Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam raised $905,630 for his gubernatorial bid in February, ending the month with nearly $17.5 million on hand.
Putnam is one of three major Republicans running to replace termed-out Gov. Rick Scott in 2018. He faces U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and House Speaker Richard Corcoran.
Putnam’s campaign finance report is not yet available through the Florida Division of Elections, but his campaign said $636,550 of the February money came in through Putnam’s political committee, Florida Grown, with the other $269,080 coming in through his campaign account.
The two accounts had about $16.8 million on hand at the end of January, putting February spending at approximately $200,000. Florida Grown records show he spent at least $124,000 through his committee last month.
His campaign said more than 99 percent of the February contributions came from Florida individuals and businesses.
Putnam is still far ahead of his rivals in total fundraising, with $24.49 million brought in to date, though he wasn’t the top fundraiser last month.
Corcoran, who has not officially entered the race, has raised $6.6 million for his political committee, Watchdog PAC. He had about $5 million of that on hand at the end of January.
Four major Democrats are also running for governor in 2018: Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Orlando-area businessman Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” Rutherford said last week.
Rutherford believes his Stop School Violence Act offers security measures, including having teachers look for “warning signs” of “potential mass casualty shooters.”
Rutherford also dodged questions on divergences between him and Donald Trump that came to the fore during a televised White House meeting last week.
Additionally, he said that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had a “unique opportunity” to change the culture in the Department of Justice. He didn’t offer much detail on that point, however.
Lawson plans Jacksonville roundtable
U.S. Rep. Al Lawson will host a House Small Business Committee hearing Monday, March 12, at 10 a.m. at the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce.
“Disparities in Access to Capital: What the Federal Government Is Doing to Increase Support for Minority-Owned Firms,” per Lawson’s office, will “examine the unique challenges minorities and women-owned businesses face when seeking funding from the Small Business Administration, traditional banks, private investment capital and additional financing mechanisms.”
The hearing will explore ways to overcome difficulties in securing financing by minority-owned businesses.
Davis’ parents back Brown
Alvin Brown was Jacksonville mayor when Jordan Davis was gunned down in 2012 at a gas station on the Southside.
In the years since, Brown has demonstrated support and friendship to Davis’ parents, and that support was reciprocated, via an official endorsement for Congress Wednesday.
Ron Davis and Lucy McBath, offered a joint statement, one that invoked both the Parkland massacre and the National Rifle Association.
“Nearly six years ago, our 17-year-old son Jordan was gunned down at a gas station in Jacksonville for simply playing music too loudly. The recent tragedy in Parkland shows just how little progress we’ve made, and how much more we still have to do, to keep our communities and kids safe from gun violence. This issue is truly one of life or death, and the stakes are too high for more excuses from do-nothing lawmakers, with our children’s blood on their hands, who ignore what’s in their heart to focus on what’s in their pocket. They readily support ‘Stand Your Ground’ and side with the NRA. Alvin Brown is a dedicated public servant with the courage to stand up to the gun lobby, and we know he will help make our country a safer, better place. We are proud to support his campaign.”
St. Johns Sheriff backs Johns in CD 6
St. Johns County Commissioner Jimmy Johns scored a significant endorsement Wednesday, from St. Johns Sheriff David Shoar, in the crowded GOP primary in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.
Shoar cited Johns’ “track record of supporting our public safety officers. He has done so on the St. Johns County Commission and will do so in Washington.”
Shoar pivoted from that track record to asserting that Johns was “someone that understands what it takes to keep our country safe, not only at home but at our border.”
Johns said it was “always humbling when such a highly respected law enforcement officer steps up to endorse.”
Shoar “has been on the front lines and knows what it takes to keep us safe,” Johns said. “I will rely on him and the public safety communities to make sure that the laws passed in Washington protect citizens against murderous foreign gangs and solving the nation’s opioid crisis. We need to listen to those tasked with protecting us for solutions to these issues.”
The GOP field in the district, one that runs from St. Johns County south to Volusia, has some candidates already, including former Ormond Beach state Rep. Fred Costello, businessman John Ward, and former Green Beret and current Fox News commentator Michael Waltz.
One of these Republicans will emerge from the primary to face likely Democratic nominee Nancy Soderberg in the general election.
Hogan knows best?
The race to succeed outgoing Rep. Jay Fant, an Attorney General hopeful, in Jacksonville’s House District 15 got more crowded on the Republican side Wednesday.
Joseph Hogan, the son of Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan, entered the GOP scrum.
Hogan will face attorney Wyman Duggan and yacht broker Mark Zeigler in the primary.
Hogan made an audacious play during the Mayor’s race three years ago. He endorsed Democrat Alvin Brown over Republican Lenny Curry, crossing party lines despite what he called Brown’s “failed administration.”
“I didn’t make my decision lightly,” related Hogan in a series of text messages. “I plan to run for City Council one day, and I know that supporting Alvin could hurt me with the Party folk, but I think it’s the right thing to do.”
“I don’t look forward to Lenny losing, but someone has to win, and I think the people of Jacksonville are better off with Mayor Alvin Brown,” Hogan added.
The seeds for that endorsement, Hogan related, were planted four years prior, in the aftermath of his father’s narrow defeat at the hands of the Brown operation, upon which Curry said that “excuses are for serial losers,” a shot across the bow of the Hogan campaign that Joe took personally.
Interestingly, Hogan filed for the race just hours after Curry filed to run again for Mayor.
