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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.

Duval Democrats ‘aggressively organizing’ as Lisa King prepares to lead them

After winning her election for chair of the Duval County Democrats earlier this weekLisa King issued a statement that read more like a call to arms.

“The stakes have never been higher for our country. The ideals that we hold so dear seem to be under attack every day. While we are currently the minority in the federal and state government, there are proportionally more registered Democrats than Republicans. It is our duty as an organized party to not only engage our voters,” King wrote, “but to also fight for their rights and well being every step of the way.”

“We will not sit back and watch the rights of our citizens be challenged at every turn. We can and will bring the fight for human rights, health care, equality, and justice to the front steps of our Republican Legislators. We will be a force to be reckoned with on the public stage where these battles are fought. We will exude strength and grace – fighting for our values and pushing back against any individual or group who decides to challenge them. We are Democrats and we are ready to fight for American values,” King added.

Duval Democrats performed well for Hillary Clinton in 2016. She got more votes in Jacksonville than Donald Trump. King was instrumental in that effort as the regional lead for the Clinton campaign.

Next year is bearing down on Duval Democrats, and they are fielding interesting candidates, such as Tracye Polson in House District 15 (where one-half of the political team for the likely Republican nominee, Wyman Duggan, is headed to City Hall to work as Lenny Curry‘s chief of staff).

Polson, of course, is aggressively campaigning — canvassing every weekend, and offering social media commentary on news stories. As of this moment, she is the best chance Northeast Florida Democrats have to flip a seat.

Still, there are holes in the field. Mayor Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams have no 2019 ballot competition. State Reps. Cord Byrd and Jason Fischer lack even nominal opposition in next year’s general election. Are Dems going to concede these opportunities?

Time will tell on that.

“I can tell you that we are aggressively organizing so as to turn out Dems and dem leaning NPAs in every precinct in this County.   I’ve talked to most of our statewide candidates and they all know how well we did for HRC in 2016 so I expect we’ll see all of them here. We have a lot of work to do but we’ve never been more unified and committed to doing it,” King asserted.

King understands better than many how partisanship works.

Despite raising more money and getting more endorsements than Al Ferraro in her 2015 race for Jacksonville City Council, King was unable to beat him.

King gave us a candid interview after that ballot-box setback.

Her polling had her up two weeks before the election; however, King noted that the “top down partisan messaging from either team,” which drove party identification voting as the Lenny Curry team wanted.

In her hyper-Republican Council district, King was washed out.

Curry, once in place, looked to revamp the city’s boards and commissions — and in his sights was the Planning Commission.

King, who was by then chair, and fellow Democrat Joey McKinnon were targeted for removal, and by a 13-5 City Council vote, they were yanked.

The vote was especially notable because many Democrats, such as Garrett DennisKatrina Brown and Reggie Gaffneywent against King.

King asserted then that “nothing teaches you who your friends are quicker than who is on your side when they have something to lose.” [Worth noting: since that 2015 vote, Dennis may have learned the same lesson at the hands of Council].

King was said to have been too partisan for the comfort of Curry and his inner circle.

Now, in what could be construed as an irony, she takes the helm of the local party in the same week that Mayor Curry’s chief political strategist, Brian Hughes, became chief of staff (effective Jan. 2).

For King, that hire is an example of “blurred lines” between politics and policy in the administration.

“Mayor Curry has stated that Hughes has played a significant role in key issues of his administration such as pension reform and the [Kids Hope Alliance]. He played that role while on the payroll of the Mayor’s PAC. Have open government norms been violated?”

“This is a disturbing question that taxpayers have a right to have clarified. I served on the Planning Commission as a volunteer from 2012-2015. Before even my first meeting,” King said, “Jason Gabriel of the General Counsel’s Office briefed me on the requirements of the Sunshine Law and continued to remind me and my colleagues of its requirements. Our leaders owe us real transparency.”

