Jacksonville Bold for 4.12.23: 34 days to go
View from behind of jockeys on horses rounding the corner during horse race.

Horse Race
Both Republican Daniel Davis and Democrat Donna Deegan have reasons for optimism and caution.

Less than five weeks remain before Jacksonville knows who is replacing Lenny Curry after eight memorable years in City Hall.

Both Republican Daniel Davis and Democrat Donna Deegan have reasons for optimism and caution.

Soon enough, one side will be right. And the other will need to figure out what went wrong.

New polling gives both Donna Deegan and Daniel Davis reason to cheer, and cause for concern.

After the First Election brutality on the Republican side, some thought that the May Election would get to the issues unaddressed in the March Election.

Thus far, that’s not really the case.

So far, the most memorable part of this stretch of the campaign has been the Duval County Republican Party ad linking Deegan, a cancer survivor with decades of experience on local television, with the wanton destruction at the tail end of a Black Lives Matter protest three years ago.

The second most memorable? A kerfuffle over a permit that may have been denied for the DONNA Foundation’s Mother’s Day 5K.

On Friday afternoon, the Curry administration granted that permission.

Politics is a contact sport, as Curry has been known to say. And this cycle, like so many others in recent history, gives privilege to drama over substance.

Big questions, such as whether Shad Khan gets a few hundred million dollars to cover the stadium (so Jaguars fans don’t overheat), or if the city should try again to jump back into the defined benefit pension plan that nearly drove it to insolvency just a few years ago, are still a mystery — even as voters are already voting.

Does this serve Jacksonville voters? Or the city’s power structure?

Whatever the answer to that rhetorical question, the campaign has a momentum of its own, trucking past those policy questions with the momentum of an eighteen-wheeler barreling down a mountain with no brakes.

Town halls

Ahead of next week’s debate at the University of North Florida, organizations that have endorsed one candidate for Mayor seek to hold town hall events where they want to hear from both candidates.

The Fraternal Order of Police has already endorsed Davis, but that doesn’t mean they also aren’t willing to hear Deegan out.

Before heading to a UNF debate, candidates are invited to some town halls.

At least that’s the implication of an invite to a town hall event next Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. at their Beach Boulevard HQ; the police union is urging media and the public to “listen to the top concern on the minds of voters, crime and public safety.”

Duval County Sheriff T.K. Waters, who is also endorsing Davis, will be on hand, as will Clay County Sheriff and former Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office member Michelle Cook, Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey, and Baker County Sheriff Scott Rhoden.

The Davis campaign is messaging heavily around “law-and-order,” as is the Duval County Republican Party, which calls Deegan “Defund Donna.”

It’s hard to imagine an event more stacked in favor of one candidate.

The FOP confab comes just two days after an “affordable housing” town hall from the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors and the Northeast Florida Builders Association. Both groups were early Davis endorsers.

“The important conversation about one of the greatest challenges facing our city, and cities across the country, will take place Monday, April 17 from 5:30 p.m. — 7 p.m. at the Northeast Florida Builders Association Building, 6747 Southpoint Parkway,” the release says.

“We want to hear from the candidates,” NEFBA President Chris Wood explains. “The American dream is falling out of reach. What’s the plan to help the people of Jacksonville attain an affordable and safe home?”

Davis has committed to attend; Deegan, unsurprisingly, has declined.

Davis also has other events this week, including “meet-and-greets” in Jacksonville Beach and Ortega Wednesday and Thursday, and a Saturday appearance at the NAS Jax Chain of Command.

Poll position

A poll rolled out this week by the Deegan campaign suggests Davis might need all the help he can get from establishment endorsers, as he is having a tough time closing the sale with Republicans.

A new poll shows Daniel Davis needs all the GOP help he can muster.

The Frederick Polls survey is showing 54% of those likely voters in the May 16 General Election support the former newscaster and CEO of the DONNA Foundation; 46% are backing Republican Davis, the current CEO of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.

The memo calls the eight-point advantage a “decisive” lead, contending that “with every public poll during the Primary campaign and her +14 lead over Davis in the March 21 Election, Donna Deegan continues to be the clear front-runner to be Jacksonville’s next Mayor.” The eight-point lead is outside the margin of error of +/- 2.9%.

The sample accounts for even more of a Republican turnout advantage than in the D+4 March Election.

