As of the moment (more or less), Jacksonville politics has cleaved into two factions: The establishment — who support the re-election of Mayor Lenny Curry — and “disestablishmentarians” supporting Anna Brosche.
(Antidisestablishmentarians, should such a thing exist, may support yet another candidate).
The question our Jacksonville correspondent gets from all over:
Does Brosche have a shot in hell?
The answer: If (somehow) she clears the March jungle primary, May could look different.
However, considering this tweet, Curry isn’t too worried.
Right now, money is heavily in Curry’s favor: roughly 10-1 compared to what’s reported or claimed by campaigns. The endorsements and the soft backing: all in also. Casey DeSantis and Shad Khan helmed two big-time fundraisers for the Mayor this week.
But it cuts both ways. Former state House candidate Tracye Polson is hosting an event for Brosche Friday night. That should also bring the checkbooks out in earnest.
Is Brosche a “bootleg Democrat?” Or is her ascendency proof the Curry machine went too far?
These are punditry questions, and they will get answered March 14.
In establishing what could be the best political operation in Northeast Florida’s modern era, Curry and his inner circle have always pushed the envelope.
They are betting material accomplishments matter more than style points.
Right now, this is a referendum on Curry. Brosche has offered little in the way of policy guidance or platform … at least, when talking to the media.
Two very different candidates are running two different campaigns. If Brosche is somehow able to get through March’s First Election, it will be interesting to see what the second leg of the campaign looks like.
Special needs scholarships highlighted
On Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis made his first official visit to Jacksonville, choosing the North Florida School of Special Education to highlight enhanced spending on special needs awards.
DeSantis told students, faculty, and others on hand that if his budget passes, the waitlist for the next academic year would be no more.
These Gardiner Scholarships, beginning in the 2019/20 school year, will be fully funded, he added.
“As we’ve met with people and talked about these very valuable scholarships, the fact of the matter is we have close to two thousand families who are on the waiting list,” DeSantis said. “I have allocated enough funds to get rid of the waitlist for Gardiner Scholarships entirely.”
Calling the program a “proven success,” he “looked forward to getting the Legislature to allocate these funds.”
After the event, DeSantis lunched with Kent Stermon and other Jacksonville associates. Meanwhile, First Lady Casey DeSantis headlined a Curry fundraiser.
Courage, commitment and service
Casey DeSantis awarded the inaugural “First Lady’s Medal for Courage, Commitment, and Service,” honoring Floridians who are creating positive change in their communities.
The First Lady presented the first medals to First Coast residents Carmen Townsend and Judi Zitiello at the North Florida School for Special Education. Both Carmen and Judi are well-known in the community through their involvement in the JT Townsend Foundation and the Funk-Zitiello Foundation.
“As Ron and I travel the state, we are fortunate to see firsthand how Floridians are transforming their communities for the better,” said DeSantis.
“I am proud to establish this award to showcase Floridians who have displayed service over self. Carmen Townsend and Judi Zitiello are examples of strong women who have experienced their own enormous challenges, yet continue to support the needs of others in the First Coast community,” Mrs. DeSantis continued.
JT Townsend played football for Episcopal High School 15 years ago when an injury left him paralyzed. The eponymous foundation was set up in his honor soon after.
Townsend died in 2013.
Financial literacy bill advances
Sen. Travis Hutson wanted to honor his late colleague Dorothy Hukill by carrying a financial literacy bill bearing her name. On Tuesday, the first of two Senate committees of reference cleared the proposal.
SB 114, which would “amend Florida Statute to require all students entering the ninth grade beginning in the 2019-2020 school year complete one-half credit dedicated to personal financial literacy and money management,” passed the Education Committee
The bill compels students to learn to balance checkbooks, figure out local and federal taxes, and manage personal debt.
The unanimous committee vote was not really a surprise. By 2017, the entire Senate was on board with the concept, though the House has proved to be a heavier lift.
Career education bill filed
Hutson and Rep. Wyman Duggan are teaming up this week on legislation that would offer an “alternative pathway” to a high school degree through the Career and Technical Legislation pathway.
Students would be required to get 18 credits and hold a 2.0 GPA.
Required would be English courses and completion of the standardized Grade 10 reading assessment, along with three math courses (including Algebra 2 and Geometry), and three in science (including Biology 1).
Other required courses include three in social studies, three in career and technical education, and three more credits of work-based learning programs.
