Jacksonville Bold for 9.15.22: Where’s Donna?

Beautiful young girl  looks through binoculars on a bright sunny day, low angle
Democrats meet to get coordinated, with a glaring no-show.

For those seeking evidence of a coordinated Democratic effort this November, one sign may be a unity rally planned by the Duval Democrats for Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Hall on Jacksonville’s Eastside.

Expect star power: According to Duval DEC Chair Daniel Henry, Senate candidate Val Demings will be there.

“Congresswoman Val Demings will join the Democratic nominees for U.S. House, Florida CFO, Senate, House, and Duval County Sheriff to discuss the critical need to elect Democrats up and down the ballot,” asserts a news release from the Duval Democrats.

Those on hand will include CFO nominee Rep. Adam Hattersley, Congressional District 4 nominee LaShonda “L.J.” Holloway, Senate candidate Rep. Tracie Davis, and House hopeful Michael Anderson.

Lakesha Burton, running for Duval County Sheriff, is expected to attend, along with Sen. Audrey Gibson (a mayoral candidate). Jacksonville City Council members Ju’Coby Pittman and Brenda Priestly Jackson will likewise be there, as will former state Sen. Tony Hill.

One absence, meanwhile, continues a trend.

Former newscaster Donna Deegan may be the leading candidate in terms of public polling of the 2023 Jacksonville mayoral race, but another Democrat is proving more adept at getting in the shot with state and national standard-bearers.

Audrey Gibson has Charlie Crist’s back. Image via A.G. Gancarski.

It was hard not to notice Gibson at the event last week with Democratic gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist, where the two, along with Davis and Hill (who had lost his Congressional Primary last month), were local backup for Crist’s denunciations of the DeSantis era property insurance market.

Deegan was nowhere to be seen. She says not to read into that no-show, as she had a conflict.

“Was already scheduled and found out too late to swing it. I assume there will be many Jax visits for Charlie and I will certainly go as I can.”

Many are watching how Deegan engages with November campaigns, and it will be interesting to see if she finds her way to Saturday’s event in the end.

Tweet, tweet:

Hey Vern

Jacksonville Republicans showed support this week for someone outside the area.

Ballard Partners and Mayor Lenny Curry feted Rep. Vern Buchanan, the Longboat Key Republican who has the inside track to chair the powerful Ways and Means Committee in the U.S. House. The event included a happy hour and a VIP dinner.

Buchanan is showing electoral prowess to match his talents in the House, having easily obliterated a hard-right opponent in last month’s Primary.

Previously this cycle, Jacksonville Republicans delivered for high-profile figures from outside the area, with a fundraiser for U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker of Georgia during the Florida/Georgia football weekend last fall.

Tweet, tweet:

Bonus boost

At the Prime Osborn Center Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis delivered bonus checks to Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department employees.

Flanking DeSantis were Republican legislators from around the area (including Sen. Aaron Bean, who the former Congressman warned should avoid “Potomac Fever” if Bean wins his Congressional race in November) as he delivered more than $2 million bonus bucks to local first responders.

Tweet, tweet:

“Florida supports our first responders because these men and women put on their uniforms every day to serve and protect,” DeSantis said. “These bonuses are a token of our appreciation for the work that they do and the sacrifices they make to keep Florida safe. I am happy to deliver the bonuses for a second year in a row!”

“We are proud to support Gov. DeSantis in recognizing Florida’s hardworking first responders,” said Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) Secretary Dane Eagle. “Today, we honor their sacrifices and express our sincere appreciation for the heroism of these men and women who go above and beyond to serve their communities.”

Six-day war

The nastiest Senate Primary last month was the brass-knuckled brawl in Senate District 5, where Democrat Davis routed Reggie Gaffney by more than a two-to-one margin.

Tracie Davis was kept waiting after her win.

Gaffney took his time acknowledging political reality, if forces familiar with Davis’ side of the story are to be believed, with six days allegedly elapsing between the results and the concession.

Gaffney still isn’t over hard-hitting mailers that said he wasn’t a true Democrat, he told Bold, explaining the delay.

Davis raised major money down the stretch, with trial lawyers especially engaged, while Gaffney struggled for oxygen. Each candidate argued the other was a fake Democrat, pointing out ideologically impure and transactional votes and positions taken along the way. But what’s clear is that for both, this contest wasn’t politics. It was personal.

Gaffney is still in office until November, with a runoff pending for his Jacksonville City Council seat. His son, Reggie Gaffney Jr., is on the ballot.

Meanwhile, Davis isn’t the only August winner who kept waiting for a concession. We understand that HD 17 Republican nominee Jessica Baker still hasn’t heard from her defeated opponent, Christina Meredith.

Cate-mentum?

Give HD 17 Democrat Michael Anderson credit for calling his shot and getting the notice of one of the best Democratic political minds in Florida.

Kevin Cate versus Tim Baker? Stay tuned.