Will the Democratic Party finally serve as a bulwark against what King and other Dems see as the Curry administration’s blurring of policy and politics?

Time will tell.

But their new chair is aware of the ineluctable partisanship of the game being played.

‘He’s my guy’: Why the Brian Hughes hire made sense for Lenny Curry

Reporters in the Jacksonville market got to know Brian Hughes in late 2014 and early 2015 when the Republican PR pro was handling the messaging for mayoral candidate Lenny Curry.

Soon those reporters — or those who replaced the ones who moved on — will get to know Hughes in a new capacity as Curry’s chief of staff.

On Friday, Curry discussed the hire, the latest and most prominent example of someone moving from the campaign side to City Hall.

Hughes’ hire wasn’t a surprise to everyone; rumors had circulated that it might be in the offing, and Council President Anna Brosche quipped that the hire was “just formalizing how things had been for some time.”

Curry described the evolution from campaign spokesman to chief of staff as relatively seamless.

“I met Brian in the fall of 2011 when I became state party chairman, and he’s been a trusted adviser for many years,” Curry said. “Obviously through the campaign and then after I got into office we’ve had a number of very public policy issues that we’ve worked on and successfully won, and he’s been a part of that.”

“I’ve been without a chief of staff since May and I felt like it was time to bring someone in, and he’s my guy,” Curry said about Hughes.

Curry’s previous chief of staff, Kerri Stewart, was described by some close to the mayor as not being completely in line with the agenda. Toward the end of her tenure, there was talk of a power struggle behind the scenes — talk that no one refuted when it was reported.

Stewart was perceived as invisible, so much so that one veteran Republican Councilmember, when asked to appraise Stewart’s performance, joked, “Kerri who?”

The Hughes era will most likely be characterized by message discipline and visibility for the new chief of staff, who is expected to have a “roving” profile that transcends the strict hierarchies of the organizational chart.

Those close to Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa have noted that he looks forward to working with Hughes; Mousa and Hughes, in their bluntness especially, seem to be cut from the same cloth.

Some Jacksonville City Councilmembers wondered to us, on and off the record, if Hughes fit in better in the bare knuckles world of campaigning than in the policy sphere.

Curry has no such worries.

“Brian’s been in and around politics and policy for many years. He has a full and deep understanding of all of government and how to successfully implement policy,” Curry said.

Hughes joins others who were instrumental to Curry’s campaign victory on the mayor’s senior staff, such as Jordan Elsbury and Jessica Laird.

Jessica Baker, meanwhile, is the wife of Tim Baker, who has handled much of the polling and other functions that not only drove Curry’s victory, but also helped with such initiatives as 2016’s pension reform referendum.

Some have noted such convergences; the timely example being in a recent Florida Times-Union article. But for Curry, it’s pretty simple.

“I just bring the right people in for the right jobs at the right time,” Curry said.

Federal funds OKd for Jacksonville body worn camera program

A bill filed to Jacksonville City Council this week requests approval for nearly $1 million in federal funds for Jacksonville’s body worn camera program.

Ordinance 2017-884, filed at the request of Sheriff Mike Williams, would appropriate $997,956 from the Department of Justice; a local match of the same amount would be provided.

The fact sheet for the bill offers an outline of how the program will work in Jacksonville.

Federal grant funds will cover conference travel for staffers, as well as the purchase and use of 1,113 cameras.

Also included: a five-year warranty, a mid-cycle technology upgrade, spare cameras and — importantly — unlimited data storage.

Pre-implementation, there were worries that data storage would be prohibitive. As a remedy earlier this year, JSO got $2.7 million to update outmoded mainframe computers.

Local monies will go through JSO, and will fund a BWC unit, which will contain a lieutenant, a sergeant, four field officers, three help desk techs and two part-time logistics coordinators (to be funded for 826 hours).

All members of the unit will work “100 percent of their time” on the BWC “project.”

