Ron DeSantis – Page 6 – Florida Politics

‘Best month yet’: Adam Putnam rakes in record cash in March

Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam had his highest fundraising month in March, grossing $2.28 million between his campaign account and his Florida Grown PAC.

The Florida Division of Elections database shows Putnam raised $504,464 for his campaign account last month. His PAC numbers, reported Friday, showed a March tally of $1.77 million.

To date, 10,993 contributors have supported the Agriculture Commissioner’s bid for the Governor’s Mansion. More than 8,000 contributors have come in at small-dollar amounts ($500 or less). Ninety-six percent of all contributions have come from inside the Sunshine State. Campaign spokeswoman Amanda Bevis attributed those stats to Putnam’s ‘Florida First’ approach, a recurring theme of the candidacy.

“Our supporters want a Governor who knows Florida best and will always put Florida First, and that’s why Adam Putnam is their choice,” Bevis said.

Putnam’s next-highest hauls all took place in 2017 when he brought in $2.248 million in February, $2.208 million in May and $2.127 million in June.

Topping Putnam’s campaign donor roll were several agriculture-related contributors. In particular, citrus. Of 57 $3,000 contributions, thirteen came from citrus growers and interests, totaling $39,000.

Putnam’s campaign account last month spent over $164,000, a large bulk of which (approximately $120,000) was spent on publishing, mailing and postage.

In total, Putnam’s camp and PAC have hauled in $26.77 and has $19.26 million cash on hand between both accounts.

As Drew Wilson of Florida Politics reported, the next closest candidate is Democrat Philip Levine, who had raised $11 million thus far. Putnam will square up against U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in the Aug. 28 Republican primary. Other Democrats vying for their party’s nod include former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando businessman Chris King.

Ron DeSantis charges that ‘liberal’ Broward school district could have stopped Nikolas Cruz

At a meeting of the “Collier for [Donald] Trump Club” over the weekend, Republican candidate for governor Ron DeSantis staked out a provocative position regarding the case of Nikolas Cruz, the gunman who went to his former high school in Parkland in February and shot 17 people dead.

In response to an audience question suggesting that “nefarious” policies led to school officials in Broward County “get[ting] money for not reporting minority crime,” DeSantis didn’t challenge the premise of the that question.

Nor did he take issue with the phrasing “minority crime.”

The northeast Florida Republican did, however, reframe the question slightly before agreeing essentially with the premise of the questioner.

President Barack “Obama had a policy that a lot of these liberal school districts adopted, to basically say, look, we want to lower crime rates among our schools, so the way to do that is to simply does not report people for crimes,” he said.

“So if you … assault somebody, we’re not going to report it, you’re not going to get arrested, because we don’t want you to get a criminal record, we don’t want to have a lot of crime in our school, so we’re just going to pretend it doesn’t exist [and] put our head in the sand,” DeSantis said.

From there, DeSantis contended that “Cruz in Parkland … could have been arrested and convicted for assault. He could have been arrested and convicted for issuing threats, probably could have been arrested and convicted for other things too—because he was so outrageous in his conduct.”

“And yet time and time again when they went to his house — how many times 20, 30 times — and chose to do nothing. Because of the policy was, we don’t want to get this individual in the justice system, it’s not good for statistics,” DeSantis added.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio issued similar claims in the wake of the Parkland massacre; these were debunked by the Broward County Superintendent, who contended that Cruz was not part of the civil citation program that Rubio previously maligned and that DeSantis maligned most recently.

As Boston Globe columnist Michael Cohen explained this week, “Unlike previous mass shootings, the Parkland massacre sparked a long overdue and much-needed national debate about guns. It also led to a wave of gun control activism.”

Andrew Gillum gets ‘Moms Demand Action’ seal

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has become the second Democratic candidate for governor to announce that he has received the “gun sense candidate” distinction from the national gun law reform group Moms Demand Action.

“I’m deeply honored to receive the Moms Demand Action Candidate Distinction. I’ve beaten the gun lobby twice in Tallahassee, and when I’m Governor we’re finally going to pass the common sense gun safety laws that will keep our families and communities safe,” Gillum stated in a news release.

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, formed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in 2012, is part of the larger network of gun-violence prevention organizations in the Everytown for Gun Safety network.

The group now has given its seal of approval to Gillum and his Democratic primary opponent Gwen Graham. Also in the Democratic primary field are former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Winter Park businessman Chris King. All four been strongly outspoken in their calls for banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and for universal background checks, among other gun law reform pledges.

The quartet of Democrats’ gun reform positions are in sharp contrast with the pro-2nd Amendment positions held by the leading Republicans in the race, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

Jacksonville Bold for 4.6.18 — Shiv season

In this week’s Bold, a recurring motif … pitched political speech.

From a senator saying the president could kick off the next Great Depression, to a gubernatorial campaign telling an opponent is DOA, the knives were out.

Shivs went toward Jacksonville’s mayor for exploring the value of JEA. And toward a chair of a local party … for her committeeman husband using a phrase at a party dinner that many on hand saw as objectionable.

