Win with Wiles
President Donald Trump may not get his second term, but that’s not because Florida Republicans didn’t come through.
Key among them: veteran political consultant Susie Wiles, who engaged with the Trump campaign during the stretch run that saw Trump defy most public polls and defeat Biden in Florida.
The outside money Washington Democrats and others, such as Mike Bloomberg, dropped into the state? It didn’t flip Florida.
Of course, Donald Trump doesn’t have myriad Susie Wiles; there’s just one.
In states that aren’t Florida, the President’s position is somewhat more perilous, with legal challenges and bluster representing the campaign’s end game.
Just as the President defied political gravity and polls in Florida, also beating the odds: Jacksonville Republicans.
Yes. Joe Biden won Duval County. But with a 40,000 vote advantage for Democrats, a four-point win has to be called underperformance.
While this is the second straight statewide election Duval has gone blue, and 2022 may be the third, the real test for the party is will they ever figure out a way to parlay their registration advantage into control of the levers of power in the city.
That question is one, perhaps, for 2023.
There was little doubt of the outcome in North Central Florida’s Senate District 5, where Jennifer Bradley was chosen by three of four voters in the ten-county canton.
Bradley, the wife of the most recent budget chair Rob Bradley, comes into the office understanding Tallahassee and its players, which would be the envy of most first-time electeds.
Bradley was backed by virtually every Tallahassee Republican power player, running in a deep red district with a base turnout machine at the top of the ticket.
The Democratic nominee, Melina Barrett, succumbed to cancer during the campaign. The party fielded a replacement candidate, Stacey Peters, but in a year where Democrats had a couple of targets, they clearly weren’t playing in North Central Florida.
When asked about her priorities, she gave some insight.
“Relaunching our economy is priority one. Not every sector of our economy was ravaged similarly by the coronavirus shutdown, and rebounding will require targeted solutions. Now is no time for our regulatory or tax structure to hold back the innovation of our small businesses as they navigate their way back. Part of this equation is also making sure that our schools remain safely open for our students, teachers and staff.”
Bradley isn’t the only rookie from Clay County. Rep. Sam Garrison won Tuesday night handily, and he will take the seat previously held by Rep. Travis Cummings.
When asked how he will proceed in 2021, he notes that as a “freshman legislator,” he intends to “listen, watch and learn.”
If he’s anything like Ol’ Trav, Garrison will be a quick study.
Hutson over Hunter
In yet another Republican hold in the region, Sen. Travis Hutson rode the red tsunami to a comfortable win over a young Democratic activist who likely has more campaigns ahead of her.
Hutson got over 61% of the vote against Democrat Heather Hunter, an outcome that was a function of party dynamics that perform Republican even as Hutson’s Senate District 7 grows.
The best county of the three for the incumbent was St. Johns, the home base for both candidates, where the Republican carried by a two-to-one margin. Hutson’s family are mainstays in the county and Hunter went to St. Augustine’s Flagler College.
“I am honored to be reelected as your State Senator. I look forward to continuing to serve St. Johns, Flagler and Volusia counties as we continue to make Florida the best place to live, work and play,” Hutson said on his Facebook in response to results Tuesday.
Hunter had somewhat more to say on Twitter.
“The outcome of this election was not unexpected. We knew how red the district was going in. I’m proud of the campaign I ran, and I’m not going to apologize for the policies I stood for. I don’t care if Travis calls me crazy. I know I was on the right side of the issues,” Hunter said, including “health care” and a “living wage.”
Byrd’s the word
Challengers keep coming for Rep. Cord Byrd, and 2020 saw the conservative lightning rod score a resounding win, carrying 68% of the vote in his reelection bid in House District 11.
Democrat Joshua Hicks got blown out in Nassau County, where roughly 70% of voters came out for Byrd.
The lawmaker, known for legislation banning “sanctuary city” style jurisdictions and helping to set up an E-Verify system, tweaked Hicks on Twitter, posting the results and saying “Not even close.”
For his part, Hicks found the bright side of a blowout loss.
“While the result tonight wasn’t what we hoped for, we ran a campaign District 11 has never seen before — endorsements from over 25 organizations and leaders, including Nikki Fried and Barack Obama. $105,000+ raised from over 1,700 donations made by real people, not PACs,” Hicks said.
“The voters have spoken and I respect their decision. However, I refuse to disappear and will continue to work to place our families and our First Coast community first in the future,” Hicks added.
Voters in House District 12 voted Tuesday to send Rep. Clay Yarborough back to Tallahassee for a third term, giving him a 20 point win over Democrat Emmanuel Blimie.
The latest victory continues a winning streak of note for Yarborough: he has won five contested general elections and at least two primaries.
He was also a two-term member of the Jacksonville City Council, the youngest elected to the Council ever, and he capped off that run with a year in the Council presidency.
A man of faith and humility, he offered a brief statement upon winning.
“Thanking our Lord Jesus for tonight’s victory. The prayers and hard work of many volunteers helped make tonight possible,” Yarborough said.
Those volunteers, as wife Jordan Yarborough’s tweet shows, include the representative’s growing family.
For us, campaigning and serving is a family affair. Thankful for our crew. @Clay_Yarborough #election2020 #HD12 #voteconservative pic.twitter.com/D8b5yfntPg
— Jordan Yarborough (@JL_Yarborough) October 31, 2020
Blimie won the primary in August over Spyros Chialtas, a party activist who wondered in retrospect “who [did] he lose to.”
Perhaps the most significant piece of down-ballot good news for Duval County Republicans was the House District 15 result.
