Ron DeSantis – Page 4 – Florida Politics

Democrats: Sunshine Summit speaker Dan Bongino is bad, too

Dinesh D’Souza isn’t the only Republican Party of Florida 2018 Sunshine Summit guest catching heat.

The Florida Democratic Party on Wednesday criticized Dan Bongino, a former secret service agent and Republican pol who has tried — and failed — to capture high-profile elected seats in Maryland and Florida and is scheduled to speak at the Orlando GOP conference this summer.

The move follows the public furor that ensued in the wake of RPOF announcing D’Souza as a summit speaker on Monday. D’Souza in February disgraced himself after mocking students who survived the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. In one instance he tweeted, “Worst news since their parents told them to get summer jobs,” over a photo of students crying after the Florida House did not approve a motion to consider an assault weapons ban in the wake of the Parkland massacre.

FDP is now attempting to shift criticism to Bongino — for the same reason.

It looks like a bit of a stretch.

The party claims Bongino “like D’Souza, has a record of publicly disparaging Marjory Stoneman Douglas students.” A news release from the Democrats cites a Daily Beast article recounting a Bongino appearance on Fox News. Writer Matt Wilstein titled the piece, “Fox News Mainstreams Conspiracy Theory About Parkland Students.”

The article sources Bongino’s February conversation with host Tucker Carlson. A quick review shows his remarks pale in comparison to D’Souza’s; he questioned the media’s focus on MSD students’ takes on gun issues, such as “supply-side control measures for guns” (something they likely don’t know much about, he added at the time), and suggested a liberal bias exists in mainstream media.

“The media is focused more on a teenager’s expertise in supply-side control measures for guns, which, Tucker, let’s be candid, they probably have not studied a very complicated, layered issue,” Bongino, who has a segment on a network associated with the National Rifle Association, told Carlson.

Bongino’s comments raised brows, but by no means did he outright mock MSD students like D’Souza did.

Still, the Democrats appear to be taking the bit and running with it. Perhaps because Bongino doesn’t evoke the best in the Sunshine State. His expletive-fueled tirade against a prominent POLITICO Florida reporter in 2016 made national headlines and preceded his third-place finish in the GOP primary in that year’s race for a Southwest Florida congressional seat.

The Democrats also are using it as a means to call out Republican gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who appeared alongside Bongino Tuesday on Fox’s “Hannity” with host Sean Hannity. The discourse focused on the Robert Mueller investigation.

FDP noted that DeSantis still hasn’t denounced D’Souza’s planned summit appearance (Gov. Rick Scott and DeSantis’ primary opponent Adam Putnam have, per POLITICO).

And by compiling all the context, FDP was able to churn out some calculated spin.

“Ron DeSantis has refused to denounce Dinesh D’Souza’s cruel rhetoric and now he’s showing up on TV with NRA TV contributors who spread conspiracy theories about Marjory Stoneman Douglas,” said FDP spox Kevin Donohoe. “The fact is the Republican Party of Florida and the far right fringe have completely merged. By Refusing to withdraw from the Sunshine Summit, Putnam and DeSantis are both condoning D’Souza and Bongino’s cruel conspiratorial rhetoric.”

Philip Levine

‘On the trail’: Philip Levine touts his campaign for governor

Former Miami Beach mayor and Democratic candidate for governor Philip Levine rolled out another campaign ad Tuesday.

The aptly titled “Philip Levine: 6 Months on the Trail” chronicles the campaign from its launch in November to today, as senior adviser Christian Ulvert explained in a press release announcing the ad.

“Today, the Philip Levine for Governor campaign released a new digital ad highlighting the last six months on the trail. The ad showcases the campaign’s growth and momentum, taking a look back to when Mayor Levine launched his campaign on Nov. 1st in Miami. The ad features the campaign’s travels to every corner of the state, the regional campaign office openings and Philip Levine’s upward climb in the polls to become the leading candidate.”

The 1-minute-and-20-second video begins with a clip of Levine’s announcement speech before moving on to a Hollywood movie-style montage of Levine sound bites interspersed with clips of news coverage on the campaign.

The clip highlights his bus tour, his participation in the post-Parkland march on Tallahassee, the opening of his St. Petersburg and Kissimmee campaign offices, and a poll showing him leading the primary field.

The final frames of the ad tout Levine’s 22 staffers across the state, his offices in St. Pete, Kissimmee, Tampa, Miami and Fort Lauderdale, as well as his $11 million in campaign funding  – much of it from his own checkbook, but still millions more than the next closest Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

The ad is the latest in Levine’s media blitz that has seen him become the most visible of the four candidates in the Democratic Primary. The South Florida Democrat had already spent $6 million on ads by the end of March and spent at least $1.7 million more for airtime in April.