Don’t worry, there were shivs for him as well.

Almost five months before primaries, and nearly a year before the first city elections, Northeast Florida politics are like a Ginsu ad.

The knives are out. And Jacksonville Bold is the whetstone.

Nelson: Metal tariffs = Smoot-Hawley Act

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson met with Anheuser-Busch executives in Jacksonville Monday to address business concerns about the Trump administration’s plan for tariffs on foreign products.

Meanwhile, Spuds MacKenzie remains silent on the issue of tariffs.

Beer execs were concerned that an imposed 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum would cost them millions of dollars and slow down investment in growing their business.

For Nelson, the tariffs signal a more significant issue.

“What it portends,” said Nelson, “is the starting of a trade war.”

“We get into a trade war, and the prices of a lot of consumer goods we buy from overseas are going to rocket up,” Nelson said. “A trade war ultimately runs into a recession, which was part of the reason for going into the Depression back in the 1930s.”

Nelson noted the Smoot-Hawley Act, which raised 900 import duties all at once, ultimately was what “plunged us into a Depression.”

“This could be the beginning,” Nelson said, saying 9 million people have jobs that will be affected by this imposition of aluminum and steel tariffs.

WaPo wallops Wiles

The Washington Post delivered a hit on inexperienced political appointees in the Donald Trump White House. Caroline Wiles got fragged.

Brutal hit on Caroline Wiles from The Washington Post.

The Post reminded readers that Wiles “was one of six White House staffers dismissed for failing FBI background checks” then was “made a special assistant to the president, a post that typically pays $115,000.”

Susie Wiles, the mother of Caroline, ran Trump’s Florida campaign as it got momentum. That, asserts the Post, is why she was hired.

“The younger Wiles has an unusual background for a senior White House official. On a résumé she submitted to the state of Florida, she said she had completed coursework at Flagler College … On her LinkedIn page, she simply lists Flagler under education. A Flagler spokesman said she never finished her degree,” the report says.

Another shot of nepotism followed: “Wiles has had a string of political jobs, including work at her mother’s lobbying firm and as a campaign aide for candidates her mother advised, including Florida Gov. Rick Scott  and Trump.”

And then, the rap sheet: “Over the years, she has had multiple encounters with police. In 2005, she had her driver’s license suspended for driving while intoxicated … In 2007, she was arrested for driving while intoxicated and arrested for passing a ‘worthless check.’ She was found guilty of a misdemeanor for driving under the influence. The charge related to the bad check was dropped in a plea agreement.”

Go figure; she didn’t sit for an interview for this piece.

Defense lawyers: Brown jobbed out of fair trial

Per First Coast News“The Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is asking for a new trial for Corrine Brown after she was convicted on multiple counts of fraud and corruption and sentenced to five years in federal prison.”

Corrine Brown’s latest appeal enjoyed a tail-wind this week via an amicus brief.

At issue: the dismissal of a juror who claimed to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Brown and her defense have consistently contended that juror was dismissed in error and this group agrees, saying that “seeking guidance from God does not amount to jury misconduct and is not a basis to remove a juror who is otherwise qualified to serve.”

Brown’s attorney filed a 64-page brief last week in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals arguing the Jacksonville Democrat’s conviction should be tossed out because the juror was improperly dismissed from the case due to his religious statements.

“The record in this case supports only one conclusion: that this juror was basing his verdict on his view of the sufficiency of the evidence, after prayerful consideration and as he saw it, in his mind, guidance from the Holy Spirit,” Brown’s attorney, William Mallory Kent, wrote in the brief.

Big Mo for DeSantis

An internal memo from the Ron DeSantis campaign for governor made the rounds this week. And he may be winning the nomination.

The memo notes that DeSantis is winning with little effort against an “establishment candidate … who has spent more than $6 million … and has been running quietly for eight years.”

Ron DeSantis’ campaign says it is ‘winning’ the race with Adam Putnam.

DeSantis has the best name ID, per internal polling, along with strong favorables and the lead in a two-way race against Adam Putnam and a three-way race with a “potential third challenger.”

Also, Trump Twitter came up bigly: “The president’s job approval is strong, and so is his endorsement.”

DeSantis also has good oppo against Putnam’s pre-Tea Party voting record in Congress, and wins the “blind bio” test, per his polling, 55 to 29 percent.

Payne draws challenger in HD 19

A Starke Democrat entered the race for North Central Florida’s House District 19, where they will take on incumbent Republican Bobby Payne, as well as Libertarian Ryan Ramsey.

(Paul) Still waters run deep, but the Dem says Black Creek project is a boondoggle.

Paul Still, an elected Supervisor for the Bradford County Soil and Water Conservation Board, was motivated to run by a water issue Payne supported that he sees as a “boondoggle.”

The issue at hand is the $42 million Black Creek Water Resource Development Project.

