Jax – Page 4 – Florida Politics

Donald Trump trouble again for Al Lawson campaign, as manager RTs the President

The bizarre meta-narrative in the Democratic primary campaign in Florida’s 5th Congressional District continued Wednesday, with the incumbent’s campaign manager retweeting a singularly unpopular figure with Florida Democrats.

Rep. Al Lawson‘s campaign manager Phillip Singleton RT’d President Donald Trump‘s rumination on petroleum prices: “Oil prices are too high, OPEC is at it again. Not good!”

For the Lawson campaign, this is the second time in a month that RTs of Trump made news.

The first RT saw Lawson’s account support Trump’s allegations of Democratic corruption, cooperation with Russia, and bashing of the “fake news media.”

The second RT saw Lawson’s account support Trump’s imposition of tariffs against traditional U.S. allies in Mexico, Canada, and the EU, a tweet that condemned “stupid trade.”

After deleting the tweets, Lawson asserted the “campaign accounts” were “breached” and  “hacked,” an example of “dirty politics at best.”

Lawson has indicated a willingness to work with Trump, voicing it in May in Jacksonville among what some listeners took as criticisms of the Congressional Black Caucus.

When asked about a claim from 538.com regarding his voting with President Donald Trump more often than some might like: “If it’s good legislation, doesn’t make a difference if it comes from Trump or anybody. If it benefits this area, I support it.”

“The man is the president of the United States,” Lawson added, noting that he finds it perplexing when people castigate him for not voting with the Congressional Black Caucus on every roll call vote.

“Nobody in the Black Caucus voted for me. That’s why I don’t understand when people say [I] don’t vote with the Black Caucus,” Lawson said, noting that he votes for what his district wants.

The question of Lawson clapping for the President at the last State of the Union came up also.

“There were other African-Americans there who did clap, but the camera focused on me,” Lawson said, noting that “some people take a spin, opponents and stuff, say ‘he is the President’s new best friend.”

“I’m the friend of the people who are going to help my constituents,” Lawson said, to scattered applause. “You don’t have to like the President, but if the President is doing something for the people you serve, you embrace him.”

Democrats may believe, however, that there is a difference between working across the aisle and RTing the man who is Public Enemy #1 for most activist Democrats.

Lawson, a first-term Congressman from Tallahassee, is facing a primary challenge from former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown in the sprawling east/west district.

Meanwhile, Singleton offered a lengthy defense of the RT from his personal account, which we are posting in full below.

“This is the personal twitter account of my brand – Hip Hop Lobbyist. I’ve liked and retweeted posts from Pusha T, Drake, P. Diddy, Ferrari Simmons, Rick Ross, Shannon Sharpe, Netflix, Charlamagne The God, The Hill, BallerAlert, The Shade Room, Marc Caputo, Peter Schorsch, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Jeb Bush, Richard Corcoran, Jose Pepe Diaz, Karen Civil, Sportscenter, AG Gancarski and others over the age of my account. To be honest, I actually tweeted Peter Schorsch regarding a playlist for politicos on the campaign trail this summer that could keep people motivated. Maybe it could go under the Sachs Media Group daily informational in the Sunburn. I got no response. Could you comment on the non reply to my tweet? Also, to wrap this up, since launching my Hip Hop Lobbyist brand my mission has been to bridge the gap between the urban culture and political world. I’ve done this in the Florida Legislature by securing funding in the budget for at-risk youth in high crime communities, minority owned businesses, green and technology businesses, while also working with people in the entertainment industry to better understand politics. As the only black millennial lobbyist in solo practice in Florida, and fully understanding my mission, anything liked or retweeted to my account is for informational purposes to the culture of people who could care less about politics.”

AFL-CIO ‘playing politics’ with Alvin Brown endorsement, claims Al Lawson camp

In an unprecedented move, the Florida AFL-CIO waded into the Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, endorsing challenger Alvin Brown over incumbent Rep. Al Lawson.

Per an official statement, the endorsement came down to Brown’s record.

