Jacksonville Bold for 9.22.21 — Renner time
Image via Colin Hackley.

A Northeast Florida lawmaker inches closer to becoming House Speaker.

Renner time

One of Jacksonville’s own (or close enough for government work) moved one step closer to becoming Speaker of the Florida House.

On Tuesday morning, Rep. Paul Renner, the Jacksonville lawyer and Palm Coast legislator, is officially Speaker-Designate.

It’s Paul Renner’s moment. Image via Colin Hackley.

Last decade, Renner lost a race on the Westside of Jacksonville by just two votes to former Rep. Jay Fant. Fant has long since left the House. Renner, displaced by a rounding error in a partisan primary, found greener political pastures a couple of counties south soon after that.

And our prediction? That despite Renner being a Palm Coast legislator, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry will be in a position to get state help with at least a few so-called Sprinkle List atop his legacy sundae as he eyes his 2023 exit from City Hall.

However, future projects were not top of mind in the House Chamber Tuesday, where they celebrated Renner before his ascension to one of the prime positions in state government.

Nominating Renner, Daytona Beach Rep. Tom Leek said Renner “was perhaps the most genuine person I had ever met in my life, inside or outside this Process.”

“You want someone who will reward character, effort and ability. That person is Paul Renner,” Leek continued, lauding Renner’s generosity at great length.

Rep. Bobby Payne of Putnam County’s HD 19, an adjacent district to Renner’s own, continued the kind words.

“Paul Renner’s not someone of large stature,” Payne said. “But he’s a giant when it comes to virtues and values,”

“We became instant friends,” Payne related. And “incredible housemates” in Tallahassee as well. “He understands his mission in life as a servant leader,” said Payne, who made a habit of praying with Renner.

Speaker Chris Sprowls recalled Renner’s two-vote loss to Fant, saying he wasn’t “downtrodden.”

“It’s OK,” Renner said, per Sprowls. “God has a plan. God has a plan.“

“I could have asked for no better partner. No better friend,” Sprowls said, stressing “trust” between the two.

Faith and political fortitude carried Renner to the House, and compared to some Speakers of the past, he won’t give hot quotes for the sake of being provocative.

If his remarks are any indication, Renner will not be a confrontational Speaker.

To DeSantis, Renner said: “We’ve had a great partnership these last few years and I promise you; we are just getting started.”

Renner demurred on discussing specific bills, focusing on teamwork and cohesion as the Florida model faces external challenges.

“As Washington D.C. moves rapidly in the wrong direction, away from freedom, all eyes are on Florida. Members, what we do here is bigger than just our state. Our actions today can guide the future course of other states and our country for many years to come,” Renner asserted.

Facing a “radicalized competing vision” that “divides us and stokes grievances all in an effort to gain complete control,” expect Renner to be a legislative partner for DeSantis, should the Governor win reelection in 2022.

If a Democrat wins? Expect him to be an active (yet cordial) antagonist.

Never too early

Former President Donald Trump offered a notably early “complete and total endorsement” Sunday of the reelection U.S. Rep. Mike Waltz.

Donald Trump makes a surprise early endorsement. Image via AP

“Congressman Mike Waltz is a relentless fighter for the incredible people of Florida. As a former U.S. Army Green Beret, Mike is working hard in Congress to hold Joe Biden accountable,” Trump said.

“Mike Waltz is strong on China, the Border, the Second Amendment, and our brave Military and Vets. Mike has my Complete and Total Endorsement!”

Waltz faces no serious competition in the Congressional District 6 field currently. And according to records with the Federal Elections Commission, he is well-positioned for whatever battle may await.

He closed out the first half of 2021 with a seven-figure campaign bank account, crossing the million-dollar mark in cash on hand due to nearly $500,000 raised in the second quarter.

October surprise

Fans of right-wing roadshows have a prime opportunity to see one Oct. 8 and 9 at Jacksonville’s Prime Osborn Convention Center, reports WJXT.

Donald Trump Jr. brings the Fox green room to Jacksonville on his ‘Freedom Tour.’ Image via AP.

The American Freedom Tour heads to Duval; it will look like the Fox and Friends green room if you squint.

On hand: Donald Trump Jr., former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and well-known commentators Dan Bongino and Dinesh D’Souza.

