Jacksonville Bold for 8.11.21 — Is that all there is?

Empty piggy bank lay on dark black table with coins using as broke or personal finance problem crisis
Was Peggy Lee singing about the 2023 election cycle? Doubtful, but it fits.

Is that all there is? 

Decades back, Peggy Lee sang the question in a definitive version of this anthem.

The odds are fairly good that Lee wasn’t thinking about campaign finance for Jacksonville’s 2023 election cycle. However, the question still applies after the ho-hum July fundraising in the mayoral and sheriff’s races.

Overall, the leading fundraiser still isn’t an official candidate, yet he took the month off from working donors. Jacksonville Chamber CEO Daniel Davis raised no money for his “Building a Better Economy” political committee, backing a future mayoral bid.

Was Peggy Lee singing about the 2023 election cycle? Doubtful, but it fits.

However, Davis’ committee has $2.41 million in the bank, so not much urgency — especially given that the rest of the field couldn’t do much with the reprieve.

The political committee of another pre-candidate, Democrat Donna Deegan, struggled to hit six figures in its launch, with just over $113,000 from 430 mostly small-dollar contributions. They will either need more contributors or more buy-in from those who have written checks in the long run.

Deegan at least can point to some momentum. The candidates who filed can’t do that.

Republican Council members Matt Carlucci and Al Ferraro floundered in July.

Carlucci raised $15,500 to the state-level “Next Generation Jax,” but with $11,000 from his business, that means he brought in just $4,500 to the account. But he did get the total raised to the $600,000 mark, at least.

He added another $8,525 to his campaign account in July, his worst month of fundraising since launching at the beginning of the year. He’s raised just over $252,000 in hard money and has roughly $235,000 to deploy, as Carlucci continues to struggle after personnel changes in both official and campaign staff this year.

Ferraro can’t blame personnel changes, meanwhile. His fundraising is a function of a candidate without appeal to donors despite over half a decade in City Hall. He raised just over $1,600 in hard money, which brings his total over $45,000. He also has $116,000 in his local-level “Keep it Real Jax” political committee.

The Sheriff’s race likewise lacked drama. Democrat Lakesha Burton has close to half a million dollars on hand between hard money and her political committee, despite raising roughly $15,000 in July. Democratic opponent Wayne Clark launched with just over $6,000, which doesn’t bode well for actual viability. Republican Mat Nemeth has filed, and we can expect others to take a shot also. This campaign will get crowded and messy, and we will watch Nemeth’s first month intently.

The money is out there, though. Republican Chris Miller launched his at-large City Council race with over $57,000 in donations. He is up against a Democrat, Brenda Priestly Jackson, who is on the Council representing District 10. With just $550 raised so far, she may feel a sense of urgency after July reports.

Rubio riled

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is showing renewed interest (again) in Jacksonville HUD properties, just as he did during the Barack Obama administration.

Marco Rubio shows a renewed interest in Jacksonville (again). Image via AP.

He wrote HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge Tuesday urging the relocation of Hilltop Village residents who are dealing with deteriorated living conditions in every possible way.

“It is unacceptable that residents at Hilltop Village Apartments continue to live under unsafe and unsanitary conditions, including the severe rodent infestation and ongoing violent crime. As such, I further request that directly affected tenants be safely relocated, that a follow-up REAC inspection take place to ensure that the rodent infestation has been completely resolved and that inhabited units are decent, safe, and sanitary” Rubio wrote.

The Senator noted that the complex somehow passed HUD metrics, writing “while the structural integrity of the property was compliant with federal standards, the inhabited units received shockingly low scores with significant health and safety deductions due to the widespread presence of insect and rodent infestations, chronic mold, broken appliances and general disrepair of units.”

“In spite of these conditions, the property is considered narrowly passing. These results bring into question whether the current inspection scoring methodology is sufficient at ensuring that tenants are provided with decent, safe and sanitary housing.”

Rubio’s letter follows a letter last week, joined by Sen. Rick Scott and Mayor Lenny Curry urging the disqualification of the owner of two other troubled complexes, and to prevent him from owning HUD properties.


Clay County readers (and those from elsewhere in Florida’s 3rd Congressional District) have an opportunity to connect with U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack next week.

Kat Cammack reaches out to Clay County voters.

The youngest Republican woman in the House will have a telephonic town hall Tuesday, Aug. 17. The call kicks off at 6:30 p.m.

While Republicans face criticism for not having town halls in recent years, Cammack (and her former boss and immediate predecessor, former U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho) both have had them.

