Jacksonville Bold for 6.22.22: Democrats in disarray

Yellow question mark on a background of black signs. 3D Rendering.
A summer of spotlights for Ron DeSantis.

To get a sense of how the 2022 election cycle is going for Democrats, consider this: The Washington Post ran a piece this week from Jacksonville exploring the appeal of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

This is the summer of long-form DeSantis profile; we see them dropping, one by one. Every publication will have one.

They might look like The Post’s, which included quotes from familiar names Daniel Henry and Rory Diamond, a trip to a subdivision in the suburbs (where the HOA crowd really likes DeSantis), and some more measured response in the Riverside/Avondale district (where this part of Bold was written).

Get ready for a summer wave of Ron DeSantis profiles.

The DeSantis story, and the Governor’s seeming appeal to independent voters, is one part of the Democratic story in Jacksonville. Corollary to that is the collapse of the Democratic Party in terms of driving policy agenda.

Fact: the last time Democrats in Duval County have held any real power was a few years back when a GOP Council president gave four Democrats control of the Finance Committee in exchange for pivotal support. The 2022 cycle could see the ultimate deleveraging of the local Democratic Party, with DINO candidates surviving several August Primaries.

Kim Daniels, who co-sponsored parental rights in education measures as a Democrat in the House, is looking to return to representing HD 14. Reggie Gaffney, one of Republican Mayor Lenny Curry’s staunchest allies, is the fundraising leader in the race to succeed mayoral candidate Audrey Gibson in the state Senate. Gaffney’s namesake son? He’s the leading fundraiser in the race to replace his father on the City Council.

There could well be four Democrats on a 19-person Council by the May 2023 General Election. That’s not much momentum.

Democrats have a shot in the mayoral race, where Gibson and former newscaster Donna Deegan are running. But even if a Democrat wins, a GOP supermajority could limit what that mayor could do.

Tough times for Duval Democrats. And DeSantis? Arguably not their biggest problem.

Callahan cash

Speaking of DeSantis, he started his week at the Pig in Callahan, where Job Growth Grant Fund sauce was served up for Nassau County stakeholders: a $4 million spend on a clean water supply plant at Crawford Diamond Industrial Park, which is an 1,800-acre industrial mega-site owned by Florida Power and Light.

“The site is served by two major rail lines and located in proximity to multiple interstate highways and shipping ports. This infrastructure project will enable this site to support approximately 500 jobs directly, and 2,158 total jobs in high-wage, sustainable industries, including manufacturing, and the development will result in substantial economic impacts and the long-term growth of the local economy as a whole,” the Governor’s Office contended.

Once again, Ron DeSantis whips out the oversized checkbook.

Locals took notice.

“Florida’s business-friendly policies, championed by DeSantis, have been a reason for attracting business and talent to our state,” said Aundra Wallace, President, JAXUSA Partnership. “The appeal of doing business in Florida has been especially evident over the last few years, as companies are searching for lower costs of doing business, desirable infrastructure and an available and skilled workforce.”

DEO Secretary Dane Eagle said the money will allow Callahan “to make infrastructure improvements, create jobs, and serve as a great example of the kinds of synergy that strategic investments can seed between shipping, transportation and industrial infrastructure.”

DeSantis continues to prioritize exurban projects, saying state money goes further than in urban areas.

Double play

The DeSantis administration made an early move in a group of school board races Monday, with the Lieutenant Governor endorsing a swath of candidates from around the state.

“Excited to announce the endorsement of these school board candidates across Florida. With a strong pro-student and pro-parent agenda, these future school board members will ensure our children are educated and not indoctrinated,” tweeted LG Jeanette Nuñez.

The endorsements spanned the state, including two local ones.

Jeanette Núñez is wading into local school board races.

Nuñez endorsed two Duval candidates: incumbent Charlotte Joyce, who failed to get a resolution of support for DeSantis’ Parental Rights in Education bill through this year was one. The other, April Carney, is challenging incumbent Elizabeth Andersen in a seat that is a target for conservative activists.

The Governor has vowed to get “the Florida political apparatus involved” in these races, which is no idle threat.

Going slow

DeSantis may remain above the fray in Florida’s 4th Congressional District race, after all.

