Jacksonville Bold for 11.3.21: Democratic drama

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Democratic drama surfaces in Northeast Florida.

Democratic drama

It was no surprise that Jacksonville City Council member Garrett Dennis got into the race for what will be an open seat in House District 13.

For months, Dennis said he would do that, and he told Florida Politics Monday would be the day.

With little surprise, Garrett Dennis enters the HD 13 race.

We did notice an interesting 2022 breadcrumb from the Florida Times-Union on his launch, however.

Dennis noted that he and current Rep. Tracie Davis, who is running for the Senate in 2022, basically could function as a team.

“Our politics do line up,” Dennis, a second-term City Council member, said of Davis.

Davis is not a sure thing for the Senate seat.

Dennis’ Council colleague Reggie Gaffney is also running. And as Davis delayed entering the race, Gaffney raised a third of a million dollars, big money in a district where politics ultimately is grassroots.

Davis says she’s a “real Democrat.” The implication is that Gaffney isn’t.

If Davis wins the Senate primary, that’s great for this alliance, which is likely outgoing Sen. Gibson’s preferred outcome. But if Dennis has to work with Sen. Gaffney hand-in-hand for eight years? Well, that should make the Duval Delegation meetings interesting at least.

Dennis, meanwhile, will face at least two candidates in the Primary in HD 13. Iris Hinton was already in. And former Jacksonville City Council candidate Mincy Pollock is looking at HD 13 and will get in Thursday.

Pollock, neutral in the Senate primary, will further crowd the field.

Republicans were ultimately not able to completely avoid contested primaries. In HD 12 and HD 16, there are competitive primaries, but no drama about whether the party comes together after the August vote.

In these Democratic races, however, it feels like the drama is more personal and the consequences potentially more far-reaching.

There is much talk about Duval as a “swing” county. It performs for statewide candidates, but on the local level, the Democratic dynamics suffer. 2022 may be another rough cycle, one characterized by infighting early and underperformance at the end.

Zombie

Former U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw left Congress in 2016 — but kept spending campaign funds.

The practice of spending money from so-called “zombie campaigns” is not legal, and now the former Congressman has a bill due for the banned spending.

Crenshaw’s longtime PAC must pay a penalty of $3,950 and Crenshaw himself must pay more than $13,000 to the U.S. Treasury. The costs are related to the potential use of campaign dollars for personal uses.

Ander Crenshaw kills off his zombie campaign.

“The Commission found reason to believe that Ander PAC spent $13,196.08 of campaign funds that were converted to personal use, including over $8,000 for travel to political fundraising events at the Four Seasons at Disney World, the Broadmoor Destination Resort in Colorado Springs, and the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina; $450 for membership dues at Capitol Hill Club; and $3,000 in spending on food and beverages,” the conciliation agreement reads.

All told, the former Congressman spent a little more than $62,000, with Disney and the AT&T Store among his spending spots.

Ironically, the other former member of Congress who represented Jacksonville during Crenshaw’s era also faces questions about spending donors’ money. But the circumstances are a bit different for Corrine Brown, who faces a second federal trial related to her One Door for Education charity. The next hearing in that case, where Brown says who her lawyer will be, is slated for Nov. 10.

Moving on

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s chief of staff is leaving the public sector later this month.

Jordan Elsbury, who joined Curry as a candidate during his campaign in 2015, is going to exit City Hall later this month for the private sector. His last day is Friday, Nov. 12.

Elsbury, a Louisiana native, now lives in the Murray Hill neighborhood on Jacksonville’s Westside. He intends to stay in Jacksonville.

It is a reasonable bet that he could move into governmental relations, especially after more than six years at the center of Curry’s initiatives, with over a year in the position of chief of staff in what was among the most challenging periods in Jacksonville history. Before the chief of staff stint, Elsbury helmed the administration’s intergovernmental affairs office.

Jordan Elsbury heads to the private sector.

The Mayor’s Office won’t have to look far for a replacement. Leeann Krieg will move into the chief of staff position.