By now, you know what to expect from this troupe. The poison memes, the denunciations of Biden, aspersions cast on the 2020 election and so on.

“The American Freedom Tour is a celebration of faith, family, unalienable rights and God-given American freedoms. In a time when so many in the media and government are tearing down America and its people, the American Freedom Tour celebrates America and what makes us great. For the first time ever, America’s greatest conservative insiders and influencers have come together for an event to unify an entire nation of silenced voices.”

It’s the only Florida stop for this show, with engagements booked in Charlotte and Kansas City.

Tickets start at $47, reaching $3,997 for a package that includes breakfast with D’Souza and lunch with Trump Jr., according to the WJXT write-up.

Presidents unite

Endorsements from a group of Jacksonville City Council Presidents were rolled out Tuesday by former Rep. Lake Ray‘s campaign to return to the Florida House.

Ray, an Arlington mainstay who represented House District 12 from 2008 to 2016, seeks to return to Tallahassee in that same capacity in 2022.

Jacksonville City Council Presidents line up behind Lake Ray’s House return.

Among those Council Presidents endorsing him is the incumbent, Rep. Clay Yarborough, who many expect to be the Republican nominee for an open state Senate seat next year.

Current Jacksonville City Council President Sam Newby endorsed Ray, as did former Presidents Elaine Brown, Lad Daniels, Bill Gulliford, Jerry Holland, Kevin Hyde, Stephen Joost, Ginger Soud and Scott Wilson.

“To say that I am humbled that this group of outstanding Jacksonville leaders would choose to endorse my candidacy would be an understatement. For almost two decades, they have helped our city create jobs and keep our taxes low, all while enhancing our quality of life,” Ray said. “I look forward to working with them and our current leadership in helping to move our city and state forward.”

For eight years, Ray, the First Coast Manufacturers Association president, previously represented the area on the Jacksonville City Council containing HD 12 between 1999 and 2007.

Earned media

We’ve talked about Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce President Daniel Davis’ advantages ahead of an expected 2023 mayoral campaign, such as $2.5m in a political committee.

But other candidates are making moves, too.

Consider Republican Council member Matt Carlucci. He continues to be the leading fundraiser in the mayoral race not named Davis, and it appears that the expected fundraising surge for Democratic pre-candidate Donna Deegan that seemed poised to marginalize him did not.

Matt Carlucci makes some moves. Image via A.G. Gancarski.

Carlucci has been in the game for a long time, and he is showing an ability to exploit one built-in advantage of being a Council incumbent by continuing to get heavy TV hits. One recent one: Monday on WJXT’s Morning Show, where he again lamented the city’s trash collection problems, pushing for prorated fee credits that would add up to a couple of dollars a week.

“I’m not sure how it can be done. I want to get it done,” Carlucci said, citing complications in how to figure out how much to reimburse and where the money would come from.

Carlucci also said federal coronavirus relief funds could be used potentially for a credit.

Credits are likely not on the near-term horizon, in other words. When asked if inmates could handle trash collection, Carlucci suggested that it may not be a good idea to give them garbage trucks.

Carlucci has made it a point to tell people to contact his office if they can’t get their waste collected, a request he apparently passes on to the appropriate district Council member. He’s been on TV a lot of late: an effort to close down a crime-plagued gentleman’s club offered another opportunity to parlay a position into a TV hit.

The major question that will determine how he does in the March 2023 First Election will be twofold. While he won his countywide at-large race in 2019 handily against a lightweight competition, the mayoral race will be more serious. And the GOP lane is jammed. Davis, Council member Al Ferraro, and potentially CM LeAnna Cumber are all competing for a dwindling base of GOP voters.

Carlucci has proved far better than Ferraro or Cumber at scoring earned media TV hits, and we expect that to continue. Cumber will, should she get in the race, show up with solid fundraising, drawing from support from outside the region. TV is a big part of the Carlucci strategy for good reason. It is an advantage that he can rely on, which other candidates don’t seem to have figured out yet.

Too soon?

Republican Matt Schellenberg was one of four candidates to declare early for the Special Election to replace Tommy Hazouri on the Jacksonville City Council.

In Schellenberg’s case, however, he may have declared too early.