“This +8 margin is striking because it comes from a poll sample skewed to a +6 Republican Party registration advantage — 48% Republican, 42% Democrat. Actual registration for all Duval County/Jacksonville’s voters is +4 Democrat,” Frederick Polls asserts.

In this survey, Republicans who supported defeated First Election candidates LeAnna Gutierrez Cumber and Al Ferraro are behind Deegan.

“Donna gains just over 20% ‘crossover’ support from Primary voters of each of three non-run-off Republicans — Ferraro, Cumber, and Frank Keasler — who captured 26% of the March 21 vote. Republican Davis ran millions of dollars in attack ads against both Cumber and Ferraro,” pollsters say.

While defeated Democrat Audrey Gibson did not endorse Deegan in the General Election, that doesn’t seem to matter; 92% of her voters are backing Deegan in this survey.

Davis faces a likability problem, according to the poll:

“Donna is rated 54% favorable — 16 points higher than Daniel Davis at 38%. Davis is rated net negative among Primary voters of Republicans Cumber and Ferraro.”

The survey suggests that Davis is yoked to a status quo, from which 68% of poll respondents want change.

“Chamber of Commerce head, Daniel Davis, with his establishment support by current Mayor Lenny Curry, is swimming against this powerful CHANGE tide. Davis’ voters are the only ones of all six candidates (being 75% of the March 21 vote) who support continuing Jacksonville’s direction.”

Davis dollars

Polling may not be going Davis’ way, but the money race is.

The Republican is reporting $548,250 to his Building a Better Economy political committee in the last week of March, the latest sign that he will have the resources needed to be competitive through the May 16 Election.

The Summit Contracting Group led all recent contributors, donating $100,000 March 27. Pamela Lecates donated $50,000 March 31, as did the development company The Parc Group.

Summit Contracting Group has been very generous to the Davis campaign.

Vadis, which shares an address with the Parc Group, donated $25,000 on the same day.

Gate Petroleum, the Haskell Company, Elite Parking Services, Miller Electric, Ryan Smith, Open Creek LLC, and the Responsible Leadership Committee all chipped in $25,000 each also. The latter is an account seeded by other political committees.

Other names donated at lower levels, including Citizens for Building Florida’s Future a committee associated with Rep. Wyman Duggan, a land use lawyer with Rogers Towers who often lobbies City Hall. That committee gave $5,000.

Davis’ committee closed March with nearly $690,000 on hand. Additionally, he had roughly $3,000 in hard money as of March 24, the last date for which the Duval County Supervisor of Elections has records. With Gov. Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson both backing Davis, expect continued strong fundraising through the stretch run.

Deegan raised a little more than $180,000 between the First Election and the end of March to her Donna for Duval political committee, including $100,000 from attorney Steve Pajcic and Sallyn Pajcic. Former CSX executive Michael Ward chipped in $40,000.

Deegan’s political committee closed out March with nearly $282,000 on hand. As of March 24, she had a little more than $92,000 in her campaign account.

Judicial appointments

DeSantis picked three Jacksonville area jurists to fill gaps in the state judiciary this week.

Jacksonville’s Jordan Pratt will replace retired Judge Kerry Evander on the 5th District Court of Appeal. Since 2021, Pratt has been senior counsel for the First Liberty Institute, an organization focused on religious freedom for conservatives. Before that, the Double Gator (and undergraduate valedictorian) clerked for federal judges and served as counsel for federal and state governmental divisions.

Ponte Vedra’s Jonathan Sacks will replace retired Judge Adrian Soud on the 4th Judicial Circuit Court. He previously was an Assistant State Attorney in the 4th Circuit. He did his undergraduate work at the University of Richmond, receiving both a master’s degree and a law degree from Florida State.

Brooke Brady will replace retired Judge Roberto Arias on the Duval County Court. She was an ASA in the 4th Circuit, with a B.A. from FSU and a law degree from Stetson.

Tweet, tweet:

Broadband boost

Good news for Bold readers in Suwannee County — courtesy of DeSantis.

You will have an easier time loading internet pages soon.

A sizable chunk of the $22M+ from the latest cash in the Broadband Opportunity program will go to Live Oak, the Governor’s Office notes.

On the broadband front, Ron DeSantis has very good news for Suwannee County.

The allocation will “add 821 miles of fiber optic cable to their existing network to provide 21,492 unserved locations within Suwannee County with symmetrical download and upload speeds of 1 gigabits per second (GB).”