While Still won’t face primary opposition, the struggle is real in deep red HD 19 for the former chair of the Bradford County Democrats, as the party is not well-organized throughout much of the district.

Duval DEC committeeman out over ‘colored people’ comment

Lisa King‘s tenure chairing the Democratic Party of Duval County has been marred by the aftermath of her husband, state committeeman John Parker, committing the gaffe of using the term “colored people” during a dinner in January.

John Parker resigns, but will Lisa King hold on to the Dems’ gavel?

In the last week, Parker and King have dealt with some adverse press, related to an ongoing outcry both within and outside the party about her husband, with the offensive comments framed as a cause for both Parker and King to step down.

In a statement Monday, King said she had advised Parker to resign, but he told Florida Politics he “absolutely would not” last week. (King got backup Tuesday from party secretary Daniel Henry).

King notes that she has “told John from the beginning that the most appropriate course of action for him was to resign. Although we disagree on this action, our members are committed to respecting the process to resolve this issue.”

Meanwhile, the chair of the Duval GOP finally, a week after this controversy blew up, issued a call for King and Parker to resign.

On Wednesday, Parker acquiesced, resigning both leadership positions.

“Today, I accepted the resignation of John Parker as state committeeman and DNC member,” King said in a statement. “I do this with the certainty that it is the right thing for our party. Although he has dedicated over 35 years of service, his statements and actions necessitated his departure.”

Newby, Holland want four more years

Monday saw two incumbent Jacksonville politicians file for re-election.

Sam Newby won a close race in 2015 on a shoestring budget. Expect him to have more help this time.

At-large Group 5 Republican Sam Newby filed for re-election, as did Republican Property Appraiser Jerry Holland.

Newby, who won a narrow race against Democrat Ju’Coby Pittman in 2015, thus far faces no ballot opposition.

Holland, who was a popular Supervisor of Elections for two terms, faced no ballot opposition in 2015 but will face a Democrat next March.

Kurt Kraft has just over $600 on hand. To put that number in context, Holland raised over $154,000 in his unopposed run in 2015.

Committee slams Curry on radio

A political committee (Florida Committee for Infrastructure Investment) designed to stop the exploration of selling Jacksonville’s utility in its tracks rolled out its first radio ad in a mass email to media.

The 30-second spot, which employs a child’s voice, includes a plaintive, heart-tugging script.

To hear the video, click the image below:

“Mommy and daddy, they’re saying that Lenny Curry is trying to sell JEA,” says the youth in the spot, a child who is remarkably hip to the mechanics of municipal utilities for his age.

“Don’t let him sell JEA,” the youngster continues. “Don’t let him sell our future.”

The call to action: to call 630-CITY and tell Curry not to sell JEA.

This particular political committee has ties to one of Curry’s chief political rivals. Its registered agent and treasurer, Heather Pullen, has connections to Lisa King, the chair of the Duval Democrats.

“Baseless attacks and lies from a political committee affiliated with and supportive of Democrat Lisa King are not how we will protect the value of taxpayer assets at JEA. The mayor remains committed to ensuring that facts inform all future plans for our utility, and that those plans respect taxpayers and the promises made to JEA employees,” said Brian Hughes, Curry’s chief of staff.

Meanwhile, Council President Anna Brosche wants more disclosure from the city finance department on JEA. CFO Mike Weinstein stonewalled the Jacksonville City Council requests for financial information, saying in an email last week: “They’re on their own.”

There is, however, one positive JEA augury for the Mayor’s Office. Curry met with linemen Tuesday; per WJXT, it went well.

Hughes noted that the mayor’s “meeting with JEA lineman this morning was part of his continued commitment to having conversations about the future of JEA with all stakeholders. The meeting went well offering him the opportunity to hear feedback and information from the people who put their lives on the line, not only in emergencies, but every day to provide service to the citizens of Jacksonville.”

Council bills teed up

Straw ballot for JEA sale: This bill had some controversy before unanimous passage in Finance Tuesday morning.

The vote would be in November.

2018-141 would set a straw ballot referendum on the November ballot to test the voters’ mood on a JEA sale.

The measure, sponsored by Garrett Dennis and John Crescimbeni (two skeptics of the need to sell), would, in theory, serve as a corrective to an impending sales pitch to sell from many directions.

Crescimbeni pitched the bill to Rules, noting that the straw ballot is nonbinding and merely gives direction on whether to “participate in that process … weigh in and tell us they’re interested, or they’re not interested.”

The bill cleared Rules without a single no vote.


Board reform2018-65, also sponsored by Dennis, would bar a member of a board from applying for a paid position with the organization said board controls while serving on that board.

This bill was drafted after Joe Peppers, a member of the Kids Hope Alliance board who has since stepped down, made a play for that organization’s CEO position.

Dennis, one of Council’s most strident opponents of the reforms that brought KHA into being as a replacement for the Children’s Commission and the Jacksonville Journey, sees Peppers as a) unqualified to be CEO and b) parlaying relationships with the board and Mayor Lenny Curry‘s team into a high-paying job.

