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This week offered the most meaningful benchmark of where the Jacksonville Mayor’s race stands.
On Wednesday, the University of North Florida rolled out new polling: The spread was not 38 points, as in an earlier St. Pete Polls survey.
Instead, it was a mere 37 points: Lenny Curry at 52 percent, meaning it would end in March.
Challenger Anna Brosche paced the field, with an anemic 15 percent.
Among Democrats, Brosche and Curry are even, notable as the Democratic establishment has rallied behind Brosche.
Curry dominates with Republicans and NPAs.
Don’t expect much turnout from that latter group in March, however. And it’s hard to imagine given two lopsided polls that Democrats will finally embrace Brosche as the race ends.
Best case scenario: There is enough of a surge to keep Curry below 50 percent.
That would take moving undecideds to Brosche’s column and getting them to the polls.
The mix-n-match strategy (Republican consultant from Pensacola, a life coach from the Bronx, Democrats from the IBEW Hall) thus far isn’t showing the momentum Brosche likely envisioned when planning her run ahead of Jan. 11.
Even longtime adversaries of Curry, like Jacksonville Landing developer Toney Sleiman, are cutting deals.
What does this tell you?
The operation that treated politics like the cutthroat business it is got what it wanted.
The race for Mayor sees incumbent Curry continuing to dominate the field in fundraising.
Challenger Brosche submitted her fundraising report late Friday evening. It showed her adding $60,854 from 219 contributions between Jan. 26 and Feb. 8.
Among the donors: local historian James Crooks, former Democratic state House candidate Billee Bussard, and Ambassador Nancy Soderberg.
Brosche still faces a significant cash deficit in her challenge to Curry, even after the $60K+ haul.
Curry reported raising $200,000 between his campaign account and political committee last week, and has nearly $2.5 million on hand, compared to the roughly $100,000 Brosche has in hard money and whatever is left in her statewide political committee (which had raised $374,000 by the end of January, but which has been spending also, on television and mail).
Brosche and Curry have been slamming each other over the murder issue in ads, but Curry has more buys and three spots running to Brosche’s one.
A 52-15 spread isn’t going to encourage many final-stretch donors.
GOP citywide sweep?
The Duval County Democratic Party didn’t advance candidates for Jacksonville Mayor or Elections Supervisor in 2019.
Their fundraising for other citywide races suggests that, despite a plurality advantage in registration, they may be thwarted in their quest for other citywide constitutional offices.
In the Jacksonville Sheriff’s race, incumbent Republican Mike Williams continued to press his cash advantage over underfunded Democratic challenger Tony Cummings in the most recent report.
The Sheriff has over $91,000 in hard money, and an additional $237,000 in his A Safe Jacksonville political committee; Cummings has under $6,000 on hand.
In the race for Duval County Tax Collector, veteran Democratic politician John Crescimbeni is struggling to keep up with incumbent Republican Jim Overton, elected in a special election in 2018.
Overton has raised over $85,000, and retains over $57,000 of it, ensuring he has budgeted for late-stage communications that Crescimbeni presently lacks. The most recent report showed Crescimbeni with under $5,000 on hand of roughly $33,000 raised.
The race for Duval County Property Appraiser continues, with Republican incumbent Jerry Holland well-positioned to repel the challenge of Democrat Kurt Kraft.
Holland has over $128,000 on hand, and that likely will be enough to down Kraft, a repeat candidate who is mostly self-financed and has $122 on hand.
Green for White
Jacksonville City Councilman Randy White won election in 2018 without a single vote.
Local attorney David Taylor filed a legal challenge, contending the fix was in for White in the special election.
Unsuccessful in that venue, Taylor has put more than $100,000 of his own money into a challenge to White on the March ballot. But it’s not enough.
In the most recent reporting period, 125 of White’s friends donated over $72,000 in the two weeks between Jan. 26 and Feb. 8.
White has now raised over $146,000 and retains over $137,000 of that: a significant number for what is typically a low-wattage seat deep on Jacksonville’s Westside.
Among the donors of recent vintage: JU President Tim Cost; Jax Chamber CEO Daniel Davis; developer Peter Rummell; the Fiorentino Group; Susie Wiles; state Sen. Aaron Bean‘s political committee.
With the Mayor’s political machine, the business community, and the public sector unions behind him, White will be challenging to defeat.
Per the Florida Times-Union, that’s what Democratic City Council candidate Carson Tranquille knows he’s facing.
Tranquille, a former chief with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, is running because crime is impacting his Northside District 2, a spot currently held by Republican Al Ferraro.
“That side of town is in a different league than the rest of it, and I’m the right person to work on that because I understand it,” Tranquille said about crime-ravaged parts of the Northside and Arlington’s Fort Caroline area.