Republican Wyman Duggan adds $8,950 to HD 15 campaign nest egg

Is momentum slowing down for Wyman Duggan, thus far the sole Republican running to replace Attorney General hopeful Jay Fant in House District 15?

November fundraising for Duggan, a Jacksonville lawyer, was the weakest of his four months as an active candidate. (That could be attributed to a traditional holiday season trough in fundraising, however.)

Still, the $8,950 haul, which brought Duggan to just over $82,000 on hand, was the first time Duggan’s monthly take dipped below $10,000.

Among donors: Preston Haskell and Jacksonville City Council hopeful Rory Diamond.

Notable: Diamond and Duggan both employed Brian Hughes as a political consultant.

Hughes, the self-described “bad boy of comms,” has moved on to join Mayor Lenny Curry‘s team as chief of staff — codifying an arrangement that City Hall wags believed existed already.

Duggan spent $3,286 in November, including $1,000 to Data Targeting for November consulting; Tim Baker, Hughes’ frequent collaborator in Northeast Florida races, is still on the campaign side.

Duggan, a mainstay at Jacksonville’s City Hall, has been stacking endorsements since entering the race.

Republican Councilmen Danny BectonMatt SchellenbergGreg AndersonAaron BowmanScott WilsonDoyle Carter, and Sam Newby are on board, as are former Councilmen Jim Overton and Kevin Hyde.

Duggan was previously endorsed by Rep. John Rutherford, state Sen. Aaron Bean, state Rep. Jason Fischer, Duval Clerk of Courts Ronnie Fussell, Duval Tax Collector Michael Corrigan and Councilman Jim Love.

Despite HD 15 being a red district, there is actually a competitive primary on the Democratic side — though November numbers are not available.

Tracye Polson, a first-time candidate who has the backing of many establishment Democrats, brought in $14,090 off of 64 contributions in October, bringing her total raised to $65,189, with over $54,000 of that on hand. Her committee has another $12,000 banked, giving her $66,000 raised.

Matthew Jude McAllister, a largely unknown quantity for politically-active Dems, filed as a candidate in November and has yet to report numbers.

A sign of the difference between the two Dems: Polson was working the room at this week’s meeting of Duval Democrats, and McAllister was not in attendance.

Expect updates to this post.

$112K raised in November for Lenny Curry committee; new chief of staff gets paid

Build Something That Lasts, the political committee linked to Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry both spent and raised money robustly in November.

Checks cut were more interesting than deposits, which, by and large, came from the usual suspects.

For the first time since August, Curry’s committee cleared six-figures, raking in $112,000. The committee has just under $475,000 on hand.

Most of the money came in $25,000 checks; feeling generous was Peter Rummell, whose district development may get a little financial boost from city coffers via the Downtown Investment Authority.

Also going in for $25,000 each were former Jacksonville Jaguars owner Wayne WeaverJohn Baker and local engineering firm England-Thims and Miller, which is handling much of the area’s commercial development projects.

Of course, this being the holidays, it is better to give than to receive; the committee doled out just over $64,000.

Of that, $30,000 went to the newly hired chief of staff Brian Hughes — Curry’s political adviser who was instrumental in achieving the administration’s vision over the last two and a half years — via Meteoric Media.

Hughes assumes the CoS position Jan. 2.

An additional $25,000 went to Data Targeting.

Reflected in this report was spending on travel to Chicago — a trip first reported in the Florida Times-Union. The committee shelled out almost $1,900 to United Airlines, with an additional $801.90 to the Park Hyatt,

A five-star hotel, the Park Hyatt is where one can “savor the ultimate downtown experience in our luxury hotel” and enjoy “sweeping views of the Chicago cityscape.” Among the amenities are Simmons Beautyrest mattresses, spalike tubs and round-the-clock room service.

November’s only campaign contributions: The House re-election campaign of Clay Yarborough and the City Council campaign of LeAnna Cumber.

Cumber, who had a gangbusters first month of fundraising ($101,000 in October), was Hughes’ client.

