Jacksonville Bold for 1.12.22: Don’t forget the campaigns!

Male Speaker Standing In Front Of Microphones
Session is here, but so are campaigns.

Don’t forget the campaigns!

With the start of the Legislative Session, campaigns for current state legislators are on hold until the Sine Die hankie drops.

And due to campaign finance filing deadlines, we have a sense of how their campaigns did last year.

A lot of that is in this Bold.

But there’s more.

Session is here, but so are campaigns.

Candidates are making moves. While some aggressively fundraised through the end of the year, others reconsidered where they wanted to run. Expect the action to continue like this, especially for people who aren’t barred from fundraising through the Legislative Session. And when the new maps are finalized, we can expect candidates to move (or not) depending on the draft version that becomes final.

All of this is to say that there is a lot in this week’s edition to catch up on. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that campaigns in mid-January 2022 will look the same this summer on the state level, or next year on the local level.

Candidates, especially undercapitalized ones, will make their moves.

And Jacksonville Bold will do its best to keep up with them.

Crooms for Congress?

Jacksonville activist Connell Crooms has filed with the state Division of Elections as a candidate in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, currently represented by Tallahassee’s Al Lawson.

Connell Crooms seeks to take activism to Capitol Hill.

Crooms became known to Jacksonville residents in the wake of a protest that went awry in Hemming Park in 2017. Crooms, who is deaf (and an activist for the deaf), ended up being beaten into unconsciousness by Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officers at that protest as a result of a provocateur’s actions.

Crooms was one of five protesters arrested; the charges were dropped against Crooms, with community sentiment on the side of Crooms and the rest of the Jax 5 protest contingent.

Crooms has launched campaigns intermittently since.

In 2019, he briefly ran for Mayor, then shifted his focus to Jacksonville City Council at large District 1, where he got 2.5% of the vote in a five-way March First Election. In 2020, he floated a run for state House but ultimately did not run for that either.

Crooms has not opened a campaign account with the Federal Elections Commission at this writing.

Clay cash

Rep. Clay Yarborough closed out 2021 with strong December fundraising that allowed him to end the year with roughly $765,000 cash on hand between his campaign account and his political committee, Floridians for Conservative Values.

The political committee raised $89,500 last month, giving it $550,000 on hand to close 2021. Wellspring USA, an Orlando medical testing company, gave $25,000 of that sum. K12 Management of Virginia and the Delaware North Hospitality company each gave $10,000.

Clay Yarborough steamrolls into 2022 — cash wise.

Yarborough raised $35,250 in hard money for the month, with lobbyists and lawyers well represented as momentum continues to consolidate behind the Southside Republican’s Senate bid. December was the strongest month of fundraising for Yarborough between his political committee and his campaign account, with momentum really picking up only after other candidates left the field last summer.

Yarborough seeks to succeed term-limited Sen. Aaron Bean in Senate District 4.

Democratic donnybrook

While SD 4 is pretty much decided even before an election, the same can’t be said about SD 6, where Jacksonville City Council member Reggie Gaffney continues to hold a cash lead over Rep. Tracie Davis in the most competitive Northeast Florida Primary of this cycle.

Gaffney raised $450,000 total between his campaign account and his political committee, Friends of Reggie Gaffney, by the end of 2021. In December, he raised $32,350 of that with Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp owner Ken Babby among the donors. Last month, Gaffney also cut his committee a $5,000 check from his own company, CRC Transportation.

Tracie Davis lags behind Reggie Gaffney in cash.

Davis started late and had ground to make up even before the Legislative Session forced a pause on her fundraising through March. Since beginning the campaign, she has raised a little more than $200,000 between her campaign and her political committee, but Gaffney has roughly 60 days to build his lead.

Republican Binod Kumar is also a filed candidate, but he hasn’t reported any financial activity since opening a campaign account in July. A third Democrat, Brooklyn Owen, is also running, but Owen has yet to file a finance report despite being an active candidate for months.

Baker banks

Jessica Baker, a Republican filed in House District 12, closed out 2021 with more strong fundraising. After just three months as an active candidate, Baker has roughly $338,000 on hand.

