months ago — than it is for a controversial consultant he hired as the hypeman: Raymond Johnson.

Johnson, as we’ve reported for years, has a history of making provocative statements — generally against LGBT rights. In the context of Johnson’s intemperate rhetoric, serious questions are raised as to why Fant would hire Johnson to make his first impression on local and state political media.

Perhaps the nadir of Johnson’s comments was when he victim blamed on World AIDS Day, accusing the government of “coddling” those who suffer from the disease.

“By their admission their [sic] is a problem in Jacksonville with Aides [sic?] and STD’s from in their own words ‘Men who have sex with men.’ Yet we hate because we want to love these people enough to help them and save them from these deadly diseases? Why is [sic] our city leaders hating these people enough to coddle sick people in their illness [sic?] by giving them the special rights [sic?]?”

Johnson also compared the leadership of the local Republican party to Nazis not too long ago.

Referring to the “Republican establishment Nazis after” him for “not sitting down shutting up and going along with politically correctness [SIC SIC SIC and SIC], gaining to much power and media [SIC],” Johnson framed the Duval GOP establishment as wanting to remove his “membership from their corrupt body.”

His strong feelings were occasioned by his passion for the Confederate flag.

Johnson attacked former Duval GOP Chair Cindy Graves for calling a presentation he was going to do on the seditionist symbol stupid, with the following overheated rhetoric.

“So sorry you feel this about this issue of simply educating people about the civil war and the confederate flag when those that seek to be history revisionist are reporting lies and mistruths,” wrote Johnson. “Their ultimate goal is the remove history to indoctrinate in their own propaganda to lead ‘sheepable’ to the slaughter of a socialist/communist state.”

Brett Doster, on behalf of the Fant campaign, notes that “we have not hired any consultants for the campaign, and Raymond Johnson does not speak for the campaign.”

Jacksonville HRO expansion foes gear up for 2017 fight

Expansion of Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance appears to yet again be a consideration for Jacksonville’s City Council. And opponents have taken notice.

Those opposed to HRO expansion have been emailing Mayor Lenny Curry, with sentiments such as these.

“I am against any HRO resolution that attempts to bestow special rights to any person or group that is not equally guaranteed to all American citizens as is the case with the LGBTQ resolution coming in 2017. There is no such precedence in American history and will not be tolerated in a Constitutional United States. I adhere to the principle that ‘Constitutional Correctness Trumps Political Correctness’ (pun intended). I keep track of your council votes and will work against the re-elections of any politician who votes against the US Constitution,” wrote a John Sauer.

Meanwhile, a familiar opponent from 2016’s truncated council consideration of the expansion measure has vowed to fight it once more.

In a Tuesday press release, Raymond Johnson of Biblical Concepts Ministries vowed to reprise his thus-far successful crusade against ordinance expansion for the third time this decade.

“As expected on this first business day of the new year members of the Jacksonville City Council has for the third time announced meetings and plans to re-introduced the so called Human Rights Ordinance (HRO),” Johnson wrote, referring to Wednesday’s public notice meeting on the subject.

BCM will, said Johnson, “work tirelessly and unrelenting with every other opposing organization possible to alert and mobilize our network of pastors, churches and concerned citizens to voice their opposition and help to again defeat a local Homosexual Superior Rights Ordinance (HSRO) Open bathroom law otherwise known as a Human Rights Ordinance (HRO).”

“We know Equality Florida and the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality has been raising funds, hiring staff and working non stop to build a local supporting coalition to ensure passage of their dangerously radical national homosexual agenda aimed at silencing and criminalizing christians and moral objectors to the LGBT agenda demands,” Johnson added. [SIC]

While the office of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is not taking a public position on this legislation, expect the mayor to get the same pressure he’s gotten on this issue during the first eighteen months of his tenure — from both sides of the issue.

A.G. Gancarski: So far, so good on 2016 predictions

At the start of the year, I made 12 predictions for 2016 in Jacksonville politics. A fourth of the way through, revisiting them is useful. Some I got right. Some I got wrong. Some are still in progress.

