It’s two weeks (and change) before primaries for a swath of offices in Northeast Florida, and this edition of Bold is loaded with tidbits from the campaign trail. We paid particular attention to some races outside of Duval County itself, with familiar names or interesting storylines.
For some of these candidates, it’s the first try at elected office.
For others, it’s an attempt at a comeback.
Unsurprisingly, this has been an atypical campaign season. The pandemic crimped the usual flesh-pressing rituals of the spring and summer; the in-person forums moved to the antiseptic world of Zoom.
Door knockers? You may be answering the door. We’re not. But there have been fewer, a reluctant nod to a COVID-changed world.
With many races poised to be decided in August, a function of gerrymandering and one-party rule in certain areas, we now can say with certainty that the 2020 campaign is like none we’ve ever seen, and those who adjusted best to the new climate are the best positioned.
With polling being fragmentary for many of these races, though, we won’t know the tale of the tape until the votes are counted.
Preachers want change
U.S. Rep. Al Lawson faces a primary from two Jacksonville candidates, and one of them, Albert Chester, released a list of preacher endorsements this week.
Among the more prominent names: Rudolph McKissick Sr. and Jr. of the connected Bethel Baptist Church (the home base of former Congresswoman Corrine Brown) and pastor John Guns, who has been an ally of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry on various initiatives in recent years.
For Chester, the local validation will help in the Jacksonville market, where both he and repeat candidate LaShonda Holloway hope to cut into the Tallahassee incumbent’s margin.
However, Chester and Holloway have an uphill battle and are running out of time.
Lawson, according to the Federal Elections Commission, carried over $204,000 on hand into the campaign’s homestretch. At this writing, the FEC didn’t have current fundraising for Chester, with the last filing processed at the end of March, when he had just over $30,000.
Holloway has yet to have a campaign finance report processed by the FEC, but all evidence is she is running on a shoestring.
HD 14 Democratic candidate Angie Nixon was the big name at a rally this week protesting school reopenings, and she gave the best quotes, per WJCT.
“If they open these schools while this pandemic is not under control … if they continue to turn their backs on teachers, on parents, on students, if any kid dies,” Nixon said, “the blood is on their hands.”
“If it’s not safe to host the RNC here, or open bars and nightclubs, and also while congregations are still worshipping virtually, then it should not be safe to open our schools during this pandemic until it’s under control,” Nixon added.
Nixon is challenging Rep. Kim Daniels in the HD 14 primary that will decide the race.
Rep. Daniels has put more than $76,000 of her own money into her campaign account this campaign, more than half the nearly $125,000 raised through Jul. 17. She has just under $90,000 on hand.
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.
Nixon, meanwhile, has mostly kept pace without the prerogatives of incumbency but is fading in the money race due to the incumbent’s ability to self-fund.
She raised just over $4,000 in the week ending Jul. 17. raising just under $100,000 since entering the race in March, and retaining roughly $73,000.
Daniels has been endorsed by the Florida Chamber and the Associated Industries of Florida, suggesting further that if she is to return to Tallahassee, it will be with the blessing of the Tallahassee Republican establishment.
Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels expressed frustration this week about a long-running FDLE investigation into him for his department’s false arrest of his ex-mistress for stalking.
“It feels political,” the first-term Republican told WJXT.
Daniels seemed to suggest that State Attorney Melissa Nelson’s investigation lacked something. “It is baffling to me how something as simple as a simple investigation with a few people to be interviewed has taken over a year,” Daniels said. “To me, it kind of speaks to, I hate to say, that speaks of the competency of the investigating agency.”
“It feels political to me. It feels political to a lot of people, and it’s actually upsetting to the citizens of Clay County, because they’re going, they say, ‘Wait a minute, I thought this was put to bed,’ no pun intended, and they say, ‘Why are they picking on my sheriff? ‘”
Daniels has a primary Aug. 18 that will prove decisive in his race. He’s raised roughly $85,000, barely half the money raised by his opponent, Atlantic Beach police chief Michelle Cook. But in the election’s homestretch, he has the prerogatives of the office and name recognition galore.
