Jax Archives - Page 7 of 418 - Florida Politics

Duval Democratic Party chair endorses Alvin Brown for Congress

Duval County Democratic Party chair Lisa King leads a wave of Jacksonville endorsements for Alvin Brown for Congress.

The endorsement of King, appointed to Jacksonville’s Planning Commission during former Mayor Brown’s tenure, and other prominent local Democrats signals that Brown’s implicit desire to make the Democratic primary race with Al Lawson in Florida’s 5th Congressional District a matter of “Duval Vs. All Y’all” (to borrow a phrase from current Mayor Lenny Curry).

“This election is too important to sit on the sidelines, and I am thrilled to endorse Alvin Brown for Congress. His exemplary record of fighting for higher wages, a stronger education system for our kids, and more job opportunities for our servicemen and women proves what kind of representative he will be for the 5th District. As a military mom, I know that Alvin Brown will bring the voice and energy we need to address the serious issues facing Florida and our country,” King asserted.

Other endorsers rolled out in Wednesday’s wave include former Jacksonville Human Rights Commission Chair Mario Decunto, Duval County Black Caucus Chair Hazel Gillis, and former Northeast Florida United Way CEO Connie Hodges.

“As we begin our people empowerment campaign, I am honored to receive support from local leaders who have dedicated their lives to giving a voice to the voiceless. We have a long fight ahead of us when it comes to improving the quality of life for all Floridians, and in Congress, I will be on the frontlines as we take on that fight to improve the quality of life for all in the 5th Congressional District,” Brown asserted.

Brown is taking advantage of an as yet unlaunched re-election campaign by Lawson to score some news cycle wins.

He rolled out the endorsement of former Congressional Black Caucus Chair Emanuel Cleaver last week, and he also has messaged heavily on the incongruity of Lawson applauding President Donald Trump during the State of the Union.

Jacksonville City Councilmembers want answers before selling JEA to private investor

On Tuesday, Jacksonville City Councilmembers struggled, in a meeting in a packed Council chambers, with the idea of a sale of the JEA to a private company.

This was the second straight day on which Council members did a deep dive into JEA operations, with Monday offering Council calling for underground power lines.

The office of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has been open to (at least) discussing a sale, but speculation is that the process has moved beyond discussion.

Some, including Councilman Garrett Dennis, believe the sale is all but a done deal.

Notable about this meeting: Dennis, an irritant to the Mayor’s Office, had many Council members on his side in opposition to the Mayor’s Office.

Councilman John Crescimbeni wants a “referendum,” but the office of general counsel says that’s not necessary.

Crescimbeni and Council President Anna Brosche await further guidance from the OGC; in a sharp exchange, Brosche wondered how OGC’s Peggy Sidman knew that the potential sale would not be on the JEA Board meeting’s next agenda.

OGC does say that any sale of a utility’s assets amounting to more than 10 percent is contingent on a vote of the Jacksonville City Council. A charter change would be necessary to make that vote a referendum.

Katrina Brown wants “town halls” in her district to discuss the issue.

Reggie Brown wants to make sure infrastructure, such as $3 billion in sewer projects, are addressed in the sale.

Reggie Gaffney asserted that “JEA has a plan,” and wondered when Council would be made aware.

“We’re all kind of blindsided by this,” Dennis said, vowing to ensure that the Council do “whatever is best for the shareholders … the 850,000 people who own JEA,”

Alvin Brown messages on Donald Trump praise for Al Lawson

Another week brings another brutal news cycle for the re-election campaign of U.S. Rep. Al Lawson in Florida’s 5th Congressional District.

This week saw Lawson singled out for praise by none other than President Donald Trump.

Lawson was the only member of the Congressional Black Caucus to applaud Trump during the State of the Union last week.

Monday, the Tampa Bay Times flagged POTUS lauding Lawson.

“Who was that guy? He was a nice guy. I think he was a reverend. And he was clapping,” Trump said in Cincinnati. “And I wouldn’t say it was exactly a rousing — but he was putting his hands together.  And I want to find out who he is.  I’m going to send him a letter of thank you.  And he was probably severely reprimanded.”

It’s doubtful whether a “letter of thank you” from Trump would help Lawson in a primary against former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, who is happy to pillory Lawson as a DINO.

