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There are two open Senate seats in Northeast Florida. Voters won’t have a say when it comes to the Republican one.
In contrast, the other will be the subject of a pitched, brutal, divisive — and now closed — Democratic Primary.
Unless something bizarre and nonsensical happens, Rep. Clay Yarborough’s ascent to the Florida Senate should firm up Friday at noon. No one filed to run against him, not after machinations months back that discouraged Reps. Cord Byrd and Jason Fischer from running.
Some suggested that Senate leadership endorsements came too early. There was a hint that Byrd might get back into the Senate race, but Secretary of State is a better gig. And Fischer, despite having a million dollars (or so) banked, was convinced to run for Congress after redistricting, creating at least a minor complication for Sen. Aaron Bean. Of course, he’s now back in the race for Duval County Property Appraiser.
No matter. What’s done is done, and Yarborough to the Senate is basically a done deal.
The picture with Democrats? Not nearly as clear.
Jacksonville City Council member Reggie Gaffney banked over half a million dollars, but Rep. Tracie Davis has closed the gap in recent months.
Gaffney is a dealmaker without peers in City Hall, working across the aisle and getting strong GOP donor class support. Davis is closer to a traditional Democrat; the fundraising ban hampered her fundraising efforts during Legislative Session.
Republican Binod Kumar qualified Monday, allowing for a closed primary that only Democrats could vote in. That scenario would help Davis, in theory at least. She can say that Gaffney is virtually like sending Lenny Curry to the Senate.
For many in Jacksonville, a Gaffney win would be as good as a Republican win. And if that happens, it would be an interesting irony: for all the complaints about Congressional redistricting deleveraging Jacksonville Democrats, the same could happen here, with maps most people agree are fair and square.
Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook and Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper joined Cook in announcing their support for Bean’s campaign for the new Florida 4th Congressional District, which comprises all of Clay and Nassau counties along with western and northern areas of Duval County.
“He has been a tested and trusted leader throughout his career, and l know we can count on him to fight for our values. Aaron proudly ‘backs the blue’ — and I’m thrilled to back him in his run for Congress,” Cook said in a statement.
Leeper said, “The brave men and women who put on the uniform every day and put their lives at risk to save the lives of their neighbors deserve our unwavering respect, and I know Aaron Bean understands this. A career in law enforcement is a choice — a choice to serve the community — and no other candidate matches this same commitment to service as Aaron Bean does.”
Bean, who finished his term-limited time in the Senate as President Pro Tem, is considered a strong favorite for the GOP nomination in the safe Republican district.
Bean’s odds improved with the departure of Fischer from the Primary. Fischer, who’s changed his mind several times this campaign cycle about which office he wants, is now running again for Duval County Property Appraiser.
Soon after Fischer redirected his campaign back to the local office, Gov. Ron DeSantis endorsed him.
‘Best Days’ ahead
Bean on Wednesday released a new ad for his campaign in Florida’s 4th Congressional District.
In the ad, titled “Best Days,” the Republican state Senator says the country’s best days are still ahead if Americans “do the right thing.”
“Northeast Florida is home. Always has been, always will be. I know our best days are still ahead. As a lifelong conservative, I also know Joe Biden is a train wreck,” Bean says.
“In Congress, I’ll fight to end inflation, fix our economy, secure our border. I’ll fight for life, our police, our constitution. I’m Aaron Bean, and I approve this message because when we do the right thing, our best days are still ahead.”
The ad dropped as Bean announced another wave of endorsements for his campaign. The new backers include
former U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, former FSU President and Florida House Speaker John Thrasher, former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, former Jacksonville Mayors John Peyton and John Delaney, Baldwin Mayor Sean Lynch, Atlantic Beach Mayor Ellen Glasser, Neptune Beach Mayor Elaine Brown and Jacksonville Beach Mayor Chris Hoffman.
“These great leaders have all served our community tirelessly, focusing on building up our Northeast region and putting the needs of our neighbors first. I am honored to have their support and take our shared commitment of conservative values to Washington to fight out-of-control gas prices, inflation and government overreach,” Bean said.
The Fernandina Beach lawmaker launched his CD 4 campaign earlier this month, joining state Rep. Jason Fischer and political outsider Erick Aguilar in the Republican Primary. Fischer exited the race earlier this week, making Bean the presumptive favorite for the Republican nomination.
CD 4 includes portions of Nassau, Clay and Duval counties.
Though the district is expected to perform Republican in the fall, former state Sen. Tony Hill and previous congressional candidate LaShonda Holloway are actively campaigning for the Democratic nomination.
