Jacksonville Bold for 5.11.22: King of the Hill?

Concept of a narcissistic and egoistic man
Can Jacksonville voters get Tony Hill over the hump?

King of the Hill?

Jacksonville Democrats in the new Ron DeSantis-mandered 4th Congressional District finally have a proven winner entering the Primary.

But can they get Tony Hill over the hump in November?

For Tony Hill, an opening to run. Image via A.G. Gancarski.

Hill, a current district aide to Rep. Al Lawson (who is still the Congressman for much of Duval and counties to the west), said this week that he started looking seriously at this race when it became clear last winter that the current CD 5 was something DeSantis was working to eliminate.

In play then was a Duval-only CD 5, which would have created a minority opportunity district inside of Jacksonville’s city limits.

Now?

Republicans in Clay and Nassau counties outnumber Jacksonville voters, who will likely determine the next Congressperson.

But Hill, a veteran of politics, is undaunted by those odds, and by the real possibility of this being a wave election for Republicans.

Hill, a great-grandfather now, is a throwback to a different era of politics, yet is as deeply steeped in the needs of Duval as anyone running. The only person potentially in the field who could match him in terms of experience is state Sen. Aaron Bean, who is still evaluating a run. Can he win? He’s running as if it’s possible.

One other notable Democrat is running: LaShonda Holloway, who had lost in the Democratic Primary to Lawson. Hill said he hadn’t spoken with her before launching.

Meanwhile, moneyed Republicans are also in the equation. Among them is business owner and Navy veteran Erick Aguilar, who self-funded heavily and says he has over $1 million to deploy.

Also in the mix: state Rep. Jason Fischer, who will have over $1 million for this campaign. Fischer launched after abandoning runs for state Senate and Duval County Property Appraiser.

Asked about those Republican opponents, Hill called them “formidable.”

Hill was indefinite about the plans of Lawson, who is considering his own run for the Republican-leaning CD 2 against incumbent Neal Dunn.

What’s clear is that at least in Northeast Florida, the first election in the new CD 4 will be a real one.

Z-to-A

Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a lightning-rod target for environmentalists in former President Donald Trump’s administration, announced he — and his political action committee — are backing entrepreneur and Navy veteran Erick Aguilar, who seeks the Republican nod in CD 4.

“The Democrats’ extreme agenda is out of control, and it is up to candidates like Erick to take our country back, flip the House, and save America,” Zinke said in a statement for SEAL PAC. “Erick and I share the same belief that America’s best days are still ahead — we just need proven veteran leaders to lead that charge, which is why SEAL PAC, and I are endorsing Erick for Congress.”

Ryan Zinke is actively recruiting more conservative veterans for Congress. Image via AP.

Before heading up the Interior Department, Zinke was a Navy SEAL and served in Congress. He’s now running in Montana’s 1st Congressional District.

The PAC’s mission is to get conservative veterans elected to Congress.

“It is a true honor to receive the endorsement from SEAL PAC,” Aguilar said.

“Like Ryan and others, I cannot sit idly by and let our government go unchecked by radical Democrats. Over 20 years ago, I took an oath to serve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States when I joined the U.S. Navy. The fight for freedom never ends and that call to servant leadership is needed now more than ever. I am excited to work with my brothers and sisters in arms over the next several months to win our country back and save America!”

Zinke left the Trump administration under suspicion of misconduct in office, specifically that he “misused his position to advance a development project in his Montana hometown and failed to disclose details of his involvement when questioned by ethics officials,” accusations detailed in an Interior Department Office of Inspector General report in February.

Follow the money?

State Sen. Travis Hutson raised a little more than $20,000 in April, and much of that money came from one specific address.

Ten $1,000 checks came from 120 S. Monroe St. in Tallahassee, with two of them associated with the Ramba Law Group and the remainder from political committees housed at the address. Coalition for Better Care, Focused on Florida’s Future, Voters for Economic Growth, and other such committees maxed out in donations to the St. Johns County Republican’s campaign account, which now has a little more than $83,000.

Travis Hutson benefits from one generous address.

