For political watchers, August offers an embarrassment of riches in this market.
A number of competitive and contested primaries, including one open Democratic primary and a citywide race for tax collector.
Not to mention the state races, including one competitive primary for governor and one that appears to be all but decided.
For those keeping score, at this point, it’s pretty easy to keep score.
The months of fundraising and endorsement hunting, of compromises and negotiations, of meet and greets — all but over now, with vote-by-mail underway and early voting soon enough.
Did they put in the work? Voters know that about candidates by now.
No election is won without a long-range plan. Politics is a game of ambition tempered with deliberation.
It’s true everywhere, a truth reflected in this week’s Bold.
Alvin Brown stumbles in radio hit
Brown, who had managed not to say anything newsworthy in his two television spots over the weekend, described himself as “the Democrat who’s going to stand up to Donald Trump” and “challenge the status quo” — a marked shift from four years in City Hall where he offered little challenge to extant paradigms.
And ultimately, as was the case when we interviewed him in late June, questions about his tenure in City Hall still loom over his campaign, three years after he left the St. James Building.
When confronted by host Melissa Ross with a quote from his opponent, U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, saying that Brown’s record as mayor was subpar and that Brown called him and said “he wanted to be just like me,” Brown dodged the question, returning to talking points like “36,000 new jobs” familiar to those around in his 2015 re-election bid.
Brown was also asked about his pivot to the left from a “conservative Democrat” posture he asserted as recently as the 2015 reelection bid, including a failure to get Human Rights Ordinance expansion through after a 2012 vote against LGBT rights expansion.
Brown said he “focused on the issues that mattered the most,” which involved the economy and pushing for a “living wage,” again dodging the question that nettled LGBT and progressive voters in Jacksonville.
When asked if his move left was genuine, Brown dodged that question too, saying that he opposed “bullying, discrimination, and violence,” and that he enacted LGBT protections in City Hall.
Actually, though, that was Lenny Curry’s executive order.
Indivisible bets on Soderberg in CD 6
Ambassador Nancy Soderberg scored another key endorsement Monday in her bid for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, when the local Indivisible United Florida 6th District endorsed her candidacy.
“Nancy exemplifies the leadership qualities we seek in an individual to represent the constituents of this district in Washington, D.C.,” said Becky Berman, Co-Leader of Indivisible United Florida 6th District.
“Grassroots groups like Indivisible United Florida 6th District are helping lead the movement for new leadership in our district,” Soderberg said.
“Their hard work and dedication is critical to winning this seat in November. Our people-driven, grassroots campaign will continue working with committed local groups like Indivisible to bring change to FL-06. I am thrilled to have their endorsement and am proud to fight alongside these local leaders,” Soderberg added.
The endorsement from the local Indivisible group is another boost for a strong, disciplined campaign intent on flipping the east-central Florida seat from Ron DeSantis red to Democrat blue.
A survey released last week from St. Pete Polls showed Soderberg up big, with her 30 percent support amounting to more than opponents Steve Sevigny (10 percent) and John Upchurch (13 percent) combined.
Casey DeSantis goes national
Casey Black DeSantis, one of the most familiar faces on the Jacksonville media landscape, went national this week via an ad for the Ron DeSantis gubernatorial campaign.
To view the ad, click on the image below:
“Everyone knows my husband Ron DeSantis is endorsed by President Trump. But he’s also an amazing dad. Ron loves playing with the kids,” Casey DeSantis says, kicking off an ad that attempts to meld humor and the presentation of her husband as a family man.
The spot features DeSantis exhorting a child to “build the wall” using giant construction blocks, reading to a child from “The Art of the Deal,” and teaching a child to read from a Trump sign.
“Make America great again,” DeSantis reads to one of his offspring.
“People say Ron is all-Trump, but he’s really so much more,” Mrs. DeSantis quips, as the camera pans to a child of tender age in a crib, wearing a Make America Great Again onesie.
“Big league,” the candidate says, “so good.”
The ad was derided on social media; however, the campaign estimates that the total reach equaled a million dollars of paid exposure.
Greene works Northeast Florida
On Monday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Greene made the rounds in Northeast Florida, a bus tour that included a number of Jacksonville stops.
At one of them — a back-to-school backpack giveaway at Northwestern Middle School — we caught up with the candidate, who per at least one recent poll of the race is within 6 points of leader Gwen Graham.
Greene, as one might expect, projected confidence.
Noting that he has only been in the campaign since mid-June, Greene asserted that he’s “running against candidates who have been running for a year and a half.”
“I’m really thrilled,” Greene said, “that an electorate that had not been excited is suddenly getting excited and we’re doing better than we even expected.”
“The reaction I’m getting as we drive down the road — people honking their horns, thumbs up. We get off the bus and crowds have been great everywhere. The message has been getting through; Democrats are tired of losing,” Greene said.
