Alvin Brown Archives - Florida Politics

Jacksonville mayors talk highs and lows of Consolidation

Jacksonville University hosted six mayors — current mayor Lenny Curry, and his predecessors Alvin BrownJohn PeytonJohn DelaneyTommy Hazouri, and Jake Godbold — Wednesday, with a topic as big as Jacksonville history itself.

Namely, the city/county Consolidation fifty years prior.

Consolidation brought an efficiency of services, but came with a price. African-Americans were divested of political power, and promises were broken regarding extending the same quality of city services to those older neighborhoods as new construction developments enjoy.

Despite there being a long way to go, the mayors generally offered endorsements of Jacksonville’s radical experiment in government — even as Godbold and Brown spotlighted flaws in the bargain that have yet to be fully resolved.

The “strong mayor” form of government predominates in Jacksonville, vesting particular power in the executive; in that context, the mayors were able to tell their stories of using the prerogatives of the office to accomplish goals.

Godbold, mayor from 1979 to 1987, noted that there was a point in time when he served on two separate City Councils, with one running the city and the other restructuring local government.

“We’re lucky that we have this many former mayors. Ed Austin and my mentor, Hans Tanzler, the first mayor of consolidation, have passed on. They were all great mayors, and we’re lucky in that fact,” Godbold said.

There was, said Godbold, “a lot of corruption” in that pre-consolidation government — but there were also electoral concerns.

“We were going to be a black city,” Godbold said, adding later “we didn’t think it was going to pass,” which was why the Beaches and Baldwin got to have their own mayors.

Godbold, who had been City Council President, had little use for that role — but “had a hell of a lot of fun being mayor – it was the authority to make things happen.”

Godbold also noted that tax cuts in the early days of Consolidation forced government to run “on the cheap” and “spend a lot of time catching up.”

“We spent a lot of money and a lot of time on downtown, but out in those core neighborhoods we have not kept our promises. Out in those poor neighborhoods, they’re still living in crap like [before Consolidation],” Godbold said, drawing applause from the crowd.

Hazouri, mayor from 1987 to 1991, noted everyone on the stage was a “strong mayor” and “moved the city forward.”

The “duplication of services” nettled Hazouri pre-consolidation, and the “weak mayor” form of government offered further limitations.

Hazouri’s major accomplishment — getting rid of tolls on local roads — could not have happened, he said, without the strong mayor form of government.

“I’ve heard over and over again what we didn’t do in the core city… we still have many miles to go,” Hazouri said, but noted that there has been spending over the years in Northwest Quadrant and elsewhere.

Delaney, mayor from 1995 to 2003, noted that the mayors in those early decades remedied the city’s inferiority complex.

However, neighborhoods suffered. Mandarin and other neighborhoods, which would otherwise have been their own cities, were subordinate to the larger vision.

Delaney also noted that “white flight” decimated downtown, allowing the city to “tax the suburbs.”

“Absent Consolidation, these neighborhoods would be in a lot worse shape,” Delaney noted.

Peyton, who served from 2003 to 2011, noted the challenges of dissolving city and county government and take the “risky step of trying something different” was “phenomenal.”

The consolidated government offers “competitive advantage” and a “low tax burden,” Peyton (currently the Chamber chair) said.

“Downtown is one of the casualties,” Peyton said. “Mayors get the vision, [but there’s] no groundswell of support.”

Brown, the first African-American mayor from 2011 to 2015, said, “Consolidation set the tone and the strategy for the 20th century” and “allowed Jacksonville to compete in the global economy.”

Brown did note that “some people felt left behind” by the model, offering a discordant note to the positive boosterism.

“Consolidation really took an opportunity away to have a black mayor and black city, bottom line,” Brown said. “There are parts of our community — older neighborhoods, looking for septic, sewer.”

Brown kept returning to the theme of doing more for those older communities, perhaps setting the stage for a future citywide campaign — or at least testing talking points.

Brown also was alone in saying that the beaches and Baldwin could “go it alone,” allowing for a truer consolidation.

“I think that the spirit of consolidation is ‘one city, one Jacksonville’… we’ve got a long way to go to meet that ideal, and everyone on this stage is committed to that ideal,” Curry asserted.

Curry noted that pension reform — a signature accomplishment of his tenure — could not have happened without a strong mayor form of government.

“Without a strong mayoral form of government, I would not have been able to pull people together, crystalize ideas, and take them to City Council and Tallahassee in very public campaigns,” Curry said.

Jacksonville Bold for 9.14.18 — Time marches on

The primaries are now well behind us.

The parties have unified. Ops for losing candidates have moved into other campaigns (or endeavors).

If you pay attention, there is — at times — a crispness in the morning air.

And while that coolness may be fleeting, it’s an augury of the inevitable march of time.

The days will shorten. By late October, we will have a sense of who is in the best position to win state races — including a state House and a local Congressional race, each of which could be an augury of the oft-discussed “blue wave.”

Campaign season feels endless during the primary slog. But as we get inside of eight weeks before the general election, the news cycles speed up, and what was hypothetical moves ever closer toward the inevitable.

DeSantis leaves Congress

Per Fox News, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis has resigned from Congress, with the pressures of the gubernatorial campaign requiring a full-time commitment to the race.

More of this for Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis, whose district runs from St. Johns County south past Daytona, was a third-term Republican.

DeSantis sent a letter Monday to House Speaker Paul Ryan announcing his immediate resignation.

“As the Republican nominee for Governor of Florida, it is clear to me that I will likely miss the vast majority of our remaining session days for this Congress. Under these circumstances, it would be inappropriate for me to accept a salary,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis’ Democratic opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, has not indicated he would resign his post in kind.

Soderberg builds momentum

While it’s by no means certain that Ambassador Nancy Soderberg will be successful in her Congressional bid, the facts are that she is showing a lot of strength as the general election campaign kicks off.

Nancy Soderberg expects to win the money race in CD 6.

Soderberg’s campaign crossed the $2 million threshold on the strength of over 7,500 contributions this election cycle, a campaign release trumpeted Monday.

“We continue to be blown away by the grassroots support driving our campaign,” Soderberg said.

Soderberg’s Republican opponent, Mike Waltz, a former Green Beret and aide to VP Dick Cheney, has raised over $1 million for the campaign, and doesn’t expect to have to raise that much to beat Soderberg in a district that has voted Republican in the last two election cycles, including +17 for President Donald Trump.

On Monday, Soderberg’s campaign produced a poll showing the race too close to call. Waltz’s campaign was skeptical, suggesting that Democrats may have been oversampled to get that result.

Bean cash haul

State Sen. Aaron Bean, whose district encompasses Nassau and part of Duval County, crossed the $200,000 cash on hand threshold as of his latest finance report.