Hutson’s First Coast Business Foundation committee secured a $2,500 check of its own from a political committee associated with Sen. Joe Gruters, who chairs the Republican Party of Florida. That committee has no money in it, as it made a $31,000 contribution to Sunshine State First, a political committee seeded mostly from other such political committees, though with direct donations from Publix and Florida Power and Light.

Hutson’s Sunshine State Conservatives political committee has about $4,000 left and got no contributions in April. It did move $40,000 into another political committee, Florida Coalition for Conservative Leadership. Other anonymous committees entirely fund that committee.

While you might need an accounting degree to follow where all this money is coming from and going to, Hutson’s path back to Tallahassee is considerably more straightforward. Primary opponent Gerald James of Ponte Vedra Beach had just under $7,000 banked as of the end of March. No Democrat filed here, and it’s unlikely a Democrat could win in the new SD 7, drawn to favor Republican candidates.

Haulin’

Rep. Paul Renner, the current Speaker-Designate of the Florida House, continued his strong fundraising; but last month, he spent more than he pulled in.

All told, the Palm Coast Republican raised $85,000 in April between his campaign account and those of his two political committees, Conservatives For Principled Leadership and Florida Foundation for Liberty.

Renner is running for the new House District 19, a likely Republican-leaning district that voted for Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis with over 55% in recent elections.

Paul Renner is moving along nicely — moneywise. Image via Colin Hackley.

Leading all donors: The $50,000 came from former Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and his wife. The Rauners donated the money in April — as they did last September — as two $25,000 checks to the Conservatives for Principled Leadership political committee.

With over $2.1 million on hand and a Speakership set to start next year, Renner may seem impervious to challenge. He has three opponents so far.

Two of them are Primary challengers.

Timothy Allen Sharp of Palm Coast had roughly $5,000 on hand through March. He opened his campaign account last October.

Luis Antonio Miguel of St. Augustine ended April with $170 on hand. He has been campaigning for four months.

The winner of the Primary looks likely to face a Democrat who has run for state House against Renner before. Adam Morley entered the race in late March. He has raised $100 through April filings.

Axed

The Breezeline cable company does not service Northeast Florida, yet a state legislator from the region sent them a warning letter about excluding the Newsmax service from its carriage.

Rep. Jason Fischer fired off a letter to Breezeline’s Frank Van Der Post accusing the CEO of “actively suppressing” Newsmax by not carrying the right-of-center streamer.

Fischer contends the provider has 11 “left-of-center” news channels and only Fox News from the right. And he offers a grave warning to the Massachusetts media outfit.

“Your decision to cancel Newsmax reeks of political bias,” Fischer said. Unless that decision is “corrected,” and the network viewers “trust and appreciate” is returned, Fischer says “political interference” could be “reasonably construed.”

After three terms, Fischer is done in the House, and is running for Congress in the new CD 4, which may suggest this move is a play for Newsmax’s attention.

Angie gets answers

Rep. Angie Nixon sought answers from the state Department of Revenue on corporate taxation, and she got them this week.

They confirmed her expectations regarding the corporate tax burden.

“Every day in Florida, folks are working their fingers to the bone to keep food on the table and a roof over their head and they deserve transparency when it comes to how our state treats them as taxpayers versus our largest corporations,” Nixon said. “What this data shows is that while most Floridians pay taxes each day, the wealthiest corporations are not paying what they owe due to a system designed to benefit only those at the very top.”

Angie Nixon wants answers. She’s getting them.

“Here in Florida, wages remain below the national average and the cost of housing continues to skyrocket. Despite massive profits and little to no tax burden for corporations, our workers continue to struggle while doing everything right for their families. I’m proud to fight to ensure that every corporation pays what they owe and for a tax system that puts the needs of the people first, not corporate donors.”

Only one out of 10 businesses paid corporate income tax in 2020, the release notes.

“For every 10 corporations in Florida with revenues exceeding $50 million, two owed zero corporate income tax. Out of 214 corporations with $1 billion in revenue, 35 owed zero corporate income tax. Out of 254,372 corporations in Florida, only 8.1% of those corporations, all of them among the largest in the state, will be eligible to benefit from the $624 million corporate tax refund currently being refunded in 2022 following the 2018 passage of HB 7093.”