With the Democratic gubernatorial primary fast approaching, some of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum‘s most controversial allies are pushing an ad attacking front-runner Gwen Graham.
It started Monday: a $500,000 ad buy in Jacksonville, Tampa, and West Palm Beach via the Collective Super PAC.
This is not the first ad buy by the group hitting a negative message on Graham.
The new spot, “Zero Regrets,” attacks Graham for touting “progressive credentials despite voting with banks, supporting the disastrous Keystone XL pipeline, and publicly undermining President Obama’s Affordable Care Act to get reelected,” asserts the Collective group.
The group, after this buy, will have committed over $1.75 million to Gillum.
A pair of Jacksonville Democratic members of the Jacksonville City Council blasted Gillum for the ads.
“Andrew Gillum is running a dirty campaign. He is the only candidate in the race supporting negative Super PAC ads and he is the only candidate attacking his fellow Democrats — more than the Republicans are even attacking our party,” Garrett Dennis said.
“Mayor Gillum likes to say we need to give voters something to vote for — not against. If his campaign and Super PAC followed his own advice, maybe they would be doing better in this race,” Dennis added.
Dennis’ colleague Tommy Hazouri added that “The Republicans are loving to watch as Andrew Gillum embraces secret money and attacks Gwen Graham with Super PAC money. This irresponsible sham weakens our party, and makes it harder for us to win the General Election.”
Daniels holds cash lead
As of July 20, the last date for which campaign finance data is available, House District 14 incumbent Rep. Kim Daniels is still well ahead of Democratic challenger Paula Wright.
In the money chase ahead of the open Democratic primary, Daniels raised $7,642, and spent $13,420, between July 7 and July 20. She has just over $21,500 on hand.
Of the contributions, $5,000 came in five $1,000 checks from a North Miami Beach address housing a gaggle of dialysis companies. Also contributing: former Republican candidate for 4th Circuit State Attorney Wes White, as well as Harry Rummell of the Peter Rummell family.
Of the over $13,000 spent, the majority was on campaign materials, food for workers, et al. Daniels is also employing a consultant with some name value, former state Rep. Terry Fields, who was paid $1,700 during the period.
Wright, whose fundraising was slow out of the gate, showed some improvement on the last report filed in June; she raised $5,364 and spent $1,020. All told, she has roughly $7,000 on hand.
More endorsements for Polson
More and more Jacksonville Democrats are lining up to endorse first-time candidate Tracye Polson in House District 15.
HD 15 is currently Rep. Jay Fant‘s seat, but he opted to leave it months back to run for Attorney General. Polson — the cash leader in the race — hopes to turn the typically deep red seat blue.
And Jacksonville Democrats back her, almost without exception. Three more endorsements — from Rep. Tracie Davis, Jacksonville City Council Member Garrett Dennis and former Rep. Mia Jones — dropped Tuesday.
More will be coming.
Davis lauded Polson’s “passion for improving education” and “endorsement of Duval County teachers,” describing her as a “professional listener” with “compassion and vision.”
Polson lauded the trio’s “commitment and dedication to our city … not just Democratic values, but for policies that reflect and help every community and neighborhood in Jacksonville.”
For Polson, the endorsements are the latest sign of momentum.
Sen. Audrey Gibson, who aligns with the three latest endorsers, backs her. As do EMILY’s List, the Sierra Club, and Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Gwen Graham.
Her endorsements come from beyond her party as well: the nonpartisan Jacksonville Firefighters and the Fraternal Order of Police threw down, as did former GOP mayoral candidate Audrey Moran.
And what’s more, she has the cash lead.
Fischer in control in HD 16
Rep. Jason Fischer, a first-term Republican from Jacksonville’s House District 16, continued to maintain a strong lead over his Democratic opponent Ken Organes in the latest filings.
Neither faces primary opposition; this is a race to November.
In the two weeks between July 7 and July 20, Fischer brought in $7,800 to his campaign account, with an additional $11,500 raised by his political committee, Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville.
Contributions of over $1,000 came from familiar names: the Jacksonville Kennel Club; JAX BIZ (the political committee of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce); Wayne Weaver; CSX Transportation; Duke Energy PAC; and Peter Rummell were all represented on the committee or hard money side.
Between committee and campaign account funds, Fischer has roughly $185,000 on hand.
Organes, a first-time candidate and a retiree from the aforementioned CSX Transportation, brought in $5,326 in the two week period, giving him approximately $27,500 on hand.
Ray tax collector bid backed by gun lobby
The National Rifle Association has an interest in the four-way race for Duval County Tax Collector, with the gun lobby backing former state Rep. Lake Ray.
A familiar orange mailer from the group trumpets Ray’s A+ rating on gun issues, giving the Jacksonville Republican another boost ahead of the August primary.