Numerous political critics of Schellenberg (from both parties) point to a municipal ordinance disallowing anyone who has served two consecutive terms on the Council to run for a third.

Schellenberg, of course, believes himself to be in the clear. He thinks the ordinance was only drawn up to prohibit people from running in the 2019 election. Schellenberg didn’t respond when asked if the relevant question is the entire term (and not just the election at the beginning).

Trouble for Mandarin Matt Schellenberg?

Expect a legal challenge. But it’s more likely that challenge comes from a Republican than a Democrat.

It won’t hurt Democrat Tracye Polson to have Schellenberg in the First Election. Polson would love a general election against Mandarin Matt. But Republican Nick Howland would obviously want to remove the other GOP candidate in the race.

For her part, Polson is claiming that AL-3 is a “Democratic seat” and that she is the logical heir to the Hazouri legacy.

“Tommy Hazouri was a friend to me and so many others, and his leadership was quintessential to this city. I am excited to continue the legacy of At-Large District 3 and let’s be clear — this is a Democratic seat in a city that recent census shows has a 40,000 democratic voter advantage. This race is more than just the opportunity to bring transparent, thoughtful leadership to City Hall — it’s our chance to prove Duval County is moving forward.”

Meanwhile, endorsements have already started here, with Rep. John Rutherford backing Howland.

“Nick Howland is a patriot and a strong community leader. From his service in the Navy to his extensive business experience to his devotion to serving and bettering our community, Nick had the right values and experience to serve our city with honor on the City Council. I’m proud to endorse his campaign and urge my fellow conservatives to support him as well,” Rutherford asserted.

Party of five

Jacksonville City Council Democrat Brenda Priestly Jackson decided one term was enough in his District 10 seat, opting to run for the open seat in at large Group 5 after deciding not to run for Jacksonville Mayor in 2023.

Since then, three candidates have filed in the district. The likely winner will be Rev. Kim Daniels, a Democrat who served one at large term and two terms in the state Legislature. Two other candidates filed, but they are unproven politicians; Daniels will be tough to beat.

Kim Daniels looks poised to return to the Council.

Meanwhile, AL District 5 is crowded. Four candidates filed. Republican veteran Chris Miller has more than $65,000 raised, by far the leading fundraiser. Libertarian Jerry Rohrbaugh is running, and while he’s raised just $650, that’s more than the $550 Priestly Jackson has raised.

Democrat Joshua Garrison filed this month, and we’ve yet to see his initial fundraising report. And we also hear that Jack Meeks is exploring running.

We know this one won’t be decided in the March 2023 First Election. But Priestly Jackson looks to have given up a safe seat for something that is much less of a sure thing.

Croft cuts out

A Jacksonville Bold farewell to one of the greats in local government.

James Croft, for a decade a helpful resource to local reporters and key to the logistics of innumerable events of the Alvin Brown and Curry administrations, will leave City Hall at the end of the month.

Surviving the Brown to Curry transition was no easy feat. But Croft managed myriad challenges of both administrations with aplomb.

Will he be back in City Hall someday in some capacity? We expect so. It’s easy to imagine Croft in an administrative role or on the City Council. He has those kinds of chops. And that kind of love for the city.


The Governor announced a slate of appointments to state and county courts last week, including two in Northeast Florida.

Atop the list of appointments was the elevation of Judge London Kite to Florida’s 4th Judicial Circuit Court, which covers Clay, Duval and Nassau counties. Kite fills the slot given up by Judge Karen Cole, who recently resigned her seat.

Kite is a University of Florida law school graduate who was admitted to The Florida Bar in 2003. She spent 17 years working as an assistant state attorney in the 4th Judicial Circuit before being named to the Duval County Court by DeSantis last year.

Lauren Blocker was among the 20 judicial appointments announced by the Governor’s office last week. Her husband’s name may be familiar to you: he is on the St. Johns County Commission.

Blocker, also a UF law school graduate, has worked as corporate counsel to Fidelity Information Services for the past three years. She is also a former judicial law clerk to U.S. Magistrate Judge Carol Mirando, U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia D. Barksdale and U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard.

