Jacksonville Bold for 7.23.20 — Hotter than fresh grits

hot grits
Election season is here — mailboxes will fill up. Oppo will drop. Consultants will prosper.

Hotter than fresh grits

The politics are hotter than fresh grits and above the fold in this week’s Bold, which shows — pandemic or no — campaign season still looks like campaign season.

Sure, the meet and greets are more virtual, with Zoom having precluded the traditional grip and grin in some cases.

But checks are still being cut; hit pieces are still being dropped, especially since there is as much regional action in August as there is November this year.

The mailboxes will fill up. Oppo will drop. Consultants will prosper.

We don’t know, really, if the NFL is back. Suppose we’ll see anything approaching action in TIAA Bank Field once Donald Trump leaves town next month. At best, 25% occupancy is the plan. So it will look like an average year’s preseason game all year long.

But we do know that the action that by and large that we cover is happening.

COVID-19 can shut down numerous parts of the economy. But the chase for power is not one of them.

Sheriff in town

Good news for fans of Rep. John Rutherford: a fundraiser last week, hosted by Jacksonville City Councilman Rory Diamond, brought in over $100,000.

This continues a hot streak for the Congressman, who faces a pro forma primary in August before a more interesting general election contest.

John Rutherford is on something of a hot streak. Image via AP.

In fundraising through the end of June, the second-term Republican was able to claim $701,000 on hand, after raising nearly $191,000 through the second quarter of 2020.

He outraised Democrat Donna Deegan, who raised just over $144,000 during the quarter, breaking her streak of outperforming the incumbent for two straight quarters previously.

Rutherford represents Florida’s 4th Congressional District, which centers around Jacksonville, including Nassau County and parts of Duval and St. Johns counties.

Full disclosure

But there’s still more Congressional money news, from the 3rd CD, which includes Clay County.

As we reported exclusively Monday, candidate Judson Sapp cleaned up his financial reporting, sourcing personal loans to the campaign to a trust account previously undisclosed.

Judson Sapp clarified a point of campaign finance confusion.

Sapp, one of seven Republicans battling for the August 18 primary nomination to run in CD 3, had come under scrutiny after campaign reports showed he’d lent a quarter-million dollars to his campaign in March, while his financial disclosures filed with Congress didn’t disclose any assets to show that sort of money, to begin with.

The scrutiny was reported last week by Florida Politics.

Since that report, a new set of campaign finance reports was disclosed late last week, showing that Sapp had made a second $250,000 personal loan to his campaign, bringing his total contribution to his campaign to $500,000.

Gunplay redux

An adviser to U.S. Rep. Al Lawson Jr. was not the first person in Jacksonville to find, for no reason he could ascertain, that a bullet had come through his wall.

Phillip Singleton addressed the incident in a series of tweets Monday.

“When people talk about common-sense gun reform, I get it first hand. Last night someone on I-295 shot a pistol out of their car, and the bullet went through my wall, bathtub and stopped on the linen closet,” Singleton related.

“When we first heard it, we thought it was our neighbor setting off firecrackers again. This morning we saw the hole in the bathroom tile and the bullet. Quietly made me think that if we were taking a shower or poop could have been deadly,” he added.

“Then I thought of my neighbor, who if this was a few feet off, it could have gone into their children’s room.”

Rep. Lawson is in a primary against two Jacksonville challengers in Congressional District 5, a district that runs east from Tallahassee to Duval County.

Stormy weather

As if COVID-19 is not bad enough, Florida is heading into the more active portion of the hurricane season. Among those publicly urging Floridians to prepare for the worst is Rep. Michael Waltz.

The St. Augustine Republican has joined with The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore on a public service announcement to urge residents to develop a plan, and practice that plan, before trouble arrives. Cantore is the face of the network’s hurricane coverage, traveling to the highest impacted areas of each hurricane.

“Dangerous weather can happen anytime, anywhere,” Waltz says on the video. “I’m Congressman Michael Waltz, and I’m constantly working to make sure Florida is prepared for severe weather.”

Cantore focuses on developing family plans with the video that concludes with both saying, “When we prepare together, we can weather any storm.”

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center forecasts 13-19 named storms, including three to six major hurricanes of category three or higher.

Gov. gaffes?

It remains to be seen if Gov. Ron DeSantis is coming back to the First Coast this weekend, but last weekend’s presser at Flagler Hospital could have gone better.

The Governor said he was sticking to message.

St. Augustine itself is under a mask order; however, the Governor did not wear the mask at the presser. Some have defended that, saying he was outside of city limits. St. Johns County thus far has rejected the push toward mandatory masks, even as Commissioner Paul Waldron continues to fight to recover from his bout with COVID-19.

Ultimately it wasn’t the mask that people will remember from this event, but the Governor’s deeming a question from Elizabeth Landers of Vice Magazine about the death of John Lewis and local controversy about Confederate monuments to be off-topic and unworthy of answering. He then went on to let a local TV reporter ask three consecutive questions.