To watch the ad, click on the image below:
Rep. Sam Garrison had Primary opposition in House District 11, but that candidate will not be running after all.
Nassau County’s Bo Wade Hodges had opened a campaign account last year for a race in HD 11 when the district encompassed his county and part of Duval. Redistricting changed the map and the numbers, moving HD 11 to Clay County.
Hodges raised a little more than $300; he told Florida Politics Monday he had no intention of running.
A Democratic candidate filed in HD 11. Cornelius Jones of Orange Park has raised over $3,000 for the campaign. Jones just redesignated for the race this week from HD 18, where he had previously filed under the old map, presumably with the intention of qualifying and running against Garrison in November.
Garrison isn’t the only candidate able to win the election without a campaign. HD 12’s Wyman Duggan, who previously represented HD 15, also has no competition filed.
Duggan, a well-respected land-use lawyer and lobbyist in Jacksonville City Hall, is liked on both sides of the aisle, and despite standing for a rare district that has land on both sides of the St. Johns River, no one appears to have seriously thought about running against him in this new seat.
But just in case, Duggan’s fundraising has been strong throughout this cycle. He has over $85,000 in his campaign account, and nearly $108,000 in his political committee, money that he may want to redeploy for candidates or causes he supports this cycle unless an eleventh-hour challenge manifests.
Duggan faced competitive General Elections in 2018, an expensive race against Democrat Tracye Polson, and in 2020, when challenged by Tammyette Thomas.
At least, in theory, a Democrat could have run competitively here. While Donald Trump and DeSantis carried the district in their most recent elections, each won with under 55% of the vote.
Candidates in HD 16 who have been running to the right for months may need to recalibrate to the center, as the Republican Primary looks to be an open Primary.
Republicans Kiyan Michael, Chet Stokes and Lake Ray have qualified, but no write-in candidates or Democrats have bothered in a heavily Republican district including the Beaches and extending toward Regency Mall.
What could this mean? Will Democratic groups kick the tires on these candidates? Or will the more competent politicians in the field find a way to reassure interest groups outside the GOP hard-core that they are just more than proxy votes for DeSantis should they be elected?
Ray, the most experienced of the three candidates, might be the best positioned to make the case to people who aren’t Republican. Stokes may be the worst positioned, though he has the most money in this field. But here’s the thing: you can only go so far with this strategy because once you get called a RINO, you might as well get it etched on your tombstone.
Metaphorically, of course.
There will be no open Primary in the new HD 15 that sees Duval County GOP chair Dean Black squaring off with Nassau County’s Emily Nunez.
Write-in candidate Jerry Steckloff qualified this week.
He’s not in it to win it, but his being in it closes it to Democrats and Independents.
He’s run before: in 2016, Steckloff presented himself in HD 12, closing a Primary that included Rep. Yarborough and current Jacksonville City Council VP Terrance Freeman.
Which candidate benefits from Steckloff’s closing this Primary? That’s a question onlookers can mull through August, when this seat will only be decided … by Republican voters.
Black is the establishment choice and has dominated the fundraising race so far.
In the Black
Black continues his financial advantage in the House District 15 Republican Primary that will likely decide who represents Nassau County — and parts of Western Duval — in the House next Session.
Black received $13,350 in May while spending around $5,747, concluding the month with approximately $104,554.
Black is facing military veteran Nunez of Yulee in the Primary. She’s received endorsements from former U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, state Rep. Anthony Sabatini and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, a notable supporter of the QAnon conspiracy theory.
She raised $2,040 in May but spent more than she brought in, doling out around $3,008 and entering June with around $26,022 on hand.
Most of Black’s dollars in the last month came from committees, including $1,000 donations from Accountability in Government, Building Florida’s Future, Fight for Florida, The Florida Accountability Fund, Libertatem, Sunshine Leadership, and the Sunshine State Freedom Fund.
Other notable contributions came from Jacksonville’s Fraternal Order of Police ($1,000), The Fiorentino Group ($500), Nassau County Tax Collector John Drew ($250) and Greg Cook, general manager of the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island ($250).
Most of Nunez’s contributions were in smaller-dollar amounts but included $100 from attorney Miriam Hill, a Commissioner on the Port of Fernandina’s Ocean Highway and Port Authority. The largest donation to Nunez in May was $500 from Geoff Knowell of Orange Park.
Biz for Baker
Not much of a surprise, but the political committee associated with the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce went with Jessica Baker in HD 17.