On Saturday, Kevin Cate was in town to promote a downstate Senate race that could be flipped to Democrats, when Anderson mentioned his race in a new Jacksonville seat, won by DeSantis and Donald Trump by less than 10 points in recent elections, as potentially “flippable.”

“I am running as a young person with a disability and a stutter who believes that every voice has power & matters. I am currently a special education substitute teacher in my district. My opponent, Jessica, the wife of Tim Baker, a well-known consultant who tried to sell JEA from Jax,” Anderson wrote.

Cate noted Anderson’s “inspirational” story and said he’d donate — and maybe more.

Congressional District 4 nominee LaShonda Holloway likewise tried to engage Cate.

“As the Democratic nominee for U.S. House of Representatives Congressional District 4 and @UFLaw alumna, I dare you to double down and DO the same for a seat that can be flipped,” said Holloway, Bean’s General Election opponent.

Brandon’s landing

An almost candidate in the 2022 legislative cycle is now on the 5th District Court of Appeal Judicial Nominating Commission, in a swath of appointments rolled out from DeSantis

Adam Brandon, a shareholder at Rogers Towers, PA, is appointed through July 1, 2023. He had looked at running in a couple of House districts, but the final redistricting would have squared the well-regarded Notre Dame Law graduate up against law partner Wyman Duggan in an HD 12 Primary.

Obviously, it was a non-starter.

Adam Brandon was forced to shift gears. Image via Rogers Towers.

Brandon wasn’t the only Rogers Towers pick. Alexandria Hill, of Fleming Island, was appointed from a list of nominees recommended by the Florida Bar for a term ending July 1, 2026.

Joe Jacquot, a shareholder at Gunster Yoakley and Stewart, PA, is appointed for a term ending July 1, 2026.

Ned Price, a Jacksonville mediator, was likewise appointed from a list of nominees recommended by the Florida Bar for a term ending July 1, 2026.

Tance Roberts, who owns St. Augustine’s Matanzas Law Firm, PA, was appointed from a list of nominees recommended by the Florida Bar for a term ending July 1, 2024.

Milo Scott Thomas, a Ponte Vedra Beach resident and partner at Burr and Forman, was reappointed from a list of nominees recommended by the Florida Bar for a term ending July 1, 2023.

Knight rider

Jacksonville’s Ken Knight Awards continue to celebrate Black Excellence in local media, with a new batch of local media legends over the weekend including some awfully familiar names.

Celebrating Black excellence in the Jacksonville media market.

Jacksonville Free Press publisher Sylvia Perry and longtime local journalist Shelton Hull, whose “Money Jungle” column was central to Folio Weekly’s prime around the turn of the century, were honored from the world of print.

Broadcast media luminaries likewise got their laurels, including former anchors Lawrence Jacobs, Angela Spears and Rob Sweeting, as well as Action News Jax chief photographer Bo Harris, a veteran in this market and his industry.

The event has existed since 2020, when lawyer and political consultant Nwabufo “Obi” Umunna founded it to honor Knight with an “appreciation event for the members of the African American Media to honor those members of the media that lift up our stories.”

Tiger trap

Attendees at Friday’s First Coast Tiger Bay event at Jacksonville’s River Club will hear from a writer familiar to Jacksonville Bold readers, A.G. Gancarski.

This will be Gancarski’s first speech after the August Primaries.

Our own A.G. Gancarski enters the tiger’s den.

In addition to talking about the elections that just wrapped and the ramifications thereof, he will likewise delve into how November looks, including questions regarding whether DeSantis can do what he couldn’t four years ago and win Duval.

Expect likewise considerable discussion of the 2023 mayoral race, including the impact of Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce CEO Daniel Davis’ formal entry.

JAXPORT brings two aboard

Two new members of the JAXPORT team went aboard the Port’s leadership recently — civil engineer Kelsey Cox is moving into the Senior Director of Engineering and Construction role opened by the departure of James Bennett to JAXPORT’s chief operating officer, and transportation expert Justin Ryan takes over as the Foreign Trade Zone and Grant Administration Manager.

Newest members of the JAXPORT leadership.

“We are thrilled to welcome Kelsey and Justin during this time of growth and opportunity for Northeast Florida’s transportation and logistics network,” JAXPORT CEO Eric Green said.

“Their experience in transportation planning and development will be an asset to our team as we continue to strategically develop our facilities and grow our capabilities to serve our customers and community.”

Cox previously served as a project engineer for the city of Jacksonville’s Department of Public Works, managing over $1 billion in capital improvement projects.

Ryan was the Freight and Seaport Program Coordinator with the Florida Department of Transportation, supporting Northeast Florida’s infrastructure interests and involved in strategic planning to improve freight mobility and infrastructure.

Moving up

The Nassau County School District has a lot on its hands — a prohibitively expensive standard of living that is a problem in attracting and keeping teachers and staff, and the resulting severe labor shortage that accompanies it. Then, there’s skyrocketing growth and the children that come with families moving into the many new houses going up every day, especially between Interstate 95 and Amelia Island.

Despite these struggles, according to the latest numbers, Nassau County can claim status as the No. 2 school district in Florida out of 67 districts for the 2021-22 school year.