Predictions 1 and 2 revolved around the Human Rights Ordinance expansion, which was the issue du jour.

“Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance expansion will go to a referendum … unless Lenny Curry stops it” was one. And the other was “If the HRO referendum option passes, Jacksonville politics will be a circus until August … and the HRO will fall.”

Focusing on the first one is relevant. Curry did in fact stop the process. His extension/codification of employment protections to city employees and contractors, while announcing that HRO expansion wouldn’t be “prudent,” gave Council the opening they needed to close the debate, while evaluating the effect of Curry’s departmental directive.

Prediction 3: “the Congressional District 5 race will illustrate the GOP symbiosis with Corrine Brown.”

This, insofar as it can be evaluated this early, is largely true. Former mayors and senior staff will tell you that Republican office holders have benefited immensely from Brown’s command of city issues, as well as her ability to leverage relationships in D.C. to accomplish priorities. While her situation is “developing,” in light of the House Ethics inquiry, the Von Alexander situation, and the One Door for Education scandal, there is nothing (beyond some ill-advised quotes from Janet Adkins last year) that invalidates that read.

Prediction 4: Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund drama quiets down.

This, likewise, is more true than not. While there is still a legal situation between Jacksonville’s City Council and former PFPF Executive Director John Keane and the Senior Staff Voluntary Retirement Fund, the fact is that Beth McCague has been a steadying influence in her interim role as executive director.

Prediction 5:  UF Health funding woes still will go largely unaddressed.

This one, happily, I got wrong. The indispensable Tia Mitchell describes Jacksonville’s safety net hospital’s condition as “stable.” The Northside campus has actually driven up the hospital’s revenue, altering the customer mix in favor of more paying customers. A win for Jacksonville, a loss for my prediction.

Prediction 6: The right wing will turn on Lenny Curry

This prediction was predicated on Curry backing an LGB version of the HRO. This did not happen. Curry has gotten heat from Donald Trump supporters for backing Sen. Marco Rubio for president. But Curry has kept the right wing in check … helped along by occasional reminders that he in fact is a Capital-R Republican.

Prediction 7: Nikolai Vitti will have another tough year.

To say the least, this is the case. His cold war with School Board member Connie Hall got hot, with her “Special Ed in action” and “Fire him now!!!!!” text messages dominating news cycles. Vitti has his supporters on the School Board, but his detractors as well. His data-driven approach to managing the school district has been anathema to some board members. Whether there will be critical mass to remove him this year is still a very open question. But thus far, Vitti’s relationship with the School Board has been more newsworthy than outcome gains in graduation rates and teacher retention.

Prediction 8: Jacksonville will explore privatizing some city services.

This is still an incomplete. Expect more to be fleshed out this summer, as budget talks begin in earnest between the Curry administration and City Council.

Prediction 9: State House races will get more interesting.

This was on the money.

The fields have only gotten thicker on this front. House Districts 11, 12, and 14 have multi-candidate primaries that bear watching.

HD 11 sees Donnie Horner and Sheri Treadwell in a virtual dead heat in the money race. HD 12 sees Terrance Freeman and Clay Yarborough making moves, as Richard Clark seems stuck in neutral and Don Redman can’t get fundraising traction. And HD 14 sees Leslie Jean-Bart, who had Corrine Brown on her side in the summer, facing off with Kim Daniels, the controversial former City Councilwoman who was by Brown’s side in Tallahassee last week during the redistricting heating.

Prediction 10: Jax lobbyists will bear fruit.

Jacksonville got 90 percent of its appropriation goals during the Legislative Session, and a big reason why: the lobbying efforts of Southern Strategy Group, Ballard & Partners, and the Fiorentino Group. Marty Fiorentino was a constant presence with Mayor Curry as the House and Senate mulled, then passed, the discretionary sales surtax bill.

This prediction was, also, on point.

Prediction 11: The Public Defender’s race will be one to watch.

