Darron Ayscue wasn’t the first candidate in the race for the Fernandina Beach City Commission seat vacated by Vice Mayor Len Kreger, but he does lead the money race, if only slightly.
Ayscue has raised $10,000 so far for the Seat 5 campaign, narrowly outpacing Genece Minshew, who started her campaign last year and raised around $9,950 as of the end of August.
Staci McMonagle, the third candidate in the race, is at a decided disadvantage financially, at least so far, with a little more than $1,800 raised at the end of August and around $1,220 spent.
Ayscue, as President of Nassau County Professional Firefighters Union Local 3101, already leads a politically active and connected organization, providing an advantage most other people running for the City Commission don’t have. His fundraising shows a reliance on a network of firefighters — the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters also chipped in $1,000 on July 11.
Meanwhile, First Coast Conservatives, a political committee associated with former Clay County Rep. Travis Cummings, contributed $500 before the end of July.
Newly elected Port of Fernandina Commissioner Justin Taylor gave $100 in May, along with Nassau County School Board member Jamie Deonas, who contributed $250. Deonas is also a firefighter.
“Public safety is the number one challenge any government faces,” Ayscue said in a Nassau County Chamber of Commerce questionnaire regarding the city’s biggest challenges.
“The health and safety of a community’s citizens and guests is the number one priority of government. The next challenge is infrastructure. Finding funding sources to create, improve and enhance infrastructure ultimately leads to attracting and retaining businesses. Lastly, the availability of affordable housing for the families and workforce of the city of Fernandina Beach.”
Ayscue spent nearly $6,000 going into September, with most of those dollars, $4,280, going to Pro Sky Studios in Jacksonville for print and web design, and print and web media.
Minshew launched her campaign in October 2021, bringing in $2,400 that first month. She continued to pull in a few hundred dollars here and there as the months went on, spending mainly on traditional local campaign expenses like card printing and signs.
Her contributions include $100 in August from 2023 Jacksonville City Council candidate Joshua Hicks.
A serious problem in Nassau County and on Amelia Island is the people who are hired to work there cannot afford to live there.
“There seems to be little appetite among the current City Commission to make significant changes to comprehensive and land development regulations around density within the city limits,” Minshew said to the Chamber.
“The ever-increasing cost of land also makes this issue more difficult every day. However, that does not let us off the hook. We should take a hard look at city-owned property and the opportunity to use it for additional access to affordable housing.”
McMonagle’s notable contributions include $1,000 from Bryn Byron of Fernandina Beach and $250 from former Nassau County Commissioner George Spicer. In a recent campaign video, she discussed the need of candidates to have the right sort of vision.
“The truth is, every one of us sees Fernandina in a certain way,” McMonagle said. “If we’re going to travel this path together, we need to see Fernandina the same way. We need to value the same things, we need to hold on to our Judeo-Christian values, we need to understand that our small-town life is the most important thing.
“That family and friends and the quality of life that we have here in Fernandina is worth fighting for. It’s worth standing up and saying no when we need to say no. I’m big about saying no right now because I don’t want Fernandina to start looking like the other small towns south of us.”