Jacksonville Bold for 5.19.21: Poll position

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A fresh Jacksonville poll offers insights, not excuses.

Poll position

Depending on when you ask, polling can elicit a wide range of reactions.

Some see polls as “a snapshot in time.” Others are more dismissive — “the only poll that matters is on Election Day.”

A new survey from the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab offers no excuses, but insights. Those include:

— Gas tax trouble: Polling shows why some are quickly demagoguing an increase of the local option gas tax from six to 12 cents a gallon. Forty-two percent back the expansion, while 58% of more than 1,200 registered voters polled oppose it, including 74% of Republicans.

— None of the above: It’s also interesting to see undeclared candidate Donna Deegan leading the field of 2023 Jacksonville mayoral hopefuls. Can Matt Carlucci keep his status as the top Republican? And Al Ferraro’s numbers (3%) can be another sign that 2023 is not his year. Jax Chamber CEO Daniel Davis, running a pre-campaign for Mayor, doubled Ferraro, buoyed by little more than earned media from the few reporters in town who care about the race so early.

One poll is giving Donna Deegan an early lead in the Jax Mayor’s race.

— Council collapse: For most incumbents, the survey brings good news. President Joe Biden, Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Mayor Lenny Curry were all above water, good enough for government work. Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried was also in decent shape, at least among the roughly half of voters who know who she is. But the Jacksonville City Council? At 34% approval against 43% disapproval, it looks like voters are ready to hit the red button.

Will this affect, at one point, the Councilmembers seeking the Mayor’s office?

Some will squawk at the methodology: this was an email poll of registered voters. For those advancing that argument: We are happy to review your internal polling to compare and contrast.

Clyburn’s pick

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson will serve as assistant Whip in the U.S. House. The announcement Monday by Congressional Democrats appears to be a nod to the North Florida region.

Lawson’s district, you may recall, was initially mapped out in 2016, carved from a Jacksonville-to-Orlando area that became one of the most vivid examples of gerrymandering in American history.

The Tallahassee Republican defeated indicted Corrine Brown, found guilty in a federal trial for financial fraud and related offenses. But an appellate court recently overturned the verdict, taking issue with the judge removing a dissident (“Holy Spirit”) juror.

Will Al Lawson whip it good for the Democrats?

Whatever happens to Florida’s sprawling 5th Congressional District, Lawson has a new platform with apparent significance should he be primaried.

“It is a privilege to welcome Rep. Al Lawson back as an assistant Whip during the 117th Congress,” said Majority Whip James Clyburn. “He is a valuable member of our Whip organization, and I look forward to continuing our work together to advance the Democratic agenda.”

“I am honored to receive this esteemed position and have the opportunity to create a lasting legislative impact for the residents of North Florida,” Rep. Lawson said. “Together, we can further mold and improve the quality of life for all Americans and ensure an equitable future for generations to come. I am thankful to Whip Clyburn’s leadership, and I am ready to work with my colleagues to move our nation forward.”

Clyburn, a South Carolina political giant, is not unknown to Jacksonville political watchers. He has been through Jacksonville on behalf of local and national candidates throughout the years, either stumping or doing roundtables, depending on the topic.

The Whip pick is yet another sign that House leadership likes Lawson. Recall that in 2018, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi came to town to campaign for him, as former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown was primarying Lawson. Ultimately, he was competitive in Jacksonville and dominated Brown west of I-295.

Waltzing Tiger

The Flagler Tiger Bay Club will host U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz as a guest speaker at its virtual meeting this month.

Hosting the event is the Young Tigers wing of the club and the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce. It will feature an address by the representative for Florida’s 6th Congressional District. The Republican lawmaker will discuss counterterrorism and defense policies as well as business aspects related to those issues. The event is online on May 25, starting at 2:45 p.m.

“I’m thrilled to have the honor to address residents who are passionate about elevating bipartisan civic duty in the community. It’s essential to engage our younger residents such as those in the Young Tigers club to fully understand how special our system of governance is and inspire national, public, and community service,” said Waltz, whose district runs along the Atlantic coast from South Jacksonville into Volusia County.

Michael Waltz to enter the Tiger’s Den. Image via Spectrum News 13.

The event will be live online, and those wishing to take part can preregister online.

“The level of commitment our Young Tigers have to civic engagement should serve as an example to us all. When a group of high schoolers take initiative, it’s our duty in the business community to provide opportunities. Having excelled across a variety of industries, Congressman Waltz is the perfect speaker for a group of bright and talented students,” said Walker Douglas, mentor and chair of the Flagler Tiger Bay Club’s Young Executives program.


Florida Politics’ Capitol correspondent Haley Brown caught up with Rep. Jason Fischer recently, and the Southside legislator explained why cybersecurity is so important to him.