Four more years? We’ll know in eight weeks.

Bean brought in $2,525 to his campaign account and $6,666 to that of his Florida Conservative Alliance political committee between Aug. 24 — 31. He has just over $100,000 in his campaign account and another $102,000+ in his committee kitty.

The Jacksonville Association of Firefighters donated the maximum $1,000 to his campaign account, offering the most locally notable name on his donor roll.

Regarding the $6,666 to his committee account, that came from Spring Hill Hospital and Brooksville Hospital, both sharing an address in Antioch, Tennessee.

Bean’s opponents face cash flow deficits compared to the incumbent.

Democrat Billee Bussard, a Jacksonville journalist of long standing, raised $1,660 in the week between Aug. 24 — 31. She has nearly $5,000 on hand.

Libertarian Joanna Tavares has not raised money, and has $40 on hand.

Senate District 4 has a strong GOP plurality. Of its just over 360,000 voters, almost 175,000 are Republicans, with 94,000+ Democrats and the rest being NPAs.

Polson builds cash lead 

Democrat Tracye Polson is confident in her ability to take what is now a Republican-held seat in House District 15, and that confidence will only be bolstered after the latest financial reports in the race.

The Blue Wave may spill over the banks of the St. Johns into Jacksonville’s Westside.

During the period from Aug. 24 to 31, Polson stretched her lead over Wyman Duggan, a Republican lobbyist whose backing from the Jacksonville establishment has not translated into winning the money race.

Polson brought in $6,042 to her campaign account, giving her $145,000+ in hard money. She also raised $3,100 for her committee account, which now has $41,000 on hand.

Duggan, conversely, raised $187,000 ahead of a primary, which he won with just 40 percent of the vote despite being the only candidate on television, with over $100,000 committed to ads where Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry vouched for the candidate.

He has less than $7,000 on hand now, with no money raised in the week after the primary. Polson has, at least for the moment, a more than 25-to-1 cash on hand edge over the establishment candidate.

Despite the cash lead, expect Polson to keep pushing. She knows that the machine never runs out of gas.

Fischer draws $11K in one week

While Duggan may have some issues, another Curry ally is winning his own fundraising war.

Jason Fischer isn’t wasting time amassing resources against a Dem challenger.

State Rep. Jason Fischer, a first-term Republican from Jacksonville, faces a general election challenge — and judging from the first week of post-primary fundraising, he takes it seriously.

Between his campaign account and that of his political committee, Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville, Fischer brought in $11,000 in the week leading up to Aug. 31, giving him roughly $200,000 on hand as he faces his first election against Democratic opposition.

Fischer’s campaign account saw $10,000 of the action, buoyed by donors with organizational interests, including the National Federation of Independent Businesses, Rep. Travis Hutson‘s First Coast Business Foundation political committee, and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Fischer’s opponent, retired CSX lifer Ken Organes, is at a cash disadvantage, with just over $31,000 on hand as of Aug. 31.

HD 16 is decidedly GOP, with 55,612 Republicans compared to 35,750 Democrats and 27,788 NPA voters.

Curry favored by donors, again

Curry has raised over $2.5 million for his re-election bid next year, after $221,000 in August receipts between his campaign account and that of his Jacksonville on the Rise political committee.

Lenny Curry calls this part of the campaign ‘just staying warm.’

Curry’s campaign account took in $33,000 of that number; it now has $428,730 raised, with over $414,000 on hand. The committee raked in $188,000, boosting it to $2.138 million raised and $1.66 million on hand.

The committee donors reflect a statewide interest in Curry’s re-election, exemplified best by the First Amendment Fund (a committee primarily funded by the committees of Sens. Joe Negron and Bill Galvano and Rep. Gayle Harrell) going $25,000 deep.

Local interest abounds also. The Rogers Towers funded Committee for Economic Development and Advocates for Business Growth accounts donated, as did the JAXBIZ political committee of the Jacksonville Chamber.

Thus far, Curry faces nominal competition for the March election. Between them, his four opponents have raised less than $2,500.

Speculation swirled that Jacksonville City Councilwoman Anna Brosche (a Republican like Curry) was to file this week, and some of those speculators contend she has over a million dollars in commitments should she run.

Former Times-Union columnist (and seeming future campaign asset) Ron Littlepage poured petrol onto the fire Monday evening.

Parental leave props

The conservative Washington Examiner lauded Jacksonville’s soon-to-be-ratified policy ensuring six weeks of parental leave for new biological parents under city employ.

National plaudits for Lenny Curry’s latest policy reform.

“Only three states require paid parental leave: Rhode Island, California, and New Jersey. This development in Florida is exceptional because the mayor has found a way to offer it to his employees, without being forced to, and in a way that doesn’t cost taxpayers additional funds,” the Examiner contends.

“Paid parental leave is a controversial topic, particularly among conservatives, who are usually against it, because politicians usually want a state to force employers to offer it or raise taxes to pay for it,” the editorial continues, noting that Curry’s friend Marco Rubio is one of the few conservatives to push for the policy on a federal level.

Firefighters make NYC trip

WJXT offered the best report in the local market on last weekend’s trip to New York for the Jaguars’ season opener. Curry and local firefighters were on hand.

Lenny Curry with fire union members before the Jags’ season opener.

Firefighters make the pilgrimage every year, commemorating the first responders whose lives were taken on 9/11/2001. This year, with the Jags playing in East Rutherford, things went a bit different, courtesy of Jaguar defender Malik Jackson.

“When he heard Jacksonville firefighters were going up to the 9/11 ceremony, he provided them with custom jerseys and tickets to the game between the Jaguars and Giants. He even met up with them on the sidelines for photos,” WJXT reports.

Morgan gets establishment nod

Jacksonville City Councilwoman Joyce Morgan faces a former two-term Councilman, Bill Bishop, in her re-election bid.

Joyce Morgan, a pragmatic Democrat, looks to have support from the machine against Bill Bishop.

After one month of running an active campaign, Morgan, a Democrat representing the Arlington area, has taken the cash lead over the stalled-out operation of Bishop, who is just three years removed from drawing nearly 20 percent citywide in the Mayor’s race.

The Morgan/Bishop race is the latest piece of evidence that political prominence in Jacksonville can be an ephemeral thing.

Bishop abandoned his citywide run for an easier race earlier this year, but Morgan’s early momentum suggests that even a district race may prove daunting for his political comeback.

From the Jacksonville Jaguars and owner Shad Khan to the powerful bestbet empire and the Fraternal Order of Police, what’s clear is that the donor class backs Morgan over Bishop.

Morgan raised $15,697 and has nearly $14,500 in hand after her first month’s fundraising, which puts her over the peripatetic Bishop operation, which continues to combine slow fundraising and high recurring costs.