Indeed, it has been. Charles Cofer has gotten the support from the legal community he has expected. Meanwhile, Matt Shirk has launched a credible re-election campaign. Cofer leads the money race with about a 3 to 1 advantage through February. But Shirk has the Fiorentino Group on his side, and odds are that gap will even out.

No. 12: State Attorney’s race will not be one to watch.

Wes White has gotten his share of earned media, mostly in reaction to his former boss and current incumbent Angela Corey. But that’s where his competitive advantage ends. Corey has a quarter million banked; White is barely above water in his campaign fund. Corey has the brilliant Alexander Pantinakis handling her campaign; White’s organization is ad hoc by comparison. Corey has all the endorsements; White has none of note. This race started off as a referendum on Corey. And will end up as one also.

So, to sum up. Eight look more right than wrong … two more wrong than right … one is an incomplete… and one was rendered irrelevant.

So far, the slate stands at 80 percent correct.

Pastors to gather Monday in Jax, supporting Ted Cruz

Most of the Florida GOP Presidential Primary talk has been of Marco Rubio and Donald Trump, but Ted Cruz is not completely without support.

The “Northeast Florida Ted Cruz Faith & Values Coalition” plans a Monday evening “Press Conference with Dozens of Pastors to Announce Over 40 Pastors and Faith Based Leaders Across the First Coast Endorsing Cruz for President.”

Spearheading the event: Raymond Johnson, best known for his so-far successful agitation against the expansion of Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance, who recently argued that “Christians should not vote for Donald Trump.” Former Senator Steve Wise is this group’s honorary chair.

It is an interesting splinter, in that most of the rest of the Duval GOP will be elsewhere Monday night. Carlos Lopez-Cantera holds a “grassroots meet and greet” across town, and Mayor Lenny Curry will have his second Jax Journey “Community Conversation.”

There will be two (2) Ted Cruz documentaries shown, and a news conference at 7 p.m. All the action goes down on Lane Avenue, at the Cedar Creek Baptist Church.


Raymond Johnson: Christians shouldn’t vote for Donald Trump

Though Raymond Johnson‘s political endeavors of late about been targeted against Jacksonville HRO expansion, he also is dipping his toes into the presidential race.

Johnson’s Biblical Concepts Ministries is offering a lecture series: “Why Christians should not vote for Donald Trump in the Republican Primary.”

“BCM wants to be sure evangelicals are biblically informed and ready to fulfill their biblical and civic duties and vote their values,” Johnson wrote in a statement this week.

The first lecture is Sunday in Jennings.

“With polling showing so many evangelicals caught up in ‘Trumpmania’ supporting Donald Trump for president, we decided it was clear there is a need to further educate Republican primary voters (specifically evangelicals) about Mr Trump’s history and public policy positions,” Johnson wrote.

The goal, adds Johnson: “encouraging them to vote their values and follow biblical principles such as ‘electing those that rule in the fear of God.'”

Trump touted evangelical support as he headed into the Iowa caucus, yet that didn’t manifest. Given the three way race that seems to have emerged on the GOP side, Ted Cruz may be the ultimate beneficiary of Johnson’s educational efforts.

We asked Susie Wiles, Trump’s Florida co-chairwoman, for comment on this, but she demurred.

“Tears in my eyes”: Jax Council members talk HRO debate

Councilman Aaron Bowman has leadership credentials that most in public life in Jacksonville don’t. Running the Mayport Naval Base for a couple of years gives you that command presence. Yet after the HRO public hearing in Jacksonville’s City Council Tuesday, Bowman showed leadership of a different type.

A type from the heart.

“You probably saw me with tears in my eyes,” Bowman said, adding that while he can’t speak to how others on Council responded to the often emotional personal testimonies of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people petitioning Council for an expansion of the Human Rights Ordinance, he knows they were listening.

To be sure, there were distinctly emotional moments. And many of them were provided by people too young to vote, such as the 17-year-old bisexual young woman, who described being terrified when she went to school, terrified of being thrown out of restaurants because she’s gay.

The question she posed: “Does it matter to you that this is going to affect not only me, but people younger to me?”