“It is deeply troubling that Al Lawson claps for the Trump agenda in Washington as people back home struggle to make ends meet. While the black jobless rate is at its lowest levels following President Obama’s years of hard work, there remains more to be done,” the former Jacksonville Mayor said after the SOTU.

With the Trump comments in the bank, Brown went farther.

Brown is now fundraising via email calling Lawson “Trump’s favorite.”

“And yesterday, Donald Trump called all Democrats ‘treasonous,’ except one. That’s because President Trump has a new favorite ally in Congress: Al Lawson,” the email asserted.

Brown’s campaign went deeper with comments in reaction to Florida Politics.

“It’s telling that Al Lawson has now changed his tune after getting caught applauding Donald Trump’s agenda. One week he praises Trump, and the next he backtracks, claiming that’s not what he meant to clap for. While we can’t trust Lawson, North Florida can rest assured: Alvin Brown will never get a ‘thank you’ card from Donald Trump,” the campaign asserted.

“This election is too important to send a Congressman who embodies ‘business as usual’ back to Washington. Unlike Lawson who’s content with the status quo, Alvin Brown will fight for our veterans, more investments in education, expanded voting rights, higher wages, and economic opportunity for all Floridians. We need a strong voice in Congress who will tackle the real problems facing our country — not someone who says one thing in DC and another in Florida,” the campaign added.

GOP operatives squabble over CD 6 candidate John Ward donating to Democrat Alvin Brown

The hits keep on coming in the brass-knuckled GOP primary race in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

The latest salvo was Monday afternoon when Florida Politics obtained records of candidate John Ward giving to a Democratic candidate in the 2015 Jacksonville mayor’s race.

Ward, a resident of Ponte Vedra Beach, was one of a number of Jacksonville Republican donors who gave to Alvin Brown, a former mayor who is now primarying Al Lawson in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, running from Lawson’s left.

Ward gave $250 in May 2014, days before Lenny Curry jumped into the mayor’s race. However, most observers knew Curry was eyeballing a run as far back as 2013.

Notable: Ward’s campaign is being run by Brian Swensen, who was campaign manager for Curry in that mayoral race.

Ward has attacked primary opponent Mike Waltz, for cutting an ad in opposition to Donald Trump in 2016 during the fractious Republican primaries.

Another Curry strategist, Tim Baker, is running Waltz’s campaign.

Baker believes the donation raises questions.

“Why was it important that Ward from Massachusetts support a liberal mayor of Jacksonville,” Baker wondered.

“I wonder if he supports [increasing] the minimum wage, expanding Medicaid,” Baker asked, given that these were Brown positions down the stretch.

Baker deemed Ward a “dishonest politician who will say or do anything to win an election, even hypocritically attack a decorated veteran.”

“At least Michael Waltz supports Republicans. Ward wants to bash Waltz for supporting other Republicans in a primary but donates to Democrats himself,” Baker asserted.

What is clear: Curry’s consultants from 2015 are running hard-charging campaigns against each other in this 2018 race, in which both Baker and Swensen have reasons for wanting to score a victory against each other.

Ward’s campaign was contacted for on record comment Monday afternoon, and offered this, via Swensen, Tuesday morning: “Just like the vicious lies Mike Waltz spread about President Trump, the contribution his campaign questions was clearly made before Mayor Curry became a candidate.  Mike Waltz will do anything to distract from his record as a Florida’s leading #NeverTrumper.”

Jacksonville Councilors want underground power lines in older neighborhoods

Jacksonville’s relationship with its municipal utility, JEA, is on shaky ground.

The office of Mayor Lenny Curry is, depending on who is telling the story, at least open to the possibility of selling off JEA to a private owner.

Jacksonville City Council members have their concerns, which will be discussed in a public meeting on Tuesday to explore “the true implications of a sale.”

Things are moving quickly enough: so quickly, in fact, that JEA created a draft employment agreement that would pay bonuses to keep people in place during the transition.

There is clearly a worry about stability institutionally.

That larger worry necessarily frames operational concerns, rendering them less important in some ways, yet requiring them to be addressed all the same, as happened Monday in the Jacksonville City Council’s Transportation, Energy, and Utilities committee.

The subject: electrical system resiliency.

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, city leadership expressed frustrations with the slow pace of power recovery.

Michael Brost, vice president of Electrical Distribution, reprised points he made in a board meeting last month, discussing the merits of underground utilities.

