Jacksonville Bold for 7.27.22: Shake-up

Marathon, black silhouettes of runners on the sunset
Ron DeSantis throws a curveball in a run-of-the-mill House race.

Shaking up HD 16

For a while, the battle in the new House District 16 was on a somewhat familiar track.

Republicans Lake Ray and Chet Stokes dropped oppo (and personal attacks) on each other. Each had over $200,000 cash on hand and what they believed was plenty of material to use against their opponent.

Ray and Stokes had the cash, but opponent Kiyan Michael held the hold card — revealed Monday as an endorsement from Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Kiyan Michael may not have the cash, but she does have an endorsement from Ron DeSantis.

“Kiyan Michael is an Angel Mom, military spouse & lifelong Jacksonville resident,” DeSantis tweeted. “Kiyan has stood with me in the fight against illegal immigration and will be a leader in the Florida House as we fight Biden’s open border policies. I am proud to endorse her candidacy for HD 16.”

“I am very honored to have Gov. Ron DeSantis’ endorsement for my race in District 16,” Michael said. “He has been fighting illegal immigration since Day One, and when elected to the Florida House, I will be ready to continue my work alongside him to protect Florida and America from Joe Biden’s weak and destructive open border policies.”

Michael, whose son was killed by an undocumented immigrant, is a political outsider.

Undercapitalized thus far (compared to her opponents), Michael has roughly $40,000 cash on hand between her political committee and her campaign account through July 15, the last day she has reported fundraising.

Will slow fundraising matter now? That’s an open question.

In this region, DeSantis has lately been making provocative plays.

Congressional redistricting erased the 30-year minority access district that contained the Urban Core and much of the Northside. Cord Byrd became Secretary of State. Esther Byrd is on the Board of Education.

And, lest we forget, the Governor also endorsed in the Jacksonville Sheriff and Duval County School Board races.

Michael’s endorsement may be the most interesting play yet.

It was not unexpected: she appeared at news conferences with DeSantis highlighting the illegal immigration crisis. Now it will be put to the test because Michael has a severe cash deficit, and voters are voting already, potentially limiting the endorsement’s leverage.

“Is she going to communicate it by osmosis,” went the skeptical response of one supporter of another candidate, who has some experience in political ad budgets and what they do. Indeed, she has money right now for a couple of mail pieces and a text message.

DeSantis, however, could change the dynamic very quickly. His endorsement makes this Primary one of the most intriguing in the area.

Brew crew

We were going to propose a toast to U.S. Rep. Al Lawson.

But the beer industry has beaten us to it.

Al Lawson cracks a cold one with the beer industry.

The Beer Institute announced Lawson was one of its “2022 Beer Champions.” Among his accomplishments: pushing for “clarity” on aluminum pricing via the Aluminum Pricing Examination (APEX) Act.

“I am honored to be recognized as one of this year’s Beer Champions,” Rep. Lawson said. “It is important for me to advocate for legislative measures that support the local businesses in my district, across the rest of Florida and the country that produce, manufacture and distribute beer that leads to a bolstered economy and good-paying jobs for Americans.”

Lawson also has legislation in the hopper protecting craft brewers, and though his 5th Congressional District is a casualty of redistricting, it was a big beer area. The Beer Institute ties over 5,000 jobs in the district to the alcoholic elixir.

On the phone

Lawson’s running for Congress again, of course, but in his Tallahassee home base. He headlined a “Flip Florida Blue” event hosted by the Democratic Club of North Florida at Bradley’s Pond over the weekend. Lawson is running against Republican Neal Dunn in the 2nd Congressional District after Lawson’s district was eliminated during a Special Session.

Lawson talked about protecting Social Security and Medicaid and women’s rights. He then spent a few minutes going after DeSantis.

Al Lawson goes with the flow. Image via @AlLawsonJr/Twitter.

“I served two years with Ron DeSantis,” Lawson said. “And for two years, all he did was sit in a corner and play with his cellphone.”

The Congressman also criticized the Governor for taking credit for federal stimulus money the state received from the American Rescue Plan.

“Now he’s going around the state of Florida handing out checks, and those checks came from us,” Lawson said. “It came from Democrats.”

Outrage, please

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford offered a muscular read this week on complaints from New York City about the impact of undocumented immigrants.

“Where was the outrage when Floridians were trying to manage the thousands of migrant (sic) flown into Jacksonville in the middle of the night? Sounds like open-border policies are good by Democrats until they are forced to face the consequences,” Rutherford tweeted, referring to over 70 flights containing an average of 36 people last year.

DeSantis ensured an $8 million budget allocation to transport undocumented immigrants from Florida elsewhere in the country, threatening Delaware and D.C. in various remarks. But New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who has baited Florida in the past, blamed other states’ secondary relocation policies.

