Jacksonville Bold for 2.16.22: The pause that refreshes

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Time for a fundraising breather; but don't hold your breath.

Don’t hold your breath

For state legislators, campaigns are officially on pause for the next few weeks, at least when it comes to fundraising.

Sitting lawmakers are required to hold off on any fundraising activity during Session. Once the Sine Die hankie drops in the Capitol, it’s a green light for the resumption of political activity.

Lawmakers are forced to take a break from fundraising, no time for challengers to hold their breath.

This edition shows Northeast Florida electeds with an eye on the calendar, many taking advantage of what time they had to make some moves before the Session began last month.

The next few weeks offer a unique opportunity to raise funds without incumbents competing for attention for those not yet in office.

If they take advantage of what ends up being a 60-day window — time will tell.

One thing we know: Any legislators taking a break now will be back in the fundraising game with a vengeance. And soon.

Clay cash

Senate candidate Clay Yarborough won’t fundraise until the Legislative Session ends (March 11, or thereabouts), but January fundraising reports show he had strong momentum going into the 60-day work period.

Clay Yarborough makes money moves in January. Image via Phil Sears.

Yarborough, a current Rep. in House District 12 on Jacksonville’s Southside, brought in over $55,000 in total between his campaign account and his political committee, Floridians for Conservative Values. Jacksonville University President Tim Cost was among those who donated to the committee, chipping in $2,500 in January.

The candidate went into the Legislative Session with more than $540,000 on hand between the committee and the campaign account, even after a $175,000 donation to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.

In November, Yarborough will be running to replace Sen. Aaron Bean, who is term-limited. Yarborough will be running to serve in Senate District 4 as Bean did, and would represent Nassau County and parts of Duval County as well if elected.

Bradley bucks

Sen. Jennifer Bradley also raised real money ahead of the Session.

Beginning last month, the Fleming Island Republican brought in $65,000 to her political committee and an additional $18,000 to the campaign account.

New district, same strong numbers for Jennifer Bradley. Image via Colin Hackley.

The biggest January donation, $10,000, came from Conservatives for Principled Leadership, a political committee controlled by Speaker-designate Paul Renner, a Republican from Palm Coast. Lobbyists, including the Southern Group and the Fiorentino Group, also donated last month ahead of the legally-required fundraising sabbatical.

Between both accounts, Bradley has roughly $450,000 on hand. Her big spend for January was a $200,000 contribution to the FRSCC.

Bradley currently represents Senate District 5 and hopes to represent the newly drawn Senate District 6, encompassing much of the same turf. In 2020 when she ran to replace her husband Rob Bradley, she faced competition in the August Primary Election and the November General Election.

Hutson haul

Sen. Travis Hutson is running for re-election in 2022 and raised roughly $86,000 for that effort in January, though he spent more than that in the end.

Travis Hutson moves big money into the Conservative Choice. Image via Colin Hackley.

Hutson’s negative outflow came from his Sunshine State Conservatives political committee, which spent over $89,000 in January. The most significant expenditure was moving $52,500 to the Conservative Choice political committee, an account with a quarter-million dollars in it. Most of it transferred from other opaquely-named political accounts.

The committee raised $54,000 in the month, partially offsetting the transfer, with the Florida Home Builders Association contributing $10,000 of it. It closed out January with roughly $60,000 on hand.

Hutson’s second political committee, First Coast Business Foundation, brought in $26,500 in January for more than $32,000 on hand. TECO Energy, which gave $10,000, was that account’s leading January donor.

In January, Hutson, the incumbent in heavily-Republican SD 7, raised $5,500 in hard money, with Associated Industries of Florida among the donors. He now has $3,200 in his campaign account.

After Audrey

In the Democratic Primary race to succeed term-limited Sen. Audrey Gibson, Rep. Tracie Davis raised a little more money than Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney in January. However, Davis did not close the cash gap with Gaffney ahead of the beginning of the Legislative Session, and the Councilman now has two months to press his advantage.

Tracie Davis will have ground to make up in March. Image via Florida House.

Davis raised over $41,000 between her campaign account and political committee, Together We Stand. Coker Law led all donors, giving $10,000. All told, Davis has $218,000 on hand for the Senate bid, and she will be able to resume fundraising sometime around March 11, after Sine Die.

Gaffney can only add to his lead in that timeframe. His Friends of Reggie Gaffney political committee is above $355,000 on hand, after a $25,000 January. Gaffney raised another $6,300 to his campaign account, with nearly $117,000 on hand.

Gibson represents SD 6 currently, but Davis or Gaffney will be the likely representative of SD 5, which contains much of the same territory as the previous district, but picks up parts of Riverside and Avondale on the Westside among other changes.

Worth noting: A Republican filed but has yet to report fundraising activity. This election could be decided in an open Democratic primary in August if neither a Republican nor an independent candidate qualifies for the ballot.