In the Black

House District 15 candidate and Duval County Republican Party Chair Dean Black posted fundraising numbers recently to go along with consolidating GOP establishment support in the Nassau County portion of the district.

Between his campaign account and his True Conservatives political committee, Black raised $403,272.06. True Conservatives added $17,000 to the bank in April from three contributions — $9,000 from Jacksonville’s Gerald Daniels, $4,000 from U.S. Rep. John Rutherford’s Strengthening the American Republic PAC, and $4,000 from Florida Conservatives United, the PAC of Republican Party of Florida Chair and state Sen. Joe Gruters.

Dean Black campaigning at the Shrimp Festival in Fernandina Beach. Image via Dean Black.

The campaign account added another $14,295 in April though the numbers weren’t immediately available from the state database. Those dollars reportedly include contributions from former Duval County Clerk of Courts Ronnie Fussell and Jacksonville Beach City Council member Cory Nichols.

Last week, Black’s campaign announced a May 21 fundraiser at the Amelia Island residence of Buddy and Lorelei Jacobs, the host committee of which included, from Nassau County, Sheriff Bill Leeper, Clerk of Court John Crawford, Tax Collector John Drew, and Property Appraiser Mike Hickox. Hosts from the city of Fernandina Beach include Mayor Mike Lednovich, Vice Mayor Len Kreger, Commissioner Bradley Bean and Commissioner David Sturges.

Two days later, he received the endorsement of the local district of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Author, author

Booklovers and lovers of the lore of the Sunshine State will get a double dose of Florida writers this week, if they cross the ditch, that is.

On Saturday at the Jacksonville Beach branch library, writers Craig Pittman and Bill Delaney will take part in a Lit Chat. Pittman, who coined the infamous sobriquet “Florida Man,” has written books including “The State That You’re In” and so many more. Delaney’s “Secret Jacksonville” is one of the more interesting books in recent years about Duval, meanwhile.

No one knows more about #FloridaMan.

Make sure you have a library card if you want to attend this one.

“Registration is required for this event and must be completed two hours prior to the start time. A library card and PIN are required for registration. If you do not have a card, click HERE to obtain one,” the library notes.

Books will be available on-site via the local indie Bookmark shop, and Pittman has agreed to sign at least some of them. If you don’t want to deal with the crowds, they will also Zoom the event.

Mayo in Ball

Downtown’s iconic Ed Ball Building will have a cleaner bill of health soon, notes the Jax Daily Record this week.

The local daily notes that the City Council approved a five-year lease agreement with the Mayo Clinic for space on the first floor of the building.

Contemplated in the lease: “general office use, administrative, and clinical research purposes.”

Does Ed Ball clean up nicely?

The Daily Record predicts that Mayo will fill the vacant storefront of the former VyStar Credit Union.

And, yes, dedicated parking will be available.

“The agreement terms include providing Mayo employees with monthly access cards to the Ed Ball Garage and establishes a parking validation program providing free hourly parking to Mayo patients,” the memo says, as reported by the Daily Record.

Unloading college cash

Monday wasn’t the worst day of the week for everybody this go-round, as members of International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1408 at JAXPORT took to Hidden Hills Country Club to raise money for the ILA Local 1408 Scholarship Fund. The effort this year raised close to $50,000.

Union and Port officials took to the links Monday for a scholarship fundraiser. Image via JAXPORT.

“The need is tremendous,” Jadene King, Executive Director of the Scholarship Fund, said in a statement. “We’re making sure that we still give to these students that are so deserving, that have excelled in school through a pandemic, and have weathered the storm academically. Now we need to help them financially.”

The golf outing is the union’s main annual fundraiser — the program’s been around for nearly 30 years and awarded over 1,000 scholarships during that time totaling around $1 million. Around 40% of scholarships went to first-generation college students.

Going to the people

So much of Nassau County’s economy depends on tourism — especially beach tourism — so Amelia Island officials are reaching out to residents and visitors to plan for a unified vision for the island’s beaches and a kind of overall plan for future tourism.