“We live in a digital age where some hacker sitting in his boxers in a country that most people have never heard of can take down a major facility or shut down our roads. I mean, it’s kind of scary,” Fischer said.

Jason Fischer steps up his tech game for a Senate bid. Image via Colin Hackley.

The legislator shepherded a cybersecurity overhaul through the House this Session and had to use the personal touch.

“It’s tough to get them to really move on it, but if you make it personal, if you make it something that they can see, touch or feel, or something that they’ve been close to or experienced, then that tends to at least open them up.”

“I usually try to start out with the personal side of things and say, ‘has anyone ever hacked your Facebook?’” Fischer explained.

Read more here.

Pitched primary

The pregame show for what will be a pitched Democratic primary in Senate District 6 continues, with two established political players looking to replace termed-out Sen. Audrey Gibson.

In one corner, Rep. Tracie Davis has worked well with Gibson and the other Jacksonville Democrat in the Duval Delegation and has led increasingly as her seniority in the House has accrued. In the other corners is Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney, who worked well with Republican power brokers in this region particularly.

Reggie Gaffney will be formidable in the Senate race.

The Councilman and “Team Gaffney” will be increasingly visible between now and August 2022, and backed by the “Committee to Revive Florida,” there will be ample budget for political operations.

Gaffney’s decision (or announcement) should be in the coming weeks.

Rep. Davis, of course, has Special Session concerns this week. And she knows the perils that lie ahead in redistricting as well. She will be monitoring that process closely.

Supporters of Davis relish the conflict ahead with Gaffney.

“We’re going to kick his a–,” said one.

Some also wonder what a resurfacing former Rep. Brown, now without guilty verdicts hanging over her, could say about Gaffney, a former political associate. Time will tell.

We continue to follow this evolving situation.

2023 watch

Could a fourth (!!!) Republican be considering the 2023 mayoral race?

Who knows right now, but rumblings persist that City Councilwoman LeAnna Cumber may be interested.

Yet another mayoral candidate?

This would be Cumber’s first contested ballot: in 2019, well-capitalized, in a Republican district, and with the Curry machine behind her, opposition stood down.

Not so much for this battle royal in the making.

Cumber was on This Week in Jacksonville Sunday, slamming the proposed gas tax increase and noting the Jacksonville Chamber (home of CEO Daniel Davis) backed the proposal. The Chamber board issued a statement, but Davis has stayed out of this debate with anything approaching a personal position as of yet.

Like her Council colleagues Matt Carlucci and Al Ferraro, Cumber is compelled to take positions on these issues, and Carlucci is the only one of the three to back the play. Davis, staying out of the fray as the debate spirals, has the advantage here. And a $2 million head start in his political committee, as we keep telling you.

But Cumber and husband Husein Cumber both are proven national-level fundraisers. To think that they couldn’t make a mark, with LeAnna as the only woman in the field, is folly. If she is in, she will be a factor, and at more than the 3% in the UNF survey.

Save the date

One of the leading political figures of our age heads to Jacksonville later this year, with select tickets on sale Thursday. General admission tickets will be available Friday.

Stacey Abrams will be in Jacksonville on Nov. 9 for “an evening of candid conversation and insights on politics, leadership, entrepreneurship, social justice and being a true voice for change.

A conversation with Stacey Abrams is slated for November.

“Designed around worldwide and national events, as well as questions from the audience and community, this conversation with Stacey Abrams will entertain, inform, and empower,” the event page promises.

Abrams was last in Jacksonville during the 2020 Presidential campaign, where she made stops in town during the home stretch. She is widely credited with leading voter registration and mobilization drives that turned Georgia’s two U.S. Senate races for Democrats, tipping the balance in the upper chamber and giving President Joe Biden just enough leverage for some early wins.

Special recognition

GreenPointe Holdings founder Ed Burr is the recipient of a major humanitarian and philanthropic recognition from the largest charitable award programs in the homebuilding industry.

Burr, the Monique Burr Foundation for Children (MBF) board chair, received the 2021 Hearthstone BUILDER Humanitarian Award, a tribute to homebuilders who served a lifetime commitment to public service.

Since 1999, the BUILDER award has contributed more than $6 million to various charities.

Ed Burr gets a major philanthropic award.

GreenPointe Holdings is a diversified holding firm that brings together the specialties for developing residential and multiuse communities throughout the Southeastern United States.

Although April’s National Child Abuse Prevention Month just passed, the MBF works to protect children from abuse all year long. Donations and sponsorships support the Hearthstone BUILDER Humanitarian Award and 100% of donations go to the Hearthstone recipient’s nonprofit of choice.