“Currently, New York City is experiencing a marked increase in the number of asylum-seekers who are arriving from Latin America and other regions. In some instances, families are arriving on buses sent by the Texas and Arizona governments, while in other cases, it appears that individuals are being sent by the federal government,” Adams said.

Fiddle fart

U.S. Rep. Mike Waltz returned from a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with “key takeaways” about the shortcomings of U.S. policy.

“Instead of going for the kill, instead of going for the win right now and helping the Ukrainians when they’re at their weakest,” Waltz said, “we’re going to fiddle fart around and just provide just enough rather than help them with what they need. The problem is this administration is going to let this settle into a stalemate, and we’re going to head into winter. Putin will be able to rest, refit, and you know what? All he’s going to do is hit the pause button and be right back at it.”

Michael Waltz talks about U.S. policy with Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The second-term Deltona Republican joined several members of the House Armed Services Committee Saturday to meet with Zelenskyy and Minister of Defense Oleksiy Reznikov.

Waltz met the Ukrainian leaders along with Armed Services Committee chair Adam Smith and U.S. Reps. Elissa Slotkin, Mikie Sherrill and Mike Quigley.

Chippy debate

While the beer industry fetes Lawson, two Republicans looking to replace him had a knockdown drag-out ‘debate’ last weekend.

Since the Republican Party of Florida’s Sunshine Summit excluded most nonpartisan media, you probably missed state Sen. Aaron Bean’s devastating takedown of Erick Aguilar over misleading fundraising mailers where he passed himself off as other politicians.

“My opponent should be careful about using the word crook,” Bean said, per The Floridian.

Aaron Bean warns Erick Aguilar about tossing around the word ‘crook.’

“Let’s recap what he did, he stole from seniors, and if you go and look online what emails he sent to seniors all across America, posing as if he was the great one himself, Ron DeSantis or Donald Trump, asking retired seniors on fixed incomes, ‘chip in for me,’ and those seniors not knowing that it is a wolf in Aguilar clothing behind the scenes taking that money.

“So let’s be very clear about what he did. I’m shocked he even came here today. What I want to be is a lawmaker, not a lawbreaker.”

Bean is calling for federal and state investigations of the tactic.

Aguilar downplayed the attacks for his part, saying they amount to “a campaign smear at the end of the day.”

Budget bash

Rep. Tracie Davis is branding herself as the “true Democrat” in the Senate Primary battle with Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney.

But new television and mail from Gaffney’s political committee suggest otherwise.

“Tracie Davis thinks Florida can’t afford Medicaid. Floridians who need health care can’t afford Tracie Davis” reads the address label side of the mail piece sent recently.

Reggie Gaffney goes on the attack with a budget vote reminder.

On the other side: The claim is Davis “voted to cut $550 million from the state budget” when she cast a yes vote for the Rick Scott budget that imposed said cuts.

That budget included appropriations projects that benefited local communities, including the J.P. Small baseball park, an appropriation that Davis advanced. Davis got a “bad for Floridians” rating from one progressive group for voting for the budget, receiving an overall B.

Gaffney has been backing this up with television since July 21, with a voice-over saying, “nobody knows” why she cast a vote and didn’t care that the cuts were “devastating.” That ad closes with a call to “thank Gaffney for standing up for seniors,” calling him the “real Democrat.”

Davis has yet to go fully negative on Gaffney in a mail piece, but we expect that is coming soon.

Meanwhile, Gaffney has been spending heavily. The week from July 2 through July 9 saw his political committee spend nearly $147,000, with the vast majority of that spending going toward TV and radio advertising. He has roughly $175,000 between his campaign account and his committee. Davis has approximately $250,000 unspent yet, and she, unlike Gaffney, has not been on television this cycle.

Baldwin bump

The mayoral campaign of Republican LeAnna Cumber rolled out an endorsement from Sean Lynch this week, with the Baldwin Mayor’s backing showing that Cumber has a path to votes in Western Duval County.

Lynch said, “This election is about bringing transparency and accountability back to city government in Jacksonville. It’s about a clear vision for the future. LeAnna as Mayor will be willing and able to make that vision a reality.”

Sean Lynch gives a Baldwin bump to LeAnna Cumber. Image via WaPo.

“I’m confident not only in her desire but also her ability to restore a safe and prosperous city that our residents deserve. LeAnna’s commitment to listening to the people’s concerns is evidenced by the unprecedented campaign she’s launched. I heartily endorse LeAnna’s campaign, and I’m proud to ask you all to vote for her.”

Cumber said:

“I am honored to have the support of Mayor Lynch. He is a true public servant who sees great things for the city of Baldwin and Duval County as a whole. He is passionate about our community and has proven that he is able to work with all stakeholders to solve any challenge that presents itself. This is the sort of leadership we need throughout Duval County. I consider him a great partner and a friend.”

Power play

Disconnections are going to be suspended.

That’s the message from JEA, responding to a recent convergence of summer heat and spiking energy costs. A grace period will be in effect.