But unlike in the board meeting, council members drove the discussion toward undergrounding pre-1970 construction.

Brost noted that underground power lines began in Jacksonville in 1970, via an ordinance for new developments.

“Everybody loves underground … they’re more storm-resilient … the challenge is they are more expensive,” Brost said, and “not cost-effective compared to overhead systems.”

Councilman John Crescimbeni pressed Brost on the underground issue.

“100 percent underground would be great,” Brost said, noting that the city made the right decision in 1970 to mandate underground utilities.

There are also initiatives designed to deal with outages of over a minute at least five times a year. Purportedly, only one percent of customers deal with these issues (though this writer knows all of them seemingly).

JEA will spend $30 million on a four-year program to shorten outage length further; whether that and other long-term projects will be completed if the utility is sold remains to be seen.

Crescimbeni noted that the vast majority of outages (2,232 to 12) during Irma were overhead outages.

Crescimbeni noted the soft costs, such as mutual aid crews, as being significant.

“About $45 million out of pocket for those storms … it’s time this community come up with a significant plan for undergrounding,” Crescimbeni said.

“We chip away at it … but I think it’s a path we need to decide to go on … and start plotting a course to get there,” Crescimbeni added.

“You’re probably going to have a reduction in manpower … because there won’t be so many lines,” Crescimbeni added.

Brost noted that, given a $3-$6 billion estimated cost for undergrounding, it could take 200 years to make the project cost-effective.

Councilman Tommy Hazouri seconded the call for underground utilities, given issues with workman safety and other factors during storms.

“I am all for underground,” Hazouri said.

Councilman Jim Love wanted a plan that would underground 95 percent of city utilities, but JEA doesn’t have that plan.

“What we get hung up on,” Brost said, is “what’s the funding source. We [may] need a comprehensive program to enforce it.”

“I would like to see some plans from you … the smartest way to do it, the cheapest way to do it over a period of time,” Love said.

Crescimbeni is skeptical of any such plan from JEA, citing the possibility of a “doomsday” report because the utility doesn’t want to commit to the project.

Councilman Aaron Bowman noted that solar is coming on as a source, and technology may evolve over decades.

Bowman wanted some mapping to show which overhead areas are most prone to outages, and then remedying those first.

Jim Overton, representing Scenic Jacksonville, noted a broad swath of the political donor class locally wants undergrounding.

Winter Park, said Overton, is undergrounding currently. Jacksonville Beach, 80 percent underground, performs better in storms.

And there are savings on maintenance and tree trimming, as well as on conversions.

“JEA wants this as well as we do,” Overton said. “It’s just a matter of how to get there.”

Jacksonville City Council panel moves bills on King/Soutel CRA

In Tallahassee, Community Redevelopment Agencies are under siege by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who believes they are taxpayer-funded slush funds.

However, Jacksonville lawmakers believe there are safeguards put in place to protect taxpayers, and that CRAs provide necessary functions.

This week in City Council committees (Monday in Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health & Safety; Tuesday in Finance), panels are weighing the merit of restating the intent of the King/Soutel CRA and expanding the boundaries.

NCSPHS cleared the two bills on the matter with unanimous votes.

The CRAs intent is to “jumpstart housing, retail and commercial development in an underserved, but budding area in Northwest Jacksonville.”

There is, believe city planners, “significant market demand if the blighted conditions can be remedied and mitigated. The plan was themed to create new town centers at key locations with access to transit, establish minimum standards for services, strengthen existing neighborhoods and create attractive gateways that establish quality of character and identify communities,” reads the city webpage devoted to the subject.

The CRA first began a decade ago as the Soutel/Moncrief Retail Redevelopment Area Redevelopment Plan, then expanded into the KingSoutel Crossing Community Redevelopment Area. The KingSoutel Crossing Community Redevelopment Agency last year “recommended that the City Council restate and clarify its intentions regarding the governance of the redevelopment area.”

A parallel bill would expand the area also, adding 1,100 linear feet of right of way on Norfolk Avenue to the CRA.

With that clarification of CRA governance in play this week, we asked Council President Anna Brosche about CRAs — especially in light of their basic function being questioned in Tallahassee.

Brosche, a Republican, expressed confidence in the “steps we have taken locally to ensure transparency and effectiveness of the CRAs, including the governance steps of having a separate board capacity to evaluate our CRAs and their contributions to the community.”

