Ron DeSantis – Page 2 – Florida Politics

Adam Putnam declares opposition to fracking in Florida

In a brief exchange with an volunteer for an anti-cracking group, Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam declared his opposition to fracking over the weekend.

“We don’t need to be fracking in Florida. Our geology, our limestone, we do not need to be fracking in Florida for oil and gas. It is just not the right spot,” Putnam is seen and heard saying in an exchange with anti-fracking volunteer Ginger Goepper, in a video released Wednesday by the Food & Water Action Fund.

Putnam’s campaign spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice said the statements “are consistent with his platform.”

The organization said the exchange took place at a Putnam campaign event in Sun City Center on Saturday, and was the first statement they’ve seen in which Putnam has declared opposition to fracking. The Food & Water Action Fund is an organization that is campaigning for the reduction of fossil fuel extraction and burning for energy in general, and against fracking in particular.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is an oil and gas extraction technique in which drillers inject high-pressure water and chemicals deep into the ground to fracture the rock and thereby provide the drillers better access to oil and gas reserves. It is not practiced in Florida but has been the topic of intense debate in the Florida Legislature and in local governments for several years. Last year Senate Bill 462, to ban fracking, made some advances but died in the Appropriations Committee. A similar bill in the House of Representatives died in infancy.

Opponents charge fracking risks contaminating groundwater, and they also charge it is the cause of unusual earthquakes hitting such states as Oklahoma and Ohio. The oil and gas industry disputes those risks and insist fracking is an effective and safe way to increase America’s domestic energy supplies.

All of the major Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Philip Levine, Gwen Graham, Andrew GillumChris King, and Jeff Greene, have come out in opposition to fracking.

“This is the first time we have heard Commissioner Putnam take a stance on fracking and as a major candidate for governor,  we are happy to see Commissioner Putnam take such a strong stance against the dangerous drilling practice,” the organization stated in a news release issued Wednesday.

“We hope Congressman [Ron] DeSantis [the other major Republican gubernatorial candidate] will stand with the other gubernatorial candidates in calling to protect Florida’s clean water and environment by banning fracking,” the release continued.

Dark-money committee attacking Ron DeSantis on Orlando TV

A dark-money committee that has been attacking Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis for months with radio and cable commercials is now going after him on broadcast TV, with a $200,000 buy on Orlando broadcast TV stations.

The National Liberty Federation, a 501(4) organization based in Palm Beach Gardens, began running commercials on broadcast TV Tuesday in Orlando and reportedly in other markets, charging that the Republican U.S. Rep. DeSantis has missed numerous important votes in Congress involving immigrants, but voted for an amnesty bill.

DeSantis’ campaign responded Wednesday that the claims in the spot are ‘lies” and counter charging that DeSantis’ opponent in the August 28 Republican gubernatorial primary, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, is the one supporting amnesty for undocumented immigrants.

The National Liberty Federation’s sources of money, are unreported, though Politico and the Tampa Bay Times both have reported it has close ties to Florida’s sugar industry, which is unhappy with DeSantis’s congressional votes on sugar subsidies.

Federal Communication Commission records show that the group has purchased $239,000 worth of time, through Sunday, on Orlando’s top three television stations.

“This is another lie from the same special interest group who’s been lying about Ron DeSantis for months,” DeSantis’ spokesman David Vasquez stated in a written response. “The record on immigration is clear and simple, Adam Putnam has stood against E-verify and he supported amnesty for illegal immigrants to help his special interest friends. Ron DeSantis has never supported amnesty and Florida voters aren’t falling for these fake news attack ads.”

FDP Medicaid Expansion Tour - Gainesville 6.12.18

Florida Democrats launch Medicaid expansion tour

Florida Democrats held the first in a series of planned stops in a statewide “Medicaid Expansion Tour” at Gainesville City Hall Monday afternoon.

The Florida Democratic Party event drew Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe, City Commissioner David Arreola, Alachua County Democratic Party Executive Committee Chair Cynthia Chestnut and Senate District 8 candidate Kayser Enneking to expound on what the party believes will be a defining issue of the 2018 election cycle.

Chestnut said Medicaid expansion will play a role up and down the 2018 ballot including in the U.S. Senate race where incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson is up against Republican Gov. Rick Scott, whom Chestnut said “lied” and “turned his back on Floridians” when he announced he said he was in favor of expansion in 2013.

The former lawmaker also slammed Republican gubernatorial candidates Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis as offering little more than a continuation of Scott administration policies at a time when Floridians are ready to “move forward.”

Enneking made similar comments regarding her bid to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Keith Perry in SD 8, noting Perry’s vote against Medicaid expansion during his time in the Florida House.

“States that have expanded Medicaid have seen their health care outcomes rise to the top,” she said. “The argument that we can’t afford to expand Medicaid is a false argument.”

Arreola, the youngest commissioner ever elected in Gainesville, said Florida’s decision not to expand the federal-state health insurance program for the poor wasn’t just affecting their medical bills but creating a “dangerous set of circumstances for our people and our economy.”

“What else does that prevent them from accessing? Better jobs?” he asked.

The tour, which will continue Monday in West Palm Beach, signals Florida Democrats’ intent to make health care access the keystone of their efforts to take back the Governor’s Mansion and state Legislature after two decades of Republican rule.

As Poe put it: “Medicaid expansion is on the ballot in 2018.”

Polk Sheriff Grady Judd endorses Adam Putnam in new illegal immigration ad

Floridians won’t hear Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam speak in his latest television ad.