In Callahan Monday, the Governor namechecked Sen. Aaron Bean from the stage at the check ceremony but did not endorse him.

Retail politics at its best. Image via Aaron Bean campaign.

Instead, the Governor mentioned that candidates in competitive GOP Primary races would be able to debate each other at the Sunshine Summit.

Right-wing talk show host Mark Levin will host at least two of the debates of the four races in play, DeSantis said.

Informed sources tell us there was some agitation last week before Jason Fischer got out of the Congressional race from DeSantis allies, but at least at this moment, the Governor is not putting his thumb on the scale for Bean or his principal opponent, Navy veteran Erick Aguilar. Bean has the most major endorsements on lock.

Aguilar will be in that debate later this summer.

Game time

Qualifying is finally over, and a candidate who was in the HD 14 race long before last week’s drama is finally kicking off his campaign Thursday.

Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis’ event will be at Ruby Beach Brewing on Forsyth Street downtown from 6 to 8 p.m.

Kickoff time for Councilman Garrett Dennis. Image via A.G. Gancarski.

The second-term Democrat appeared to be in pole position before Qualifying, with over $60,000 cash on hand between his campaign account and his political committee.

Then former HD 14 Rep. Kim Daniels entered the field. Daniels lost by roughly 20 points to Angie Nixon in the Primary two years ago, but the maps are a little different now. Nixon is now in HD 13. And Dennis and Mincy Pollock are in trouble.

Daniels will enter the campaign with some personal money. She had $45k in her earlier City Council campaign account that she deposited, giving her an instant cash-on-hand edge over Pollock, who has roughly $30,000 on hand.

“The voters of HD 14 have options,” Dennis notes, commenting on the expansion of the field.

Speaking of Pollock, he’s courting donors at a Wednesday San Marco event.

See below for the invite.

Leadership leap

The Jacksonville City Council returns to the Ritz Theater in LaVilla Friday evening to install this year’s leadership.

Two Republican At-Large Council members will remain on top: Current VP Terrance Freeman, a former Council aide himself, will move to the presidency. Ron Salem will become VP.

Terrance Freeman during an Action News Jax interview.

Don’t expect either of them to make much news in their roles. Gone are the days when someone like Anna Brosche could assume the presidency. The supermajority GOP Council will walk hand in hand with Mayor Lenny Curry on most policy decisions that don’t involve confederate monuments, adding some cushion to Curry’s lame-duck year.

No invitations are needed for this event but expect a packed theater if previous years in this location are any indication. For those who need special accommodations, the city is offering help via its Disabled Services Division at 904-255-5466.

Special delivery

Qualifying brought clarity to the much-discussed race for Jacksonville Sheriff in the August Special Election, as well as two City Council races.

Districts 7 and 9, currently represented by Democrats Reggie Gaffney and Garrett Dennis, are undergoing some changes.

District 7 has the most extensive field. Five Democrats and one No Party Affiliation candidate have qualified. Reggie Gaffney, Jr. would seem to be the odds-on favorite based on name identification, his strong fundraising lead, and other intangibles. Kimberly Scott and Nahshon Nicks are also in the mix; Scott spent her career with the city of Jacksonville, and Nicks has run before.

Reggie Gaffney Jr. offers solid name recognition. Image via the campaign.

District 9 surprisingly saw just three candidates make the ballot, and a little money could go a long way here, given that none have much. Democrat Stanley McAllister has about $5,000 on hand, and he’s the leader. Republican Danny Grabill has about $1,500.

All candidates are on the August ballot, with the top two finishers moving on to November — unless someone scores a clear-cut win.

Guest Editorial

The following is a guest editorial from Jacksonville City Council member LeAnna Cumber:

“Legitimizing Illegal Gaming Operators Will Hurt First Responders & Public Safety.”

This year Jacksonville shut down several illegal Internet Gaming Cafés or Adult Arcades, which promote illegal gambling. It is not all that surprising that where there is money to be made, there are people willing to break the law to get it. Yes, criminals — by definition — will find ways to circumvent and break the law. This fact, however, does not justify throwing our hands up and giving in to lobbyists’ demands to legalize Adult Arcades. To be clear, what it does justify is the complete and full support of the public for our law enforcement officers who continue to identify and shut down these illegal businesses.