Democratic Councilman Reggie Brown, in whose district the CRA rests, notes that efforts to program the money are hamstrung by the combination of a state-imposed requirement to use the money within three years and the fact that money isn’t coming into the CRA very quickly due to a lack of new businesses.

Wishlist items like sewer lines on U.S. 1 have to be deferred, Brown said, in favor of more manageable asks like crosswalks and traffic signals.

The idea of a “slush fund” strikes Brown as ridiculous in that context; what can be afforded are infrastructure items that fit into an approximately $500,000 influx per year.

The Office of Economic Development augments those claims.

“Every CRA evolves at its own pace. The Kings Soutel CRA is progressing as the economy of the area has progressed (slowly). This is based on private capital investments within the boundary. The CRA Plan created in 2008 was developed to build intersection gateways hoping to attract retail and commercial redevelopment within the boundary. Due to a slow evolving TIF, it has taken a few years to accumulate enough revenue to implement plan projects,” the OED asserted.

“The KingSoutel Crossing CRA was established just prior to the recession when the market was at an all-time high. With a 2008 base year set before the market crash, it was upside down the first couple of years with little to no return in the early years. The funding has accrued at a very slow pace over the past seven years due to the economy and lack of private capital investment. The funds have been set aside over time and placed within a separate account. The Councilman has used them to improve the recreational opportunities within the CRA hoping to spur activity. The updated plan provides much more opportunity within the CRA boundary,” the OED added.

CRAs are part of Jacksonville’s larger strategy, though not without internal debate on particulars.

In 2017, the Jacksonville International Airport CRA was proposed for sunset in 2019 by the advisory board, with remaining funds to be swept into the general fund.

That decision was fought by the district’s councilman, Democrat Reggie Gaffney.

Gaffney noted that there was a lot of work to be done in the area, including infrastructure and drainage improvements.

And he had powerful allies.

Republican Councilman Aaron Bowman, the current council vp who handles business recruitment for the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, contended that infrastructure improvement is consistent with the goals of the CRA.

“My reading of the rules and regulations,” Bowman said, “is we absolutely have the right to do that … I think we’ve left a lot of stuff off the table that we could’ve done.”

In a city like Jacksonville, where standards of living are often radically different from neighborhood to neighborhood, a community redevelopment area has a very specific function that council members seek to reaffirm.

While that puts council Republicans at odds with Corcoran conservatives in the Florida House, that’s a risk they are willing to run.

Democrat Sunny Gettinger launches run for Jacksonville City Council

Democrat Sunny Gettinger entered the race in Jacksonville City Council District 14 Thursday.

Gettinger, a former Chair of Riverside Avondale Preservation, has an impressive résumé.

Gettinger, professionally a communications manager for Google Fiber, began working for Google in 2006. Additionally, she served as associate director of press advance and Florida recount media coordinator for the DNC after the 2000 election

Gettinger has a Bachelor’s from Yale, and Master’s Degrees in Public Policy from Harvard.

As an indication of her bona fides, Duval Democratic Party Chair Lisa King welcomed Gettinger to the race Thursday.

“Ok, Democrats! You’ve been asking for a candidate in District 14 and now we have one! So proud Sunny Gettinger has taken this big step. She’s SUPER qualified to serve us,” King posted to Facebook.

Gettinger’s husband, Trey Csar, likewise is well-known in Jacksonville as president of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund.

Gettinger posted her filing to her personal Facebook page Thursday, and the response was huge.

“Humbling, shocking, surprising,” was the candidate’s description.

Gettinger, though “proud” of being a Democrat, knows that “city politics at its best is non-partisan” and that “no one has a monopoly on good ideas.”

Gettinger even respects Mayor Lenny Curry, at least in terms of his “get it done” spirit.

A previous chair of the Riverside Avondale Preservation board, Gettinger is obviously interested in the elements that make a neighborhoods work. She worked with current Councilman Jim Love on that board, and appreciates Love’s ability to “find solutions” and avoid the “nuclear option.”

“His leadership style has done a lot for this community,” Gettinger said.

With RAP Board experience and on the Google Fiber project, Gettinger has an especial interest in zoning and permitting, topics that aren’t of interest to everyone on the City Council as a candidate.