$44,000 of the December haul went to Baker’s eponymous political committee, Friends of Jessica Baker, with a lot of the funds coming from political committees. The Florida Leadership Committee poured in $25,000, while the Responsible Leadership Committee gave $7,000.

Jessica Baker enjoys a solid end of 2021.

Baker also raised another $37,500 in hard money, with Molly Curry and City Council candidate Nick Howland among the donors.

At least until new maps become official, Baker leads the candidates filed in HD 12. Former Rep. Lake Ray raised $50,650 between his campaign account and his political committee in December, with a $50,000 check to the committee from Wellspring USA making up most of the haul. Ray ended 2021 with roughly $165,000 on hand.

A third Republican, Kiyan Michael, ended 2021 with a little more than $12,000 between her political committee and her campaign account. Roughly $8,000 of that was raised in December.

Duggan’s doings

Fundraising is on pause now that the Legislative Session has officially begun. And while his future district is uncertain, Jacksonville’s Wyman Duggan continues to stack resources for election wherever the new map puts him.

Duggan closed 2021 with nearly $160,000 on hand, with more than $76,000 in his campaign account after raising $9,000 in December, including donations from the Florida Medical Association and the Seminole Tribe.

No matter where the new map puts him, Wyman Duggan is gearing up.

Duggan’s political committee, Citizens for Building Florida’s Future, also hauled in $12,500 in December. The Florida Justice PAC donated $5,000, as did Jacksonville trial lawyers Pajcic & Pajcic.

The legislative redistricting process continues, and Duggan could likely end up in a remapped HD 12, which could span the St. Johns River and bridge majority Republican areas in the Southside and Westside alike.

For now, he is in HD 15, where Democrat Tammyette Thomas is filed. As of this writing, Thomas had yet to report financial activity.

Perdue play

One of the hallmarks of the 2015 Jacksonville Mayor’s race was the strength of out-of-area endorsements. Remember when Texas Gov. Rick Perry endorsed Lenny Curry?

Eight years later, the people running for Mayor are different, but out-of-state politicians are still interested in Jacksonville’s mayoral race. In December, the One Georgia PAC donated $5,000 to Jax First, the political committee of pre-candidate LeAnna Cumber.

One Georgia is a committee associated with former Georgia Sen. David Perdue, who Cumber says is the “next Governor” of the state.

David Perdue comes down from Georgia to give pre-candidate LeAnna Cumber a boost.

While we won’t hazard predictions on Georgia politics, we will note that Cumber won the money race in December. Her committee has raised over $1.6 million since its inception last year and has nearly $1.5 million on hand. That’s less than half what the other major pre-candidate, Daniel Davis, has in his political committee. But Cumber’s committee raised over $147,000 in December, with Davis’ committee raising just $20,500.

The filed candidates in this race lag behind the pre-candidates in fundraising.

Democrat Donna Deegan raised nearly $35,000 in December between her political committee and her campaign account, Donna for Duval. She ended 2021 with roughly $270,000 on hand.

Republican Al Ferraro continues to struggle, meanwhile, raising just over $1,300 in December between his campaign account and political committee. He ended the year with a little under $170,000 cash on hand.

Howland gains ground

As the General Election nears for an open Jacksonville City Council at large seat, Republican Nick Howland showed more substantial fundraising than Democrat Tracye Polson as 2021 ended.

Howland raised $50,000 to his Florida Freedom PAC political committee, and an additional $18,501 in hard money. Donors included state Rep. Duggan, the Jacksonville Kennel Club, former Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver, and Gary Chartrand. Howland carried roughly $80,000 cash on hand as of December.

Nick Howland makes headway.

Polson had been a prolific fundraiser and self-financer, but December represented a cool-down of sorts. She raised a little over $32,000 with a lot of out-of-state checks and burned through all of it in the same month, not surprising necessarily given the First Election was Dec. 7. She has about $25,000 in total and spent nearly $350,000 between her campaign and political committee as of the end of 2021.

Polson has been willing to spend her own money before, as her 2018 race against Duggan showed. But it appears that she has yet to spend as heavily on the General as she did on the First Election.

Meeks isn’t mild

Self-financing was taken to a new level in December, at least when it comes to Jacksonville City Council races that are more than a year away.