This may be an uphill slog for Tranquille in a deep-red district. The money doesn’t believe in him but backs Ferraro, who “has raised nearly $90,000 for the race and has more than $57,000 on hand … Tranquille, meanwhile, has raised about $35,000 and has nearly $19,000 on hand.”
Bringing it home
Former Tallahassee Mayor and current CNN commentator Andrew Gillum will be the headliner for Saturday evening’s Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus meeting in Jacksonville.
The dinner will be at the Lexington Hotel on Jacksonville’s Southbank.
Also speaking: State Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith, Jennifer Webb and Anna Eskamani, along with Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo.
Gillum carried Duval County in 2018, in both the primary and general elections for Governor.
Democrats did not capitalize on Gillum-mentum, however, failing even to field a candidate in the current Mayor’s race.
Presidents Day was beneficial for a political committee of state Sen, Travis Hutson, with an evening fundraiser expected to raise half a million dollars.
Hutson’s First Coast Business Foundation committee will be the beneficiary of the event, which will serve as a reload opportunity for the committee, tapped after an active 2018.
This event saw many of Northeast Florida’s power players on hand.
Chairs of the event: Jacksonville’s David and Jodi Coxwell, David and Nancy Hutson, and Randy and Paula Ringhaver.
The Ringhavers hosted the St. Augustine event.
The co-chairs are also significant names in the region, including developer Mori Hosseini and lobbyist Marty Fiorentino and Ali Korman Shelton and Jamie Shelton of bestbet.
The host committee included Gary and Nancy Chartrand, along with Hussein and LeAnna Cumber, showing further evidence that Hutson’s reach extends deep into Jacksonville power centers also.
The Monday event was big, with ramifications both for the GOP’s desire to hold its Senate majority and for Hutson himself demonstrating strength as he vies for future caucus leadership personally.
‘Blood and tears’
WJXT was on hand Monday when Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson and Rep. Tracie Davis were joined by mayoral candidate Brosche to slam the city of Jacksonville’s inability to stem the recent wave of murders.
“I believe our streets are filled with blood and tears,” Gibson said. “We have multiple studies on the shelves collecting dust that already tell us what we need to be doing. We should implement that, and we have to put money behind it.”
“Our news conference is not about blaming law enforcement. Our news conference is not political posturing. That is not why we are here. The community is outraged,” Gibson said.
Gibson wants funds released immediately for after-school programming, saying “the problem is here today.”
Gibson also suggested the Highway Patrol and Department of Justice helping JSO, as well as a citywide curfew.
“We are in a state of urgency emergency today,” Gibson said.
“The Mayor’s already elected. He needs to step up and speak up,” Gibson said.
Gibson and Davis followed up with letters formalizing requests for Guards and Highway Patrol from Ron DeSantis, and a curfew and more cameras from Curry.
A bill introduced to the Florida House Wednesday would remove a signature match burden that voters have found to be discriminatory.
HB 967, filed by Jacksonville Democrat Davis, changes voter signature match rules, striking the current requirement that a signature matches a signature on an identification card.
The bill comes after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that a Florida law requiring voters’ signatures on mail-in ballots to match the signatures on file with elections officials imposes “a serious burden on the right to vote.”
However, Davis said the court decision preceded the decision to file the bill.
There have been tangible results of the policy.
Florida Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews said last year 45 counties tossed over 3,700 ballots for signature mismatches.
In close races like the statewide votes on the general election ballot in 2018, these numbers are particularly significant.
Just say no
The Florida House continues to hammer out, on its end, rules on smokable medical marijuana.
One Jacksonville state Rep., Republican Clay Yarborough, urges caution.
“All of the research discussed on the pro side, and the con side doesn’t go back any farther than 2016,” he told Florida Politics after the meeting. “It’s very new research, very new studies being done, and what research is out there, particularly on cardiovascular risks … was too concerning for me to give a ‘yes’ vote today.”
Yarborough was the sole no vote on the House bill, which seeks to go slower on reforms than the Senate side.
When the second-term Jacksonville Republican was on the City Council, he was resistant to cannabis there also, including co-sponsoring a 2015 180-day moratorium on the growing, processing and dispensing of “low THC cannabis, aka medical marijuana.
The House version of the smoking bill, amended Thursday, dropped a previous requirement that pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes have a filter — one of the bigger concessions to the Senate.
However, there is still a lot of daylight between the two chambers. And Yarborough is not the only one in the House who resists quick changes on this issue.
The South Shores neighborhood in Jacksonville will be changing soon.
WJXT reports on plans to let the neighborhood revert to a natural flood plain, with $3.4M of FEMA-funded buyout offers on the table for 17 residents.
