At the next Tiger Bay, expect an interesting, no-holds-barred discussion involving two of Jacksonville’s most outspoken political commentators
Florida Politics’ A.G. Gancarski and the Florida Times-Union’s Nate Monroe will discuss the issues of the day at the River Club.
Lunch service starts at 11:30; the program starts at noon.
Monroe’s “It’s Easier Here” column has been a consistent talker since launching in the T-U as the mayoral race ramped up. Gancarski has had a column locally for the better part of two decades and has been with Florida Politics since 2014.
Between the two of them, they should be able to fill an hour.
The Monroe/Gancarski appearance comes at a time when Jacksonville media are experiencing a host of changes.
One key City Hall reporter is moving on to the public sector: details below on that.
Another media personality moved to the Mayor’s Office, to handle messaging.
It will be interesting to see how the Tiger Bay crowd greets two of the reporters still on the beat.
Q-publican to challenge Lawson
If U.S. Rep. Al Lawson hopes to represent Florida’s 5th Congressional District again, the second-term Democrat will now have to dispatch a Republican.
But not just any Republican; Lawson’s GOP opponent is sympathetic to QAnon populist-right conspiracy theorists.
Matthew Lusk, a bookseller from Macclenny, will be the latest competitor for Lawson, who has yet to encounter a close election since capsizing Rep. Corrine Brown in the 2016 primary.
“I belong to no secret societies or clubs, Q is one of my issues because it’s definitely a leak from high places,” Lusk said. “I follow Q but I don’t know who or what Q is.”
Q is short for “QAnon,” a populist-right tranche of theories that don’t accord always with the political consensus.
“I pray over making wise decisions and am taking the sword of truth to D.C. to decapitate the swamp creatures and I’ll chase off the RINOS while I’m there. There is plenty of danger and opportunity at the State level, but the State will be toast if Federal problems and mega-Crime syndicates are not brought to justice soon,” Lusk added.
Gibson under fire
Sen. Audrey Gibson, the leader of the Senate Democrats, defended her vote Tuesday where she went against legislation that would combat campus anti-Semitism.
However, the sponsor of the House companion bill (HB 741) placed Gibson in the tradition of “Congresswomen Ihlan Omar and Rashida Tlaib,” and demanded the ” Senate Democrat Caucus to hold Leader Gibson accountable for these statements.”
“Fighting anti-Semitism is something that used to bring all Floridians together,” said Rep. Randy Fine. “But it is comments like these by the Democrat Leader of the Senate that creates divisiveness — not legislation that will reduce it,”
“It is sad that in the world propagated by Washington Democrats like Congresswomen Ihlan Omar and Rashida Tlaib and Tallahassee Democrats like Audrey Gibson, fighting anti-Semitism is ‘divisive.’ In this time of rising anti-Semitism around both the country and globe, it is unconscionable that the most powerful Democrat in the Florida Senate would vote against banning discrimination based on anti-Semitism,” Fine added.
“I would strongly encourage the Senate Democrat Caucus to hold Leader Gibson accountable for these statements. It was my hope that Florida would take a united stand against the anti-Semitism coming out of Washington; while that hope is now dashed,” Fine added, “I am still optimistic that our Republican Legislature and Governor DeSantis will repudiate the Omar/Tlaib/Gibson position and make that statement loud and clear.”
Before Fine’s statement, Gibson said the bill, which she was alone in voting against in the Senate Judiciary Committee, was fighting the “wrong battle.”
Sen. Travis Hutson, a St. Johns County Republican, pulled off some buzzer-beating committee fundraising on the eve of Session last month.
Hutson, locked in what he says is a “cordial” race for 2022 caucus leadership with Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, raised over $155,000 between his two political committees March 4.
Hutson’s Sunshine State Conservatives committee raised nearly $135,000, giving it roughly $380,000 on hand.
The rest of the money was brought in via his First Coast Business Foundation, which now has well over $450,000 on hand. (Its big haul was $440,000 in February).
Affordable housing changes coming
A bill targeting mandatory county incentives to create affordable housing below market rates cleared its second committee of reference Wednesday and is ready for the House floor.
HB 7103 would remove local ability to mandate a given amount of affordable housing units in a new development or to cap prices. Instead, the mechanism to drive affordable housing would be voluntary.
“My intention is to make housing more affordable,” bill sponsor Rep. Jason Fischer told the State Affairs Committee.
Fischer noted his support for a workforce housing project in Jacksonville’s urban core.