Bishop has just over $12,000 on hand after 11 months of fundraising, including a $700 haul in August that merely defrayed some of the costs of his campaign consulting.

Bishop and Morgan are the only two candidates in the District 1 race.

Fiorentino, Delaney named Florida’s ‘most influential’

The Fiorentino Group’s Marty Fiorentino and John Delaney are among those listed on Florida Trend’s inaugural list of the 500 Most Influential Floridians.

In establishing the roster, Florida Trend began with categories used by the Bureau of Economic Analysis of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Also, there were some rules of thumb: No elected officials, and no more than three people from any one firm.

Marty Fiorentino
Mr. Influential, Marty Fiorentino.

Both Fiorentino and Delaney — a former Jacksonville Mayor and recently retired as president of the University of North Florida — made the cut in the category “professional services.”

“When I was chairman of the Jacksonville Port Authority, we created separate airport and seaport authorities,” Florida Trend quotes Fiorentino in his entry. “This was a big community issue and was greatly debated. It took a lot of outreach and advocacy to get this done.”

Delaney is noted as part of a “collaborative governmental relations effort between the Fiorentino Group, one of the city’s leading consulting and advocacy groups, and Rogers Towers, an old-line law firm that’s a fixture in Jacksonville.”

Personnel notes

Per the Jacksonville Daily Record, some big names have board action.

“The Jacksonville Port Authority elected four officers to its board of directors. Chair John Falconetti, chairman and CEO of Jacksonville-based Drummond Press Inc.; vice chair John Baker, executive chairman of FRP Holdings Inc.; treasurer Jamie Shelton, president of Bestbet Jacksonville; and secretary Wendy Hamilton, president, Eventide Investments of Florida Inc,” the JDR reports.

Additionally, “Kerri Stewart, JEA’s chief customer officer, joined Groundwork Jacksonville’s board of directors. Before joining JEA, Stewart served as chief of staff for Curry and chief administrative officer for Mayors John Peyton and Alvin Brown.

On the campaign side, Jenny Busby (the former aide to Tommy Hazouri and U.S. Rep. Al Lawson) will be on the ground this fall helping Polson in the HD 15 race. Busby is the second Hazouri aide to be enlisted in the Polson quest (Haleigh Hutchison being the first).

Groups unite for affordable senior housing

Aging True, a nonprofit organization that provides senior housing services, and Tampa workforce housing developer Blue Sky Communities are receiving $16.6 million in federal funding to renovate a third Aging True senior apartment building in downtown Jacksonville.

Cathedral Townhouse, a 50-year old 177-unit apartment building located at 501 North Ocean Street, will receive an update of its major building systems, life safety, accessibility, and energy efficiency. All units will receive new kitchens, lighting, flooring, and upgrades of plumbing and electrical systems and exterior painting. The work is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2019 and be completed by late next year.

Cathedral Terrace Apartments is getting a facelift.

Renovation of Cathedral Townhouse is the third Aging True senior affordable apartment building renovated by Blue Sky.

In 2016, Blue Sky completed a $10 million renovation of Cathedral Terrace, a 240-unit tower built in 1974 and located 701 North Ocean Street. Funding for the project came from Florida Housing Finance Corp. 4% tax credits, Jacksonville Housing Finance Authority and the City of Jacksonville State Housing Initiative Program (SHIP).

This year, Blue Sky will complete the $12 million in renovations for Cathedral Tower, a 203-unit apartment building located at 601 North Newnan Street that was built in 1968.

UNF named a ‘Best Regional University’

For the eighth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report has named the University of North Florida among its “best regional” universities in the South.

UNF was ranked No. 42 in the region this year, up six spots from last year. The university was also ranked No. 14 in the “Top Public Schools” list, No. 29 in the “Best Colleges for Veterans” list, No. 58 in the list of the “Best Value Schools,” and No. 82 in the list of “Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs.”

UNF: Among the nation’s best regional universities.

“I take great pride in being able to lead a university that is of the caliber of the University of North Florida,” UNF President David Szymanski told WJCT. “The University is showing up in nearly every national college ranking, putting UNF at the top of some very impressive lists. These accolades are a true testament to our outstanding faculty and staff as well as the talents of our phenomenal students.”

In its rankings, U.S. News & World Report use a combination of a school’s academic reputation, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources and alumni donations.

Jacksonville Zoo offers discounted admission for Hurricane Florence evacuees

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is offering $10 general admission to the Zoo to evacuees from Hurricane Florence. The discount applies at the gates to those with IDs from Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

Hurricane Florence could bring 24 hours of hurricane conditions to Carolinas.

As Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens recovered from damage sustained from Hurricane Irma one year ago, the Zoo understands that routines can be disrupted, particularly when people are away from home and worried.

A day at the Zoo can be just the thing to lift spirits.

To entertain those seeking shelter from Florence, the zoo is celebrating the opening of the great ape African Forest exhibit, and Dinosauria in its final weeks. Also, the Fiesta del Jaguar event is set for Saturday, Sept. 15.

The Zoo would also like to extend good luck to all the zoos and aquariums in the path of the storm and the dedicated keepers who are there to take care of their animals.

For more information on the fun happenings at the Zoo, visit www.jacksonvillezoo.org.

Jags’ much-anticipated rematch with Patriots almost here

Sunday will mark 237 days since that Sunday afternoon in Foxborough, Massachusetts when the Jacksonville Jaguars were five minutes away from going to the Super Bowl. Jacksonville was hanging onto a 20-17 lead over the New England Patriots, but could not hang on long enough, especially with Tom Brady on the other side of the ball.

The lead should have been bigger earlier in the period when Jags’ linebacker Myles Jack stripped Dion Lewis of the ball for a fumble and had clear sailing into the end zone and a 27-10 lead. The officials inexplicably said Jack was down, so no touchdown and eventually, no Super Bowl.

For Jaguars fans, Myles Jack wasn’t down.

Jaguars’ fans have been waiting for Sunday’s appearance by Brady and the Patriots since the day the schedule was announced in the spring. So have the Jaguars’ players.

Myles Jack wasn’t down” shirts, posters and maybe even a flyover, will be present in and around TIAA Bank Stadium. The noise level will be as great as it has ever been.

In other words, imagine tens of thousands of Jalen Ramseys out there.

This is as good of a time as any to play the Patriots, who are without their star wide receiver Julian Edelman as he serves a four-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. Other Patriots are also dinged up, but all-world tight end Rob Gronkowski is ready to go and will be targeted early and often by Brady.

For the Jaguars, workhorse running back Leonard Fournette is nursing a sore hamstring, which could press T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant into leading roles if Fournette cannot play. Coach Doug Marrone said, “we’re going to give it some time and see where we are when it’s time to start testing it.”