The Amelia Island Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Amelia Island Tourism Development Council are working together to manage both efforts on behalf of the Nassau County government.

Amelia Island beaches — they’re nice, and officials want to make them more attractive. Image via Wes Wolfe.

“To make it easy for our community to get involved and provide their input, we have created a new website, MemoriesMaking.com, said Amy Boek, Chief Marketing Officer of the Bureau, at the latest Council meeting.

“Both of these projects are housed on that website, where you have information about the overview of the projects, as well as links to the survey. The most important part for both these projects is that we get input from our community on what they want and what they envision for Nassau County and the Amelia Island beaches.”

Other than the intention to specifically not deal with beach driving, harmonization planning at this point is open and without a lot of specifics. Tourism and destination planning, following a parallel path, are also in their early steps.

“The goal of Nassau Next — a Tourism Strategy and Destination Project — is to create a road map for the future of Nassau County and enhancing the tourism economy,” according to the project website. “Positioning new areas of the county will help to capture an increased share of tourism spending while maintaining the momentum that currently exists on Amelia Island.”

Nassau Next, once implemented, is supposed to guide planning for a decade.

Tiger tracks

Jacksonville’s home to a lot of new residents, and among them is a 13-year-old Malayan tiger. The big cat, named Bashir, arrived in early April at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. Zoo officials made his arrival announcement Tuesday, but he’s been on view at the tiger exhibit since Thursday.

“Bashir is acclimating nicely and at his own pace,” Senior Mammal Keeper Tirzah Nichols said in a statement. “We pay close attention to his comfort levels in his new surroundings, monitor his progress, and only introduce him to new areas when he is ready.”

Bashir, the Malayan tiger — a new arrival in Duval County. Image via Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.

Estimates are fewer than 150 Malayan tigers in the wild — Bashir came to Jacksonville through a species survival plan (SSP) between an accredited group of zoos and aquariums. SSPs use genetics in captive endangered species to help the species survive.

Next up, Bashir will meet a female Malayan tiger, Cinta, in the coming months.

“It can be a long process getting an animal acclimated to their new environment and even longer to go through the steps of introducing animals to each other,” Assistant Curator of Mammals Sheryl Staaden said in a statement. “Tigers are solitary by nature, so they are only together for a brief time for breeding. The timing of an introduction is important with different steps in the process accomplished prior to the actual introduction.”

Hot Shrimp

Last night’s 3-2 loss to International League West-leading Nashville Sounds (21-9) notwithstanding, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (18-13) have been on a tear, winning five of six going into the Sounds series.

Shrimp pitching had a better series against Memphis than earlier this season — Bryan Hoeing made his AAA debut Saturday, throwing seven innings while giving up four runs on four hits, walking three, and striking out seven. Two of those hits were home runs.

Edward Cabrera stepped to the mound Sunday and gave the Shrimp five scoreless innings against the Redbirds en route to a 6-3 win before hitting the road back to Florida. In those five innings, Cabrera gave up three hits while walking one batter and striking out six.

Jacksonville had a chance to claim the International League East Division lead outright last night, but the low-scoring ballgame ended 3-2 with the Sounds on the right side of the numbers.

The Jumbo Shrimp are one game out of first place in the division presently, with a division-leading run differential of plus-33. Nashville, meanwhile, leads the International League in both record and run differential, with plus-58.

Thanks to some moves in South Florida, third baseman Joe Dunand received a temporary call-up to the Miami Marlins over the weekend.

Joe Dunand is the first Shrimp call-up to the Marlins this season. Image via MiLB.com.

“By homering off Padres left-hander Sean Manaea, Dunand became the third Marlin to homer in his first big league at-bat,” according to the MiLB.com recap. “Dunand later doubled in the fifth and finished 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored in an 8-0 Marlins win.

“A second-round pick by Miami in 2017 out of North Carolina State, Dunand logged time for Jacksonville when the Jumbo Shrimp were a Double-A club in 2018-19 and has also played on the Triple-A Jumbo Shrimp in 2021-22.”

Dunand has five doubles, one home run, seven RBI, and 11 runs scored so far this season with the Jumbo Shrimp.

Staff Reports


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