Touch of Grey
By a 12-6 vote, Tuesday night saw the ascension of Dane Grey to the JEA Board.
For several years now, Grey has been in the mix of “Republicans with a Future.” Former Gov. Rick Scott honored him in a State of the State address, and he also did a jobs-announcement-type appearance at Grey’s Elite Parking Services.
Grey left the Downtown Investment Authority board not too long before; his reason seemed to be to pitch the city on privatizing and monetizing parking downtown as well as other urban core neighborhoods.
Some raised doubts about “optics.” How can anyone trust a person to be independent while auditioning to become a city vendor? Wouldn’t Grey be a “pawn for the Mayor?”
Ultimately, those doubts didn’t carry the day.
In the end, the vote held little drama. As was the case since this new Council took over, a festering, seething discontent and disharmony always seem to bubble under the surface.
With strong rumors that Council Vice President Tommy Hazouri may face a challenge for the presidency next year (Terrance Freeman, some say), it will be interesting if there is a way for this group to move forward without the political friction that has characterized the last few years in the building.
NBC News spotlighted a Northeast Florida Republican who is running for Congress as an exponent of QAnon theories this week.
“At first glance, Matthew Lusk’s campaign signs look like any other Republican candidate’s. On one side, they read, ‘Matthew Lusk for Congress,’ and ‘Putting America First.’”
On the other side: a black letter Q.
‘You never know when you’ll run into somebody else who’s interested in Q,’ he said.
Lusk is challenging U.S. Rep. Al Lawson in the east-west district that straddles I-10 to Tallahassee.
Lawson has his typical bipartisan support as he continues slowish-but-steady-enough fundraising, including from Republican lobbyists (such as Brian Ballard) who have the President’s ear.
More fallout for the excommunicated Susie Wiles from forces friendly to Gov. Ron DeSantis this week.
Wiles, a stretch-run operator for the DeSantis campaign in 2018, has found herself stretched in term by his allies this year, as she has been purged from the inner circle.
The latest: Revelations (disputed by Wiles) that she arranged a meeting between the Governor and the controversial Lev Parnas, a deep-pocketed donor currently in deep trouble with the feds.
Sources said Wiles and Justin Caporale kept trying to get Parnas and Fruman in to see the Governor after the inauguration.
They were scheduled to meet on Jan. 18, but the meeting was rebuffed by top staff in the Executive Office of the Governor, they added.
Helen Aguirre Ferré, a spokesperson for the Governor’s Office, said the “political meeting” was added to DeSantis’ schedule by the Republican Party of Florida, then led by Wiles.
Wiles said Ferré’s account isn’t accurate, saying she had nothing to do with scheduling the meeting.
Susie’s ex-husband Lanny had his own foreign intrigue in the 2016 campaign (in which his wife ran the Florida operation). Lanny saved a seat for a Russian lawyer who had met with Donald Trump Jr.
The dream of Senate leadership is over for St. Johns County’s favorite son.
Sen. Travis Hutson conceded in his bid for the Senate presidency to Kathleen Passidomo, in a blow to Northeast Florida’s ultimate power in the Process that may be felt for a while.
According to sources close to Passidomo and Hutson, there aren’t any sour grapes — the northeast Florida lawmaker graciously gave her his pledge card.
On Tuesday night, Hutson confirmed Passidomo’s victory and offered her his support.
“It was a very close race, but at the end of the day, my newborn and my family business will take a lot of my time next Session,” he said. “We agreed that she would be the best one to lead the chamber going forward.”
There are suggestions that Hutson’s loss may have a chain effect, including impacting potential leadership aspirations for candidate Jenn Bradley, who certainly is fundraising like a future President (see below for more on that).
Big money months
Fundraising reports for October came in this week, and Northeast Florida had some big winners.
Jennifer Bradley, running to replace her husband Sen. Rob Bradley in North Florida’s 11-country Senate District 5, now has $1.3 million on hand between her campaign account and her “Working for Florida’s Families” political committee. The deep-red district was 3-1 for President Donald Trump in 2016.