Levine faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham and Orlando-are businessman Chris King in the Democratic Primary.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Northeast Florida U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis are competing for the Republican nomination. House Speaker Richard Corcoran is expected to join the primary race in the coming weeks.

Levine’s video is below.

American Bridge says Adam Putnam, Ron DeSantis should protest Dinesh D’Souza invite

American Bridge 21st Century added its voice to a chorus of groups demanding the Republican Party of Florida uninvite Republican provocateur Dinesh D’Souza from the party’s 2018 Sunshine Summit.

Rather than simply condemning D’Souza’s appearance, the progressive group called on Republican gubernatorial candidates Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis to demand RPOF cross D’Souza off the program or pull out of their planned debate, citing D’Souza’s attacks on the survivors of the February mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“Florida’s next Governor should stand with the victims of the Parkland shooting, not the bullies who taunted the survivors,” said American Bridge spokesperson Zach Hudson. “Dinesh D’Souza is a convicted felon who mocked kids who courageously advocated for safer schools. Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis should demand the Republican Party of Florida uninvite D’Souza or pull out of the debate. Anything less is an endorsement of his disgusting comments.”

The progressive advocacy group’s statement was one of several condemning D’Souza’s scheduled appearance at the summit. Earlier in the day Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum responded to the invite with fire, calling it a new low.

“Today’s announcement … is just the latest low point for the Party of [DonaldTrump. I often have strong disagreements with Florida’s Republicans, but I know that many of them are decent, hardworking people. I hope they join me in demanding the Florida GOP un-invite this bitterly divisive selection.”

D’Souza isn’t the only questionable speaker on the card. Also announced was Dan Bongino, a thrice rejected congressional candidate with a penchant for profanity laced rants. One such meltdown was caught on tape by POLITICO Florida reporter Marc Caputo.

Also scheduled for the event is Kayleigh McEnany, national spokesperson for the Republican Party

In announcing the speaker line up engagement Monday, RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said the party is “happy to have already confirmed three of the leading and highly influential conservative voices. Dinesh D’Souza, Dan Bongino and Kayleigh McEnany have become household names, and we are incredibly lucky to have them kick off our powerful lineup of speakers for the Sunshine Summit. We look forward to hearing their message of liberty, opportunity and limited government.”

The event will be held June 28 in Orlando. The debate between Putnam and DeSantis’ is set to air nationwide on Fox News Channel.

Nobel Peace Prize for Donald Trump? Ron DeSantis weighs in

Congressman and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis spent Monday night speaking with Fox News Network’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight.”

The appearance demonstrates again DeSantis’ unobstructed path to Floridians consuming conservative media on cable.

Host Lou Dobbs asked the Ponte Vedra Republican, who has staunchly supported President Donald Trump, whether Trump should receive the Nobel Peace Prize, as suggested by the President of South Korea.

“I can’t imagine you would dissent,” Dobbs told the Trump-backed candidate.

But DeSantis delivered a nonanswer, suggesting perhaps that he wants more done in the Korean Peninsula and elsewhere before an award of such prestige is given to the President.

“If we denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, that will be by far the greatest achievement since the fall of the Berlin Wall at the end of the Cold War,” DeSantis said. “And Donald Trump will be the reason for that.

“All of his predecessors going back 25 years had the same approach: pretend the problem doesn’t exist, don’t really do anything about it, hope it goes away,” DeSantis continued.

When President Trump took office, DeSantis said, it would’ve been easier for him to “just put his head in the sand.”

Instead, DeSantis said, Trump brought “an unprecedented level of pressure on Kim Jon Un,” the Supreme Leader of North Korea.

Still, the Congressman from Ponte Vedra Beach refrained from giving a direct yes or no to a Trump Nobel Peace Prize.

Dobbs also touted Trump’s work and success at the international level and asked DeSantis why The Washington Post isn’t telling the “truly remarkable” stories of Trump’s geopolitical success.

“Look [The Post] isn’t going to give [Trump] credit,” DeSantis explained. “This is all pre-cooked narratives, [The Post] has their anti-Trump narrative set.”

He said Trump “inherited” international crises.

“I think [Trump] deserves credit,” DeSantis said. “I’m not sure The Washington Post will ever give him credit but I think that shows their true colors rather than shows that they’re for the facts.”

Added a smirking Dobbs: “[The Post has] been flying their skull and crossbones of the deep state for quite some time.”

Then Dobbs tossed DeSantis a softball, calling DeSantis the leading candidate — a designation that would likely be disputed by candidates on both sides of the aisle — and giving him the opportunity for an unadulterated self-promo.

“You’re the leading candidate for the governorship of Florida, you are taking all sorts of flack you’ve got incoming every day. How’s it feel to be the leader?” Dobbs asked DeSantis.

“Hey they’re shooting at you because they know you’re a threat and a lot of the attacks are bogus and people have done that,” DeSantis said. “So people can go to Ron DeSantis dot com, sign up and hear the truth. But yeah, we’re on the march, Lou.”