Instead, they’ll hear testimony and a de-facto endorsement from Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, who delivers a 30-second spiel on the need to deport “illegal immigrants” to keep communities safe and promises Putnam, who’s running for Governor, will help law enforcement do so, if elected.

The ad, which will begin airing across the state Tuesday, opens with Judd saying, “I’ve dedicated my entire adult life to keeping Florida families safe and I know Adam Putnam has our back.”

The focus of the ad then turns to illegal immigration — particularly in cases when immigrants who are not citizens are convicted of a crime.

“Adam believes we have the responsibility to keep our borders, cities and neighborhoods safe and secure,” Judd continues. “He’ll make sure that illegal immigrants who commit crimes will be held accountable and deported — not released back into our communities.”

Judd closes with: “Adam Putnam will stand with law enforcement and enforce the rule of law.”

It evokes memories of Republican state House Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s January ad cut by his Watchdog PAC, which focused on the issue of sanctuary cities, or the concept that local authorities could, in theory, refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials, effectively creating a ‘sanctuary’ for immigrants who are not citizens.

But there are stark differences between the Speaker’s television venture and Putnam’s latest. Corcoran’s ad depicted the killing of a woman in California by an undocumented immigrant, whereas Putnam’s features only him and Judd, and avoids the term ‘sanctuary city’ altogether.

Corcoran, then widely expected to enter the Governor’s race after the 2018 Legislative Session, aired the ad after the House quickly passed a bill banning sanctuary cities in the state. He decided in May to stay out of the race and subsequently endorse Putnam.

For Putnam, messaging on immigration through television marks an investment in a strategy that tracks to the right as he competes against U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis for the Republican nomination. DeSantis has the backing of Donald Trump, and is frequently on Fox News defending the President.

The ad also is a working endorsement of Putnam from Sheriff Judd, who is influential in Republican circles and known well beyond the borders of Polk County (where Putnam is originally from). Judd helped lead a series of workshops called by Gov. Rick Scott immediately after the Parkland shooting. He is a staunch advocate for arming teachers and championed what eventually became the Guardian Program. He is one of Corcoran’s appointees to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission.

The ad also could act as quick damage control for a story published last week that undoubtedly called Putnam’s leadership into question. Although, a poll that coincided with that story still reflected strong support for the Agriculture Commissioner.

Adam Putnam

Adam Putnam crosses $30M in ‘actual’ fundraising

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is still the champ when it comes to fundraising.

In a Monday email, Putnam’s gubernatorial campaign said it and an affiliated political committee brought in more than $1.73 million in “actual contributions” last month.

“In May, Team Putnam surpassed more than $30 million in contributions from supporters to date. Unlike our opponent, our total doesn’t include transfers and fuzzy math. This significant milestone symbolizes both the financial and grassroots momentum behind Adam Putnam as Florida’s candidate for governor,” said campaign spokesperson Meredith Beatrice.

That jab was aimed at Northeast Florida U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who is running against Putnam in the Republican primary for Governor.

Last week, DeSantis announced that his campaign and committee accounts “took in more than $3 million” in May. While technically true, more than $1 million of those funds was old money came transferred in from Ron DeSantis for Florida, the principal campaign committee for his now-defunct re-election bid for Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

Putnam’s May reports contain no such surprises — the campaign said it will show $441,674 in contributions in its report, while the already viewable report for the Florida Grown committee shows nearly $1.29 million raised, none of it from transfers.

The committee effort netted four six-figure checks, including $250,000 from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, $200,000 from a committee tied to the Associated Industries of Florida, and $100,000 apiece from the Florida Retail Federation and an Arcadia-based land management company.

To date, Putnam has raised $30.61 million between the two accounts. That’s nearly triple the $10.8 million DeSantis has raised or transferred in.

When it comes to cash on hand, Florida Grown finished May with nearly $11.7 million on hand. The new campaign report is not yet viewable on the Florida Division of Elections website, though it had more than $4 million banked on April 30

The primary election is Aug. 28.

Time for Florida GOP to draft Pam Bondi?

Richard Corcoran must be kicking himself right now.

If the House Speaker knew a month ago what the rest of the state does now — that a former employee of Adam Putnam’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services failed for more than a year to conduct national background checks on applications for concealed weapons licenses — would he have scrubbed his gubernatorial bid and endorsed the Bartow Republican?

Probably not. And with Putnam’s campaign imploding and calls for his outright resignation from Democrats reaching a fever pitch, a nervous Florida GOP establishment may have turned its desperate eyes to the Pasco lawmaker.

It’s not clear how much damage this scandal will do to Putnam. Will it drive him from the race? Will it keep him from winning the primary? If he wins the primary, does it hobble him in a general election? We probably need another 72 to 96 hours to see where Putnam stands. But one thing is certain. He is no longer the front-runner for the GOP nomination. He probably hasn’t been for a few weeks.

As Putnam stumbles, it’s increasingly probable that twenty years of Republican control of the Governor’s Mansion will come to an end this November.

Yes, Ron DeSantis can win the general election. The people who say he can’t just because he’s backed by Donald Trump are many of the same geniuses who had Hillary Clinton winning the Sunshine State on her way to The White House.

DeSantis can win, I just don’t think he will. I think the PredictIt Market that pegs it at about a three-to-two possibility that a Democrat will win in November feels right. Conversely, the Republicans — either DeSantis or Putnam — being given about a 40 percent chance also seems about right.