Renner rakes

Between his two political committees and campaign account, Speaker-designate Paul Renner of Palm Coast brought in nearly $350,000 in January ahead of the Legislative Session.

Renner’s Conservatives for Principled Leadership drew more than $260,000 in new money last month. Kings III, an emergency communications company based in Texas, donated $30,000. Donors giving $25,000 or more included Trulieve and the Centene Management Company.

Paul Renner banks present-tense dollars.

That committee has more than $1.7 million on hand. And Renner has more than $300,000 in a second political committee also.

Renner’s Florida Foundation for Liberty political committee also ended January in a better place than it started. The committee collected $87,500 in new money since before the 2019 Session.

Renner also added $12,000 to his campaign account, with political committees controlled by Sen. Bradley and Rep. Alex Rizo of South Florida among those donating. That account has roughly $85,000.

Renner currently represents HD 24, but redistricting will change it to HD 19.

Sam, the man

A likely future Speaker of the Florida House went into the 2022 Legislative Session with nearly $900,000 on hand for his re-election campaign, in what is the latest sign that Rep. Sam Garrison is the latest in a line of prodigious fundraisers from Clay County.

Garrison raised over $130,000 between his political committee, Honest Leadership, and his campaign account, all but $6,250 in January contributions to the soft money account.

Sam Garrison keeps the tradition of strong Clay County fundraising.

The Solar Power Political Action Committee of Sarasota, which sees donations from solar industry stakeholders across the country, gave $20,000 to the Honest Leadership committee, pacing all donors.

Garrison was first elected to the House in 2020, replacing Rep. Travis Cummings in HD 18. Redistricting will put him in HD 11, which will include Orange Park, Middleburg, and much of the same turf in northern Clay County.

Run, but where?

Democrats Mincy Pollock and Garrett Dennis are filed in (what is now) HD 13, where they nominally hope to succeed Rep. Tracie Davis.

Mincy Pollock may be in the market for a Realtor. Image via AG Gancarski.

But they won’t be running there, as the new legislative maps move Rep. Angie Nixon, now in HD 14, into HD 13. Pollack and Dennis would likely move to the new HD 14 to run, assuming they follow through.

Confused? Donors seem to be as well; Pollock and Dennis (currently not living in HD 13 or 14) didn’t get much traction in January. However, Pollock (for what it’s worth) won the month against Dennis, a sitting member of the Jacksonville City Council who is term-limited next year.

Pollock raised a little more than $11,000 between his campaign account and his political committee, All Things Common, with one important name of note: that of Councilman Reggie Gaffney, who donated $1,000 and offered more evidence, assuming it was needed, of the civil war among Duval Democrats.

Clearly, Pollock will be on the Gaffney side of the Gaffney/Davis Primary war, with Dennis backing his old friend Davis, someone he’s known since they served at the Duval County Supervisor of Elections office.

Meanwhile, Dennis’ fundraising collapsed in January, with just $1,180 raised to his campaign account and nothing to his political committee. He has roughly $50,000 on hand, more than double what Pollock has.

Worth noting in case these two square off in the end: Pollock’s burn rate. He spends thousands of dollars a month on consultants from both his PC and campaign accounts.

Dennis is currently in the new House District 12, while Pollock’s filed address is in HD 17, so both men may need the help of Realtors before they enlist political consultants. Those districts are drawn for Republicans to win, with HD 15 incumbent Rep. Wyman Duggan slotting in the new HD 12 and Jessica Baker emerging as the establishment favorite in HD 17.

Gruters get

Starting this week in the new HD 15, which includes Nassau and western Duval counties, is Dean Black, the Duval GOP chair endorsed by the head of the state Republican Party.

Dean Black gets a big get. Image via the campaign.

“As a State Senator and former Co-Chair for President Donald Trump’s campaign in Florida, I know how important it is that we elect true conservative leaders to work for us in Tallahassee. That is why I support Dean Black for Florida House District 15. Dean is a proud constitutionalist, will fight to limit government overreach, and was a delegate for President Donald Trump in 2020. Northeast Florida can depend on Dean in the Florida House, and I am proud to endorse him,” asserted Sen. Joe Gruters.

Black has $154,000 on hand in a political committee supporting his run and racks up endorsements. It is unclear who will ultimately designate to run against him at this point. Two Nassau County candidates are still filed for House District 11, the county’s former district represented by Rep. Cord Byrd.

Activist anger

A showdown is brewing between civil rights activists and the city of Jacksonville on the City Council’s redistricting map.

The Tributary was first in reporting that a coalition of groups plan legal action if the Council passes a map that packs the majority of Black voters in the city into four districts (as is currently the case). The group includes ACLU Northeast Florida Chapter, the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, the Harriet Tubman Freedom Fighters, and the Jacksonville NAACP.

Jacksonville’s new maps are giving everyone grief.

“In the last two public hearings, many residents expressed concern about what appears to be the intentional and unnecessary packing of Black voters,” the organizations’ letter to City Council said. “ … We hope the Committee answers the call of the people of Jacksonville and draws a district plan that will improve elections for all.”