Former state Rep. Janet Adkins just can’t quit public service, and for the second time since leaving the Legislature, she’s running again on the August ballot.
Adkins is coming off a drubbing in 2016. That year, she left the state House and made an ill-fated bid for Nassau County School Superintendent, getting just 32% of the vote against incumbent Kathy Burns.
This year, she wants to be the Supervisor of Elections. And she is the leading fundraiser of this writing, raising over $27,000, but with under $9,000 on hand.
Justin Taylor, who has raised just under $25,000, has nearly $10,000 on hand.
However, the candidate with the most money to deploy in the homestretch, Stan Bethea, has raised under $15,000 … but has yet to spend more than a few hundred dollars.
In Clay County, meanwhile, a former chair of the state Republican Party is making her own political comeback bid.
Leslie Dougher, running for the Clay County Commission, has the fundraising advantage over her sole opponent on the August ballot.
Dougher has raised north of $51,000 for the two-woman race, with nearly $38,000 of that on hand.
Kristen Burke, a chiropractor from Lake Asbury, has roughly $15,000 left of the $35,000+ she has raised thus far.
Dougher ran for state House in 2016 but ultimately lost to current Rep. Bobby Payne in a three-way primary.
Former Jacksonville Mayor and University of North Florida President John Delaney – now a principal at government relations firm The Fiorentino Group and of counsel to the law firm Rogers Towers – recently wrote an opinion piece for the Florida Times-Union on the issue of social justice.
Delaney touches on the current state of social justice in America and offers ten reform ideas.
“We need to go beyond talk to concrete action,” Delaney writes.
Delaney tailored his ideas for Jacksonville, where he served two terms as Mayor. His suggestions range from more openness in police-involved shootings to post-conviction jobs programs.
Delaney’s article complements a Times-Union piece from last week by Nat Glover, the former sheriff and president of Edward Waters College.
In a note to readers, the Times-Union calls Delaney and Glover “two of Jacksonville’s respected public servants.”
Shands No. 1
In the 2020-21 U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals survey, the University of Florida Health Shands hospital was named the top health center in the state, as well as one of the nation’s elite.
UF Shands placed nine medical specialties in the nation’s Top 50 — more than any other hospital in Florida — leading a majority of the 5,000 hospitals nationwide evaluated in the annual report.
“I am extremely proud of everyone in the UF Health family whose compassion, dedication and skill contribute to making UF Health Shands Hospital one of the best in the nation and No. 1 in Florida,” said David R. Nelson, M.D., senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health. “These rankings are one reflection of how our employees are entirely focused on giving their best every day to meet the needs of our patients.”
The nine top-ranked specialties are urology (ranked No. 17), ear, nose and throat (No. 25), cancer (No. 33), geriatrics (tied for No. 33), nephrology (No. 33), diabetes and endocrinology (No. 34), pulmonology and lung surgery (tied for No. 37), orthopaedics (tied for No. 45), and gastroenterology and GI surgery (No. 45).
The historic and community-favorite St. Johns River Ferry Service in Mayport got a big financial boost this month.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration awarded a $5.2 million grant for the ferryboat services that cross the river from Mayport to Fort George Island as an extension of State Road A1A in Northeast Florida. The award comes from the federal Passenger Ferry Grant Program.
The St. Johns River Ferry money is part of a more significant federal program providing $47.5 million to ferry services across the United States.
“This $47.5 million in federal funding will improve mobility and enhance safety for passenger ferry services across our nation,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
The Mayport ferry funding, which is being overseen by the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, will be used mainly to fund the upkeep and maintenance of the ferry vessel Jean Ribault. The U.S. Coast Guard requires the vessel to undergo an overhaul every two to three years.
“Passenger ferries are an important mode of transportation across the country, providing thousands of people with access to employment, education, and other critical needs,” said FTA Acting Administrator Jane Williams through the media release.
The St. Johns River Ferry Service has seen some rocky times in the past few decades. Jacksonville’s funding for the service was under consideration for an end several times. But public outcry and community activism thwarted any attempts to end funding and keep the service afloat.