If Putnam does lose to DeSantis, the Florida GOP establishment will embrace the “outsider” DeSantis even quicker than it did Rick Scott after he defeated Bill McCollum in 2010.

DeSantis’ campaign manager is Brad Herold, a former executive director of the Republican Party of Florida. DeSantis’ finance director’s last job was for Senate President Joe Negron. DeSantis’ big donors are major donors to Trump, the party, etc. In other words, there are many more overlaps between DeSantis World and the Florida GOP than there were between Scott and the then-establishment.

BUT …

Don’t for a second believe that The Establishment wants to see DeSantis beat Putnam. The heaviest of heavyweights — The Florida Chamber of Commerce, Disney, Florida Power & Light, the sugar industry, the mega-networked lobbying firms — have been investing in Putnam for more than a decade. For there to be zero return on this investment will be difficult to stomach.

The Establishment also hasn’t really liked the last eight years under Scott, at least not the way they liked it under Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist. Those were the salad days. Under Scott, the governing strategy has been to stay off his administration’s radar, stay out of the news, and cut $50,000 checks to his political committee whenever one of his fundraisers made an ask.

The Establishment hoped to strike back under Putnam. However, for the third time in eight years — McCollum losing in 2010, Bush flailing in 2016, and Putnam faltering now — its plans are being thwarted.

It can’t be overstated just how shocked many establishment figures and lobbyists were during DeSantis’ recent tour of Tallahassee, where he met with dozens of top lobbyists. It wasn’t just that these insiders were alarmed by the Ponte Vedra Republican’s lack of knowledge about issues facing the state, it was the indifference and disdain he displayed while meeting with them. Almost every one of the lobbyists I spoke with who met with DeSantis mentioned how often he checked his phone, as if they were on a bad first date. He asked few, if any, questions about what concerns or suggestions they had. Instead it was just Trump, Trump, and more Trump.

The Establishment has been licking its Scott-inflicted wounds for nearly eight years and in DeSantis it sees another four years of living under an absentee landlord who, if we’re honest about it, would rather be in D.C. than Tallahassee.

So the Florida GOP, which has held hegemonic control over the state since 1998, faces limited choices.

— It can grin and bear DeSantis. That’s what most will do. There are top-tier lobbying firms already positioned to thrive under a DeSantis administration.

— It can back-door its support for Gwen Graham or Philip Levine. This is what some — not many but some — will do. And they’ll keep their Republican bona fides by doubling-down on their donations to incoming legislative leaders Bill Galvano and Jose Oliva.

OR … and with thirteen days until candidate qualifying closes, this is crazy … The Establishment could Draft Pam Bondi.

The Attorney General chose not to run for higher office this cycle. And she didn’t get/take a position in the Trump White House, despite her ties to the president. She’s coy about what her plans are for when she leaves office, although many expect her to pursue a track in television, specifically with Fox News.

She’s also never expressed any real interest in being Governor.

But … if she wanted it … it’s there.

There hasn’t been recent polling, at least none that I’ve seen, but a survey last year from Associated Industries of Florida showed Republican voters giving Bondi high marks. Fifty-four percent approve of the job she was doing, while just 12 percent had an unfavorable view and 17 percent said they had no opinion. She stood heads-and-shoulders above any Republican not named Scott, including Putnam.

Bondi would have some issues in the general election, especially because of a scandal linking a donation from Trump to a decision not to pursue a legal case against his “university,” but she also has a strong record she can run on, including her fight against pill mills.

Could she beat DeSantis in the primary? She probably has a better chance of doing so than Putnam does at this point. It would be a tall order to raise the kind of money she would need to win, but at least she wouldn’t be out-Trumped by DeSantis the way Putnam has been.

Meanwhile, the GOP Establishment would quickly transfer its support from Putnam to her because the devil you know (Bondi) is always better than the devil you don’t (DeSantis).

I don’t even know what a general election match-up would look like between Bondi and Graham or Levine, but Bondi probably has a better shot at keeping the moderate Republican women voters turned off by Trump in this so-called “Year of the Woman.”

Bondi is both incredibly telegenic and personable on a retail level, so she would give the Republicans their best chance at holding on to power. If she is the nominee, those PredictIt odds instantly move from three-to-two against to better than even money.

Only there’s just two weeks to convince Bondi that she’s the best candidate to help the party maintain control of the Governor’s Mansion through the next presidential election and redistricting process. She’d have to put on hold whatever those apolitical ambitions are that so many believe she has. She’d have to raise money 24 hours a day for the next four months. She’d have to convince Donald Trump not to weigh in too heavily in the Republican primary. And that only gets her to the general election, where a blue wave is supposedly building.

But it’s all there if Pam Bondi wants it.

Jacksonville Bold for 6.8.18 — Tribal warfare

Two of our top stories this week deal with primary battles for Congressional seats.

They are interesting for what is said — and what is not.

Mike Waltz is pushing fellow Republican John Ward to withdraw from the race in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

Waltz, like many across the political spectrum, believe that Ward saying that recent Puerto Rican arrivals shouldn’t vote in Florida was disqualifying rhetoric.

The Ward gaffe, ironically, comes after months of his maintaining that he is the Trumpiest candidate in the race.

While the sense of that gaffe was pretty Trump-like, at the moment, he’s seriously wounded.

In the Democratic race in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, moderate Democrat Alvin Brown is looking to topple fellow moderate Al Lawson.