Black voters can elect candidates of their choice when they make up more than 40% of the electorate, according to an analysis provided to the Council. These four districts have anywhere from 61% to 70% Black voter share, illustrating a packing of voters.

The Jacksonville City Council Rules Committee will hold its final town hall on the new maps Thursday at Raines High School, where the public can voice their concerns — as they have at the previous three meetings.

Tax twofer

Two local counties look to have tax hikes in their futures.

The Duval County School Board is exploring a millage hike, reports WJXT

Shortages of teachers concern Superintendent Diana Greene, and part of the selling point for a proposed one mill hike would be charter schools would be added to the list for funding.

Diana Green worries about staffing, and if the money will be there for public schools.

Jacksonville City Councilman Rory Diamond is a no already. He tweeted: “ANOTHER attempt to raise taxes on the hardworking people of Jacksonville. This has to stop,” Diamond tweeted. “Government is full of waste, fraud, and abuse. Let’s try and live within our means? Wasn’t the sales tax increase enough, @DuvalSchools?”

WJCT reports that the St. Johns County Commission voted 4-1 to write a sales-tax referendum draft for the November ballot. More discussion will follow next month, but the concept appears to have the votes.

The county passed a ½ cent additional sales tax in 2015, and that vote wasn’t close, so there is recent-ish historical evidence that locals will buy into it.

Masked Ball

The United Negro College Fund and Edward Waters University announced that they are hosting the inaugural Jacksonville Mayor’s Masked Ball on March 18 at the Prime Osborn Convention Center.

According to a news release, the fundraising event will bring together more than 500 corporate partners, educators, religious leaders and community influencers. Sponsors include Sissine’s Office Supplies, the Leb Family Foundation, CSX Transportation, Florida Blue, FIS, Vystar Credit Union, Baptist Health Systems, iHeart Radio, Follett and Ellucian.

A different kind of masking (than we are used to) is needed for the Masked Ball.

Event co-hosts include Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and EWU President Dr. A Zachary Faison Jr., who collaborated to create the event in support of UNCF and Jacksonville’s very own historically Black college or university.

For 77 years, UNCF has striven to change the HBCU narrative nationwide by equipping more students with the resources necessary to attend and graduate from college, ultimately expanding and diversifying America’s workforce.

Edward Waters University is Florida’s first independent institution of higher learning and Florida’s first institution established for the education of Black Americans. The institution recently earned university status, launched new academic degree programs, and is experiencing a record increase in enrollment. The university says it “is primed to continue its trajectory toward becoming the State of Florida’s ‘Destination institution’ of Emerging Eminence.”

“As America builds back better, HBCUs have never been more important to the nation’s economic growth. HBCUs are major engines of Black social and economic mobility and the prosperity of state and local communities. Yet, they remain systemically underfunded,” said Dr. Michael Lomax, UNCF president and CEO.

“Your support is needed more than ever as UNCF fights for increases in federal support for Pell Grants and other student aid and state support for our 37 member institutions and HBCUs overall. I encourage you to invest in UNCF so together we can invest in and build future generations of Black college students who will lead this nation and contribute to our economy. Events like the Jacksonville Mayor’s Masked Ball help us do just that.”

UNCF hopes to raise $500,000 during the event. Last year, $72 million was raised nationally toward scholarships and programs for UNCF-member HBCUs and other colleges and universities, including EWU.

Make a deal

The JAXPORT Board of Directors unanimously approved a 20-year, $60 million agreement for Ceres Terminals to lease and modernize the TraPac Jacksonville container terminal.

The deal hinges on a separate transaction to see Ceres acquire the terminal’s previous leaseholder, TraPac Jacksonville, from Mitsui O.S.K Lines. Details of the private transaction have not been disclosed.

Upon completion of the sale, Ceres will begin operating the 158-acre container facility located at JAXPORT’s Dames Point Marine Terminal on March 1. The facility features two 1,200-foot-long berths and six post-Panamax container cranes.

Let’s make a deal. Image via JAXPORT.

“We are excited about our long-term commitment to JAXPORT and the local community. Our significant investment in Dames Point Terminal provides an excellent gateway for South Atlantic-based distribution centers, well into the future,” said Craig Mygatt, Ceres Terminals CEO.

The agreement includes a $45 million lease with JAXPORT. Ceres, which has operated the adjacent JAXPORT intermodal yard since 2016, will also make $15 million in terminal upgrades, including investments in cargo handling equipment and systems.

A leading international terminal operator, Ceres has 60 years of experience with operations at many of North America’s largest ports. The company is experienced in terminal development, operations, and stevedoring for various cargo types and trade lanes.

“An investment of this magnitude speaks volumes about the opportunity that exists in Jacksonville,” said JAXPORT Board Chair Wendy Hamilton. “We are grateful to Ceres for their continued investment in our community and look forward to growing this important partnership in the future.”

Staff Reports


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