As this is the first Jacksonville Bold since the candidate qualifying deadline, there are now more known unknowns than anything else about how serious the 2019 elections will be.
Questions remain as to whether Anna Brosche can seriously challenge Lenny Curry. The answer to that question will determine the resolution to most other issues in the next few years.
Brosche partisans say she’s making the sale to Democrats. Curry backers say it’s not going so well.
In any case, we will find out soon enough.
With the election two months away, we will know soon enough whether a May runoff is inevitable.
If somehow that does happen, the spring heats up quickly.
If Curry wins in March with a majority of the vote, though?
That’s a mandate.
And one he won’t let his political enemies forget.
The Florida Times-Union laid it out the other day: To become Mayor, Anna Brosche must impress Democrats.
“Energizing a party’s base is a heavy lift for any candidate, and it will be especially demanding for Brosche, a moderate Republican who will be courting Democrats from the outside in with limited time — the March 19 election is 58 days from Sunday — and money at her disposal,” writes Chris Hong.
There may be some hope.
“You have a lot of Democrats evaluating Lenny, feeling he hasn’t been a good steward and has governed in a hyperpartisan matter,” said Daniel Henry, acting chairman of the Duval County Democrats. “When you give people an alternative, it does give a lot of Democrats the idea that a Republican for mayor this time around isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”
However, Brosche’s launch didn’t quite flash big money.
Brosche’s first finance report through the qualifying deadline showed $22,100 raised, with $15,000 of that from the candidate herself. She has roughly $11,000 on hand, putting her on par with a third Republican in the race, former Atlantic Beach Commissioner Jimmy Hill.
Curry has $2.5 million to deploy.
A new state-level political committee has surfaced with Brosche as chair and Jensen Beach’s Michael Millner as treasurer and registered agent. Millner has been responsible for managing a series of Republican pass-through committees not that dissimilar from those in the Curry network.
The state-level p.c. affords advantages regarding reporting: monthly reports, as compared to the seven reports required for PACs filed on the local level.
Meanwhile, downticket …
The first post-qualifying fundraising reports are in for downticket Jacksonville candidates in the March elections, and some trends are familiar while others are exciting and new.
The races for Sheriff and Property Appraiser see Republican incumbents Mike Williams and Jerry Holland with daunting leads over Democratic challengers.
Williams has over $360,000 on hand between hard money and his state-level political committee; Democrat Tony Cummings has under $1,700.
Holland has over $145,000 on hand; Democrat Kurt Kraft has just over $250 in the bank.
Despite a Democratic registration advantage, the resource gap is considerable.
The only competitive countywide race for Democrats: the race for tax collector.
Democrat John Crescimbeni exited qualifying day with almost $4,000 on hand, including donations from the Jacksonville Kennel Club and J.B. Coxwell Contracting, traditionally Republican donor bases. Incumbent Republican Jim Overton still holds serve, with $34,000 banked.
The slate of Council races, meanwhile, offered few narrative surprises.
One such surprise, however, is that Marcellus Holmes is starting to draw the interest of Lenny Curry donors (specifically, Tom Petway) in his challenge against Councilman Garrett Dennis.
Chamber wraps picks
With qualifying now in the rearview mirror, the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce’s JAXBIZ political arm finished rolling out its 2019 endorsements.
The third and final wave of endorsements included one incumbent for re-election: Republican Al Ferraro, of District 2. District 10 incumbent Republican Terrance Freeman was also backed in his bid in At-Large Group 1 (over Lisa King, who was supported by JAXBIZ against Ferraro in 2015).
Additionally, the Chamber endorsed Republicans Rose Conry and Randy DeFoor in District 6 and 14, respecively; each are running for what will be open seats.
Democrat Tameka Gaines Holly got business backing in District 8, with JAXBIZ choosing Holly over Ju’Coby Pittman, who was appointed last year by then-Gov. Rick Scott.
In District 9’s battle of Democrats, political newcomer Marcellus Holmes got the nod over incumbent Garrett Dennis, an irritant to the Chamber-backed Mayor. And in open District 10, Democrat Celestine Mills got the nod in a crowded field.
Late last month, JAX BIZ moved the following picks: Matt Carlucci, At-Large Group 4; LeAnna Cumber, District 5; Rory Diamond, District 13; Ron Salem, At-Large Group 2.
These candidates joined a previous rollout of endorsees announced earlier in December, including Democrat Joyce Morgan over Republican Bill Bishop in Arlington’s District 1, along with Council President Aaron Bowman, Council Vice-President Scott Wilson, Tommy Hazouri, Randy White, Reggie Gaffney, Sam Newby and Danny Becton.