Lawmakers drew Cammack’s district to perform Republican. She looks likely to face Gainesville Democrat Danielle Hawk in the General Election.

Mask up?

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried joined Duval County student Lila Hartley on a Zoom call Monday. Hartley wrote the school board asking for a mask mandate.

Lila Hartley is calling for a mask mandate in Duval County schools.

Hartley advocated for a mask mandate in schools, ahead of the 5-2 vote by the Duval County School Board to require masks but allow people to opt out formally.

Hartley said she didn’t want kids who couldn’t get vaccinated to get sick at school.

She noted peer pressure “definitely” existed not to wear masks.

“Masks help us be safe, everyone, vaccinated and unvaccinated,” she said, from “this virus that is just so terrible.”

Hartley’s friends have gotten sick from the virus, many of them younger than 12 and therefore unable to get vaccinated. So far, no serious consequences, she said.

Fried does not support a statewide mask mandate but does back “local control” on these matters, she said on the call.

Three’s a crowd

In July, fundraising was tepid for all three candidates vying for Sen. Aaron Bean’s Senate District 4 seat in next year’s GOP primary. Probably because the race was effectively over

After the Senate leadership announced their endorsement, Reps. Cord Byrd and Jason Fischer followed suit Tuesday by endorsing Clay Yarborough.

It’s all on Clay Yarborough now. Image via Colin Hackley.

Yarborough has roughly $450,000 banked and nothing standing in his way as he pursues the Senate seat, and he has been a political lifer: eight years on Jacksonville City Council, soon to be six in the House, and a steady hand who has grown up, as a person and as a leader, while in office.

For Fischer and Byrd, other campaigns certainly await. For Senate President Wilton Simpson and his successor, Kathless Passidomo, this was a clean resolution that saw little in the way of oppo pushed against any candidate. And it was all wrapped up before legislative committee weeks — a big win.

Garrison’s haul

A legislator from Fleming Island, in line to be House Speaker in a few years, Rep. Sam Garrison continues to be a strong fundraiser, including in a July where several players took some time off.

Sam Garrison’s fundraising stays strong. Image via Facebook.

Between his “Honest Leadership” political committee and his campaign account, the Republican from House District 18 reported more than $52,000 last month raised, even though the money went out the door.

While $44,000 was brought in, over $52,000 went out of the committee account, with $35,000 of it going to the Republican Party of Florida and another $5,000 to “First Coast Conservatives,” a political committee associated with Garrison’s predecessor in the seat, Travis Cummings. “Honest Leadership” has roughly $285,000 on hand.

In July, Garrison added $8,500 to his campaign account; that account has nearly $33,000 on hand.

Democrat Cornelius Jones has also filed to run. As of this writing, he had roughly $800 on hand.

Sophomore slump

It’s been a slow start for state House candidate Lori Hershey, who finds fundraising elusive in her HD 16 primary bid.

Hershey, running as a Republican, raised just $7,625 in July, with $2,000 of that from members of the Hershey family. She is a sitting Duval County School Board member and was one of just two votes not to have an “opt-out” replacement to what Gov. Ron DeSantis once presented as a ban on mask mandates.

Slow start for veteran politician Lori Hershey, looking to move up. Image via WJCT.

Hershey is up against Adam Brandon, a Rogers Towers lawyer who has recently moved to the district but continues to be the fundraising leader. Brandon had a quiet month also, raising about $4,000, with checks from Clerk of Court Jody Phillips and John Delaney. Brandon has just over $100,000 on hand.

While his July fundraising numbers were unremarkable, Brandon did add another endorsement to his quiver. Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams joins Curry, Rep. Wyman Duggan, Phillips and a quartet of Councilmembers in backing Brandon for the seat.

On the mend

Property Appraiser Jerry Holland is among the growing cadre of Duval County politicos who can credit themselves with battling COVID-19. Last weekend, it was revealed that he and his wife were hospitalized.

Jerry Holland got sick just doing his job.

But the healing is underway.

Holland believes he caught the virus while in a subordinate’s office, which he tells WOKV is an “incubator” for the virus. Holland was unvaccinated, citing a small circle of friends he and his wife associated with in-person during the pandemic.

At this writing, Mrs. Holland is still recovering at Mayo Clinic.

Mayo had to go into surge mode roughly a week ago, capacity crunched by virus demands, Yet as the Hollands’ example shows, they are saving lives.

Holland won reelection in 2019 and is termed out in 2023. Republican City Councilman Danny Becton, termed out also in 2023, is his favored successor.