Speaking through a veil of tears, imploring Council to accept “unconditional love,” testifying how she cried seven times while listening to the speeches on the other side, she said that she supported 2016-002: the Hazouri and Bowman bill.

She cannot vote for the referendum.

And then, there was the 16-year-old transgender male, speaking through a cracking voice and tears, who spoke of being mugged on New Year’s Eve.

“I know I wasn’t just mugged by chance. I was called out by what I believe was a neighbor.”

A beating followed, by multiple assailants.

“I’m still horrified to walk around my neighborhood … and now I’m afraid to leave my own home.”

Another voice in support of Council making the decision. Because he’s not going to be able to vote in that referendum.

Council Vice President Lori Boyer, who is going to be Council President soon enough, has yet to take a position on the issue. Boyer, in her second term, notes differences between the 2012 debate and the one this year.

Among those differences: more transgender people speaking on the issue thus far now than four years ago, and fewer opponents speaking.

Although emails and correspondence from HRO opponents have been robust, Boyer noted that the distribution of speaker cards was even in 2012, and this year, “It’s not turning out that way.”

Whether that’s a function of better political organization among HRO expansion proponents, or changed attitudes, is an open question.

While some of the comments of the young people were “moving,” Boyer said, “I don’t think any legislation stops bullying.” That would include HRO expansion legislation, which addresses public accommodations, housing, and employment protections for LGBT people.

As compelling as those narratives were, they are matters of “civility and how we treat each other.”

Ultimately, Boyer apparently thinks that the real debate is about the language of the bills, and the ultimate influence of public comment is an open question.

When asked about the Jax Chamber’s support of a fully inclusive HRO (one which happened after robust internal debate on whether transgender people should be included), Boyer was “not really surprised” given the Chamber’s focus on the issue in the 2015 election.

Boyer notes that the Chamber position necessarily privileges businesses with a “large corporate structure,” “entities with internal policies [that are] asking the city to make that rule for everyone.”

Boyer notes that small businesses and their self-proclaimed advocates fall on both sides of the issue, and that many of the small businesses that favor HRO expansion are of the Riverside coffee shop variety.

Boyer has been “thinking through the nuances” of the issue, asking the General Counsel questions. But that’s nothing new for her.

“I’m thoughtful about any piece of legislation,” Boyer said, noting that a bill that “might sound like motherhood and apple pie” may have more complex policy outcomes.

Anna Brosche, who got a lot of cross-party support from people in favor of the HRO and opposed to the re-election of train-wreck Democrat Kim Daniels, lined up more with Boyer than Bowman in her comments.

“People are experiencing challenges in the community,” Brosche said of the debate, while acknowledging “passion on both sides.”

She was reminded of the 2012 debate; and regarding the Council’s disposition, after hearing personal account after personal account of an immutable, real life, day-to-day prejudice that affects the lives of LGBT people, she said this.

“I don’t know what anybody [else on Council] is looking for,” she said, regarding the debate.

Tommy Hazouri, who introduced the HRO bill, called the Tuesday night debate “exhausting,” noting a shared joke with Bill Gulliford, who introduced the referendum bill favored by religious conservative opponents.

“I’ll withdraw mine if you withdraw yours,” Hazouri said.

For Hazouri, the debate has become acutely personal as he’s faced personal attacks well-documented in the media.

“I’m biting my tongue when I see a guy like Raymond Johnson come up” to speak, Hazouri said of the anti-LGBT activist who talked on Tuesday night about a “homosexual manifesto” he distributed to Council.

Hazouri also took issue with the “pornographic” memes and images sent out by Brunswick clergyman Ken Adkins, which include depictions of Hazouri watching people using the bathroom and engaged in same-sex intimacy.

Boyer, meanwhile, noted that many opponents of HRO expansion have advanced the proposition that Council is in the tank for the bill.

“You have no idea what we support or don’t,” Councilwoman Boyer said about such statements.

The final answer to that question will, according to the schedule of meetings, be arrived at on March 3.

Wes White describes petition predicament as printing error

In November, 4th District State Attorney candidate Wes White dropped off petitions at Supervisor of Elections offices at the Duval, Nassau, and Clay County SOE offices.

