Jacksonville Bold for 7.14.21 — Too many Republicans

circus elephant
The Jacksonville Mayor's race is a little lopsided in favor of the GOP.

Too many Republicans

Fundraising this month for the 2023 Jacksonville mayoral race has been like most months.

Pre-candidate Daniel Davis raised another $150,000+ in June to his political committee, more than twice as much as what Councilman Matt Carlucci raised. And Al Ferraro? Well, how does a $300 fundraising month sound?

2023 was feeling close to being over before it even began.

However, in recent days, there’s an indication of what could be a competitive contest: Democrat Donna Deegan and her Donna for Duval political committee.

Deegan, like Davis, won’t commit and say they are running for Mayor. But they are both betting on demonstrating the ability to run a legit political operation with strong committee fundraising translates into a solid official launch.

Carlucci and Ferraro? They aren’t in strong positions, but that doesn’t matter so much. The list of candidates that ran with relatively few resources and still got 10 to 20% citywide is long. And Carlucci isn’t broke: he has roughly $800,000 available. Which is to say there is no reason for either of them not to stick around. That creates a problem for Davis, ensuring there is no way for him to win in March.

The Duval Republican Party launched a clumsy attack on Deegan once she launched her committee and expected all kinds of attacks to come. There are Republicans who seem to detest her personally.

But here’s the reality. Democrats represent a plurality in this city right now, with a 40,000 raw vote advantage over Republicans. And Deegan could be the only Democrat in the race, assuming Republicans don’t find a spoiler Democrat to run to confuse voters.

Republicans have to keep her below 50% in the March First Election. And they have to find a way to keep Davis strong because Carlucci and Ferraro won’t be able to match Deegan’s fundraising and will be expected to fall in line and endorse in the end. But there is a long way to go before all that, and a lot can be said and done.

Donna Deegan is a serious candidate. And Republicans have a serious problem. They have too many mayoral candidates. Let’s see how the consultants handle it.

Rural delivery

Gov. Ron DeSantis began his week in Green Cove Springs to announce the Clay County seat as one of the recipients of $29 million in state money for rural communities via the Florida Small Cities Community Block Grant Program.

Ron DeSantis puts up big funds for rural improvements.

The Governor, surrounded by local and state politicians, including Clay Sheriff Michelle Cook, Sen. Jennifer Bradley and Reps. Sam Garrison and Bobby Payne noted that the region always punched “above its weight” when securing projects and producing political talent.

DeSantis was relaxed, convivial, even happy, talking about what the area means to his family.

More than once, DeSantis talked about his kids’ love for the Clay County Fair and explaining to them that the fair wasn’t always going on. But he vowed that, despite flux in his schedule, his family would be back again this year at some point.

Green Cove will get $700,000 to replace a half-century-old stormwater pipe and the sidewalk, curb, asphalt, and landscape on West Street. Additionally, Highland Avenue and Center Street will get sidewalks, and Vera Francis Hall Park will receive new picnic tables and benches.

But the major takeaway is a reminder that Northeast Florida ultimately is this Governor’s home base.

SD 4 scramble

The fundraising continued in June in the Senate District 4 GOP primary, with the race becoming slightly closer but with much more ground to make up for those behind in cash on hand.

In the race to succeed Sen. Aaron Bean in Senate District 4, Rep. Jason Fischer maintained a cash lead, but Reps. Clay Yarborough and Cord Byrd made up ground in June.

Interesting movements in the SD4 money race.

Fischer, who represents House District 16 in the Mandarin area, reported $11,750 in new money to his campaign account, pushing his total cash on hand to nearly $113,000.

He also reported $10,000 more raised to his Friends of Jason Fischer political committee, which now has just over $783,000 on hand.

Fischer also reported $2,500 of new money to his Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville political committee. That account has just over $60,000 on hand. All told, Fischer has roughly $966,000 to deploy.

But the opposition is not giving up, with legitimate efforts in June from Yarborough and Byrd.

Read more here.

Sure shot

In remarks Monday, Palm Coast Republican Rep. Paul Renner advocated vaccinations and gave props to DeSantis’ pandemic performance.

Paul Renner praises Ron DeSantis while wondering why some people are still not vaccinated.

Renner, outlining the 2022 House campaigns strategy, also found time to talk about the 2019 coronavirus variant.

Concerning COVID-19: “I think it’s important for people to continue that — If you haven’t been vaccinated already, I would want to know why. There’s certainly plenty of vaccine available, and I think we need to continue to go on the course we’ve gone on. I think we had a successful vaccination program here in Florida. And so we are going to have to deal with COVID as we’ve dealt with other things that have come to this country in the past and do so smartly. But what we learned in Florida is you can do both.”

Renner continued to say why he opposed shutdowns.

