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For the Northeast Florida political establishment, these are the good times.
Paul Renner, a lawyer with deep Jacksonville roots, will be Speaker after the election, (assuming Democrat Adam Morley doesn’t defeat him in their fifth campaign against each other).
Exhibit one: Smiling faces in Mayor Lenny Curry’s tweet on Oct. 26:
— Lenny Curry (@lennycurry) October 27, 2022
Why not smile? There is no mystery in what comes next.
Northeast Florida is well cared for. After Renner’s term as Speaker, the region could see Clay County’s Sam Garrison with the gavel, and Jessica Baker thereafter (maybe).
The redistricting map approved by the Legislature conveniently bolsters the Republican advantage despite a Democratic registration plurality. The Baker seat, HD 17, was a new Republican carveout. A potential third minority access seat, which some hoped for, clearly never happened.
The 2023 mayoral election is coming, and it will be interesting to see how the next Mayor works with the Legislature. Throughout the Curry era, delegation members complained that the Mayor’s Office did not communicate enough.
A win by former state Rep. Daniel Davis would suggest he could bridge those gaps.
But what if someone else triumphs? It will be interesting to see how they manage Tallahassee relationships.
For what it’s worth, the latest UNF poll suggests voters are not exactly on fire for anyone in the nine-person field.
Worth watching this Election Day, meanwhile: Can Ron DeSantis take Duval County outright?
That didn’t happen in 2018, and Donald Trump couldn’t do it in 2020.
However, DeSantis saw two preferred school board candidates win in August.
This time, the Governor is backing sheriff candidate T.K. Waters. Expect DeSantis looking to declare victory on both counts, as a Republican who can run, win, and control the discourse in a city that should perform Democratic — based on voter affiliations.
Waters enjoys a “modest lead” in a recent UNF poll of the sheriff’s race, so it could work out.
Not entirely surprising in a district drawn with a Republican lean, but Sen. Aaron Bean is looking at a healthy lead in Florida’s 4th Congressional District going into Election Day against Democrat LaShonda “L.J.” Holloway, according to fresh UNF polling.
Bean came in with 50% among respondents, while 38% chose Holloway; 12% said they didn’t know (or refused to answer).
As of Oct. 19, Bean raised more than $1 million toward his congressional effort so far, spending more than $833,000 of that along the way. Holloway raised and spent less than $10,000 as of mid-October for the duration of her campaign.
Bean’s lead in the race is heavily age-driven, according to the poll. He has 20-point-plus leads among 45-54-year-olds, 55-64-year-olds, and people aged 65-plus.
Holloway earned her nomination with an upset win over former Sen. Tony Hill, 50.2%-49% (29,3522 votes to 29,145). Bean defeated business owner Erick Aguilar in the GOP Primary 68.1%-25.8%, with another candidate, Jon Chuba, claiming 6.1%.
Bean pulled 48,601 votes in the Primary to Aguilar’s 18,410 and Chuba’s 4,342.
State Rep. Clay Yarborough appears to be near completing his glide path to the Florida Senate.
Only one obstacle: Democrat Sharmin Smith.
Since announcing his run for Senate last year, Yarborough raised over $300,000 in hard money this cycle and hundreds of thousands of dollars to his Floridians for Conservative Values political committee.
Smith paid her filing fee and scored a single donation for the entire campaign: $250 from the Jacksonville NOW PAC.
Yarborough is running for the new map’s replacement for Bean’s old Senate district. And like the old district, it is drawn for a GOP winner.
With 392,007 voters in SD 4, 182,559 are Republican, according to the state Division of Elections.
While there is a competitive imbalance in the Yarborough race, one could make the argument that state Rep. Tracie Davis faces an even easier test in her Senate run.
She has a Republican challenger, Binod Kumar, who has self-funded nearly $40,000 for “voter outreach,” but hasn’t run a particularly active campaign. And then there’s write-in opponent Patrick Lee Cooper. He entered the race in June and has reported no financial activity.
We called Cooper late last month while writing Bold to ask about his campaign strategy. After initially seeming confused by the question, he hung up the phone when we asked what his plan was the campaign stretch run. We don’t expect a callback.
Davis looks to replace outgoing Sen. Audrey Gibson, and her district includes much of Duval County inside the I-295 Beltway.
