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DeSantis wins map fight
Gov. Ron DeSantis stood his ground on the Congressional redistricting map he wanted, enduring legislative deliberations on maps he had no intention of supporting.
He then delivered a promised veto on the final package.
DeSantis didn’t blink. And in a memo Monday, legislative leadership formally caved, likely formalizing a drastic change to Jacksonville’s congressional districts.
Buried in the text was the only quote that matters: “At this time, Legislative reapportionment staff is not drafting or producing a map for introduction during the Special Session. We are awaiting a communication from the Governor’s Office with a map that he will support.”
Special Session starts in less than a week, meaning legislators are effectively waiting on a product from the Governor to approve or else. The high-minded rhetoric about preserving minority access districts ended up being as unsentimentally discarded as any amendment or committee substitute during the Legislative Session.
Are you surprised? Probably not.
Setting aside the larger drama, a DeSantis map will transform local politics.
— It will not include the current 5th Congressional District, extending to Gadsden County from Jacksonville’s Eastside.
— It will likely subdivide the region into two GOP-performing congressional districts, with the new one of interest including western Duval, Nassau and Clay counties.
If it existed in 2020, that district would have given more than 52% of its vote to Donald Trump.
So, Al Lawson would be gone. But so would Duval Democrats.
And Jacksonville is split in this so-called DeSantis-mander.
It cannot be stressed enough how this scenario would change local races in 2022 and 2023. It would foreclose the chance for someone like Audrey Gibson to run for Congress, likely putting her into the mayoral race. And it’s easy to imagine the Republican hopefuls for this seat numbering in the double digits.
Jacksonville Republicans hadn’t considered a Congressional succession since 2016 when former Sheriff John Rutherford got the establishment nod to succeed Ander Crenshaw, who left Congress of his own accord.
Even then, Rutherford faced a crowded (and occasionally tough) Primary.
There is no obvious “let’s coronate THIS guy” candidate here, which is great for consultants and keeps reporters busy.
It’s confusing for everyone else.
If the Primary is crowded enough, victory could come by a small portion of the vote.
Of course, court challenges are inevitable. But unless a Hail Mary connects and capsizes this map in a conservative Supreme Court, we likely are seeing the beginning of the end of a Jacksonville Minority Access District first put into place in the early 1990s.
And we are indeed about to see the beginnings of an interesting 2022 campaign season.
Lawson has been active in complaining about the reapportionment process in Tallahassee and, apparently, he is carving out the time with no-shows for House votes.
The Capitolist reports that Lawson, joined by two other members, leads the House in proxy votes, which different members cast on behalf of the absent colleague. Because of COVID-19, the House permits this.
Lawson has been a reliable vote for President Joe Biden, siding with the White House 100% of the time.
Despite this dubious streak, Lawson is still coming in hot regarding being removed from the House by the DeSantis map.
“The Florida Legislature is caving to the intimidation of DeSantis and his desire to create additional Republican seats in Congress by eliminating minority-access districts,” said Lawson, who described himself as “disappointed but not surprised” by DeSantis getting his way on the map.
U.S. Rep. John Rutherford is calling for the impeachment of Biden over immigration policy.
Rep. Rutherford has seen enough. Image via Rutherford’s Congressional Office.
On Monday, the Jacksonville Republican tweeted that the ending of Title 42, the pandemic-justified removal of undocumented immigrants from countries where COVID-19 is a problem, is a rationale for such a process.
The Biden Administration is expecting up to 18,000 people a day to cross our southern border after Title 42 is lifted. This is malfeasance and should be grounds for Biden’s impeachment!
— Rep. John Rutherford (@RepRutherfordFL) April 11, 2022
Rutherford said the action constituted “malfeasance and should be grounds for Biden’s impeachment!”
Right now, the policy will end next month.
Rutherford has been rebuffed in efforts to change policy, unsurprisingly in a Democratic-controlled House.