Elsbury can count a lot of policy victories as he exits this part of his career. Among them are a successful push for a gas tax, a new general counsel and capital projects, including the redevelopment of the Shipyards as part of the Jaguars’ latest moves.

Fly by night

Republican U.S. Rep. John Rutherford sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra seeking information on flights carrying immigrants to the Jacksonville area.

Rutherford has been hammering the Biden administration over the supposed surreptitious deliveries. He recently told media that he believes more than 7,000 immigrants have passed through Jacksonville International Airport in recent months.

But he says the Biden administration won’t answer questions about the nature of the flights or the people on board.

John Rutherford seeks answers.

“The lack of transparency from the Biden administration is unacceptable,” Rutherford wrote in the letter, which goes on to describe a dismal situation at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“As people are relocated from the border to the interior of the country while they await proceedings, the administration must be transparent with state and local agencies about how many illegal immigrants are being moved into their communities,” he continued.

He asked the agency heads to answer a series of questions on the ins and outs of the flights, such as when they started, whether they are ongoing, how many there have been, and how many people have been transported.

“If the federal government is going to move groups of people into communities where they will use local resources, such as schools, transportation and social services, it is vital that local governments and law enforcement be aware of these populations. For these reasons, we ask for a quick response to these questions,” Rutherford concluded.

The letter, sent Oct. 27, was signed by 51 other members of Congress. The full text is available on Rutherford’s U.S. House webpage.

Low turnout expected

Candidates are going to have a difficult time getting voters to participate in the election to replace Tommy Hazouri in at large Group 3 of the Jacksonville City Council, predicts pollster Michael Binder of the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab.

Ten percent turnout for the First Election Dec. 7? If they’re lucky, Binder explained to Jacksonville Bold this week.

“If I were an oddsmaker, I’d probably set the line around 9.5%. I could see turnout coming in at 10 to 12, but just as easily 8 to 9. So, bottom line I don’t know. If it comes in anywhere near 15%, I’d be floored. As for enthusiasm, I don’t blame the candidates, you can’t expect a local bar band to sell out a concert at TIAA Bank Field all by themselves on a random Tuesday in December,” Binder says, alluding to a field with a lot of room for improvement regarding name recognition.

Municipal elections are notorious for low turnout; Jacksonville will be no different. Image via AP.

With four candidates in the mix for the Dec. election (Republicans Nick Howland and Howland Russell, and Democrats James Jacobs and Tracye Polson), it’s unlikely any will get to 50% in the first wave. But because of the amount of variance, predicting the First Election is ultimately tough, including for pollsters like Binder.

And figuring out turnout is always a key aspect of any election horse race poll, and for rather unique special elections that is an ENORMOUS challenge. Sure, we can figure out who the super voters are, but even a chunk of them aren’t going to show up. And, in a case like this it’s likely that those who do and don’t show up will likely not be randomly distributed. And without any real prior knowledge, we’d really be guessing — and not in an educated way. So, we’re not going to put out any polling numbers before Dec 7, but with the 12/7 history — I’ll feel a lot better about doing something before the February election.”

Out of the current field, Polson and Howland have drawn the bulk of endorsements from Republicans and Democrats respectively, with the business community lining up with Howland.

The first campaign finance reports for all candidates are due next week, which should offer some sense as to what resources campaigns have for a First Election just a few weeks away, but with little in the way of formal debates between the candidates.

Tweet, tweet:

Unmoved

The Jacksonville City Council hasn’t cast its final vote yet on whether to move a statue from Springfield Park that honors the women of the old Confederacy, but the early returns aren’t good for Mayor Curry.

Three committees voted no on the $1.3 million price tag to remove the Tribute to the Women of the Confederacy statue, which is valued at $808,000. Chief Administrative Officer Brian Hughes noted that just tearing the statue down was not an option, but neither he nor Jacksonville Bold could figure out what Council thought a viable option would be.

Committee debate was cold on the idea.

The Confederate monument in Springfield Park stays. Image via News4Jax.

Council member Danny Becton, a Republican, offered a “history lesson,” as he was troubled by people characterizing confederate “ancestors of Americans as traitors.”