Democrat Jack Meeks, the sixth candidate to file in at large Group 5, staked his campaign account with a $250,000 personal loan. Meeks continues to present as a serious candidate, with his campaign saying that he has some significant endorsements coming.

Meeks has a cash lead over both Democrats filed, neither of whom have stroked their campaigns a quarter-million dollar check yet. Charles Garrison has raised less than $13,000 thus far, while current District 10 Councilwoman Brenda Priestly Jackson has reported just $550 raised.

Jack Meeks notches up the self-funding game.

The leading Republican fundraiser is Chris Miller, who has reported raising more than $73,000 so far in the campaign. Another Republican, Reginald Blount, has raised a little more than $3,000, while Libertarian Jerry Rohrbaugh has raised a little under $2,000.

Qualifying is next January, so all of these candidates have plenty of time to get their finances in order. But Meeks appears poised to spend ahead of what will be a crowded First Election in March 2023.

Carlucci & Carlucci

Jacksonville voters may get an opportunity to vote for two Carluccis in the same election in 2023.

Joe Carlucci has entered the 2023 race in City Council District 5. His father, Matt Carlucci, is running for re-election after exploring and ruling out a run for Mayor last year.

Can the Carluccis pull off a twofer?

The District 5 seat will be open in 2023, as incumbent Cumber looks poised to run for Mayor. But Carlucci the younger will, in a twist of irony, face a candidate who backed out of the At-Large race after Carlucci the elder decided to run for re-election.

Morgan Roberts, a Republican who owns a design business, had raised a little more than $100,000 for her City Council run before changing to the district race.

For his part, Carlucci is running on honesty and vision.

“I am excited for the opportunity to help write the next chapter for our city. Jacksonville’s families and businesses desperately want to see honest, energetic leadership and vision in City Hall — with more collaboration. I’m committed to being an accessible voice for our community,” Carlucci said in a news release announcing his campaign.

Hicks wants citywide race

In still more Council race news, Democrat Joshua Hicks, who was running in District 3, says he’s shifting his focus to at large Group 2.

Joshua Hicks seeks a citywide seat. Image via P. Perry.

Hicks will be running against incumbent Republican Ron Salem, who ended 2021 with roughly $240,000 on hand between his campaign account and his local political committee, Moving Jacksonville Forward. Salem defeated a Democrat in 2019, getting almost 57% of the vote.

Hicks expects to do better.

“Our elected leadership has an obligation to be proactive and committed to solving the needs of our entire community,” he said. “We are continuing to face a pandemic that has completely reshaped our daily lives, an affordable housing crisis that makes achieving the American dream nearly impossible for many, and a breakdown of trust in those who are supposed to fight to improve our daily lives. It’s past time we send people to City Hall who will always put the people first, and that’s exactly what I plan to do.”

Hicks, who has roughly $21,000 on hand after months as a candidate, has run and lost before. In 2018, despite raising over $100,000 in his challenge to Rep. Cord Byrd in HD 11, Hicks got under 32% of the vote.

Class of 2022

Time to put some fun back in politics.

One goal of the new INFLUENCE Magazine (which dropped this week) is to remind readers of a time when politics was less contentions, drab and dreary. This edition, Florida Politics asks readers to put on a smile and read about the 2022 Class of Rising Stars in Florida politics, who are sure to bring hope and joy to the older, wiser veterans.

The list contains recent graduates and newcomers to The Process galore. And their stories delight.

Northeast Florida is well represented, including Melissa Langley of The Fiorentino Group:

Marty Fiorentino needed a steady hand for the firm. He hired Langley, a Jacksonville native and a stickler for detail, as development and political coordinator. She coordinated Curry’s finances through a blanket primary in March 2014, won by (Alvin) Brown, to Curry’s victory in May by a 3% margin.”

Welcome to INFLUENCE, and enjoy it here:

(Click here to subscribe to INFLUENCE Magazine. You must be a subscriber to receive a print edition of the magazine.)

Take it to the bank

The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s Jacksonville Branch Board of Directors welcomed new members Laura Palmer, Brian Wolfburg, and Monesia Brown late last week.