Dennis said the bill would foster “transparency and fairness.”

Gaffney lawsuit rolls on

A whistleblower action involving Community Rehabilitation Center, the nonprofit of Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney, continues to be hashed out in the 4th Judicial Circuit Court; it is now a discrimination suit.

Reggie Gaffney gaffe: Where are the documents, plaintiff lawyer wonders.

Former CRC employee Darlene Peoples contended in a late-May whistleblower lawsuit in Florida’s 4th Circuit that she was “unlawfully terminated” by the nonprofit … after she was allegedly exposed to risk from HIV-positive clients without proper training and licensure. [Complaint against CRC]

Peoples worked for CRC from 2013 to Sept. 2016. In June 2016, Peoples was reassigned to be a “mental health counselor” from her previous position, “substance abuse counselor,” in a move her original filing describes as “ill-advised.” She claimed training deficiencies were rampant in her preparation to deal with HIV positive clients, and when she attempted to get redress (including from CEO Gaffney), she was fired.

The latest motion from Peoples, a “motion to compel,” came Mar. 22. At issue: an alleged inability to comply promptly with plaintiff requests for discovery regarding interrogatories and documents (emails).

Read more here.

Mallot out

From the JAX Chamber: “Jerry Mallot announced today that he will retire from his roles as President of JAXUSA Partnership and Executive Vice President of JAX Chamber. Mallot’s retirement is effective Sept. 1.”

“This is truly the best city and region in the country to live and to do business — and that certainly helps when you’re bringing top companies to the region,” Mallot, who has been with the Chamber since 1994, said.

Jerry Mallot retiring from JAX Chamber Sept. 1.

Mallot helped to broker deals with Fidelity, Deutsche Bank and Amazon, per the Chamber. Those were three big gets.

“The investment he’s helped attract to our city is remarkable,” said JAX Chamber Chair John Peyton, who served as Jacksonville’s mayor from 2003-11 and worked with Mallot on several high-profile projects. “Jerry is so incredibly skilled at finding ways to get a deal done; it’s been a privilege to work with him over the years.”

“It’s amazing to look around at different projects and see how far we’ve come,” Mallot said. “We have so much momentum here, and I look forward to seeing it continue.”

Nassau’s Lincoln Day dinner sells out

Nassau County Republican Executive Committee (REC) announced its 2018 Lincoln Day Dinner has reached capacity with 116 tickets distributed, a first for the annual event.

The 2018 Lincoln Day Dinner is among the various Republican fundraising events to honor Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth U.S. president and first from the Republican Party. The Nassau County event was held Thursday at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island beginning with a cocktail hour and silent auction.

Keynoting the Lincoln Day dinner was Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis; featured guests includedCongressman John Rutherford, state Sens. Aaron Bean and Denise Grimsley, state Reps. Cord Byrd and Matt Caldwell, as well as various local leaders and candidates.

“Although we are still days away from hosting the event, the revenue and enthusiasm for this banquet have exceeded all expectations,” Nassau REC Chair Justin Taylor said. “In fact, we had to add seats to accommodate demand. We are seeing about a 50 percent participation increase from last year’s Lincoln Day, and I think that is a direct reflection of our party’s enthusiasm leading into this year’s election cycle.”

Adam Putnam suggests Ron DeSantis doesn’t know the state

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is turning his “I know Florida” message into a bit of a stick, suggesting Thursday that his opponent for the Republican gubernatorial primary. U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, knows Florida not-so-much.

“Floridians want a Governor who knows Florida best, who’s always going to put Florida first and is running a grassroots campaign,” Putnam told reporters Thursday, responding to a question about what he thinks of DeSantis getting President Donald Trump‘s endorsement.

“I do see a lot of MAGA hats at my rallies,” Putnam added, referencing Trump’s themed hats, “Make America Great Again.”

Putnam’s “I know Florida” comments essentially echoed one of the themes of the stump speech he gave earlier at the Lay of the Land Conference in ChampionsGate, and which he has used throughout the first 11 months of his campaign.

Now Putnam, of Bartow, is putting a bit of emphasis on it, facing DeSantis, the congressman from Ponte Vedra Beach who thus far has spent much of his three-month campaign for the Governor’s job talking about his support for Trump’s positions on federal issues.

“I think people can draw their own conclusions, but there’s no question that I’m the candidate who knows Florida best, knows the nuance of different regions of our state, what the problems are and how to solve those problems,” Putnam said.

“It’s too late after you’re elected to have to have a get-up-to-speed lesson on the diversity of our state,” he added. “And I don’t need a GPS to get around Florida.”

Putnam contends he has visited all 67 counties and “nearly every community” as Agriculture Commissioner.

“It’s important, if you want to be the CEO of Florida, that you know the organization that you need to run,” he added.

On Thursday both Putnam and DeSantis originally were scheduled as speakers at the Lay of the Land conference, but DeSantis, whose wife just gave birth to their second child two weeks ago, pulled out.