Curry’s chief political strategist, Tim Baker, is running the Wyman Duggan campaign, suggesting that there may be intrigue through August in this race.
Daniels’ NPA opponent touts fundraising
State Rep. Kim Daniels, an iconoclastic Jacksonville Democrat, has the Jacksonville political establishment behind her.
Among her January donors: members of the Rummell family, the Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters, and local dog track interests.
Daniels has nearly $16,000 cash on hand; however, her NPA opponent, Darcy Richardson, believes that he can be competitive in the November election.
Richardson claims to have raised “more than $6,100 as of yesterday. Most of those contributions will appear on my initial campaign finance filing covering the 12-13 days since opening my campaign account on Feb. 16. The balance — approximately $1,400 — will be reflected in the month of March.”
“That’s more than Republican Christian Whitfield raised during the entire 2016 election cycle. I haven’t begun to do any serious fundraising yet — that’ll happen over the next couple of months. And despite the district’s unfavorable demographics, I’m confident that I’ll be able to raise enough to put up a fight against arguably one of the most reprehensible and outlandish state lawmakers in the country,” Richardson adds.
Jacksonville Democrats have discussed primarying Daniels, but any expectations of that should be tempered by the incumbent’s strong community support.
It remains to be seen if Daniels can also be capsized by an NPA candidate.
Former Duval Dem chair running for state House
Neil Henrichsen, a former chair of the Duval County Democratic Party, is running for a state House seat in Volusia County.
He will face Republican incumbent state Rep. David Santiago of Deltona.
Henrichsen, 55, of Deltona, is the second Democrat in the race. But the other, Tyran Rayaad Basil, has raised little money and shows minimal campaign activity — especially given his early start in April.
“Volusia County has always been a big home … and that’s a seat that should be Democratic,” he said. “It has a handful more registered Democrats and a representative in Santiago who has not done a lot for the district or the state.”
Henrichsen said he expects Santiago to be vulnerable for one vote. Two weeks ago, with survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre looking on, Santiago voted against allowing floor debate on House Bill 219, which would prohibit the sale, transfer or possession of assault weapons or large-capacity ammunition magazines.
Curry files for re-election
Surprise, surprise, surprise.
Except for a brief period when Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry was discussed as a possible chief financial officer appointment, there has been little doubt that he would run for re-election.
The first inkling of that effort’s branding emerged Wednesday morning, via a new cover photo on his campaign Facebook page.
The second, more definitive nugget: Curry filing for re-election Wednesday morning.
The third indication: a new political committee, Jacksonville On the Rise, which launched a six-figure TV and digital ad campaign Wednesday.
As was the case during his original campaign, the logo incorporates a bridge motif; the message is minimalistic: “Our mayor.”
For those familiar with the “One City, One Jacksonville” slogan, it’s clear that candidate Curry will run as a uniter, not a divider, in his re-election bid.
Will anyone serious jump into this race against him?
New Curry ad touts first-term accomplishments
Jacksonville on the Rise, a new local political committee designed to boost Mayor Lenny Curry‘s re-election bid, released its first ad this week: a six-figure buy.
To see the ad, click the image below:
As one would expect, the ad extols Curry’s first term accomplishments, framing them in a holistic, big picture narrative that makes the case that the mayor has kept the city safe and has instituted meaningful reforms.
The ad trumpets investments in technology, such as ShotSpotter, and Curry adding 180 positions to the Sheriff’s Office and 225 Fire and Rescue workers, a fulfillment of a campaign promise to remedy public safety staffing shortages.
Additionally, the spot mentions children’s program reforms, via the Kids Hope Alliance: “a partnership with teachers and community leaders who help our children see their dreams become reality.”
The ad also discusses “balancing the budget without raising taxes” and “increased transparency” and “accountability” to the “taxpayers.”
Toward the close, the spot describes the city’s reaction to the hurricanes that came through in back to back years.
“We came together as a city,” Curry says in the voice-over.
On Tuesday, Democratic Councilwoman Katrina Brown launched her bid for re-election in District 8. Days before that, Republican Al Ferraro launched his re-election bid in District 2.
Brown and Ferraro face different paths to re-election.
Brown has issues other incumbents don’t. She has run afoul of the police union and has gotten tough coverage for a failed economic development deal from her family businesses.
Because of these perceived vulnerabilities, Brown faces a bevy of challengers: Diallo Sekou — Seabrooks, Michael Sell, Brandon Byers, Joenetta Dixon, Tameka Gaines Holly, and Albert Wilcox are all in the race against her.
Jacksonville municipal elections involve a “first election” in March, a blanket primary that sees the top two finishers move on to the May election, assuming no one clears 50 percent + 1 in March.
Expect the District 8 race to go the distance.
In Ferraro’s race, one can expect much less drama.
Ferraro has been a steady presence for his district in Council, advocating for issues such as drainage and other infrastructure.
His district is heavily Republican, and he is so far unopposed.
Redman seeks Council return
Of all the candidates in the 2019 Jacksonville City Council races, veteran Republican politician Matt Carlucci has the most impressive fundraising: $221,150 raised, with over $208,000 on hand.
Carlucci was alone on the ballot for at-large Group 4; however, that has changed with the filing of another man looking to return to City Council: Don Redman.
Redman, a Republican who represented a Southside Jacksonville district from 2007 to 2015, has been noted for a certain brand of social conservatism.