Brown and Lawson have both cut centrist paths through Democratic politics, laden with bipartisan rhetoric. Naturally, they both have gone negative throughout the campaign.

The latest was last weekend. Lawson retweeted President Donald Trump. Quickly, the tweets were deleted. Lawson charged that Brown’s team hacked his Twitter.

Alvin Brown’s team, meanwhile, put out a fundraising email, “Lawson Retweets Trump.”

Would there be major policy differences between Ward and Waltz, or Brown and Lawson?

Probably not.

But you wouldn’t know it from the pyrotechnics of the primary fight.

Waltz urges Ward to drop CD 6 run

Candidates in Florida’s 6th Congressional District are beginning to reach a consensus: Ward needs to get out of the race.

Ward has been under fire for weeks for comments made at a forum in April.

John Ward is facing fire from the left and the right over comments many consider racist.

His take was that displaced Puerto Ricans shouldn’t be voting in Florida, and one by one, candidates have been issuing statements rebuking Ward’s take

Waltz, one of three Republicans running to replace Ron DeSantis in the St. Johns/Flagler/Volusia district, was the latest to call for Ward’s withdrawal Monday.

“As a Green Beret Commander who served multiple combat tours overseas, it’s outrageous to me that politician John Ward would say certain American citizens shouldn’t be able to vote in our country,” Waltz said.

“In combat, no matter where we came from, we all served under the same flag and fought to ensure we all had the same rights. For John Ward to suggest otherwise makes him unfit to serve,” Waltz added.

“There is no place for politician John Ward in this or any campaign and that’s why I’m calling on him to withdraw his candidacy immediately. I urge fellow Republicans to join the chorus of conservative leaders in Florida to demand the same,” Waltz added.

Democrats Nancy Soderberg and John Upchurch have already called for Ward to withdraw. Republican Fred Costello and Democrat Stephen Sevigny likewise have condemned the comments.

Hackers in CD 5?

Saturday afternoon saw a couple of atypical retweets from the personal account of Rep. Lawson.

The RT action went to President Donald Trump, in what was either a remarkable crossing of party lines in a contested primary — or perhaps a compromised account.

After deleting the tweets, Lawson asserted the “campaign accounts” were “breached” and “hacked,” an example of “dirty politics at best.”

Lawson’s team is looking for the hackers, we are told.

Lawson’s opponent, former Jacksonville Mayor Brown, wasn’t buying the hack claims: “Years ago, Al Lawson hacked into right-wing, extreme Republican policies — that’s why he’s been supported by the NRA, applauds Trump’s agenda and drains billions of dollars from our public schools. Try as he might, he can’t fall back on sad excuses after years of selling out Democratic values.”

The tweets were not in keeping with Lawson’s public positions, even as he has indicated willingness to work with the president.

The first RT saw Lawson’s account support Trump’s allegations of Democratic corruption, cooperation with Russia and bashing of the “fake news media.”

The second RT saw Lawson’s account support Trump’s imposition of tariffs against traditional U.S. allies in Mexico, Canada and the EU, a tweet that condemned “stupid trade.”

Each of these were at odds with Democratic orthodoxy.

Brown, running against incumbent Lawson in North Florida’s sprawling, east-west Congressional District 5. has already messaged on a perceived Lawson affinity for Trump,

Monster May for Hutson

Travis Hutson‘s campaign is heating up, posting monster May fundraising numbers in his Senate District 7 re-election bid.

All smiles: Travis Hutson is going to be a player in 2018 elections statewide with this haul.

The Palm Coast Republican brought in $332,000 last month for his two committees: Sunshine State Conservatives hauled in $85,000, and First Coast Business Foundation took in the balance.

The FCBF money is of special interest, as it offers evidence of regional consolidation behind Hutson, who is pursuing the Senate presidency in 2022.

The May fundraising reception for his First Coast Business Foundation saw Mayor Lenny Curry as the special guest at an event heavy on names of prominent politicos, donors and lobbyists.

Event chairs included Marty Fiorentino, former congressional candidate Hans Tanzler (endorsed by Hutson in 2016), JEA Board member Husein Cumber, Jaguars’ lobbyist and all-around problem solver Paul Harden, and bestbet’s Jamie Shelton.

Among the standout names on the host committee: charter school impresario Gary Chartrand and the Jax Chamber mainstay Daniel Davis.

A similar group of players came together May 2017 for a fundraiser in support of future House Speaker Paul Renner, whose political committee had a $261,000 month because of it.

Hutson had hoped to raise $500,000 this cycle to help other Senate Republicans; nearing that goal, he wants to raise $200,000 more, and to that end has a golf event booked this month, and a fishing event in July.

Money where the Mouse is for Bradley

Republican state Sen. Rob Bradley is doing his part to stem the impending “blue wave” in Florida politics, via a fundraiser on the open waters.

Specifically, a July 20-23 Disney Cruise, booked in May via the Fleming Island Republican’s Working for Florida Families political committee.

Those dates indicate the cruise will be aboard the Disney Dream, christened by Jennifer Hudson in 2011. The itinerary shows the vessel plans to anchor in Nassau on the second day of the journey, followed by a stop at Disney’s private island Castaway Cay on Day Three.

The second night of the three-night fundraiser will give attendees the opportunity to “party like a pirate” — not the scary kind, of course.

Party like a pirate, helping Rob Bradley’s re-election campaign, that is.