Students must pass standardized Geometry, Biology I, and U.S. History classes.
Arceneaux to Brosche
Republican Brosche, the City Councilwoman who is challenging incumbent Curry in the mayoral race, is stepping up outreach to Democrats.
Scott Arceneaux, the longtime former chair of the Florida Democratic Party, is now aboard the Brosche campaign as a consultant.
“We are thrilled to have Scott’s incredible talents on board to help Anna,” declared Ryan Wiggins on behalf of the Brosche campaign.
“She is running her campaign the way she intends to run the city,” Wiggins added, “with a team consisting of professionals on both sides of the political divide working together for a common goal.”
With under five weeks until the First Election (and sooner than that for vote-by-mail and early voting), time is of the essence for the Brosche campaign to make the sale to Democrats. That appeal has been central to the effort since she officially entered the mayoral race less than three weeks ago.
Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis, state Rep. Tracie Davis, and Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson have publicly offered support for Polson in varying ways, as has former state House candidate Tracye Polson.
With no Democrat running for Mayor, their support is key. What will be crucial: a full-court press to make the support of prominent Democrats permeate to those voters less plugged into the drama of Jacksonville’s City Hall.
Worth watching: whether former Democratic Mayor Alvin Brown, who narrowly lost four years ago, gets involved on behalf of Brosche.
Further reading: The Florida Times-Union take.
Omega the alpha
When Omega Allen ran for Jacksonville Mayor four years ago, she didn’t exactly resonate with voters, finishing a distant fourth.
However, she is undaunted. She’s running again, and she talked to First Coast News about it.
She wants to dump “special interests,” in favor of “government that makes sense.”
She also believes that cops alone aren’t going to stop violent crime.
“I think we probably have enough police officers, I think proper use of that resource needs to be addressed,” Allen said. “I believe the underlying issues are education and cultural experiences, cultural education as well. A child you catch at age three, you bring them an instrument or some form of art into his or her life, you won’t deal with them at 16 or 17 on the other side of the law.”
“I would work very closely with the superintendent of schools and figure out where the city can help with getting art back into the schools … find out what they see as the missing link and find out how the city can help,” Allen said.
She got just 2 percent of the vote in 2015, yet one campaign’s internal surveying says she is poised to improve this time around.
Crescimbeni cash hole
Longtime Jacksonville City Councilman John Crescimbeni is finding fundraising to be slow going in his bid for Duval County Tax Collector.
Receipts through Jan. 25 show Crescimbeni with just over $10,000 on hand, roughly half what he’s raised thus far.
Crescimbeni, an iconoclastic Democrat, has garnered support from City Council candidate Matt Carlucci and developer Toney Sleiman, as well as the Jacksonville Kennel Club and Orange Park Kennel Club.
Republican Jim Overton, the incumbent after last year’s special election, has nearly $40,000 on hand, or roughly ⅔ of what he has raised so far.
Big-name contributors by and large are staying out of this one.
Both Crescimbeni and Overton have run and won citywide on numerous occasions, but it will be interesting to see if Crescimbeni can win without an (official) Democrat running atop the ticket.
District 14 heats up
Endorsements are beginning to fly ahead of that March referendum, and on Tuesday, Democrat Jimmy Peluso rolled out one from Rep. Davis.
Davis, a second-term Democrat, often lines up with Senate Minority Leader Gibson and City Councilman Dennis. Dennis and Davis have also engaged in the Brosche mayoral campaign.
Davis noted that “Jimmy and I worked together in Tallahassee while he was serving at the Water Management District, and he had proved then to be an excellent asset to the community.”
“As a former naval officer he clearly knows how to lead, and I believe he will work for all of his constituents in District 14, and I believe he has the best opportunity for a Democrat to win a competitive race. I am proud of Jimmy, and I know he has the heart of a dedicated public servant,” Davis added.
That “best opportunity for a Democrat to win” bit is notable, as Peluso isn’t even the best-funded Democrat in the field (that would be Sunny Gettinger, with ~$104,000 on hand compared to Peluso’s ~$40,000).
The Gettinger/Peluso rivalry has been a slow boil thus far. Recent critical comments from a candidate forum that both made irked people close to Mayor Curry.
Curry and his machine back Republican Randy DeFoor, the most robust fundraiser in the field with nearly $150,000 on hand at last count. Curry-aligned Republicans endorse DeFoor, including state Rep. Duggan and U.S. Rep. John Rutherford. DeFoor is also the choice of most groups supporting from the business community.