“Our members and their families in Jacksonville saw Mayor Brown’s commitment to the fundamental economic issues we care about,” said Mike Williams, President of the Florida AFL-CIO.

“Union members in Tallahassee have been inspired by his record in Jacksonville, and his dedication to working families is now well known across our movement in Florida. We are proud to give him our endorsement for Congress, and we look forward to working hard to send him to represent us in Washington,” Williams said.

Lawson’s campaign manager Phillip Singleton had a different take.

Namely, the union was “playing politics” with its endorsement.

“We find it very interesting that there has never been a situation where unions have endorsed a candidate over a sitting Democratic member of Congress. However, for over a month Congressman Lawson knew that the leadership in AFL-CIO was playing politics with this endorsement because of a vote in the Florida Legislature over a decade ago,” Singleton said.

“Now AFL-CIO has set a precedent where they endorsed a person with a track record of firing union workers, trying to balance budget deficits with union member pensions, and no true record of supporting union positions,” Singleton added.

Brown offered a statement of his own.

“Working families are the backbone of our economy, and I am honored to have the support of the AFL-CIO in this race. In Congress, I will always put workers, students and families first, and promote policies that help us build a fair economy that works for all — not just those at the top,” Brown said.

The endorsement theater in this primary has been particularly pitched. Recently, Jacksonville’s Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Lawson over the city’s former mayor.

JEA CEO proposes earmarking land sale proceeds for infrastructure issues

On Tuesday evening, the Jacksonville City Council approved incentives for The District, a 30-acre Southbank development on the site of the former JEA Southside Generating Station.

As part of that deal, developers Peter Rummell and Michael Munz have a deal via their Elements Development to buy the land for $18.6 million from the JEA Board.

JEA interim CEO Aaron Zahn, in a letter sent to the Mayor’s Office Tuesday, proposed that at least some of the proceeds be earmarked to deliver municipal sewer services to underserved communities, including older neighborhoods that have been waiting for those amenities since Jacksonville and Duval County consolidated 50 years ago.

“I recommend JEA reserve a portion of the proceeds from the Elements transaction to engage the best and brightest engineering and commercial minds to study the issue and propose previously unconsidered solutions. Additionally, I recommend JEA consider offering the balance of the proceeds (~$15-16 million) to the City as a one-time contribution to support important community goals like septic tank phase out,” Zahn wrote.

JEA and the city have collaborated in recent years in phasing out septic tanks in these older neighborhoods, with a shared $30 million burden codified in the last JEA Agreement, forged in 2016 and running to 2021.

However, that money is a small fraction of the hundreds of millions of dollars needed for the project.

Previous estimates ranged from $300 million to $1 billion, but per Zahn’s letter, that estimate is optimistic: “This subject has been studied and partially addressed over a number of years through traditional means and methods and with a seemingly insurmountable expense (>$2.5 billion).”

Zahn, who wants to be permanent CEO for Jacksonville’s public utility, has faced political resistance from some Councilors (notably Garrett Dennis) in that quest.

Dennis sees the proposal as vindication for JEA remaining a public utility.

“I applaud our city owned utility for putting its ratepayers first.  This is why I have been adamantly against any plan to privatize JEA.  The consideration to invest the proceeds to infrastructure and septic tank phase out would not have been on the table with a private company,” he said Wednesday.

Likewise, Council President Anna Brosche has been a fierce critic of Zahn and of the city incentives on the sale of the Southside Generating Station.

However, Brosche was amenable to Zahn’s proposal, calling it “a welcome contribution toward a likely $1 billion problem that has plagued our community for decades and stems from promises made during consolidation.”

“It is also an example of the benefits of the partnership the City of Jacksonville has enjoyed with JEA under our current independent authority structure,” Brosche noted.

Zahn’s proposal would be discussed by the JEA Board June 19.

Gwen Graham highlights May donors for Tracie Davis HD 13 re-election bid

Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham was the biggest name among a list of 30 May contributors to the re-election campaign of Jacksonville Democrat Rep. Tracie Davis.