The bill passed the committee. But not without objection from Democrats and local advocates.
This bill comes at a time when Sadowski Trust funding for affordable housing is again threatened.
When the House budget was voted up last week, Democrats took issue with the House’s plan to use $200 million from the estimated $331 million available to fund other parts of the budget. Historically, the Legislature has swept money from the Sadowski Trust.
The Senate and the Governor would fully fund affordable housing.
SB 1730, the Senate companion bill carried by Republican Tom Lee, has cleared two panels and has one stop left.
While many Jacksonville-area House members put campaign finance on the back burner before the Legislative Session, Fischer is an exception.
The second-term legislator raised and spent big money in March, both in his campaign account and that of his political committee.
Fischer raised $19,000 in hard money off 20 checks, with Associated Industries of Florida, lobbyist Ron Book (in two entries), and accountant and pharmacist political committees among the donors.
Fischer has roughly $50,000 in hard money. After facing a general election challenge in 2018, he can be expected to continue amassing resources … especially given indications that he may explore a citywide run in 2023.
The action in Fischer’s political committee is even more interesting. Lots of fundraising, but the money is moving to another committee for a purpose yet to be disclosed.
Instagram of the week
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Garrison’s war chest
Sam Garrison, a Republican lawyer in Orange Park, looks certain to be the next state Representative in House District 18.
Garrison, the law partner of Senate budget chair Rob Bradley, is pursuing the HD 18 nomination in 2020, with incumbent Travis Cummings (the House budget chair) pursuing Bradley’s seat.
Garrison’s the only Republican in the race in deep-red Clay County, and a third straight month of strong establishmentarian fundraising in March guarantees that it will stay that way.
The candidate raised $9,800 in March, giving him $95,250 raised and roughly $83,000 on hand.
On the donor roll were dog track interests, perennially supportive to Jacksonville-area Republicans. Florida East Coast Industries ponied up also, as did former Lt. Gov. hopeful Allison DeFoor.
These March donations follow on strong interest from the political establishment in previous months.
Oliver’s next move
Former Lenny Curry spox Marsha Oliver has moved out of the public sector and into a role with the Players as the new Senior Director of Community Outreach.
THE PLAYERS Executive Director Jared Rice said: “Marsha’s expertise in numerous corporate, nonprofit, educational and philanthropic organizations will ensure the TOUR’s flagship event continues to showcase our region and impact thousands of lives on the First Coast every year.”
“While we are surely going to miss having Marsha as an invaluable member of our City of Jacksonville team, we are thrilled to see her take such a big and important new opportunity with the PGA TOUR,” Curry said.
“THE PLAYERS Championship’s significant impact on countless lives in Northeast Florida will only continue to grow under Marsha’s leadership, and I look forward to working together in this new capacity,” Curry added.
Replacing Oliver this week is former WJXT-TV host Nikki Kimbleton Preede.
Cawton to JTA
Jacksonville lost one of its strongest beat reporters this week, when the Daily Record’s David Cawton announced he will move to run comms for Jacksonville Transportation Authority.
“Starting next Monday, I’m headed to JTA to become the new Manager of Media and Public Relations,” Cawton wrote on Facebook.
“This new opportunity is the right one for me at this stage of my career! Plus, I get to stay in Jacksonville near friends and family,” Cawton added.
The Daily Record has become something of a feeder for local governmental comms shops.
David Chapman, Cawton’s immediate predecessor on the City Hall beat, jumped from reporting to a PIO gig with State Attorney Melissa Nelson after she won election.
Let’s do it again
Duval County judge Meredith Charbula scored a gubernatorial appointment to the 4th Circuit Court last week.
The 61-year-old Charbula cleared a field of six nominees to replace John Skinner.
This was Charbula’s second gubernatorial appointment in a matter of months: In October, then-Gov. Rick Scott appointed her to the Duval County court.
Before that, Charbula worked for 4th Circuit State Attorney Melissa Nelson and served in the state Department of Legal Affairs.
Sheriff’s second thoughts
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office continues to refine how to disclose crime information in a post-Marsy’s Law world, as WJXT reports.
JSO has interpreted the law, which protects victims, as a diametric choice between that and disclosure. Logs of crime reports see “record exempt” beside crucial information, such as victims’ names and neighborhoods in homicide cases.
“We are going to meet this week about maybe cleaning some of that up a little bit,” Sheriff Mike Williams said.