This year, as the Private Builder Honoree, Burr chose MBF as his featured charity to accept contributions in his name.

Along with charitable donations, Hearthstone is also seeking sponsorships. All sponsorships and donations are 100% tax-deductible and must be sent by June 10 to the Hearthstone Foundation to recognize Edward E. Burr.

For more about sponsorship benefits, the Hearthstone award, and how you can support this award and MBF online.

Interested parties can make donations online. When making your donation to the Hearthstone Foundation, please be sure to note Ed Burr as your donation honoree in the comments section.

Cultural Council grant

The Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville is getting a fresh infusion of federal funding to help local cultural projects.

The National Endowment for the Arts has approved $20,000 for the Cultural Council on the First Coast. The funding approved this month will go toward funding a grant-making program in the Jacksonville area.

The funding earmark for Jacksonville is part of a larger national program that will help pay for an estimated 1,100 projects across the nation. The national funding program amounts to $27 million.

Diana Donovan, executive director of the Cultural Council, said the NEA funding comes as cultural projects are starting to ramp up again as the Coronavirus pandemic begins to wane.

Diana Donovan celebrates a new infusion of federal dollars, image via The Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville.

“It is an honor for the Cultural Council to have been selected for one of the NEA’s competitive grant awards,” Donovan said. “The award will enable the Cultural Council to extend its reach into the community more broadly by serving additional organizations and constituencies.”

While the Cultural Council is headquartered in Jacksonville, the federal funding will be used to assist cultural projects and nonprofit organizations throughout the First Coast, including Clay, Nassau, St. Johns and Baker counties, in addition to Duval County for programs for military veterans and senior citizens.

The grant application process and guidelines for the NEA funding on the First Coast will be established later this year.

Moving on up

Jacksonville Business Journal is recognizing Mark Pinto of The Fiorentino Group as one of its latest list of “40 Under 40” rising stars.

Serving as a partner in one of the largest lobbying firms in the state, Pinto concentrates on the state lawmaking and appropriations processes, as well as media relations, corporate communications, grassroots campaigning, and political fundraising.

Major props to Mark Pinto from The Fiorentino Group.

Among Pinot’s specialties: health care, gaming, medical marijuana, education, economic development, and professional sports leagues. He is a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College, Virginia.

Congratulations from Jacksonville Bold!

Virtual job fair

St. Johns County sees signs employers are looking to hire more workers as the COVID-19 outbreak recedes with a “virtual job fair” set for Thursday.

The St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce and CareerSource of Northeast Florida are organizing the job fair conducted online Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Hundreds of jobs are up for the filling during the job fair that can be joined by going online here.

There are already more than 40 companies with positions in St. Johns County that will be reviewing potential applicants during the event. The first hour is dedicated to high school seniors, and then the remaining two hours are open to all applicants.

Isabelle Renault wants to give St. Johns jobseekers ‘room to explore.’ Image via YouTube.

“Upon logging in, job seekers will find many options, for example, entering a St. Johns County ‘Room’ to explore opportunities,” said Isabelle Renault, president of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce. “Job seekers will also be able to access virtual booths and directly knock at the doors of the companies.”

Employers with businesses seeking to hire can monitor the online activity while at their offices, and there will be online alerts for any potential workers seeking interviews.

Additional information about the event (or to become a member) can be found at the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce website, call 904.829.5681, or visit the Facebook page.

Familiar faces

A couple of familiar faces could return soon to the St. Johns River Water Management District Governing Board.

DeSantis appointed two members to return to the board that oversees operational policies for the St. Johns River Water Management District. The agency sets up environmental regulations and water supply stipulations for most of Northeast Florida. It covers some 18 counties stretching from the Space Coast through the First Coast, and its boundaries run west into Central Florida.

The Governor tapped Douglas Burnett and Ryan Attwood to return to the panel.

Burnett, first appointed to the board in 2013, would be returning to the panel as he is the current chair of the district. But the seats are for only four-year terms each, and DeSantis wants to see Burnett return.

Douglas Burnett and Ryan Atwood are familiar faces returning to the St. Johns River Water Management District Governing Board,

Burnet is from St. Augustine and is a retired major general in the Florida National Guard and the U.S. Air Force. The Jacksonville native also serves on the board of trustees for the University of North Florida and previously served on the Florida State College at Jacksonville board of trustees.

Atwood is a general member of the board. He’s from Mount Dora and is a farmer at Atwood Family Farms, and is the owner of H&A Farms. Atwood is also a member of the Florida Blueberry Growers Association, Lake County Farm Bureau and the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association.

St. Johns River Water Management District board seats are subject to a confirmation vote by the Florida Senate.

Staff Reports


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