Becton posed a rhetorical question thereafter: “Are we to go to (Philadelphia) and remove the Liberty Bell and all the monuments of the Revolutionary War too?”

“We’re going to be looking at street signs, bridges, all kinds of other things to take them down,” Council member Al Ferraro warned. “Starting to take down history is a dangerous thing.”

Gov. DeSantis appoints Fernando Acosta-Rua to JAA board — The Governor appointed Fernando Acosta-Rua to the Jacksonville Aviation Authority Board of Directors late last week. The Jacksonville resident works as the president and CEO of Pet Paradise, a luxe boarding option for pet owners. He has also served on numerous boards, including as chair of The Bolles School Board of Trustees, chair of the Community Hospice of Northeast Florida Board of Directors and as a member of the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute Board of Advisors. He earned his bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Florida and Master of Business Administration from Northwestern University.

‘County to County’

NBC News and Meet the Press have relaunched the “County to County” project — and they’re coming to Duval.

The project will see reporters embedded in seven “bellwether counties” across the country to take the temperature on issues that could have national implications in the run-up to the 2022 midterms.

The “County to County” project has been around for a few election cycles, though not in Duval. The closest featured bellwether was Miami-Dade, which was one of the five counties selected for the project’s 2020 class.

Duval gets the Meet the Press spotlight.

NBC News and MSNBC correspondent Shaquille Brewster will handle Duval as well as Dane County, Wisc. The other counties included in the 2022 edition: Chattooga County, Georgia; Luzerne County, Pennsylvania; Delaware County, Ohio; Anson County, North Carolina; and Washoe County, Nevada

NBC News said it hopes to build on the success of the 2020 initiative by doubling down on on-the-ground reporting to understand “the issues, political fault lines, and national headlines driving local conversations.”

To that end, the project reporters will spend the next year interviewing voters and tracking the local economies, media landscapes and evolving opinions and sentiments on the road to Election Day.

The reporting will appear across all platforms of NBC News, MSNBC and NBC News NOW. In addition, NBCNews.com/counties will have stories, segments and interactive maps.

Big haul

Jacksonville Republican Lindsey Brock has raised more than $50,000 since launching his City Council campaign early last month.

“I am incredibly grateful for the strong showing of support in my official first month as a candidate. Our campaign is about the future of Jacksonville and having the necessary experience to keep our city moving in the right direction. I look forward to continuing to grow our list of supporters and share our campaign vision in the months ahead.”

Lindsey Brock posts a solid month of fundraising.

Brock’s haul includes contributions from Jacksonville City Council Vice President Terrance Freeman, Councilmember Rory Diamond, Councilmember and former Council President Aaron Bowman, Carlos Cruz, Deno Hicks, Marty Fiorentino, and executives from the transportation and maritime industries.

Brock entered the contest to replace term-limited Ferraro in District 2 early last month. The initial finance report amounts to about half the $103,650 Ferraro raised and spent to win the seat two years ago.

District 2 includes parts of Arlington and the Northside and currently has a Republican-lean. As of August 2021, the district had 50,444 registered voters. Of those, 22,887 were Republican, while 15,720 were registered Democrats, with the rest not with either major party.

Though Republicans do not have a clear-cut majority, they have handily won District 2 in recent elections. That is not expected to change much as a result of redistricting.

Republican Mike Gay and Libertarian Eric Parker are also running in District 2.

Gay filed in June and had raised $21,700 as of Sept. 30, though two-thirds of it came in July — his subsequent reports have been much lighter. His October report has not yet been uploaded to the Duval Elections website. Parker, meanwhile, entered the race in May and his reports show $2,285 raised. As is typical of a third-party candidate, he’s the campaign’s biggest donor.

Better benefits

Rep. Jason Fischer and Sen. Jennifer Bradley filed legislation last week that would deliver full-fledged workers’ compensation benefits to part-time law enforcement officers struggling with PTSD.

The bills (HB 425/SB 664) are a sequel of sorts to past legislation expanding workers’ compensation coverage for police, corrections workers and probation officers who are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder related to an on-the-job incident.