At the time, White said that “response of the voters, while we were out gathering these signatures, was overwhelmingly positive,” and that just four voters refused to sign petitions, including the incumbent, Angela Corey.

Now, 4th District State Attorney hopeful White faces a corollary issue: a certain amount of his petitions to qualify for the ballot are invalid.

White paid R.L. Gundy and Raymond Johnson (a GOP activist most familiar to Jacksonville voters for being a homophobic quote machine who said, among other things, that the city “coddled” AIDS Patients by observing World AIDS Day) to collect 130 percent of the petitions he needed to qualify.

Regrettably, about 2,000 petitions were not good. Gundy had a certain amount in reserve, but those were invalid as well.

In a conversation Wednesday, White attributed the shortfall to a “major printing error” with a batch, where the rule number and form number were cut off.

“Things like that happen,” White said, “early in the campaign.”

As well, a certain amount of voters who signed were not registered, White said.

White sees this setback as an opportunity to engage with more voters. He mentioned that Gundy and his volunteers would be gathering petitions at Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. parade in Jacksonville.

Additionally, a speech to the Young Republicans at the University of North Florida resulted in them requesting 1,000 petition forms, White said.

“They’re excited,” White said about them.

“The Constitution is still fresh to them.”

White is watching, as is the rest of NE Florida, how the State Attorney’s Office handles the charge for Ruben Ebron in the Lonzie Barton case.

A.G. Gancarski’s 12 predictions in 2016 for Jacksonville politics

There’s no doubt 2015 was an amazing year in Jacksonville politics. A new mayor, 11 new members of City Council, and intrigue in Corrine Brown’s redistricting saga were among a few top-level highlights.

While we have a reasonable sense of what happened in Jacksonville politics in 2015, the next question is what happens in 2016. Hence, a dozen predictions:

No. 1: Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance expansion will go to a referendum … unless Lenny Curry stops it.

Currently, there are two competing HRO bills: the referendum introduced by Bill Gulliford, and the straight-up piece of legislation from Tommy Hazouri.

Which bill will carry? Who’s got the juice to carry it?

Hazouri’s bill has at least two supporters, and both are Republicans: Aaron Bowman and Jim Love.

Gulliford’s bill, pushing for an August ballot referendum, doesn’t have any fixed committed supporters. However, what it does have is something of singular advantage to Jacksonville City Council members: political expedience.

Gulliford, who has never been confused with an HRO supporter, is the chairman of the Finance Committee. Another definite opponent of HRO expansion, Matt Schellenberg, chairs the Rules Committee. And yes, there are other committees, but Finance and Rules are the straws that stir the drink.

What kind of hearing does one expect out of those committees? Are there expectations that, in Finance, Hazouri’s bill will be on a level playing field with that of the chairman? In Rules, where Hazouri is a member, will his ritual disagreements with Schellenberg be somehow downplayed in that debate?

A fun game to play: Imagine where 10 votes in favor of referendum will come from. It’s easy to create a scenario where the majority of City Council Democrats come out in favor of the Republican’s referendum bill. As many on both sides of the issue will tell you, the LGBT rights piece is a nonstarter for many members of the African-American church community, which drives politics in Districts 7, 8, 9, and 10.

If one assumes three of those four votes goes referendum, then seven more pro-referendum votes are needed.

Gulliford and Schellenberg would make five supporters. Social Conservatives, such as at-large Councilman Sam Newby and District Council members Doyle Carter and Al Ferraro get the number to eight.

Would it be difficult in that context to expect two more votes to swing in favor of the referendum option? Council President Greg Anderson told FloridaPolitics.com that he’s staying out of it, even as some speculate that he may be the author of a third bill, one that leaves protections for the transgender community out.

If the bill ends up as a competition between Gulliford and Hazouri, it would take a vast amount of political capital to swing things Hazouri’s way.

Meanwhile, there are strong indications that at least one significant lobbyist might jump in to this fray on the pro-HRO side. If that happens? Maybe it’s a different story.