As the Florida Times-Union reported, he was best known on Council for asking a Muslim to “pray to his God” at the podium during a Council meeting, and for asking a lesbian at a different Council meeting if she considered herself male or female.
Redman ran most recently in the Republican primary in House District 12, a seat won by Clay Yarborough.
Redman’s fundraising was lackluster; he didn’t even raise $30,000 in the 17-month duration of his campaign. He garnered under 13 percent of the vote for a seat that encompasses his old City Council district.
It remains to be seen if Redman has broad appeal in a citywide race.
Salem clears $150K raised-mark
The money chase in the Jacksonville City Council at-large group 2 race continues to go Republican Ron Salem‘s way.
February saw Salem clear $150,000 cash on hand between hard money and lucre in his “Moving Jacksonville Forward” political committee.
Salem brought in $6,800 in new money to his campaign account in February, despite a $1,000 refund to Gate Petroleum.
The vast majority of the new money came from the energy sector and nursing home interests.
All told, Salem has over $143,500 on hand in his campaign account and an additional $8,000 in his committee.
Salem is well ahead of his two opponents.
Former Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Bishop has not filed February numbers yet, but had just over $13,000 at the end of January.
And Democrat Darren Mason just launched his campaign in March.
Per the Jacksonville Daily Record, plans to develop an entertainment district on a stadium parking lot may be complicated by unremediated environmental issues.
“Jaguars President Mark Lamping said in January the organization plans to turn Parking Lot J, an almost 10-acre plot west of the Daily’s Place amphitheater and a nearby retention pond, into a 250,000-square-foot entertainment district,” the Record asserts.
However, there is oil under the pavement, rendering the property usable only for industrial purposes, per the city.
Remediation would be a must. What is uncertain (at this time) is who will pay for it.
And the timetable thus far is uncertain; the Jaguars will address this matter next in April, at the annual State of the Franchise address.
The internecine battles continue in the Republican Party of Duval County. The latest involves the county chair looking to purge the statewide chair of the Young Republicans.
County chair Karyn Morton wrote Florida Federation of Young Republicans chair Robbie Foster March 3, informing him of a motion to vote him out March 19.
The cause: “highly disruptive outbursts” at the January meeting of the Duval County Republican Executive Committee. These were, per Morton, “the culmination of a pattern of disruptions over the past year … very loud outbursts and vulgar language … erratic behavior” that “frightened” REC stalwarts.
Morton offered Foster the chance to “avoid further embarrassment” by resigning before the March meeting.
Foster has no intention of resigning, he told Florida Politics Tuesday afternoon.
In fact, he sees the putsch as symbolic of rating Morton a broader issue with Morton’s leadership.
“This city will take a beating on the Super Bowl,” Edwards predicted. And after the national articles maligning the city’s lack of cabs and hotels and first-rate entertainment options, he was right.
“The No. 1 job of government is to serve the general public, not special interests,” Edwards said. “Jacksonville has a reputation of serving the special interests first. It’s worse now than ever.”
Spoiler alert: it never got better.
He called the donor class the “syndicate,” and it’s only for lack of gumption among his peers that phrase didn’t stick.
Edwards’ ultimate target, at least this century, was spending on the Jacksonville Jaguars; he maligned the lack of accountability of expenditures on matters ranging from bringing the team to Jacksonville to the aforementioned ill-fated Super Bowl.
“The city pledged some $3 million to the event, and ultimately spent $11 million. But despite requests from several local papers and auditors to the Jacksonville City Council for detailed financial accounting, city officials and the committee refused to provide receipts, contracts or other documentation. Although the committee was subsidized with city funds, staffed with several city employees and tasked with providing a public function on behalf of the city both the city and the committee claimed the agency’s records were not public.”
He was a gadfly. A muckraker. And the kind of journalist that doesn’t exist in this market anymore.
Now that he has passed on, it’s safe for the Jacksonville City Council to admit that he was right all along.
— Councilman Scott Wilson is the third person in the Jacksonville City Council VP race, joining Sam Newby and Danny Becton. Both Newby and Becton have one pledged supporter; the race is wide-open.
— Rory Diamond, running to replace termed-out Bill Gulliford in Council District 13, has already banked $100,000 and has an all-star fundraiser for next week.
Lobbyists (Marty Fiorentino, Paul Harden, Steve Diebenow, Deno Hicks and Susie Wiles) are on board. Former Mayors (John Peyton and John Delaney) and Council Presidents-in-waiting (Aaron Bowman) are there also.
Diamond, a Tim Baker client, thus far is unopposed.
One wonders if Councilman Gulliford will endorse him … or will wait it out.
JAXPORT closer to Carnival deal
JAXPORT is eyeing its first multiyear contract with Carnival Cruise Lines.
This week, CEO Eric Green told the JAXPORT board he has been actively pursuing the agreement, and assured board members that negotiations are going well.
As reported by the Jacksonville Business Journal, chief operating officer Fred Wong has been a critical part of the dialogue with Carnival. Wong worked with Carnival often as an assistant director at the Port of Miami before joining JAXPORT.
“It seemed as though we will go from a year-to-year contractual agreement to a multiyear contractual agreement,” said Green.
Carnival’s current contract expires May 1, Green said, and if the issue is not settled by then, an emergency board session could be called to provide an extension.
JAXPORT is continuing its strong first quarter, said CFO Michael Poole, with better-then-predicted vessel calls, container counts and revenue in January.