The Governor has a rougher time in Northeast Florida than predecessor Rick Scott, who typically got lazy questions from television media as Governor that he could typically answer with talking points. His four-question seven-minute gaggles were as regular as clockwork.

Gov. DeSantis enjoyed about a year of boom times; now, he is thrust into uncertainty. The Governor can shake up the comms team, but he’s going to have to find a way to avoid personal unforced errors, some made playing to a nationwide audience on talk shows, and some out of not reading the moment.


The American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees typically doesn’t back Republicans, but they made an exception in the race in Senate District 5.

Jennifer Bradley, running to replace husband Rob Bradley in the North-Central Florida canton, got a maximum $1,000 check from AFSCME at the end of June.

Jennifer Bradley in Lake City. Image via Carl McKinnie/Lake City Reporter.

All told, the candidate has over $420,000 on hand, enough certainly for a low-wattage primary challenge against political unknown Jason Holifield and a general election against Melina Rayna Svanhild Farley-Barratt.

Sen. Bradley, the outgoing appropriations chair, set the table for his wife’s candidacy, delivering long-delayed capital projects to rural counties throughout the district.

AFSCME’s backing, in this context, seems to be getting on board with the winner ahead of time.

PPP payoff

A state legislator in a competitive primary has seen some interesting cash movement.

Rep. Kim Daniels has put over $52,000 of her own money into her campaign account during this campaign, roughly half what was raised through July 10.

Self-funding Rep. Kim Daniels got a PPP boost.

Daniels also benefited from the Paycheck Protection Program, which gave her Spoken Word Ministries (housed in her home in Jacksonville, just like her campaign) somewhere between $150,000 to $350,000.

Daniels’ fundraising has been faltering, but the self-funding gives her an advantage over Angie Nixon, a candidate who seems to have the backing of mainstream Democrats in Jacksonville and beyond.


We reached out Sunday night to Daniels for clarity on what the PPP money goes toward. We did not hear back.

Meanwhile, Daniels’ advocates are blasting opponent Nixon for being endorsed by Republicans.


That’s notable since, as we have reported, Daniels is backed by several key Republicans in the Legislature, with political committees associated with Reps. Paul Renner and Travis Cummings donating.


The hits keep coming for former City Council President Scott Wilson, the target of a new negative ad seen on Fox News Sunday for being “liberal.”

Wilson, running for Clerk of Courts, has been texting Democrats and asking them to switch parties, saying he would restore courthouse weddings.

Those were cut by current clerk Ronnie Fussell, because his staff didn’t want to perform same-sex ceremonies.

The hits keep coming for Scott Wilson.

The preferred candidate of the establishment seems to be Fussell’s chief lieutenant, Jody Philips, who has raised over $131,000, more than Wilson and a third Republican, Leon Jackson, combined.

The winner of the August primary on the GOP side will face Democrat Jimmy Midyette in November.

Residency fail

Nassau County Commissioner Danny Leeper is running for reelection, but it’s unclear whether he meets basic qualifications to hold the office now, let alone for another term.

The Florida Constitution requires elected officials to live in the districts they represent. The rule has some vagaries. For one, candidates can run in districts they don’t live in, and many do.

The big question in Nassau County: Where does Danny Leeper live?

But once elected, there’s no gray area — they must live in their district for the duration of their term. If they move into another, they must resign.

A couple of years ago, Leeper moved out of his home in Nassau County District 1 and into another within District 2.

Leeper insists he’s playing by the rules. Florida’s Election Code does not define “residency,” he contends. That’s true. Yet, the Florida Division of Elections clearly states that “residency” is where a person makes their permanent home, a distinction upheld by Florida courts.

Leeper claims a homestead exemption on the District 2 home on Florence Point Drive. His wife lives at the home — the address printed on her driver’s license, voter registration, real estate license, and vehicle registrations.

But when asked, “Where does your head hit the pillow every night?” His response: “That’s not a requirement.”


A Jacksonville housing official has been named to the board of a national housing organization.

Dwayne Alexander, the interim CEO of the Jacksonville Housing Authority, was elected to serve as a board member of the National Leased Housing Association. Alexander’s term will last two years on the board of directors for the association.

The National Leased Housing Association is a nationwide organization that represents public and private stakeholders in the affordable multifamily rental housing industry.

“I am honored to be elected by my colleagues at the National Leased Housing Association. This is an opportunity to elevate the lessons we have learned at Jacksonville Housing Authority on how to assist people with their housing needs, helping them achieve self-sufficiency and homeownership while bringing back best practices from our counterparts across the country,” said Alexander.

Dwayne Alexander, the interim CEO of the Jacksonville Housing Authority, was elected to serve as a board member of the National Leased Housing Association. Image via LinkedIn.

Alexander is no stranger to large challenges. He took over the JHA interim CEO position in 2019 after the authority’s board voted to fire the previous CEO Fred McKinnies who had been found to have engaged in inappropriate sexual relations with two employees.

