Jacksonville Bold for 3.13.24: What’s next?
Jacksonville, Florida, USA downtown city skyline at dusk.

Jacksonville, Florida, USA downtown city skyline
Melissa Nelson may be running for another term. But what happens in 2028?

We expect State Attorney Melissa Nelson to file for re-election soon — maybe by the time you read this.

But what happens in 2028?

That’s the question occupying some local insiders.

Nelson, a Republican from western Duval County, will have served 12 years in office, and there are indications that Rep. Jessica Baker may want to run.

Baker’s camp denies this interest, noting that rumors are being “pushed” nonetheless.

Melissa Nelson may be running for another term. But what happens in 2028?

The case for Baker — a lot of law-and-order legislation over two years in Tallahassee. Foreclosed from House leadership after losing a future Speaker’s race to Rep. Jennifer Canady, who was Gov. Ron DeSantis’ candidate, it’s hard to imagine she gets to do much more in her current role than what she’s doing now.

Baker critics note that she hasn’t tried many cases for an aspirant state attorney, despite her role as an Assistant State Attorney in the 7th Judicial District. Also, state attorney offices often have people in-house who already want that job and have the advantage of having been in that particular system.

This may be a moot point if Nelson doesn’t stand down in 2028. Or there could be pressure to force her to reconsider pursuing another term, such as narratives being pushed to impugn her office’s effectiveness. We’ve seen this movie before, of course.

Meanwhile, there is a chance that Baker deals with a Primary of her own, similar to the quixotic race that Christina Meredith ran against her in 2022. We hear names that have run and lost before, but they would present an interesting nuisance opponent in what is otherwise a relatively dull Primary slate this summer.

Trail mix

The two Republican members of Congress representing Duval County are showing the power and profit of teamwork by securing funding from the Democratic White House for a key Jacksonville initiative.

U.S. Rep. Aaron Bean’s office notes that Jacksonville “will receive $147,089,058 in federal funding for its downtown revitalization project, the Emerald Trail.”

Aaron Bean and John Rutherford bring home the bacon for Jacksonville’s Emerald Trail.

“The project will construct 30 miles of trails, greenways and parks to connect downtown Jacksonville to local businesses, schools and transit. The completed project will revitalize the neighborhood, strengthening tourism and entrepreneurial opportunities,” Bean’s office claims.

The network of bicycle and pedestrian trails will connect Downtown to 14 historic neighborhoods, 18 schools, two colleges and nearly 30 parks, notes DTJax.com, in writing about the City Council’s conceptual approval of the plan five years ago.

Bean and U.S. Rep. John Rutherford teamed up on the funding request, writing Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to support the Jacksonville Transportation Agency’s Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhood Access bid for Emerald Trail funds.


Leadership leap

A state Senator from Jacksonville is in the on-deck circle to lead her Democratic colleagues in the Senate, starting in two years.

As announced Wednesday night, the Florida Senate Democratic Caucus unanimously elected Sen. Tracie Davis to lead the caucus starting in the 2026-2028 term.

Tracie Davis will lead the Senate Democratic Caucus starting in the 2026-2028 term.

“I am inspired by my colleagues and honored by their faith in me with this election. I have dedicated my life to public service to the citizens of Duval County, and I am delighted to have this title to fight for all of our constituents across the state of Florida,” said Davis. She will succeed Sen. Jason Pizzo in that leadership role and follow in the footsteps of her predecessor from Jacksonville, Audrey Gibson, who led the caucus between 2018 and 2020.

Current Leader Lauren Book said, “Davis has always been a fighter, not only for the residents in her district but for the more than 21 million Floridians across our state.”

“Tracie’s energy is like a lightning rod — she’s welcoming, kind, compassionate and smart — and she knows how to get good work done to make the Florida dream a reality — accessible, affordable and safe. With Tracie succeeding Sen. Jason Pizzo as leader, Floridians can rest assured the Senate Democrats will be advocating for their best interests,” Book added.

“When Tracie started, she hit the ground running. She negotiated good policy for Floridians, and she faced obstacles head on. I am thrilled to have such an enthusiastic and fervent leader in charge of this mighty group of Democrats in the Florida Senate. I look forward to her help in continuing to rebuild the Senate Democratic Caucus so that Florida can return to a balanced state of reason,” Pizzo added.

Missed opportunity

A Jacksonville Democrat is not happy with how the Legislative Session turned out.

In a news release, Rep. Angie Nixon noted that “the elite corporate donors of Florida’s ambitious Republican politicians were the only winners.”