As the Port Authority looks toward the second phase of its harbor deepening project, JAXPORT is currently A rated by Moody’s and Fitch, essential in keeping interest rates low on its debt
With $193 million outstanding, JAXPORT is estimating liability to rise to $252 million by 2020 — bolstered by its share of the harbor deepening project, berth enhancements among other debts.
Despite that, Poole told board members he is confident JAXPORT can keep its A rating.
Crowley to open new Jacksonville cold-storage facility
Crowley Logistics is expanding its distribution capability in Florida with a second CrowleyFresh cold-storage facility.
Crowley’s second humidity and temperature-controlled facility will be located at its West 30th Street distribution center in Jacksonville. It will help boost cold-chain services between South Florida and Northeast Florida.
Crowley senior Vice President Frank Larkin said in a statement: “This second cold storage facility in Florida represents the latest in a series of service enhancements designed to increase the velocity of our customers’ supply chains, decrease total landed costs and offer seamless and reliable collaboration among the varying components of transport.”
The facility will handle perishables moving between the U.S., South America and the Caribbean and is designed for maximum food safety and avoid cross-contamination.
According to the Jacksonville Business Journal, CrowleyFresh is a partnership of Crowley Logistics and Miami-based Customized Brokers, which already have a facility in Miami; the new addition will expand the capability to 400,000 cubic feet of total refrigerated space and 117,000 square feet of dry storage space for non-perishables.
Customers love JAX
For the second year in a row, Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) ranked first among North American Airports for customer service.
The Airports Council International (ACI), the global airport trade association, named JAX among the leaders of the 2017 Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Awards. JAX tied for first with Indianapolis International Airport.
ASQ is the industry’s only global benchmarking program to measure overall airport passenger satisfaction. The survey covers 34 performance indicators of the customer service experience: check-in; security; wayfinding; food/beverage and more.
The result is a comprehensive database of customer service experiences at each participating airport.
Jacksonville Aviation Authority CEO Steve Grossman said: “Whether an airline employee, custodial staff or a restaurant server, everyone plays an integral role ensuring a world-class airport experience. None more so than input from our travelers. Their insight lets us know when we’re doing well while also providing a roadmap for future improvements.”
ASQ is the only comprehensive program to survey passengers at the airport on their day of travel. Nearly three-quarters of the world’s top 100 busiest airports are part of the ASQ network; the program served 343 airports in 2017.
“Objective measurement and benchmarking are critical in driving performance in any business especially in such a competitive and dynamic one as an airport,” said Angela Gittens, Director General, ACI World. “These winning airports have dedicated themselves to delivering a stellar customer experience.”
Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis is reporting that his campaign and independent political committee combined raised more than $2 million in February.
DeSantis, the Republican congressman from Ponte Vedra Beach, announced Wednesday that his official campaign raised $471,000 and his Friends of Ron DeSantis political committee raised $1,616,000 during the month, giving him a 50-day tally of more than $5.4 million in the two funds. That includes $2.4 million transferred to the political committee from another political committee, Fund for Florida’s Future.
The Florida Secretary of State has not yet posted returns from either his campaign nor the political committee.
DeSantis’ campaign stated Wednesday that they now have a combined $5.2 million cash on hand. In January the campaign had raised more than $131,000, while the political committee had raised $3.2 million.
DeSantis is seeking the Aug. 28 Republican primary nomination to run for Governor, competing with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
Expressing frustration with what the Florida Legislature is doing with guns and schools, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is placing another nearly $2 million buy for statewide TV commercials this month, his campaign announced Monday.
The commercials will continue for a while with his “We Will” spot that launched in late February on a $750,000 statewide-buy, declaring the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School “a wakeup call we can’t ignore.” By mid-March that likely will be replaced by a new TV commercial, his campaign indicated.
Levine is running against former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and businessman Chris King for the Aug. 28 Democratic primary nomination. He is the only Democrat to air TV commercials yet, and his buys already have gone over $4 million prior to March. The leading Republicans are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.
The latest TV buy will be split between Levine’s independent political committee “All About Florida” and his official Levine for Governor campaign. All About Florida will be spending $630,000 to continue running “We Will” through about March 11, while the official campaign will spend about $1.3 million on TV commercials for the rest of the month. All the commercials will run statewide, in either English or Spanish, depending upon the stations.
“As the Republican Legislature continues their political double talk on legislation, Mayor Philip Levine has made it clear that the time is now to enact sensible gun safety reforms that take Florida from having the weakest gun safety laws in the nation to the strongest,” declared a statement released by campaign consultant Christian Ulvert. “The Mayor opposes efforts to arm teachers with weapons and reaffirms the public’s call for an assault weapons ban, raising the age to 21 for gun purchases, and universal background checks, in addition to closing any loopholes.”
In the current “We Will” commercial Levine expresses his goals of “reasonable gun regulations, better background checks, and a permanent ban on assault rifles.”
The commercial begins with Levine standing next to a school bus saying, “When we send our children off to school, we want to know they’re safe. But here in Florida, despite 14 school shootings in 8 years, we still have some of the weakest gun laws in the nation. And the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High is a wakeup call we can’t ignore.
Since losing control of the Florida Congressional Delegation over a quarter-century ago, the Democrats have their best opportunity to regain control in 2018.
All the signs on both the national and state level favoring the Democrats.
After his first year, Donald Trump is the most unpopular president in modern history. The generic vote favors Democrats and they have clobbered Republicans in special elections. The most stunning was the victory of Democrat Doug Jones over Republican Roy Moore. If Republicans cannot win in ultra-red Alabama, can they win anywhere?
