Jax Archives - Florida Politics

Six ‘Kids Hope’ board picks clear Jacksonville City Council

Six of the seven board members of Jacksonville’s nascent Kids Hope Alliance cleared City Council Tuesday evening.

Five of them made the cut via the consent agenda: Rebekah Davis, a former member of the Jacksonville Children’s Commission board of directors; Kevin Gay, a previous Jacksonville Journey board member; former Jacksonville Sheriff and current Edward Waters College President Nat Glover; Iraq War Bronze Star recipient Joe Peppers; and Tyra Tutor, an senior vice president at The Adecco Group North America.

The sixth was not on the consent agenda.

Dr. Marvin Wells lives in St. Johns County.  And even though he cleared the Rules Committee a week before without a no vote, the waiver of residency requirement required a full hearing.

Ultimately, it was for naught.

Councilman Garrett Dennis noted in Rules that he worried that Wells was a “test case” for another nominee from outside the county, one who could have been more controversial.

In the Council meeting, there was some resistance to Wells.

Council President Anna Brosche, meanwhile, was less bullish on waiving the residency requirement for Wells.

“I’m not willing to out of the gate support someone who doesn’t live in Duval County,” Brosche said.

Dennis concurred.

“We are waiving the code. We are waiving the law,” Dennis said. “I ask the mayor to select a nominee that lives in Jacksonville.”

“The mayor couldn’t find one person in Jacksonville who could serve on this board?” Dennis asked.

Allies of the Mayor’s Office — such as Reggie GaffneyTommy Hazouri, Katrina Brown and Al Ferraro — backed the appointment.

In the end, Brosche and Dennis stood alone, with the rest of the Council going with the mayor’s pick.

Jax City Council defends tree canopy against ‘sledgehammer gov’t’ in Tallahassee

The Jacksonville City Council approved legislation this week that opposes a state bill (HB 521/SB 574) that would cut the heart out of the city’s tree canopy protections.

The state bill, filed by Republican Greg Steube in the Senate and Democrat Katie Edwards in the House, would prohibit cities such as Jacksonville from stopping landowners from removing trees located on their own private property.

The Jacksonville City Council bill (2017-822) contends that the legislation is “harmful to the environment and contrary to the overwhelming wishes of Jacksonville citizens,” and the bills are an “assault on home rule.”

The city passed a referendum in 2000 to protect the city’s tree canopy, with an overwhelming majority (76 percent) voting for the measure.

“The [state] bill does what Tallahassee does best; preempt local government,” per John Crescimbeni, who introduced the Council bill, a salvo against Tallahassee’s “sledgehammer government.”

“I don’t know what happens to them when they get into the hall of government over there,” Crescimbeni said, “but they forget where they came from.”

The bill was moved as an emergency with multiple sponsors. The entire Council agreed to sponsor the bill, which passed unanimously.

Jacksonville Civic Council wants input on school superintendent search

The Duval County School District is searching for a new superintendent — and the Jacksonville Civic Council wants to be dealt in.

“The quality of Duval County’s K-12 public education system is absolutely fundamental to our region’s economic vitality, directly impacting our workforce and business recruitment as well as local colleges and universities. It is also crucial to our quality of life, which depends upon a thriving economic engine to provide jobs and opportunity for local residents,” said a Tuesday letter to School Board Chairwoman Paula Wright from Civic Council Chairman Ed Burr.

“That means the choice of an executive to lead the system should be undertaken with the utmost care and stakeholder involvement,” Burr added.

“Our members are keenly interested in the well-being of our city; and all concur that the hiring of a new Superintendent is one of the most important decisions to be made here in the near future,” said Burr. “We offer our service with no agenda other than to support the School Board in identifying and hiring the most highly-qualified candidate possible and continuing the progress we have seen in recent years.”

The Civic Council press release notes that they would be fine with deferring a decision until after the 2018 elections, which would remove certain long-sitting members from the board by dint of term limits.

Duval has had an acting superintendent, Dr. Patricia Willis, for months. Nikolai Vitti, a darling of Jacksonville’s political establishment, went to Detroit in the spring.

Incumbent NE Florida Senators pad campaign war chests in November

Correction: A previous version of this post misidentified a consultant for Sen. Travis Hutson. We regret the error.


Northeast Florida’s State Senators continued strong fundraising in November. Three of them for re-election, and another on the committee level only.


Sen. Aaron Bean brought in $14,600 in new November money to his campaign account, pushing the hard money tally over $84,000.