“With record numbers of illegal aliens coming across every day, getting rid of Title 42 would result in disaster. That’s why I went to the House floor this week to request immediate consideration of the PAUSE Act, which would prevent Title 42 from being rescinded. Unfortunately, House Democrats rejected my request. I will continue to fight to keep Title 42 and to strengthen America’s border policy,” he vowed in a recap email sent from his office last week.
Rep. Angie Nixon is agreeing to pay the Florida Elections Commission a fine to settle a complaint from last year.
After redistricting, Nixon will run for a term in redrawn House District 13; she arranged a $1,625 settlement regarding erroneous filings.
According to the final order, several “contributions and expenditures were not supported by the campaign records.” Others were omitted.
The contributions in question came in via PayPal or ActBlue. ActBlue also allowed donations exceeding the statutory limit. Nixon has sought professional help to reconcile the filings.
The consent order will have to be approved by the Elections Commission.
Nixon was first elected in the former HD 14 in 2020, defeating Rep. Kim Daniels in the Democratic Primary. She is running for her second term in the House this year.
Fundraising stayed sluggish through March, raising questions about who will end up running in the new House District 16, which encompasses the Beaches and part of Arlington.
The current field of candidates does not inspire donors.
Despite getting endorsements from Q-General Mike Flynn and Rep. Anthony Sabatini, Angel Mom Kiyan Michael limped to $300 fundraising, with less than $13,000 in the bank.
Jacksonville Beach lawyer Heath Brockwell hasn’t reported any financial activity in months. He has about $15,000 on hand.
Rogers Towers lawyer Adam Brandon also filed. During this process, he moved once already and shifted to HD 16, which kept the district close to the St. Johns River on the Southside on the old maps.
Now that HD 16 moved, his campaign remains a question mark.
The eventual candidate in this district may not have even filed yet.
Former Rep. Lake Ray may redesignate, though nothing is certain. Other names will undoubtedly be floated, including current Rep. Clay Yarborough, if Rep. Cord Byrd gets in the Senate race (at DeSantis’ behest), as some have predicted. Jacksonville Beach City Councilman Chet Stokes’ name has also been bandied as a possibility.
Like father like son
Democrat Reggie Gaffney Jr., running to fill the Jacksonville City Council seat held by Reggie Gaffney Sr., continues strong fundraising, clearing $60,000 raised after two months in the race. He raised $27,500 in March.
Gaffney garnered donations from lobbyist and state Rep. Wyman Duggan and the Dalton Agency’s Michael Munz, providing evidence that he will benefit from Republican money like his father.
The District 7 field is crowded, and Gaffney the Younger holds an advantage over the rest in terms of money and name recognition.
Republican Charles Barr raised nearly $25,000, but a lot is self-funding ($10k in last month alone) and wishful thinking, given that Gaffney Sr. was critical in ensuring that the district stayed essentially the same during local redistricting.
Democrat Nahshon Nicks has raised over $19,000 but burned through most of that, leaving roughly $3,000 on hand. Another Democrat, Kim Pryor, reported $13,150 on her first fundraising report in March, but $11,000 was self-funding.
More money moves
Republican Raul Arias raised nearly $120,000 for his campaign to succeed term-limited Danny Becton in Jacksonville City Council District 11.
Between his campaign account and political committee, Northeast Florida Values, Arias brought in $79,450 in March.
Donors last month included Jesus Garay, Robert Fleckenstein, Michael Munz, Hector Pagan, Commissioner Jeremiah Blocker, Summit Construction Management Group and “For a Strong Florida,” a political committee associated with Councilmember Rory Diamond.
A Navy veteran who owns the popular Mambos restaurants, Arias was appointed to the Housing & Community Development Commission by Mayor Lenny Curry.
He is also an active volunteer with the Jacksonville Police Athletic League. He and his wife, former Action News Jax anchor Lorena Inclán, are members of Blessed Trinity Catholic Church members.