In Florida, Republicans have all but abandoned the race to retain the seat held by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for a quarter century. Why waste money in a seat that is heavily Democrat and that Hillary Clinton won by 20 percent.
Neighboring District 26, held by Republican Carlos Curbelo, will also be hard to retain. District 26 is the most Democratic district in the nation held by a Republican. Curbelo has raised over $2 million, so this is not a sure pickup for the Democrats.
Republican Brian Mast, in District 18, has also raised over $2 million, but pundits have moved the seat from “likely Republican” to “leans Republican.” Mast, a double amputee from the Afghan conflict, has just announced his opposition to the sale of assault weapons. Will this help or hurt his campaign?
Republican Ron DeSantis is abandoning a safe seat in District 6 to run for governor. Will Republicans be able to retain this seat against a strong challenge from Nancy Soderberg, former national security adviser for President Bill Clinton?
Republican Gus Bilirakis in District 12 has won most of his races by 20 points or more, but he faces a tough challenge from former FBI agent and federal prosecutor Chris Hunter, who has skills in attracting media attention.
Finally, Republican Vern Buchanan in District 16 faces his most difficult campaign since defeating Keith Fitzgerald by 7 percent in 2012. Shapiro is an attorney with broad name recognition and the ability to raise sufficient resources. The defeat of Buchanan’s son James in a special election for a Florida House seat has heightened concerns for Buchanan’s supporters.
Republicans still have the advantage, but Democrats need only to flip three seats to take control of the delegation.
The opportunity is there. Will the Democrats be able to take advantage of the situation?
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam raised another $431,000 last month for his political committee, Florida Grown, according to records on the committee’s website.
The new numbers show Florida Grown at nearly $20 million in total fundraising since it was formed in early 2015.
Putnam is running for the GOP nomination for Governor. He currently faces Northeast Florida U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in the Republican Primary, while House Speaker Richard Corcoran is expected to enter the race after the 2018 Legislative Session.
Florida Grownhad about $14 million on hand at the end of January. The new haul was balanced out by about $124,000 in spending. The committee had about $14.3 million in the bank at the end of February.
The largest contribution last month was a $97,000 check from beer distributor August A. Busch, followed by $75,000 from a political committee affiliated with the Associated Industries of Florida.
Putnam’s committee also brought in a half-dozen checks for $25,000. Contributors at that level included Wallace Burt, Barbara Carlton, Mel Sembler, Two Rivers Ranch, Phillips and Jordan Inc., and the Florida Chamber of Commerce PAC.
Expenditures last month included $24,748 to Silloh Consulting, $20,800 to Forward Strategies, and $11,166 to Dogwood Communications.
Official campaign finance reports for candidates and committees are due to the Florida Division of Elections by March 12.
At the end of January, Putnam’s campaign account had total fundraising of $4.1 million with nearly $2.8 million on hand.
With competitive Democratic primaries, the tail end of the Legislative Session, and local City Hall intrigue, there is a lot to unpack.
However, we have not arrived at the point in the narrative with a great deal of resolution.
At least not yet.
In a literary sense, this is known as foreshadowing.
Money has not been raised or even reported. Endorsements have not been rolled out.
It is sort of like Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” Power lines fill with feathered animals … a classic trope to build tension for actions ahead.
And what is to come could make some political careers … and break others.
Brown fundraises off Martin
Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, a Democratic primary candidate in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, used the anniversary of Trayvon Martin‘s murder six years ago as part of a fundraising pitch Thursday.
In public remarks as Jacksonville Mayor, Brown did not mention Martin, who was gunned down in 2012 by George Zimmerman in Central Florida.
However, Brown’s fundraising in 2018 is a different matter.
“It is hard to believe, six years ago this week Trayvon was fatally shot for what can only be described as ‘looking suspicious.’ We must always take a moment to reflect and remember the loss of lives like Trayvon,” Brown asserted.
“As we have conversations and push for gun reform, it is important to remember the Trayvons. His death and all those highlighted in the #BlackLivesMatter Movement and those before them must serve a reminder that reform is needed. No one should be killed or discriminated against because of the color of their skin,” Brown added.
Brown’s mentioning of #BlackLivesMatter was also interesting, given that in two years in which his tenure as Mayor overlapped with the movement, he didn’t mention it explicitly either.
U.S. Rep. John Rutherford thinks that stopping school shootings is “about how much we want to pay,” he told WJXT late last month.
“I think more is going to take place at the state level. And I also think you’re going to see some change at the national level. But … You know, security for schools is really a district driven issue.
“You know, we had discussed last week about dropping (filing) the bill ‘Stop Violence in Schools Act of 2018,’ which focuses on hardening the target of the schools.
“Teaching individuals what are the warning signs to look for in these individuals would later become mass killers. And then also setting up an anonymous tip line for folks to be able to call in … and to report those signs that they see.
“So the question becomes: How many, how much do you want to spend to make sure that this does not happen again?
“And then you hear people say, ‘Well, let’s not do police. Let’s do school resource officers who actually work for the school board.
“They may not be as well trained as the police … but they carry guns, and they’re qualified and all that.’
“And then they say, ‘That’s too expensive. So, let’s, you know, if we just put guns in the hands of a few teachers that could be trained, you know, let’s do that. That’s not as expensive.’
“So that’s why I say: How much do you want to pay for what kind of security?”
