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Campaign season is coming to Northeast Florida, and hopefully, the Florida Democratic Party can find a GPS.
In a since-deleted tweet, FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo welcomed Democratic candidate Joshua Hicks to the 2020 race in House District 11.
A nascent candidate wants that kind of appreciation from the statewide party chair.
However, Rizzo undercuts the message (just a bit!) when she added that HD 11 was in St. Johns County.
Republicans chortled — and they could afford to. The last candidate to face incumbent Rep. Cord Byrd lost by 40 points, in 2018 … a so-called Blue Wave year.
However, the Democrat had the last laugh: a news release early this week said he’d raised over $6,600 in the first 24 hours in the race.
The question, as always: is that a pace that will hold up?
Byrd likely is not beatable in deep-red Nassau and beachside Duval counties no matter how much an opponent raises.
Expect Byrd to be a more substantial fundraiser this year than previous and count on him having a leg up for a far more interesting 2022 race, either to succeed outgoing Sen. Aaron Bean or to (perhaps) run for Congress.
Jacksonville is ready to enter Phase Two of reopening, Mayor Lenny Curry told reporters this week.
And, he added, he is appealing to the Governor for a reprieve, permission to enter Phase Two reopening “in the near term.”
“I’m ready to go next week,” Curry said.
Phase Two would permit gatherings of up to 50 people. It would also allow for increased restaurant capacity, as well as the reopening of gyms, schools and bars.
Curry noted a conversation earlier with Gov. Ron DeSantis, in which the Mayor buttonholed the Governor to move forward, allowing Jacksonville (and presumably other areas) to move forward.
“I spoke to him this morning personally,” said Curry. The Governor was “glad to hear” that Jacksonville was “ready for Phase Two.”
“He’s as anxious as anyone to get these things open,” Curry said.
The push is coming despite an increase in positive tests over the weekend, which the Mayor attributed to increased testing in long-term care facilities.
Nothing to lose
When Tesla mogul Elon Musk teased moving operations out of California this weekend, local boosters from around the country reveled at a potential business recruitment opportunity.
Among those stalwarts: Curry.
WJXT reported that “in what one can only assume was a ‘nothing-to-lose effort’ … Curry offered an informal invitation for Tesla to join the Sunshine State.”
On Twitter, Curry said Musk could open a plant in Jacksonville “immediately.”
While it remains to be seen if Musk will ever acknowledge this offer, Duval County likely could use the economic engine an (almost completely unlikely) relocation would offer.
‘Gate was zero’
UFC 249 came and went from Jacksonville, with a global audience looking on. After the event, UFC head Dana White had his say.
“Gate was zero,” White said, according to The New York Times. “Attendance was zero. That’s a first.”
The fighting league had a Wednesday event scheduled in Jacksonville, as well as one for this coming weekend. White says there are lessons to be learned.
“We can share what we learned here, doing three events, with other sports leagues, who are reaching out to us and asking,” White said at the news conference.
LGBT rights legislation, codified in 2017 by the Jacksonville City Council, has been thrown into doubt by an appeals court siding with a challenge from the right-leaning Liberty Counsel.
Last week, three Republicans introduced cure legislation to resolve issues found in a court ruling, including Councilmembers Aaron Bowman, Matt Carlucci and LeAnna Cumber.
The religious right is going to fight the Jacksonville Human Rights Ordinance, as it returns to the City Council for new passage after an appeals court invalidated it.
That’s the vow of Rev. Wade Mask in an email sent out to fellow opponents of the legislation.
“The Council will not be moved by biblical reasoning,” Mask warns.
Mask was worried the bill would pass at the Council meeting on May 12, but it was only being introduced.
The bill, says sponsor Cumber, will be heard in committees and potentially voted on later this spring.
Those who lived through Jacksonville’s considerations of the legislation in 2012, 2016, and 2017 will recall the parlous arguments and the vitriol that coursed through Council Chambers. It remains to be seen what 2020 will hold.
Jacksonville City Council President Scott Wilson, running for Duval County Clerk of Court, had a decent first month of fundraising in April, a month where many pols raised nothing due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Wilson, leaving the Council for a shot at the open clerk seat, raised $22,700 in April, with donations coming in from Gate Petroleum, lobbyist Paul Harden, Duval County Property Appraiser Jerry Holland and Michael Munz.
It’s a good start, but he’s still way behind his August primary opponent, current deputy clerk Jody Phillips, who is backed by Jax Chamber CEO Daniel Davis and others.