Graham’s $500 contribution was just part of the $8,165 haul for Davis, a first-term representative facing a primary challenge from a former aide of her Duval Delegation colleague, Rep. Kim Daniels.

Worth noting: Graham also gave money to another Jacksonville candidate, HD 15 Democrat Tracye Polson, in May.

Other May donors of note for Davis include Comcast, which gave $1,000, and Florida Blue CEO Darnell Smith.

Davis has raised $49,980 this cycle, with over $47,000 of that money on hand.

Davis’ primary opponent, Roshanda M. Jackson, continued to flounder in May fundraising, raising no money.

Jackson has just under $800 cash on hand.

Davis first won election in 2016, replacing Rep. Reggie Fullwood, who withdrew from his re-election campaign after pleading guilty to charges related to campaign finance irregularities.

The Davis/Jackson race is not the only primary contest Duval Democrats will mull regarding Tallahassee representation.

At least for now, State Sen. Audrey Gibson will face indicted and suspended Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown on the August primary ballot.

Special election looms to replace Doyle Carter on Jacksonville City Council

On Tuesday evening, the Jacksonville City Council approved via 2018-403 an August special election to replace Councilman Doyle Carter.

Carter, a termed-out Republican representing Jacksonville’s Westside, is one of three Republicans chasing the Duval County Tax Collector vacancy.

Since 2017, one candidate has been filed to replace Carter: Republican Randy White.

White — a former Jacksonville Association of Firefighters union head, and a retired deputy fire chief — has “the fire in the belly to serve,” he told Florida Politics last year.

White’s priorities as a candidate include public safety on the macro level, and on the district level, he wants to actualize the still mostly untapped potential of the Cecil Commerce Center (formerly Cecil Field).

Carter backs him, and so do many of the city’s power brokers.

White has $85,000 in the bank, positioning him well for an accelerated election that sees qualifying wrap up by the end of June.

If White somehow does draw opponents — and does not draw more than 50 percent of the vote — the runoff election would be on the November ballot.

Carter is leaving Council at a time when the body is already short-handed.

On June 1, Gov. Rick Scott suspended two Democratic Jacksonville City Council members who face 38 federal counts in a scheme to defraud local and federal taxpayers.

Because the Democrats are not resigning, Scott will pick replacements for the currently suspended Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown.

Gov. Scott mulls a long list of potential temporary replacements for the suspended duo.

The list as of the end of last weekJoseph WillisDarrin WilliamsTerrance BrisbaneBrenda Priestly JacksonJu’coby PittmanTameka HollyCelestine Mills, Terry Fields, Angela NixonChristopher PendletonJean TranquilleRandolph HallCharles Barr, James GreinerKeshan Chambliss, Rahman JohnsonClarence JamesDwight BrisbaneNiki BrunsonRalph ChaversCornelius CoxTheresa GrahamKing HolzendorfKevin Monroe, Latangie WilliamsChandra Griffin, Charles Barr, Ralph Chavers and Pat Lockett-Felder.

New additions emerged this week: former District 8 candidate James Breaker, former at-large candidate Mincy Pollock, along with political neophytes Leslie HarrisJames GreinerBarney Spann, and Nancy Walker.

Many of the candidates who filed last week, like Breaker and Pollock, have run for office before.

Priestly-Jackson was a former School Board chair. Pittman: a former 2015 Council candidate for an at-large seat. Holly: a current candidate in District 8. Mills: a past and present candidate in District 10.

Fields was a former state Representative and a 2015 City Council candidate. Nixon: a well-known political operative for Democratic candidates. Johnson: a former Soil and Water board member.

Brisbane: an operative/consultant. Brunson and Graham: former candidates for Council. Monroe: current candidate for Council in District 10.

Lockett-Felder, like Breaker, lost to Katrina Brown in District 8’s 2015 race.

Lake Ray takes fundraising lead in Duval Co. Tax Collector race

As the special election for Duval County Tax Collector looms, four filed candidates are looking to advance to the August primary. In that race, Republican Lake Ray has the most money as of the end of May.