“PUD after PUD,” Gettinger noted, sounding like former Council President Lori Boyer. “Maybe the zoning code doesn’t work.”

Building along waterways strikes her as a dubious strategy, given back to back years of intense storms.

Gettinger’s entry into the District 14 race will ensure the debate is among the most elevated in any Jacksonville City Council district. She is a serious Democratic candidate who will have support from the community and access to fundraising that will make her competitive in the Jacksonville district spanning from Riverside and Avondale through Ortega to NAS Jax.

A serious Republican candidate, Randy DeFoor, entered the race in September 2017. It will be interesting to see how DeFoor and Gettinger, two accomplished candidates, debate the issues of the district, which is less a cohesive whole than a collection of neighborhoods with their own sense of place and priorities.

DeFoor, a senior vice president for the National Agency Counsel at Fidelity National Financial in Jacksonville, is running as a Republican, and her campaign is being run by Tim Baker, one of Mayor Lenny Curry‘s political advisors.

DeFoor has already raised over $100,000, setting a bar that Gettinger will have to match early on.

Gettinger knows and likes DeFoor, and is “excited about the conversation between two female candidates.”

Of course, the race won’t be so binary in the end. Nine candidates ran in 2011, the last time the seat was open.

And other candidates, who will inevitably make forecasting the race challenging, have and will continue to emerge.

Gettinger and DeFoor are not alone in the race: there is also a male candidate running, Republican Earl Testy, who presents a decided contrast.

Testy has raised $164 so far; however, he has garnered earned media via a series of opinions that are nightmare fuel for many readers.

In the midst of the #MeToo movement emerging last year, Testy asserted that sexual harassment was the fault of the female “libido.”

We are hearing that a second Democrat will get into this race, though that Democrat’s strategist is mum on identifying him.

Nancy Soderberg, John Ward dominate fundraising in race to replace Ron DeSantis

Former Ambassador Nancy Soderberg represents one of the brightest hopes in Florida to flip a Republican seat Democratic.

For the second straight quarter, her campaign in Florida’s 6th Congressional District shows real momentum with donors, as she prepares to face the eventual Republican nominee.

Per a Tuesday night news release from Soderberg’s campaign, the candidate raised $207,949 last quarter, putting her above the $544,000 mark.

The news release does not include cash on hand, but her third quarter only showed $77,000+ spent.

Soderberg, a veteran of the Bill Clinton administration, notes in a statement that she is “honored to receive so many grassroots donations.”

Soderberg likely will face one of the following Republicans: former Ormond Beach state Rep. Fred Costello, businessman John Ward, former Green Beret Michael Waltz, or St. Johns County Commissioner Jimmy Johns (who opened a campaign account this week, but has yet to announce formally).

Ward has $644,000 cash on hand, giving him the money lead. He has put in $552,000 of his own money, against just over $200,000 in contributions, with the vast majority of them outside Florida.

Despite those caveats, Ward is in the lead and used the substantial haul to draw contrasts between himself and Soderberg, and his Republican opponents also.

“Our campaign is off to a very strong start for victory in November, and I couldn’t be more excited at the opportunity to serve and support the President’s agenda, an agenda that puts America first both domestically and overseas,” says Ward. “The clear feedback we are getting from voters is telling us that they will enthusiastically support a candidate who is in lockstep with President Trump’s agenda instead of my opponents who have either attacked President Trump or they favor policies that will kill millions of jobs through taxes, overregulation, & illegal immigration.”

(Ward’s main line of attack on Waltz has been spotlighting an ad he cut against then-candidate Donald Trump in the 2016 primary season, back when Trump’s ascendance was dreaded by many of the Republicans who now embrace him as a standard-bearer.)

Campaign spokesman Brian Swensen adds: “If the Democrats and the #NeverTrump crowd had it their way, we would be seeing our taxes going back up, a return to a reckless foreign policy that apologizes for American exceptionalism, and even more frightening: Hillary Clinton in the White House with Nancy Soderberg in Congress. Florida’s voters don’t want a return to the failed policies of Obama and Nancy Pelosi which is why this November they will vote for candidates like John Ward who will fight every day for more tax cuts, a secure border, an end to sanctuary cities, and a strong military.”

Ward could put more money in also by the end; he had pledged to put in up to a million dollars.

Costello reports $556 cash on hand; he entered the race at the tail end of December.

