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‘Lobbyist’ charge cuts both ways in Jacksonville City Council race

Both candidates have been lobbyists in the past.

With early voting beginning Monday in Jacksonville, at-large Democratic City Council hopeful Lisa King charged her opponent with lobbying the Council just before becoming a member.

While his name is not in the official lobbyist registry, emails obtained by Florida Politics (detailed below) suggest that Republican Terrance Freeman, appointed in 2018 to the Council, was in fact lobbying future members months before his appointment.

In a statement, King (a former lobbyist herself, per records likewise detailed below) lambasted “lobbyist” Freeman.

What this illustrates: the very inside baseball nature of this race between two connected serial candidates.

King ran for Council in 2015, and ran for state Democratic Party chair after that; Freeman ran for state House in 2016. Expect that the loser of this race runs for something else, sooner than later.

King, a former chair of the Duval Democrats, said Freeman “was lobbying the City Council at the exact same time he was applying for a City Council seat representing a district he didn’t even live in.”

King’s “lobbyist” charge did not meet one burden of proof.

The Councilman is not listed on the city’s lobbyist page as ever having registered to lobby the city. Nor did he lobby the state on any issues in 2018.

King’s assertion that Freeman was a lobbyist was based on a report from the Florida Times-Union last year upon his appointment.

“For reasons he said he legally cannot speak about, Freeman recently left his job as a lobbyist for a company that loans money for home improvement projects,” wrote City Hall/Outdoors reporter Chris Hong.

The T-U article never said which government Freeman was lobbying, and King seems to have drawn an inference that isn’t rooted in the registry.

A Freeman spokesperson noted that “Mr. Freeman was not lobbying the City Council of Jacksonville last year …. she is not entitled to make things up and lie to voters.”

However, though not registered as a lobbyist, Freeman quite arguably was lobbying … or something close to it.

Freeman did contact Council members Jim Love and Scott Wilson on business while working for Ygrene Energy, via emails obtained by Florida Politics.

“I am requesting to meet with Councilman Love for 30 minutes regarding PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy). My supervisor will be in Jacksonville on the 15th of June and I was
wondering if he was taking meetings that mid-morning? If no times are available on the 15th can you check the 18th or 19th as well,” Freeman wrote to Love’s assistant.

Freeman wrote similarly to Wilson’s assistant.

While he wasn’t registered as a lobbyist, the emails were business emails to discuss an issue with what would eventually be future colleagues.

Some may call that lobbying.

Freeman, a former Council assistant, knew how the building worked, and was well-positioned to make a case to those he formerly worked with in a different capacity.

However, as Florida Politics learned Tuesday, King herself has lobbied over the years, representing the city of Orlando starting in 2008 and over a dozen regional Goodwill thrift store companies in front of the Florida Senate starting in 2001.

In other words, one former lobbyist is attacking another former lobbyist for having lobbied, an illustration of the inside baseball at the heart of this race.

King and Freeman have not always been at odds.

Freeman was political affairs manager for the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, during the 2015 campaign cycle.

Ironically, the Chamber endorsed King over Republican Al Ferraro.

“King has experience on the Planning Commission and as a local small business executive, as well as a strong understanding of the issues facing our city,” read the rave.

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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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Dan McAuliffe, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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