Philip Levine video ad touts progressive record

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is making his pitch as a progressive candidate “who gets things done” in a new one-minute video ad being placed on the internet through social media.

The ad features news reports on Levine’s time as mayor of Miami Beach and in his post-mayoral campaign in Tallahassee as he pursued a living wage ordinance, police reform, marijuana decriminalization, a plastics ban, addressing sea-level rise, and gun reform.

The campaign reported it is putting a five-figure buy behind the ad.

“Floridians are tired of the same old talk—they want a leader who has taken action on the issues our state is facing, and Mayor Levine has that record,” Christian Ulvert, senior advisor to the campaign, stated in a news release. “From passing Florida’s first living wage, to reforming Miami Beach’s police department, to fighting sea level rise, and pushing for commonsense gun reform, Mayor Levine has an authentic progressive track record of action. It is because of his commitment to successfully taking on these progressive challenges, and his commitment to do the same as Florida’s next Governor that we have come from behind, to taking a clear lead in the latest polling.”

Levine faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Winter Park businessman Chris King seeking the August 28 Democratic primary triumph to run for governor. The leading Republican candidates are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

Gubernatorial forum a one-man show for Adam Putnam

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will be in West Palm Beach Monday to participate in a Republican gubernatorial candidate forum, but his only opponent in the primary isn’t making the trip.

The Forum Club of the Palm Beaches, which is hosting the event, said both candidates agreed to show up for the April 30 event but Northeast Florida U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis later backed out, citing an “unexpected change in his schedule.”

“This is obviously not an ideal scenario and not what we had intended when we scheduled this event. However, we must defer to the campaign’s decision,” event organizers said.

Still, the show will go on.

Putnam, who has a commanding fundraising lead in race, will address the crowd at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts’ Cohen Pavillion, 701 Okeechobee Boulevard, and then participate in a question and answer session.

The organization will also recognize former West Palm Beach Mayor Joel Daves with its Exemplary Elected Official Award during the event.

Doors open at 11 am, and the event is scheduled to start at 11:45 am. The forum is open to the public, though tickets are required to attend.

Tickets for Forum Club members are set at $40, while guest tickets purchased by members are $60. Tickets available to the general public are $85.

Putnam was the first Republican to enter the race to replace termed out Gov. Rick Scott. DeSantis entered the race in January and House Speaker Richard Corcoran is expected to file in the coming weeks.

Through the end of March, Putnam led the money race with $26.77 million in total fundraising and $19.26 million on hand. DeSantis, who filed in January, has raised nearly $7 million and has $6.5 million.

Jacksonville Bold for 4.27.18 — Lessons learned

Lately, Jacksonville politics has been fractious. A debate over JEA privatization, a hot-button topic for months, saw the culmination of claims and cross-claims of lies, betrayals, subterfuge and deception before Mayor Lenny Curry pulled the plug Thursday.

As the political season approaches, locals may want to take a cue from gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, who made yet another Jacksonville stop, one where protesters showed up to spotlight his family farm underpaying laborers in 2008.

While the issue was long since resolved, in the heat of the campaign, it has become newly relevant, and chants like “Putnam don’t pay” could be heard through the glass inside the Mandarin diner during Putnam’s “Up & Adam” event.

Our Jacksonville correspondent joked with campaign staff that the candidate should engage protesters after the event.

And Putnam did just that.

To watch what happened next, click the image below:

For those expecting any of the protesters, who were holding signs condemning the candidate, to engage him directly on the issues, they would have left disappointed.

Putnam bantered with the lead protester, as she described working in celery fields “on the mule train.”

What followed was talk of celery grating and “firing the grove” — in an area Putnam called “the celery capital of the world” — with Putnam describing ways of said firing.

“I know about those wages,” the woman told Putnam. “You basically said you took care of that situation.”

Putnam confirmed that, adding: “Our people are the most important part of any business.”

The encounter ended with a high-five.

“That’s my girl, right there,” Putnam said, with protesters saying “have a good day” as he headed to his next stop.

Now, on to the week’s other news …

Lawson slams farm bill

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, writing in the Tallahassee Democrat, slammed the current iteration of the Farm Bill on Congress.

“The bill introduced by House Republicans proposes to cut billions of dollars from federal nutrition assistance programs, including SNAP, and take food away from millions of seniors, veterans, persons with disabilities and vulnerable communities struggling to make ends meet,” Lawson asserted.

Al Lawson has been concerned about ‘food deserts’ in his district; this bill won’t help.

Lawson notes that the bill would “end or cut SNAP benefits for more than 1 million low-income households, add aggressive new work requirements and throw 265,000 school children off the free lunch programs.”