The most interesting Bean Team donation, amidst the usual daps from construction and pharma: $2,000 from the auction industry (Stuart’s “Florida Auctioneer Academy” and an associated auction house cut the checks).

Bean’s political committee, Florida Conservative Alliance, brought in $11,500 — pushing that cash on hand to $91,752. “Consumer Health Alliance” was in for $10,000, and prison industry darlings The Geo Group kicked in $1,500.

All told, Bean has over $175,000 to deploy, 11 months ahead of an election in which he runs unopposed.


Also unopposed, and carrying a six-figure bankroll into a 2018 election: Sen. Audrey Gibson.

The Jacksonville Democrat is the leader-designate for Senate Dems, and for the fourth straight month she brought in over $10,000. Gibson has raised $118,268, and has $102,095.82 of that on hand.

Among Gibson’s donors: Dosal Tobacco Company, Florida Bankers Association PAC, Florida Home Builders, Wal-Mart and Walgreens.


Though he’s not on a ballot again until 2020, St. Johns County Sen. Travis Hutson is likewise gearing up — even if, like Bean and Gibson, meaningful opposition won’t manifest.

Hutson, Chairman of the Senate Regulated Industries committee, brought in $5,000 of December money, via five $1,000 checks: Dosal Tobacco, United Phosphorus, and Isle of Capri Casinos all anted up.

Hutson dropped $6,000 on consulting to Front Street Consulting.

Hutson has almost $38,000 in hard money.

One of Hutson’s affiliated political committees, First Coast Business Foundation, didn’t report money raised in November — leaving that committee around $13,000 on hand.

His primary political committee, Sunshine State Conservatives, was a different matter.

That committee brought in $101,000 in November, with real estate, pharmaceutical, petroleum, and gaming interests represented. The committee has over $103,000 on hand.


Though Sen. Rob Bradley is not on a ballot, his political committee — Working for Florida’s Families — continues to put in work.

Bradley took over the Appropriations chair recently in the Senate, and the donor class has taken notice.

The committee had its best month ever in November … both in terms of money raised and the purpose of money spent.

The committee raked in $124,000 of new November money, spending $55,487 of that. All told, the committee closed November with $572,151 on hand.

But those are just numbers. One particular transaction is most interesting.

Of the $55,487 spent, $50,000 of it went to Mercy Support Services, an Orange Park non-profit that addresses the issue of youth homelessness.

The charitable spend was driven by Hurricane Irma. The storm hit Clay County especially hard, and Bradley saw an opportunity to help.

“Mercy is leading the Clay County community’s response to the devastation from Hurricane Irma. Rep. Cummings and I both agreed to support and help make successful the recent concert event where Molly Hatchet and Lynyrd Skynyrd performed and raised money to help displaced families in our community,” Bradley said.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams amasses $300K+ for re-election bid

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, despite running unopposed thus far, has a war chest to handle any potential challengers.

In November, his first month as a filed candidate, Williams raked in $117,915 to his campaign account from 181 donors, the majority of them being JSO employees; over $117,000 of that is on hand.

Couple that with $70,000 more in November for his political committee — bringing that to $191,000 on hand — and Williams already has over $308,000 to deploy … fifteen months after the first election in March 2019.

The committee also had a lot of law enforcement donations, in addition to contributions from the Jacksonville Kennel Club ($5,000) and potential Republican candidate in the U.S. House in Florida’s 6th Congressional District Mike Waltz.

Is Williams going to bring in $187,000 every month? Probably not.

But what we are hearing is that many of those who supported other candidates in the 7-way race for Sheriff in 2015 have fallen in behind Williams.

If competition is to emerge for Williams, it will have to be now or never.

The committee spent $10,000 on local consultants Barcelo and Company, for what is called “constituent polling.”

This is the third round of polling conducted by the committee since its inception, suggesting that Williams’ team is using the early period of his campaign to refine his message.

Though Williams faces potential messaging challenges, including but not limited to a continually rising homicide rate (despite the hiring of new police officers in the last three budgets), and national scrutiny on the department’s practice of ticketing African-American jaywalkers, thus far those issues haven’t translated into ballot box competition.

And that means the money is even more certain to fall in behind Williams now and going forward.

Northeast Florida state House fundraising paced by Republican incumbents

Some Northeast Florida state House candidates and incumbents posted stronger fundraising than others in November. Below, the tally in each district.