Unfortunately, we have a new proposal in City Council that rewards people for flagrantly disobeying the law instead of putting public safety first. As a mom of two young kids, I can relate to such a tactic. My son would love this line of thinking, “Hey mom you know I am going to sneak Xbox time, so why don’t you just allow me to play whenever I want rather than force me to break the rules?” This rationale does not work in our house, and it certainly should not be tolerated in this city.

LeAnna Cumber talks about the problems of legalized gambling.

If we are serious about tackling crime in Jacksonville, we must take a hard-line stance against businesses that harm our community, not find new ways for them to operate legally. In 2019 I filed a bill calling for the immediate closure of all illegal Adult Arcades. I did this because these businesses pose hazards to health and safety, making them a clear public nuisance.

Adult Arcades are magnets for crimes such as robbery and drug trafficking, among others. These illegal businesses generate hundreds of calls to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) every month. This is a heavy burden on our already overstretched law enforcement. Research found that over five years, 28,000 calls were placed to JSO from the 100 or so Adult Arcades that existed throughout the city before 2019.

Legalizing even 20 of these operations would only make increasing public safety more challenging. I am proud to have led the fight three years ago to deem these illegal gambling businesses a public nuisance and give our local law enforcement the legal tools to shut them down permanently.

Aside from the public safety concerns noted above, the proposal, which will come before the full City Council for a vote over the next several weeks, will conflict with the Florida Constitution, Florida Statute, and local ordinance.

In fact, the Florida Gaming Control Commission, which will be seated on July 1, was created partly to ensure the proliferation of Adult Arcades does not happen again in the State of Florida. We do not have the authority to overrule the Florida Constitution or act in place of the Florida Gaming Control Commission.

In short, the new legislative push will take Jacksonville backward and erase any public safety gains we made when we shut down these illegal operations for good. I will always use my vote on the City Council to fight for a safer Jacksonville. We must move forward, not backward.

Landing appointment

Jacksonville’s David Hodges Jr. became the newest member of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority recently, thanks to an appointment by DeSantis.

Hodges is chair and Chief Executive Officer of Hodges Management Group and 925 Partners Insurance Agency. He previously served on the Jacksonville Housing Authority and as chair of the Episcopal School of Jacksonville.

Like a passenger on standby, a seat opened for David Hodges.

He’s perhaps best known for his 25 years as Scott McRae Automotive Group president.

“We’re delighted to have David join our board,” JAA CEO Mark VanLoh said in a statement. “His extensive business background and experience will be a welcome asset to the authority.”

The appointment is subject to confirmation of the Senate.

Disqualified

It’s what some could call an interesting year for school board races — in Nassau County, for instance, a board member who won election, then re-election — while unopposed — has two opponents this year. Meanwhile, another Board member is unopposed because what her would-be opponent said was a question of a couple of hundred feet.

District 5 board member Lissa Braddock’s only filed opponent, Ashley Benoit, did not qualify. She said she was heartbroken about the circumstance.

A sign for a campaign that never happened.

“Even when the outcome isn’t what you want, do the right thing,” Benoit said in a statement shortly after the qualifying deadline.

“My integrity and example I set for my children are far more important than anything else. With that said, I found out at nearly the eleventh hour that I lived less than 200 feet outside of the district I was running for. There’s many factors that contributed to this, one being inaccurate information on government websites. There is a story to tell on this but at this time, I am not ready to tell it.”

Free elections

It wouldn’t seem to make sense that you could file for office, raise no money, spend no money, and walk right into said office without opposition. However, welcome to the world of Mike Cole, a Commissioner on the Port of Fernandina’s Ocean Highway and Port Authority (OHPA).

This year he filed for re-election, and after showing zero activity in his campaign disclosure reports and not drawing an opponent, he’ll have another term with OHPA. A sort of “flawless victory” of a campaign.

No cash necessary.

Over in another OHPA district, three men have filed, but none have conducted any campaign financial transactions, nor do they have any particular web presence. You could call it the un-campaign for governance of a sleepy port with more than its share of transparency problems.

Make Vacation Great Again

There are subtle Twitter phenomena about areas you clue in on after a while. For Amelia Island, it’s a combination of being a beautiful vacation destination and a haven for wealthy QAnon-friendly conservatives.