The Democratic incumbent in Florida’s 5th Congressional District laments, in the editorial, the loss of the bipartisan spirit in the committee.

Meanwhile, Lawson’s campaign apparatus has been fairly dormant thus far — and he needs to get it together, as his primary opponent Alvin Brown will host a campaign kickoff Saturday morning at the IBEW hall … the meeting place of the Duval Democrats.

Johns bows out of CD 6 scrum

On Friday, St. Johns County Commissioner Jimmy Johns opted to withdraw rather than stay in the race for Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

The “resign to run” law compelled the choice. And faced with two self-financing Republican opponents in Michael Waltz and John Ward, Johns stood down.

Jimmy Johns’ withdrawal narrows the race for what will be an expensive nomination.

As of the end of March, Ward had $709,340 on hand, with $555,000 of that from his own checkbook. Waltz, who loaned his campaign $400,000, had $653,354 on hand.

Ward and Waltz thus far have demonstrated the most fundraising ability on the Republican side. Former state Rep. Fred Costello has $15,720 on hand.

Read more here.

Gibson, Davis deliver check to Edward Waters

Rep. Tracie Davis and Sen. Audrey Gibson presented a $356,000 check to Edward Waters College to aid recipients of the College Promise Program. The program is a pathway for low-income, first-time college students beginning their higher education at a four-year institution.

Audrey Gibson and Tracie Davis delivered for EWC.

“As an alum of Edward Waters College and State Representative for this area, I am so excited to have been part of the team with Senator Gibson to secure this funding for such a great program,” stated Davis. “College Promise is the second program in the nation providing a debt-free pathway to higher education for first-time students. This is the future of higher education and funding is critical to its success.”

This money will defray costs for 100 students to attend EWC for a year.

Renner: Beaches are still open

Rep. Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican with deep Jacksonville ties, penned an op-ed intended to quell misinformation about beaches closing to public access.

Beaches are open, says Rep. Paul Renner. (Photo: Florida Times-Union)

“In some cases,” Renner wrote, “private property owners who live on the beach own lots that are platted to include the ‘dry sand’ between the dunes and that high-water mark. Even though this is private property, and even though those owners are taxed on the dry sand portion of the beach, it is not uncommon that many of us use it.”

“The new law simply creates a uniform process for a county to apply to the courts to affirm areas of customary use. Without the courts involved on the front end, individual property owners could and did sue to challenge county ordinances around the state. The taxpayers were on the hook for legal fees to defend every individual case against the county and pay any damages awarded if the county got it wrong,” Renner wrote.

Read more here.

Polson gets Hazouri endorsement in HD 15

On Tuesday, political veteran Tommy Hazouri, currently a Jacksonville City Councilman, endorsed fellow Democrat Tracye Polson in her bid for state House.

Polson is the sole Democrat in the race to succeed outgoing Rep. Jay Fant in House District 15, a Westside Jacksonville seat.

Can Trayce Polson flip HD 15?

“As a former state legislator, having represented this district for 12 years, I know this community needs and deserves a courageous and bold voice to represent our diverse needs, and that person is Dr. Tracye Polson,” Hazouri asserted.

Hazouri went on to laud Polson’s commitment to “real change in public education” and a “fresh, insightful approach that will address the true needs of our city.”

“I am extremely honored to receive the support from Council Member Tommy Hazouri, who has been a public servant to Jacksonville for decades,” Polson said. “His knowledge and experience will be a great asset to our campaign and we are excited to have his counsel and support moving forward.”

Polson, atypically for area Democrats running for Republican-held State House seats, has shown dynamic fundraising. She’s raised $174,103 between her campaign and political committee accounts, with $113,635 on hand, after clearing over $30,000 in March.

There is a competitive Republican primary, and those candidates all trail in cash on hand.

Jacksonville land use attorney Wyman Duggan has just over $95,000 cash on hand. Duggan, notably, is one of a group of lobbyists working on behalf of Nova Scotia-based Emera in hopes that local utility JEA goes on the market.

Other Republicans are farther back.

Yacht broker Mark Zeigler raised $11,795 in March, his first month of significant fundraising. First-time candidate Joseph Hogan, meanwhile, reported no fundraising.

‘New Dawn’ for JEA, says CEO

In a memo to JEA employees Monday, Interim CEO Aaron Zahn hailed “a new dawn” for the Jacksonville utility.

Aaron Zahn vows that he will build trust with his new workforce. (Image: Action News Jax)

The point of the memo was clear. It framed Zahn, a board member for one month who leveled-up into the CEO chair, as an agent of stability for the utility, which has been rocked for months by a parlous privatization debate.

Zahn wrote that he “recognize[d] the emotional and mental toll” of the privatization debate, adding that he is “committed to learn” from the workforce, and that he intends to earn trust.

The language had a fortune cookie feel in spots: “Every day presents an opportunity to start anew. Even mistakes present an opportunity to learn and grow.”