Get vaxxed

After more than a year into COVID-19, Flagler Health+ President and CEO Jason Barrett shares his thoughts on the current chapter of the pandemic.

In a video released this week, Barrett reflects on the experiences of Flagler Health+ during the nearly 16 months since saving the life of the first patient and eight months after administering the first vaccine.

Barrett also implores everyone who can get vaccinated:

“We continue to see firsthand the effect of the COVID-19 virus on our patients, our staff, and our overall health care system every day. Health care is a personal choice.

“But I implore you, if you are concerned over the unknown long-term impacts of taking the vaccine and its possible side effects, talk with your doctor about it.

“I am asking you to try and gain the comfort level you need to get this lifesaving vaccine. I am asking you to protect yourself.

“I am also asking you to do this for you and for our team members who are weary … for our patients who are sick … for our neighbors who are frightened … and for our families who need us.”

To watch the video, click on the image below:

Culture club

St. Johns County kicks off the school year next week, and the First Coast Cultural Center plans to launch its lineup of services the day kids head back to class.

The nonprofit (formerly known as The Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach) provides opportunities for adults, children and families through classes, exhibits, programs, services, activities, and memberships open to the local community.

First Coast Cultural Center is the place for kids to create, understand, and experience the arts.

On tap for the upcoming academic year is the return of Sound Connections® Music Therapy, a program that has catered to students with special needs. Since it debuted 16 years ago, it has expanded to six St. Johns County schools, including two Title 1 schools, thanks to support from the Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund and The Community Foundation of Northeast Florida.

Sound Connections sessions begin Aug. 16; provided at no charge to schools and parents. Private sessions are available, too, with more info on booking available online.

On Aug. 30, the First Coast Cultural Center will also begin its second year of Kick START, an after-school art enrichment program growing from two schools to eight. It’s also available online.

Kick START follows the organization’s mission to bring art into young people’s lives and establish student learning relationships and communications with professional art teachers.

Rookie of the Year

Know an all-star rookie teacher? INK! and The Tutoring Club of St. Johns want to hear about them.

The two organizations are prepping for the annualMake a Mark” awards, set to launch in September and run through the end of the 2021-22 school year.

Short for Investing in Kids, INK! will highlight “Rookie of the Year” nominees over the next 10 months through in-person and online platforms, including LinkedIn and Facebook. A Tutoring Tuesday video feature will also be shown on social media. Winning teachers will receive a gift basket of school-related items and a free learning assessment plan for a student.

The Tutoring Club of St. Johns seeks to honor the best and brightest new teachers.

The honorees come from a pool of nominations sent in by students, parents, colleagues, friends or community business partners. An application form is available online. All that’s needed is the teacher’s name, the school they work at, the grade they teach, and a brief explainer on how they’ve made a mark on their students.

The only rule: nominees must have taught in the local school system for three years or less.

“When a teacher invests in their students, they can inspire young people to persevere and not give up. We look forward to participating in the selection process for each teacher,” said Kimberly Mullins, owner of the St. Johns County tutoring and learning center.

INK! executive director Donna Lueders added, “Our local educators work so hard to ensure their students’ success. However, many children need additional, customized instruction. We appreciate the Tutoring Club of St. Johns for this wonderful opportunity.”

Puck drop?

Curry wants major league hockey in Jacksonville.

The Mayor blogged about this previously quiet yearning Monday, saying the way to get there would be to show support for the Icemen and prove Jacksonville can handle the attendance demands.

Can the Icemen prove Jacksonville is a major league hockey city? Image via Jacksonville Iceman.

“A few weeks ago, I met with Icemen CEO Andy Kaufmann. After discussing a variety of topics, the conversation turned to what it would take to bring a National Hockey League (NHL) franchise here to Jacksonville. The answer is to build even further on the great momentum we have, to increase awareness, and to boost attendance to 8,000 to 9,000 tickets per game,” Curry wrote.

“Securing an NHL franchise is a lofty goal, but I believe it is achievable and will result in a great return on investment for our community. Having an NHL team in Jacksonville will create more activity, generate more economic opportunities, bring in more visitors, and further enhance our growing reputation as a premier destination for sports and entertainment.”

Jacksonville’s history is full of pushes to get new sports franchises. Former Mayor Alvin Brown wanted an NBA team. We will see what happens here, of course, but don’t expect NHL hockey (beyond a preseason game, perhaps) before the next Mayor takes over.

Not that Curry won’t try to make it happen.

Staff Reports


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