The Mayor’s operation will engage here as needed, we hear.
First Election is in March, but this likely goes to a May runoff.
Dennis holds serve
Councilman Dennis decided to pass on running for Mayor and instead ran for re-election in District 9.
Early receipts are meager from both him and his only opponent, Marcellus Holmes, suggesting that the Curry machine hasn’t fully mobilized yet.
Dennis has roughly $5,800 on hand, with $5,700 raised in the two weeks immediately after qualifying last month. Among those who wrote $1,000 checks: Sleiman Holdings, whose history is tortured with Mayor Curry.
Marcellus Holmes, meanwhile, doesn’t appear to be putting in the work.
Holmes raised nothing between Jan. 12-25 and has under $2,900 on hand.
Holmes has met with Curry at least once and received donations from Curry backer Tom Petway. However, evidence of real traction thus far beyond that is scant.
Per WJXT, a solution to railroad gridlock in San Marco is stalling out with businesses that would be affected.
While delays bedevil commuters, closing two streets would create potential consequences.
“I was here for the last couple of hurricanes, and there were literally vehicles stalled on Cedar (Street),” one local said. “The only way for people to get out of the community was through Naldo (Avenue) and was through this exit here by the train track.”
However, law enforcement isn’t worried: a representative of the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department said the closure “would not negatively impact access routes for emergency vehicles.”
Supplementary reading: via the Florida Times-Union, some thoughts from Mark Woods on the San Marco Train.
UF Health stroke care honored
The UF Health Neuroscience Institute, in partnership with the Emergency Department and neuroradiology at UF Health Jacksonville, has received certification as a Comprehensive Stroke Center by DNV GL Healthcare, which is dedicated to helping health care facilities worldwide achieve excellence by improving quality and care.
The recognition is the latest for UF Health Jacksonville’s stroke program, a leader in both Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia.
Other achievements include a recent 5-star rating by HealthGrades, a national organization that honors top hospitals in multiple areas, as well as the continuing expansion of the hospital’s stroke telemedicine program. The program connects emergency response crews with UF Health physicians to treat stroke patients more effectively during transport to the emergency.
Standards used by the DNV GL Comprehensive Stroke Center Certification our set by the Brain Attack Coalition and the American Stroke Association. It recognizes when a medical Center addresses the full spectrum of stroke care — diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and education — and establishes clear goals to evaluate outcomes.
“A lot of time and effort by so many people in multiple departments went into this notable achievement,” said Leon L. Haley Jr., MD, MHSA, CEO of UF Health Jacksonville and dean of the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville. “Congratulations to everyone involved.”
Could former Super Bowl MVP become a Jaguar?
A big-name quarterback may soon be available, and it just so happens the Jacksonville Jaguars could use one. Nick Foles, who was the 2018 Super Bowl MVP and led the Eagles into the second round of the playoffs this year, is seemingly poised to become an unrestricted free agent.
The Jaguars are unofficially in the market for a quarterback despite the three-year, $54 million contract extension given to incumbent Blake Bortles after his strong finish to the 2017 season. Coach Doug Marrone’s benching of the veteran from UCF late in the season might have been the first clue Bortles era was over.
Foles is trying to free himself from Philadelphia because, after all, he had done to rescue the Eagles following injuries to Eagles’ starter Carson Wentz the past two seasons, Philadelphia already named Wentz as the 2019 starter.
In the end, it will likely be more than a matter of money for Jaguars management and owner Shahid Khan. The Eagles are expected to place the “franchise” tag on Foles, meaning he would still be under their control, but they would be required to pay him $25 million.
The more likely scenario would be Philadelphia placing the tag on Foles and then trade him. If the Jaguars pursue Foles, who would the Eagles want in return?
While All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey would be off the table, players like Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell and linebacker Myles Jack could come up in trade talk. Third-year pro Leonard Fournette is also unlikely to be part of any package, but what if the Eagles offered someone like wide receiver Alshon Jeffery?
The possibilities are endless, but the thought of having a quarterback with the success of Foles combined with a healthy offensive line are fascinating to imagine. The Foles saga should play out soon because the NFL draft is little more than two months away and teams are beginning to assess their needs.
While a few other teams could use the likes of Foles as their starter, the Jaguars are closest to taking the next step forward with someone of that caliber leading the offense. Someone like Foles could be that next step.