Jacksonville Bold for 8.10.22: Sheriff shows up
Photo of a shaded sheriff officer with badge in jacket putting on cowboy hat on black background.

Sheriff in hat with badge.
The race for Jacksonville Sheriff is heating up.

Sheriff shows up

The stretch run continues for five Jacksonville Sheriff candidates Wednesday night, by way of a televised debate at 8 p.m. on WJXT.

With a field of four Democrats against one Republican, the only thing we know is — this race almost assuredly heads to a runoff.

And if money is any sign, Lakesha Burton and T.K. Waters will appear from the Aug. 23 First Election gearing for battle in an increasingly partisan runoff for November.

Burton raised over $1.25 million between her campaign account and political committee, Make Every Voice Count. Waters took in close to $1.5 million, and (at this writing), is still over $1 million cash on hand.

Jacksonville elections historically are timed for off years, but the departure of re-relocated Sheriff Mike Williams compelled Gov. Ron DeSantis to pick Pat Ivey as the fill-in and endorse Waters as “my guy” in the sheriff’s race.

This time, there will be a normal election next year, but it will set the stage — given the generational feel of any sheriff’s election, which sets up the next eight years, a good chunk of most cops’ careers.

With no real chance of getting 50.01% of the vote on Aug. 23, everyone’s politicking has been a little slower, so far.

Now, it’s heating up.

The race starts heating up.

The campaigns for Jacksonville Sheriff are making moves, with a new mysterious attack website slamming Democrat Lakesha Burton as a “GOP puppet.”

Burton is “more of the same” and “not a true Democrat,” according to the anonymous website, which spotlights GOP money from “Lenny Curry and Ron DeSantis donors.” The site offers social media posts enthusing the re-election prospects of former Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, who resigned for residency purposes.

The Burton campaign is pointing to political consultant Tim Baker for the negative website. As evidence, they note a typeface like that used in the attacks on Christina Meredith in HD 17’s GOP Primary.

For his part, Baker scoffs at the contention.

They are also bracing for an ad buy to boost the “puppet” message on television while saying they would never run such an ad.

“I’ve said from the beginning that I will be a sheriff for everyone, regardless of party. I haven’t asked any of my supporters which party they belong to. I simply have asked that they join me in making Jacksonville safer. Being a unifier is a badge of honor for me. Of all the badges I’ve worn and earned, the one that brings me the greatest pride is being a bridge builder. That badge is not about a party, not about prestige, and not about a ZIP code. It is about putting our city first.

“Jacksonville has serious challenges and needs serious, committed partners from every community. Politics and dirty partisanship don’t have a place in finding solutions to driving out violence in our city. My campaign has proven that voters in Jacksonville want to come together to make where we live better for everyone,” Burton said in response.

When asked about the allegation that he is behind the site, Baker denies any involvement.

But the site raises questions about whether Burton stands for real reform. She did back Williams heavily while in uniform and benefited from heavy GOP donor support. But how much of that is “partisan” and how much is based on the reality of a ‘uni-party’ in Jacksonville that requires a bridge builder candidate (like Burton) to reach out to the other side?

Regardless of who wins, real reform will be slow in coming to Jacksonville. The civilian review board concept, floated for the last decade as a citizen ombudsman construct to address police shootings, isn’t backed by Waters or Burton, the two most likely to make the runoff. Indeed, it will be interesting to see what policy differences resonate with voters as this race progresses.

AIPAC’s pick

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford faces light competition in the Aug. 23 Primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, but backing continues to come in, including from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

AIPAC’s $7,100 was part of nearly $50,000 in donations in a 48-hour contribution report the Jacksonville Republican’s re-election campaign filed with the Federal Elections Commission late last week. Other contributions came in from the United Parcel Service’s PAC, as well as accounts associated with the sugar and rice industries.

With nominal opposition, John Rutherford gets more support.

Rutherford faces two Primary opponents, but he shouldn’t face much trouble against them, given the disparity in resources. Mara Macie had less than $9,000 on hand at the last check, while Leigha Luna Garner-Lopez had just a few hundred dollars on hand. Rutherford had nearly $250,000 on hand as of Aug. 3.

Gone fishin’?

A bipartisan group of Representatives and Senators, including Rutherford and other Floridians, sent a letter to the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) asking for time to collect better data to avoid closures that could be catastrophic to the local fishing industry.

“While the two-day season this year was unacceptably short, full closures would destroy the livelihoods of many and decimate our local fishing economy,” Rutherford said. “To make these sweeping management decisions without considering the independent data that is on the way would be irresponsible.”

Red snappers
Don’t snip snapper season says anglers.