“Whether we’re talking about Florida’s youth, working families or retirees, regardless of party affiliation, nearly everyone continues to struggle under Florida’s affordability crisis. We have skyrocketing property and auto insurance rates, along with the endless rise in housing and utility costs and Republican leaders have wasted this opportunity to provide real relief,” Nixon said.

Angie Nixon is far from pleased with how the 2024 Session played out.

“Instead, we’ve seen too many attacks on the communities that struggle, not only with meeting their basic needs but with feeling safe in their communities and hopeful about their futures. All Floridians deserve the freedom to be healthy and live safely while achieving prosperity through their hard work, but Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republican leaders have failed to do their part in making it a reality.”

The first-term Democrat from House District 13 will face a Primary challenge from former City Council and School Board member Brenda Priestly Jackson. The district has a prohibitive Democratic registration advantage, and while the General Election likely won’t be meaningfully contested, the August election — and whether it’s open to all voters or closed with an independent candidate opening a campaign account — will be one to watch.

Credit is due

Credit unions may have pulled off the slickest move of the Legislative Session in an old-school food fight that felt like a blast from the past compared to the culture war clashes we’ve seen in recent years.

And there is a Jacksonville connection.

The House tacked an amendment to HB 989, a priority for CFO Jimmy Patronis. The amendment allows credit unions to accept deposits from local and state government entities, something the for-profit banks say is unfair because nonprofit credit unions don’t pay federal income taxes.

Jimmy Patronis is at the center of an old-school legislative food fight.

The Senate never heard the issue in Committee but still accepted the amendment.

Locals, including Matt Brockelman, Jenny Busby, Jordan Elsbury and Rob Bradley, were key to the lobbying effort.

As one source connected to the effort notes, the Governor’s Office went hard on it. The House was locked down, while a deal with Senate Leadership helped, as did the banks overplaying their hand.

Smart hire

The Florida GOP is reaching into Jacksonville for a key hire as it recovers from a rocky few months following the disgrace of former Chair Christian Ziegler.

Chair Evan Power tapped Alexander Pantinakis as political director ahead of a 2024 cycle, including a Donald Trump bid to return to D.C. and Rick Scott’s Senate re-election bid.

The Florida GOP tapped Alexander Pantinakis as political director for the 2024 cycle.

“A political strategist based in Jacksonville, Alexander Pantinakis has worked with dozens of successful Republican candidates at the federal, state and local levels. Pantinakis has deep ties to the Republican Party of Florida, previously serving as Duval County’s elected State Committeeman, the youngest to serve in the state’s history. He has served in various leadership positions with the Duval GOP for over a decade. Pantinakis has also been recognized as one of Influence Magazine’s ‘30 under 30 in Florida Politics’ and as one of the ‘Top 10 People to Watch in Jacksonville Politics’ by Jacksonville Bold,” notes the Florida GOP in announcing the hire.

“Alex Pantinakis is a great talent. I am extremely pleased that he will join us to help us build our grassroots operation to deliver victories across Florida in November,” said Power.

During his career, Pantinakis has dealt with the good, the bad, and the ugly in regional politics. He is among the savviest and most practical navigators of this region’s interesting GOP politics.

Expect him to do well in this role, his latest in a series of advancements, but likely not his last.

Housing help

Aspirant homeowners in Jacksonville may be in line for help from the Donna Deegan administration as long as they’ve lived there for two years.

“The 2023-2024 Down Payment Assistance Home Ownership Pilot Program will provide up to 75% of total down payment or closing costs, to not exceed $25,000.00, and who have a maximum gross income up to 120% of the Area Median Income (AMI),” the city announced.

Donna Deegan is helping Jacksonville homebuyers with down payments.

Singles making up to $74,400 a year are eligible, and the scale goes up as family sizes expand. A family of eight is eligible if they make $140,280.

Mobile or manufactured homes aren’t eligible; the highest qualifying purchase price is $335,000.

Interested? You can apply directly with a participating lender.

Veep on lock

The race to lead Jacksonville’s City Council for the next year appears to be all but over, with the presidential race locked up and the race for Vice President.

Multiple sources confirm to Florida Politics that Republican Kevin Carrico has 11 pledges from the 19 members of the Council in the vice-presidential race, one more than the simple majority needed.

In the City Council presidential race, Kevin Carrico has 11 pledges from the 19 members of the Council.