Per Disney’s description, the celebration of all things swashbuckler encourages guests to dress up like a buccaneer and “eat like a scalawag” — options include “Jolly Rogers Barbecue Rib Salad” and “Pirates Gold-en Pot Stickers” — before hitting the deck with their mateys for a Pirates of the Caribbean-themed party and fireworks show.

The booking, including event venue, lodging, food and beverage, came in at $65,260.

The Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman told us Thursday that the expenditure covered “costs associated with an upcoming fundraiser” for the committee, with “all proceeds [going] toward 2018 Senate races.”

This will be a group sail, not a charter, Bradley added.

There is a recent precedent for a Disney cruise fundraiser.

Per the Miami Herald, former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli organized a similar event in 2013. The buy-in then was a $50,000 contribution to the Republican Party of Florida.

Disney and subsidiaries have donated over $45,000 to Bradley’s committee since its inception, illustrating a shared political vision.

Contributions to Bradley’s committee swelled after he was named the Senate budget chair in November. Working for Florida’s Families pulled in back-to-back-to-back six-figure hauls heading into the 2018 Legislative Session, and since Bradley’s District 5 seat isn’t up this cycle, much of that cash is indeed likely to go toward boosting the re-election campaigns of his fellow Republican Senators.

Indicted Senate candidate raises zilch in May

Suspended Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown, currently facing 32 federal counts in a scheme to defraud with another suspended Council colleague, is still an active primary opponent in Senate District 6 for Minority Leader-designate Audrey Gibson.

Reggie Brown leaves federal court in Jacksonville with lawyer ahead of him.

Brown told media he was not suspending his campaign at his indictment a week ago, and proof of that active candidacy could be found in his May campaign finance filing: the fourth straight month in which Brown reported no fundraising.

Given that he faces, if all maximum penalties prevail, 601 years and an $8.275 million fine, perhaps explaining the reluctance.

At the end of April, which was her most recent filing, Gibson had nearly $132,000 cash on hand.

“I have not made any comments about the opponent in the race and I have none today. I continue to do my legislative duties, work to get more Senate Dems elected as Leader-designate, and focus on my re-election campaign,” Gibson said last week after the indictment dropped.

The winner of the primary campaign will face nominal November opposition from a write-in candidate.

Baker challenges Bean

Sen. Aaron Bean will face a general election challenge in Senate District 4, a Duval/Nassau district leaning heavily Republican.

The Bean Team faces a third-party challenge this year.

Monday saw Joanna Liberty Tavares file for the seat as a Libertarian.

Tavares, per SunBiz, is an officer for Sweet Freedom LLC,

The business address, at River City Marketplace, corresponds with Smallcakes Cupcakery, a well-regarded pastry shop that has 4 stars on Yelp.

Between his campaign account and his political committee, Bean had nearly $200,000 cash on hand at the end of April and will certainly be well-positioned to fundraise further (if needed), given the incumbent’s allies in the region.

Tavares joins a number of Libertarian candidates running in the region, including state House candidates Ken Willey and Ryan Ramsey. They are running in House Districts 18 and 19 respectively.

A second opponent also filed this week to face Bean — Democrat Billie Bussard.

Renner launches re-elect

Palm Coast Republican Rep. Paul Renner is kicking off his bid for a second term in House District 24 with a hometown fundraiser later this month.

Paul Renner (Image via Flagler Live)

The campaign launch event will be held at the Palm Coast Arts Foundation, 1500 Central Ave., from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. June 21. The reception will likely double as a celebration for qualifying for the ballot — Renner hit his required signature total for HD 24 a couple of weeks ago.

The first-term Republican, slated to take over as House Speaker following the 2022 elections, faces Democrat Adam Morley in the fall. Morley has is also set to qualify for the ballot by petition, though Renner likely isn’t quaking in his boots. HD 24 is a Republican stronghold, and Renner’s campaign and committee accounts are stocked with cash.

To that end, the kickoff event suggests a light $25 contribution to his campaign account to make the guest list. Those willing to part with that sum can send in an RSVP via Chad.Kunde@gmail.com.

Save the dateGibson backs Polson in HD 15

Sen. Audrey Gibson, leader-designate for Senate Democrats, endorsed fellow Jacksonville Democrat Tracye Polson in House District 15 Tuesday.

Audrey Gibson
Audrey Gibson had two choices: Endorse Trayce Polson or nobody at all. 

Polson, the sole Democrat in the race, will face one of three Republicans in the general election in November.

Via media release from Polson, both her and Gibson offered quotes of mutual approval.

“Tracye has the experience and expertise to represent Jacksonville as State Representative for District 15. She is versed in issues concerning veterans and their families, removing barriers to the successful education of our children, and quality mental and physical health of communities,” stated Sen. Gibson. “Her business acumen is a big added plus to the multiple qualities she would bring to the Legislature, and she certainly has my support.”

“Senator Gibson was very influential in my decision to run for this seat. Her expertise and knowledge of Jacksonville issues and politics have been extremely helpful in guiding my campaign thus far. I am so proud to have earned her endorsement and look forward to working with Senator Gibson in Tallahassee,” Polson asserted.

Polson’s campaign has been atypically strong for that of a Democrat running for a Republican House seat. She hopes to succeed Rep. Jay Fant.

No 4th Circuit appointment

The Jacksonville Daily Record reports a setback for Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott sought to appoint a replacement for retiring Judge Robert Foster, but 2nd Judicial Circuit Judge Charles Dodson halted that process, and ordered the reinstatement of Jacksonville lawyer David Trotti to the ballot.