Alexander has been at the interim helm of the housing authority since.

The National Leased Housing Association has members that include developers, local governments, housing finance agencies, and housing authorities similar to the Jacksonville Housing Authority among other industry ties.

Sulzbacher support

The Sulzbacher EnVision Center, which provides assistance to the homeless, got a federal boost of confidence Monday in Jacksonville.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson visited the center to endorse its work of delivering supportive services to the homeless in Northeast Florida. Carson was joined by U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, R-Jacksonville, who is seeking reelection for a third term in Florida’s Fourth Congressional District.

“Public-private partnerships, like the Sulzbacher Center, are critical in our fight against homelessness,” said Rutherford. “By investing in our communities and providing individuals with the support they need to lead independent lives, Northeast Florida has been able to consistently reduce homelessness in the region.”

U.S. HUD Secretary Ben Carson, left, and U.S. Rep. John Rutherford at the Sulzbacher EnVision Center in Jacksonville Monday. Image via Rutherford campaign.

While both Rutherford and Carson are staunch supporters of President Donald Trump, they were each wearing face masks during the Sulzbacher visit Monday to reduce risk of spreading coronavirus.

Rutherford is a member of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee that oversees HUD and is a longtime supporter of targeted assistance of the homeless and his interest was piqued during the coronavirus outbreak which hit victims of homelessness particularly hard. Rutherford voted for the CARES Act, which included $12.4 billion to assist HUD in response to the pandemic.

“I am proud to work with Secretary Carson and my colleagues in Congress to ensure homeless individuals and families have the resources they need to find permanent housing and get back on their feet,” Rutherford said.

New Y

First Coast YMCA and Baptist Health have joined together to bring new YMCA to Nocatee. The Y, set to open in October, will be located west of Nocatee Town Center and the Lakeside neighborhood, facing Nocatee Parkway.

The facility will encompass approximately 17,000 sq. ft. of health and wellness space inside Baptist HealthPlace’s two-story 83,000 sq. ft. facility. The larger Baptist HealthPlace center will be on a 12-acre site.

The new YMCA at Nocatee will be filled with great amenities.

Among the proposed amenities at the YMCA at Nocatee: State-of-the-art cardio and strength equipment, a covered outdoor greenspace and sport court (an “airnasium”), family-oriented programming, group exercise studios, KidZone and personal training with certified staff. This branch will also have a Healthy Living Center, staffed by a Baptist health coach, that will provide free health screenings, one-on-one wellness consultations, and “Talk with a Doc” events on a variety of health topics.

Ahead of the grand opening, the Y will be offering exclusive discounts and merchandise for new and existing members, including no sign-up fees (a $100 value), a First Coast YMCA branded gaiter (face covering) — while supplies last; exclusive charter member T-shirt when the Y opens; chance to win $500 grocery gift card and a three-month complimentary membership (for new members who sign up before July 31); complimentary access to all First Coast YMCA locations until January 31, 2021, and 500 Y Rewards points.

For more details and updates, visit fcymca.org/locations/ymca-at-nocatee.

COVID safety lacking

With NFL training camps scheduled to be fully open next week, a wrinkle has developed. Prominent players stepped forward demanding an agreement be reached on protecting player safety in the era of COVID-19.

New Orleans Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees said on Twitter the country needs football and sports, but “The NFL’s unwillingness to follow the recommendations of their own medical experts will prevent that.” Other stars like Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, Houston’s J.J. Watt, Seattle’s Russell Wilson, and many others had the same message, spoken through a coordinated #WeWantToPlay hashtag.

Jaguars’ players are concerned as well. Wide receiver Chris Conley is frustrated that the issue has not yet been addressed.

“The @nfl is taking their sweet time to formulate safety protocols for positive cases,” Conley tweeted. “They have also ignored the recommendations by medical professionals hired to help us safely begin. #WeWantToPlay but a plan has to be in place. People aren’t expendable.”

Chris Conley has concerns about safety precautions in the NFL.

The standoff between players and the league stands in stark contrast to baseball players. Shortly after the announcement one month ago that baseball would resume this week, the Major League Baseball Players Association and MLB announced agreement on health and safety protocols.

Safety protocols are in place for NBA players, as well as those from the National Hockey League. Both sports are set to open their seasons around August 1.

It is understood that the two sports are miles apart in direct player contacts on the field, but there are enough similarities involving locker room interactions to make sports fans question the NFL’s reluctance, especially if recommendations from medical personnel exist.

One reason could rest with the plan, if any, on what to do with players who might contract COVID-19. Will lesser players be released, while the team waits for star players to test negative.

“There is word the league would look to penalize players further if they were to contract the virus,” Conley said in another tweet. “It’s not only about safety but fairness. With no guidelines in place, people could be cut/fired for getting sick. There are many messed up things they haven’t addressed.”

Time is running short to work out an agreement before camp fully opens as players were to begin trickling in this week.

Tick tock.

Staff Reports


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