Waltz, who entered the race this month, will not have to file until April for the first quarter of 2018.

Ted Yoho dominates competition in re-election money race

Rep. Ted Yoho, a North Central Florida Congressman whose 3rd Congressional District runs from Orange Park to Ocala, finished 2017 with considerable financial advantages over his competition.

Yoho’s year-end report showed $319,700 on hand.

Q4 saw Yoho bring in $62,000, against just under $59,000 spent.

By and large, Yoho’s contributions were from expected sources: Koch, AT&T, Lockheed Martin, and the like.

Yoho will face a primary opponent: Orange Park’s Judson Sapp filed this week, and it will be worth watching to see if Sapp can raise any real money.

What’s clear is that Democrats in the field are struggling.

Yvonne Hinson leads, with just over $4,000 on hand.

Dushyant Gosai has just over $400 on hand.

Showdown at the Soul Food Bistro: Garrett Dennis takes on Lenny Curry

The Soul Food Bistro is the go-to place on Jacksonville’s Westside for soul food. From fried catfish and collard greens to oxtails and cornbread, it has it all.

It is also in the heart of Jacksonville City Council District 9, which is represented by Councilman Garrett Dennis.

Dennis, a Democrat who often is alone in a battle against the Lenny Curry administration and Curry’s political machine (the Venn diagrams of which overlap), was not invited to the lunch event: a celebration of capital projects in Northwest Jacksonville that ranged from a septic tank phaseout to an amphitheater in Lonnie Miller Park to lights in front of Florida State College Jacksonville’s North campus and infrastructure improvement in sidewalks and a new library in Oceanway.

Progress was the overt theme of the day. But conflict, the subtext, became the story — with Dennis hijacking the media event with stories of pressure from the mayor’s office that were disputed strongly by the administration.

The Councilmembers present represented Districts 7 (Reggie Gaffney), 8 (Katrina Brown) and 10 (Reggie Brown). Additionally, at-large Councilman Sam Newby was in attendance.

Dennis, despite not being invited, was the first politician there, setting up a sign outside welcoming people to District 9.

“This is the second time the mayor has come into my district and invited other Council members and not invited me,” Dennis said, “but we all know why.”

“I don’t go along to get along,” Dennis said, a clear reference to those councilors “on the invite list.”

Dennis said his phone had been “ringing off the hook all last night, since six o’clock this morning. People are very concerned — in the district, outside the district.”

Dennis asked, “Is it One City, One Jacksonville, or one city for the people who rubberstamp all his initiatives, don’t ask any questions, and go along to get along?”

We asked Dennis about the anticipated Reggie Brown challenge to Sen. Audrey Gibson, who is his political ally.

Dennis was blunt.

“From what I’ve heard, the mayor’s encouraged him,” Dennis said. “Matter of fact, I hear the mayor’s looking for someone to unseat me in this district.”

“But there’s an old saying: ‘better be careful of the hole you dig because you’re digging your own hole’,” Dennis said. “He’s going to be challenged if he keeps doing things like this to divide our city.”

“But what do we expect from a party boss turned mayor?” Dennis asked.

Dennis said he was willing to be the “lone ranger” if need be, asking questions about what the city’s benefit would be from selling JEA.

“The mayor has made these promises, and now he can’t fulfill these promises. That’s not right,” Dennis said.

While he was unwilling to declare himself to be a candidate for mayor, he noted that “stepping out and sharing all of this doesn’t come without isolation, and that’s what you see happening today.”

“Even if I’m going to be isolated, the only outspoken voice on Council, I’m going to continue to be it,” Dennis said.

Dennis wasn’t finished.

“Let me be honest and clear … standing up is not easy. I’ve been threatened by this administration. I’ve been told that I’m a ‘walking dead man’,” the councilman said.

“It’s unfortunate that I’ve had to go get a concealed weapon permit and carry a gun on me because I’ve been told by this administration that I’m a walking dead man,” Dennis said.

Dennis said “the mayor’s top lieutenant” said that to him on Jan. 11.

“In order for me to stand up, I need y’all with me and need y’all’s support. Some of my family members have encouraged me to file a police report. They’re after me.”

“I don’t want to get into details … but this is another way of isolation and intimidation, and it’s not going to work,” Dennis said. “He’s digging a hole for himself … I’m not going to stand back and be intimidated by anybody.”