She faced a tough primary against Jacksonville City Council member Reggie Gaffney but dominated fundraising during the summer months ahead of a convincing win on the August ballot. She raised nearly a quarter million in hard money during the campaign and over $850,000 to the Together We Stand political committee.
Garrison’s arms race
Orange Park Republican Sam Garrison has Democratic competition in the heavily Republican House District 11, but he’s had every advantage going into next week’s Midterms.
Garrison, on track to be House Speaker later this decade, raised $169,000 in hard money at this writing for his campaign. But even more substantial fundraising went to his Honest Leadership political committee, which had roughly $700,000 on hand as of Oct. 14.
Orange Park Democrat Cornelius Jones raised under $10,000 for the entire cycle.
Republicans hold a prohibitive registration advantage in the northern Clay County district, one whose previous iteration as HD 18 saw little in the way of any effective General Election challenge to GOP candidates. It appears that trend will hold in 2022 as well.
Garrison, on track to be Speaker in 2026, represented HD 18 from 2020 through this year. He won the General Election with more than 67% of the vote, succeeding former Rep. Travis Cummings, himself a powerful legislator.
Rep. Angie Nixon won her House District 13 Primary going away, but still faces a General Election opponent, and mystery abounds about how that campaign is financing.
La’Ciara Masline has spent more than $10,000, including an ad buy of over $6,000 with the Graham Media Group. She’s raised just $550, and loaned her campaign $12,000 early on. An apparent YouTube version of that ad does not have disclaimer information.
Masline has no phone number attached to her campaign account or her campaign webpage, so getting further clarity may be difficult.
Nixon raised more than $83,000 during her campaign, with more than $10,000 on hand at last check. The district is more than 50% Democratic, so she would seem to be the odds-on favorite despite the weird accounting from her opponent’s campaign.
To watch Masline’s ad, please click on the image below:
Kiyan Michael has all but won House District 16, though not one, but two write-in candidates could complicate her path for the eastern Duval County seat.
Michael still has one more election to go.
One candidate, Rick Hartley, is a former chair of the Duval County Republican Party.
The other, Harley Moore, holds no such distinction.
We caught up with Hartley, who is still an active candidate but not campaigning.
“I’m an old-school kind of Republican,” he said, explaining the move to close the August primary by filing.
In a three-candidate Republican field, Michael was originally an afterthought. That is until Gov. DeSantis endorsed her over political veterans Lake Ray and Chet Stokes.
Now she is likely headed to Tallahassee.
The House District 17 race — between assistant State Attorney Jessica Baker and Michael Anderson — isn’t over yet. But Democrat Anderson is balking at a seemingly “presumptuous” move from the Republican campaign.
“My opponent is calling the current State Rep.’s office in City Hall and telling his aides where to start moving their stuff to the new office in the district,” Anderson groused on Twitter.
HD 17 is a new Republican-leaning seat that includes the University of North Florida and fresh territory around it. Technically, it’s a swing seat; in recent elections, voters selected both DeSantis and Trump by under 10 points.
But the structural imbalance between the well-connected Baker, whose husband Tim is a leading political consultant in the state and activist Anderson is glaring, likely fueling Baker’s confidence.
Anderson raised under $6,000 all-inclusive for his grassroots campaign, a small fraction of the more than $780,000 Baker raised between her campaign account and her Friends of Jessica Baker political committee.
Baker could be in line to become Speaker after 2028, if all goes as she hopes, perhaps giving Northeast Florida yet another chance at the gavel this decade.
Both of Nassau County’s contested School Board seats went to runoffs to decide who will be on the Board in Districts 1 and 3.
School Board member Jamie Deonas, the current District 3 member, is running for the open District 1 seat against educator Shannon Hogue. He won the election and re-election previously without opposition.
Deonas was one of the more vocal members of the Board about the need for a one-mill property tax increase to help deal with the pressure put on the school district and its staff by the county’s extraordinary growth and high standard of living.
An educator for more than 20 years, Hogue is currently the reading coach at Emma Love Hardee Elementary. Her campaign emphasized being present and involved with the students.
In the first round of voting, Hogue topped the field with 46.6% of the vote. But in nonpartisan races, the top vote-getter has to receive 50% of the votes, plus one, to avoid a November runoff.