Rutherford draws Democratic challenger
Ges Selmont, a lawyer making his home in Ponte Vedra Beach, rolled out his campaign for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 4th Congressional District last weekend via news release.
Selmont will be the second Democrat vying for the nomination in a district that elected Rutherford in 2016 by over 40 points; author Monica DePaul is already in the race, though evidence of a formal campaign structure or fundraising is elusive thus far for her, and her most high-profile interview (a half-hour on WJCT) saw her struggle with even friendly questions.
“People from New York, Boston, Connecticut, and LA have expressed support. This race will be on the national radar,” Selmont said. “We will have to run a new, fresh, energetic and innovative campaign.”
Time will tell if that will unseat the former Jacksonville Sheriff.
Soderberg snags EMILY’s List endorsement
In another sign that Ambassador Nancy Soderberg has all but locked the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, EMILY’s List endorsed her Wednesday.
Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, released the following statement:
“A former deputy national security adviser to President [Bill] Clinton and ambassador to the United Nations, Nancy Soderberg knows what it means to take on tough jobs. She has used her positions to advocate change, move our country forward, and defend the rights of our citizens.”
“In her current role as a professor at the University of North Florida and a small-business owner, she is deeply invested in her community and will do what it takes to ensure that the working families of the 6th District have a voice in Washington.”
“Nancy will fight for access to quality health care, affordable higher education, and common-sense policies that will protect our environment,” Schriock asserted.
“It’s time for a representative who will actually fight for working families, which is why EMILY’s List is strongly supporting Nancy Soderberg for Congress,” Schriock added.
Fant blasts Broward Sheriff for Parkland stand down
Rep. Jay Fant, a Republican candidate for State Attorney, renewed his calls for Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel to step down in the wake of reportage that deputies stood down, as did the school resource officer, in a mass shooting that killed 17 in Parkland earlier this month.
Fant, a signatory to a letter from House Speaker Richard Corcoran on this matter, made his case on CNN Monday morning.
“We’ve seen enough from Sheriff Israel,” Fant said, noting that Israel said he demonstrated “amazing leadership” but has not demonstrated accountability in the wake of the stand down of one to four officers.
Gov. Rick Scott has avoided calls to remove Israel, instead tasking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate.
Fant did not pan this move.
“The governor is keenly sensitive to what is happening in Broward, that’s why he launched the FDLE investigation, but it’s not going to get better for Sheriff Israel, it’s going to get worse,” Fant said, referring to expected damning findings from the Coral Springs Police Department’s investigation of the incident.
Fant wants an independent prosecutor to look into what happened, he said.
In the wake of the Parkland homicides, Fant has been on national television with some frequency. He had a segment on “Meet the Press Daily” on MSNBC last week.
Former Daniels aide to primary Davis
The intrigue continues in Jacksonville area Democratic primaries, with yet another incumbent facing a primary challenge on the 2018 ballot.
The latest competitive race is in House District 13, where incumbent Rep. Tracie Davis will face a challenge from Rep. Kim Daniels‘ former district secretary, Roshanda Jackson.
Jackson said that she is not “running against” Davis, whom she doesn’t know. And she says that “no elected official has encouraged [her] to run.” And she takes pains to note that she doesn’t want her bid for office to be conflated with that of Rep. Daniels.
“I hope the race is peaceful,” Jackson said.
Davis, when asked about the primary challenge, noted that she is focused on the Legislative Session, with gun safety and school hardening bills among her priorities, and will turn her election to the campaign after Session.
This filing comes just weeks after Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown launched his primary challenge to Senate Minority Leader Designate Audrey Gibson.
A persistent narrative has surfaced that Brown was put up to running by Mayor Lenny Curry, which both Brown and Curry deny.
Democratic Party insiders don’t discount that narrative, but also note that another source of these primary challenges may be the post-Corrine Brown struggle for primacy in the Jacksonville Democratic machine.
‘Coward’ attacks female Fischer aide
One legislative staffer, Sadie Haire, district aide for Jacksonville Republican Jason Fischer, a supporter of the Second Amendment, got more than words from a gun control proponent.
“On Wednesday, a man — a coward really — forced himself into my district office in Jacksonville demanding that the Legislature ban ‘assault weapons’ and other firearms,” Fischer asserted on Facebook. “He then attacked my district aide and said he was trying to prove a point about ‘gun control.’”
Fischer related that the man came in upset about the failed attempt to get a ban on assault weapons considered in the House. He said the man demonstrated his outrage by “slamming [Haire] into the door violently.”
“This coward was inspired to violence by the political stunt that one of my colleagues pulled on Tuesday,” Fischer said. “There is no justification, political or otherwise, for violently attacking an innocent person.”
Fischer’s office did not have the best security. There was no camera system so that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office could be given a picture, Fischer said.
Fischer added he is closing the office while figuring out what can be done.
Meet El Presidente
Jacksonville City Councilman Aaron Bowman has the ten pledges needed to secure the Council presidency starting in July.
In addition to himself, the former Mayport base commander has Scott Wilson, Sam Newby, and Reggie Gaffney committed last week. Jim Love committed Tuesday.
Before that, Bowman secured the commitments of former Council Presidents Lori Boyer and Greg Anderson, along with Doyle Carter, Matt Schellenberg, and former Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Hazouri.
The coalition of support Bowman has amassed is worth noting, specifically regarding the two most recent past presidents.