Retiring Judge Robert Foster. (Image via Herald-Tribune/ Dan Wagner)

The public, Dodson ruled, has a “constitutional right” to pick Foster’s successor.

City website helps Holland builds cash lead over Kraft

Duval County Property Appraiser Jerry Holland turned heads in April with $100,000 raised. In May, he added another $10,550 to the mix.

He has over $110,000 on hand and has yet to spend money.

Former elections supervisor Jerry Holland broke a cardinal rule of incumbency.

Holland, a popular Republican in his first term on the job, faces nominal opposition: Democrat Kurt Kraft, who is largely self-financed and has just over $260 on hand.

To counter Holland, who has been winning Jacksonville elections for decades, Kraft spent over $1,900 in May, with the bulk of that spend being on signage.

Holland likely won’t have to spend that kind of money.

Read more here.

Post-indictment path clear for Council?

On Thursday, Jacksonville City Council members Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown were indicted on a 38-count conspiracy to defraud, after both allegedly misused city and federal funds intended for economic incentive purposes.

Who’s smiling now?

Friday saw Gov. Rick Scott suspend the two less than a year before elections, leaving the Jacksonville City Council to scramble in terms of figuring out how the constituents of the two Northwest Jacksonville Democrats would continue to have representation.

Monday morning saw the Council President-designate, an at-large Councilman, and the current Finance Chair outline the path forward.

President-designate Aaron Bowman is “hopeful we’ll have two replacements by the middle of July,” which is when Council gets back from its summer break.

Bowman will “lean on past presidents of the council” to help get those gubernatorial appointees up to speed.

“It’s easy for someone to step in and understand what’s important for their district, but understanding how the process works is a different story,” Bowman added.

“This is the governor’s decision,” Bowman said. “He’s had to do this before and he’s very confident in [the way he does it].” (Curry had a similar take).

Bowman expects the appointee to be a Democrat, but notes the appointee can move to that area if appointed.

Sam Newby, meanwhile, said he and current President Anna Brosche (two at-large members) would help with constituent issues during the suspension and before replacements were appointed.

The first wave of names, meanwhile, was reported by WJXT this week. Among the hopefuls: filed candidates Tameka Gaines Holly in District 8 and Celestine Mills in District 10.

District development ready for full Council vote

A second and final Jacksonville City Council committee approved Tuesday an ambitious plan to develop 30 acres that formerly housed JEA’s Southside Generating Station.

This approval tees the bill up for Tuesday’s agenda of the full council.

Artist’s rendering of The District.

The District (2018-313) could transform the Southbank with its radical redevelopment of 30 acres at the former Southside Generating Station property next to the Duval County School Board building.

“The District will encompass approximately 200,000 square feet of retail space, 200,000 square feet of office space, 1,170 apartments/condominiums, and a 150-200 key hotel,” per a dedicated website to the project.

Politically connected developers Peter Rummell and Michael Munz have a deal via their Elements Development to buy the land for $18.6 million from the JEA Board. That deal closes July 18.

Among the incentives for developers: a $30 million capital improvement plan and a Rev Grant (75 percent for up to 22 years capped at $56 million).

The Rev Grant extends to 2040 when the Southbank CRA sunsets.

The total post-construction-assessed value is expected to be just shy of $216 million.

Strong metrics in Jax debt affordability study

It’s rare that a Debt Affordability Study qualifies as a good-news story, but in the case of Jacksonville, most metrics are bullish.

Debt service costs and debt per capita are below targets, while reserve funds are trending toward their targets.

Mike Weinstein and Sam Mousa go through a Jacksonville departmental budget.

“Through recent strong financial management, as recognized by the ratings agencies, a strong economy, low-interest rates, and a consistent trend in reducing our debt outstanding, these metrics have continued to improve,” the report from the city’s CFO, Mike Weinstein, asserts.

And they have needed to. As the report says a bit later on: “Jacksonville has a higher than average debt burden and a slightly below average level of reserves. As will be seen later on in this study, the City has been improving in both areas over the last five years. Continuing the trend of paying down debt and increasing reserves will be viewed favorably by the ratings agencies.”

Since Fiscal Year 2013 (during Mayor Brown’s administration, when the city dealt with the hardest hits of the recession), the city has paid off $354 million in outstanding debt and has kept debt service at a consistent level. Though that debt service, a function of non-negotiable fixed costs, is described within the report as “tight,” with payments being 11 percent of each of the last two budgets, expectations are that it will become less of an impact as city revenues grow in the coming years.

“Jacksonville continues to enjoy strong budgetary flexibility to meet any future fiscal challenge,” the report maintains. “Jacksonville’s modest tax rates and average tax burden form the foundation for the City’s financial flexibility while maintaining its desired service levels. This revenue capacity and flexibility underpin the market’s positive view of the City’s debt.”

Budget strong, investments weak

Through the first six months of FY 17-18, the Jacksonville city budget is in good shape, showing a positive variance, per a recent report from the Jacksonville City Council auditor.

Hurricane Irma projection estimates the financial impact will be approximately $83.1 million.

“The City is projected to experience an overall favorable budget variance of approximately $9.3 million within the General Fund/General Services District (GF/GSD). Revenues are projected to be $0.4 million more than budgeted and expenditures are projected to be $8.9 million less than budgeted,” reads the Jacksonville City Council auditor’s report.

