A notable piece of regional news: Four-term U.S. Congressman Ted Yoho announced his plans not to pursue a fifth.
Yoho, who represents part of Clay County in Florida’s 3rd Congressional District, said he would abide by his pledge only to serve four terms.
For a while, it was up in the air; until it wasn’t.
Yoho continued to fundraise through the first three quarters of 2019 for a presumed reelection campaign, with just under $50,000 raised in the third quarter.
That’s a moot point now.
Less moot: the potential candidates lining up to replace him, with three from Clay County itself.
Contractor Judson Sapp ran against Yoho in 2018 and has already had Donald Trump Jr. in town for a fundraiser. He claimed to raise $100,000 his first day in the race. He seems as likely as anyone to get the Trump bump if he’s polling like a winner late.
Amy Pope Wells is under $9,000 cash on hand at the end of September. Pope Wells is a known quantity in Clay, but less so outside the county.
Gavin Rollins, the County Commissioner responsible for making Clay a “sanctuary county” for gun ownership, is eyeing a run … perhaps an announcement after the holidays.
A three-way split appears imminent for the Clay share. But it’s not the district writ large.
Meanwhile, some are suggesting Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn is looking at the race. Primary among them are people familiar with Guinn’s thinking.
Kat Cammack, central to Yoho’s political operation for years, also should be looking.
State Sen. Keith Perry? Why not?
And then there’s a wild rumor that Gwen Graham could take a shot. We’ll see: it’s a solidly Republican district, and Graham seems to have paved over the North Florida Way some months back.
Also resisting the call to run: Sen. Rob Bradley. Albeit the strongest candidate from Clay, he decided not to take the plunge.
In the end, it’s the lottery. Expect the sleepy media markets of the district to be carpet-bombed with pre-primary buys. It’s an expensive race in a rural area — one that could end with Clay County again represented from elsewhere.
Repeal bill moves forward
Bradley’s bill would entirely remove the sections of the law defining the program, as well as striking it out of other parts governing education funding.
The bill, a simple repeal, is a necessary precondition to a proposal from Gov. Ron DeSantis, a beginning of a “conversation” about teacher compensation.
The Governor’s budget proposal for FY 20-21 included a $300 million plan to replace the Best and Brightest Award Program teacher and principal bonuses, which totaled $285 million this year. The Governor envisions $600 million for new teacher pay, pushing minimum salaries up to $47,500 in every district.
The bill will face an uphill battle in the House and likely will be an end-of-session bargaining chip.
Also facing an uphill battle — VISIT FLORIDA.
State Rep. Travis Cummings, the House appropriations chair, backed up House Speaker José Oliva, who once again is calling to eliminate the quasi-governmental tourist organization.
“This year alone, counties drew in $1 billion through tax levies to draw in tourists through advertising — VISIT FLORIDA’s budget is merely 5% of that. That means if we cut VISIT FLORIDA funding, the state would go from spending $1.05 billion overall on tourism marketing to $1 billion. That’s a small cut that could make significant gains for other state priorities,” Cummings wrote in a Florida Politics op-ed this week.
In a state with Disney World, Universal, the world’s best beaches, and dozens of cities and counties marketing themselves to tourists, a statewide marketing agency is merely that, a nice-to-have,” Cummings added.
A taxpayer-funded marketing campaign might be justified in another state. Take landlocked Nebraska, for example,” the Clay County Republican added.
“A clever ad campaign using self-deprecation and humor to draw attention to the otherwise forgettable Nebraska was a bold — and smart — move. But Florida isn’t forgettable.”
Rep. Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican and future House Speaker, raised roughly $185,000 in November. That’s taking into account both his political committees (PCs) and his campaign account, the latest campaign finance records show.
Renner practices law in Jacksonville and maintains strong political relationships despite his expat House posting.
Most of the action was in Renner’s Conservatives for Principled Leadership PC, which brought in over $133,000 from 32 contributions. GEO Group and Voice of Florida were two of the $10K donations.
That committee has over $1.2 million on hand.
Renner’s other PC, Florida Foundation for Liberty, brought in $31,500, giving it roughly $250,000 on hand. The Coalition of Affordable Housing donated $15,000, suggesting potential momentum for Sadowsky Trust non-sweeps on the House side going forward.
With another $80,000 on hand in his campaign account and no real challenge awaiting him in his GOP-plurality district, expect Renner to move that money to help allies up and down the ballot next year.
Future Speaker likes Wyman
Though it’s uncertain why HD 15 Republican Wyman Duggan has drawn a challenger for reelection, given that half-a-million dollars plus spent by Tracye Polson couldn’t beat him in a wave year, he has.
And with Democrat Tammyette Thomas in the race, Duggan’s picked up his fundraising pace, with a $35,000 November haul between his campaign account and his political committee.
Perez will be Speaker in 2024-26, and he wants Duggan around.
Duggan, a lawyer/lobbyist by trade, brought in $17,000 to his campaign account also.
He has $107,000 cash on hand. His opponent has yet to raise any money.
Also singing a song of abundance this holiday season: thus far unopposed Rep. Jason Fischer.
The Southside Jacksonville Republican representing HD 16 had a November to remember.
His Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville committee topped $108,000 on hand after a $35,000 haul, including checks from Comcast, the GEO Group and Ygrene Energy.