Her seat on the bench is one of the three new judgeships created and funded by the Legislature with the passage of HB 5301 in the 2021 Legislative Session. The bill also added judgeships in Florida’s 1st, 9th and 14th Judicial Circuits as well as Citrus, Hillsborough, Orange and Lee counties.

High-tech collab

The Jacksonville Port Authority has partnered with the nonprofit Maritime Transportation System Information Sharing and Analysis Center to create a new cybersecurity information sharing cooperative.

The JAXPORT and MTS-ISAC collaboration is known as the Northeast Florida Maritime Information Exchange, (NEFL-MIX), and will see members work together locally and with other MTS-ISAC stakeholders from around the world to address cybersecurity preparedness through information sharing.

JAXPORT enters a new high-tech security collaboration.

Launched in February 2020, MTS-ISAC has seen rapid adoption of its cybersecurity information-sharing services. The NEFL-MIX is the fourth cybersecurity information exchange to launch this year and is the first in the state of Florida.

Participants include JAXPORT tenants, vessel operators, rail and intermodal stakeholders, key vendors, and local public sector organizations.

“Cybersecurity is a critical part of supply chain security,” JAXPORT CEO Eric Green said. “We are thrilled to launch this important initiative to protect our maritime community from cyber threats and ensure that our port-related businesses can continue to do the important work they do to keep cargo moving and people working throughout Northeast Florida.”

MTS-ISAC vice president of operations Christy Coffey added, “JAXPORT is a founding member of the MTS-ISAC. They have been influential in the design of our Information Exchange program and an active contributor to our ISAC since inception, so it’s rewarding to see the NEFL-MIX become reality. This busy port has included a diverse group of stakeholders in their cybersecurity information exchange. We know that under JAXPORT’s thoughtful leadership, the NEFL-MIX will positively impact both cybersecurity preparedness and response.”

JAXPORT, the No. 10 busiest container port in the country, already has a close working relationship with the City of Jacksonville and the Florida Division of Emergency Management through their membership on the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville’s Area Maritime Security Committee.

NEFL-MIX is open to all Northeast Florida maritime businesses. For more information contact [email protected].

Dry party

When the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs go head-to-head next month, it’s a safe assumption that booze will be flowing in the areas around TIAA Bank Field.

And fans of the current No. 2 ranked Bulldogs just got a reason to skip a pit stop in St. Simons Island on their way to Jax.

Officials in Glynn County — where St. Simons Island is located — voted last week to ban drinking and alcohol possession on the beach. The county made the move to shed its reputation as a “frat beach” among those who make the pilgrimage to the Florida-Georgia game each year.

Glynn County “frat beaches” go dry for a football weekend.

While revelers were no doubt good for business, the annual influx required the county to shell out for more police and public safety workers. Those on the commission said the added threat of a COVID-19 outbreak made this year’s edition a recipe for disaster.

“We’re drawing the line because our community is not coming up with a Plan B. I think it’s the right thing to do,” said Glynn County Commissioner Cap Fendig, who proposed the ban.

The beach booze ban could lead fans to book a couple of extra nights in the Bold City in what could be another top-15 matchup with SEC championship implications. The Gators are fresh off a loss to No. 1 ranked Alabama while the Bulldogs are sitting at 3-0 with a win over then-No. 9 Clemson under their belt.

Papal props

Pope Francis conferred papal honors on 18 Northeast Florida Catholics — including a former Jacksonville Mayor, a one-time City Council member and her longtime public servant husband — for dedication and exceptional service to the Diocese of St. Augustine.

A special Mass recognizing the honorees will be 5 p.m. Sunday at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine at 38 Cathedral Place, presided by Bishop Felipe Estévez, head of the diocese.

Pope Francis recognizes 18 outstanding Northeast Florida Catholics. Image via AP.

“It is a privilege for me to present these papal honors on behalf of our Holy Father, Pope Francis,” Estévez told the Florida Times-Union. “The men and women honored have provided exceptional service to the local church and their community. I wish I could have recommended many other parishioners of the diocese who have also served the church exceptionally for the Lord and his people.”

The Times-Union notes that the diocese covers 17 North Florida counties and 61 parishes and missions, including Jacksonville, Gainesville and St. Augustine.