“Investing in reliable internet infrastructure strengthens local economies and opens up new opportunities for students, businesses and families,” DeSantis said. “I am happy to award this $22 million to support Florida’s small and rural communities and I look forward to making more awards in the future that expand internet access to all Floridians.”

“Gov. DeSantis is unwavering in his commitment to keeping the state’s economy strong and developing its workforce,” said Department of Economic Opportunity Acting Secretary Meredith Ivey. “Through programs like the Broadband Opportunity Program, Florida is helping unserved local communities expand broadband internet access, making it easier for their residents and business community to connect, collaborate and learn.”

All told, $166 million has already been doled out through this program.

Primrose path

A former attorney for DeSantis is starting off his House campaign with a strong month of fundraising.

Nick Primrose, who also served as Florida Elections Commission Chair, reports raising nearly $120,000 in March; more than $100,000 of that is in hard money.

Nick Primrose starts strong out of the gate. Image via JAXPORT.

Primrose is reporting $102,084.24 of March money to his campaign account and an added $17,100 to his Friends of Nick Primrose PC.

“I am so honored by the excitement and support that I have received in the first month of my campaign. Our fundraising total in just one month is proof that we will have what it takes to win this race,” Primrose said, in a statement provided by his campaign.

“My priority is protecting this community that we love even as we continue to grow rapidly. This means focusing on public safety, economic growth and infrastructure needs all while balancing the preservation of our pristine natural environment. The fight for the future of our community has only just begun.”

The biggest donors in March include Brown and Brown Insurance of Daytona Beach, which contributed $8,000 under its own name, with an additional $2,500 from sister corporation Public Risk Insurance Advisors. Riverside Homes of North Florida, a Jacksonville builder, also contributed $5,000.

Primrose will face an opponent in the 2024 Primary to replace term-limited Rep. Cyndi Stevenson. St. Johns County Republican Kim Kendall is beginning her campaign with an impressive haul — upward of $150,000 in the first month.

HD 18 covers part of St. Johns County. It is a safe Republican seat where Donald Trump won nearly 65% of the vote in the 2020 Presidential Election.

Kind of a drag

Blistering Democratic opposition couldn’t stop legislation in the Senate that criminalizes allowing minors into adult shows with “lewd” content.

The proposal, advancing on a 28-12 vote, doesn’t explicitly mention “drag shows.”

But SB 1438, sponsored by Clay Yarborough, is aimed at stopping children from attending those shows.

It authorizes state government officials within the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) to suspend or revoke the liquor license of any establishment that admits minors to a live, adult performance.

Clay Yarborough says there are some things kids can’t unsee.

Prohibited performances would be those that include “lewd conduct, or the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts,” shows meant to appeal to “prurient, shameful, or morbid interests,” and displays that are patently offensive and “without serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for the age of the child present.” It also prohibits exposure to prosthetic genitals and breasts.

A person who admits a child to such a performance (as the bill defines it), would face a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to $1,000 in fines and up to a year in prison.

Yarborough has explained he wants “kids to be allowed to be kids,” with this law, but Democrats say children are already protected under existing statute from inappropriate material and that this legislation is going to result in more “harm, hurt and hate” against the transgender community. He likened the bill to the plastic, electric outlet plugs he puts in to keep his 4-year-old safe.

“I believe it’s harmful for children,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to get my son away from the plug because I didn’t want him to have fun or enjoy himself … but we know the danger there. … We are protecting children who cannot unsee or inexperience (sic) things which they are exposed to.”

Other than Yarborough, no Republican spoke in favor of the bill during the Senate debate.

In the House, Republican Rep. Randy Fine is sponsoring similar legislation (HB 1423). That bill awaits a second hearing before a House subcommittee.

Drone on

A bill clearing the way for easier construction of drone ports throughout Florida is on its way to the House floor after zooming through its final committee stop.

The House Infrastructure Strategies Committee voted unanimously for the measure (HB 1071) by Republican Reps. Duggan of Jacksonville and Spencer Roach of North Fort Myers.

A bill from Spencer Roach and Wyman Duggan takes flight.

The panel similarly supported an amendment Duggan proffered to line the bill’s language up with that of its Senate companion (SB 1068), which also now awaits consideration by the full chamber.

The legislation defines the terms “drone port” and “drone delivery service” in state statutes, with a drone port defined as “a stand-alone building” up to 36 feet tall and 1,500 square feet or less, located in a nonresidential area used to launch and land small, unmanned aircraft that deliver goods.