Palmer is the president and CEO of Regency Centers Corporation in Jacksonville and is a Brooks Rehabilitation and United Way of Northeast Florida director. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and an MBA from Penn.

Bank shot: Laura Palmer, Brian Wolfburg, and Monesia Brown are the new faces of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s Jacksonville Branch Board.

Wolfburg is the president and CEO of VyStar Credit Union in Jacksonville and currently serves as treasurer for the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. He earned his MBA from New York University and his bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Brown is the director of public affairs and government relations for Walmart in Tallahassee and previously worked as an attorney and consultant at Metz, Husband & Daughton. She earned her law degree from the University of Wisconsin and her bachelor’s from Illinois State University.

The Board of Governors appointed Palmer to an unexpired term that ends on Dec. 31, 2022. Wolfburg and Brown were appointed to terms ending Dec. 31, 2024.

Additionally, Jacksonville University President Timothy Cost was reappointed to the board for a three-year term ending in 2024. He and the new crew will serve alongside three members in the middle of their terms: Rayonier Vice Chair Paul Boynton, LIFT Orlando president and CEO Edward Moratin, and Bank of Tampa CEO William West.

Hospital hire

On Monday, Baptist Health in Northeast Florida announced Dane Bennett would serve as its Director of Government Relations, leading the faith-based health system’s lobbying efforts at the local, state, and federal levels.

Bennett comes to Baptist Health from the Florida Home Builders Association, where he has worked as Director of Government Affairs since 2019. Before that, he worked in government affairs and public policy at Well Care Health Plans. He also served as a legislative aide to former Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto from 2013-2017.

Congrats to Dane Bennett on his new gig at Baptist Health.

Reporting directly to president and CEO Michael Mayo, Bennett’s new gig will see him serve as a strategic liaison with public officials at all levels working to advance the hospital system’s legislative, policy, and program goals.

“With his extensive experience in government affairs and public policy, Dane is a real asset to our team,” Mayo said. “His strategic mindset, collaborative style, and demonstrated ability to cultivate relationships make him an excellent fit for our organization.”

Bennett is a double alum of Florida State University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in political science and his master’s degree in public administration. He is also a military veteran, having served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves as a Captain and Amphibious Assault Vehicle Officer.

New chair

Jacksonville Public Education Fund announced a new lineup for its Board of Directors this week, including the selection of Kevin Hyde to Chair.

The Jacksonville Public Education Fund is a nonprofit that advocates for research and programs to close the opportunity gap for low-income and minorities in Duval County.

Hyde is the managing partner of Foley & Lardner’s Jacksonville office and also holds seats on the University of North Florida Board of Trustees and the boards of directors for the Jacksonville Civic Council, Jacksonville Public Library Foundation and WJCT Public Broadcasting.

Kevin Hyde gets a new post at the Jacksonville Public Education Fund.

“We have set big goals around closing the literacy gap for students of color and launched an initiative to retain and recruit 1,000 diverse male teachers by 2025. We could not do this without the leadership provided by Chairman Hyde and our incredible board of directors,” Fund President Rachel Tutwiler Fortune said in a news release.

In addition to announcing Hyde as Chair, the Jacksonville Public Education Fund board added VyStar Credit Union chief information officer Lisa Cochran and consultant Terry Patrick Walton. Both will serve four-year terms.

Cochran has worked in the banking industry for three decades, including Citi and Bank of America. She started at VyStar last year. Walton has provided career consulting, career development, and executive search services for 30 years and works out of her firm, Terry Patrick Walton Consulting.

Brock bump

Jacksonville Republican Lindsey Brock raised more than $15,000 for his City Council campaign last month, putting him past the $66,000 mark since entering the race in October.

Brock’s December report includes contributions from Jacksonville City Councilmember Randy White and political committees affiliated with Sen. Aaron Bean and House Speaker-Designate Paul Renner.

They join a growing list of notable backers. Brock’s campaign has previously picked up support 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 industry.

Lindsey Brock posts a solid month of fundraising.

In early October, Brock entered the contest to replace term-limited Councilmember Al Ferraro in District 2, including parts of Arlington and the Northside. Republican Mike Gay and Libertarian Eric Parker are also running for the seat, which will be on the March 2023 ballot.