Those savings realized in the current budget may have real-world application, as the city is still waiting on payback from the federal government for hurricane-related costs.

Regarding Matthew, 2016’s tropical nuisance, “The latest Hurricane Matthew projection estimates the financial impact will be approximately $47.0 million. As of May 8, 2018, the City incurred expenditures of $28.8 million related to Hurricane Matthew.”

With the Feds poised to pay back 87.5 percent of that $47 million, an extra $7 million slid into a contingency account this budget year should make up for that.

Irma in 2017 was another matter.

“The latest Hurricane Irma projection estimates the financial impact will be approximately $83.1 million. This could result in an estimated $10.4 million negative impact to the GF/GSD in the future. As of May 8, 2018, the City incurred expenditures of $54.2 million related to Hurricane Irma.”

Expect a contingency for Irma in the next budget. One wonders if the city will start planning for these storms as potential yearly impacts.

Speaking of impactful storms, city investments are starting to hit a lull.

“The Operating Portfolio experienced a net of fees return of negative 0.30% for the quarter ending March 31, 2018, which outperformed the Blended Benchmark by 27 bps. Performance of the portfolio over the last year was a positive 1.25 percent, after fee deductions. During the past three and five years, the portfolio has earned an average annual return of 1.15 percent and 1.31 percent, respectively.”

Expect anemic performance to continue: “Achieving positive returns in equity and fixed income markets has become increasingly challenging due to elevated price levels and stubbornly tight spreads.”

Homeless rights bill on pause

On Monday, the Jacksonville City Council’s Neighborhoods, Community Development, Public Health, and Safety committee deferred the “Homeless Bill of Rights,” legislation that could codify civil rights for the city’s dispossessed populations.

Many of the bill’s new rights — but not all — are already in the code. (Image via WJCT)

Ordinance 2018-308, filed by currently-suspended Councilwoman Katrina Brown, contends that “the basic rights all people should enjoy must be guaranteed for homeless individuals and families,” and attempts to “assure that basic human rights are not being trampled simply because someone happens to be homeless.”

The bill would guarantee the right to move freely for homeless people, as well as rights to be “protected by law enforcement,” to prayer, to voting, to quality emergency health services, to “occupy” legally parked cars, and to have a “reasonable expectation of privacy over personal property,” at homeless camps and the like.

The right to live in one’s car and the protection of personal property, said a city lawyer, are currently the ones not protected by the municipal code.

Those proved to be the sticking points.

Councilman John Crescimbeni noted with concern that the bill could be used to justify homeless camps in public parks.

Council President-designate Aaron Bowman likewise questioned the efficacy of the legislation.

The National Coalition for the Homeless has pushed for this legislation, and Councilwoman Brown’s bill aligns with the goals of that organization.

Becton, Hazouri launch re-election bids

Two first-term councilors, Danny Becton and Tommy Hazouri, want four more years.

Becton, who represents the Baymeadows area and points south, faced no competition in 2015.

Danny Becton is ready for another term.

The filing comes just weeks after Becton lost a close race for Council VP-designate to Scott Wilson, a loss that saw familiar divides on the Council surface yet again, with most of those who voted the year before for President Brosche falling in behind Becton.

Hazouri, a political veteran who has been everything from Mayor to State Rep and School Board member, filed for re-election Friday.

Hazouri, who scored more votes than any other citywide candidate in his decisive May 2015 victory over Republican Geoff Youngblood, is running unopposed for the office.

If re-elected, downtown development and citywide infrastructure will be priorities, as will river activation and library funding.

Hazouri’s primary legislative achievement was one of his campaign promises last cycle: a vow to expand the Human Rights Ordinance to protect LGBT people in Jacksonville from employment, housing and public accommodations discrimination.

Neither has ballot opposition yet.

Anheuser-Busch employees spend World Environment Day cleaning up St. Johns River

Employees at America’s best-known purveyor of cold ones braved the heat Saturday to participate in a St. Johns River cleanup event.

The Jax branch of Anheuser-Busch’s canning operation, Metal Container Corporation, and its wholesale partner, North Florida Sales, were joined in their efforts by employees of other major First Coast businesses in honor of World Environment Day, the lesser-known cousin of Earth Day that’s been celebrated every June 5 since 1974.

Jacksonville Anheuser-Busch employees on World Environment Day.

“We were proud to celebrate World Environment Day over the weekend by taking part in the cleanup of the St. Johns River alongside our local wholesaler partner, North Florida Sales, as well as our colleagues from MCC and Nutri-Turf,” said Craig Tomeo, general manager of Anheuser-Busch’s Jax brewery.

“This month, Anheuser-Busch breweries across the United States have organized and participated in over 20 watershed cleanups, in partnership with the River Network and Living Lands & Waters; and, we’re pleased to do our part and give back to our local Jacksonville community by helping to preserve the beautiful St. Johns River.”

For the beverage behemoth, helping keep the waters clean isn’t just good PR, it’s good business — water is the most integral ingredient in a good brew.

Jaguars’ stadium: What’s in a name?

The more things change, the more they stay the same. That can be said of the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In what has become a ritual with community-owned sports stadiums, the names often change due to changes with corporations holding naming rights. In the case of the Jags, they will be playing at TIAA Bank Field in 2018, while EverBank Field becomes part of the team’s history.

A rose by any name …

The change comes as a result of TIAA Bank buying out EverBank in 2016 which also included the stadium’s naming rights. EverBank has held the naming rights for the past 8 seasons.