Gwen Graham gets approval from ‘Moms Demand Action’ gun reform group

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham is getting a “Gun Sense Candidate” rating from the national group Moms Demand Action, which was formed after the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre to urge gun law reforms.

“Moms never forget. Moms never give up. Every mother’s top priority is defending the safety and well-being of their children and families,” Graham stated in a news release issued by her campaign “As governor, I will never forget. I will never give up. I will protect children across the state by passing common sense gun safety once and for all.”

Graham is the first candidate in the race to get the Moms’ seal of approval. However, the other Democrats in the race, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Winter Park businessman Chris King have all, as has Graham, been strongly outspoken in their calls for banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and for universal background checks, among other gun law reform pledges.

The quartet of Democrats’ gun reform positions are in sharp contrast with the pro-2nd Amendment positions held by the leading Republicans in the race, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is part of the larger network of gun-violence prevention organizations in the Everytown for Gun Safety network.

“After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, we saw an enormous wave of activism. The largest, strongest, and loudest group of all was the mothers coming together across America. They have been fighting for safer communities every day since then and made their voices heard after Pulse, after Parkland and after acts of daily violence in communities throughout our state,” Graham stated. “I am proud to stand by their side and it is an honor to be named a Moms Demand Action Gun Sense Candidate today.”

Graham had the Moms Demand Action approval when she ran for Congress in 2014, defeating incumbent Republican Steve Southerland, who had strong support from the NRA.

Other Democrats in the race have attempted to challenge Graham’s gun law reform credentials, expected to be an issue among Democratic voters, while she and her campaign have insisted hers have been consistently as strong as anyone’s. The Mom’s designation should help her with that characterization.

“I beat the NRA once and with the help of Moms Demand Action and mothers across the state of Florida, we will do it again,” Graham stated. “As governor, I will pass universal background checks, ban assault weapons and give our law enforcement the tools they need to keep us safe.”

Immediately following the Parkland shooting, Graham called on Governor Rick Scott to suspend the sale of assault weapons and for the legislature to pass bold gun safety legislation. She called on Republican candidate Adam Putnam to return his National Rifle Association money. And she called on Scott, the Florida Legislature, and the State Board of Administration, which includes Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, to divest all Florida’s state interests from gun and ammunition manufacturers.

Graham also has vowed to use use the governor’s general counsel to assist local governments fighting the preemption law passed in Florida in 2012 with strong support from the NRA.

Gwen Graham’s first digital ad vows she’ll stand up against Donald Trump

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham goes hard against President Donald Trump in her first digital video ad of the 2018 election, calling him an embarrassment, a divider, and a bully, and vowing that as Governor she would stand up against him.

As graphics play out her words, Graham begins the video by saying that she wants to be someone who bridges divisiveness, something she believes Trump deliberately promotes.

“Donald Trump is an embarrassment. Donald Trump is an example of a bully,” Graham says in the ad, as the video switches to show some of her characteristic hugs. “I see it as my job to stand up to Donald Trump. It is the Governor’s job to look out for the state of Florida. And I will look out for the state of Florida. Donald Trump is not going to be able to stand in my way of doing what’s right for the people of Florida.”

Graham’s campaign said the ad will be backed by a “significant buy” across various digital platforms, and will begin by targeting the Palm Beach area before expanding statewide.

Graham is in a battle royale for the August 28 Democratic primary, with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Winter Park businessman Chris King. The leading Republicans are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

“While our country and state face serious challenges, Donald Trump is still taking weekly vacations to Mar-a-Lago and spending much of his time on the golf course,” Graham stated in a news release announcing the ad. “I hope Trump sees this ad during one of the many occasions he is checking Twitter because I want him to know that I will always put Florida first.”

Jacksonville Bold for 3.30.18 — And the campaigns begin

Flowers are blooming. The chill of March fades into April and May heat. And just like the cycle of nature, the cycle of campaigns is kicking off anew.

In Congressional races, we are starting to see real action. Political action committees are kicking up, and so is the end of quarter fundraising.

What this means: all the paper tiger campaigns will be tested by the heat of the process, an unforgiving sunlight illumination that offers no quarter.

Who are the contenders? Who are the pretenders?

Soon we shall know the difference.

PAC targets Waltz in CD 6

Fox News viewers in Florida’s 6th Congressional District starting Monday saw the first of many ads in the Republican primary.

The very first ad in the district that includes Volusia, Flagler and southern St. Johns counties, however, was from a political action committee targeting candidate Mike Waltz.

Mike Waltz takes incoming early from well-funded John Ward PAC.

The committee seems to support opponent John Ward.

Via Advertising Analytics: “American Jobs and Growth PAC” bought $19,000 in ad time on Fox News Channel. Spots will run from Monday to Friday.

The PAC is opposed to Waltz, per the Federal Elections Commission webpage for the committee.

The 15-second ad features a Waltz voice-over from the 2016 campaign, saying “look at Donald Trump‘s real record and stop him now,” with graphics proclaiming Trump’s “real record” as being the tax cut package, and appointing Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

The committee has only begun to spend money, per its list of contributions.

