The future is now
This first Bold of 2020 includes a look at some “people to watch.”
It’s not a hierarchical list, and some elements were crowdsourced.
In a time when Northeast Florida politics appears to be changing, with the paradigms set up by Mayor Lenny Curry in Jacksonville challenged increasingly, it’s harder to predict what will happen with any given person on this list than it might be if the machine were functional as it has been in the past.
Those caveats issued, there is something to be said for unpredictability.
The former TV anchor — and a current congressional candidate — has the best name identification of anyone on this list.
Deegan, running against Rep. John Rutherford in Florida’s 4th Congressional District, is the most viable already of the second-term Republican’s political challengers.
She raised $204,000 in the fourth quarter of 2019, a number that compares favorably with most Rutherford reports. However, the Congressman had $433,000 on hand at last check.
Democrat Deegan was a useful surrogate regionally for Andrew Gillum, who carried Duval handily both in the primary and the general election.
The Gillum association will prove to be a double-edged sword; expect that takedown artist Tim Baker, working for Rutherford, will force Deegan to account for Gillum’s ties to radical-ish groups like the Dream Defenders.
Ward, an attorney and Florida State University alum, is someone with a political future in Jacksonville.
A member of the Downtown Investment Authority board, the Springfield resident previously was on the Jacksonville Planning Commission.
While there is no shortage of educated white men in their 20s and 30s getting selected to boards, Ward has the life experience that some of his contemporaries do not.
The evocatively-titled “Getting the Hell out of Hell” depicts Ward’s experience in Iraq, where he spent seven months on a humanitarian mission.
“I was traveling with a team of Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers to see the results of ISIS incursions in the area,” Ward said, “and getting briefed along the way. They said, ‘We’re going to a town near the front lines. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to go.’”
Ward soon found out he was in the middle of an active war zone. Before he would leave, he would prove pivotal for the resettlement of 4,000 people in Australia.
“I would hardly call myself an expert on the Mideast refugee crisis now, but I have a new depth of understanding,” he said. “It was a real paradigm shift for me. It opened my eyes, informed my personal politics and forever changed my view of the world.”
After a series of high-profile chairs of the Duval Democratic Party who had varying results, Henry took over last year when his predecessor, Lisa King, abandoned the post to run for Jacksonville City Council.
Henry took over at a time when Jacksonville was in what was probably the peak of the Curry era, helming a party that lacked even a Mayoral candidate.
“Holding this position is even more of honor, knowing I am the youngest and first African American male elected Chair in our local Party’s history. With my dedicated years of Party leadership, I take this mantle with the same passion and drive I had from the beginning of my service — hungry to lead an amazing and dedicated group of volunteers to victory,” Henry said last year.
While Democrats got torched in the city elections in 2019, recent news cycles less than favorable to the Curry administration have allowed for Democrats to recalibrate, scoring points on issues like the now-thwarted attempt to sell JEA and the still-pending referendum to set up a half-cent school capital sales tax.
In 2020, expectations are that the local party can replicate its performance in 2018, which saw Democratic candidates like Andrew Gillum and Sen. Bill Nelson carry the county … even as they lost statewide.
Bean Team Next-Gen
Davis Bean, per those he works with at the Fiorentino Group, is someone to watch going forward.
Bean, a governmental affairs consultant, is the youngest member of the team, but he has real experience in politics and process. He ran state Sen. Kelli Stargel’s most recent campaign, then went on to work for state Rep. Cord Byrd.
Bean’s focus: “appropriations, agriculture, local governmental matters, economic development and education issues.” A University of Florida alum, he is a member of the Hall of Fame.
Bean is positioned with Fiorentino to learn the lobbying game, from a stacked crew that includes principal Marty Fiorentino along with Joe Mobley, and former Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney.
An attorney and political consultant, Umunna is positioned to help Duval Democrats in what seems to be an ongoing resurgence.
In an era where Curry has held sway for half a decade, Umunna represents a resistance, working with Democratic candidates.
His Why You Should Care, launched in 2019, offers a look at Jacksonville politics with a populist take.
The best interviews include candid sit-downs with the Florida Times-Union’s Nate Monroe and Folio Weekly’s Shelton Hull.
