Jacksonville Bold for 4.20.22 — Jockeying

Common business goal
The race is on?

Jockeying

Florida has yet to pass a new congressional map, but Northeast Florida politicians are angling for a seat expected to be created.

The current 5th Congressional District replacement includes western Duval, Clay and Nassau counties. It will be no sure victory for a Jacksonville politician.

The current state of the race sees pre-candidates trying to consolidate support ahead of formal launches.

Senate President Pro Tempore Aaron Bean of Fernandina Beach looks poised to roll out support from all three counties in the district and beyond. State Sens. Jennifer Bradley and Travis Hutson are on board; so are future Speaker Sam Garrison, former Rep. Travis Cummings, and Jacksonville’s once and future Supervisor of Elections, Jerry Holland.

Whoever runs will require support from all over: Clay County has 42% of Republican Primary likely voters, 18% in Nassau, and the rest in Duval.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is also looking at this race. Curry has not gotten an endorsement from Gov. Ron DeSantis yet, and the mayor wasn’t even on hand for the Governor’s stopover in Jacksonville Monday … an absence which led some observers to wonder why.

Curry for Congress? Image via WJCT.

Interestingly, Bean and Curry were both in play for an opening in the previous Governor’s administration when Jeff Atwater left the Chief Financial Officer position. Ultimately, Rick Scott went with Jimmy Patronis as his appointee. History seems to repeat regarding the competing political ambitions of these two.

The question now looming with two major candidates looking at this race: where is the lane for others to enter? Expect continual coverage of developments here through August as well as on Florida Politics.

Donations accepted

While it looks increasingly uncertain that Rep. Al Lawson will have a 2022 campaign at all, given the realities of the new Congressional map, it doesn’t mean that the Tallahassee Democrat has stopped fundraising.

Lawson is still working for re-election. Image via A.G. Gancarski

The first quarter of 2022 saw Lawson raise $50,856. Donors included PACs related to tobacco companies Altria and Swisher International, former Republican Senate candidate Belinda Keiser of Keiser University fame, the Florida Farm Bureau, and the Southeast Cotton Committee.

Lawson closed the quarter with $367,033 on hand. The question now: Where can he spend it?

It wasn’t all unwelcome news for regional congressional incumbents, however.

This year, Rep. John Rutherford can run in a slightly remapped (but still safely Republican) district. He closed the quarter in a good position, with over $273,000 on hand, raising more than $72,000 in the first quarter.

Haley hailed

UF Health in Jacksonville was the place to be Monday morning.

DeSantis made it official, saying that the city’s only safety net hospital was in line for $80 million for a new trauma center.

The $80 million allocation was part of a bipartisan effort to update the Jacksonville hospital’s trauma center by replacing it with a state-of-the-art facility to help serve citizens of Duval, Nassau, Clay, St. Johns, Baker, and surrounding counties.

Jacksonville was the place to be. Image via Governor’s Office.

In announcing he would approve the funding at a UF Health Jacksonville facility, DeSantis was flanked by hospital leadership, family members of Haley, Republican legislators who fought for the grant, and Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo. The Governor said the new facility would help serve hundreds of thousands of Floridians — a fitting way to honor Haley.

“Dr. Leon Haley dedicated his life to helping people, and those who knew him were inspired by his leadership and commitment to bettering his community,” DeSantis said. “It is fitting to honor his legacy with a facility that will serve Jacksonville and the surrounding communities for generations to come.”

The new center will replace a currently outdated one. The current one is heavily used, serving around 125,000 patients annually. It is the only Level-1 trauma center — treating the most severe injuries — ‌between Gainesville and Savannah, Georgia.

Construction will take until the middle of the decade.

No go, Brandon

On Tuesday, state House candidate Adam Brandon formally folded his campaign and endorsed a colleague at the Rogers Towers law firm: Rep. Wyman Duggan, who will represent the new HD 12 in southern Duval County.

Wait until the next cycle? Image via Adam Brandon.

Brandon had initially filed in HD 12 before redistricting. He subsequently moved his campaign to HD 16, but all of it was a dry run, with no clear path for him this cycle.

“Wyman does an excellent job serving our community in the Legislature, and I am thrilled to lend him my support for the new House District 12. While my campaign for the House this year is ending, I am proud of our broad coalition of supporters, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds,” Brandon said.

“I’d like to thank my friend Adam Brandon for his support and endorsement. Adam is a fellow veteran, trusted colleague, and committed conservative who I look forward to supporting in the years ahead,” Duggan added.