That would be some time Friday, which means it could be a game-time decision on whether the second-year back can give it a try. If not, the backup running backs will be counted upon, or if that doesn’t work, call on quarterback Blake Bortles to pass the Jags to victory, or the league’s top defense may be able to add some points themselves.

While winning Sunday will not compensate the painful loss in January, it can put a good-sized Band-Aid over the wound.

Donna Shalala, Darren Soto, Al Lawson among congressional winners

Donna Shalala, a former secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will take on Cuban-American broadcast journalist Maria Elvira Salazar in the November general election after both survived crowded primary races Tuesday in a major congressional battleground.

Democrats are expected to bank heavily on Shalala picking up the Miami-Dade County seat of retiring Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, as the Democratic Party seeks to retake control of the U.S. House.

Shalala, also a former University of Miami president, got 32 percent of the vote in a five-way field in Congressional District 27. In the Republican primary, Salazar picked up 41 percent of the vote in a field of nine.

Meanwhile, Democratic incumbents were successful Tuesday, with U.S. Rep. Darren Soto crushing the hopes of former Congressman Alan Grayson, who was trying to recapture the District 9 seat in Central Florida. Also, U.S. Rep. Al Lawson fended off a challenge from former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown in the Democratic primary in Congressional District 5 in North Florida.

The party also again secured three of the state’s 27 seats, with U.S. Rep. Val Demings and U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson both winning primaries and facing no general-election opposition. Congressman Alcee Hastings defeated a primary opponent and now goes up against a write-in candidate in November.

Democrats Lois Frankel and Kathy Castor were the state’s only congressional incumbents who had no opposition this year.

On the Republican side Tuesday, retirements and political aspirations created crowded fields for open seats.

In the District 6 GOP primary to replace Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis in Northeast Florida, Michael Waltz, a businessman and former Army Green Beret from St. Augustine, received 42 percent of the vote to hold off former state Rep. Fred Costello and Palm Coast businessman John Ward.

Waltz now will face former U.S. Ambassador Nancy Soderberg, who handily defeated two opponents in the Democratic primary.

In Congressional District 15, state Rep. Ross Spano defeated four other Republicans seeking to replace retiring Congressman Dennis Ross. Spano received 44 percent of the field to top a field that included former state Rep. Neil Combee of Auburndale.

Spano will face Kristen Carlson, who defeated two Democratic primary opponents in the Republican-leaning district.

Also, state Sen. Greg Steube easily won the Congressional District 17 primary over state Rep. Julio Gonzalez and Bill Akins of Port Charlotte. Steube will now face April Freeman, who received 77 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary in a district that leans heavily Republican.

Two other races that are expected to draw national attention in November were set up as expected Tuesday.

On the Treasure Coast, freshman Congressman Brian Mast had little problem dispatching two Republican primary challengers in District 18. Meanwhile, Lauren Baer, a foreign policy official in the Obama administration whose family owns Baer’s Furniture, won by 20 percentage points over Pam Keith, an attorney who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2016.

In Central Florida, freshman Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy got 86 percent of the vote to defeat a Democratic primary challenger and will face state Rep. Mike Miller in November. Miller, R-Winter Park, defeated two primary opponents, scoring 54 percent of the vote.

Al Lawson downs Alvin Brown in Democratic primary

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson won the Democratic primary Tuesday for Florida’s 5th Congressional District.

Lawson held off former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown’s challenge in Duval, only losing there by roughly 20 points, while racking up prohibitively strong margins out west. Lawson won all seven other counties in the district.

Lawson won in total 60 percent to 40 percent.

After the results were announced, Lawson addressed the crowd through a beaming smile at a primary watch party his campaign held at The Moon in Tallahassee.

“I appreciate the confidence that you all have put placed in me,” he said. “I promised you a year and a half ago that I would stand tall for you. Literally, tall in Congress. I’ve been doing that, and I promise you that I’m just getting warmed up.”

Lawson enjoyed a number of important Jacksonville endorsements, critical to his race against Brown. The local Fraternal Order of Police and Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters endorsed him, as did state Rep. Tracie Davis and the Florida Times-Union.

Lawson was first elected in 2016, defeating U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown by just under 10 points in the Democratic primary. Brown ran under indictment for profiting from a fraudulent charity; she currently is in prison.

Lawson went on to defeat Republican Glo Smith by almost 30 points in November.

His GOP opponent this year, Virginia Fuller, has yet to report fundraising — suggesting a similar margin to 2016 in the general.

CD 5 includes five North Florida counties: Duval, Leon, Gadsden, Baker, Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Columbia.

Brown conceded Tuesday evening.

“I urge all of those who supported me to join me in congratulating Congressman Al Lawson on a hard-fought, spirited campaign and offering our time and energy to tackle the challenges facing our region and country,” Brown said.

Northeast Florida primary narratives poised for resolution

Mercifully, primary Election Day is upon us in Northeast Florida, the culmination of months of spirited campaigning, big time spending, and the occasional calumny or two.

And now that it’s finally Tuesday, we will see the resolution of a number of narratives that have percolated for these many months.

Moving from the top of the ticket down, here are a few storylines worth watching.

 

Establishment picks in Governor’s races

By and large, the Jacksonville political establishment settled early behind its presumptive nominees: former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham on the Democratic side, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam for the Republicans.

Despite the twists and turns in polling, the Democrats have not indicated buyers’ remorse. Though there is still room for the myriad polls that show Graham ahead to be belied, the Graham campaign has weathered heavy ad buys from opponents and their friendly committees, and seems headed toward a strong finish.

Less certain is Putnam’s fate. Despite endorsements from U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, state Sen. Aaron Bean, Jacksonville City Council President Aaron Bowman, and various of Bowman’s colleagues, Putnam has been down in most polls (including a 23 point deficit in the latest St. Pete Poll).

Endorsements down the stretch went to DeSantis. Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams endorsed, and then said he wasn’t interested in the Lieutenant Governor gig. Mayor Lenny Curry endorsed, calling DeSantis a “brother from a different mother.” From Clay County, Senate Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley and Rep. Travis Cummings likewise endorsed.

The proxy battles haven’t spilled out into public view, and with Jacksonville having been racked by high-profile mass shootings after a high-school football game and a Madden video game tournament  this weekend, the focus of the governing class may be on governing. Still, it will be interesting to track Putnam’s performance in Duval Tuesday, and how it tracks compared to the rest of the state.

 

Endgame for Alvin Brown?

Months back, former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown launched a Democratic primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Al Lawson.

The idea was to take back a “Jacksonville seat” from the Tallahassee Democrat — U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown lost to Lawson, months before an even more catastrophic loss (numerous guilty verdicts in a federal fraud trial).