Baker, the wife of political consultant Tim Baker, is an assistant state attorney in the 7th circuit, a former member of the Jacksonville Charter Commission, and a former member of the Lenny Curry administration.
“As mother of two young children and a prosecutor, Jessica has the background and skill set to be effective for our region in the Florida House and continue our thriving economy,” JAXBIZ Board Chair Abel Harding said. “We look forward to a strong partnership with her.”
Baker faces a Primary, with Christina Meredith in the race. Meredith launched her campaign with $93,000 raised, but Baker is over half a million dollars raised already, suggesting that Meredith will need to step up her fundraising to keep pace with the establishment candidate.
Democrat Michael Anderson is running, but Baker (should she be nominated) will benefit from a map that favors Republicans.
Our state legislative delegation is critical to making Northeast Florida a business-friendly area where companies choose to invest and grow jobs. JAXBIZ is proud to endorse Jessica Baker for election in House District 17. #jaxpol #flapol pic.twitter.com/oBIQsQhrI7
— JAXBIZtweets (@JAXBIZtweets) June 14, 2022
Jacksonville political commentators have been quiet on the entry of state Sen. Audrey Gibson into the Jacksonville mayoral race, but the words of Nikesha Williams in Jacksonville Today indicate a very real path for the second Democrat in what is already a seven-candidate field.
Williams moved to town when Alvin Brown was elected Mayor in 2011, and she wrote that Gibson’s entry into the race made her smile in remembrance.
“I was excited to see a face that looked like mine. I was excited to see a different kind of ‘establishment politician’ who perhaps has different priorities for a city she’s called home and represented in one way or another over the course of her career. All of these things went through my mind. But when it came down to it, what really made my heart glad in an eye-roll-inducing, ironic sort of way is that after hearing the news, I immediately thought of the meme plastered across T-shirts all over the interwebs that says: ‘F*** it, I’ll do it. -Black women.’”
Of course, the other Democrat in the field is former newscaster Donna Deegan, who is not at all happy that Gibson is running.
Jacksonville Beach City Councilman Chet Stokes cast his line and hooked another major endorsement for his House District 16 race, pulling in Ander Crenshaw — the former Congressman, state Senate President and state Representative.
“The time has come for a new generation of conservative leadership in Tallahassee,” Crenshaw said in a statement Tuesday. “Chet Stokes is the clear choice for House District 16.”
Crenshaw joins Jacksonville City Councilman Rory Diamond, Jacksonville Beach Mayor Chris Hoffman, Neptune Beach Mayor Elaine Brown, and Jacksonville Beach Councilmen Cory Nichols and Fernando Meza in supporting Stokes for the Republican nomination.
Endorsements are flowing in the Primary race, as fellow candidate Lake Ray snagged the support of John Thrasher, the former President of Florida State University, Speaker of the Florida House, state Senator and chair of the Republican Party of Florida.
Notoriously conservative Nassau County voters will have a chance to make the call for themselves — raise taxes and try to make headway in their school district’s staffing crisis or tell the School Board to go to a Plan B of even less-palatable options.
The Board unanimously voted last week to put a one-mill property tax increase on the ballot, a proposal that now goes to the County Commission.
“I’ve had the pleasure of sitting here for the past two terms, and I’ve watched this district save, cut, do more with less, and it’s everywhere,” Board member Jamie Deonas said. “It not just affects teachers; it affects everybody for our district.”
If approved, the millage increase should provide Nassau County schools with an additional $11.5 million over four years. At that point, it would either sunset or need reapproval.
The district needs 38 new teachers, though that’s down from 101 earlier. The district also needs another 95 support staff, including 37 bus drivers.
As it stands, teachers and support staff have told district leaders they can find better-paying jobs in other districts and industries, or places where it’s more affordable to live on a teacher’s salary.
Nassau is one of the fastest-growing and most expensive counties in which to live in the state.
Speaking of school tax measures, the Jacksonville Civic Council came out Monday to support the referendum measure that would increase Duval County millage rates to pay for schools.
“Strong public schools are crucial to the sustainability and improvement of our city, our local economy, and our economic and business opportunities,” said Jeanne Miller, CEO and president of JCC. “We acknowledge the data, and our membership is in full support of investing in high-quality public education for all students in Duval County.”
“Jacksonville is at a turning point for producing and maximizing workforce talent and readiness needed now and long into the future,” said Eric Mann, JCC Board chair. “We are at a critical juncture of teacher shortages, and the loss of tenured teachers has a long-term and direct impact on student outcomes.”
