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Rep. Paul Renner is congratulated by House Speaker Rep. Richard Corcoran after passage of his Tourism and Economic Development Funding bill on the floor of the House of Representatives Friday, June 9, 2017 at the Capitol in Tallahassee. (Photo by Phil Sears)


Northeast Florida delivers $260K in May to Paul Renner committee

Back in May, we reported on Northeast Florida powerbrokers going “all in” for Rep. Paul Renner as the region’s best hope for Florida House Speaker.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, essentially the model Republican of his generation in this part of the state, delivered an altar call at a Duval fundraiser. And the donor class delivered something better than Hosannas: $261,500 for Renner’s political committee, Florida Foundation for Liberty.

The Speaker’s race is, by design, difficult to handicap. Yet what’s clear here is the financial commitment from donors, which span most of the meaningful names in the donor class in the region. And what’s between the lines: it is unwise for any House members to think beyond regional priorities in the Speaker’s race.

Pacing the field: local gambling concern Best Bet, at $25,000.

Coming in with $10,000, political committees associated with Senators Rob Bradley (“Working for Florida’s Families) and Travis Hutson (“Sunshine State Conservatives”).

Meanwhile, there’s more starpower in the non-elected donors than on the starting roster of the 1927 Yankees.

All the important local corporate donors: Summit Contracting, Vestcor, Florida Blue, Rayonier, Gate Petroleum, Florida East Coast Industries, Rayonier, and so on.

And all the big names: from Mike Hightower to Michael Munz, from Husein Cumber to John Rood, from John Baker to Steve Halverson.

The lobbyists, including Southern Strategy Group’s Deno Hicks and Marty Fiorentino, still experiencing momentum from the sea change in the White House and his work of late in D.C.

And the Jax Chamber, via “JAX BIZ”, is also on board.

The road to the Speakership runs through Northeast Florida, and Paul Renner is the best shot the region has had in 20 years.

An amazing journey for a candidate who lost by three votes less than three years ago to Rep. Jay Fant, then relocated to Palm Coast for his second run.

Northeast Florida consultants and politicos are looking for coalescence; it is said that if the region unites behind Renner, it’s game over.

We understand that there is one holdout: Rep. Cord Byrd, a regional anomaly in his support for Jamie Grant.

One assumes the donor class is watching which way Byrd goes on this one. Even though he’s in the deepest of deep red seats, only one man is going to win what looks like a binary Speaker’s race.

And for Northeast Florida, there is but one choice.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades, with bylines in national and local publications alike on subjects ranging from pop music to national and global politics. Gancarski has been a correspondent for since 2014, and has held a column in Jacksonville, Florida's Folio Weekly for two decades. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." Gancarski is a frequent presence on Jacksonville television and radio, including fill-in slots on WJCT-FM's award-winning talk show "First Coast Connect." He can be reached at

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