Zahn addressed substance eventually, noting that he had asked the Mayor and City Council to move from a “discourse … of decision-making” to a “discussion” of JEA’s future, allowing the utility to develop a plan to address “opportunities and risk … in our changing market.”

Regarding Melissa Dykes, who served as interim CEO for a week before the board chose Zahn without any substantial public discussion of his merits compared to Dykes, she has “agreed to take on an expanded role … is committed to JEA and working together as partners to accomplish the vision I’ve set forth.”

Org changes are coming, Zahn says. And so is an updated strategic plan, which will make JEA “a utility for the future of Jacksonville.”

Official positions of Zahn and his chief political ally, Mayor Curry, boil down to advocating a pause of some indeterminate length in a discussion of privatization of the utility.

The memo does not address that timetable, one likely of key concern to stakeholders inside the company and city government alike.

Jacksonville’s Mayor pulled the plug on privatization Thursday though, ending the discussion for the foreseeable future.

Dennis menaced by ballot challenge

It appears that there will be a competitive race in Jacksonville City Council District 9 next year after all.

Finance Chair Garrett Dennis, the Democratic incumbent, faces a challenge from within his own party, from Marcellus Holmes.

Marcellus Holmes tells us he is in the race regardless of Garrett Dennis running again or not.

Holmes, who played professional football for the New England Patriots from 1997 to 2001 as both a practice and active squad member, is about to line up against a Councilman who has been a serious irritant to Curry.

When asked to assess Dennis’ performance, Holmes — reached by phone Monday afternoon — was diplomatic.

“He’s doing the best job he can,” Holmes said. “But I can give the community more of what it needs.”

Dennis, who hasn’t filed yet, insists he’s running for re-election. That was news to Holmes.

“I didn’t know he was running again,” Holmes said, saying that Dennis did a “great job his first term.”

Holmes, who currently is an at-risk case manager with first-time offenders at local nonprofit Daniel Kids, sees his experience as being key to “bringing the community together” to “meet the needs of every community” and “get every issue solved.”

There have been strong suggestions that Curry may have an interest in backing an opponent to Dennis. But, says Holmes, he hasn’t talked to the Mayor.

That said, one of Dennis’ Council colleagues — fellow Democrat Reggie Brown, who is running from his Council seat for Gibson’s spot in the Senate — did offer some advice: to go in there and be himself.

Dennis, when asked about facing an opponent for his re-election, was blunt.

“I don’t know who that is,” Dennis said. “Bring it.”

Supplementary Reading: Dennis irked by unfair concert ticket distro from Mayor’s office.

Sauce loss

A saga that began with a 2011 business development deal for a BBQ sauce plant and saw one of the business principals elected to City Council along the way descended into drama and nonperformance.

The city of Jacksonville was left hanging compared to secured creditors in the BBQ backwash.

An FBI raid and a subsequent series of legal actions and personal and corporate bankruptcy filings led to a reorg, and the city of Jacksonville poised to eventually get pennies on the dollar for the over $600,000 it fronted to the company.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jerry Funk issued a final decree Tuesday morning in the bankruptcy case of K.J.B. Specialties (Jerome Brown Barbecue and Wings), with a repayment plan for all creditors.

Last and least: unsecured creditors, such as the city of Jacksonville, which will get back less than $60,000 of the outstanding $380,000 loan back that it ceded the company seven years ago to open an ill-fated sauce plant in economically troubled Northwest Jacksonville.

A $210,000 grant for job creation was unaddressed by the accord. Fifty-six jobs were intended to be created and sustained over five years, but no jobs fit the criteria.

Read more here.

Shine down

Per WJCT, Duval County School Board member Scott Shine abandoned his re-election bid this year after yet another parlous board meeting.

Scott Shine out. (Photo: Florida Times-Union)

Shine, who often had a reliable ally on the board in former member and current state Rep. Jason Fischer, has been steeped in conflict with his colleagues — most recently about the push to hire a permanent superintendent, which Shine would have preferred to defer until after this year’s elections (which would see some of his rivals termed off the board).

There are no filed candidates in the race; expect that to change.

McCague to be interim JaxPort CFO

One of Jacksonville’s most respected financial hands is moving over to JAXPORT to be CFO on an interim basis.

Beth McCague, shown here with Bill Scheu, is no stranger to interim gigs.

Beth McCague, whose most recent public role was as interim director of the formerly embattled Police and Fire Pension Fund, will serve as CFO for the less embattled JAXPORT.

Per the Jacksonville Daily Record, McCague was already advising CEO Eric Green.

She will handle the port’s capital program and other financial functions, until such time as a permanent CFO is chosen.

Walk talk

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has been bashed of late for a tendency to ticket black pedestrians who cross illegally more than scofflaws from other demographics, and the latest hits were taken this week at a gathering of faith leaders, per Action News Jax.