Ray, largely (though by no means exclusively) self-financed, is the sole candidate to clear the $100,000 barrier, with $111,310 raised and on hand.

The former state Representative’s $61,000 May ($20,000 of it his own money) included contributions from W.W. Gay and the Jacksonville Kennel Club.

Ray’s first month of fundraising was May. All told, he floated $70,000 to his campaign; in contrast to his 2016 run for Congress, he doesn’t look likely to be outspent.

Second place in fundraising: former property appraiser and Jacksonville City Councilman Jim Overton. His $23,370 May put him over $73,000 raised ($51,000 of it self-financed) and included donations from the Peytons’ Gate Petroleum and Thomas Petway.

Coming in third, Jacksonville City Councilman Doyle Carter, who softened the blow of falling behind in fundraising with endorsements from Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams and Council colleagues Aaron Bowman and Scott Wilson, poised to be president and vice-president of the legislative body.

Carter, in his first month of fundraising, hauled in $32,675, via donations from Sleiman Holdings, Matt Carlucci, and Clerk of Courts Ronnie Fussell.

Behind the three Republicans, Democrat Mia Jones.

Jones, a former City Councilwoman and state Representative, raised $2,750 in her first month in the race.

The top two candidates, regardless of party, on the August ballot move on to November’s vote.

Over Council President’s objection, Jacksonville’s District development moves forward with $82M in city incentives

On Tuesday, the full Jacksonville City Council approved an ambitious plan, one laden with incentives, put forth by two local power brokers, Peter Rummell and Michael Munz, who are seeking to develop a fallow Southbank property.

And that’s fine with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who told media Tuesday the Council should pass the bill authorizing city incentives for the project.

That wasn’t fine, however, with his primary political nemesis: Council President Anna Brosche.

The bill had been workshopped for months, from the time the JEA board approved the land deal to a series of public notice meetings helmed by District Councilwoman Lori Boyer.

However, the Council President was not mollified, and pushed the matter to a spirited discussion ahead of a 9 to 5 vote in favor of the project.

Brosche had a major qualm: the lack of information on financial projections.

“I understand the city’s need to partner on economic development projects,” Brosche said, but a lack of financial projection information was a dealbreaker.

“How do we know the developer isn’t taking the city’s investment and making serious profit,” Brosche asked, wondering about the sharing of profits, or potential clawbacks.

“Transparency is what taxpayers expect,” Brosche said. “Without this information, I will not be able to support this project tonight.”

Brosche, soon enough, took some heat … both from allies and nemeses.

Councilman Reggie Gaffney backed the project in terms of downtown development, followed by Downtown Investment Authority CEO Aundra Wallace defending the mechanics of the deal “that puts all the risk on the private side and protects the public side, only investing in the public space and infrastructure.”

Councilman Bill Gulliford, no fan of Brosche’s, asked Wallace friendly questions, deriding the idea that “the developer could make some obscene profit” as they are “taking substantial risk.”

“I’m going to support the project,” Gulliford said.

Councilman Al Ferraro, meanwhile, backed Brosche.

“I’m hearing the President ask questions about a guarantee for investment, and I’m not hearing any answers,” Ferraro said, lamenting the possibility of “putting the taxpayers at risk.”

Wallace, a patient man by trade, explained to him that “public funds go into the public infrastructure and public space.”

It was up to Council President Aaron Bowman.

“This city has been dead for years … we need some cranes downtown,” Bowman said, lauding the proposed marina, shopping center, and public space as transformative.

“I hope the debate is over. Let’s vote yes and move forward,” Bowman said.

And indeed, the debate wrapped.

Opposed to the bill: Brosche, Dennis, Ferraro, Matt Schellenberg and Doyle Carter.

____

The District (2018-313) could, in theory, transform the Southbank with its radical redevelopment of 30 acres at the former Southside Generating Station property next to the Duval County School Board building, with an $82 million city investment between Rev Grants and city infrastructure investments.

Once this project gets going, it is expected to bring a new economic engine to an area with potential, per specs.