Hogue won most precincts, but Deonas squeaked out a plurality at the River Road Baptist Church location. Rick Pavelock, the third candidate in the race, was eliminated. He received 19.6% of the votes cast.
Gaus and Albert Wagner are running for the open District 3 seat, having eliminated David Dew in the Primary.
Wagner, a former Yulee Elementary School teacher, is presently the assistant principal at Windy Hill Elementary in Duval County. He came in third in a three-way race for Nassau County School Superintendent in 2020, drawing 10.2% of the vote.
Gaus, who left West Nassau in 2020, is the principal at Bronson Middle-High School in Levy County.
Dew, after leaving the race, endorsed Gaus and Hogue. In a post on Oct. 27, Dew asked voters to think about who is out helping with students during the campaign’s crunchtime.
Fernandina Beach is getting a new Mayor, thanks to a city rule that does not allow Mayor Mike Lednovich to run for his City Commission seat and Mayor simultaneously.
The rule requires the Mayor to be someone already serving on the Commission, so Commissioners Bradley Bean and David Sturges are squaring off on the ballot.
Thus far, the campaign’s been one-sided as the young Bean pursues what amounts to a traditional local campaign.
Sturges hasn’t raised or spent any money toward his effort. The city’s rules also dictate whoever comes second in the mayoral balloting becomes Vice Mayor.
Lednovich emphasizes “quality of life,” a term of art in municipal policy, but one that can be hard to define and realize in concrete terms. One issue factoring into Fernandina Beach’s quality of life is its natural environment.
Before moving to Florida four years ago, Nickoloff was a career fire service professional in Colorado. Nickoloff’s No. 1-listed campaign issue is property taxes.
Thus far, Lemire’s run a limited campaign operation — compared to the other three candidates.
Antun, in a candidate forum, signaled that he would be an advocate for small businesses and seek a compromise between allowing developers to do what they’d wish, and the desires of the larger community.
3 for 5
Those contenders are Darron Ayscue, president of Nassau County Professional Firefighters Union Local 3101, City Planning Advisory Board member Genece Minshew, and home health care professional Staci McMonagle.
Ayscue raised more than $11,000 through Oct. 13, spending more than $10,300.
Minshew started her campaign last year and raised $10,750 through mid-October, spending a little more than $4,750.
McMonagle raised and spent more than $3,700.
Development drives much of the conversation on Amelia Island, and Ayscue would like to see development swing toward more commercial, rather than residential. The Commission can accept other development issues as they arise, he said.
Minshew pointed out that the city has yet to put design standards into its land development code or comprehensive land use plan, which could supply a defense to objectionable development ideas.
The city’s Planning Advisory Board could change density standards, as well.
Minshew is running on less of a platform and more of a buffet of ideas for civic improvement, including creating a strategic plan for the city and looking at a unique way to address the budgeting process.
On development in the city, McMonagle said it must be sensible.
She’s running to be a voice for the community that seemed ignored earlier this year; for instance, when city staff proposed a dramatic reorganization of the city parks.
Florida Trend is out with the “Florida 500,” its list of the most influential power players in the state.
Names are chosen for their involvement in specific spheres of influence, separated into broad economic categories from the U.S. Department of Commerce, with the number of names in each sector — “necessarily subjective” as they say — being proportional to a category’s share of the state gross domestic product.
Making the cut (again) is Fiorentino Group President Marty Fiorentino, under the Professional Services category.
Florida Trend lauds Fiorentino as “an expert in the areas of transportation and infrastructure, maritime, local government, telecommunications, appropriations matters, and health care. He once served as special counsel to CSX. He’s served on the boards of, among others, Baptist Beaches Medical Center, Florida TaxWatch and the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.”
In compiling the Florida 500, Florida Today focuses on individuals “who appear to be the kind of people who others in their communities or industry sectors look to for leadership.”
Current elected officials are not in the mix, and there are no more than three people from any single firm.
Influencers are not just statewide figures, since Florida is a “state of regions and communities that differ widely.” Other names include Dominic Calabro of Florida TaxWatch, Sarah Bascom of Bascom Communications, Tampa’s Ana Cruz of Ballard Partners and former Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad.
Check out the full list at FloridaTrend500.com.