Mrs. Bradley is poised to face a Democrat and a Libertarian in November, should they qualify for the ballot.
State Rep. Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican and future House Speaker, raised over $170,000 in October between both his political committees (PCs) and his campaign account, the latest campaign finance records show.
Most of the action was in Renner’s Conservatives for Principled Leadership PC, which brought in over $141,000 from 36 contributions, giving it just over $1,085,000 on hand.
Five-figure donations came in from Disney, NBC Universal, the Florida Hospital Association PAC, and the Beer Distributors committee.
Renner’s other PC, Florida Foundation for Liberty, brought in $17,000 in October, giving the committee just under $260,000 on hand.
State Rep. Jason Fischer, a Jacksonville Republican seeking his third term in House District 16, will report over $100,000 raised in October between his campaign account and political committee, Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville.
Fischer, who represents a swath of Jacksonville’s Southside and Mandarin areas, found support at home, and home away from home.
His local campaign kickoff on Oct. 2 embodied what Fischer called a “large showing of support” from the same cadre of locals who backed him from 2016 onward.
As well, Fischer had a Tallahassee fundraiser at the Governors’ Club in October.
Fischer faced a general election challenge in 2018, but it wasn’t close.
One of the reasons Fischer can raise money: he carries bills that tick certain people off, but move the debate.
Consider his proposal for the House tax package: referendums for school capital tax increases, such as the one the Duval County School Board sought and didn’t get this year, would have to have carveouts for charter schools.
For any future referendums to raise sales tax rates for public schools, there could be a proportional carveout for charter schools.
The School Board wanted the City Council to ratify a referendum this year. Many members of the Council agreed with Mayor Lenny Curry, finding holes in the district case for a 2019 vote and refusing to ratify a timely referendum.
Fischer’s proposal, should it make the tax package, would be ultimately vetted by a Governor who is deeply sympathetic to the missions of charter schools.
It would be sand in the gears of a potential referendum, which despite being approved by the School Board, was not placed on the ballot for voters … who seem to want it.
A poll from the University of North Florida says that the vast majority of registered Duval County voters (74%) back a half-cent sales tax for school capital improvements.
Fischer, meanwhile, is the legislative tip of the spear of another attempt to undermine traditional school structures … one that also is polling well.
A proposal that he shepherded to start a process for an elected school superintendent in Duval County polled with 70% approval.
If the local bill passes, Duval voters in November 2020 would be able to vote on whether they want an elected Superintendent, setting up a potential 2022 election to select a replacement for a position appointed for decades.
Pastor challenges Duggan
For the second election in a row, it appears there will be general election competition in House District 15.
Republican Wyman Duggan will face Democrat Tammyette Thomas.
Thomas, if she is elected, would be the second pastor in the Duval Delegation (joining Rep. Kim Daniels). She is currently an associate pastor and a regional trainer for Quest Diagnostics.
An early priority: Get to know the people.
“They’re going to be like ‘Who is she?'”
Thomas is running to address several issues, including abortion, where she says she has a “yes or no” position.
While, as a Christian, she “may not condone” the act, she supports the right to terminate a pregnancy.
“Police brutality” and “violence in the community” also concern Thomas.
And the rest?
The rest of the Northeast Florida incumbents continue to fundraise for 2020 reelection, though everyone has their own pace.
Some had really strong Octobers. Others, not so much.
Rep. Clay Yarborough, a House District 12 Republican, raised $14,500 in October, with Disney and “Conservatives for Principled Leadership” donating.
Rep. Cord Byrd, a second-term Republican in House District 11, raised just $1,750. He has roughly $25,000 between his campaign account and his “1845” political committee.
Rep. Tracie Davis, an HD 13 Democrat in her second term, raised $3,000, pushing her close to $28,000 with no opponent on the horizon.
Rep. Kim Daniels, a second-term Democrat in House District 14, seems to have early struggles fundraising. She moved $4,000 of her own money to her campaign account in October. Roughly $10,000 raised total this cycle.