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.

Teacher of the Year

INK! (Investing in Kids), the direct-support organization benefiting St. Johns County School District, announced five finalists for its 2021-2022 Teacher of the Year award during a countywide “Prize Patrol” visit to each of the finalists’ schools.

On Jan. 20, INK! board members, staff and volunteers, along with St. Johns County School District Superintendent Tim Forson, will recognize veteran and rookie teachers during an event to announce the winning Teacher of the Year and Rookie Teacher of the Year.

INK! nominees will also be on hand for the event, which begins at 5:30 p.m. with a banquet and program at World Golf Village Renaissance St. Augustine Resort.

Tim Forson will honor both veteran and rookie teachers in St. Johns.

“We invite the community to be a part of the honors by supporting INK!’s annual Teacher of the Year celebration. This year highlights our teachers who bring out the brilliance in students,” said Donna Lueders, INK!’s Executive Director. “During the event, we will recognize and revere the contributions of outstanding classroom teachers who are dedicated and contribute to the future of our children.”

The nominees are Valley Ridge Academy band director Andrew Burk, Cunningham Creek Elementary School second grade teacher Veronica Fuata, Wards Creek Elementary School instructional literacy coach Robie Hagan, St. Johns Virtual School academic interventionist Patricia McElhone and R.B. Hunt Elementary School fifth grade teacher Sharon Warwell-Murden.

Sponsorships for the event are available with various benefits, including reserved tables and guest tickets, name and brand recognition, signage, program opportunities, and more, starting at $375. For more information on sponsorship opportunities, contact Lueders at 904-547-7120 or email [email protected].

Stanley Marshall Day

The James Madison Institute will celebrate Stanley Marshall Day with a luncheon in Jacksonville this year, and House Speaker-designate Paul Renner is the top-billed guest.

Stanley Marshall Day is in honor of the late Dr. J. Stanley Marshall, Florida State University President from 1969-76 and founder of the James Madison Institute in 1987.

This year’s event will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 28 at Brick & Beam, 1101 N. Main Street in Jacksonville. Those in attendance will receive an overview of the House’s K-12 education priorities from Renner. An event invitation notes the talk will mainly focus on school choice priorities.

The James Madison Institute will celebrate J. Stanley Marshall and his devotion to school choice.

The Stanley Marshall Day event will also feature a talk from Denisha Merriweather, the Director of Public Relations and Content Marketing at the American Federation for Children and Founder of Black Minds Matter.

Merriweather is a former School Choice and Youth Liaison to the U.S. Education Secretary. She is also a Florida tax-credit scholarship graduate who received her master’s degree in Social Work from the University of South Florida.

Tickets to the event cost $20. Registration information is available online.

Big decisions for Jags offseason

A season that was basically a disaster ended on an unexpectedly high note Sunday when the Jaguars stunned the Indianapolis Colts 26-11.

The loss knocked the Colts out of playoff contention and allowed the Pittsburgh Steelers to enter the postseason tournament.

While the victory, which broke an eight-game losing streak, was highly satisfying for the 3-14 Jags, they can’t linger long on the triumph. There is much work to do in the immediate future, starting with the search to find a permanent head coach (as much as anything is permanent in the NFL).

So, who will take over for Urban Meyer?

Here is a list of potential coaches who have already been interviewed to replace Urban Meyer, who was fired late in the season after a controversial 13-game run with the Jags.

Doug Pederson — Former Philadelphia Eagles head coach

Todd Bowles — Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator

Jim Caldwell — Former Indianapolis Colts head coach

Byron Leftwich — Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator

Kellen Moore — Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator

Additionally, former Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien is on the list. He spent this season as offensive coordinator at the University of Alabama.

Leftwich is an intriguing name for the Jaguars. He was the team’s No. 1 draft pick in 2003 and played four seasons at quarterback for Jacksonville. He remains popular in the city and has good relationships with several people in the organization.

Also, his history as offensive coordinator with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers won’t hurt him as the Jaguars look for someone who can speed the development of quarterback Trevor Lawrence. The Bucs’ offense has been outstanding the last two seasons and won the Super Bowl in 2021.

Staff Reports


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