“The idea that if there’s any presence of COVID that we’ve got to shut things down again is just not a path that I would want to see us take, and I don’t think most Floridians do. But it also doesn’t mean you ignore it. And so I think what we demonstrated during the height of COVID is that you can keep the economy open, you can keep people’s lives going and keep children learning and still be smart about not gathering in crowds or continuing to test as needed, doing the things that are necessary.

“And I think we’ve all learned to wash our hands and not touch our face, and practice the kind of good habits that are good habits with or without code. They’re good habits to avoid the flu, and they’re good habits to avoid the next virus that may come to our shores. And so we need to continue doing that and continue monitoring it. But I don’t think the right course of action is to go back into lockdown mode. But to simply realize that, you know, we’re not done until we’re done, and continue to balance the two things that we have to balance, which is fighting a pandemic and continuing to live and continuing to keep our economy and our lives going in the process,” Renner added.

Renner noted the Governor’s position, making tough calls despite what he called “inflammatory rhetoric.”

“Gov. DeSantis, in my mind, has made the right calls consistently throughout this process, and I’m sure he will continue to do so going forward. But, you know, he got a lot of heat and a lot of people using a lot of very inflammatory rhetoric to suggest that, you know, deaths would be his responsibility. He made the right calls, and you saw how our nursing homes fared compared to states like New York, who were seemingly being given a lot of kudos for their handling of COVID,” Renner said.

“As the dust settled, we saw that Gov. DeSantis made the right calls. I am confident he’ll continue to do that. We’ll continue to work with him on that issue. And again, as I said, you got to balance both. And they’re both important. And we’ll move forward as we have in the past, making common-sense decisions on all of these questions.”

Davis dazzles

Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce CEO Daniel Davis has not filed as a Jacksonville Mayor candidate, but his political committee’s $2.4 million war chest serves as a warning for potential opponents.

Davis reactivated his state-level Building a Better Economy political committee earlier this year; June’s $147,800 haul was another reminder that the former Jacksonville City Council President and state legislator will be the best-financed Republican candidate in Duval County’s 2023 municipal elections.

Can Daniel Davis keep up the momentum?

Davis’ donors read like a Rolodex of statewide influence.

Former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, the Gunster PAC, and the Watchdog PAC historically associated with Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran were among the recognizable donors, with Watchdog pouring in $25,000 in June.

Jacksonville City Councilman Matt Carlucci has roughly $800,000 banked, meanwhile, and again he didn’t match Davis’ committee in June … despite $50,000 from Wayne Weaver. And Al Ferraro? He raised $300 in hard money in June, which simply won’t get it done.

What we’re watching: Donna for Duval. Democrat Deegan’s political committee will report July fundraising next month. What will the launch number be?

Strong start

Jacksonville City Council candidate Morgan Roberts, running in At Large Group 4, launched her campaign and had a strong campaign finance report.

Morgan Roberts starts off strong. Image via Morgan Roberts.

Roberts, a River Road resident who owns her own design business, raked in over $51,000 in her first month as a filed candidate, and the money came from major players.

From Conventus, the lobbying firm of Sam Mousa and Tim Baker, to LeeAnn Rummell, Andy Allen, and real estate developer Andy Allen, Roberts has the kind of early support that suggests she will command the establishment lane in the race.

Roberts is running to fill the seat of Republican Matt Carlucci, who is running for Mayor in 2023. Tim Baker will be one of the consultants on her campaign.

Burton banks

Democrat Lakesha Burton continued in June to take advantage of being the only candidate in the race for Jacksonville Sheriff, with her best month of campaign account fundraising yet.

Lakesha Burton has the Sheriff’s race all to herself, for now. Image via WJCT.

Burton raised $37,995 to her campaign account from 108 contributions. That account now has roughly $45,000 on hand. Her burn rate is notable: the candidate spent nearly $24,000 with consultants in June, with John Daigle invoicing most of it.

Burton drew support from Republicans and Democrats, and many of them did not max out, suggesting that they could be driven to donate again, perhaps.

Republicans don’t seem able to find a candidate. Mike Bruno had explored a run, but he decided not to go forward.

Board bound

According to an announcement from the Governor’s Office, the Florida State College at Jacksonville District Board of Trustees is getting a new member and keeping two others on for another term. The new blood is Dr. Andrew Shaw, a Jacksonville resident who practices as a neurosurgeon with Lyerly Neurosurgery at Baptist Health. Shaw has also worked at Ocala Health Neurosurgery and the Ohio State University Medical Center, the teaching hospital tied to his alma mater.

The appointment of the Buckeye alum was announced Monday alongside reappointments for Michael Bell and Wayne Young, who currently serve as vice chairs on the board representing Nassau County and Duval County, respectively.

Andrew Shaw brings some new blood to the Florida State College at Jacksonville District board.

Bell was originally named to the board in 2017 by then-Gov. Rick Scott and was elected vice-chair for Nassau County in August 2019. Outside of his FSCJ duties, he works as the VP of public affairs for Rayonier, a major timber company headquartered in Yulee. The University of Maryland graduate is also a past president of the Florida Forestry Association and past chair of the Nassau County Economic Development Council.