Awards and honorees include:

The Grand Cross of the Order of St. Gregory the Great — Gary Chartrand of Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish in Ponte Vedra Beach, Joe Helow of Holy Family Parish in Jacksonville, David and Mary Pat Kulik of Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish, Warren Powers of Holy Spirit Parish in Jacksonville and Alton Yates of Holy Rosary Parish in Jacksonville.

The Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice — Ernest Bono of Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish in Ponte Vedra Beach, Robert Hart of Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish, former Mayor John Delaney of St. Paul Parish in Jacksonville Beach, Caridad Lee and James Stockman of Queen of Peace Parish in Gainesville and former City Council member Gwendolyn “Gwen” Yates of Holy Rosary Parish in Jacksonville.

The Benemerenti Medal — Thomas Joseph McGoldrick and Elizabeth Kennedy of Sisters of St. Joseph in St. Augustine, Martha Lucia Alers-Alers of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Orange Park, Deacon Lowell Corky Hecht of St. Joseph Parish in Jacksonville, Gregory Montana of Assumption Parish in Jacksonville and Chau Thien Phan of Santa Maria del Mar Parish in Flagler Beach.

Jazz hands

The Jacksonville Jazz Festival is back.

The festival, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, will be on Sept. 29 and Oct. 1-3 at two stages along the St. Johns River.

The opening event will be a piano competition at the Florida Theatre on Sept. 29. The competition, sponsored by Keyboard Connection — The Piano Place, will feature a performance by emcee Noel Freidline. Five piano finalists, accompanied by Dennis Marks and Clyde Connor, will compete for cash prizes and the opportunity to perform at the festival on Oct. 1.

The main festival promises performances from several well-known artists.

The Jacksonville Jazz Festival returns!

Friday at the Swingin’ Stage presented by the Jacksonville Aviation Authority at Riverfront Plaza and the Groovin’ Stage at Ford on Bay, performers will include Sheila E., Lalah Hathaway, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Najee with Special Guests Phil Perry and Bobby Lyle, Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band, Stanley Clarke and others.

Saturday’s Swingin’ Stage lineup will honor women in music with another performance from Sheila E. as well as sets from Cécile McLorin Salvant, Tia Fuller: “Diamond Cut,” Kandace Springs, and Party in a Box featuring Allana. The night wraps with a fireworks display marking the 40th anniversary of the festival.

Festival hours are Friday, Oct. 1 from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 2 from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 3 from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. It is free to attend, but premium and VIP ticket packages are available for superfans.

If a souvenir is desired, the Jazz Festival store is offering commemorative event posters. A signed and numbered print runs $40; an unsigned copy costs $25.

Hang in there!

Here is the Jaguars’ season so far: two games, two losses, and one plea from coach Urban Meyer.

“Don’t give up on us. Hang in there with us,” Meyer said following the Jags’ 23-13 loss against Denver at TIAA Bank Stadium. “We’re going to get better.”

That’s in the future, though.

For the present, the Jaguars have 17 consecutive losses dating to last season and Meyer is 0-2 for the first time in his long coaching career.

Urban Meyer urges patience with the Jaguars.

The odds are good that both streaks will continue this coming Sunday. The high-powered and unbeaten Arizona Cardinals come to Jacksonville, led by dynamic quarterback Kyler Murray.

He led the Cardinals to 72 points in their two victories.

Meanwhile, the Jags’ rookie quarterback, top draft pick Trevor Lawrence, is still learning his way. He had two more interceptions against Denver, bringing his total to five in two games.

He completed 14 of 33 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown.

It’s the first time in his football career that Lawrence endured consecutive losses.

“I think I’m processing it as good as I can,” he said. “You want to win. You work all week to win and when you don’t, it’s disappointing. But I feel like I’m in a good spot. I’m the same person, the same mindset. Nothing’s changed.”

Even reliable kicker Josh Lambo is struggling after making 76 of 80 field goals in his last four seasons with the Jags.

This year, he has missed all three attempts.

Meyer said the only solution is to keep their heads up and keep working.

“I told the players and staff: ‘That’s the one thing that will not be tolerated with the Jags, is nonsense,” he said. “I see zero point zero of it. It’s a bunch of good players, good guys, and coaches working their tails off.”

Staff Reports


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