- Aaron Bean
- Angie Nixon
- Audrey Gibson
- Clay Yarborough
- Cord Byrd
- Daniel Davis
- Danny Becton
- Dean Black
- Donald Trump banned from Twitter
- Ed Ball Building
- Elon Musk
- Featured Post
- Flagler Health
- Flagler Hospital
- fleming island
- Garrett Dennis
- Jacksonville Bold
- jacksonville city council
- Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp
- Jacksonville zoo and Gardens
- Jason Barrett
- Jessica Baker
- Joe Biden
- john rutherford
- Kim Daniels
- Leanna Cumber
- Lenny Curry
- Marty Fiorentino
- Matt Carlucci
- Morgan Roberts
- Nassau County
- Nick Howland
- Reggie Gaffney
- Rick Scott
- Ron DeSantis
- Ron Salem
- Rory Diamond
- Ryan Zinke
- Sam Garrison
- St. Johns River
- The Fiorentino Group
- Tony Hill
- Tracye Polson
The only constant
In Jacksonville politics, 2022 was a year of change — in every conceivable way.
And while it was hard to pick just 10 stories, the foregoing is Jacksonville Bold’s read on the biggest stories of a dynamic year.
These are NOT, by any means, the only major stories of 2022. Not even close.
But these are the ones that, at least in our view, drove this year and very well might drive the years beyond.
As always, Bold appreciates your support and wishes you a great holiday season and a prosperous new year!
Still holiday shopping? It’s not too late to find memorable presents at minimal cost. Give the people on your list the gift of #Jaxpol commentary & analysis from @AGGancarski and @NateMonroeTU. Join us tonight at 8 PM on @TwitterSpaces. https://t.co/IVcI5IjgiF
— Chris Hand (@chrishandjax) December 21, 2022
Meet Jerry Mander
Federal, state and local maps all saw substantial changes this year; given the GOP supermajorities in both Tallahassee and Jacksonville, that change favored the Republican Party.
The division of Duval County that had stood to ensure one Democrat and one Republican standing for the area in Congress, effective in some way since 1992, unceremoniously ended at the hands of Gov. Ron DeSantis. He rejected not only the previous 5th Congressional District, which extended to Tallahassee and gave Al Lawson something to do, but also the Duval-only replacement district contemplated in a map passed by the Florida House. Duval is now divided and controlled by two “Northeast Florida” districts, with Republican Aaron Bean now standing in for Lawson or his predecessor, Corrine Brown.
State legislative maps did not net Democrats a third target seat in western Duval, as demographics might have suggested could happen.
Instead, Republicans got something new: a southern Duval County seat, which will be represented by the well-connected Jessica Baker.
Best of all? This drama went right to the end of the year with the local maps, with Judge Marcia Morales Howard laying the smackdown on the remedial redistricting map from the Jacksonville City Council, installing instead a map from a consortium of civil rights groups that challenged the status quo map passed earlier this year.
The plaintiffs’ map cures defects Council could not, Howard contended. This plan “unites Chimney Lakes and Argyle Forest, it does not divide Springfield or downtown, it keeps the Woodstock and surrounding neighborhoods together in District 9 to a greater degree than the Remedial Plan … and it keeps Murray Hill, Riverside, Avondale and Ortega together in one District … Plan 3 also keeps San Mateo in District 2 (and) uses the same boundary lines for District 2 that the City Council established in the Remedial Plan.”
Howard notes the new map sets up a battle of incumbents.
“The Court acknowledges that this Plan pairs Councilmembers Ju’Coby Pittman and Brenda Priestly Jackson, who live within 2 miles of each other, in District 10. And although Reggie Gaffney Jr. is not paired with an incumbent in District 8, to the extent he would prefer to run in the district encompassing downtown, he would be paired against Randy DeFoor. But notably, in the prior redistricting cycle, both Priestly Jackson and DeFoor had expressed an intention not to run for reelection in their districts (although Priestly Jackson subsequently filed to run in District 10 again).”
In District 10 and elsewhere, people have big decisions to make. Redistricting is driving the end of this year — as it did so much of the rest.
When DeSantis endorses you from an official news conference platform, things happen.
For Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters in the 2022 Special Election, it certainly did.
The Republican lane cleared after Mat Nemeth saw no path forward.
Waters nearly got a clear majority against four Democrats in August, finishing the job with nearly 55% in the November General Election against Democrat Lakesha Burton (who, we note, has not exactly disappeared from the scene as a potential candidate in the 2023 General Election against Waters).
Now in office, Waters is experiencing unique challenges.
A series of high-profile murders have seen him holding urgent news conferences, which is usually the type of thing you see earlier in a Sheriff’s term than not.
Another issue: the ongoing drama related to the late Kent Stermon, whose badge access to JSO was suspended amid a sexual misconduct investigation in recent months. The connected Stermon told reporters Waters would be the Governor’s pick long before it happened, suggesting he almost became the interim Sheriff.