Boyer and Anderson worked well with Curry during their presidencies; conversely, the Anna Brosche presidency has been a divisive one, with competing narratives between her and fellow Republican Curry on a variety of issues, including pension reform, children’s program reforms and exploring the prospect of selling local utility JEA.
By late last week, Brosche was among a cadre of Council members roiled by recent revelations that Curry’s team had been exploring valuations on privatizing assets, including but not limited to JEA.
Bowman, who plays a prominent role in recruiting businesses to come to Jacksonville via the JAXUSA arm of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, takes a different view of the administration’s moves.
Though many seem to think the concept of asset privatization is something Curry just discovered, in reality, it is something that was in the works for a while longer.
Since Curry’s election, to be exact, when the mayor-elect’s transition committees explored the concept.
Once in office, Curry’s team began to work with former NYC deputy Mayor Steve Goldsmith, a privatization guru.
By December 2015, Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa met with members of Jacksonville’s City Council, and privatization was discussed, via “scrutinizing” department budgets, looking at what services are required, and a comparison to the private sector providing some services.
Now, in 2018, privatization is earnestly discussed — of JEA.
Read here why this might be a boon for Jacksonville’s bottom line.
The fix is in
Per the Florida Times-Union, JEA is about to commit capital to some fixes for problems exposed in back-to-back hurricane years.
The big spends: $45 million for 251,000 “smart meters” that will allow outages to be pinpointed house by house, potentially removing the dubious outage reporting that vexed customers during Irma.
The money is there, but it will take time to go house to house and install these meters. How much time is as yet unknown.
And $100 million over five years for water-sewer system hardening, which will include more backup power generators to lower the risk of sewage spills at lift stations during power outages.
The upshot: “JEA expects to have backup power at 47 percent of stations this year, and it will be at 71 percent by 2022.”
Is slow septic phaseout killing NW Jax biz dev?
Budget hearings in August saw multiple members, including Council members Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown, lament the slow pace of septic phaseout. $6 million a year is being allocated, split between JEA and the city, for a project that could cost anywhere from $300 million to $1 billion.
With JEA privatization or sale now a hot topic, Council members Brown and Brown, along with Sam Newby, Garrett Dennis and Gaffney, want to codify commitment to the project, via a bill (2018-76) that would obligate JEA to run sewer and water lines throughout the city.
That bill, which would secure in principle a long-awaited retrofitting of these areas, is due to be heard in committees next week.
Reggie Brown noted that businesses are avoiding the Northwest Quadrant in part because of the incomplete septic phaseout, and businesses that are in the area are getting letters from the State Attorney threatening them with shutdown if issues aren’t rectified.
He noted the paradox: the Health Department and State Attorney enforcing standards that wouldn’t be an issue if the city had fulfilled its infrastructural obligations.
Some good news for Jacksonville came Monday via another bond upgrade.
Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services announced an uptick in the special revenue bond rating to ‘AA’ from ‘AA-.’
“This latest upgrade further demonstrates our continued and strong focus on fiscal responsibility is making a difference for our citizens,” Curry said. “We continue to work hard to enhance the City’s standing with investors by doing all we can to ensure the City’s financial stability for years to come. Improved credit ratings can save our city millions of dollars on future debt issues by lowering borrowing costs, which is good for taxpayers.”
Per the media release: “Citing a change to their ratings methodology, S&P said they now consider both non-ad valorem and general fund pledges as equal since both are dependent on the successful operation of the City. The City of Jacksonville’s special revenue pledge is a non-ad valorem pledge, and backs $1.027 billion of the City’s debt outstanding as of Sept. 30, 2017.”
Legendary local essayist Marvin Edwards died last month, after an epic career that included everything from WW2 spy work to more contemporaneous exposes of Jacksonville City Hall shenanigans.
The Jacksonville Daily Record ran a piece of Edwards’ from 1941, in which he took a look at a “boomtown” that exists still, but not in the same way.
“Saturday nights, the downtown area reminds one very much of Times Square. All the theaters are jammed, and it’s almost impossible to find a place to park.”
Edwards was taking a hard look at what happened to Jacksonville: the military-industrial complex.
From shipbuilding downtown to Camp Blanding to the south, the city and surrounding areas were growing because of that buildup.
Banking was big, as well.
The build-out, of course, has been suburban and exurban in recent years. But for those who live in the city’s urban core, hope remains that downtown, somehow, can regain its bygone luster.
Szymanski ‘thrilled’ to become UNF president
In an interview with the University of Florida’s Colin McCann, newly named University President David Szymanski talks about his plans, goals and his “strongest assets” – creating personal relationships and teamwork.
“He mentioned his experience playing basketball,” McCann writes, “saying, ‘One of the things that basketball does for you is thinking of that notion of team. It’s everybody together, and it’s people helping each other out and working collaboratively.’”
Szymanski believes his biggest challenge will be overcoming the time constraints while bringing together people from all parts of the campus and the UNF community. “He wants to look into additional learning opportunities for students, like applied research and internships, building on top of opportunities that are already in place at UNF.”
“My job is to do things well and create opportunities for other people,” Szymanski said. “And I think it’s an exciting time to be a student and an exciting time to be at UNF … I’m just thrilled and honored and humbled to be the next president of the University of North Florida.”
Teen employees get ‘hands-on experience’ at Jacksonville Zoo
Fourteen local teens serve as employees of the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens, part of a city-sponsored Wildlife Immersion and Leadership Development (WILD) program. Since 2016, the teen employment program has incorporated leadership development, public-speaking instruction and lessons in zoology and horticulture.