The vibe is not far from “MAGA on vacation.”

It’s not unusual for a conservative media personality to put a question on Twitter about where they should vacation, and Amelia Island tends to get a mention invariably.

Take Monday, for instance, when DeSantis’ spokesperson shared a Jacksonville TV news story about his appearance in the Nassau County town of Callahan, a town that’s west of I-95. To her tweet, @flickr2754, “Sam R” said, “We love Amelia Island and Fernandina.”

Sam R’s Twitter bio lists him as conservative, gay, Catholic, partnered and Bronx-born.

It’s a good 40-minute drive between Fernandina Beach and Callahan — if State Road 200 traffic works in your favor.

Of course, that pales to what @Moon1ightRose said in response to a bike memes request by conservative “memester@catturd2 and a subsequent discussion.

“I got a seagull T-shirt in a shop on Amelia Island that says, ‘Fat Bottomed Gulls, you make the Flockin world go round,” @Moon1ightRose wrote.

It goes in this fashion, folks in the MAGA-sphere casually casting love on what was a sleepy fishing village and timber operation until the 1980s tourism and development boom that forever changed the island.

There’s @TerriSchehr57, whose Twitter handle, “Terri J (@terrijay57 Truth Social),” references former President Donald Trump’s social media network and brought up Amelia Island as a destination.

“I told the old man on the way home that we should go to Amelia Island,” she wrote.

The Governor’s spokesperson shares various “best beaches” lists from time to time, and she tweets that a Travel & Leisure list was “blatantly Florida-phobic.” That led to a host of responses belittling sandy places in northern climes.

Responding to Fox News’ Lisa Boothe making an off-color remark about Ocean City, Maryland, being included, @b6art tweeted, “Amelia Island should be on it.”

The T&L clickbait list drew out more than a few conservative devotees of Amelia Island.

@CandyNC608 added, “I’m sorry -where’s Ocracoke and Nags Head? NC has beautiful beaches. Fernandina Beach (Amelia Island) is also very beautiful, Christina. It’s one of the most peaceful places I’ve been.”

Of course, then there are the locals, like @mikeoroke1.

“I just drove to the VA yesterday in Jacksonville from Amelia Island,” he replied to Hugh Hewitt. “I never saw gas prices under 525 a gallon. Most everybody at the VA said they will shortly. I have to decide to forgo treatment due to cost have doubled for gas. 1/6 No one cares; they care about food, gas rent.”

Slammin’

It must seem like a charmed existence the last few months for Jerar Encarnacion. He started the season with Pensacola in AA ball and became an exciting addition to the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp; this weekend, he got his call up to the Majors.

All he did was hit a grand slam in his first appearance.

“I told him if you get a hit or a homer, I’m going to buy something,” Miami Marlins pitcher Sandy Alcantara told Encarnacion on the way back to the team hotel Friday night, according to The Associated Press.

Jerar Encarnacion hit his first AAA home run last month in Jacksonville. Image via MLB.com.

However, there was a reflection in the celebration as Encarnacion thought about his brother, who died three years ago.

“He told me once I was going to make it at the major league level,” Encarnacion said to reporters through an interpreter. “That always was something that helped me out.”

Well-regarded Jumbo Shrimp infielder Lewin Diaz also got the call-up to the Marlins, and like Encarnacion, had his bags lost en route from Charlotte to New York — both the Shrimp and the Marlins were on the road at the time.

With the players they replaced returning from injury, though, Encarnacion and Diaz are returning to help the Shrimp win a title this season.

Back in Jacksonville, the Shrimp (37-30) won seven of their previous 10 going into this week’s Surf ‘n Turf series with the Durham Bulls (35-32). On Tuesday, Jacksonville kept cracking the bats and won the first game against Durham, 9-3, with 14 hits.

The team’s now in a bananas three-way tie for second place in the International League East division, 1.5 games behind the division-leading Buffalo Bisons.

The Shrimp close out the series Sunday with Durham and then head to Memphis for six games with the Redbirds two days later.

Staff Reports


One comment

  • Jerry Barnes

    June 22, 2022 at 9:03 pm

    The Nassau County SOE should be held responsible for allowing a candidate to file using old maps.

    Reply

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