At some point, reporters will want to know more about the dynamic at play there.
Duval goes DeSantis
Back in 2018, DeSantis lost Duval County to Andrew Gillum — which suggested to many that the future was #BluVal.
Recriminations flew, including from the then-Chair of the Duval County Republican Party, who lay the fault for Democrats taking Duval on DeSantis being a “bad candidate.”
Imagine getting away with THAT now while running an REC meeting!
2022 suggests an anomalous result, despite Democrats holding a registration edge in the county. For starters, DeSantis as a powerful incumbent was much more convincing to these voters than the candidate was. The Governor grew in office, and the bets he made on policy (especially COVID-19) paid off.
The Governor’s political machine scored wins everywhere it played, notably going two-for-two in local school board races (April Carney and Charlotte Joyce were winners). DeSantis cleared up a logjam of mid-candidates in HD 16 by endorsing uber-loyalist Kiyan Michael, who was way out-fundraised, but who prevailed solely on the strength of the Governor’s endorsement.
DeSantis also received help from an opponent, Charlie Crist, who ran a rudderless campaign that focused on the abortion issue at the expense of others that clearly mattered to voters.
It also lacked outside investment of the sort that gave Gillum a ground game that drove Election Day turnout. But the result is that in Duval (and other population-dense counties), DeSantis got a YES to the “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” question.
Something old, something new
Elections brought even more change this year, with redistricting driving big moves.
Termed-out Bean moved from the state Senate to the U.S. Congress.
Two new state Senators moved from the House, meanwhile. Tracie Davis stomped Reggie Gaffney in an expensive August Democratic Primary; November was less dramatic. Republican Clay Yarborough had fewer troubles in his bid.
In the House, Reps. Wyman Duggan and Angie Nixon were the sole delegation holdovers.
Nixon looks likely to bail for a run for City Council, setting up a Special Election later this year. Democrat Kim Daniels is returning to Tallahassee, and Baker, Dean Black, and Michael will all be new Republicans representing the district.
Expect all three to make their marks quickly in Tallahassee.
Byrds of a feather
For the most connected couple in Northeast Florida politics, 2022 was their year.
Lenny and Molly Curry? Nope. We’re talking Cord and Esther Byrd.
Back in January, Cord Byrd was trying to figure out his way in a three-way Senate race against two other state representatives. Jason Fischer and Clay Yarborough both had more money, and the latter eventually cleared the field with the endorsement of Senate leadership.
Fresh off a loss in a three-way race for Neptune Beach City Council, she mostly shied away from elected politics in 2022.
Turns out that God — or America’s Governor — had bigger plans in store.
By the end of the year, Cord would be Secretary of State and Esther would be on the state Board of Education: two plum gigs that require no voter (or donor) input. Cord oversaw a drama-free 2022 Election, and Esther and the other like-minded people on the BoE are ensuring parental rights take center stage.
Not a bad year for the Byrds.
Observant types will note House Speaker Paul Renner does not officially represent Jacksonville, but Palm Coast to the South.
But those with long-term local memory will recall that nearly a decade ago, Renner came within a couple of votes of defeating Jay Fant in a Special Election to stand for the old HD 15 on the Westside. His Jacksonville ties are deep.
Will that translate into a boost for Jacksonville in any meaningful way over the next couple of years? 2023 seems focused on recovery from the fearsome Hurricane Ian that strafed the peninsula earlier this year.
City elections are just around the corner; it will be interesting to see if he directly engages in the mayoral contest on behalf of LeAnna Cumber, Daniel Davis or other Republicans on the March ballot.
Speaking of Cumber and Davis … this could end up being the most expensive Jacksonville mayoral race in history.
In terms of GOP spending, it already is.
Cumber raised roughly $3.5 million in the weeks before qualifying. Davis is nearing $5 million raised.
Meanwhile, the nearest Democratic competitor, Donna Deegan, is closer to the half-million mark.
We’ve already seen the early deployment of cash.
Davis’ wife Rebekah offered an autobiographical testimonial piece of soft soap suitable for holiday viewing that is in heavy rotation. Cumber has also been advertising, including going negative on Davis.
It’s really going to heat up in January, of course, as they compete for many of the same types of voters: pragmatists who vote or lean GOP, by and large. Not all Republicans will be in play: socially conservative Al Ferraro will have his base, and they won’t be shakable in March. We haven’t met many Frankie Keasler, Jr. voters yet, but if Jaguars’ winning streaks are real this year they could be too.
There are those who point to the bloodbath of 2011 as an example of what happens when two moderate(ish) Republican candidates try to crowd the same lane, where Audrey Moran and Rick Mullaney knocked each other out and set the stage for the unlikely Mike Hogan battle with Alvin Brown.