Sheriff Mike Williams faces no serious electoral threat next year.

“In Jacksonville, African-Americans represent 29 percent of the population, but according to a joint publication by the Florida Times-Union and ProPublica, the black community has received 55 percent of the tickets in recent years. Sheriff Mike Williams has stood by his number of 45 percent, and said this year, after a focus on education rather than enforcement, it’s down to 34 percent,” AN Jax reported.

While there’s “work to do,” Williams maintained that there is not an “epidemic” of overenforcement.

Williams will waltz to re-election. He has raised over $400,000 between hard money and committee cash; his opponent, Tony Cummings, has approximately $200 on hand.

Bean, Byrd present state funding for Fernandina Beach

State Sen. Aaron Bean of Fernandina Beach and state Rep. Cord Byrd of Neptune Beach presented a $450,000 check Tuesday to Fernandina Beach Mayor Johnny Miller and the City Commission. During the 2018 Legislative Session, the two lawmakers secured state funding for crucial shoreline stabilization to the city’s waterfront marina seawall.

Aaron Bean and Cord Byrd present Fernandina Beach officials a $450K check for shoreline stabilization.

“The seawall of Fernandina Beach’s marina sustained extensive damage during Hurricane Irma and has resulted in severe flooding in the downtown area,” Bean said in a statement. “This state funding will help the City of Fernandina Beach replace the deteriorating marina seawall, which will ensure the preservation of our historic downtown for future generations.”

Byrd added: “The Stormwater Shoreline Stabilization project will improve the city’s marina seawall and better serve residents by protecting the historical downtown area from future flooding.”

Fernandina Beach’s Stormwater Shoreline Stabilization project seeks to reduce flooding in the city’s downtown by replacing 270 linear feet of the existing marina seawall. Once installed, the new seawall will be 4 feet taller than its predecessor to better defend downtown Fernandina Beach from storm surges and subsequent damage.

Bean, Daniels present $250K to Jax Sheriff’s Office

Sen. Bean joined state Rep. Daniels of Jacksonville to present a $250K check to Jacksonville Sheriff Williams and Dr. Charles Moreland, attending on behalf of Mayor Curry. During the 2018 Legislative Session, the two Jacksonville-area lawmakers secured state funding for a Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Matching Grant.

Aaron Bean and Kimberly Daniels award $250K to officials from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the City of Jacksonville for an innovative policing program.

COPS Grant funds will be used for 15 sworn officer positions to implement a three-pronged approach in policing: A Blight/Nuisance Squad, Sheriff’s Watch Apartments and the Group Violence Intervention Program. The funding allows the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to continue its goal of reducing firearm-related crime and homicides.

“The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office does an exceptional job protecting our community, and this COPS Matching Grant will allow them to keep more officers on the street to fight crime,” Bean said. “This state funding shows the Florida Legislature’s commitment to the men and women of law enforcement and to protecting every citizen in the City of Jacksonville.”

Daniels continued: “I have chaired the Public Health and Safety Committee for the City of Jacksonville and served on the Florida House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee. Sponsoring the COPS Grant with Senator Bean is an honor, and I am proud to be able to present this state funding for this great cause.”

District discussion continues

Jacksonville City Councilwoman Lori Boyer has been pushing The District development in recent weeks, and another stakeholder meeting occurred Wednesday with fellow Councilman and former Council President Greg Anderson.

The District is a high-risk, high-reward proposal to solve a long-standing development gap.

Anderson had questions for Boyer on the proposed development, four years in the making, with construction proposed to wrap by the end of 2022. Politically connected developers Peter Rummell and Michael Munz have a deal, as of January, to buy the land for $18.6 million from the JEA Board.

While the Downtown Investment Authority backs the proposal that would remedy a long-standing dead zone, there are a number of stumbling blocks to the deal, not the least of which is City Council approval of what amounts to a public-private partnership.

Read more here.

Neighborhood summit draws a crowd

Could Jacksonville’s neighborhood summits become a yearly tradition?

A report from WJXT suggests that may be the case, with hundreds of people at the Prime Osborn last weekend to get direction on Jacksonville’s resources.

The photo (via WJXT) offers a small sample of the action at Prime Osborn.

“The purpose of this is to educate the community as a whole — it doesn’t matter where you live — about the resources that the city provides to its citizens,” said Denise Lee, Jacksonville’s director of Blight Initiatives.

“You meet people all the time and they say, ” Well, I have this problem. ” I say, “Well, we have the city Neighborhoods Department back and they would be more than happy to work with you. We’re having a neighborhood summit. Please come out,” Lee said.

The city brought back its Neighborhoods Department early in Curry’s term.