Duggan was first elected in the former HD 15 in 2018. He can serve in the House until 2026 if re-elected. He is well-positioned financially for the campaign ahead.

Duggan had roughly $87,000 in his campaign account at the end of March, and another $100,000 in his political committee, Citizens for Building Florida’s Future.

Cumber & Carlo

Jacksonville City Council member LeAnna Gutierrez Cumber started the week by hiring a campaign manager for her 2023 mayoral campaign.

LeAnna Cumber is staffing up. Image via First Coast News.

Cumber’s campaign brought aboard Carlo Fassi, deputy director of the city’s intergovernmental affairs department, for which he’d worked since Dec. 6, 2021. Fassi left suddenly over the weekend, a measure of how quickly the mayoral race is moving, especially given that incumbent Curry is mulling a run for Congress.

“Carlo is an expert in Jacksonville politics. He has the experience our campaign needs to contrast my plan to get Jacksonville moving against establishment politicians and their record of raising taxes — including the gas tax. It is time for a real change in our city that goes beyond the endless, empty discussions about our ‘potential,’” asserted Cumber Tuesday.

The Curry administration groused about the sudden move Monday.

“Effective immediately, Mr. Carlo Fassi is no longer employed at the City of Jacksonville. The short-lived nature of his employment was not ideal, and his departure was unexpected. As we know, professional reputations and relationships last longer than election cycles. We wish Mr. Fassi well in his career,” said director of intergovernmental affairs Leeann Krieg.

Despite the hurt feelings in City Hall, Fassi is moving to run the campaign that, at least for now, holds the financial advantage among official candidates. Cumber raised a little more than $272,000 last month. Of that sum, $134,550 went to her campaign account, with the remaining $137,650 going to the Jax First committee.

Stoked

Another candidate has entered the race in House District 16.

Jacksonville Beach City Council member Chet Stokes joins a field that has not included a clear front-runner in a seat that consists of the Jacksonville Beaches and the Arlington area.

Did redistricting give Chet Stokes a path to Tallahassee?

“Our region needs bold leaders with vision representing us in Tallahassee — not the same tired figures of the past,” Stokes said. “I am ready to put my business experience and conservative values forward to fight for our region, including defending the Constitution, fighting for limited government, and promoting economic opportunity for our small businesses.”

Fundraising has been sluggish for filed candidates thus far. Angel Mom Kiyan Michael limped to $300 fundraising in March, with less than $13,000 in the bank. She was endorsed Tuesday by former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who called her a “true patriot who’s suffered the ultimate sacrifice and has the heart, passion, intellect, and knowledge to be a representative of the people.”

Jacksonville Beach lawyer Heath Brockwell hasn’t reported any financial activity in months. He had about $15,000 on hand at the end of March.

It is ultimately unknown if Stokes’ filing will keep other candidates out of the field. Former Rep. Lake Ray has not ruled out a run. Rep. Cord Byrd is also possible, assuming he doesn’t run for something else.

Tax time

An August referendum measure (2022-213) requested by the Duval County School Board, which would raise property taxes by one mill, was one step closer to the ballot Tuesday.

By a 4-3 vote, the Jacksonville City Council Rules Committee approved the legislation, which could generate $82 million in new money annually for the cash-strapped district. The School Board successfully passed a sales tax increase referendum two years prior.

Republicans Aaron Bowman, Rory Diamond, and Nick Howland all voted “no,” suggesting that this year’s path for another tax vote may still be rocky.

The bill approved by Rules will only put the referendum on the August Primary ballot if the full City Council approves the legislation next week.

That approval was strongly suggested as required by the Office of General Counsel. The Council merely has a “ministerial” role as a “pass-through” to get the referendum on the ballot, said a city lawyer.

Voters will ultimately make the final call.

Swamped

It seems like a relic of an earlier era but working on a transoceanic freighter only to jump ship once it reaches port in America is still a thing that happens, and evidence of that came recently at the Port of Fernandina.

“There’s nothing to report from Port security — everything’s been OK,” said Danny Fullwood, chair of the Ocean Highway and Port Authority (OHPA), at the OHPA’s last meeting. “As a matter of fact, there was a problem with the ship we’ve been talking about. Somebody absconded from the ship. One of the crew members left the Port through the marsh during the night. They never did find him — he may have gotten gator-eaten in that marsh, I don’t know.