However, it wasn’t quite that clean: Lawson enjoyed a number of important Jacksonville endorsements, critical to his race against former Mayor Alvin Brown. The local Fraternal Order of Police and Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters endorsed him, as did state Rep. Tracie Davis and the Florida Times-Union.

The latest polls suggest that Brown couldn’t make the sale. Surveys from University of North Florida and St. Pete Polls suggest this is a 20 point race, with Lawson having all the momentum west of 295, and with Brown unable to consolidate his Jacksonville base.

This may not be a 20 point race in the end, of course. Duval still holds the population edge, and Brown has been a frequent and vocal presence this weekend, in the wake of the aforementioned violence in Jacksonville.

If Brown does not win tonight, what’s next for him? That’s the open question. There are those who see his evolution into a “pragmatic progressive” on the campaign trail as real. BUT would the Lenny Curry machine let him back into City Hall?

 

Demonbuster busted?

One of the most competitive races on a Jacksonville ballot Tuesday: HD 14’s Democratic two-way between challenger Paula Wright and incumbent Kim Daniels.

Notable: this is an open primary, so Republicans and NPAs can vote — and on both sides, GOP donors are expressing preferences.

Beyond that particular anomaly, it will be interesting to see if Wright can pull it off. A political committee (“New Direction Now”) put $40,000 into advertising on her behalf. A poll commissioned by parties friendly to Wright showed the race as a dead heat a couple of weeks back; when the push poll type questions were asked to gauge how oppo hit Daniels, Wright was up.

For a recent review of anti-Daniels oppo, check out Matthew Isbell‘s article on the subject.

But oppo goes both ways.

Daniels, as has been the case throughout the campaign, has gone light on ad spends, though she did spend $1,000 on an ad in the Florida Star — notable for running a vicious piece against Wright weeks back that Wright said was libel.

Meanwhile, district residents have received robocalls slamming Wright, hitting many of the same themes in that Star piece.

The case for Wright over Daniels comes down to cohesiveness with the rest of the delegation. The working relationship between Daniels and the other Duval Democrat in the Legislature, Tracie Davis, is not exactly functional.

How dysfunctional? Davis (and Sen. Audrey Gibson) back Wright. And they had salient reason to, as Daniels allies teased primary challenges to each of them — challenges that ultimately did not materialize.

 

Can a lobbyist win? 

HD 14’s Democratic donnybrook isn’t the only state House race of note. The three-way GOP race in Westside Jacksonville’s House District 15 between Wyman DugganJoseph Hogan, and Mark Zeigler is also of interest.

The race devolved into a series of recriminations and character assassinations, with two relatively underfunded candidates scoring some hits against Duggan, the candidate backed by pillars of the Jacksonville Establishment ranging from the Mayor to the Chamber.

One talking point: Duggan lobbying for Emera, a company that engaged him contemporaneously to a discussion of privatizing Jacksonville’s public utility JEA. This concept, favored by many close to the mayor’s office, has yet to get traction with ratepayers — and voters.

Duggan’s television ads have had over $100,000 behind them, but have not been dynamic. The Duggan appeal been branded around Mayor Curry, with assurances that Duggan will be a stalwart for public safety and that he opposes what clearly is the biggest threat to such: sanctuary cities.

In the end, the election may be uglier than the 2014 Special Election primary clash between incumbent Rep. Jay Fant and then-challenger Paul Renner, a two-vote win for Fant after a campaign that got more personal and bitter as it went on.

The irony is that this divisive battle may make post-primary healing a tough sell, at a time when there is a very serious general election challenger.

Democrat Tracye Polson has roughly $150,000 in hard money and another $55,000 in the committee account. She will have buy-in from the state party and has personal resources that just might be able to match whatever buy-in the Jacksonville business community would offer Duggan.

If one of the other two candidates wins, it likewise is far from certain that financial support would be as robust as it would for Duggan.

The district is almost perfectly purple: of the 103,293 voters in HD 15, there are 39,997 Republicans and 40,323 Democrats. The rest are third party and NPA, and one wonders how receptive they will be to Republican messaging against a Democratic pragmatist who has support from Jacksonville’s public safety unions and even Republicans like Audrey Moran.

Al Lawson tries to fend off Alvin Brown

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson is facing a serious Democratic primary challenge from a former Jacksonville Mayor as he seeks a second term in a congressional district that stretches across a large part of North Florida.

Lawson, 69, handily beat longtime Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown, in 2016, while she was embroiled in a criminal investigation that led to her eventual conviction on corruption charges and a five-year prison sentence.

But now Lawson, who served nearly three decades in the Florida Legislature and lives in Tallahassee, is being challenged in the Democratic primary by Alvin Brown, 56, the first African-American elected as Jacksonville Mayor. Brown lost his mayoral seat after one term in 2015, after winning the election in a close contest in 2011.

Both candidates take similar positions that reflect the voters in Congressional District 5, which sprawls across eight North Florida counties, running 206 miles from the urban neighborhoods of Jacksonville west to the rural enclave of Gadsden County near Tallahassee.

The district is heavily Democratic, with 61 percent of the voters supporting Hillary Clinton in 2016. It has the third-highest voting-age population of African-Americans among Florida’s 27 congressional districts. The winner of Tuesday’s primary will be a heavy favorite in the November general election against Republican Virginia Fuller.

Brown and Lawson said they would support impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. They oppose repealing the Affordable Care Act and want to expand health care programs. They support efforts to curb student debt and to improve economic opportunities, particularly in rural areas.

But despite those similarities, Brown has campaigned aggressively against Lawson. Earlier this year, Brown’s campaign slammed Lawson as “Trump’s favorite Democrat,” after Lawson applauded during the president’s State of the Union speech. Lawson said he reacted because Trump was talking about lower unemployment rates for minorities.

Brown has combed Lawson’s lengthy record in the Legislature and has highlighted Lawson’s support for issues like the use of publicly funded vouchers to send students to private schools.

He also criticized Lawson for supporting the original ‘Stand Your Ground’ legislation in 2005. The issue gained more visibility after the shooting of an unarmed African-American man in Pinellas County last month, with the Pinellas Sheriff declining to seek charges because of the law. The shooter has since been charged with manslaughter by the local state attorney.

Lawson said the 2005 law had bipartisan support, and he voted for it as an effort to let homeowners defend themselves. But he said he now supports repealing the law after a series of changes, including a 2017 revision that makes it harder to prosecute shooters who cite the law in their defense.

“It’s telling that Al Lawson has disgracefully defended support for ‘stand your ground’ for over a decade, and has now changed his tune,” Brown said.