For years, District 11 on the city’s Southside has been a safe bet for Republicans. Other Republicans in the running are Norman Brewer Jr. and Annalyn Velasquez-Insco. Other candidates could materialize, but Arias will likely be the establishment’s favorite.
Qualifying for the March 2023 first election runs from Jan. 9-13, 2023. If no candidate gets a simple majority, the top two finishers will move into a May runoff in the General Election — regardless of party.
An iconic Jacksonville attorney died over the weekend, and the definitive obituary may have been Andrew Pantazi’s on his Tributary website.
Bill Sheppard was part of a good deal of Jacksonville history, the veteran reporter notes:
“Sheppard’s lawsuits legalized same-sex marriage in Florida, led to a federal takeover of state prisons, sparked the construction of a less crowded county jail, and forced the city into a settlement with Black firefighters who argued the city’s system of hiring and promoting had discriminated against them.”
“He wasn’t a ‘lawyer.’ He was a man who was willing to give everything he had to the people and causes he loved,” wrote Betsy White, his wife and longtime law partner, on Facebook. “He never gave a damn about material things or a person’s social status. Those false trappings were of no value to him. Instead, the Constitution was his Bible, and the search for justice was his life’s mission.”
Matter of trust
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has awarded the St. Johns Cultural Council a $25,000 grant through the “Telling the Full History Preservation Fund.”
The funding will help install interpretive signage and exhibits at the St. Augustine Beach Hotel and Beachfront, a building listed on the National Register of Historic Places at a national level of significance for the civil rights era wade-ins in 1964.
“The Cultural Council is excited to receive our first grant from the National Trust. We look forward to working with community members to share St. Augustine Beach history with visitors to the St. Johns County Ocean Pier,” said Christina Parrish Stone, St. Johns Cultural Council’s Executive Director.
The St. Johns Cultural Council’s grant is one of 80 awarded nationwide for projects to preserve, interpret, and activate historical places to tell the stories of underrepresented groups. The funding was made possible through a $2.5 million pot of money provided to the National Endowment for the Humanities via the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
“The Telling the Full History Preservation Fund represents the largest number of grants given through a single program at the National Trust,” said Katherine Malone-France, Chief Preservation Officer.
“These 80 projects are driven by many dedicated volunteers, staff and experts, all seeking to expand how we compose the American narrative. We are grateful for the work that they do on the ground and in their communities to reveal, remember, celebrate and illuminate these stories through these extraordinary places.”
More information on the St. Johns Cultural Council’s grant is available at stjohnsculture.com. A complete list of Telling the Full History Preservation Fund grant recipients is available at savingplaces.org.
It’s time to tidy up. Bring in your beach furniture, fill in the holes in the sand and turn out the lights — sea turtle nesting season is at the door, and if folks in Northeast Florida want to continue the momentum achieved thus far in loggerhead sea turtle conservation, steps need to be taken.
On Amelia Island, a team of more than 100 trained volunteers is getting ready to do their annual work as vital conservation partners.
“We are a group of volunteers who collect data — that’s our job; we’re data collectors,” Mary Duffy of Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch (AISTW) said to a crowded Peck Center auditorium Monday night in Fernandina Beach. “We just have a lot of fun doing it. We do a lot of teaching along the way, as well. We’re data collectors for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Our training comes directly from them.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s also trying to get the word to people to be responsible and considerate of other living things that use the beach.
“Beachgoers can help native wildlife by properly disposing of all trash, filling in human-made holes in the sand and removing boats, beach toys and furniture from the beach before sunset,” according to a recent FWC statement. “Fishing line can be deadly to sea turtles, water birds and other wildlife, so be sure to dispose of it properly.”
While state officials work the areas of Ft. Clinch and Amelia Island state parks, it’s local volunteers who work on the coastline in-between: Locating and sectioning off nests, moving nests and conducting other research.
How does one get Jacksonville to chill out?