Rutherford is referring to the Great Red Snapper Count, a 30-month project of NOAA Fisheries, the University of Florida, North Carolina State University and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to estimate the red snapper population using a vast area, including areas not traditionally seen in fish surveys.

Using a nontraditional data collection method helped fishery managers open red snapper seasons in the Gulf of Mexico. The hope is such a count will yield comparable results for the South Atlantic.

Travis TV

State Sen. Travis Hutson reminded voters that he’s on the ballot in recent days, going on television with a new positive ad buy.

The 30-second “Job-ready” spot started airing Aug. 5, with nearly $10,000 of spending through Monday.

“Like President Trump, Hutson is a businessman and has created thousands of jobs here in Florida,” the ad says, an allusion to the Hutsons’ deep involvement in regional land development over the decades.

To watch the ad, please click on the image below:

Hutson takes credit here for putting “career and vocational education” into public schools so “every child can be job ready.”

Hutson, who faces a Primary this month, has been endorsed by DeSantis. His Primary opponent Gerald James had no cash on hand as of July 29, so don’t expect a counterattack.

Hutson had $32,000 in hard money as of the same date, and more than $35,000 between his two political committees, First Coast Business Foundation and Sunshine State Conservatives.

Downtown liberals

A three-way GOP Primary race in House District 16 continues to see Jacksonville Beach City Council member Chet Stokes dominate the airwaves.

The latest hit from Team Stokes: a contrast ad about his two opponents, Kiyan Michael and former state Rep. Lake Ray, two “downtown liberals” unlike the Beach-bred Stokes.

To watch the ad, please click on the link below:

Michael, per the ad, “was an Obama/Biden Democrat.” The spot made no note of DeSantis endorsing her last month.

Ray was engaged in “supporting Charlie Crist’s new taxes” and “voting for the Green New Deal,” the ad contends.

Stokes, a “conservative outsider and family man,” will “fight for our values,” the spot contends.

Stokes started airing the spot Aug. 4 and spent $15,000 on it through Monday.

Morgan move

A veteran broadcast journalist turned member of the Jacksonville City Council is ready for her next campaign.

On Friday, Democrat Joyce Morgan joined the 2023 race for Duval County Property Appraiser. Morgan is in her second term on the City Council and is term-limited next year.

Before she ran for the City Council last decade, Morgan spent close to three decades on television, with stints in Jacksonville on WJKS and WJXT newscasts. She also had broadcast gigs in Atlanta and Macon, Georgia, as well as Dallas, Texas.

Joyce Morgan throws her hat in the ring.

Though Morgan is the first Democrat in the field, three Republicans are already running. Two of them are politically well-known.

Danny Becton is also on the Jacksonville City Council; like Morgan, he is in his second term. The Southside Republican has raised over $211,000 thus far in the campaign.

State Rep. Jason Fischer is in this race for the second time in the 2023 cycle. Fischer had dropped a state Senate campaign to run for property appraiser, before abandoning that run for a brief exploration of a run for Congress in Florida’s 4th Congressional District. He has $7,000 in his current account for the office, including donations from political committees associated with Sen. Jennifer Bradley and former state Rep. Travis Cummings.

A third Republican, Joe Day, has $100 on hand.

Current Duval County Property Appraiser Jerry Holland is running for Election Supervisor. Holland, who is term-limited, has not endorsed a successor.

Candid camera

Don’t go stealing campaign signs in Clay County.

That’s one takeaway from a WJXT story about people who took away signs from school board candidates but did not count on technology foiling their plot.

Mess with Clay County yard signs? Smile, you are on camera.

Janice Kerekes and Tina Bullock have had signs stolen, but the relevant issue to the reporting is someone trying to boost a Kerekes sign near Keystone Heights.

“Just know if you’re out there looking to take our signs … smile because you will be on camera,” Kerekes said.

Her sign thief is unrepentant, notes WJXT. He said the signs were “garbage” and that law enforcement needed to deal with bigger crimes.

Sign theft stories are a feature of every campaign cycle, and with early voting underway, we were due.

Spicer spending

With three weeks to go until Election Day, former Nassau County Commissioner George Spicer has outspent incumbent Commissioner Thomas Ford by more than double — and more than triple that of challenger Alyson McCullough.

He spent more than $9,900 in the last two weeks of July with Clear Cut Strategies, a Delaware print media firm, for mail pieces. It’s not Spicer’s first large mail purchase of the campaign — he spent nearly $7,000 with Clear Cut in the last week of June and more than $4,800 in early May. Spicer spent just over $5,900 in mid-April for campaign signs. Another $3,000 on his expenditures was a refund of money Spicer gave to his campaign.

Going into August, Spicer spent more than $35,900 of the $47,690 raised for his campaign so far. That also counts for the highest burn rate. Ford spent the second-most with more than $14,940 over the campaign of $38,850 raised, and McCullough’s spent around $11,760 of her $20,315.