Previous legislation, however, did not include certain classes of employees, such as part-time and auxiliary law enforcement officers. Fischer and Bradley’s proposal would explicitly include them.

Jennifer Bradley is pushing workers’ compensation for part-time LEOs.

“While other states are defunding and turning their backs on law enforcement and corrections, Florida remains committed to those who selflessly serve and protect us without hesitation,” said Fischer, a Jacksonville Republican. “These everyday heroes truly deserve these PTSD benefits as they face some of the most traumatic situations imaginable on a daily basis.”

A joint news release announcing the legislation notes a Saint Louis University study that found more than half correctional officers and more than a third of police have experienced PTSD symptoms compared to a 6.8% incidence rate among the general population.

“Our law enforcement and correctional officers put their lives in danger every day so that we can all stay safe, despite the traumas that can accompany these professions,” Bradley said. “Providing PTSD benefits to these exceptional Floridians is the least we can do to thank them for their countless sacrifices.”

The bills launched with endorsements from Florida Fraternal Order of Police President Robert Jenkins and Florida Police Benevolent Association President John Kazanjian.

“Correctional officers and correctional probation officers have suffered for too long. This legislation will provide much-needed assistance and relief to these brave men and women. We thank Rep. Fischer and Sen. Bradley for their commitment to the officers and their families,” Kazanjian said.

STEP by STEP

Fischer also filed an appropriations request (HB 2437) last week that would direct $250,000 in nonrecurring general revenue to the Jacksonville School for Autism.

The money would be used to fund the school’s Supportive Transition & Employment Placement (STEP) Program, which provides life skills instruction to help students get and keep a job. STEP received $250,000 in the current year budget.

Jason Fischer champions a money boost for Autism in Jacksonville. Image via Colin Hackley.

According to JSA, the curriculum includes “functional routines of daily living, such a dressing, home skills, meal prep, multistep task completion as well as functional communication and academics related to real-life scenarios.”

On the House form, the organization adds: “The STEP program provides services to a variety of local businesses including confidential shredding; providing locally-grown produce, screen printing and more. Additionally, a comprehensive transition program develops the independence and increases the contributions of individuals with autism who have aged out of school and reduces the need for expansive community supports.”

The appropriations request form says the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult to reach students with compromised immune systems. If granted state funding, JSA’s “goal is to bring the community to those students while building employment and community-related skills.”

A breakdown of the funding request shows that $125,000 would be used to pay full-time vocational instructor salaries; $75,000 would pay for consultants and contracted services; and $50,000 would be used on evaluation protocols, equipment and training materials.

Toys for Tots

Atlantic Logistics is teaming up with the Clay County Florida Marine Corps League to spread Christmas cheer.

The partnership will see Atlantic Logistics host a drop-off point for the Marine “Toys for Tots” campaign. The company will be accepting toy donations at Keystone Heights office, located at 150 S. Lawrence Blvd., Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Community members with a giving spirit can bring new, unwrapped toys for infants to children as old as 16. The last day to donate is Dec. 21.

It’s Toys for Tots time again!

“The ultimate success of Toys for Tots depends on the support of the generosity of the community,” said Atlantic Logistics Marketing and Communications Director James Crichlow. “We highly encourage our neighbors, friends and business associates to join us in supporting the United States Marines Corps Reserve and area kids through this celebrated and distinguished program.”

Atlantic Logistics Keystone branch manager Amanda Thacker added, “We love this time of year and we’re here to step up and help area families. Everyone in our office feels so connected to our neighbors, and we really want to do more for the community this holiday season. Hosting Toys for Tots feels good to us.”

The 20-year-old company, which is expanding after a record year, is directing inquiries on the campaign and donation process to Thacker, who can be reached via 904-886-1109 or [email protected].

More than 500 communities in the U.S. hold annual Toys for Tots drives and more than 20,000 Marines, Marine Corps League members, veteran Marines and volunteers are involved in the annual campaign. Last year, Clay County’s Toys for Tots drive brought in 15,745 toys and gifted them to 5,780 children.