John Foley, a business associate of Ward, leads all donors with $100,000 contributed in what thus far is a ~$140,000 nest egg.

DeSantis denies Cambridge Analytica ties

Moving from the CD 6 race to the incumbent in CD 6 … Florida Democrats questioned, per the Daytona Beach News-Journal, whether or not Rep. Ron DeSantis may have used controversial data-mining op Cambridge Analytica for his campaign.

Oppo suggests the Dems take Ron DeSantis seriously.

The connection: the PAC of new National Security Adviser John Bolton, which donated to DeSantis, also paid Cambridge.

No dice, says the DeSantis campaign.

“No, we didn’t,” wrote spokesman Brad Herold to the Daytona paper. “And tell the FDP, if they spent more time trying to figure out why their message hasn’t resonated with Florida voters in over two decades and less time playing Inspector Clouseau with finance reports, they’d win more elections.”


Peanut, tomato dumping drives Lawson to back NAFTA revamp

Florida’s 5th Congressional District is far-flung, as Al Lawson’s town hall last weekend shows.

In Tallahassee, it focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the Jacksonville end of the district: peanut and tomato dumping.

Nearly 100 North Florida and South Georgia farmers gave Al Lawson their ideas on what should be included in a federal farm bill.

“While Central and South Florida are major hubs of citrus and sugar production, North Florida and South Georgia produce peanuts and tomatoes. And those two crops, in addition to dairy, are being squeezed by overproduction from Canada and Mexico, say local farmers. For that reason, Congressman Lawson says he’s in support of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement,” reports WFSU.

“Most farmers here, if you talk to the people who are tomato farmers they’ll tell you they have a big problem. So I think something is going to happen in that regard,” Lawson told the Tallahassee outlet.

Trump wants NAFTA renegotiated, but the movement has been slow.

Peanut interests support Lawson strongly as a candidate.

Brown fundraises

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, a candidate for Florida’s 5th Congressional District, had what he called a “big fundraiser” Wednesday evening.

Alvin Brown is finally fundraising. Did he wait too long to start?

Accompanying Brown was Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Congressional Black Caucus member who endorsed him over incumbent Democratic Rep. Lawson.

At the end of the last quarter, before Brown declared as a candidate, Lawson had lackluster fundraising.

Lawson, the incumbent in Florida’s CD 5, closed 2017 with $100,531 on hand, off $235,281 raised.

Duval legislators extol Legislative Session … for the most part

With the Legislative Session in the rearview mirror, Northeast Florida legislators are looking back at the 60 days with a sense of accomplishment, tempered in some cases with a sense that there are more battles to fight and win.

While the $12.5 million of state money for the Talleyrand Connector was the most significant win, every legislator Florida Politics talked to mentioned other wins as well.

Audrey Gibson was characteristically blunt on the 2018 Session.

The most candid comments were from Senate Minority Leader Designate Audrey Gibson, who was very out front about difficulties of the process: “Go figure, it’s life in an unbalanced Legislature which I am on a mission to change!  I am so honored to serve and am on the battlefield in and out of Session because Session is not the only measure of success.”

Gibson, of course, will face a primary challenge from Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown.

Read the whole recap here.

Gains in rough year, say St. Johns legislators

The St. Augustine Record was on hand for St. Johns County legislators talking about gains in a rough year.

John Rutherford says his introduction to Congress was ‘informative.’

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford said his introduction to Congress was “quite informative.”

Sen. Travis Hutson discussed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.

“Two words: We delivered,” said Rep. Paul Renner about the budget.

Rep. Cyndi Stevenson said it was a bit of a “rough” year, but not one without “a strong footing to go forward on.”

Full write-up here.

Patronis in Jax to highlight expansion of PTSD benefits

This week, CFO Jimmy Patronis joined Mayor Lenny Curry, state Sen. Gibson, Reps. Cord Byrd, Tracie Davis and Jason Fischer, as well as Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Chief Kurt Wilson and members of the fire service and law enforcement communities to highlight the signing of Senate Bill 376, expanding mental health benefits for first responders.

Stress’ relief: CFO Jimmy Patronis was joined by lawmakers, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Chief Kurt Wilson and fire service and law enforcement members to mark the signing of a bill expanding mental health benefits for first responders.

Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill this week in Tampa surrounded by hundreds of first responders from across the state. Sen. Lauren Book and Rep. Matt Willhite sponsored SB 376.

Zeigler running against unfair taxation in HD 15

Yacht broker Mark Zeigler entered the GOP primary in House District 15 last month.

Incumbent Jay Fant is currently running for Attorney General. Zeigler will face Joseph Hogan and Wyman Duggan.

Zeigler, alone among the field, is known for his tenure as a drummer in Pretty Boy Freud, the legends of Jacksonville’s club scene decades ago. As a drummer and an entrepreneur, his motivations for running are pretty straightforward and are rooted in unfair taxation.