Two new Republican members of the Jacksonville City Council will join the body in July without having had to face an opponent.
Just as Boyer and Gulliford have been instrumental on the Council for the last eight years, with both having been President at one point, it is expected that Diamond and Cumber will quickly take central roles.
LeAnna Cumber has been meeting with incumbent Boyer weekly already, a process that will continue until the formal change of power. As those who know Boyer know, the incumbent has an encyclopedic knowledge of not just district, but city needs and is passing that on.
Clearly, both Diamond and Cumber are positioned to be in the leadership mixes in their first terms on Council. What’s clear in both cases is that they are already laying the groundwork for effective service, learning from those who came before them.
Slow pay for storm recovery
Sen. Travis Hutson’s district was shredded by Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Irma the following year, part of a dangerous stretch of storms that will lead state policymakers to be cautious with fiscal projections.
Informing that caution: the state’s inability, even years after Matthew, to pay up.
Hutson wrote Jared Moskowitz, Director of the state Division of Emergency Management, Tuesday.
“As I write,” Hutson noted, “some people affected by Hurricane Michael are still living in hotels over three months later, while concurrently others are still waiting for Hurricane Matthew aid, over three years later.”
“Counties, cities, school districts, and other local governments in my district have experienced delayed reimbursements and aid throughout the recovery process; in fact, many local governments throughout Flagler, St. Johns, and Volusia Counties are still waiting on reimbursements and assistance. With this in mind, I ask that you, please factor the date of submissions in your assessments and prioritization,” Hutson added.
The slow pace of post-storm reimbursement has nettled local governments throughout Northeast Florida. Though the Big Bend and Panhandle face existential challenges from Hurricane Michael damage, that doesn’t mean earlier issues have gone away.
Instant HD 18 front-runner
Though the 2019 Legislative Session has yet to begin, there is a good chance we already know who will replace Rep. Travis Cummings in House District 18 after the 2020 election.
That person: attorney Sam Garrison, Orange Park’s general counsel and board chair for St. Johns River College.
Garrison is the law partner of Sen. Rob Bradley in Clay County, and a previous assistant state attorney in the 4th circuit.
Garrison emerges at a time when the current office holder has unique power: Cummings is the budget chair in the House, just as his law partner is in the Senate.
HD 18 is safely Republican, and what’s clear is that Garrison has already won the invisible primary.
Cannabis Choo Choo
The St. Augustine Record this week extolled Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis for reform moves on many fronts, including his push to fulfill voter intent on 2016’s Amendment 2.
St. Johns County, reliably red, is clearly comfortable with green if the editorial is any indication.
“It looks like Florida is going all-in for a ticket on the cannabis train. And from where we sit, DeSantis, Fried and a powerful group of state legislators — this time — aren’t just blowing smoke,” the Record notes.
“Whether or not you agree with medical marijuana is beside the point. Thousands of Floridians find some comfort in THC as a medical amendment [SIC] to their treatments. And, DeSantis is correct. The amendment passed and had no language about how it gets where it’s going in the body — whether ingestion of through the lungs,” the argument continues.
What’s clear: this Legislative Session will be one to watch on this issue, which is seeing DeSantis move the argument in ways they expected Andrew Gillum would have been more likely to.
Bad lien fix
Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jason Fischer filed a bill this week that would protect Floridians from fraudulent liens.
Per a media release from Fischer’s office: “The legislation puts stricter notification requirements on lienors and authorizes the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to take disciplinary actions against violators. Additional reforms include capping allowable fees by mechanics and towing companies, ensuring accurate costs are being charged.”
“Bad actors in our state are taking advantage of the current process. This is preventing businesses and consumers from recouping costs for outstanding titles and paying fair prices for repair and storage services. By tightening the notification process and putting stricter requirements in statute, fraudulent activity will be deterred,” said Fischer.
“Deceitful practices are increasing costs on hardworking Floridians and causing the financial industry to lose millions. This scheme to swindle Floridians will no longer be tolerated. We are cracking down on those who think they are above the law,” said Fischer.
Lakeland Republican Kelli Stargel is carrying the Senate version.
Flood help for St. Augustine?
The St. Augustine Record reports that the city is putting in for $3 million in flood remediation help from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“Mayor Nancy Shaver recently visited Washington, D.C., to ask for support from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, U.S. Rep. John Rutherford and others,” the Record reports.
Rutherford is on board.