Payments will be suspended but not waived. Nevertheless, JEA will not cut power for those behind on payments for over two months.

JEA promises a break for late payers.

“As a community-owned utility, we provide services that are among the top two or three bills our customers pay each month. And summer utility bills can be particularly tough for some,” JEA Managing Director & CEO Jay Stowe said. “We work every day to find ways to help our customers.”

Another way to save is coming in October when the utility will stop imposing fees for using credit or debit cards.

Taxes down, revenue up

The standard of living in Nassau County is high, but with increased property values and spending comes increased revenue for the county government.

Nassau leaders are looking at reducing its millage rate by 3% for the next fiscal year while pulling in over 11% more cash.

“This is a huge win-win for Nassau County, and the taxpayers,” Nassau County Commission Chair Jeff Gray said after a unanimous vote on the budget and tentative millage rate.

Dawn of a new budgetary day in Yulee?

During a pre-budget session planning session, commissioners decided that county staff should present an annual budget based not on the flat rate but on a reduced millage rate. Thanks to the policy change, this will be the budget process (unless the Board changes it again).

Public hearings on the millage rate are scheduled for County Commission Chambers at 6 p.m. on Sept. 12 and 26.

Meet the new boss

Tanya Ramos-Puig, education advocate and former Latin GRAMMY Cultural Foundation President, is the new Chief Executive Officer of the Monique Burr Foundation for Children (MBF).

The Foundation began 25 years ago as a tribute to Burr.

“Today, after developing multiple evidence-based and trauma-informed programs for children and teens, the Foundation welcomes a new dynamic leader with vast experience in the nonprofit sector,” said Ed Burr, the Foundation’s founder and Board Chair.

The new go-getter to lead the Monique Burr Foundation for Children.

“I also want to thank our outgoing CEO, Lynn Layton, for her commitment and leadership over the past 14 years.”

Ramos-Puig’s spent much of her professional life improving educational opportunities and outcomes for students worldwide in under-resourced communities.

“I am humbled and honored to serve as the new leader of MBF, an organization with a proven track record of educating and empowering children across the globe with tools and strategies they can use to help adults and keep them safe,” Ramos-Puig said in a statement.

“Working alongside our passionate MBF team, the Board, and supporters, I am confident the next chapter will prove to be one of growth and sustainability as we work to fulfill our mission of protecting children.”

Celebration

The Fiorentino Group is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a feature in the Summer 2022 INFLUENCE Magazine, which hit digital newsstands recently.

The firm started with blue chip client CSX — Marty Fiorentino’s last employer before setting out on his own — gradually adding one big name after another.

“The Fiorentino Group’s client list is enough to make a person blush — a lot of big names for the firm based out of Florida’s Bold City,” the feature begins. “This year marks the 20th since the start of Marty Fiorentino’s own bold experiment, a story of trains and campaigns, but ultimately about personal relationships.”

No. 1 in our hearts, Page 114 in INFLUENCE.

Clients say they come to and stay with The Fiorentino Group for these relationships (and a commitment to doing things right).

“We want to be the opposite of the perception (of lobbying firms),” Fiorentino said. “So, we came up with ‘Influence with Integrity,’ — it’s kind of our tag line. Yes, we are in the business of persuasion and accomplishing things on behalf of our clients, but we want people to know we go about that in the right way, legally, ethically, morally.”

Margarita-krill(e)

Somewhere around the sixth inning of the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp home game, a call went out to hospitality staff in the stands — the fans who came for the National Tequila Day special and drank the ballpark dry.

Shrimp promotions staffer combined the special with a Star Wars night promotion, leading to a lot of margaritas in unique drinkware among cosplayers.

Regardless, it became popular, drawing, among others, Cumber and her family.

The Shrimp (51-43) gave those fans a show, knocking a couple of home runs in an 8-3 win against the Charlotte Knights (34-60). It was the midpoint of what’s now three wins in four games for the Shrimp, who are tied for second place and a game out of first in the International League East division.

That win streak includes Tuesday’s 4-3 victory over the Gwinnett Stripers (46-48). Jacksonville will stay on the road in Georgia for the next five games, returning to town Aug. 2 for a new six-game series against the Memphis Redbirds (52-42).

If you’re following the profiles of Shrimp players, the latest being infielder Erik Gonzalez. He shared how he got to play with one of his baseball idols, Albert Pujols, in the Dominican Winter League in 2021.

“I saw Albert Pujols when I was a kid,” Gonzalez said. “I never thought I’m gonna play on the same team as Albert Pujols. That’s amazing, you know? And for me, that was the best feeling I felt in the game. (I) saw the lineup, and I was a hitter behind Albert Pujols, and I was a hitter in front of Albert Pujols, too, and I think that’s the best thing. One of the three best things to happen in baseball to me.”

Staff Reports



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