But Lawson has hit back at Brown, noting the failure to win re-election as Mayor, calling his one term in office “a disaster.” Lawson has also criticized Brown for failing as Mayor to aggressively support a human-rights ordinance guaranteeing protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Like the 2016 race, the Lawson-Brown contest also represents a geographic battle.

Lawson won only 20 percent of the Duval County vote in his race against Corrine Brown in 2016. But his victory was based on his commanding lead in the counties outside of Jacksonville, including winning 75 percent of the vote in Leon County.

A similar scenario could be shaping up this year, based on a poll released Thursday by the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Laboratory. In a survey of 402 likely voters, the poll showed Lawson leading Brown by a margin of 48 percent to 29 percent, with a 4.9 percentage-point margin of error. Twenty-two percent of the voters were undecided.

The poll showed Brown leading in Duval County by a 47-29 percent margin, while Lawson held a 68-10 percent lead among voters in the rest of the district.

Through Aug. 8, Lawson had raised $504,000 for his campaign, with $131,000 in cash on hand, according to federal election records. Brown had raised $389,000, with $84,000 in cash on hand.

Lawson has won support from a solid majority of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus. U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi endorsed Lawson last month.

“Al has proven to be an effective voice for North Florida during his first term in Congress,” Pelosi said in a statement.

Brown has secured a number of endorsements, including from major labor groups. The Florida Education Association and Duval Teachers United are supporting his campaign.

“Alvin Brown shares our values and vision of a Florida in which all of our children can receive a quality education regardless of ZIP code,” said Terrie Brady, head of the Duval teachers group and former chairwoman of the state Democratic Party.

Down 20 points in polls, Alvin Brown rallies his Jacksonville base

Months back, former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown launched a Democratic primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Al Lawson.

The idea was to take back a “Jacksonville seat” from the Tallahassee Democrat — U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown lost to Lawson, months before an even more catastrophic loss (numerous guilty verdicts in a federal fraud trial).

The laconic Lawson was blunt about his challenger, saying Alvin Brown was “a failed mayor … just looking for a job,” and that Lawson would “retire” him from politics.

The latest polls suggest that Brown couldn’t make the sale. Surveys from University of North Florida and St. Pete Polls suggest this is a 20 point race, with Lawson having all the momentum west of 295, and with Brown unable to consolidate his Jacksonville base.

Indeed, Lawson enjoyed a number of important Jacksonville endorsements, critical to his race against former Mayor Alvin Brown. The local Fraternal Order of Police and Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters endorsed him, as did state Rep. Tracie Davis and the Florida Times-Union.

By every indication, the Brown campaign is in its last few days. However, a Thursday night rally of about 50 enthusiastic “true believers” suggested that they see a path forward.

The former Mayor came out to “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now,” the 70s Philly Soul classic that is a universal anthem of affirmation and spoke characteristically, describing the campaign’s “phenomenal opportunity to improve quality of life in the 5th Congressional District.”

Brown worked the crowd with call and response, the cadences of the church. Likewise familiar was at least one policy position — advocacy for a VA hospital in Jacksonville, a position Lawson took with legislation.

Brown, the first black Mayor of Jacksonville, was emphatic: “We will make history one more time.”

We asked Brown about the polls and the homestretch of the campaign, and he was enthusiastic, noting the campaign has knocked 15,000 doors in the last seven days.

“The bottom line is turnout. We have to get turnout up in Duval County,” Brown said.

One pollster, Michael Binder of University of North Florida, saw it differently: ““Roughly half of Congressional District 5 voters are in Duval County, and even though Brown is ahead by 18 percentage points in Duval, that isn’t nearly enough. Lawson is ahead by nearly 60 percentage points in the counties west of Duval.”

“We have a great opportunity,” Brown said. “I’m going every day. It’s all about the turnout. That’s the bottom line.”

Brown touted support from faith leaders last week; in recent days, three of them walked back their endorsements.

Brown, when asked, did not address that.

“I’m very proud and excited about the support I have from faith leaders,” Brown said.

Digital, radio, direct mail, knocking on doors and waving signs, said Brown, are the ways his campaign will engage voters.

There won’t be any TV spots.

Can ground game reverse trends that seem deeply seated in polling?

Time, as ever, will tell.

Brown and Lawson continued to raise money up until the end. Lawson brought in $15,400; Brown actually brought in almost $25,000.

While that helped to make up a deficit Brown faced in cash on hand as of the final pre-primary report Aug. 8 ($131,000 to $84,000), it’s clear the cavalry didn’t come on time — or with enough ammo to capsize an incumbent that the Congressional Democratic establishment (everyone from Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer to the Congressional Black Caucus) rallied behind.

Jacksonville Bold for 8.24.18 — Closing time

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

Those of a certain age will recall the Semisonic earworm “Closing Time.”

It is also where we stand in primary season.

We already know what races we are tracking election night. In some, there is enough confidence in the results to have a sense of what the copy will say.

Sure, we’re open to surprises. But with polls and campaign finance reports and connections to most campaigns in the area, there just aren’t many shocks coming.

Another relevant line from the hit: “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”

On Aug. 29, the candidates and their operatives on the losing side will face decisions. Some ops will get hired elsewhere. Losing candidates will resolve how best to make their endorsements and figure out their next move, with dreams dashed — potentially forever, in some cases.

“So, gather up your jackets, and move it to the exits.”

Right now, on the campaign trail (outside of a TV studio), this sentiment also applies.

While there will be plenty of time for campaign autopsies, they will be forgotten quickly enough. Unity rallies will attempt to spackle over turf wars. And this November will look (more or less) like they always do in election years that promise turnover in the state Cabinet and — perhaps — a new U.S. Senator.

In the primary wars, it’s definitely closing time.

Lawson leads Brown in CD 5 cash chase

Conditions are looking favorable for U.S. Rep. Al Lawson to win his primary battle over former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown in Florida’s 5th Congressional District.

Alvin Brown never seemed to find his groove.

Lawson, ahead by more than 20 points in the only public poll of the race, endorsed by Brown’s local Florida Times-Union and Jacksonville state Rep. Tracie Davis in recent days, is also ahead in cash on hand as of Aug. 8 — the last date for which candidates have filed financial reports.

Lawson, who has raised just over $503,823, had $131,143 on hand. Brown, who has raised $388,649, had $84,361.

Lawson seems confident in his chances, posting to Facebook that “FiveThirtyEight’s ongoing forecast of 2018 House elections currently places me at a 99.9 percent chance of winning back the 5th District seat.”

Indeed.

Brown has touted endorsements from Jacksonville preachers: “more than 30 faith leaders representing a large swath of the local faith community.”

However, three of those preachers have walked back those endorsements, in an abundance of caution over the churches’ 501(C)(3) statuses.