This tax is proposed when housing values are surging in Duval County, a confluence of a hot jobs market, and a wave of people moving to Jacksonville. More than $81 million a year in new revenue is expected, to boost teacher salaries and student experience.
This will be the second school tax referendum in recent years. A referendum in 2020 for a new half-cent sales tax for school improvements in Duval County got through, but not without delay.
A push for that referendum in 2019 failed because charter schools weren’t guaranteed their per-pupil share. But once that obstacle was removed by state law demanding a charter carve-out, the school tax sailed to approval, with 67% of the vote in Nov. 2020.
The Jacksonville City Council put the measure on the ballot as required, but even though they had no choice but to do so, the referendum approval got five no votes, a measure of resistance among conservative Republicans.
One of the few things more irritating than dealing with your garbage is talking about how to pay for and cart it off, along with everyone else’s. Fernandina Beach City Manager Dale Martin said it was only fair to give waste contractor WM a two-year warning the city might choose another vendor.
“They need to order new trucks, they need to have new carts manufactured, so we are trying to be a little proactive and want to at least enter into discussions with (WM) about an extension to the contract,” Martin said at the last City Commission meeting.
City staff, Martin said, indicated the best course of action is a five-year renewal of the current contract. However, most City Commissioners thought differently, and now the contract will go out for an open bid.
“I understand all the problems and the size of the companies and all those other things, but just negotiating without understanding what’s going on with other prices is somewhat troubling,” Vice Mayor Len Kreger said.
Mayor Mike Lednovich said the size of the contract, around $2.5 million, requires the city to put the service out for bid instead of “acting blindly.”
Parks & read
A partnership between the Florida Department of State’s Division of Library Information Sciences and Florida State Parks means you can use your Jacksonville Public Library membership to check out a free pass to the state parks, although there aren’t a lot of them — each of the 21 branch libraries has two free passes to lend.
The passes are good for seven days and admit one vehicle, which can hold up to eight people. Patrons can check out and return the passes at the branch library’s circulation desk.
“The Real Florida Reader is a statewide collaboration between the Department of Environmental Protection, Florida State Parks and the Florida Department of State, Division of Library and Information Services to encourage visitation to libraries and parks this summer,” according to a Jacksonville Public Library statement.
“To celebrate this year’s library summer learning theme, ‘Oceans of Possibilities,’ the Division of Library and Information Services and Florida State Parks invite the public to explore Florida’s beautiful state parks.”
Customers can view the availability of passes by visiting bit.ly/jaxparkpass2022 or www.jaxpubliclibrary.org and searching “Real Florida Reader State Park Pass.” However, the passes cannot be placed on hold because of their limited availability.
Folks at 121 Financial Ballpark got some idea over the six-game home series with Gwinnett that the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp can generate a lot of hits if and when players find the right groove.
Jacksonville (33-28) is still in fourth place in the International League West division, but the team’s only two games out of first place in which the second- and third-place teams are half a game and one game back, respectively.
It didn’t look so well after a 7-0, one-hit shutout by the Stripers on Tuesday, but the Shrimp put up seven hits in their 2-1-win Wednesday, 12 hits in Friday’s 7-2 victory, and 14 hits in the series-clinching 7-3-win Sunday.
The series’ events followed an extraordinary 20-run effort on June 4 during the earlier series at the Norfolk Tides, a club record.
Jacksonville is back in the Carolinas, facing the Charlotte Knights this week for the series that started with Tuesday night’s 10-hit, nine-run win.
The Shrimp will return June 21 for a series against the Durham Bulls, known among some fans as the Surf ‘n Turf rivalry.
June 17, 2022 at 3:44 am
Did you not catch the story about Al Lawson filing to run in Congressional District 2? I didn’t read this whole story, but I didn’t find his name when I searched
for it. It’s a big deal for those of us who’ve had right-wing Republican Neil Dunn doing nothing for us for years! It’s like he wasn’t even there.
But he’s had such a huge margin given how the district was drawn that he didn’t even have a Democratic opponent in 2020, only a write-in candidate. And 2018 Democratic nominee Bob Rackleff told me at his election night party in Tallahassee that he knew he couldn’t win, but he thought a Democrat needed to run to keep Neal Dunn honest.
I have great hopes for Al Lawson. We have all of Tallahassee in our district now and I think a Black candidate like Al Lawson will be able to get out the vote among people of color in Panama City and elsewhere in the district in a way that a White Democrat couldn’t. I’m psyched!
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