The Mayport ferry saw its most successful year in 2019 when it transported an estimated 457,000 passengers and 257,000 vehicles, according to JTA records.
Military mom fashion
Pregnancy and child care issues are among the top reasons women military members leave the armed forces. A creative program to help them deal with being pregnant while serving may soon become law.
New Mexico Democrat Deb Haaland joined with St. Augustine Republican Michael Waltz to introduce the Rent the Camo: The Access to Maternity Wear Act, a program designed to issue maternity uniforms and maternity-related items at no cost. The program is designed after the popular Rent the Runway.
“As they’re trying to have a family, deal with deployments, they shouldn’t have to deal with these additional expenses, so I’m really proud to work with Rep. Haaland, and despite what you see on the news all the time, we can come together — we do come together — particularly when it comes to supporting our military,” Waltz said during a joint interview on CNN with Haaland.
The legislation requires the treatment of uniforms without the chemical permethrin, a clothing insecticide that sometimes causes a rash. It also calls for inspection, processing, repairing, and cleaning before any reissuance.
“Women deserve to have long successful careers in the military, but right now, the cost of paying for maternity clothes is another unfair barrier women have to overcome to pursue their careers,” Haaland said. “When I was growing up, my mother was forced out of the Navy because she was pregnant, and though times have changed, mothers are still being forced out of the military through more covert barriers.”
Both lawmakers are members of the House Armed Services Committee. The bill was included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and is likely to be part of the final bill once the House and Senate merge their separate versions of the legislation.
The Jaguars’ summer training camp opened this week as scheduled with nearly all healthy players arriving. Following approval of the safety protocol by the league and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), the stage was set to welcome the players as they point toward the season opener Sept. 13.
Also covered by the agreement are coaches, medical staff, equipment staff, and strength and conditioning staff. The season opener will be the first live game action by players following the canceling of preseason games by the league.
On the same day, the team also concluded negotiations with all of their drafted players on the same day as the protocols were announced. Among the final four signed from the 2020 draft class was the Jaguars’ second pick of the first round and 20th selection overall, linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson from LSU.
As the opening of camp approached, four rookie players reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. The team announced they placed the four on the reserve/COVID-19 list, a new category. Those players are third-round pick DaVon Hamilton, fourth-round selection Josiah Scott, undrafted cornerback Luq Barcoo, and undrafted lineman Tre’ Vour Wallace-Simms.
The Jaguars did not comment because they are not permitted to comment on a player’s placement on the list, while affected players may. Scott could not wait to comment once he learned he was a victim of a false positive and was subsequently cleared.
“My first test for COVID came back positive but then was retested multiple times the following days after that, and those results have all been negative,” Scott tweeted. “My first test was a false positive, guys, so we’re all good. Just had to do the protocol.”
With the rapid COVID-19 outbreak among the Miami Marlins, concern for athletes in all sports quickly escalated. Athletes and fans from around the country are hoping that turns out to be an isolated set of circumstances.
A Jacksonville Jaguars special teams player has been expanding his connections to the community and special needs students in recent months, even years.
Josh Lambo, who’s been a kicker with the Jags since the 2017 season, is laying deeper roots in the community lately with his volunteer work at the North Florida School of Special Education. Lambo has gone from reading stories to children who are students at the school to playing impromptu concerts with his band to playing some soccer with the kids. He’s also provided financial support to the school.
While the coronavirus pandemic has forced restrictions and social distancing, Lambo has remained connected to the school while providing reading exchanges with the students over internet conferences.
“He has a remarkable gift,” said Sally Hazelip, who is head of the school. “It is incredible to watch him engaging with our children so effortlessly, and authentically working to improve the lives of people in our community.”
Digging for more, Lambo has not just left his commitment to the school in the reading engagement. He’s also organized a “Reading and Riding” campaign for the students that enhances literacy skills and an appreciation for books.
While Lambo isn’t at the school helping those special students, he engages with his band and Daily’s Place digital concert series called Session 904. He’s also a dog lover and provides support for the Furever Urs Rescue — Fur Sisters, dog rescue program.