The bill also exempts drone ports from most fire safety mandates in the Florida Building Code. However, the amended language of the bill requires drone ports taller than one story to include at least one stairwell.

Duggan said the amendments stemmed from conversations he’d had with the Florida League of Cities, which joined Americans for Prosperity, the Florida Fire Chiefs Association and DroneUp, Walmart’s drone delivery service, in signaling support for the bill Monday.

“This is absolutely a bill that the committee process made better,” he said.

New building

After years of anticipation, it’s finally here: the new JEA headquarters is open, a $100 million building framed as the utility’s future.

“JEA’s new Customer Solutions Center is now open. If you need to visit us for your billing and account needs, we’re ready to serve you at 225 N. Pearl St. in downtown Jacksonville,” the utility announced Monday.

JEA says come on by for a visit.

“JEA has worked diligently to ensure this move is as seamless as possible for our customers and employees,” said JEA Managing Director & CEO Jay Stowe. “I am looking forward to how our new headquarters will allow JEA to better serve our customers, attract and retain an engaged workforce, and be a catalyst for continued growth in downtown Jacksonville.”

The location near City Hall, which employees groused about for decades, closed Friday, and has been replaced by a spot “in the heart of downtown, one block east of the Duval County Courthouse and a short distance from JTA’s Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center, a hub connecting customers to various mass transit options throughout our community.”

An added inducement: “For those arriving by car, JEA will provide parking vouchers for the Duval County Courthouse Garage, 151 Clay St.”

Per JEA, the new building “was designed for LEED gold certification and WELL building standards in energy efficiency. The building is also designed to use 42% less water than a conventional office. This will result in savings of more than 500,000 gallons of potable water per year, the equivalent consumption of 80 single-family homes.”

Mail call

A mail piece in Jacksonville City Council District 7 is proving contentious in the runoff between Republican Joseph Hogan and Democrat Jimmy Peluso.

At issue: the claim that Peluso, who works in governmental affairs for the VyStar Credit Union, is a “big bank lobbyist.”

“An attack mailer went out attacking me for working at a bank (I don’t). This comes from a Jan. 6 sympathizer who’s also attacking me for wanting a dedicated funding source for our Parks system … the one his dad famously wanted to privatize during his failed Mayoral run,” Peluso tweeted Monday.

Thanks, but no thanks?

About the J6 claim: Back in 2020, Hogan retweeted Trump’s infamous “See you in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6. Don’t miss it.” Hogan told Florida Politics that it was “likely retweeted the same day Trump sent his message out,” and that he was not at the Capitol for the attempted insurrection.

Hogan responded to Peluso as well.

“1. It accurately details that you are a bank LOBBYIST. Is that incorrect? 2. It sourced a quote from you advocating for an increase in property taxes. 3. Going to need a credible source for the false parks claim as it is not true (I have a better source than you on this one),” Hogan said, referring to his father and former mayoral candidate Mike Hogan.

“Irrelevant now but still completely untrue. Public Safety/Infrastructure/Parks & Rec were the three main focal points of his campaign. Speaking of spin bank/credit union,” Hogan added.

Peluso took 35% of the vote in March, three points ahead of Hogan, who faces an uphill battle in a district designed to be a Democratic vote sink. One factor in Hogan’s favor: His strength is in Ortega, among the strongest performing precincts in the city. But what’s clear is that the May Election in this district is as contentious as the March First Election, when Peluso and Democrat John Phillips threw haymakers at each other until the end.

Super Tuesday

Municipal Super Tuesday in Clay County gave voters one City Council election in Orange Park and several charter amendments from which to choose in Keystone Heights.

The race for Seat 1 on the Orange Park Town Council wasn’t close, as local certified public accountant Doug Benefield won the seat he was appointed to in August.

Benefield took 67% of the vote over challenger Kenny Radwanski, who received 33%. The preliminary numbers show exactly 500 votes cast, splitting 336 for Benefield and 164 for Radwanski.

Signs of the times. Image via the Doug Benefield campaign.

Benefield previously served in a volunteer capacity on the town of Orange Park’s Budget and Finance Committee, as well as the town’s Police Pension Board.

Radwanski, an Air Force veteran, is as deeply involved in town affairs as someone who isn’t an elected official can be.