‘Arrangement’ between CSX, 4th circuit lawyers on blocked railroad crossings

Railroad company CSX embraced a “precision railroading” model, one that led to staff cuts and a seeming uptick in trains lingering on tracks blocking roadways.

Since then, citizens in the Jacksonville/Baldwin area — and well beyond — have kvetched, per an email from John G. Kalinowski, an Assistant State Attorney in Florida’s 4th Judicial Circuit.

In October, Kalinowski outlined what was then the protocol: “Generally a citation is sent to CSX, and they pay the $110/$250 for the citation depending on whether the Jacksonville Ordinance or the Baldwin Ordinance is used on the citation. They got a rash of them recently and contacted us about resolving them.”

By “rash,” Kalinowski means a whopping 34 citations.

The resolution, predictably, worked out in CSX’s favor, if a Nov. 27 email from Kalinowski to Jacksonville’s Office of General Counsel is a good indicator.

“For now,” writes Kalinowski, “our arrangement is to have them plea and pay to a few of the citations and dismiss the others. If push comes to shove, we may be dealing with a challenge to the validity of the ordinance.”

People are predictably vexed: the assistant state attorney notes their inconveniences, which include “hourlong backups and people leaving their cars on foot to go attend to business.”

Alas, there may be no local remedy.

“One of my concerns that CSX counsel has raised is that the Jacksonville and Baldwin municipal ordinances are pre-empted by federal law. There’s some good authority that they are right,” Kalinowski writes, citing three cases.

Friberg v. Kansas City S. Ry. Co. (5th Cir. 2001): the Circuit Court Judge held that “the supremacy of federal law in the regulation of rail transportation cannot be denied.”

R.R. Ventures, Inc. v. Surface Transportation Board (6th Cir. 2002) and CSX Transportation v. City of Plymouth  (6th Cir. 2002) were other examples of cases where federal law pre-empted state and local ordinances barring trains from blocking tracks.

For drivers on Jacksonville area roads that have railroad crossings, here’s some advice: pack your lunch and bring a book. You might be waiting a while. And there’s nothing that can be done about it.

Jacksonville mulls letting courts handle employee drug screens

Jacksonville may be mulling a change its employment drug test procedures soon, and that could bring revenue to the courts.

That’s the gist of an internal email chain obtained by FloridaPolitics.com. However, there are caveats that may preclude this from happening.

On Nov. 29, Diane Moser — head of employee services for the City of Jacksonville — was among a group that went to the courthouse to look over their drug testing procedures.

“The big picture is that Courts is trying to figure out a way to bring in more money and would like the City to help,” Moser wrote in an email to other senior staffers in the mayor’s office.

“Their lab is currently running 250,000 to 300,000 tests per year using a high tech system called Paracelsus.  They are trying to expand this program as well as start a program for employment testing.  The cost of their current test to other agencies is $30.00.  They are not currently doing any drug testing for employment,” Moser added.

However, there are sticking points. One such:

“They would need to obtain licensure through the Agency for Health Care Administration, a state requirement, as well as licensing through the Health and Human Services for DOT compliance. At this point, we do not have an idea of how long these licensures will take,” Moser wrote.

Another sticking point that may preclude this idea from coming to fruition: the “low” number of drug tests (1,627) that the city performs.

“We explained that we used to conduct more because at one point we tested everyone we hired but that we only test safety sensitive and DOT positions for pre-employment (we also test the entire population for reasonable suspicion and post-accident),” Moser wrote.

And there are still other potential roadblocks.

For one thing, the court drug testing does not involve hair samples — an apparent sticking point.

As well, there is an optics issue, per Moser: “Do we really want to send our applicants and employees to a lab that conducts tests on drug offenders?”

The courts charge $30 per person, compared to the current city rate of $25; however, the courts run a 15-panel test and the city runs just a seven-panel test, perhaps accounting for the price break.

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