“The District will encompass approximately 200,000 square feet of retail space, 200,000 square feet of office space, 1,170 apartments/condominiums, and a 150-200 key hotel,” per a dedicated website to the project.

Politically connected developers Rummell and Munz have a deal via their Elements Development to buy the land for $18.6 million from the JEA Board. That deal closes July 18.

Among the incentives for developers: a $30 million capital improvement plan and a Rev Grant (75 percent for up to 22 years capped at $56 million).

The Rev Grant extends to 2040 when the Southbank CRA sunsets.

The total post-construction-assessed value is expected to be just shy of $216 million and is expected to generate $2.4 million in ad valorem taxes per year.

Capital improvements would include $25 million of infrastructure work, including three riverfront parks and a marshfront park on the south of the property ($4.469 million total, and these parks would be city lands).

Additionally, 20 percent of the work would be done by Jacksonville’s Small and Emerging Businesses.

The bill did not pass either committee of reference last week unanimously.

DIA Chair Wallace sparred with Councilman Matt Schellenberg about the interest rates the city was charging DIA to borrow the money (a condition negotiated between DIA and the Mayor’s Office), with a clearly fed-up Wallace noting that since DIA is a city authority, any rate hike would be imposed onto the city by itself.

Other project costs would include $6.361 million for a riverfront bulkhead, a $3.488 million Riverwalk extension, $1.597 million for a boardwalk, $1.035 for an overland trail. As well, a $1.025 million extension of Prudential Drive, $405,600 for Broadcast Place, and $1,158 million for Riverside Drive is in the mix.

The yet-to-be-created community development district will be responsible for creating 100 metered spaces for the public for Riverwalk and public park access.

____

Committee meetings last week had their intrigue, including Brosche peppering bill advocates with questions, presaging Tuesday’s drama.

Brosche had questions about the Southbank Community Redevelopment Area “footprint” from a public notice meeting with bill sponsor Lori Boyer last week, and wondered if the CRA still had conditions that permitted its continued existence, given the revenue in the area and a lack of blight.

Boyer noted that one function of a CRA could be to boost property value to fuel tax increment districts, and that she has resisted requests to extend the CRA.

“You may hear about that next term, and someone else may want to go there,” Boyer said.

But with “large parcels” available for development, there is still room to fulfill the CRA’s purpose, and that could happen in the next few years, she said.

Brosche also had questions for DIA head Aundra Wallace; the DIA Board approved this bill ahead of the City Council consideration.

Wallace and Brosche sparred on the question of whether the project’s financing and “commercial viability” should factor into whether Council should approve the deal.

“The proof is going to be the following. The CDD gets created and gets the bonds issued,” Wallace said.

“We’re protected … fundamentally sound in terms of protecting the taxpayer,” Wallace added.

Jacksonville City Council won’t tell JEA who its next CEO should be

The Jacksonville City Council on Tuesday backed a committee vote and stopped a resolution drafted last week that would expressly discourage interim JEA CEO Aaron Zahn from applying for the permanent position.

The vote was 4-10 against the resolution, with sponsor Garrett Dennis, Council President Anna Brosche, and Councilmembers Joyce Morgan and Reggie Gaffney the sole no votes.

The bill went down 1-6  last week in a vote of the Rules Committee, a harbinger of this predictable fate.

But the show went on.

On Tuesday, Dennis contrasted Zahn with the “excellence” personified by COO Melissa Dykes, by way of selling his bill.

Councilman Al Ferraro said “everybody should have the right to run,” offering opposition to Dennis’ position.

Both men were rehearsing positions expressed in committee.

Zahn expressed interest in the permanent JEA CEO role in a previous interview with Florida Politics.

At Tuesday’s committee meeting, Council President Anna Brosche, a Republican, wondered if JEA had acted “independently” when the board set up the joint meeting Feb. 14 between the City Council and the JEA Board, a meeting in which Brosche has charged the Mayor’s Office with attempting to push through an emergency bill exploring a sale of the utility.

Brosche vowed to ask that question again next Tuesday at the full Council meeting.

That question wasn’t asked in floor debate, however.