Ken Amaro, Raul Arias, Joe Carlucci, Rory Diamond, Terrance Freeman, Nick Howland, Will Lahnen, Chris Miller and Randy White are all on board, as is current President Ron Salem.

While pledges are simply commitments to vote for the candidate during the leadership elections later this year, Carrico, the Vice President of Operations for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida, apparently is poised to be the partner in the leadership of current VP Randy White, who will be the next President of the Council.

Carrico was elected from District 4 on Jacksonville’s Southside in a Special Election in 2020 to fill an unexpired term. He faced no competition in his 2023 re-election campaign.

Read more here.

Waldron honored

The St. Johns County Commission is recognizing a former member who recently died with a project in his honor.

At its March 5 meeting, the board voted for a three-mile, eight-foot-wide multi-use trail as part of the Shore Drive Trail Project in St. Augustine South to honor Paul Waldron via a motion from Roy Alaimo, the former Ron DeSantis aide appointed to succeed him.

The St. Johns County Commission honors Paul Waldron by naming a project after him.

First Coast News reports that the trail is controversial in the local area. Some worry that it will compromise tree structures. However, WJXT reports that an arborist will consult on this project to mitigate any disruption.

Waldron died in 2022 and had health complications ahead of that, including a battle with COVID-19 back in 2020.

Living right

St. Johns County’s signature city is getting wider recognition for quality of life.

Southern Living claims it is the best small town in the state in its South’s Best Awards released this month.

“St. Augustine has a long and storied history that can be seen in the city’s architecture. Sites like the Castillo de San Marcos, Fort Mose Historic State Park, Colonial Quarter, and Ponce De Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park explore that history and invite visitors to learn more about the Ancient City’s rich past.”

We’re not going to argue with this designation. Our only qualm is that they could have said much more about what this city offers.

Ups and downs

The six-county region covered by the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors (NEFAR) had a mixed bag of housing sales in February.

Officials with the association are spinning the February housing sale figures as a rebound from sluggish January and holiday season numbers. However, half of the six counties in the region saw decreases in median sales prices in February.

Overall, the region’s median home sales price saw a modest increase of 2.8% compared to January. The price included an increase to $385,000 in February.

February was a mixed bag for NE Florida home sales.

The number of closed housing sales in February did see a notable spike compared to January. Northeast Florida witnessed a 31% increase in closed home sales, ending at 1,491 for the month.

New listings of homes for sale also saw a notable spike of 3,359 homes placed on the market. That’s a 23% increase in Northeast Florida.

“All of this points to a rebounding market, in part due to the cuts in the interest rates,” said Rory Dubin, President of NEFAR. “Northeast Florida remains an attractive destination for families, retirees, investors and corporate relocations as well as commercial properties due to our unmatched infrastructure that includes an international port and airport, railway system and excellent roads.”

The Northeast Florida county-by-county breakdown for home sales in February included:

— Duval County, Northeast Florida’s largest population, did see a notable 8.8% increase in the median sale price for homes compared to January. That figure increased to $348,025.

— Putnam County was the hottest Northeast Florida market in February, with a median home sale price of $245,000. That’s a solid 20% increase over January.

— Nassau County was the other Northeast Florida county with a jump in median sales price, arriving at $461,250. Nassau saw one of the highest increases in median sales prices for homes in 2023. However, February’s median sales price increase was only a 1.4% upswing from January.

— St. Johns County, one of the fastest-growing counties in the U.S., still has the highest median sales price for homes in Northeast Florida, coming in at $499,995. But that’s a slight decrease in value, falling by 3.7% compared to January.

— Baker County registered the most significant Northeast Florida decline in median home sale prices in February. Baker County fell 6.7% compared to January, settling in at $249,000.

— Clay County also saw a modest decline of 4.4% compared to January, arriving at $348,950.

Help is on the way?

Jacksonville’s Safety Net hospital had its most successful Legislative Session since securing $80 million for UF Health Jacksonville’s Leon Haley Trauma Center.

Since this check, UF Health Jacksonville’s Leon Haley Trauma Center sees another winning Session.

This year’s wins included $15 million for operational support, $75 million for its share of a $300 million pot set aside for behavioral health teaching hospitals (along with Tampa General, Miami Jackson and UF Health Gainesville), and, perhaps of most consequence, the ability to place a sales surtax question on the ballot for indigent care.

New CEO Patrick Green has a vision and state leaders appear to be buying in.

Promotional announcement

Baptist Health has a new VP of governmental relations.