Phillips raised $8,700 in April, giving him over $85,000 raised and nearly $80,000 on hand.
The winner of the August Republican primary will face Democrat Jimmy Midyette, who has raised $22,666 thus far in two months of campaign fundraising.
Midyette’s donations are more small-dollar than either of the Republicans thus far, but he has been over $10,000 each month.
A 51-year-old veteran fixture in the legal community of Jacksonville is about to become the latest Duval County Judge.
DeSantis this month appointed Robin Lanigan to replace Judge Pauline Drake. Initially, Drake took to bench in 1998 and retired from the judgeship Feb. 29.
Lanigan moves to the Duval County bench after an extensive career in law on the First Coast area as a practicing attorney in the Fourth and Seventh Judicial Circuits in Florida. The Fourth Circuit serves Duval, Nassau and Clay counties. The Seventh Circuit serves St. Johns, Flagler, Putnam and Volusia counties. Lanigan was appointed as a general magistrate handling cases involving family law and domestic violence cases in 2016 for the Fourth Circuit.
Lanigan said she’s grateful to DeSantis for the County Court appointment announced May 8. She said it’s the fifth time a Florida governor considered her for a judgeship.
“I applied six times, and my name was sent to the Governor five times. Each application allowed me to reevaluate myself as a potential jurist which, in turn, allowed me to sharpen my judicial philosophy,” Lanigan said in an email.
Lanigan noted she’d be the first Jewish female jurist in Fourth Judicial Circuit history when she takes the bench within days after finalizing technicalities for her commission as County Judge.
“As the first Jewish female judge in our circuit, I look forward to serving the community and doing it well,” Lanigan said.
A Jacksonville nursing home was able to stem the spread of COVID-19 in its facility following a quick ramp-up of testing for the illness after one patient tested positive.
Signature HealthCARE of Jacksonville had a resident test positive at its facility at 2061 Hyde Park Road. In response, the facility tested all its residents and staff.
The tests resulted in seven positive cases of the illness as of May 7; patients were treated at local hospitals and since released. Officials at the facility are still waiting for test results on other patients, said a news release issued by Signature HealthCARE.
The facility was previously prepared for the outbreak with testing kits on hand, and that played a role in preventing the coronavirus from sweeping through the nursing home.
“We’ve been working around the clock getting ready for COVID-19 and we are ready now that the day is here,” said Chris Cox, the chief operating officer for Signature HealthCARE. “This is why we hired the experts we have on our team, including a new chief infectious disease physician.”
Cox said the staff at the staff was self-screening daily. They were administering tests to residents daily for weeks before the first positive case was discovered, and that allowed staff to isolate those infected.
Type 1 diabetes
People with diabetes can be among the most vulnerable people to potential exposure of the coronavirus, and the Jacksonville Type 1 Diabetes Research Foundation is trying to reduce that risk with a new personal protection equipment campaign.
The fund is conducting a fundraiser through selling face masks with a humorous message. “We are #StrongerTogether [but 6 feet apart]” is printed on the JDRF mask. The face covers cost $25 each through the organization’s website strongertogethermasks.com.
Brooks Biagini, executive director of the North Florida JDRF, said the organization had seen donations dip due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Funds raised go to continued research on Type 1 diabetes.
“We have lost a substantial amount of funding that would have been raised through our community walks and galas. But with these fundraising events canceled or postponed, we needed to come up with a way to keep our community engaged and provide an opportunity to continue our lifesaving research,” Biagini said.
The masks will begin shipping in mid-May, and Biagini said the touch of humorous wit printed on the black masks was designed to provide a little more attention and style to the face coverings.
“As we begin to leave our homes and interact with each other and enter places of business, some which are requiring masks in order to enter, the diabetes community remains at a high level of risk, so the masks address a real need … ,” Biagini said. “We added the ‘but 6 feet apart’ to add a little levity to what has been a very stressful situation.”
Bipartisanship has been in short supply in Congress during the recent past, but a new survey salutes those who reach across the aisle to pursue public policy goals. This week, the Lugar Center and Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy released their annual ranking of House and Senate members on bipartisanship.
Those assessing the scores look at bill proposals, bipartisan cosponsorships by the member, or by how many bipartisan co-sponsors that member acquires on bills he or she introduces.
According to the survey’s introduction, those involved are measuring “not so much the quality of legislation but rather the efforts of legislators to broaden the appeal of their sponsored legislation, to entertain a wider range of ideas, and to prioritize governance over posturing.”