Meanwhile, Mayor Lenny Curry told WJXT’s Kent Justice that he’s processing the feedback from the Community Conversations, and that having two groups of people who oppose each other so strongly on this issue, in a room, sitting “shoulder to shoulder,” will “bear fruit in the years ahead.”

Curry’s commitment to dialogue and a negotiated solution to these issues is one that Council may or may not share. The open question will be one of the administration’s position on the Hazouri and Gulliford bills, each of which can be interpreted as an usurpation of the executive prerogative to take a leadership role on the matter.

No. 2: If the HRO referendum option passes, Jacksonville politics will be a circus until August … and the HRO will fall.

The reality is this: If Jacksonville moves toward a HRO referendum, the clown show takes over.

Consultants, especially in opposition to the issue, will bring the Houston playbook to Jacksonville, with shadowy PAC mailers and worse, including commentary on motivations of supporters.

Those council members paying attention to the repeated attempts at character assassination lobbied at Hazouri by the Rev. Ken Adkins might wonder whether it’s worth their time and energy to take those slings and arrows for a lack of tangible benefit beyond doing the right thing.

Notable thus far on this issue: Establishment opponents of HRO expansion have let others do their messaging for them. Expect that to continue, with the opponents meanwhile hewing to rhetoric about limited government and there being too many laws already … the kind of small-government hokum that Republican politicians bring to the table when they don’t want to take a course of action.

Meanwhile, given that Jacksonville politics functions more like a GOP primary on a citywide basis than a real bipartisan schematic, it follows that a referendum would fail by 15 points, give or take.

No. 3: Congressional District 5 race will illustrate the GOP symbiosis with Corrine Brown.

As of this writing, it looks like Corrine Brown is in for an actual competitive primary against Al Lawson. The two Florida A&M alums are from the same age bracket and, quite likely, there is overlap in their politics in most meaningful areas.

Except one that arguably is the most important: the pursuit of pork.

Jacksonville Republicans (more so than many Duval Democrats) are very aware of the unique value add Brown brings to the district, in terms of federal appropriations for big-ticket projects. Though  Congresswoman Brown was a big part of former Mayor Alvin Brown’s campaign, once Lenny Curry took office, the congresswoman and the GOP mayor developed a working relationship based on shared priorities.

A primary involving a Jacksonville incumbent and a Tallahassee challenger means that stakes are high. If Jacksonville loses the seat, that leaves Northeast Florida under-represented, even as Tallahassee will have two representatives at its disposal.

Expect Jacksonville Republicans to work, behind the scenes and otherwise, to ensure that Corrine Brown stays in CD 5 and maintains her seat. Undoubtedly, the converse will be true out west from Tallahassee Republicans. Lawson vs. Brown will illustrate the dictum that all politics are local. Again.

No. 4: Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund drama quiets down.

As riveting as the constant battles between former Jax PFPF executive director John Keane and City Council have been, the reality is that source of headlines is winding down.

Keane’s role with the PFPF has been reduced, and he is now a consultant with a finite contract period.

His replacement, Beth McCague, is a sober-minded realist with buy-in from everyone sitting in those PFPF board meetings. Jacksonville City Council liaison to the PFPF Tommy Hazouri speaks highly of McCague, and she will function as the “cooler,” in terms of disarming the lurid narratives of PFPF excesses.

Whether the PFPF handles less negotiable issues, such as flux in equity markets and interest rate increases, is another matter. Police and fire pension strategy is not completely dissimilar to that of the general employee pension strategy. It is conservative, but expected returns are predicated on a bull market, which will be interesting for pensions across the board in Jacksonville.

With $2 billion of unfunded liability, which affects city priorities across the board, a working relationship will be needed between the PFPF and the administration. Curry told WJXT that he “welcomes the change in governance” in a recent interview; Chief of Staff Kerri Stewart will offer a presentation at the next PFPF meeting, Jan. 15.

Also on the agenda: a Curry administration plan to get relief from the pension crisis in Tallahassee this session.