Soderberg, Waltz look like best bets in CD 6

After an interesting summer in both parties’ primaries in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, some clarity in the cash race has emerged as early voting continues.

In the Democratic race, former Ambassador Nancy Soderberg has — as of Aug. 8 — amassed what appears to be an insurmountable lead in cash on hand over her Democratic opponents, with $1,096,754 on hand ($1.707,296 raised).

Nancy Soderberg has proved to be a big league fundraiser this cycle.

Stephen Sevigny, a radiologist from Ormond Beach, had $353,534 on hand ($874,212 raised). Farther back still, John Upchurch, an Ormond Beach lawyer, had $131,332 on hand.

Soderberg also is stretching a significant lead in the only public poll of the race. The most recent St. Pete Polls survey released this weekend, shows her as the choice of 50 percent of those surveyed, 31 points up on Sevigny and 38 points over Upchurch.

Similar clarity, though of a somewhat less pronounced degree, can be found on the Republican side of the ledger, with St. Augustine Beach’s Mike Waltz with more cash on hand than his GOP challengers John Ward of Ponte Vedra Beach and former state Rep. Fred Costello of Ormond Beach.

Waltz had as of Aug. 8 $286,706 on hand of his $1,066,996 raised, well ahead of Ward ($76,887 on hand; $1,076,400 raised) and Costello ($7,962 on hand; $254,683 raised).

A survey from a week ago showed Waltz with 40 percent support, with Ward in second place at 21 percent and Costello at 16 percent.

CD 6 is a Republican-leaning seat, though it’s open because U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis is poised to become the Republican nominee for Governor.

‘Walk it like I talk it’

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, addressing a packed nightclub in Jacksonville Tuesday, may be surging at the right time.

With the latest survey from St. Pete Polls of the Democratic race for Governor indicating that Gillum is within six points of front-runner Gwen Graham (and a private poll showing Gillum at 33 percent, 11 points above the field), a coalition of progressive groups announced Monday that they will commit $3.5 million to help Gillum get over the finish line.

Andrew Gillum has withstood slings and arrows, and is still in the game.

His strategy has been to expand the voter universe; however, as he has noted, resources had previously precluded him from letting his target voters know who he is.

Gillum, when asked about the new polls swinging his way, noted that his campaign didn’t begin its “paid communication until two weeks ago.”

“We knew that because we couldn’t match the financial resources of the other campaigns, that we had to wait until the iron was really hot before we could strike and maximize our message. As voters are learning that we are a real option in this race,” Gillum said, “they’re choosing us.”

“I believe it’s going to be that momentum that will surge us through [to the nomination],” Gillum said.

Regarding the third-party groups backing him, Gillum noted that while he wasn’t deeply “familiar with what the outside groups are doing,” he hopes that “the $3.5 million investment will be directed toward the field.”

“That’s the best bang for the buck at this point, to get to voters and move those voters to the ballot box. If we do that,” Gillum said, “and they do that, we win.”

Curry favors Troutman

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry made another late-game endorsement in a statewide race Monday, backing Rep. Baxter Troutman for Agriculture Commissioner.

Baxter Troutman has some strong Jacksonville connections.

This endorsement indicates the value of relationships. Curry’s chief of staff Brian Hughes had been running the Troutman campaign before Hughes took a city job. Now, the operation is run by another Jacksonville op, Carlo Fassi.

The timing of the endorsement’s release seems less than coincidental, counterprogramming Sen. Marco Rubio campaigning Monday in Hialeah for Rep. Matt Caldwell, one of Troutman’s three opponents (whose campaign manager Brian Swensen had the same role in Curry’s 2015 campaign for Jacksonville Mayor).

Curry, per a statement from the Troutman campaign, is “happy to endorse Baxter Troutman … a farmer and rancher, a businessman who has created thousands of jobs, and … a genuine conservative.”

“Of all those seeking this job,” Curry emphasized, “Baxter is clearly the most qualified and ready to help keep Florida growing.”

In accepting the endorsement, Troutman noted Curry’s “proven record of problem-solving.”

“He’s demonstrated that executives can implement conservative policies, stand by their convictions, and get things done despite our current heated political climate,” Troutman remarked.

Campaign manager Fassi asserts that the Troutman campaign is poised to win, leading “outside the margin of error in every statewide poll conducted in this primary to succeed Adam Putnam.”

“Our internals have had Baxter anywhere from 6-10 points ahead of our nearest competitor,” Fassi adds, “while industry polls have shown the race even less competitive.”

Outside help for Wright in HD 14

The Democratic race in House District 14 between incumbent Rep. Kim Daniels and Duval County School Board chair Paula Wright continues to get more interesting as the primary approaches.

Paula Wright is on the base path, but can she score?

Wright, whose campaign account fundraising has been lackluster ($25,085 raised through Aug. 10; just over $12,000 on hand) is enjoying a television ad buy from the New Direction Now political committee.

The spot hits positive, autobiographical themes, including addressing former teacher Wright’s commitment to education.

Through Aug. 10, the committee has been seeded with $27,000. Of that sum, $15,000 comes from the Florida Education Association.

It’s telling that the FEA has funded a positive spot for Wright, as Daniels’ attempts at educational policy improvements in her two years in Tallahassee have been idiosyncratic and seemingly unaligned with the agendas of most public-school advocates.

One Daniels’ bill passed in the 2017 session: House Bill 303, the “Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act,” would ban school districts “from discriminating against students, parents, and school personnel on basis of religious viewpoints or expression,” and would require a school district “to adopt limited public forum policy and deliver a disclaimer at school events.”

A 2018 Daniels’ bill, which also passed, likewise blurred the boundaries between the pulpit and pupils, requiring all schools to display the state motto, “In God We Trust,” in a “conspicuous place.”

Daniels, who has benefited from contributions from Gary Chartrand and Charter Schools USA, seems to have an agenda at odds with traditional education interests.

No runaway winner in tax collector tangle

A week out from the primary election in the four-way race for Duval County Tax Collector, campaign finance reports reveal a surprisingly competitive money race.

Jim Overton is in the primary mix, but will he be around afterward?

The three Republicans in the race — Jacksonville City Councilman Doyle Carter, state Rep. Lake Ray, and former property appraiser Jim Overton — all had roughly $60,000 cash on hand as of Aug. 21.

Carter, who raised $2,050 in the week leading up to Aug. 10, has just under $60,000 on hand of the $81,550 he has raised.

Ray, who has been the most aggressive candidate in the race, including attacking Overton for mistakes made as property appraiser, currently has the least money of the three: just over $55,000 on hand of the $155,375 he raised.