“Atlantic Logistics is proud to actively participate in programs to support the development of one of our nation’s most valuable resources with children and families in need,” Atlantic Logistics CEO Rob Hooper, Jr. said. “It’s one of our company’s tenets to share our thanks, and what better time than the Christmas season to distribute blessings of gifts for kids.”

Groundbreaking

Boeing broke ground this week on a 370,000-square-foot $160 million expansion at Cecil Airport.

As First Coast News reports, the facility expects to bring 400 new jobs in maintaining, repairing, and overhauling military aircraft for the Navy and Air Force.

It will be the first of its kind and is expected to be complete in three years, Boeing CEO Ted Colbert.

“Jacksonville will be home to the industry’s first digitally-enabled maintenance repair and overhaul site,” Colbert said. “That means long before an aircraft lands in Jacksonville for service, we can partner with our customer to understand that aircraft’s unique needs based on how it’s operated and what mission it needs to be ready for in the future.”

Jacksonville is digging for hundreds of new jobs.

It’s a mutual investment. Curry says, the City of Jacksonville granted Boeing $425,000 for infrastructure.

As part of the project, Boeing is investing $75,000 for Ribault High to hire a coordinator to help kids focus on graduation and success.

Huguenot Cemetery

Huguenot Cemetery in St. Augustine has been added to the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places.

Secretary of State Laurel Lee on Tuesday announced the designation.

“This year, we commemorate 200 years since Florida became a United States territory in 1821,” Lee said.

St. Augustine’s newest contribution to the National Registry of Historic Places.

The cemetery, also known as the St. Augustine Public Burying Ground, was the first public cemetery founded after the U.S. took over the city. It was established following a yellow fever epidemic that swept through St. Augustine in 1821. Tolomato Cemetery, the only cemetery in the city active before then, was limited to Catholics, creating a public health crisis for the growing population of Protestant residents.

There are only four known, marked burials in the Huguenot Cemetery connected to the outbreak, but local accounts recall mass burials during that time. The exact number of people who died in the epidemic is unknown.

The cemetery closed in 1884.

Among those buried there is Charles Downing Sr. (1797-1841), an early political player in Florida territorial politics. Also buried is Buckingham Smith (1810-1871), an English language translator of several major Spanish primary source materials. He also conducted the first formal federal study of the Everglades, and his report influenced the passage of the Swamp Land Act in 1850.

“Recognizing significant historical sites from this period in Florida history, like Huguenot Cemetery, allows us to reflect on the past while also promoting the relevance of history for current and future generations,” Lee said.

Humiliation

Linebacker Myles Jack succinctly summed up the Jaguars 31-7 loss Sunday at Seattle.

“This is humiliating,” he said. “It’s embarrassing and it’s not anything that anyone wants to be a part of. You know what I mean?”

How humiliating was it?

Quarterback Geno Smith, playing for the injured Russell Wilson, shredded the Jaguars defense with 14 consecutive pass completions in leading Seattle to a 17-0 advantage.

Head coach Urban Meyer didn’t lay all the blame on the defense, though.

Shredded: The Jaguars face another humiliation. Image via AP.

“We put them in some horrendous field position, but the defense hung in there against some talented players,” he said.

Indeed, the Jags could take a little solace in the fact they limited Seattle to 63 yards in the second half. By then, however, the damage was done.

The Jags also were penalized 12 times for 93 yards.

Quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw 54 times in an effort to bring Jacksonville from behind. He completed 32 of those passes for 238 yards and one touchdown.

“I think it just goes to show if you don’t come out ready to play and you don’t play well, this can happen to anybody on any week. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, you just have to play well, and we didn’t,” he said.

It won’t get any easier this Sunday when Buffalo visits TIAA Bank Field.

The Bills are 5-2 after defeating Miami 26-11 and boast one of the NFL’s strongest passing attacks, led by quarterback Josh Allen. In seven games this season, Allen has 17 touchdown passes and only three interceptions.

Staff Reports



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