Dane Bennett will handle this critical role for the hospital, continuing and enhancing the work he’s done for Baptist since 2022, when he became Director of Government Relations.

Dane Bennett will now handle government relations for Baptist Health.

“He has successfully advocated for a number of initiatives to better serve the needs of North Florida and beyond, including enhanced Medicaid reimbursement for Wolfson Children’s Hospital; an appropriation for a new pediatric behavioral health unit; extending Baptist Medical Center Nassau’s rural hospital designation; and instituting a Collaborative Care Model for Behavioral Health in Florida’s Medicaid program,” Baptist notes.

As a former Marine Corps captain, Bennett was previously recognized in INFLUENCE magazine’s Rising Stars Class 2022.

Jaguars done in free agency after 1 day

It didn’t take long. It rarely does in NFL free agency. In less than 24 hours, the Jaguars added five players and spent most of the team’s remaining salary cap money for 2024.

According to Overthecap.com, after Monday’s flurry of activity, the Jaguars effectively have $1,374,100 in salary cap space.

What does that mean?

This means that the Jaguars are done spending unless they cut another player to make room or finalize a long-term deal with Josh Allen that would be structured to reduce his cap hit in 2024. If Allen plays on the franchise tag, he will cost the Jaguars just over $24 million on the cap this year. However, if they restructure Allen on a five-year contract, he could make more this year with a signing bonus that would be prorated over the contract’s life for salary cap purposes.

A long-term deal between Josh Allen and the Jaguars could be structured to reduce his cap hit in 2024.

Now, the other option. The Jaguars would save $17.2 million in cap space if they decided to release left tackle Cam Robinson. Robinson is the Jaguars’ most physical offensive lineman, a trait the Jaguars generally lacked in 2024. Cutting him would eliminate some muscle, although Walker Little could step into the position as he did when Robinson was injured last season.

Then, there is the Calvin Ridley variable in the equation. The Jaguars reportedly want Ridley back, but as of Tuesday afternoon, he has not signed with another team. With the addition of Gabe Davis as a free agent, the Jaguars have a wide receiver room that includes Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, and Davis. Adding Ridley to the mix would make for a potent quartet of wideouts. Add tight end Evan Engram to the mix, and the Jaguars will appear to be loaded at the pass-catching positions.

Then again, Ridley struggled at times to run correct routes and, despite gaining over 1,000 yards, was too often in the wrong place at key times. Jaguars’ head coach Doug Pederson has talked about simplifying the offense this year. Perhaps that would allow Ridley to become the 1,400-yard receiver he spoke of being before the start of the 2023 season.

So, what has all of this spending done for the Jaguars? They still appear to have needs on the defensive line. They let Foley Fatukasi walk in free agency. He signed with the Houston Texans. While we don’t know the details of the defense that the new coordinator, Kyle Nielsen, will implement, it’s possible that Travon Walker could spend more time with his hand on the ground.

The Jaguars have DaVon Hamilton to play nose tackle. Jeremiah Ledbetter is set to back him up. Roy Robertson-Harris and Adam Gotsis are listed as defensive ends, but both might play inside if the Jaguars use a four-person line. Tyler Lacy, a fourth-round pick last year, and Angelo Blackson are among the reserves on the defensive line. It appears the defensive line could be a target during the draft.

The flourishing has ended, but there is still more work for the Jaguars to do to improve the roster.

Staff Reports


  • Julia

    March 13, 2024 at 3:32 pm


  • Julia

    March 13, 2024 at 3:33 pm

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  • Julia

    March 13, 2024 at 3:33 pm

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  • Does anyone remember 2007? 2008?

    March 14, 2024 at 2:26 am

    $25000???? To single people marking more than $74k? For a $335000 home? Look at the website. This money is coming out of the GENERAL Fund so it doesn’t even have to pass city council. What are the limits to this program? Where is the help for renters? Does anyone remember 2007? So you’re a single and making that much and the lovely taxpayers of Jacksonville will pay all your closing costs and principle up to $25k, to be determined by unspecified criteria, and all you have to come up with is $500? And you only have to stay there for 3 years? These aren’t tax credits like the Obama 2008 home buyer tax credit which required people to stay there for a decade. That would be a worthwhile and clever idea. This is cold cash from the city’s GENERAL FUND. The one they keep borrowing money to even pay old debt much less unable to service new debt. What are they thinking? It won’t stop the bleeding. This one sure slipped under the radar. Good luck when the municipal bonds market collapses.

Comments are closed.


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