“We do have to balance — you have to let people in the community know what is happening and you’ve got to be able to get information out, but you’ve got to do it in conjunction with the victim and the victim’s family to make sure they understand what is going to happen.”
Williams waltzed to re-election in March and has not ruled out a run for higher office, such as Jacksonville Mayor.
Jacksonville’s loss is the Capitol’s gain.
The Tallahassee Democrat reports that Raynetta Marshall, head of JEA’s Water/Wastewater Planning and Development Division, is going to handle a similar role out west.
The Howard graduate will administer a $200 million budget.
“With her engineering background and more than 30 years of experience in the Public Works, Water and Wastewater sectors, Mrs. Marshall has the knowledge and vision to lead the Underground Utilities and Public Infrastructure Department,” the city said in a statement.
“Quality, well-planned and maintained infrastructure is vitally important as Tallahassee continues to grow. Mrs. Marshall comes at the perfect time to ensure we, at the City, continue delivering on our promise to provide best-in-class services to our community.”
Graham, Lawson endorse Hazouri
U.S. Rep. Lawson and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham recommended Tommy Hazouri’s re-election to Jacksonville City Council this week.
Former Hazouri campaign manager and aide Jenny Busby has worked for all three at various points, and Hazouri endorsed Graham for Governor in 2018.
“Tommy Hazouri is a strong and experienced leader, and I am proud to support his re-election to the Jacksonville City Council. Since his time in the Florida Legislature, where he served with my father Bob Graham, Tommy has demonstrated integrity, passion for public service and a determination to improve quality of life for his constituents.
“Jacksonville deserves Tommy Hazouri’s continuing commitment to reducing crime, creating economic opportunities in every neighborhood, and strengthening programs for at-risk youth,” said Graham.
Lawson added: “I am proud to endorse Tommy Hazouri for re-election. Since our time serving together in the state Legislature, Tommy has shown strong leadership on behalf of Jacksonville.
“On the city council, Tommy fought to put more police officers on the streets, to end the city’s crippling pension crisis, and to strengthen programs for at-risk youth. His commitment to fighting crime and to creating opportunities in every Jacksonville neighborhood is commendable. I am proud to offer him my endorsement and support.”
Hazouri is running against unheralded Republican Greg Rachal. However, Republicans such as Curry and City Councilman Bill Gulliford back him. And Republican operative Carlo Fassi is running the Hazouri campaign, which could be the only Democratic victory citywide in May.
Supplementary reading: Hazouri for VP.
Jacksonville Zoo’s newest resident
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens welcomed its newest resident, a critically endangered blue-eyed black lemur.
The baby lemur was born March 25, according to spokeswoman JJ Vitale. Zookeepers are not yet able to determine the gender of the brown-colored infant, which blends in with its mother.
If it darkens in color, it will be a male, zoo officials tell The Associated Press.
The baby’s parents are Hendricks and Hemsworth, which came to the zoo from the Duke Lemur Center on a breeding recommendation.
Both mother and father are housed in the Madagascar exhibit in the zoo’s African Forest. Blue-eyed black lemurs are native only to Madagascar and they are estimated to be less than 1,000 left in the wild.
Jags to welcome Eagles
Sometime next week the full NFL schedule is set to be released. The league prefers to announce the schedule the week before the draft, which begins April 25.
This week, the Jaguars and the rest of the teams in the league announced their preseason schedules. While the first game will be played in Baltimore against the Ravens the week of August 8.
Even though it is a preseason game, the second week adds some interest with the Philadelphia Eagles visiting TIAA Bank Field the week of August 15. New quarterback Nick Foles will likely see only one-quarter of action but being on the other side from his former teammates will keep the media busy all week.
The Philadelphia media is already buzzing, at least if their Twitter pages are any indication. In announcing the Eagles’ preseason schedule, nearly all focused on the game in Jacksonville.
Jacksonville will travel to Miami in week three and will conclude the preseason by hosting the Atlanta Falcons sometime during the last week of August.
While the release of the regular season schedule is still a week or so away, the Jaguars do know who they will be playing and where. As always, they will play AFC South Division home and road games against the Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts.
In addition, they will play home games against the Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Jets.
Other road games include the Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos, Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons and Cincinnati Bengals. Each of these five teams finished the year, like the Jaguars, with a losing record.
Before all of that, the focus is on the draft. The Jaguars need a “can’t miss” in the first round and find Foles some help in later rounds.