During committee week, fundraising is permitted and advised; once Session starts, the checkbooks close until spring.
Curry is termed out in 2023, but a new state-level committee suggests he’s not done with politics just yet.
Per informed sources, the second-term Republican has a new committee account: Securing Florida’s Future.
The account has been open for just under two months and has been under the radar: three contributions in October, totaling $60,000, from connected Northeast Florida players.
Critics (and the occasional ally) credit/blame Curry with bringing “Tallahassee-style politics” to Jacksonville. In the sense that involves aggressive, poll-tested messaging from state-level committees, that’s the case.
With several existing issues in the city, including a controversial exploration of the sale of local utility JEA along with a potential referendum for a sales tax for public school capital needs, it takes scant imagination to envision how to deploy a committee in the short term.
However, it could have a long-term effect, as well.
Curry has no firm plans to run for another office, but there are “mountains to climb,” as one source put it.
Curry’s term ends after the 2022 elections, complicating a run statewide before 2024, when Sen. Rick Scott‘s seat in the Senate would be the most interesting statewide prize (should Scott run for President, as some expect).
Back during Scott’s governorship, Curry was reportedly in the mix for the CFO appointment that ultimately went to Jimmy Patronis. The Mayor formally withdrew from that process, “flattering … speculation” notwithstanding.
Shop ‘til you drop
Good news for Gateway-area residents. Per the Jacksonville Daily Record, a replacement has all but been secured for the outgoing Publix.
Winn-Dixie looks poised to come in, per City Councilman Reggie Gaffney, to help keep the Northside area from becoming a food desert.
“We are on third base,” the second-term Democrat asserted, weeks ahead of Publix’s 12/28 exit.
City incentive money via the Northwest Jacksonville Full Service Grocery Store program would be available, even as Gateway is not in the Northwest Quadrant, per se.
Gaffney said the number could range between $500-700,000.
Baker goes green
And why not a second Jacksonville Daily Record article, in which the once-unlikely prospect of a Duval County exurb establishing a cannabis grow operation comes to pass?
Out in Sanderson, Acreage Holdings took over a former roof tile manufacturing plant.
Grows will go to stock Acreage dispensaries statewide, of which seven are planned in Florida, one presumably in the Jacksonville area.
Ironically, or not, Baker County does not have a dispensary of any type.
Though there’s no supply for locals, the 80 to 100 jobs to be created is welcome news for the local Chamber of Commerce.
Must-win for Jags?
Despite playing on the road this Sunday, the Jaguars appear to have some advantages against the Indianapolis Colts. While the Colts will have the friendly crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium, Jacksonville has a few reasons to feel this is a game they can (or maybe should) win.
On the other hand, the Jaguars had the week off, giving them ample time to prepare for the Colts. Hopefully, they used the week to move on from the miserable 26-3 loss to the Houston Texans in London.
The London debacle left the Jaguars at 4-5 and a victory over the Colts would create a three-way tie between those two teams and the Tennessee Titans, whom the Jags play next Sunday in Nashville.
Both teams are expecting their quarterbacks to return from injury. Nick Foles assumes his role after missing all but a few minutes of the entire season, while the Colts’ Jacoby Brissett was expected to return after missing the Miami game with an injury.
If it comes down to the final minutes, the Jaguars have a clear advantage at kicker. Josh Lambo is among the most accurate kickers in the league, while the Colts’ 46-year-old Adam Vinatieri is having, by far, the worst season of his career.
He badly missed what would have been a game-winning field goal in Pittsburgh, while last week his missed extra point turned out to be crucial.
Sunday’s game is one to have if the Jags have serious designs on making the playoffs. At the same time, Coach Doug Marrone is reluctant to call it a “must-win.”
“I look at every [game that way] — for me, you go into it like that,” Marrone said. “I try to address it to the team as, ‘You’ve got to ignore all the stuff on the outside because this league is crazy; you never know what’s going to happen.’ You only have 16 opportunities. You go in there and give everything you can for each one.”
While that is true, things will be much easier at 5-5 than trying to climb over other teams from 4-6.