Among those in the House of Representatives, Jacksonville Republican John Rutherford earned the second-highest ranking among those in the Florida delegation. Out of 435 members, he received a ranking No. 41, second only to Palm Harbor Republican Gus Bilirakis’ rank of 32.
Rutherford earned a score of 0.93, with anything above zero considered “bipartisan” by the Lugar Center. The highest score went to Pennsylvania Republican Brian Fitzpatrick, who received a mark of 5.38.
Among other North Florida members, St. Augustine Republican Michael Waltz ranked No. 80 with a score of 0.48, while Al Lawson of Tallahassee received a rating of minus 0.18, earning a rank of 246.
On the Senate side, Marco Rubio ranked No. 9, while Rick Scott earned a No. 81 ranking.
For 62 years, Dr. Frances Bartlett Kinne invested her time, talent, and treasure to enrich Jacksonville University. Many at JU considered her its matriarch.
For the Dolphin community, reports JU’s “The Wave,” it is symbolic and bittersweet that Kinne died on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 10, just two weeks shy of her 103rd birthday.
“Fran Kinne was truly an original, a visionary,” says JU President Tim Cost. “Her optimism was impenetrable and tenacious; nothing could break her will from creating a positive approach to every opportunity. And she had the rare ability to impart that relentlessly positive spirit in everyone she met.”
The University will hold a memorial service for Kinne later this year to honor and celebrate her remarkable life. Details will be announced as plans are finalized.
Flagler Health+ and UF Health is announcing to potential collaboration to bring “a new concept in health and wellness to Durbin Park in St. Johns County.”
In 2019, Flagler Health+ agreed with GATE Lands, the real estate subsidiary of GATE Petroleum Company, to purchase 40 acres within the company’s Durbin Park Development. The long-term goal was to develop a health campus.
Flagler Health+ has now signed a nonbinding letter of intent with UF Health to evaluate its options, which could eventually include hospital facilities, medical residency programs, and other educational opportunities for residents and fellows.
Discussions are also in the works for ambulatory medical services that would expand the availability of accessible, high-quality, patient-centric care to the community.
“Collaboration is an important part of our strategy at Flagler Health+, as we look to create individualized experiences and customized service offerings for the distinctly unique communities we serve today, and those we will serve in the future,” said Flagler Health+ President and CEO Jason Barrett. “UF Health is unsurpassed in its reputation for rigorous education in the health professions and its expertise in specialties that we believe will benefit the residents of Northern St. Johns County. I am excited about our potential to collaborate with UF Health and align in ways that support our vision to advance physical, social and economic health.”
Tough road ahead
One week after the release of the NFL schedule, analysts began weighing in on the prospects of the Jacksonville Jaguars. For a team expecting to be in contention for the first pick in the draft next year, Jacksonville is not in a position to take any team lightly, but it is fair to say the early part looks better than December.
They will see some teams in transition early on featuring the Indianapolis Colts and their new quarterback, Phillip Rivers. Miami, who is grooming Tua Tagovailoa as their quarterback of the future, comes to town in September while the Jaguars head to Cincinnati in early October to get a first look at the Bengals’ top draft choice, quarterback Joe Burrow.
There are plenty of tough games in the middle of the season, but they finish the season with three of five games on the road against Minnesota, Baltimore, and the Colts. Home games are with division rival Tennessee and the NFC’s Chicago Bears.
“We’re excited that it’s out,” head coach Doug Marrone told Jaguars’ media. “Now, it gives us a chance to start playing it.”
The final home game against the Bears could provide an interesting storyline. It involves current and former Jaguars’ quarterbacks, as well as current and former Bears’ quarterbacks.
Last week, the Jaguars signed journeyman quarterback Mike Glennon to serve as a backup to starter Gardner Minshew. Glennon signed a three-year contract in 2017 to play for the Bears, but rookie Mitchell Trubisky replaced him midway through his first season.
The Jaguars signed Nick Foles to a four-year deal to be their quarterback of the future in 2019, but circumstances led to Minshew taking the job, prompting Jacksonville to trade Foles to the Bears. The former Jaguar will now challenge Trubisky in a training camp battle to lead the Chicago offense.
Before reaching that final game two days after Christmas, many other stories will be written. Hopefully, the league can take precautions to contain the coronavirus to a point where the schedule can be played in its entirety.