Fischer added another $14,000 to his campaign account in November, though with $13,000+ in expenses, mostly consulting fees/retainers. He has roughly $64,000 in so-called hard money, a firewall against a potential challenger who may manifest but has yet to file.
Still another Republican to watch is the man vying to replace Rep. Cummings in Tallahassee.
Sam Garrison, the general counsel for Orange Park, is among the top 5 new candidates in fundraising for state House races, according to statistics compiled by On3 Public Relations.
He’s the only Northeast Florida candidate to make the cut.
He’s raised nearly $180,000 in hard money, not bad given that the seat is an easy pickup for whoever gets the GOP nomination.
He raised $8,300 in November.
The Cummings seat is one of two open ones in the area; Sen. Bradley holds the other.
Bradley’s wife Jennifer is well on her way to winning that one with resources Garrison won’t have to worry about programming in 2020.
She has $316,000 on hand ($22,000 raised in November) in her campaign account.
The supportive “Working for Florida’s Families” political committee has almost $825,000 on hand, even after a $150,000 donation to a new political committee: “Women Building the Future.”
That committee now has $170,000, and it will be another vaguely-named messaging vehicle for the Duval donor class.
Preemption? What preemption?
Timing is everything.
Even with the Florida Legislature mulling a measure to preempt regulation of short-term rentals to the state, the city of St. Augustine is considering legislation to regulate Airbnb and the like.
WJXT reports that the city wants the short-term rentals would have to be registered with the city, as well as a 12-person cap on occupancy, a parking space per bedroom, and a fire extinguisher.
The first reading was this week.
Local laws regulating or banning short-term rentals would be rendered moot.
The Miami Republican’s bill protects from local regulation rentals offered via an “advertising platform,” which offers software and online access to listings for “transient public lodging establishment[s]” in the state.
Just as public lodging (hotels and motels) and foodservice establishments are regulated by the state, so too would Airbnb, VRBO, and the like.
In other words, the St. Augustine ordinance may be short-lived.
Slow and low
Two months of fundraising recorded for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s political committee, but so far, funds are coming in at a glacial pace.
Curry’s “Securing Florida’s Future” committee raised $25,000 in November, from one check: ICI Homes Residential Holdings, owned by GOP power broker Mori Hosseini.
That brings the total to $85,000.
Florida Politics learned of Curry’s political committee launch earlier this fall. As a state-level committee, it is as yet uncertain what the committee’s ultimate purpose will be.
For each of his mayoral campaigns, Curry has fundraised aggressively, bringing in millions of dollars in hard and soft money. The 2019 campaign saw Curry, an incumbent, maximizing budget.
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 political committees, that’s the case.
The Jacksonville City Council decided this week that a resolution opposing the sale of JEA wasn’t an emergency after all.
As WJXT reported, the Council rejected a bid to have a vote this week to oppose the Invitation to Negotiate … a timely vote, in light of JEA’s decision to go to Atlanta this week and negotiate with bidders.
“By giving this a one-week cycle, we give ourselves the opportunity for all three committees to get answers to the question as to why the ITN was formulated in the fashion that it was,” said City Council Member Michael Boylan.
All but one Council member agreed not to have the bill as an emergency.
The dynamic between Council and JEA is fraying.
“It’s kind of hard to unwind some of the things that have been done,” Councilman Danny Becton said. “There is a perception that people have about this process, which is in the negative.”
Jags limp to finish
With three weeks remaining in the regular season, now is the time for beleaguered NFL coaches to do what is necessary to get their team to reverse their downward trend and somehow win two or all three of their remaining games. That applies to player personnel executives as well.
For the Jaguars, winning any of their remaining games would be great, but first, they somehow need to figure out how to be competitive. Last Sunday’s blowout loss to the Los Angeles Chargers made Jacksonville the first team in 32 years to lose five straight games by at least 17 points.
Crushed expectations negatively motivate fans and team owners. With all the ballyhoo surrounding the arrival of a Super Bowl-winning quarterback in Nick Foles, and the early play of Gardner Minshew, the reality of a noncompetitive 4-9 team is hard to take.
Those dynamics have coach Doug Marrone on the proverbial hot seat, or hot bench, because player personnel vice president Tom Coughlin is likely sitting beside him. Along with an underperforming team, fans remember departed All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey put his demand to be traded squarely in Coughlin’s lap.
Unless a coach is a totally inept jerk, finances often determine whether a coach stays or goes. They may be great guys, but owners look at the bottom line. If ticket sales are declining, and perhaps nose-diving next year, owners may feel a change is their only option.
A good example comes from the college level at Florida State, where football revenues were dropping so sharply, administrators said they had “no choice” but to fire coach Willie Taggart. Jaguars owner Shahid Khan may conclude he has no choice for similar reasons.
Jacksonville has three more games to prove they are better than their current power ranking of 30th out of 32 teams. The takeaway: thank goodness for the New York Giants and Cincinnati Bengals. The Jaguars are actually worse than the Miami Dolphins.
Jacksonville is in Oakland on Sunday, followed by a trip to Atlanta before concluding the season on December 29 against Indianapolis at TIAA Bank Field. The following day represents the traditional “Black Monday” when leadership changes are often announced.
Marrone and perhaps Coughlin are hoping their team can respond to the point where they might be witnesses to the events of that day and not participants.