Incumbent Rep. Wyman Duggan left no doubt in the outcome, winning his D+3 district by 8 points against Democrat Tammyette Thomas, a first-time candidate.
Thomas was a weak fundraiser, but the home stretch was a war.
Outside groups, most notably the free-spending Forward Majority, pumped money in. The group included HD 15 as a target, with ads targeting Duggan for backing an appointed Duval County School Board.
Duggan had a lot of support from the Republican Party of Florida.
The RPOF targeted Democrats and NPAs, especially White women, with mail to Ortega and Avondale spotlighting personal and financial issues the Democratic candidate has faced and television hitting the same themes.
In the end, attacks on Thomas hit harder than those on Duggan, with consultant Tim Baker dialed in on this district’s pulse.
But what will 2022 hold for HD 15 and Duggan?
Rep. Jason Fischer calls his political committee Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville, and among its solutions for Jacksonville is another Fischer term.
The now third-term legislator from Southside Jacksonville waltzed to a victory against scrappy Ben Marcus, a challenger. The latter said he wouldn’t take money from political committees and the like upon his launch.
Throughout the campaign, Marcus baited Fischer challenging him to debate and the like, but ultimately the incumbent did not have a forum with his challenger.
In defeat, Marcus said: “There remains significant work to be done here and across the state to deal with corruption and outsized influence bought by moneyed special interests. I will stay in this fight and continue to push for responsive, transparent government for all of us, not just a select few.”
Fischer, meanwhile, is headed to college.
The Electoral College that is.
Based on last night’s results, I am excited to announce I have been elected one of Florida's 29 Members of the #ElectoralCollege.
As the only Elector from #Jacksonville, I will cast one of Florida's 29 Electoral Votes for the President next month! 🇺🇸 #jaxpol #flapol pic.twitter.com/bfXgSk7fi8
— Rep. Jason Fischer (@JasonFischerFL) November 4, 2020
The Duval County Clerk of Courts race revealed the ugly truth: that even in a countywide election with a 40,000 vote head start, Democrats can’t get a nominee over the finish line.
Jody Phillips, the Republican and right-hand man of current clerk Ronnie Fussell, defeated Democrat Jimmy Midyette.
Midyette, who dared the Phillips campaign to “bring it on” and charged the aforementioned Tim Baker and Sam Mousa and Brian Hughes with trying to sell JEA, got slammed with personal attacks. And he said they made a difference.
“There is a toxic style of politics that unfortunately works. That’s what I couldn’t overcome last night. Mailboxes were flooded with dirty hate-mail. The airwaves were saturated with a nasty ad fact-checked as ‘mostly false.’”
Despite party registration advantages for Democrats, Republican base appeals work in Duval County. Democrats have yet to figure out an answer, even though the playbook has been the same since the 2015 mayoral campaign. Until they do, it’s still a Republican town when it counts.
Tax and spend
Efforts to institute ½ cent sales surtaxes to support bonded out school capital construction passed Tuesday in both Clay and Duval counties.
St. Johns County already passed one; in all three counties, the argument in part boiled down to people from neighboring counties helping to pay the school capital bill.
Duval’s push saw nearly $2 million raised between the two political committees on the effort. Clay’s was not nearly so pricey.
In the end, both passed with strong margins, 67% in Duval and 56% in Clay.
Interestingly, the Duval tax was intended by advocates of traditional public schools to be put on the ballot a year prior. Still, concerns by charter school interests killed the first push. Legislative changes to allow per-pupil cost-sharing for charter schools were allowed in 2020, paving the way for a successful referendum.
A new Bean has begun his political career.
Bradley Bean will follow his father, Sen. Aaron Bean, and his grandfather into service on the Fernandina Beach City Commission, reports the local News-Leader.
In his second run for office, the younger Bean won with 55% of the vote, which is likely the first of many victories for the Rayonier engineer.
Expect Bradley Bean to have a hyperlocal focus in his commission role. During the campaign, he noted that he was drawn to his first run for the commission seat two years prior by a developer eyeing a park he played at when he was young and a desire to protect that for future generations.
The developer ultimately won that round.
But for Bean, the issue catalyzed him into a “Fernandina First” approach to politics, proof positive (as if we needed more) that all politics is local.
The Jacksonville Port Authority (JAXPORT) kept steady container volumes and overall revenue during FY 2020, despite the coronavirus pandemic and its effect on the global economy.
More than 1.277 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) moved through JAXPORT in that period, down just 5% from 2019, a record year for container volumes at the port.
JAXPORT also moved nearly 547,500 total vehicles during the year, making it one of the nation’s busiest vehicle handling ports. An increase in U.S. military vehicle movements at the port helped offset the declines in commercial shipments due to the pandemic.
Despite COVID-19 challenges, the port’s revenue remained steady in FY 20, at more than $65.1 million, down only 7% for the year, fueled mainly by its business and trade diversification.
“We are extremely grateful to our customers for their partnership as we all continue to work together to adjust to the impact the pandemic has had on the global supply chain,” said JAXPORT CEO Eric Green. “Our employees, union workers, tenants, and port partners have all done a tremendous job keeping the goods we all depend on moving uninterrupted through JAXPORT during this time. Thanks to their dedication and hard work, we are able to end the year on a relatively high note considering the circumstances.”
In September, rating agency Moody’s Investors Service upheld JAXPORT’s ‘A2 Stable’ credit rating. “The port’s diverse business mix has helped temper” the impacts from COVID-19, Moody’s said in its decision. Fitch Ratings also affirmed its ‘A Stable’ rating on the port’s outstanding revenue bonds earlier in the year.