The drumbeat of business taxes drives Mark Zeigler. Is that the rhythm of HD 15?

One of the issues facing businesses like his, Zeigler says, is the estimated tax from the Department of Revenue.

“If you collect $200,000 in sales taxes [in a given year], in January you get a love letter,” Zeigler said.

That epistle contains an estimated tax, an added burden for businesses just as they try to navigate the January doldrums. And that tax affects investment in the business, including but not limited to new hiring and new equipment.

The National Federation of Independent Business is “looking hard at this issue,” Zeigler said. “I think I’m the messenger who can carry it.”

Read more here.

Pill suit moving forward

The Jacksonville Daily Record notes that the city of Jacksonville has retained lawyers with a track record for its lawsuit against Big Pharma.

Purdue brought OxyContin to market and is one of many parties named in the suit.

Since 2007, Scott and Scott have brought in more than $1.2 billion in these cases, per the “144-page complaint for damages and injunctive relief filed in the 4th Judicial Circuit by the city against Perdue Pharma LLP and 24 other defendants.”

“The complaint alleges that the defendants engaged in a systematic plan to deceive doctors and patients about the products’ efficacy in the management of chronic pain and the addictive nature of their products,” the Daily Record asserts.

Read more here.

‘Open government’ task force

Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche wanted a task force to look at transparency in local government.

She got it.

Anna Brosche’s year atop Council has been full of conflict with Team Curry.

The bill (2018-133) cleared Tuesday’s Council agenda after having passed the Rules Committee unanimously last week.

“The Task Force on Open Government” will “undertake an in-depth review of Jacksonville’s legislative process and the methods by which the public accesses government” and “make recommendations for how the City of Jacksonville can be more open and accessible to the public.”

Brosche originally wanted one-cycle approval of the concept so the task force would have more time to operate, but relented after Mayor Curry‘s office raised concerns that emergency legislation contravened the goal of “open and accessible government.”

The panel wraps by the end of June. As does the Brosche presidency.

JEA special committee not so special anymore

Big news from Jacksonville City Council amounted to a setback for Council President Brosche when her 19 colleagues decided to subvert her five-person “special committee” on the JEA sale by including all 19 members on the panel.

Committee chairman John Crescimbeni will deal with significant changes going forward.

The debate was bruising, elliptical and lasted for hours; all kicked off by a floor motion from Councilman Matt Schellenberg to kill the committee. That didn’t fly. Neither did a move by Councilwoman Lori Boyer to keep the committee at five but kill its subpoena power.

Essentially, this will derail the committee from deep dives into relationships between JEA execs and the Mayor’s Office, moving the discussion to the pros and cons of a sale from “what did _______ know and when did he know it?” style questions.

After the discussion had wrapped, one prominent lobbyist was heard to remark that some of those who fought hardest against changing the committee were guaranteed political opponents in next year’s elections.

The principal opponent of kneecapping the committee structure, Councilman Garrett Dennis, on a Wednesday radio hit described a City Hall that pivots on intimidation tactics, and a Mayor’s Office that will get its way by any means necessary.

Ray Charles can see who’s behind selling JEA,” Dennis quipped near the program’s end, after describing a “climate” where Curry’s team rules by fear, with “the stick and the stick.”

“If you don’t do this, we’ll do this”: Dennis’ summation of the strategy.

Dennis reiterated claims of “threats” levied on him “in offices,” “comments from the Mayor” in which Curry purportedly said that he would “make sure the money spigot is turned off in [Dennis’] district.”

“Now you see the full staff at Council meetings,” Dennis said, with “all the [Mayor’s] top lieutenants on the first and second row” with an “intimidating” look and “subliminal tactics.”

Kids Hope CEO hopeful feels hopeless, withdraws from search

The Florida Times-Union reports that the field of Kids Hope Alliance CEO hopefuls is a bit narrower after one candidate said the process was unfair and withdrew.

Afira DeVries, who leads the United Way of Roanoke Valley in Virginia, withdrew via email.

Afira DeVries says goodbye to KHA search, citing unfairness in process.

“After carefully reviewing the qualifications for the position in contrast to the current scoring and ranking outcomes, it seems that inherent relational advantages enjoyed by other candidates impair my chances of being awarded the position,” DeVries wrote. “Although I remain confident that my talents, skills and experience align perfectly to this exciting role, continuing at this point appears to be more of an exercise than a progressive action toward a viable opportunity.”

Among those candidates: former board member Joe Peppers, who launched his run while still on the board.

Councilman Garrett Dennis, a frequent antagonist of the Curry administration, says there is a “cloud” over that candidacy and that Peppers should withdraw his bid.

District pushback dominates ‘lunch and learn’

Jacksonville’s former Southside Generating Station was the subject of a City Council “lunch and learn” Monday.

Specifically, the proposed District redevelopment, which was described as a “labor of love” by the head of the Downtown Investment Authority, but which was not regarded quite so uncritically by Jacksonville City Council members.