Ray has maintained a cash lead over his three opponents, and that continued in reports released by the four campaigns Friday.
Ray has raised and self-financed a total of $143,435, with roughly $109,000 of that on hand still. Of the $6,500 brought in during the most recent two-week reporting period (July 7-20), the biggest name contributor was Sleiman Holdings.
Worth noting: Toney Sleiman, the strip mall magnate embroiled in ongoing litigation with the city of Jacksonville over the dilapidated Landing, is at odds with fellow Republican Mayor Lenny Curry. It will be interesting to see if Curry endorses someone besides Ray, who at times has proved to be too independent of the mayor’s priorities.
Ray is spending money now: He dropped $22,863 in the most recent reporting period, the bulk of it on printing and mailing costs.
Shaver dithers, dumps consultant
This week saw movement in a story we covered last week, regarding St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver and a political consultant with whom she and other St. Augustine pols did a lot of business.
St. Augustine’s Daniel Carter accused well-connected local political blogger Michael Gold, whose Historic City News website attracts advertising from many prominent local politicians, of sending him a racist email.
As Carter wrote on Facebook: “Calling out a news outlet for being a racist piece of ____ and in turn, the editor-in-chief responds with overt racist remarks confirming that he is, in fact, a racist piece of ____.”
Shaver, when we talked to her, feigned ignorance. Yet, as WJCT reported this week, she evolved, asserting that the consultant’s email was “vile,” and that she would pull advertising.
Shaver, per campaign finance records, was spending less with Gold than she had in previous cycles. However, with an election just weeks away, it’s by no means certain that her delayed reaction to a consultant calling a constituent “lazy and shiftless” (among other racist phrases) will reassure anyone.
Dogs to relieve anxious flyers at JIA
Jax Paws, a program where K-9s and their handlers will help comfort anxious passengers at Jacksonville International Airport, launched this week, reports Action News Jax.
There are several advantages for having comfort dogs at the airport, says Anne Bell with Jax Paws: “It really has been proven that physiologically it calms the person, lowers the blood pressure … people seem to respond well to the dogs.”
More than a dozen dogs are part of the program, which will begin at JIA from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and weekends.
volunteers can soon begin walking dogs in the airport, after passing the licensing process.
“Probably give this two or three months to see how this goes and then open this up to other handlers,” Bell told Action News.
JTA expands bus service to Yulee, Nassau County
JTA will soon be offering direct bus service between Yulee and Jacksonville.
On Tuesday, JTA Board approved an interlocal agreement with the Nassau County Council on Aging/NassauTRANSIT, creating the Nassau-Duval Regional Express Bus Service, per WJCT.
Service will start Dec. 3.
“We will be launching the Red Line which is the next corridor, known as the East Corridor, of the First Coast Flyer Bus Rapid Transit System,” said JTA spokeswoman Leigh Ann Rassler in a statement to reporters. “And so, when we launch the Red Line, we’ve got some other enhancements, and this fits nicely into those changes,”
The service will include two morning and three evening trips between Yulee and Jacksonville.
“We are excited about offering another public transportation option to all residents in Nassau County,” Janice Ancrum, NCCOA President and CEO, told WJCT. “JTA has the expertise and resources to leverage NassauTRANSIT’s mobility services within and across our own county.”
The Florida Department of Transportation will fund the program for the first three years.
Appointed — Arezou Jolly (reappointed) to Jacksonville Transportation Authority.
Jaguars: We’re number 8!
Training camp is in full swing with workouts designed to get the team ready for the season opener. Goal number one is to survive the next four weeks with no devastating injuries.
If that happens, the Jaguars are projected to be one of the NFL’s elite teams in 2018. As a sign of the respect they gained by their postseason run last year, USA Today’s NFL Power Rankings lists Jacksonville as the eighth-best team in the league.
Of course, all of these rankings are subjective and those involved in ranking the teams clearly believe the NFC is much stronger than the AFC. No fewer than 6 of the top 7 teams come from the NFC.
The New England Patriots are the highest-rated AFC team, coming in at number two. The Jaguars are the next-highest team, just as the two teams finished the 2017 season.
Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia is the top-ranked team.
AFC South Division foes Houston and Tennessee came in at number 11 and 12, respectively. Indianapolis is ranked No. 31 out of 32 teams.
There are good reasons for the high rankings for the Texans’ and Titans’ ranking. They have the easiest, and second-easiest schedules in the league for 2018 while Jacksonville’s strength of schedule is listed as a tie for No. 25.
The Jaguars open their preseason schedule on Thursday against the New Orleans Saints at TIAA Bank Field.
If they avoid the injury bug through four preseason games, they will be completely satisfied to still be ranked number 8 heading into the season opener on September 9 against the New York Giants.