No. 5: UF Health funding woes still will go largely unaddressed.

Though Rick Scott’s budget allots $19 million extra money for UF Health next fiscal year, the reality is this: Without some sort of dedicated taxation source, Northeast Florida’s safety net hospital’s services will continue to be imperiled.

The question for Lenny Curry and his team is one of how to ensure the hospital has the money it needs to be stable, not just from budget to budget but decade to decade. The Curry administration kept budgetary allocation for the hospital flat this year, citing a need for the hospital to improve its revenue streams with more for-profit business. Absent meaningful signals from the mayor’s office, expect a similar hard line in the next budget.

No. 6: The right wing will turn on Lenny Curry.

While Mayor Curry was maligned as a “party boss” throughout his campaign, the fact is that not everyone in the GOP was necessarily a Curry supporter. There are those in the social-conservative wing who think of Curry as a RINO. And events like the Community Conversations on the HRO, which many on the right who likely voted for Curry saw as stacked toward the concerns of proponents, don’t mollify them.

The Jacksonville GOP is a gorgeous mosaic. There are your fiscal conservative/social moderate types. And then there is the more socially conservative element, the folks who would have preferred the old-school Westside Mafia approach of a Mike Hogan to the more polished, Chamber-friendly style of Curry.

Those social conservatives are going to expect, at the end of this process, for Curry to sound like he did early in 2015, when he said that he was “unconvinced” that there is a need for legislation. The fact is that a lot of folks, including some in the mayor’s office, are convinced that such a need exists.

Even if the mayor’s office were to lend its support to a modified HRO bill, that wouldn’t be enough to make the hard right happy. They thought that Curry was one of them. If they don’t get what they want on this issue, Curry will be compelled to repudiate the hard right with no guaranteed political payoff.

Curry’s rhetoric has softened in office, as he’s taken on the gentle father role with the city, in a way no one would have foreseen when Keith Olbermann was voting him the “worst person in the world” in 2009. The mayor, in his executive role, seems to recoil from the pitched culture war rhetoric on which the GOP makes its bones. The right wing will notice.

No. 7: Nikolai Vitti will have another tough year.

From issues with the Duval School Superintendent’s “communication style” to challenges to his redistricting plans, Vitti has issues with conveying emotional intelligence in the way he might like. As is the case with most big city school boards, the Duval County School Board has so much drama that Bravo could tape a “Watch What Happens” episode about it.

Vitti, a technocratic nonpolitician operating at the whim of a collection of pols who by and large would like higher office but haven’t gotten there yet, is in an interesting position. He has to watch what he says, though his face says it all in situations where he feels cornered, such as when Corrine Brown essentially took over a workshop in the Duval County School Board building and forced Vitti into revising plans he had thought the board had OK’d.

No. 8: Jacksonville will explore privatizing some city services.

Former New York City Deputy Mayor Steve Goldsmith is one of America’s foremost experts on and exponents of municipal privatization, and FloridaPolitics.com has learned that preliminary talks are happening regarding Jacksonville contracting services from Goldsmith of an as yet undefined character.

“I have been in constant communication with Goldsmith and have advised him we are in the process of setting up our procurement laws to allow for procurement of their services. We simply have had other pressing matters and are not quite ready to have them potentially do business with us,” Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa wrote in an email to Goldsmith’s assistant earlier in December.

Goldsmith-style strategies have been credited with driving the Chamber Republican-driven boom in Oklahoma City by City Journal. OKC was the locale for a Jax Chamber Leadership Trip in late 2015.

Earlier in December, Mousa met with members of Jacksonville’s City Council, and privatization was discussed.

A discussion of what Mousa described as “scrutinizing” department budgets, looking at what services are required. Mousa noted that, during this summer’s budget discussions, departments weren’t required to do unit-price comparisons. Look for a “baseline” analysis, related to quality and cost, in the FY ’17 budget. A comparison to the private sector providing some services likely would be part of this.

Mousa also noted, regarding outsourcing and privatization, that there was a bill years ago to privatize garbage services. It was quashed in council when they buckled under pressure from employees and families.