In Keystone Heights, residents voted on four charter amendments. One consideration was to change the method of selecting the Mayor, something proved unpopular after it went down on a 76%-24% vote; 107 folks voted for the status quo while 34 cast their ballots for a change.

That amendment would have added a seat on the City Council and tasked Council members with selecting a Mayor. Instead, Keystone Heights will remain with four seats on the Council, and the Mayor’s position will be put to a vote of residents.

No. 1 on the ballot, which passed 63%-37%, amends the city charter to allow the Council to set the maximum purchasing amount for bids. No. 2, failing 56%-44%, would have prohibited Council members from interfering with the regular duties of the City Manager.

A fourth charter amendment, passing 61%-39%, creates a policy in the charter to censure or reprimand a Council member for illegal actions or serious violations of city policy.

Book exam

The Nassau County School Board will take up a vote this week to add five pages of policy to the Board’s administrative rules.

Passed last year by the Legislature, HB 1467 requires “school districts convening for the purpose of selecting instructional materials, to notice the meetings and have them open to the public,” according to the Governor’s Office. “The school districts must also provide access to all materials at least 20 days prior to the school board taking official action on instructional materials.

The Nassau County School Board seeks to expand its rule book.

“The Department of Education (DOE) will be required to publish a list of materials that have been removed or discontinued by school boards as a result of an objection and disseminate the list to school districts for their consideration.”

Media center materials and assigned reading lists must be reviewed by a district employee who has an educational media specialist certificate. There’s also an online training program through DOE for librarians and media specialists that all district librarians and media specialists are required to take.

The meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Based on prior actions, people looking to watch the Board meeting online likely won’t be able to, since the Board is meeting at Hilliard Elementary School instead of its usual location.

Just a taste

More than 20 merchants from Jacksonville’s eclectic Murray Hill neighborhood are coming together next week for the fifth annual Taste of Murray Hill, an event hosted by the Florida Christian Center, with sponsorship help from VyStar Credit Union.

Entrance is $10 (a $20 maximum per family), with the money going to support programs for low-income seniors aided by the Florida Christian Center through its apartments. Those programs include general activities, spiritual support, educational workshops, exercise classes, art, transportation to medical appointments, and activities in the community, among other things.

Last year’s event drew a crowd. Image via Florida Christian Center.

Festivities kick off at 5 p.m. on April 20 and continue until 7 p.m. (or so) at 1115 Edgewood Avenue South.

Students at the Ronan School of Music will supply the music.

Participating in this year’s event are Axe Champs, Bold Birds Nashville Hot Chicken, Community Loaves, Edgewood Avenue Christian Church, Fishweir Brewing Company, Fleurish Felt Flowers, Food Addictz on the Run, 4Cornerslovecandles, Grater Goods Cheese Shop, Happy Feet Dance Studio, Heavenly Chocolate Creations, Larry’s Giant Subs/Fired Up Pizza, Maple Street Biscuits, Murray Hill Baptist Church, Murray Hill Library and Friends of MHL, Murray Hill Preservation Association, Murray Hill Theater, Six Chicks, Stout Snug, Timed: Exercise, Vagabond Coffee, Vintage Exchange, VyStar Credit Union, and Westside Christian Outreach.

Shrimp rising

After posting a few Ls during their series with the Durham Bulls, your Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp reeled off three consecutive wins to get back to a winning record, 5-4, before Wednesday’s game at Charlotte (5-5).

The Shrimp started the streak with a 4-3 victory Friday against the Bulls (3-6), notching their first home win of the season.

“With the score tied at three, Jake Mangum led off the ninth with a base hit to left off Durham reliever Heath Hembree and advanced to scoring position with a stolen base,” according to the Shrimp’s game recap.

Xavier Edwards followed with a single of his own to right, putting runners on the corners with no outs. C.J. Hinojosa then hit a high fly ball to left field that was just deep enough to bring in Mangum from third and give Jacksonville the 4-3 win.”

Outfielder Jerar Encarnacion had the hot bat against Charlotte this week. Image via Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.

The squad stays in North Carolina for a series this week with the Charlotte Knights, who the Shrimp defeated Tuesday in their first game of the series. There, hot prospect Jerar Encarnacion matched his career-high with four runs batted in, en route to a 9-5 victory.

Jacksonville is still in Charlotte until returning home next week for a six-game series with the Nashville Sounds, followed by another six games at home against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (5-4).

Staff Reports


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