Despite everything, success. Image via Nassau County School District.

Nassau claimed No. 1 in math, fifth grade science, exceptional student education (ESE) overall and ESE math. District students likewise tested collectively as No. 2 in English/language arts (ELA), eighth grade science, U.S. history and ESE ELA.

The district likewise landed third in civics and sixth in biology. The curriculum and instruction team presented Board members with a commemorative poster regarding the achievement.

In the last dozen school years, Nassau County placed 10th in 2009-10, sixth in 2012-13, then in 2018-19 showed up in the fourth spot before climbing to third in 2020-21.

Health insurance gripes

The Nassau County Board of Commissioners recently agreed to a flat renewal with Aetna for county workers’ health care coverage, although it did so with reservations.

“Their customer service … it doesn’t just fall under Aetna, it falls under most of your insurance carriers — it’s very difficult at times to get ahold of people whenever you need them,” Commissioner Klynt Farmer said. “As of recent, I’ve heard of several of our employees that needed things like, say, and MRI. When you go to the hospital on a Monday, and you ask for approval for the MRI, you can’t wait until Friday to get an approval.”

Klynt Farmer tells fellow Commissioners about county worker complaints about their health insurance.

The Bailey Group and the county’s Insurance Committee met in March and knocked out specifics, including a new health reimbursement arrangement account for all active non-union workers.

“I’d just like to go on the record as saying that we need our (human resources) staff to communicate to Aetna that their customer service is subpar, in my opinion,” Farmer said. “As much money as we pay, we deserve better customer service, and our people deserve better customer service.”

Assistant County Manager Marshall Eyerman said staff can reach out to The Bailey Group and Aetna to start working through these issues.

He noted historically the county sees double-digit increases in the costs with Aetna from year to year, which negotiators avoided this time.

Same rate, more taxes

The Fernandina Beach City Commission is continuing on a path toward a millage rate the state defines as a tax increase but is the same rate Commissioners approved for the current fiscal year.

“Under Florida state statutes, the proposed operating millage rate of 5.333 generates revenues that exceed revenues generated by the ‘rollback rate,’ which the rollback rate is 4.7709, and constitutes a tax increase,” City Manager Dale Martin said at an earlier City Commission meeting on the issue. “Under state statutes, that’s defined as an 11.78% tax increase.”

City Commissioners work through the issue.

Commissioner Chip Ross noted the millage rate wasn’t really a nearly 12% tax increase because of “Save Our Homes” tax caps in state law, and how current Commissioners and other Fernandina Beach homeowners will be paying lower rates because of that law.

Commissioner Bradley Bean claimed passing a 5.333 millage rate will result in higher rents for people in poverty. Nassau County is already prohibitively expensive for renters, something worsening a labor crisis in county schools and the service industry.

If Bean or someone else would put $1.85 million in specific cuts on the line, Ross said he would consider the rollback rate. The majority of the Commission continues to back the proposed rate, though, as it’s seen as necessary.

“This is the first year, maybe, in many years, that we have a legitimate capital improvement plan that came to the city, which included a lot of costs you could say were deferred, and we are funding those,” Vice Mayor Len Kreger said.

Another vote on the millage is set for Sept. 20.

Empowered ed

Giving families more options in education is the theme of the Americans for Prosperity-Florida (AFP-FL) Empowered Education Expo and Town Hall.

The event — Saturday, Sept. 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Jacksonville’s River City Science Academy — will center on the importance of expanding educational opportunities for Florida’s students and serve as a forum for Florida families to learn more about Education Saving Accounts (ESAs) — AFP-FL’s desired platform for expanding educational freedom for Floridians.

On the agenda is a policy panel, complimentary food trucks, a keynote address from self-described “serial entrepreneur” Dan Quiggle, and a panel discussion on “How Educational Savings Accounts Can Transform Education in Florida for Students and Teachers.”

Tough Shrimpin’ ahead

Jacksonville sports fans know something of hope and heartbreak, and it’s going to be a rough final stretch to the division championship for the Jumbo Shrimp (74-62), if they make it.

Despite the many call-ups to the Majors by the Miami Marlins, the Shrimp held firm in competing for the one playoff spot afforded to the International League East, half a game behind the second-place Durham Bulls (75-62) and a full game behind the division-leading Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (75-61). It’s a tight one.

Coming in hot. Image via Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.

Now they’re in six games against the Nashville Sounds, far and away the best team in the International League this season. The Sounds (82-54) stand atop the West division with the second-place Columbus Clippers 3.5 games behind.

The good news here is the Shrimp already won the first game of the series after taking four straight from a rainy series with the Iowa Cubs (62-75) at home. Meanwhile, the Sounds lost their last two games going into this week’s series. Over the last 10 games, Jacksonville’s won seven compared to Nashville’s five.

The Sounds took the second game Wednesday evening.

Next week, the Shrimp come back for their final regular series homestand of the year against the Charlotte Knights (54-83).

Staff Reports


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