“They now have a police officer that sits down there 24 hours a day monitoring that ship. There’s a gangplank — If that gangplank comes down … in the morning, I know there’s one crew member (who) comes down and checks the waterline because he has to do that, goes back up, and the gangplank goes up unless they have to get off the ship for some other reason. Some of them can if they have the appropriate documentation to do that.”

The Port of Fernandina: A lovely place from which to escape into the United States. Image via Worldwide Terminals Fernandina.

Nassau Terminals is paying a police officer for extra security work. The crew member is believed to be Vietnamese, Nassau Terminals CEO Chris Ragucci said, and Fullwood noted he was still missing at the time of the meeting.

“They have a description of him, he was picked up on our cameras, so they have an idea of what he looks like,” Ragucci said. “They saw him getting out through the marsh.”

The crew member went down the railroad tracks and through the open gate, Fullwood said, to reach the marsh.

All about that bass

It’s nice to imagine that tasty black sea bass served at a Florida restaurant is a fresh catch from local waters, but more often than not, that’s a fantasy.

Fishers at the Snapper-Grouper Advisory Panel for the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council said this week black sea bass in the region fell victim, in recent years, to climate change and red snapper overpopulation.

The Council’s responsible for managing fish in federal waters from North Carolina south through the Florida Keys.

Probably won’t catch many of these off Florida’s Atlantic coast. Image via Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Jimmy Hull, a Ponce Inlet commercial fisher and chair of the Panel, traditionally fished for black sea bass.

“I’m a black sea bass pot fisherman, or at least I used to be,” Hull said. “I had fished recently, this winter, and participated in the ropeless gear experiment with it. We caught a few fish, but it’s just like it’s been for the last couple of years, and we have cameras on there, and what you do see is red snapper. Everywhere.

“The bigger bass will swim with them, but that, with climate change — the ocean’s changing. In my area, it’s not worth going. I know up to the north in the Carolinas, they are still catching some fish, but in my area, no.”

Seeing red

Years of perceived foot-dragging on the part of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to reopen the red snapper fishery fully, despite evidence of the fish’s abundance, led members of the SAFMC’s Snapper-Grouper Advisory Panel to ask Council members to wake up and make the policy moves necessary to address the problem.

Extreme discard mortality levels mean that red snapper is technically overfished by regulatory definition, but not in real life, fishers argue. The Council proposed Regulatory Amendment 35 to deal with the issue, but Panel members said it’s wrongheaded.

Northeast Florida federal waters are lousy with red snapper, fishers say. Image via Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

“In Amendment 35, this (Advisory Panel) was asked to provide suggestions to further reduce red snapper interactions while fishing for other species,” North Carolina recreational fisher Robert Lorenz read from a statement he wrote, which the Panel unanimously agreed to send to the Council. “The AP was asked to consider what could be punitive actions that could include bottom closures and altered seasons, or shut seasons for other species in order to avoid red snapper interactions.

“The AP presented opinion and suggestions in the best of faith. However, the overriding feeling and opinion of this AP is that the red snapper is recovered. This is based on the collective, on-the-water experience of the AP members.”

Panel members felt they had been asked to solve a problem that didn’t exist.

“The red snapper is highly abundant, and the biomass of the species is largely assumed by this AP as being recovered and sufficient in abundance to begin a pathway to more liberal regulation of the species,” Lorenz said.

Big Shrimpin’

You want drama; you got drama. The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp kept up their hot bats on the road in Durham to win four out of six games and bring a 5-7 record back home Tuesday night to face the Gwinnett Stripers and Ronald Acuña Jr.

Fortunately, the Shrimp also had Miami Marlins’ No. 2 prospect Max Meyer back on the mound. Meyer threw five and two-thirds innings of shutout baseball, striking out seven and walking two while allowing three hits, ending with an earned run average of 1.23 on the year.

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson threw out the first pitch before Tuesday’s win for the Jumbo Shrimp. Image via the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Acuña didn’t do much, but his one hit was a double deep to right-center. His teammates couldn’t do much more, and the Shrimp bullpen no-hit the last three and one-third innings to close out the game.

Don’t look now, but as Bold hits your email, the Shrimp could be summiting Mount 500 with a win at today’s ballgame that started at 12:05 p.m. The homestand with the Stripers continues through Sunday. Next week, the Shrimp head back to North Carolina for a series with the Charlotte Knights.

Staff Reports



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