The highlights: strong months for Republican incumbents Clay YarboroughJason Fischer and Cyndi Stevenson.

Meanwhile, in the most interesting race in the region, Democrat Tracye Polson continues to keep pace with Republican Wyman Duggan in House District 15.


In House District 11, incumbent Republican Rep. Cord Byrd added $4,450 of new November money to his campaign account.

This pushed his total raised to nearly $60,000, against just $2,275 spent this cycle — a machine without churn.

Among the donors: Conservatives for Principled Leadership, a committee affiliated with future House Speaker Paul RennerWalmart; and Dosal Tobacco Corporation.

Byrd faces no electoral challenges at the moment; in 2016, he beat a write-in, amassing 98 percent of the vote.


House District 12 sees action on both sides of the partisan divide, with Republican Rep. Clay Yarborough gearing up for a general election battle with Democratic candidate Tim Yost.

Yarborough is winning the money race in the deep-red district. He brought in $24,750 to his campaign account, and $5,000 to his political committee in November.

The campaign account has almost $95,000 now; the committee account has nearly $10,000.

Meanwhile, Yost brought in $165 in November, and has $2,129 on hand.


HD 13 Democratic incumbent Tracie Davis won’t face an electoral challenge in the primary or the general election, and because of that, even a slow month of fundraising doesn’t occasion alarm.

Davis brought in $525 in November, giving her $28,715 raised and on hand — as she has yet to spend any money.


HD 14 Democratic incumbent Kim Daniels ended October with less than $600 on hand. She’s better positioned after November receipts.

The evangelist/representative raked in $3,000, with donations from ABC Liquors and TECO Energy standing out.

Daniels also had negative expenditures — always a good place to be for the budget conscious — as a $1,500 spend on a multimedia consultant was refunded in November.

Daniels has just over $5,000 on hand.


HD 15 — much like HD 12 — is a race that will reach its conclusion in November, as there are both Republicans and Democrats vying to fill the shoes of Jay Fant, who is part of the battle royale for Attorney General.

Republican Wyman Duggan had a $8,950 haul, which brought him to just over $82,000 on hand.

Democrat Tracye Polson raised $8,929 in November in hard money, but spent over $13,000 — $10,700 on consulting and political research.

She has roughly $50,000 in her campaign account, and an additional $13,000 plus in her committee account — giving her over $63,000 to work with.

The question for Polson: will the early frontloading of expenditure on consultants be paid for with continued donor interest, or will she have to go out of pocket to keep up with Duggan, a favorite of sectors of the GOP donor class?



HD 16 looks like it reached its conclusion already. As we reported last week, Republican Rep. Jason Fischer added $25,000 last month to push his campaign past $100,000 mark in total fundraising.

Fischer, currently in his first term, raised $24,850 and spent $7,648 during November, bringing his to-date total to $113,902 raised with $80,217 cash on hand.

Fischer’s committee, Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville, banked $8,000 raised and spent.

At month’s end the committee had $37,386 on hand, giving Fischer a combined total of $117,603 between his two accounts.


HD 17 incumbent Republican Cyndi Stevenson had her strongest month of fundraising since filing for re-election.

November brought $22,505 of new money to Stevenson’s account via 82 contributions, giving the St. Johns County Republican $74,954 on hand.

Stevenson, an incumbent in a safe Republican seat, won’t face real competition in 2018.


HD 18 incumbent Republican Travis Cummings brought in $16,500 in November, pushing him to $106,250 raised.

Among the donors to the Orange Park Republican: Walmart, Walgreen’s, Visa, and the Florida Psychological Association.

Cummings, who doesn’t even have nominal ballot opposition, spent over $4,400 in November. Expect some new snapshots of the state Rep; he is spending over $1,000 on photography services.

For that price, they are contractually bound to get his good side.


HD 19 Republican incumbent Bobby Payne is headed for a general election showdown with a Libertarian candidate, and — as with every other incumbent — fundraising continues apace.

November saw $4,450 of new money hit Payne’s account, pushing him near $60,000 raised, and over $57,500 cash on hand.

Payne’s Libertarian opponent, Ryan Ramsey, has yet to raise money in four months as an active candidate.

In Jacksonville local races, fundraising gaps widened in November

November fundraising in 2019 Jacksonville local races saw resource gaps widen between candidates in competitive races.

Believe in Bill?: In At Large Group 2, where Republican Ron Salem faces fellow Republican, former Mayoral hopeful and two-term Councilman Bill Bishop, Salem’s lead grew last month.