City Council members remain skeptical about the District proposal.

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. The city proposes also putting $26 million into infrastructure, though that’s still to be determined.

Councilwoman Lori Boyer, liaison to the Downtown Investment Authority, noted there were “questions and concerns” about the process in January, and that the meeting Monday was to “share where we are, get input, answer questions.”

While some questions were answered, others remain to be addressed.

Read more here.

Jax opportunity zones have urban core flavor

Jacksonville advanced some proposed “opportunity zones,” and many of them will be in the Urban Core.

The City of Jacksonville last week advanced suggestions to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity for Opportunity Zones, each with an urban core focus.

Per Neighborhoods Director Stephanie Burch, five census tracts have been chosen in the downtown area, under the aegis of the Downtown Investment Authority.

San Marco’s Southbank is on the list of ‘opportunity zones.’

The areas chosen have the existing infrastructure, can absorb private capital, and have community redevelopment agencies, Burch wrote in a letter to DEO Director of Strategic Development Michael DiNapoli.

San Marco’s Southbank likewise is on the list, even as metrics show a real upswing, with an unemployment rate of just 2 percent (down from 32 percent in 2000). Curiously, the opportunity zone there overlaps with the District development, which could see $26 million in infrastructure spending and an additional $56 million in REV grants from the city, benefiting political power broker Peter Rummell‘s long-delayed development.

Gov. Scott will nominate these areas by April 20; ultimately, it will be the federal Department of Treasury‘s decision. Areas chosen will be eligible for tax breaks that expect to spur private investment and economic growth.

This week in appointments

Florida State College at Jacksonville District Board of Trustees

Laura DiBella, 39, of Fernandina Beach, is the port director of the Fernandina Ocean Highway and Port Authority and the executive director of the Nassau County Economic Development Board. DiBella succeeds Jimmie Mayo for a term ending May 31, 2019.

The Fiorentino Group looks back on Session

Jacksonville-based The Fiorentino Group takes a comprehensive look back on the 2018 Legislative Session, “one of the most unusual in recent memory.” Session began with calls for the Senate to address sexual harassment claims, and finishing with the Parkland tragedy, which brought “thousands of students and citizens to Tallahassee to push for gun safety regulations.”

Marty Fiorentino of The Fiorentino Group.

Early funding priorities for both Gov. Scott and legislative leaders took a back seat to the aftermath of the February 14 mass shooting At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which left 17 students and adults dead and shifted the focus of lawmakers to passing “comprehensive legislation relating to school safety, the purchase of firearms in Florida, and mental health services.”

But, in the eyes of The Fiorentino Group, Session was mostly successful for leaders, particularly in a “major election year” where politics played a role for Gov. Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron.

The firm’s website offers a detailed breakdown of all the critical issues addressed in 2018, including the budget, public safety and firearms, transportation, environment, gaming, education, health care, hurricane response and preparedness, and economic development, taxes and incentives.

Philip Levine

Philip Levine ad portrays American Dream rise, progressive mayorship

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is combining his American Dream roots and his progressive mayor tenure in a new TV ad.

The 30-second spot, “Person He Is” gets away from the topical subjects such as gun violence and off-shore drilling that have dominated his television advertising for the past couple of months, and instead focuses on his background. It’s part of the previously-announced $2 million ad buy his campaign and his independent political committee All About Florida combined to undertake.

The new ad is set to run through April, his campaign stated.

“As Floridians get to know more about Philip Levine, they will quickly see that the person he is and the mayor he was, is the governor he will be.” said senior adviser Christian Ulvert.

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

The new commercial combines a theme many Republicans run on – the American Dream story of rising from humble beginnings, working hard and making a success in business – with the themes of progressive Democrats, pushing for equality, high wages, and addressing climate change.

“Growing up in a working class neighborhood, Philip Levine believes everyone deserves the same chance he had,” the narrator begins, as black-and-white photographs show a young Levine.

Then, with more contemporary video footage of Levine at work as Miami Beach mayor, the narrator continues, “After creating a successful business in the cruise industry, Levine dedicated himself as mayor to serving others, championed climate change by turning flooded streets into dry ones, passed Florida’s first living wage, fought inequality and passed a resolution to ban assault weapons.”

Andrew Gillum slates Thursday fundraiser in Jacksonville

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is back in Northeast Florida, with media hits and fundraising pitches filling his Thursday stop in Jacksonville.

Gillum, who appears on WJCT’s First Coast Connect at 9 a.m., has a number of non-press events slated also.

Not the least of which, in terms of his campaign’s viability, a fundraiser in Downtown Jacksonville Thursday evening.

The latest First Coast Gillum fundraiser kicks off at 6 p.m. at the Jessie Ball DuPont Center downtown.

The event runs until 7:30 p.m., and ranges in contribution levels from a low number of $75 to a host committee slot at $250.

Gillum has engaged a lot of earned media, but as of the end of last month was well behind Democratic primary opponents Gwen Graham and Philip Levine in fundraising and cash on hand.

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