Jacksonville Zoo ‘African Forest’ expansion continues

A newly installed 40-foot-tall tree will soon become the centerpiece of the Jacksonville Zoo African Forest build-out, which will connect each of the new ape exhibits.

As reported by the Jacksonville Business Journal, the unique central tree will connect overhead trails, similar to those in the Zoo’s Land of the Tiger exhibit. The tree – the crux of the $9 million, 4-acre African Forest project – will also contain an internal spiral staircase that will “allow keepers to interact and provide enrichment for the apes in the mesh-enclosed ‘exhibit.’”

Jacksonville Zoo African Forest exhibit renderings.

Part of the new exhibit – replacing the two-decade-old Great Apes Loop – will feature an “enrichment station” where apes interact with a high-tech touchscreen app.

The Journal also reports that by the end of January, the African Forest project is close to full funding, with $7.3 million out of its $9 million raised. Now, only $400,000 remains to reach its goal.

Save the date: Jacksonville YMCA groundbreaking ceremony

Next month, there will be a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the James Weldon Johnson Family YMCA expansion, which includes a new teen center, swimming pool and other amenities.

Jacksonville YMCA groundbreaking ceremony scheduled for May 14.

Groundbreaking begins 10 a.m. Monday, May 14, at the Johnson Family YMCA, 5700 Cleveland Road RSVP by Friday, May 11, at

According to the invite, the project will provide “necessary resources and new opportunities to help transform the lives of youth and families in Northwest Jacksonville.”

Jaguars draft defensive tackle Taven Bryan from Florida

The Jacksonville Jaguars were in an unfamiliar position going into Thursday night’s NFL draft. Over the past few years, they drafted early in the first round following another losing season.

This year, the team drafted 29th (out of 32) following a turnaround 10-6 season that saw them come within five minutes of reaching the Super Bowl. Going in, they knew an instant starting running back like Leonard Fournette, whom the Jags drafted with the sixth pick last year, was not going be available at 29.

Newly drafted Jaguar Taven Bryan.

Someone like offensive lineman Cam Robinson, Jacksonville’s 2017 early second-round choice out of Alabama, would still be around. Bolstering the right side of the offensive line was still a need, while the defense is among the top units in the NFL.

They also let it be known maintaining their “smash mouth” style they developed under first-year coach Doug Marrone was in their plans.

“Who’s it going to be? Who knows? said Jaguars’ Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin before the draft. “But according to the work that we’ve done, we feel that we will get a good football player at that spot.”

At around 11:20 p.m. Thursday, Jaguars fans found out when they plucked 6-foot, 5-inch and 291-pound defensive tackle Taven Bryan from the Florida Gators. In the end, instead of filling some holes on offense, Jacksonville chose to make an outstanding defensive unit even better.

The Jaguars have two more days of draft work yet to do. On Friday, they have the 61st overall pick in the second round and the 93rd selection in the third round. The draft concludes Saturday with rounds 4-7.

They will have picks toward the end of the fourth round, the sixth round and two picks in the seventh round.

Personnel note: Ashley Ross joins Ron DeSantis campaign

Ashley Ross is leaving the Senate President’s Office to become “senior finance consultant” for Republican Congressman Ron DeSantiscampaign for governor.

Ross has been Deputy Chief of Staff for Stuart Republican Joe Negron, advising him on commerce, tourism and veterans’ affairs, among other issues.

Before that, however, she had been a fundraiser for the Republican Party of Florida, joining the organization in 2009 to work primarily on Senate campaigns.

Negron soon brought Ross on to work with his political committee as he was sewing up support for his Senate presidency bid, which he clinched in late 2015. She then joined his leadership team in the Capitol.

As we predicted in last fall’s edition of INFLUENCE magazine, “it’s unlikely the move to policy will be a permanent one for Ross, (who) said she fully intends to get back into fundraising once her time with Negron comes to an end in 2018.”

“I’m honored to be chosen by Congressman DeSantis to lead his finance team of seasoned fundraising professionals,” she said. “Ron DeSantis is one of the top conservative leaders in the country and will make an outstanding Governor of Florida. I look forward to building on the strong foundation the finance team has already put in place to ensure we have the necessary resources to win in November.”

“Ashley Ross is one of the top political fundraisers in Florida,” added Brad Herold, campaign manager for DeSantis and a former executive director of the state GOP.

“In every position she’s held she’s broken fundraising records and helped political candidates and organizations have the resources necessary to win races,” he said. “We’re excited to have her on the team as we continue our strong momentum and spread Ron’s conservative message to the entire state.”

Ross, a member of the SaintPetersblog “30 Under 30” Class of 2013, began her career in Gov. Jeb Bush‘s Legislative Affairs office.

“It’s important not to try and reinvent the wheel,” she told us in 2013. “I am a big believer in listening first, analyzing, and not approaching anything without a plan mapped out.

“It’s also important to maintain relationships and not burn bridges,” she added. “The person who has you upset today is tomorrow’s ally.”