Salem raised $9,350 in his ninth month in the race, with donations from former Mayor John Peyton‘s Gate Petroleum and Rep. John Rutherford standing out. Salem has raised nearly $125,000 to his campaign account, and an additional $6,000 to his political committee; all told, he has roughly $129,000 on hand.

Conversely, Bishop raised just $700 in November, and spent $5,048. He has roughly $9,000 on hand

Bishop, who has gone to great lengths to become part of the Republican fold after a fractious campaign for mayor that ended with him endorsing Democratic incumbent Alvin Brown, spent money on event sponsorship at a local Republican event, and advertising on right-wing outlet WBOB — a move that might be anathema to his liberal supporters from that 2015 race.

A new website is in Bishop’s future, courtesy of old friends from the 2015 race: the RLS Group.

RLS was best known for sending out a preemptive “Bill Bishop for Mayor” endorsement of Brown that led to a wacky series of events that included Bishop calling the email an “operator error.”

Soon thereafter, the Brown campaign — run by out-of-state ops — hired them as “paid consultants,” though it is unclear what benefits their consulting brought.

Politics in Jacksonville is a season of second chances, however, and the RLS Group has almost $4,400 of money to play with.

Testy Pattern: When last we checked in with Earl Testy, a Republican running in Council District 14, he was mansplaining about how sexual harassment was a function of the female libido.

“They have themselves and their libidos to blame for much of their own abuse by men,” Testy posted to Facebook last week.

Monday saw Testy’s November fundraising report drop, and it wasn’t pretty.

He raised $44 (forty-four) in November, though some of that ($5) was self-financed. He also gave himself an in-kind contribution of $12.61 for BBQ at a GOP event.

Of Testy’s $44, there was some churn — he spent $13,50 at a local public library, printing out petitions.

He enters December with nearly $32 on hand.

Testy has an opponent who is somewhat better capitalized: establishment favorite Randy DeFoor, who has over $81,000 on hand after raising $13,400 in November.

Rose Conry builds cash lead: In City Council District 6, Republicans Rose Conry and Michael Boylan are squaring off to replace Matt Schellenberg.

So far it’s Conry with the early cash lead over Boylan, the outgoing CEO of WJCT.

Conry, who has over $41,000 on hand after a $23,765 November, is the Chamber candidate.

Among the donors is a cross-section of Jacksonville’s power structure.

Ken Babby (owner of the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp), Daniel Bean (the soon-to-be unveiled seventh board member for Mayor Lenny Curry‘s “Kids Hope Alliance”), City Council President-in-waiting Aaron BowmanAundra Wallace (CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority), Alan Verlander, and so on.

Boylan has been announcing his candidacy for months, but is hamstrung from using his current role as a platform.

LeAnna Cumber banks more advantage: In Council District 5, Republican LeAnna Cumber built more of a nest egg for her race against undercapitalized Democrat James Jacobs.

Cumber added $36,130 to her bankroll, giving her $135,000 on hand after just two months in the race.

Donors were impressive: Susie WilesAudrey Moran, former House Speaker Will Weatherford, and Attorney General hopeful Rep. Frank White were four of the bigger names on an all-star slate.

Jacobs brought in $100, giving him $853 raised — but some serious churn, with only $453 on hand.

Reggie Gaffney has raised just $10,100 and has four opponents in his District 7  re-election bid; however no one against him has raised more than $1,800 …. Randy White raised $51,000 in the first month of his District 12 bid; the Republican has no ballot opposition … Unopposed (for now) Republican Rory Diamond, running in District 13, crossed the $100,000 raised threshold after a $15,000+ November — his second month in the race …. Matt Carlucci, running as a Republican in At Large Group 4, leads all fundraisers with $182,000 raised — and almost $172,000 banked.

Jacksonville City Council candidate talks female ‘libidos’, ‘conversion of Negro Democrats’

Jacksonville City Council candidate Earl Testy has raised $31 thus far in his long shot bid for public office, putting him somewhat behind his opponent, Randy DeFoor, who has $81,000 on hand.

However, unlike DeFoor — whose campaign has largely been limited to fundraising thus far — Testy has garnered publicity through making statements online that many people find controversial.

Last week, Testy made waves by asserting that sexual harassment was the fault of the female “libido.”

Testy took women to task, asserting “they have themselves and their libidos to blame for much of their own abuse by men.”