Jacksonville Chamber political committee endorses Lenny Curry for re-election

JAXBIZ, the political committee of the Jacksonville Chamber, issued an unsurprising (but meaningful) endorsement Tuesday for Mayor Lenny Curry‘s re-election.

The group was a major donor to Curry in May, and there has been scant daylight between Curry and the business group since his 2015 campaign (when they endorsed the then-candidate a month before the first election).

Three-and-a-half years later, Curry is taking no chances. The incumbent has raised $2 million since launching his re-election, a ubiquitous presence with television ads — even as no legitimate competition has yet to file to run against him (as City Council President Anna Brosche, a Republican like Curry, mulls a bid for Mayor).

And signaled by the early endorsement: the Chamber isn’t looking to take any chances either. With a functional symbiosis between Curry and the business group, one that will extend to close cooperation over the next year between the Mayor and Council President-designate Aaron Bowman, a VP for the Chamber business recruitment wing JAXUSA, the group made it clear Tuesday that they will staunchly rebuff any challenge to Curry.

When announcing the endorsement, applause filled the room.

Curry quipped that the reaction was “a little different than it was three years ago,” before describing part of the 2015 campaign when he was looking for “endorsements that mattered.”

“This is one that I wanted,” Curry reminisced, before messaging on the successes that will provide the narrative ballast for his re-election messaging, such as pension reform, hiring 180 new police officers, job creation, and downtown development projects ranging from the Laura Street Trio to the amphitheater by the stadium.

And more successes are to come, Curry said, spotlighting cooperation with Bowman  as augery of a “year good for Jacksonville.”

One prominent political opponent of Curry’s discounts the importance of the endorsement, framing it as a distraction from his failure as mayor.

“Listen, the guy filed for reelection over a year out from the election, a clear sign he’s running scared. TV commercials running a year before the election and commanding endorsements against a field of unfunded opponents will not mask how Lenny has failed as Mayor,” said Finance Chair Garrett Dennis Tuesday.

“Under Lenny, crime in the city is at an all-time high, he botched the sale of JEA, he’s picking fights and bullying everyone in town, and he is at the center of cronyism benefiting a chosen few. It’s no wonder his poll numbers are falling fast. I’m predicting that he will be a one-term Mayor: One City. One Jacksonville. One Term,” Dennis added.

Curry and Jax Chamber CEO Daniel Davis rejected such contentions in a post-endorsement gaggle.

Davis cited “great momentum” in the city of Jacksonville and the need for “four more years of that.”

“It’s very clear we’ve got a great working relationship with the mayor,” Davis emphasized. “Today we’re talking about momentum in Jacksonville, what the mayor is doing to push that momentum, we’re excited to be part of that.”

Curry likewise dismissed Dennis’ contentions, noting that “anybody who’s watched me for three years or known me the decade before that knows that’s just how I’m built. There’s a lot of work to be done. I take nothing for granted.”

“The record is clear and I just want to make sure the people of Jacksonville know that I’ve delivered on everything I said I’d deliver, but I’m not resting on that,” Curry said.

“The best is yet to come,” Curry emphasized.

Heading into thick of campaign season, Jason Fischer raises big money in May

Rep. Jason Fischer, a first-term Republican from Southside Jacksonville’s House District 16, had his best fundraising month of 2018 in July, as a general election challenge looms.

Fischer brought in $26,000 to his Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville political committee (bringing it to $60,000 cash on hand). And he added $11,500 to his campaign account (bringing it over $88,000 on hand).

Among committee donors: Summit Construction, Florida Blue, and JAX BIZ (the political action committee of the Chamber of Commerce).

Among campaign account donors: Disney and various subsidiaries; Comcast and NBC Universal; Nocatee Development Company; and “Building a Better Economy,” the Jax Chamber’s political action committee.

Fischer’s Democratic opponent, Ken Organes, brought in $8.228 in May, his second month in the race. Organes’ haul was from small donors, and included $3,000 of the candidate’s own money.

Organes has just over $16,000 on hand.

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