Polling thus far has been fragmentary, reflective mostly on name recognition. It will be interesting to see if candidates with big bucks have the numbers to match in March.
Resign to run?
Now deep into the final term as Mayor, Curry is still looking to shake things up.
Consider his proposal to force legislators to step down from their current offices if they wanted to run for another one.
On the surface, it makes sense, given the contingent of office-hopping graybeards who play musical chairs in what Curry calls the “property collector” offices.
In the current context, it makes sense in a separate way: as a brushback pitch against Cumber and Ferraro, both on the City Council and neither averse to the earned media created by that spotlight. Cumber tried to submarine Davis by saying he was double-dipping by keeping the Chamber CEO gig while running for Mayor, and this is the other side of that coin.
Curry’s just asking for a non-binding straw ballot in March, and many are asking, “why just a straw ballot?”
Others, however, are looking to slow down this train.
Randy DeFoor, who backs Cumber for Mayor, said she wants a “workshop” of the idea before the City Council Committee she chairs holds a vote.
Taxing from within
What’s become clear in this age of Curry: Duval voters are willing to tax themselves.
In the spirit of his 2016 pension reform referendum, which extended a half-cent sales tax for infrastructure, the Duval County School District successfully got a millage rate boost in August.
Property taxes will be hiked one mill to handle a lot of needs, the district says.
“In addition to compensation for teachers and staff, money will be used to upgrade equipment and uniforms in the arts; as well as fields, bleachers and playgrounds in athletics. Charter schools will get a proportionate share based upon enrollment, as required by the state.”
This is the second time in two years Duval schools have gotten more money from voters: Back in 2020, voters approved a half-penny sales tax for school capital needs.
It says something about Duval voters that, despite a lurch to the right in local educational policies, its voters are still willing to ensure schools hit their funding goals. Perhaps all of the drama at the school board meetings is secondary to the quiet and constant objectives of learning.
Heritage — or hate?
These days, there’s one way you know you are in Jacksonville: A sketchy passenger plane is flying a Confederate flag above you.
The Save Southern Heritage group is dumping resources, including planes with banners, to push its message that Jacksonville’s Confederate monuments can’t come down.
This comes as Mayor Curry has failed to move the City Council to heed his calls to remove the remaining statuary in the city, with numerous pushes rebuffed unceremoniously.
Curry, who stood by in his first term (sort of) and allowed the expansion of the city’s Human Rights Ordinance to include the LGBTQ+ community, has tried to lead on this.
But he’s unable to move many, including a few politicos his machine helped put in place.
Monuments now loom as an issue for 2023 candidates, at the expense of other issues the city is long overdue to address.
And if the status quo stays, the issue will remain for candidates.
In other news …
S&P Global Ratings has assigned the Jacksonville Housing Authority (JHA) an A+ credit rating — and a “stable outlook.”
This is the first time JHA requested and received a credit rating.
S&P Global notes the rating reflects JHA’s “experienced management that, while relatively new to JHA, have already exhibited an ability to meet strategic initiative goals, with further efforts underway to significantly expand the authority’s housing portfolio.”
“The stable outlook reflects [our] opinion of JHA’s very strong management and sustained financial performance when working within its strong debt profile to expand its housing footprint,” reads a statement from the influential American credit rating agency. “With the continued demand for JHA’s services, we expect the authority will maintain very strong enterprise and strong financial risk profiles throughout the two-year outlook period, supported by a measured approach to additional developments and associated debt.”
JHA CEO Dwayne Alexander praised the news: “This A+ credit rating reflects all the hard work the JHA team has put in over the past several years to strengthen the organization’s finances and operations.”
“We are well positioned to help meet Jacksonville’s growing housing needs.”
JHA Chair Christopher Walker adds: “This strong credit rating from S&P is exciting news. It validates that the Jacksonville Housing Authority is on the right path as we continue our mission of delivering clean, affordable housing for Jacksonville’s citizens.”
Established in 1994, JHA supplies approximately 2,000 public housing and 1,000 affordable housing units to low- and moderate-income residents in developments and scattered sites around Jacksonville. JHA also administers about 8,500 housing choice vouchers, as well as resident service programs, including homeownership programs, career training and self-sufficiency programming.
Hope for the new year
Hope Haven, Jacksonville’s community nonprofit serving children and families with a range of educational, developmental, and mental health concerns, is now enrolling for two programs in 2023-24.
Discovery School offers children ages 3, 4 and 5 a low student-to-teacher ratio. Smaller classes can be important for the needs of students with sensory, academic, behavioral, emotional, and other special needs.
For more info, contact [email protected] or call (904) 346-5100.
Hope After School is a program that supplies high-quality, supportive learning and enriching experiences that extend after the school day is over.
Interested families can reach out to OO[email protected] or (904) 346-5100 for enrollment opportunities.
Both Out of School Programs offer students a safe, structured setting for youth of all abilities.