George Spicer’s putting a lot of money and effort into his comeback bid.

Other organizations participate in the campaign, with a mailer sent to benefit McCullough and Ford included with the Nassau County firefighters’ endorsements.

Spicer has union backing, but not the firefighters. He received $1,000 at the end of July from the North Florida Central Labor Council’s political action committee. Spicer’s a retired boilermaker. He also recently secured the endorsement of Citizens for Public Beaches and Shores.

Ford was relatively consistent toward the end of July, spending around $880 both weeks. The larger purchases were around $882 to Florida Sun Printing in Callahan for printed materials, and around $517 to Island Promos in Georgia for cups. He raised $2,250 over a couple of weeks from three contributors.

McCullough’s largest expenditure went to Hagan Ace Hardware in Hilliard for around $640 in lumber for signposts. During that time, she raised a combined $160 from two people. Between the three, McCullough’s been running as the change candidate since she’s the only one on the ballot who has never served as Commissioner.

Bell’s mail

Nassau County Commissioner Aaron Bell’s re-election campaign hasn’t been the easiest, and going into the last weeks of the campaign, he made a significant mail piece buy to compete against challenger Hupp Huppmann.

Huppmann recently received help from at least two positive flyers — one from the Nassau County firefighters’ union, one from a local political committee.

In response, Bell spent more than $10,300 with Drummond Press of Jacksonville on July 25, so far the single biggest expenditure by either campaign. He also posted several videos online explaining his policy positions on development, gun rights and the county’s future.

To watch the video, please click on the image below:

Bell brought in $6,700 in the last two weeks of July from nine different contributions, a mix of corporations and individuals. Huppmann, meanwhile, continues erasing Bell’s financial advantage.

It’s likely that Huppmann already closed the gap, considering the amount of money spent by others on his behalf so far.

In terms of just campaign committees, Huppmann raised $11,650 in the last two weeks of July from more than 40 contributors. His largest expenses (of late) are more than $1,400 for campaign signs from Design It and Wraps of Fernandina Beach and nearly $400 for wood studs for those signs.

It’s notable that Huppmann is the only candidate endorsed by the Nassau firefighters who is taking on an incumbent.

Preserve expansion

The Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve is getting bigger, to the tune of 240 acres.

The purchase by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), approved in March by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, protects some of the largest remaining coastal uplands in Duval County. The city of Jacksonville also supplied funding.

Flatwoods of the Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve. Image via Florida State Parks.

“This property not only offers visitors increased recreational access to hiking, wildlife viewing and fishing, but it also plays a crucial role in creating climate resilience against extreme weather events like hurricanes through protection of marshes and native forests,” Doug Hattaway, senior project manager for the Trust for Public Land, said in a statement. “We’re proud to be part of this effort to expand Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve and the historic, natural and cultural significance it holds.”

The Trust earlier bought the property on Black Hammock for conservation purposes. DEP will administer these 240 acres as part of the Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve, while the rest of the property goes to the National Park Service as part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve.

The area’s known as one of the more northerly destinations for manatees, along with being home to the endangered wood stork and other wading birds. It also helps supply the Nassau and St. Johns rivers with clean water.

“Along with the increased public access, this property encompasses four known archaeological sites that have evidence of human history dating back 4,000 years,” DEP Secretary Shawn Hamilton said.


Jacksonville sports fans deserve a winner and they’ve got one in the Jumbo Shrimp, who despite a two-game slide at the end of the last series and beginning of the new one, are tied in first place in the division again this week.

Jax (59-47) took five of six from the Memphis Redbirds (56-49) in the last homestand, locking down the opposing bats. Memphis scored only one run in three games and only two runs in two, but one of those two-run games came Sunday, when the Shrimp posted one and missed out on the series sweep.

The squad is in Durham this week for another tough series with the Bulls (58-48), who took the first game Tuesday night, an 8-4 affair that saw La Tortuga, Willians Astudillo, slap a ball over the wall and a rehabbing Brian Anderson hit two home runs before the game got out of hand.

The regular season runs through the end of September, but with the Shrimp’s staying power atop the International League East, thoughts turn to the postseason. For the AAA playoffs, the International League sends the leaders in each division in winning percentage to play their counterparts from the Pacific Coast League.

The Shrimp’s path to the playoffs doesn’t get any easier once they get past the Bulls. Following the Durham series, the team heads back to Jacksonville for a series with the Nashville Sounds (63-41), the best team in the International League this season (arguably).

If you like doubleheaders, you’re in luck as nearby events next Saturday forced a Friday doubleheader. The first game starts at 5:05 p.m., another reason to leave the office early for the weekend.

Staff Reports

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