That especially nettled Mousa, given unanimous support for this measure in committee.

Expect council to be compelled to stick to its guns when this measure comes through in 2016.

No. 9: State House races will get more interesting.

Throughout Northeast Florida, there are a lot of contested state House seats with delightful primaries. The six-way brawl in House District 11, in which Donnie HornerSheri Treadwell, and Cord Byrd are talked about more than the other candidates. The three-way dance among Clay YarboroughDon Redman, and Richard Clark in HD 12. The binary battle between Jason Fischer and Dick Kravitz in HD 16. And other races besides.

The conversation, over and over again, revolves around who’s out and who’s in, with advocates for each candidate in any giving race making “airtight” guarantees that a rival will get out of the race or an invariably unnameable top-shelf candidate is on the verge of getting in.

There is nothing like a good guessing game. And as the NFL playoffs dominate TV screens, a playoff competition of a different sort will take place on the laptops, iPhones, and tablets of the chattering classes.

No. 10: Jax lobbyists will bear fruit.

With Marty Fiorentino leading a three-pronged, coordinated effort (with Southern Strategies Group and Ballard Partners) to boost the city of Jacksonville’s lobbying presence in Tallahassee, expect that ROI on that effort to be substantial. Note that the Curry administration efforts keep all three major lobby groups in the game, while ensuring message discipline.

No. 11: Public Defender’s race will be one to watch.

Although Matt Shirk has yet to actually file for re-election, FloridaPolitics.com has been assured that he is running. Already in the race: retired Judge Charles Cofer. He’s garnering support from a diverse coalition of establishment figures, making arguments that the Public Defender is too beholden to the State Attorney, and that the PD’s office poorly serves its clients.

The end result of this? Shirk will have to go negative, somehow, but there are inherent risks in going negative against someone as respected as Cofer, especially when Cofer has an attack dog, in the form of John Daigle, who is always ready to counter-message.

No. 12: State Attorney’s race will not be one to watch.

It was fun while it lasted. Early in 2015, Wes White launched his challenge to Angela Corey. Corey, who had not been polling well, seemed like an easy enough target. And White definitely has motivation to go after her seat.

However, in Jacksonville, the political reality is that Corey is one of the most powerful and respected people in public service, able to work symbiotically with law enforcement and City Hall. White, meanwhile, has struggled with fundraising. Were it not for a personal loan, his campaign would be underwater, and a good chunk of his money went to petition collectors Raymond Johnson and R.L. Gundy.

Perhaps there was a Christmas miracle to turn White’s campaign finances around that will reflect in December numbers. But a real issue is that White has yet to make the affirmative case for his election, predicating his argument on being the anti-Corey. While this has gotten White a certain amount of earned media, it’s happened in almost a guerrilla fashion.

For White to run a competitive race, he will need some establishment support, as he is running against the candidate of the establishment. For whatever reason, that has yet to manifest.

Liberty Counsel’s Roger Gannam back from Orlando for 2nd Jax HRO “community conversation”

Someone in the Mayor’s Office likes sequels.

Roger Gannam doesn’t live in Jacksonville anymore. He moved to the Orlando area to work for the Liberty Counsel, defined by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-gay hate group.

In that capacity, he represented serial divorcee and Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis when she faced legal issues for not honoring the U.S. law that recognizes same-sex marriage.

Yet he’s been back a couple of times lately: to represent the opposition to Human Rights Ordinance expansion in “community conversations” held by the Lenny Curry administration.

The question is why.

If the Curry administration seeks a “Jacksonville solution,” why not have local opponents of the measure make the case in a public forum? They could call on the Rev. Gene Youngblood, whose son Geoff never missed a photo op with the mayor during his failed council campaign, or Raymond Johnson, who trolled AIDS victims on World AIDS Day.

Are these gentlemen too shy for a live microphone?

Or can they not be trusted to make a rational case?

Curry, during the campaign, talked about not wanting outsiders to interject themselves into the process.

That would seemingly disqualify Gannam, who no longer lives in Duval County.

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