Beyond that, he is responsible for one of the most useful (at least to a niche audience) Twitter feeds in the area.
The Duval County Legislative Delegation tracker offers updates on what is happening with bills filed by Duval’s six state Reps. and two Senators.
Yet another name to watch in 2020: Pantinakis.
The University of North Florida alum is not the biggest self-promoter in the political consulting game, but 2019 found him scoring some big wins with countywide candidates.
Among his candidates: Sheriff Mike Williams, Tax Collector Jim Overton, At-Large Jacksonville City Councilmen Matt Carlucci and Terrance Williams, and district Councilman Al Ferraro.
He’s also engaged with the Duval County Executive Committee, helping with mail and digital.
Pantinakis is on the right side of 30, suggesting that he is in prime position to be the city’s next Bruce Barcelo, should he want that.
It’s been an exciting ride for Pantinakis up until now. He was essentially the fall guy for former State Attorney Angela Corey when her campaign set up an NPA candidate to close a primary that she ended up losing in 2016.
However, that is long past him now.
Pantinakis has been involved in mainstream Republican politics since before he could legally drink, and that experience will serve him going forward into the next decade.
The Florida Times-Union columnist, barring some radical shift in personality, drops a few too many f-bombs to run for office.
But in many respects, 2019 was his year, and his work set the stage for 2020 action in the 904.
Monroe and the Mayor’s Office had been involved in a Cold War for years before he moved from straight reporting to analysis last January.
Though the actual mayoral campaign was weak sauce, the aftermath was where Monroe flowered, specifically when Mayor Curry and his allies attempted to reprise the JEA sale push anew.
Curry wasn’t talking to Monroe or the T-U, but the JEA Tower, then City Hall, leaked like a sieve. As 2020 closed, the Times-Union was as relevant as it had been in some time. And the editorial decision to move a reporter to opinion drove that.
There is no shortage of former Jacksonville reporters who moved onto governmental jobs. Many Times-Union reporters went to work for former Mayor Alvin Brown, and the Jacksonville Daily Record is on a mini-run of placing former writers in comms jobs.
But that won’t be Monroe’s path. He will be a critic, on the outside, but well-read.
And as UNF polled in 2019, he has a net favorability of +16. Not bad.
Beyond people to watch … some other news this week
RIP Robbie Foster
Jacksonville’s Southside Methodist Church was overflow packed Tuesday morning for the homegoing of Foster, who died last week at the age of 35.
Robert Mallory Foster Jr., the son of former 4th Circuit Court judge Robert Mallory Foster, had a “bad flu” and went to the emergency room days before he died, sources close to him said.
Foster was not afraid of controversy, and those on hand said that there were people even at the funeral service who wanted to wring his neck while he was alive.
That’s the nature of this business, of course, and Foster would have appreciated the irony.
Curry was among those who offered tribute.
Speaking of Curry
Termed-out Mayor Curry, increasingly embattled in Duval County, nonetheless continued to demonstrate fundraising prowess as 2019 closed.
The second-term Republican’s political committee reported a $164,000 December haul, the most substantial monthly fundraising report since its formation late last year.
Contributions were paced by familiar names on the $25,000 level, three of which have ties to either pro football or the sports complex.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, an organization still looking for city help with the Lot J development that would bring a branded entertainment facility to the Sports Complex, gave that much.
Even as the team performs ignominiously on the field, they win where it counts: in Jacksonville’s City Hall.
It’s a war
Jacksonville’s continuing issue with violent crime got some focus this week, with state Rep. Kim Daniels joining a phalanx of City Council members.
News4Jax was on hand at the event.
“Y’all, it’s a war out here. Immediate help is needed, not a Band-Aid approach,” Jacksonville City Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman said. “This community needs resources … with some short- and long-term mends.”
Pittman, a Democrat, was appointed to the Council by former Gov. Rick Scott. She went on to be elected last year.
The first police-involved shooting of the year brought Pittman and Daniels out, and it was clear from the event they have support.
The ask: “Pittman is asking for $11 million to fund programs to include everything from police officers walking the beat to trash clean up on sidewalks to bringing jobs to the neighborhood.”