“Our bank’s relationship with the Jaguars — on and off the field — goes back to 2010, and we’re very proud to continue this great partnership for years to come at TIAA Bank Field,” said Blake Wilson, president and chief executive officer of EverBank,” in April.

Jacksonville Municipal Stadium originally opened in 1995 on the grounds of the old Gator Bowl. In 1997, it became Alltel Stadium after the communications giant purchased naming rights.

Alltel Stadium hosted Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005 when the New England Patriots defeated the Philadelphia Eagles. A total of four playoff games have been played in Jacksonville, including January’s 10-3 win over Buffalo.

Some in the Jaguars’ fan base was underwhelmed, but realize changes come. Others do not, with a few die-hards still calling it the Gator Bowl nearly a quarter of a century later.

With season ticket sales up for 2018, TIAA Field will be likely be rocking as the Jaguars look to take the next step and qualify for their first Super Bowl.

Ron DeSantis, Matt Gaetz teaming up for two campaign rallies Saturday

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who is running for Governor, and U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz are holding a pair of joint campaign rallies Saturday within Gaetz’ Northwest Florida district.

The two Republicans, described as “absolute warriors” by President Donald Trump, will start their day in Pensacola with a 10:30 AM (CT) rally at the Polafox House, 196 N. Palafox St.

They’ll then travel the 50 miles or so to Valparaiso, where they’re scheduled to start rally No. 2 at 2:30 PM (CT). The afternoon event will be held at Compass Rose, 303 E Glen Ave.

Both events are open to the public.

DeSantis, who currently represents Florida’s 6th Congressional District, faces Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the Republican primary for Governor. The Trump-backed candidate will likely find a healthy base of support in the Panhandle region, where the president is very popular.

Gaetz, currently in his first term representing Florida’s 1st Congressional District, faces a two Republicans and two Democrats in his re-election campaign, though none of their campaigns have shown real traction.

Democrat Phillip Ehr has cracked six-figures in the money race, but his party affiliation will be a hinderance in CD 1. Republican Cris Dosev, a military veteran, finished third in the 2016 primary for the seat, however his 2018 bid is looking a little rocky.

The primary election for federal and state offices will be held Aug. 28.

Ron DeSantis’ May report included more than $1M in old money

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis said Monday that his campaign and affiliated political committee “took in more than $3 million” last month, but that may have been a little misleading.

When he made the announcement, partial month records for his committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis, showed it had brought in about $1.27 million as of May 31, however those records have since been updated to include another $1.43 million worth of transactions on the last day of the month for a total “haul” of $2.7 million in May.

The source of $1.1 million of that cash was a transfer from Ron DeSantis for Florida, the principal campaign committee for his now-defunct re-election bid for Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

Here’s what his campaign said Monday, in its entirety: “The Ron DeSantis campaign for Governor took in more than $3 Million throughout a successful round of fundraising in May. The total amount was collected between the Friends of Ron DeSantis Political Committee and the campaign. This latest fundraising haul brings the total amount raised to $10.8 Million.”

Lots of candidates twist words when it comes to fundraising, most often by finding euphemistic ways to spin self-funding. This is different. This money wasn’t raised in May. Most of it wasn’t even raised in 2018.

While it’s technically not an untruth to say the money was “collected,” or that the account “took in” $3 million in May, it is certainly misleading. Especially considering the campaign held back half of its May 31 transactions until after it announced its “successful round of fundraising.”

Why the DeSantis team found it necessary to twist words is unclear. As it stands the committee brought in $1.6 million actual new money last month, and assuming there isn’t another trick up their sleeves the campaign is likely to show another $300,000-plus in its own right.

A $1.9 million effort is nothing to sneeze at. Even without the $1.1 million transfer, which indeed spends the same way as other cash, DeSantis is primed to go toe-to-toe with Adam Putnam’s May numbers.

We’ll see what the numbers actually show when the campaign and committee reports are in. Both are due to the state by June 11.

Gwen Graham’s first TV spot: PTA mom, Bob Graham’s daughter, end Republican rule

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham has launched her first television commercial in the Tampa and Orlando markets, a spot that introduces her as a mom, PTA president, daughter of Bob Graham, and someone who seeks to take back Tallahassee from Republicans.

The 30-second spot “Service” begins with collages of Graham’s life with her children and as a PTA president, and then turns to pictures of her with her father, as a narrator declares that while in Congress she applied the lessons she learned from him. It then turns to her only overt political message.

“Twenty years with one party, right?” she says. “Everything with all the wrong priorities. The Florida Legislature has not taken Medicaid expansion, they have hurt education, they have used the lottery to reduce funding, but we’re going to take it back.”

Her campaign announced Monday that the commercial would play in the Tampa and Orlando markets with more than $1 million in the initial buy. Her campaign has bided its time in turning to TV commercials, while some of her opponents have taken to the airwaves earlier.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has been blanketing television statewide since January. Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King began his TV advertising in mid- May. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum does not yet have any official TV commercials out, but he’s been supported by a TV campaign from the Collective Super PAC.

This week Palm Beach billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene has entered the field.

On the Republican side, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam also has had commercials out for a couple of months, while U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis has had almost daily appearances on FOX News.

The introductory moments of Graham’s new ad subtly focus on her being the only woman in the field, and the following shots, many of them following her around various job sites in her “WorkDays” program, emphasize her empathy for individuals, with her trademark hugs.

“Everything I do is through the prism of being a mom,” Graham states.

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