First things first — find out where the heat islands are.
That’s part of the plan for the new City of Jacksonville Chief Resiliency Officer Anne Coglianese. On Tuesday, she announced a $13,000 federally funded effort to tackle the City’s heat problems.
“Often we focus on flooding because it’s the most financially damaging threat that we have — it can really impact property and have a high price tag — but ultimately urban heat is the deadliest natural hazard that we face,” Coglianese said. “That’s based across the country — it takes more lives than hurricanes, wildfires or tornadoes.
“It’s really kind of a slow-moving hazard, but one that I’m very focused on and want to make sure that we have a kind of drumbeat of action on in the data layer that’s going to come out of this partnership with (the University of North Florida) will be really helpful to us.”
The effort to tackle urban heat is a joint one between the city, UNF and the firm CAPA Strategies, which specializes in this type of project.
UNF assistant professor Adam Rosenblatt will lead the research team.
To get the data, researchers will install sensors on cars set to go on preset routes several times a day, every day, during the hottest week of the year. After that week, the team will aggregate the data and start putting it to work.
Renowned climate scientist Marshall Shepherd tweeted recently he drove from Atlanta to Panama City in his electric car without a problem. As electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure grows and makes EV purchases practical for more people, the Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) holds its Drive Electric Earth Day event Saturday at TIAA Bank Field.
“Test drive the latest electric vehicles,” the JEA stated, “and find out how thousands of Northeast Florida residents have made the switch by chatting with EV experts and local EV drivers.”
Drive Electric Earth Day is a national event co-sponsored by several organizations and companies, including the Electric Vehicle Association, Plug In America, the Sierra Club and Wells Fargo, with JEA playing the local host.
“In 2010-2019, average annual global greenhouse gas emissions were at their highest levels in human history, but the rate of growth has slowed,” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated in an April 4 release. “Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, limiting global warming to 1.5°C is beyond reach.”
Effectively handling greenhouse gas emissions — switching from fossil-fuel burning vehicles, for example — is crucial in slowing some of the worst effects of climate change.
The JEA Drive Electric Earth Day event is free and located at Lot J and Gate 1 Plaza.
Shrimpin’ ain’t easy
Your Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp have some work to do, losing their first five games out of six to the visiting Worcester Red Sox. The great pitching, we were told, is such a key of the Miami Marlins’ organization. However, it couldn’t stop the gentlemen from Massachusetts from putting up 39 runs, averaging 6.5 runs per game.
For their part, the Shrimp bats provided hits and runs across the plate, but Worcester, more often than not, found a way to get a run or two more and take those wins.
Notably, the combined run totals for these contests were 11, 13, 12, 12, 6 and 13, so there was plenty of action on the field.
Speaking of action on the field, in April 6’s game, Worcester’s first baseman Triston Casas came up to bat and put the ball in play with a man on first.
Then it got weird.
Shrimp second baseman Bryson Brigman botched fielding the ball, which fortuitously bounced to shortstop Erik Gonzalez who fired the ball to Lewin Diaz at first for the first out, and Diaz whipped it on a rope to third base for the second out — as they called it on the air, a classic 4-6-3-5 double play.
If you went out to the opening week’s games, you noticed the Duval County Supervisor of Elections has a new partnership with the local AAA baseball franchise.
“As you attend baseball games this season, please look for our elections awareness messaging to play ‘in game’ all season long,” the office stated Thursday.
The Shrimp took their 1-5 record on the road this week to face the Durham Bulls in North Carolina. The pitching that eluded Jacksonville at home showed up in Durham, as pitcher Max Meyer threw five perfect innings Tuesday night, striking out eight batters on 53 pitches, 37 of which were strikes.
Meyer came out for the sixth inning but couldn’t continue because of a leg injury, baseball reporter Craig Mish tweeted.
The Shrimp return to Jacksonville for a series beginning April 19 against the Gwinnett Stripers.