She later served in several legislative affairs roles in the private sector, including with The PGA of America.

Ross, married to Capital City Consulting lobbyist Scott Ross, got her undergraduate degree in marketing and an MBA from Florida State University.

They will continue to live in Tallahassee with their two children.

Donald Trump calls Ron DeSantis, Matt Gaetz, ‘absolute warriors’

On FOX News Channel Thursday morning, President Donald Trump cited Republican gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and several other staunch defenders of his as “absolute warriors.”

Speaking by phone to Fox & Friends, Trump lauded DeSantis, the congressman from Ponte Vedra Beach, as well as Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach, plus two other congressmen and his former campaign manager.

“Look: we have some absolute warriors. We have, I just watched your show, Jim Jordan [of Ohio,] and Mark Meadows [of North Carolina,] and Matt Gaetz and DeSantis, and so many. Corey Lewandowski. These are all warriors. We have great people in the Republican Party.”

DeSantis’ gubernatorial campaign issued an advisory on the comment.

DeSantis and Gaetz both have been front-line warriors for Trump, battling against Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the FBI, the media, and others critical of Trump.

Trump already has endorsed DeSantis in the governor’s race, where he’s contesting with Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam for the August 28 Republican primary nomination, with the looming prospect that Florida Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran may also join the contest.

Adam Putnam delivers general election pitch, disarms protesters in Jacksonville

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is still the frontrunner in the money race on the Republican side of the primary, even as U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis is effectively even in the polls.

As Putnam has done since he launched what he called a “complete campaign” months ago, his Jacksonville appearance was full of familiar anecdotes, but also featured sharper attacks against the Democratic field than he leveled at DeSantis, whose challenge was not directly addressed in remarks to a crowd of roughly 50 supporters inside a Southside Jacksonville diner (and 15 protesters outside, chanting “Shame on you” and “Putnam don’t pay” as he wound through his remarks Wednesday morning).

Putnam’s pitch was blunt and homespun, particularly when mentioning that unnamed Democrats are criticizing him for BBQ events.

“What kind of pinko communist attacks people for doing barbeques,” Putnam asked, suggesting that the Democratic candidate spend more time at barbecues so they can figure out why voters are rejecting their message, and adding that “three quarters of [the candidates in last week’s debate] say they start their day by reading the New York Times.”

In a gaggle after his remarks, Putnam said more about the Democratic debate, including stressing that he starts his day reading “Florida sources … Florida blogs, Florida newspapers.”

“You have to start your day with a healthy dose of Florida news and a healthy dose of SEC sports, with Saturday Down South,” Putnam added.

Regarding the question on the education budget, Putnam noted that “no one knew the answer,” with candidates off by “a billion here, a billion there.”

“The Democratic debate was so disturbing and so unsatisfying to the Democrats that they’re now talking about recruiting yet another former Republican to be their standard bearer, who would be running with a current Republican running mate,” Putnam said, referring to the hypothetical Patrick Murphy/David Jolly ticket.

“The debacle speaks for itself,” Putnam said.

His critiques extended to the left wing as well.

“They’re so mad about who’s in the White House that they can’t see straight,” Putnam said. “The left is trying to hijack Florida.”

Putnam would not condemn DeSantis, nor would he take the bait on the decision of President Donald Trump to endorse the Northeast Florida Congressman, saying he’s “focused on running the best campaign [he] can run.”

“Washington’s not going to fix our problems,” Putnam said, “and Floridians expect their Governor to be in their neighborhood, in their community.”

“You cannot run for Governor from a D.C. studio,” he said. “I’m running a Florida first campaign. I’m in people’s living rooms, in their coffee shops and diners. I am spending every single day looking people in the eye, shaking people’s hands, and sharing my Florida First agenda with them on what I would do as their Governor.”

After the event wrapped, 10 of the protesters were still outside. Putnam made the choice to engage them, shaking hands and making small talk about where they went to school and the like.

Then he closed with an extended conversation with the regional director for “For Our Future,” a left-leaning group who showed up to protest reports that in 2008, Putnam’s family farm had paid four contractors sub-minimum wage rates (which he framed as a bookkeeping error when addressing it with press).

For those who might have expected any of the protesters, who had signs condemning the candidate, to engage him directly on the issues, they would have been disappointed.

Putnam and the regional director bantered, with her describing working in the celery fields “on the mule train.”

Discussions of celery grating and “firing the grove” in what Putnam called “the celery capital of the world” followed, with Putnam describing ways of said firing.

“I know about those wages,” she said to Putnam. “You basically said you took care of that situation.”

Putnam confirmed that, adding that “our people are the most important part of any business.”

They closed with a high-five.

“That’s my girl, right there,” Putnam said, with protesters telling him to “have a good day” as he headed to his next stop.

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