While moving won’t be compulsory, THE Local Station notes that for those who stay, they should expect a different neighborhood than what previously existed.
What with neighbors not being there and all.
“[Some projects are] currently ongoing with regards to returning areas that should have never been built in — returning them to natural floodplains. That’s what they were to begin with,” said Sam Mousa, chief administrative officer for the city.
“Unfortunately, many, many, many years ago, homes and other dwellings were built in these floodplains, and guess what? They flood. So the challenge there is to return these areas to natural floodplains,” Mousa added.
Early in Mayor Curry’s term in office, Jacksonville left the 100 Resilient Cities initiative with the Rockefeller Foundation.
Two hurricanes and three years of media criticism later, the city is finally rediscovering resiliency, outside of the Rockefeller accord that allotted $1 million a year of outside help.
WJCT was on hand Friday for the first meeting of the Jacksonville Resiliency Committee.
Jacksonville’s Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa urged a look at what WJCT called “low hanging fruit — flood control, floodplain mitigation, wetland mitigation, new developments, and existing infrastructure.”
Expect clashes between activists and committee members, if the first meeting was any guide.
Mousa noted that he wanted to limit economic burden to developers, and also suggested that the committee’s idea of mitigation may be more conservative than some hope.
“We need to keep this in mind,” Mousa warned. “We’re a flat area; we have water all over us — we have water on the coast, and we have a river that runs right through the center of our county. So not everything is going to be solved. It’s just not going to happen.”
Build a wall
In St. Augustine, sea level rise is forcing a decision, reports First Coast News.
The city is trying to decide whether to surround its low-lying, flood-prone sewage treatment plant with a wall.
If another Hurricane Matthew struck, said one city staffer, “the sludge would build up and overflow the wastewater treatment plant and basically flood the Intracoastal Waterway with e-Coli, bacteria and all that stuff that’s in the waste stream.”
“The cost for the wall would be around $5 million versus the $80 million to $100 million to move the plant,” said the city’s public works director.
Long story short: if you see an appropriation request for a wall in St. Augustine, don’t be completely surprised.
“Plastic makes it possible” is an industry slogan you might have heard.
An ordinance filed (for the third time) will have its first reading of the current iteration in early March. The Publix on A1A would be the most visible impacted business.
The beach town has already had voluntary bans, leading advocate and lawyer Jane West to assert that people are more aware of the impacts of using plastic and Styrofoam.
However, the city may be in a race against pre-emption.
Sen. Hutson’s SB 588 would bar localities from plastic bans, which he sees as an “unnecessary burden on business itself.”
Though University of North Florida President David Szymanski has been on the job for months, his formal inauguration is Friday morning.
Time and place: 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 22, in the Lazzara Performance Hall of the UNF Fine Arts Center, Building 45.
And the theme?
UNF says that “Friday’s events will begin with the official robing in academic regalia of the UNF Board of Trustees, alumni, faculty, elected officials and delegates from other institutions of higher education. The robing will take place at the UNF Field House, Building 26. Those taking part will then follow the macebearer in a processional through campus to the Fine Arts Center and into the Lazzara Performance Hall for the investiture ceremony.”
QB, stability on Jags menu
In the short term, the Jaguars are seeking stability at quarterback. In the long run, team ownership says they are committed to Northeast Florida for the future.
In the ongoing quarterback saga, it appears the Blake Bortles era is over. With Jacksonville waiting for the Philadelphia Eagles to decide what to do with the supposedly backup quarterback Nick Foles, the Jags will then assess their options before making a move.
Philadelphia is reportedly prepared to place the franchise tag on Foles, denying him the opportunity to be an unrestricted free agent. They can trade him with multiple insiders speculating the Jaguars to be a possible destination.
How about a three-team trade involving Philadelphia, Jacksonville and the Buffalo Bills? One NFL insider projects Foles coming to Jacksonville, running back LeSean McCoy heading to Philadelphia with Leonard Fournette moving north to Buffalo.
The Jaguars are contemplating options to either trade or release Bortles. A couple of scenarios for releasing him would save between $1 million and $9.5 million from a contract extension he signed before last season.
As for long-term stability of the franchise, team president Mark Lamping is looking far down the road. This year marks their 25th anniversary season.
During a season ticket drive launched earlier this week, Lamping said the upcoming season “will set the stage for the next 25 years of Jaguars football in Jacksonville.”
Lamping was obviously pleased to talk about the good news of the future while revealing ticket prices would go up by an average of 2.4 percent in 2019. Fans can take solace in that they rose by 11 percent last year coming off an appearance in the AFC Championship Game.
The NFL schedule is set for an April release.