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Proxy war: Jack Latvala money props up challenger to Lenny Curry

Latvala’s committee is essentially underwriting Hill’s campaign.

Jacksonville Republican Jimmy Hill has faced financial problems for most of his campaign for mayor.

However, a political enemy of incumbent Lenny Curry emerged to give Hill’s grassroots campaign some much needed cash for the stretch run.

On Monday evening, Hill’s Jax Rising committee reported raising $25,000 in February from former state Sen. Jack Latvala‘s Florida Leadership Committee.

This follows $3,000 of hard money donations from other committees which received money from Florida Leadership Committee: 21st Century Political Committee, Foundation for Freedom and Suncoast Better Government.

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Jack Latvala’s Florida Leadership Committee was a fundraising powerhouse, a war chest for a bid for Florida governor that never got off the ground after he resigned from the Senate amid a torrent of sexual harassment charges.

One person who experienced the worst of it, Rachel Perrin Rogers, is married to Brian Hughes, Curry’s chief of staff.

Hill said he wasn’t aware of that “conflict” between Latvala and Perrin Rogers. He said he was “excited to get money” for the campaign, but he knew nothing about the sourcing.

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He has no intention of returning the money, which now amounts to $28,000.

Hill’s campaign reached out to Florida Politics Monday, again playing dumb about the Latvala lucre: “The competition is trying to find anything to use and there is some mud slinging that has started about a donation Jimmy’s campaign received” was the claim.

The Curry campaign had a strong reaction: “Jimmy Hill has demonstrated that he is not only financially bankrupt, but he is morally bankrupt as well. There is no dirtier money or a more unseemly player in all of Florida than Latvala. That jimmy Hill would be the willing patsy of a serial sexual harasser Latvala’s vendettas is beyond appalling, it is disqualifying.”

Brian Hughes also had reaction on Twitter.

Hill’s campaign has less than $1,000 on hand, running on a check to check basis. The three $1,000 checks comprised more than 75 percent of Hill’s haul the week ending March 1. And the $25,000 was all of his committee raise.

Hill is polling at the back of the field.

Latvala was a favorite of public safety unions when an active politician, and Jimmy Hill was a firefighter.

Republican Anna Brosche continues to flatline, bringing in an anemic $8,910 the week leading into March 1.

Brosche has $110,000 in hard money. Brosche has a state-level political committee also, which has raised $460,000 and retained just $33,000 for the post-March 1 run.

However, Brosche did not take money from the Latvala network.

Independent Omega Allen has roughly $800 on hand, after raising $445 in the most recent week of receipts.

The incumbent, meanwhile, is well-positioned.

Curry’s Jacksonville on the Rise political committee brought in $63,000: local event promoter SMG ponied up, as did Ashley Rogan (her husband Joe chairs the Jacksonville Ethics Commission, which issued an opinion that police officers shouldn’t be in Curry’s ads), and a Motorola multi-candidate PAC.

The committee spent $236,543 during the week. Two $50,000 checks to committees, Citizens Speaking Out and Florida Taxpayers Defense were the most interesting spends amidst the usual distributions to consultants.

The committee has raised nearly $4.5 million, and has over $900,000 on hand as of March 1.

Turning to hard money, Curry brought in nearly $50,000 in the week leading up to March 1, leaving him with $225,000 on hand.

Donors included Nicole Preede-Kimbleton, a familiar face for those who have watched WJXT-TV in the mornings over the years.

Though WJXT does not permit political donations from staff, a caveat applies here. Preede-Kimbleton has moved to a part-time role effective March 1, and likely will be hosting non-political specials in the future.

She told us Friday afternoon that in 25 years in news, she had never given a political donation. But she believed, at that point, she was off the news side and that there was no conflict.

“I should’ve thought twice,” Preede-Kimbleton said.

However, she doesn’t regret the donation. She sees it as supporting the city.

Ironically, Curry himself is playing with committee cash in one Jacksonville City Council race, where his committee is propping up a candidate against an incumbent the administration wants out.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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