Dennis contended that “everything the mayor does is about division, but every great empire came to an end, and every bully has his day.”

“I just have to warn the mayor that eventually you will have your day,” Dennis said.

Dennis contended that there was “major pressure” to vote for Curry’s candidate, John Crescimbeni, in last year’s City Council president race.

“We’ll turn off the spigots in District 7, 8, 9, and 10,” was Dennis’ recounting of the threat.

There will, said Democratic officials on hand, be competition for Curry’s re-election.

The narratives from the mayor’s office and the other Council members at the event were in sharp contrast to Dennis’ bombshells.

Curry’s chief spokesperson, Marsha Oliver, denied that there was any attempt to exclude Dennis from the event.

Curry noted that he was “happy to be here at the invitation of these Council people who advocate for their districts every day. Specific projects, projects that we’ve done, so if the councilman wants to invite me to his district, that’s fine.”

Curry also noted that work has been done in Dennis’ district; specifically, improvements at Edward Waters College.

“I can tell you that these Council members asked me for specific help, projects in their districts. With all due respect,” Curry said, “the councilman has never asked me for projects. I’ve never had a specific ask from that councilperson for a project in his district.”

Curry denied claims that he was looking to run a candidate against Dennis, saying that the purpose of Thursday’s event was not to “play politics.”

Curry denied rumors that promises of a job in the mayor’s office were made to Councilman Reggie Brown, should he lose the Senate race. Curry also added that he’d met with Sen. Gibson this week regarding projects that are “important to Jacksonville.”

Curry’s chief of staff Brian Hughes referred to Dennis’ charges as “nonsensical accusations and gestures.”

Hughes invited Dennis to call him “anytime, any day” to “highlight challenges” and discuss “collaborations” in a “good faith effort.”

“We’re here to work together,” Hughes said, dismissing the allegations of threats as “cryptic hooey.”

Noting that a board nominee accused Dennis of “bullying” a member of Curry’s staff last year in a meeting, Hughes speculated that Dennis “might be transferring some of his aggression onto other people.”

Hughes also dismissed the notion that Reggie Brown was Curry’s handpicked candidate to run against Gibson, calling it “absolutely false.”

“The boogeyman political nonsense season has arrived,” Hughes said. “I am denying that in the strongest possible terms.”

Dennis’ comments, per Hughes, were simply a “good tactic to make us the boogeyman … baseless and unnecessarily divisive.”

Councilman Reggie Brown denied — again — the idea that he would be the mayor’s candidate in the Senate race, and denied rumors that, were he to lose the Senate race, he’d be given a job in Curry’s office, saying that he would probably finish his military career were he to lose.

“I don’t plan on losing,” Reggie Brown said. “No seat or individual is privileged to where they should always have a seat and no one runs against them. We have other incumbents with five or six challengers, and no one’s questioning that … I feel like the time is now.”

Reggie Brown, when asked about the Dennis/Curry dynamic, said, “I don’t get in people’s relationships … but a bridge is built from both ends.”

“It’s amazing that we create this sensation that it’s a fight. We’ve got so much work to do in Jacksonville,” Reggie Brown said. “Today what we’re here to talk about are the accomplishments in Jacksonville.”

Councilman Reggie Gaffney noted, vis-a-vis the Senate race, that Reggie Brown hasn’t filed yet — and until or unless that happens, he will sit out.

“Both of them are friends,” Gaffney said, “but [on the Council], Brown was one of ten votes — and he always supported me.”

Regarding the Dennis/Curry rift, Gaffney urged Dennis to build a relationship with the mayor’s office.

Gaffney has done that, and he points to his record of capital improvements as to why it’s a good idea to be a “peacemaker.”

One wonders, however, if the Dennis/Curry rift is beyond diplomatic solutions.

Dennis seems to think so.

“When Councilman Gaffney a couple weeks ago, we were debating Project Volt, he said the administration has done great work, let’s just vote on it. That’s problematic, when you have a City Council member saying let’s not question the mayor, let’s not debate the mayor’s bill — that’s a rubber stamp and it’s wrong,” Dennis said.

“I can’t say if he’s a real Democrat or not. I think his registration says Democrat. But I do question his politics,” Dennis said.

“Don’t be a rubberstamp. I say that to all my colleagues,” Dennis said.

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