Jacksonville is exiting a year where the murder rate was the highest in recent memory. Last year saw Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson call for National Guard patrols in Jacksonville streets. This year clearly will see more agitation from politicians, who thus far have been powerless to stem the blood tide in Duval’s mean streets.
Organ discrimination targeted
When it comes to organ transplants, not everyone qualifies. Those with disabilities are often refused. Two Florida Republicans want to change that.
State Sen. Aaron Bean and state Rep. Jason Fischer, both from Jacksonville, are sponsoring bills related to “discrimination in access to anatomical gifts and organ transplants,” particularly in regard to Floridians with disabilities.
The goal: to “protect” access to “lifesaving medical treatment.”
“I am proud to carry this legislation in the Senate,” said Bean. “If someone has been medically approved for an organ transplant and has passed the necessary evaluations, this bill will make it possible for Floridians with disabilities to get on the transplant list.”
“As someone with family members affected by this, it’s unthinkable and outrageous that the health care system would discriminate against someone because of a disability,” Fischer added. “Unfortunately, this is far too often the case. I’m proud to sponsor this bill to stop discrimination and help vulnerable Floridians receive the lifesaving treatment they deserve.”
The legislation has the support of disability rights advocates.
“As CEO of the premier advocacy organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, The Arc of Florida praises Rep. Fischer and Sen. Bean’s effort to end organ transplant discrimination,” The Arc of Florida CEO Kirk Hall said.
Rayonier not responsible
In Nassau County, a whistleblower alleged an out-of-the-sunshine conspiracy between country commissioners to put pressure on Rayonier to fund parks.
The Nassau County Independent reports that County Commissioner Pat Edwards would host get-togethers after Monday night commission meetings with members and senior staff.
Commissioners, said former County Manager Shanea Jones, would express “the frustration of how they were going to get Raydient to fund parks and recreation facilities and what options they have.”
However, Jones believes that Rayonier is only responsible for funding “enhancements,” not base-level services, in the Wildlight development area.
It’s Girl Scout Cookie time!
It’s that time of year again, and Girl Scouts are introducing their newest cookie — Lemon Ups — that not only taste great but hold a motivating message.
Lemon Ups are crispy lemon cookies baked with inspiring messages to lift your spirits and provide a boost of encouragement.
Girl Scouts are now taking preorders through their Digital Cookie websites.
If you’d rather purchase in person, look for girls with cookies in hand in your neighborhood starting the weekend of Jan. 25, and for cookie booths beginning Feb. 7.
Supporting a girl’s success through the Girl Scout Cookie Program®, you’re also narrowing the entrepreneurship gap between women and men by nurturing the “go-getter spirit” early on and equipping her with confidence — and know-how — to dream big and do bigger.
Marrone makes surprising return
As a disappointing 2019 ended, the Jaguars already knew who they would be playing in 2020. Many, including most Jaguars fans and probably the players, believed they would be welcoming another coach and possibly a new general manager.
That turned out not to be the case when owner Shahid Khan made the surprise announcement that head coach Doug Marrone would be back for another season
Everything appeared set as ESPN reported the Jaguars would “dismiss” Marrone following the season finale. In the end, both Marrone and general manager David Caldwell received another year.
That left former player personnel head Tom Coughlin as the only one to take the fall for the 2019 failures. Marrone and Caldwell know Khan expects visible improvement during the first half of the coming season.
“The decision I am making to keep our staff intact for 2020 has nothing to do with our victory (in the final game) and everything to do with my positive meetings with Dave, Doug, the coordinators, and our players, as well as my belief that this is not the time to consider an overhaul of our organization,” Khan said in a statement.
The management team can now focus on signing free agents, including the need to re-sign stellar defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. Pro-Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell said that would be a “tough” proposition.
It is also time to focus on the draft in April. Before that, the 2020 schedule will be announced, but the Jaguars already know who they play and where.
The NFL’s structured formula has a specific schedule for a fourth-placed team, where the Jaguars finished again. Six of those games will be home-and-home sets with division rivals Houston, Indianapolis, and Tennessee.
Also, they will face AFC foes Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Miami at home, as well as Chicago and Detroit from the NFC. Other road games will include AFC opponents Baltimore, Cincinnati, and the Los Angeles Chargers, while they will go to NFC foes Minnesota and Green Bay.