While animal-related interests are not required, some of the youths in the program see working with animals as a long-term career path.
According to the Florida Times-Union, WILD is for culturally-diverse teens aged 14 to 18 who live or attend school or church in 10 Jacksonville ZIP codes targeted by the Jacksonville Journey anti-crime initiative, primarily from the Northside and Northwest areas of the city. Applicants go through a rigorous application process and work Saturdays during the school year, and full time in the summer months.
First-year students in the program are called stewards. In the second year, they graduate to become ambassadors and take more leadership responsibility. In the final year of the program, they help develop educational outreach programs in their communities, including bringing small animals on tour. The zoo outreaches are free and go to the organization or facility that has shown an influence in the teens’ lives.
“It’s been a great experience,” said Marquese Fluellen, 18, who is in his second year of the program and attends Wolfson High School. “I always wanted a career in animal handling but didn’t know where to start.”
U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando received a perfect score of 100 for his environmental issues voting record from the national League of Conservation Voters, the only member of Florida’s delegation to do so.
The scorecard found widespread support for the league’s positions among Democrats, and widespread opposition among Republicans. Nationally, Democrats averaged a score of 94, and Republicans, 5.
In Central Florida, Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando got a score of 97; and Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, 91; while Republican U.S. Rep. U.S. Rep. Dan Webster of Lake County and Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach both received a score of 3; and Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey of Rockledge, 0.
Elsewhere in Florida, the next highest-scoring Democrats were U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel and Alcee Hastings, who both got 94; and the lowest-scoring Democrat was U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, who got 69. The highest-scoring Republicans were U.S. Reps. Brian Mast, Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who all got 23. Several other Republicans got zero.
On the Senate side, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson got a 95 and Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio got a 0.
Soto has pushed for several pieces of legislation and funding relating to restoration projects for the Kissimmee Riverand the Everglades. His and the other members scores, however, also covered legislation and issues ranging from support for the U.S. EPA to global warming, and from California water resource management to pesticides.
“I am honored to have received a perfect score on the LCV Scorecard,” Soto stated in a news release issued by his office. “You can count on me to continue fighting to protect our environment, especially fighting offshore drilling and keeping our Florida coasts and waters pristine. Legislation I’ve recently introduced would protect the Everglades and provide resources to restore our beloved Kissimmee River.”
The league has published a National Environmental Scorecard every Congress since 1970, and states that the selected issues, positions, and scores represent a consensus of experts from about 20 respected environmental and conservation organizations. The issues include energy, climate change, public health, public lands and wildlife conservation, and spending for environmental programs.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis on Thursday denounced Florida Legislature efforts to tighten gun restrictions and said the mass shooting two weeks ago at the Parkland high school should be seen as “a catastrophic failure” by the Broward County sheriff and the FBI.
DeSantis, a congressman from Ponte Vedra Beach, has made similar comments in television appearances on Fox News in the past two weeks, but otherwise has been largely silent within Florida about his response to the massacre, drawing heatfrom other gubernatorial candidates, particularly Democrats. On Thursday he broke that, taking a hard line against any gun measures, and condemning those being considered now in the Florida Legislature.
He also called for the resignation of Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel for not having responded to numerous reports, prior to the Feb. 14 mass shooting, that suggested Nikolas Cruz was dangerous; and for the firing of anyone in the FBI who might have failed to pick up in advance on the shooter’s intentions.
And while DeSantis called on the Florida Legislature to back off proposed gun restrictions, presumably such as one to raise the minimum age for firearms purchases to 21, he was not specific in his statement.
DeSantis said he supported much in Gov. Rick Scott‘s proposed school safety package to “harden schools” and also supports one idea Scott rejected: arming teachers. He also said the state should enlist the help of veterans and law enforcement officers to help protect schools.
DeSantis faces Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow in the contest for the Aug. 28 Florida primary nomination to run for Governor. The leading Democrats are former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Winter Park developer Chris King, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, DeSantis contended, was the result of law enforcement failures and mental illness, and should be addressed as such.
“Given that the issues of bureaucratic incompetence, school safety and mental health demand immediate attention, I’m disappointed that the Florida Legislature is rushing to restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens,” DeSantis said in his statement.
“When dealing with a right that is specifically enumerated in the Constitution, blanket restrictions that diminish individual rights are suspect. Better to focus on denying firearms to dangerous individuals, which avoids infringing on constitutional rights and is also more likely to be effective. The goal should be to keep our students safe, bring accountability to the officials and institutions that failed, and protect the rights of Floridians,” DeSantis continued.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King has released a new online campaign video declaring that the massacres in Pulse and Parkland demand a transformation of Florida politics, stressing his commitments to banning assault weapons, pushing for universal background checks, and expanding Medicaid.
The 90-second video “This is the Year”includes footage of vigils held for the mass shootings and King giving a speech in which he talks about attending the vigils, and believes that the last two weeks must spark a transformation. The ad is being targeted to Democratic voters on Facebook across the state.
“The next Governor of the State of Florida in my view has to be committed to transformation when it comes to gun safety,” King says. “So let me make it very clear to you what this governor would do: I would not take money from the NRA. I would work hard to pass an assault weapons ban, as I said for my very first speech as (a candidate for) governor. I would stand up for universal background checks. I would work to pass Medicaid expansion because there is no bigger idea for caring for the needs of the mentally ill in this state.”
King is competing with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine for the Democratic nomination. The leading Republicans are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.