“The study would look at all options for curbing flooding in the city … from major storms, rain events and nor’easters as well as high tides … feasibility of storm surge gates, tidal gates to reduce the impact of high tides, dredging, pump stations and flood walls,” the Record notes.
Hopes are that St. Augustine can get into the 2019 Corps’ work plan.
PVB PGA HQ OKd
Per the Jacksonville Daily Record, some good news regarding a new headquarters for the PGA in PVB.
These plans, fifteen years in the making, are on the verge of near-term realization.
The 187,000 square foot facility will be ready next year. Total construction costs are expected to near $75 million.
“St. Johns County Commission approved $2.8 million in incentives for the $81 million project in October. In exchange, the PGA Tour promised to create 307 jobs by 2030 with an average wage of at least $79,442,” the Daily Record notes.
A year prior, Gov. Rick Scott was in St. Johns County as the new global home for the PGA was announced.
JTA regional transportation hub
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority is capping off its new Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center, administrative headquarters building in LaVilla.
First reported by the Jacksonville Daily Record, the $57.3 million JRTC hub will connect several intercity, regional and local transportation providers: Greyhound, Megabus, RedCoach, First Coast Flyer, local bus routes, Skyway/U2C and others.
The second and final phase of the JRTC is a five-story, 40,000-square-foot administration building near the Prime Osborn Convention Center. Construction began in July 2017.
In April, the first phase opened, a single-story, 9,660-square-foot Intercity Bus Terminal, owned by the building and leased to Greyhound Lines Inc.
A pedestrian bridge will connect the two buildings.
Among the amenities of the new facility: local bus transfer, customer service, passenger lobby, and room for taxis, ride-share, bike share, kiss-n-ride, as well as a direct connection to the Skyway. JTA estimates the project will be finished by January 2020.
Jacksonville Zoo’s newest addition
Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens welcomed its newest addition last month, a forest antelope — otherwise known as an Eastern bongo.
According to the Florida Times-Union, it was zoo’s second birth of the critically endangered species since June. Eastern bongos are native to the mountains and tropical forests of sub-Saharan Africa and are threatened due to loggers invading their habitat.
At birth, the healthy female calf weighed 50 pounds. The calf’s parents are Molly, who is nearly 18, and Tambo, 10.
After an exam, the calf was cleared to be on exhibit with her parents and other bongos in the mixed species habitat enclosure of the African Boardwalk. Sharing the space are two yellow-backed duikers, a smaller mountain species of African antelope.
The birth was part of the Bongo Species Survival Plan, a cooperative breeding program among accredited zoos.
Staff members are “especially thrilled,” the Times-Union writes, because of mother Molly’s age. She last gave birth about eight years ago.
Jags tap DeFilippo to run offense
The Jacksonville Jaguars have a new offensive coordinator. With the hiring of John DeFilippo, the search for a new chief strategist for the offense was over.
The search process had some twists and turns and intersected with another team in a similar position.
If it were not for the Jaguars, the Minnesota Vikings were in the running to be the NFL’s most disappointing team in 2018. Their offense, like Jacksonville’s, failed to put up the points needed to become a playoff team after each played in their respective conference’s championship game a year ago.
As the 2018 season deteriorated, both fired their offensive coordinators before the season ended. The Jaguars fired Nathaniel Hackett after falling to 3-8 while Minnesota canned DeFilippo after less than one season on the job.
As both teams searched for a replacement, each wished to talk with Denver’s former head coach, Gary Kubiak. Kubiak was scheduled for a Tuesday interview in Jacksonville, but first, he had a stop in Minneapolis to discuss their opening.
He never made it to North Florida.
The Vikings hired Kubiak in an advisory role for the offense, leaving the Jaguars still looking. Meanwhile, Jacksonville interviewed DeFilippo over the weekend, and the offer reportedly came soon after Kubiak canceled on them.
Jaguars fans are likely to be less than thrilled with someone who spent only a few months as an offensive coordinator leading an offense that clearly underperformed in 2018. On the plus side, DeFilippo has a strong resume as a quarterback’s coach.
He spent 2016 and 2017 in Philadelphia developing Carson Wentz. After Wentz was injured, DeFilippo worked with Nick Foles as he led the Eagles to a Super Bowl victory.
Fans would be more excited if Foles decides he wants a reunion and signs with the Jags. That is a possibility for the free agent, but the team already owes Blake Bortles a lot of money and the salary cap hit would be oppressive.
The good news for Jacksonville is the offense can only get better. Meanwhile, the defense needs to return to greatness in 2019.