Young is another Scott appointee getting a re-up from DeSantis. The Jax native graduated from Annapolis and is a U.S. Navy veteran whose service saw him command two naval warships and complete a tour of duty at the Pentagon. He eventually traded the bridge for the C-suite, becoming the VP of environmental services at JEA.

The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Tools 4 Schools

INK! is bringing back its annual school supply drive next month.

Known as Tools 4 Schools, the tradition sees INK! — the short-form name for the St. Johns County Education Foundation — encourage local residents and businesses to sponsor drop-off points and chip in school supplies at the height of the back-to-school season.

INK! executive director Donna Lueders said teachers at St. Johns County Schools spend on average $800 a year helping students get the supplies they need to succeed in the classroom.

Donna Lueders wants to help pick up the tab for teachers buying school supplies. image via INK!

Tools 4 Schools, which officially launches Aug. 16, is INK!’s way of relieving some financial burdens. In 2021, the organization has set a goal of helping 710 teachers in the county school system.

Rather than front-load classrooms with a palate of supplies, Tools 4 Schools provides a consistent feed of school supplies from The Bailey Group Resource Depot. Teachers can place orders from the first through the 10th of each month, and INK! drops off supplies.

For more information on Tools 4 Schools, contact Allyson Breger via (904) 547-7130 or [email protected].

Virtual school nurse

Flagler Health+ is partnering with the St. Johns County School District on an innovative project to provide local students with virtual health care support beyond the classroom.

The Community Partnership Schools models at The Webster School and South Woods Elementary is a collaborative effort between Children’s Home Society of Florida, Flagler Health+, St. Johns County School District and St. Johns River State College, allowing students to access timely, convenient health and wellness services at a telehealth kiosk in each school.

Flagler Health+ supplies the kiosks.

Flagler Health+ kiosks will help support student wellness with on-demand health care. Image via Jacksonville Daily Record.

This week, officials cut ceremonial ribbons at both The Webster School and South Woods Elementary to welcome students. At the ceremonies were Flagler Health+ President and CEO Jason Barrett and Kyle Dresbeck, Associate Superintendent for Student Support Services for the St. Johns County School District.

A call to a parent from a school nurse typically requires the child to be picked up from school, taken home, and scheduling an appointment with a physician — that is, if the family has insurance and the ability to attend the appointment.

These health care providers can now address urgent needs — free of charge — through a visit to the Flagler Health+ Wellness Kiosk, saving time to get children feeling better, faster.

Weather report

The nation’s oldest city has a new tool just in time for this year’s hurricane season.

St. Augustine has installed a new WeatherSTEM station, funded by the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

“This station, located at the St. Augustine Municipal Marina, will serve as a real-time weather information source, beginning with the 2021 hurricane season,” the city announced in a media release this week.

Marina to take a new role in meteorology.

The station will join an extant network, which assists in storm forecasting.

“From a public safety perspective, WeatherSTEM is an excellent resource that we can use to make data-informed decisions,” said Fire Chief Carlos Aviles. “It will help us evaluate when sustained winds and wind gusts, as well as ocean tides, are picking up beyond a manageable level.”

“St. Johns County Emergency Management uses WeatherSTEM for several different purposes,” added Kelly Wilson, St. Johns County Emergency Management deputy director. “On a daily basis, our numerous WeatherSTEM stations throughout the County help us maintain situational awareness on the current conditions.”

SEA worthy

The Leadership St. Johns 2021 Class is taking the SEA Community Help Resource Center under its wing.

SEA, founded in 2013, is a nonprofit that regularly provides food, clothes, books, toys, school supplies, and even computers to needy residents in the Elkton area a few miles down the road from St. Augustine.

The charity wants to achieve more. The group bought a rundown cement block building on Armstrong Road four years ago with plans to turn it into a full-fledged community center and public rest station along the renowned Palatka-to-St. Augustine State Trail.

From food to laptops to training new leaders, SEA Community Help Resource Center gives aid to needy Elkton residents.

The two-dozen professionals enrolled in the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce’s leadership program want to help SEA move forward on the project, and they have some concrete plans — literally — to get it done.

The LSJ Class of 2021 is gearing up to pour a new 30-by-30-foot concrete slab and screen enclosure on the property outfitted with fans and lighting to protect the food and residents from pests and ne’er-do-wells.

They also put out the call for donations to help SEA hit its short- and long-term goals.

Money works, but construction expertise and raw materials are the top needs. Specifically, LSJ is seeking contributions in the form of construction services, concrete, screen enclosures, patio and picnic tables, outdoor fans, lighting, gardening, landscaping, perishable and nonperishable items, along with in-kind services.

With a bit of help, LSJ believes the community can help SEA make a lasting, generational impact in St. Johns.

Staff Reports


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