As one might guess, women who read the article linked above vocally objected to Testy’s theory.

Testy asserts that he was attempting a “little synopsis” of an article he linked to on National Review Online — an article that does not contain the word “libido.”

Asked about this, Testy hewed to his comments as just a “short synopsis” of the article. And those who might have taken his comments as an offensive standalone, independent of the article, are guilty of “human error, if you interpret it that way.”

In addition to ruminating on the female libido, Testy also addressed his candidate statement, which had even more provocative language.

“I devote a portion of the time remaining in my life to facilitating the conversion of millions of Negro Democrats back home to the Republican Party,” Testy remarked.

“Like my heroes the Honorable Frederick Douglass and Florida’s own Honorable Josiah T. Walls,” Testy added, “I proudly call myself a Radical Republican. Just like the charismatic Sojourner Truth, I declare Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God, the Father!”

Testy said that his use of the word “Negro” was justified on the grounds of “that’s the term Frederick Douglass used,” adding that the “greatest civil rights leaders used the word ‘Negro’.”

While he concedes that the word is “not so popular” these days, Testy postulates that “Negro” and “African-American” are “interchangeable.” To that end, he gave his speech about “conversion” at a recent City Council meeting, and used “African-Americans,” he said.

“My heroes come from the 19th Century,” Testy affirmed. “I love that portion of history. It’s a shame that Jim Crow put an end to Reconstruction.”

Rob Bradley political committee spends $50K on Irma relief

Fleming Island Sen. Rob Bradley took over the Appropriations Committee earlier this year.

Perhaps predictably, Bradley’s political committee — Working For Florida’s Families — had its best month ever in November … both in terms of money raised and the purpose of money spent.

The committee raked in $124,000 of new November money, spending $55,487 of that. All told, the committee closed November with $572,151 on hand.

But those are just numbers. One particular transaction is most interesting.

Of the $55,487 spent, $50,000 of it went to Mercy Support Services, an Orange Park non-profit that addresses the issue of youth homelessness.

The charitable spend was driven by Hurricane Irma. The storm hit Clay County especially hard, and Bradley saw an opportunity to help.

“Mercy is leading the Clay County community’s response to the devastation from Hurricane Irma. Rep. Cummings and I both agreed to support and help make successful the recent concert event where Molly Hatchet and Lynyrd Skynyrd performed and raised money to help displaced families in our community,” Bradley said.

Politicians typically don’t spend committee money on charity. But Irma — which caused catastrophic flooding in parts of Clay County — was atypical in its impact. And the Senator saw an opportunity to help.

Of course, the money will be recouped soon enough, as Bradley is getting the kinds of donations that ensure he has the resources for future campaigns and political moves.

The biggest single donation in November: $25,000 from Regent Consultancy, an Illinois-based business concern of Jacksonville Jaguars’ owner Shad Khan.

Paul Renner’s November fundraising pushes him over $500K on hand

Palm Coast Republican state Rep. Paul Renner had a $100,000 haul in November between his two political committees, while adding another $39,000 to his campaign account.

All told, between affiliated committees and his campaign account, the future House Speaker has over half a million dollars cash-on-hand.

Florida Foundation for Liberty raised $96,251 and spent $7,114; that committee has $371,000 cash on hand.

November was the strongest month that committee had since Renner won his leadership race earlier this year.

The leading donor: Florida Blue, with $20,000 total. Meanwhile, the tobacco sector was delivering Renner more than smoke; Dosal and Altria both ponied up $10,000 each.

Among the $5,000 committees: Florida Retail Federation, U.S. Sugar, PHRMA, and TECO Energy.

Conservatives for Principled Leadership, a second Renner-affiliated committee, brought in an additional $4,000.

That committee has just over $67,000 on hand.

Beyond the roughly $434,000 Renner has on hand in committees, his campaign brought in $39,200 – his best month since filing for re-election — giving him an additional $74,000.

Among those who maxed out with $1,000 donations: TECO, the Florida Retail Federation political committee, the Florida Retail Federation Pharmacy Council political committee, the Florida Medical Association political committee, the Florida Bankers Association, CARPAC, Dosal, the Mayernick Group, and its affiliated committee, the Alliance for Honest Government.

Renner is likely to face general election competition in 2018 in House District 24 — and it will be the same person he faced in 2016: Democrat Adam Morley.

Morley raised $185.18 in November, and he has roughly $995 on hand.

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