Ray raised $1,400 in the week leading up to Aug. 10, including donations from Carter’s City Council colleague Danny Becton. His spending has been eye-popping: almost $100,000 doled out ahead of the Aug. 28 election.

Overton, meanwhile, has just under $60,000 on hand also, after a $1,575 week leading up to Aug. 10.

Three Republicans headed into a blanket primary with Democrat Mia Jones likely only have one ticket to the November general election between them.

Jones lags behind the trio, with roughly $30,000 on hand, but because she’s the only Democrat on the ballot, she stands a strong chance of getting the most votes next week.

Too late to expand early voting?

On Monday, a group of Jacksonville Democrats made their push to expand early voting sites to local colleges and universities.

The goal: to get early voting sites at the University of North Florida and, perhaps, other colleges.

However, logistical roadblocks remain.

Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan told local media that “criteria of selection of an early voting site involves more than just that it is available. Public access, adequate parking for our staff and voters, facility security, ADA compliance, proximity to other early voting sites and of course do we have the money budgeted for an additional location.”

Mike Hogan has not been given the benefit of the doubt on this issue.

Hogan noted that he and University of North Florida have been working to find a way forward on an early voting site, but the logistics mentioned have proved to be prohibitive.

Edward Waters and Jacksonville University are also under consideration, but “time is very limited” given the scope of the election.

“The Russians are in our database,” Hogan added. “All we know is what the Senators have told us and they can’t give us real information.”

The primary election, Hogan added, won’t be over until Sept. 10 or 11, when results are certified. On Oct. 7, the final list of early voting sites has to be submitted to the Secretary of State office.

Personnel note

Sen. Aaron Bean adds Chesten N. Goodman — Goodman will be Bean’s new district legislative assistant, responsible for handling legislative policy matters. Goodman previously worked for Rep. Jay Fant as his legislative assistant after graduating from Florida State University. He is currently completing his final semester of graduate studies at Florida State to get a graduate degree in American Politics and Policy. “Chesten’s prior legislative experience in the Florida House made him the obvious choice for filling the vacancy in our office,” said Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican. He represents Senate District 4, which includes parts of Nassau and Duval counties.

Special election challenge rejected

David Taylor, a former Jacksonville City Council Republican candidate who has not been immune to controversy over the years, saw his lawsuit against the Duval County Supervisor of Elections thrown out Tuesday by Judge Robert M. Foster.

David Taylor likened the decision to “communism” in a statement after Judge Robert Foster’s ruling.

Taylor’s charge: The special election in District 12 was not publicly announced in a publication of record, one that saw the only qualified candidate, Republican Randy White, win without opposition.

Jacksonville General Counsel Jason Gabriel framed the decision to throw the case out as a victory for the consolidated government.

“In summary, the plaintiff, David Taylor, sought to invalidate the special election because he claims he was not provided notice of the qualifying period established by the City Council. In misapplying state statute, Mr. Taylor argued that the Supervisor of Elections was required to publish notice of the election in the newspaper because there is a requirement for such notice to occur in special elections called by the Governor and Florida Secretary of State,” Gabriel asserted Tuesday.

“The complete dismissal of Mr. Taylor’s complaint is significant because the Court reviewed the requirements necessary to set a local special election for Council vacancies and acknowledged all of our arguments that it is the City Charter and local Ordinance Code that dictate the requirements of the special local election, and such were followed,” Gabriel added.

In a seven-page decision, the court repeatedly struck down Taylor’s petitions for relief, effectively saying that even if there were a legitimate petition for redress, it couldn’t be provided in a timely way.

JEA wants out of Plant Vogtle

According to WSAV in Savannah, Jacksonville’s municipal-owned utility JEA wants out of the Plant Vogtle deal.

The controversial accord, set a decade ago, obligated JEA to buy electricity from two reactors that were at the beginning of the construction process.

Can JEA dump this deal? Stay tuned.

“Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) says it wants out and is urging MEAG to vote “no” on any continuation of the new reactors. In a letter to MEAG CEO James Fuller, JEA … wrote that ‘a decision to continue (the new reactors) cannot be justified on any rational basis.’”

A clean energy advocate quoted in the Savannah market piece noted that “staying locked on to this sort of sinking ship means you’re going to pull your ratepayers down and so I think JEA is ready to jump ship.”

Getting out of the deal could cost JEA $1.5 billion, but would represent savings of at least $750 million, per the Florida Times-Union.

Fall semester begins at UNF

As the fall semester begins at the University of North Florida, it’s not just a new school year for the incoming freshmen. Monday was the first day for President David Szymanski.

Welcome back!

Szymanski, who previously served as dean of the Lindner College of Business at the University of Cincinnati, is taking the reins from John Delaney, who retired in May.

While Delaney is now in the private sector, he will not be soon forgotten. The student union is named after the former president, among the many changes returning students will notice.

Also new are renovations to Skinner-Jones Hall, with upgraded classrooms and research labs for engineering and computing.

UF Health TraumaOne nationally recognized

University of Florida Health has received national recognition as a level I trauma center by the American College of Surgeons, the health system announced last week.

The Chicago-based association assesses trauma facilities to help hospitals improve care and to provide an objective, external performance review with stringent criteria, reports the Jacksonville Business Journal. The process includes a peer review team spending two days at the facility to evaluate policies, resources, patient care and other performance metrics. The designation is for three years.

UF Health Jacksonville gets national recognition.

In operation since 1983, UF Health TraumaOne, at 655 8th St. W., is one of 10 level 1 trauma centers in Florida — the only one of its type in Northeast Florida, and just one of three trauma centers in Duval County.

Other trauma facilities include Wolfson Children’s Hospital, which specializes in pediatrics, and Memorial Hospital, which also received level II designation in 2018.

Gorillas find new home at Jacksonville Zoo

A family of gorillas moved home this week, part of the Jacksonville Zoo’s new African Forest exhibit, which is set to open Aug. 31.

The gorillas — father, named Lash; mother, named Madini; and baby gorilla, named Patty — were released into the display after a year of renovations, reports News4Jax.

Welcome home! (Image via WJXT News4Jax)

The new African Forest habitat replaces the Great Apes Loop, which has been around for nearly 20 years. Renovations include additional viewing windows, water features for the animals and new homes for bonobos and lemurs.

Jaguars considering trade offer for Fowler

During the long, hot practices of NFL training camps, tempers tend to flare. Fights break out, like they did when Dante Fowler, Jr. tangled with two teammates in separate incidents two weeks ago.

The second one, featuring Fowler and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, led to the former Gator’s suspension. Subsequent events indicate this may be more than just a skirmish that blows over.

Dante Fowler Jr. has had multiple run-ins with the law.

This week, news broke that the Jaguars were contacted by the New York Jets about a possible trade for Fowler. The name offered in return was quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who is trying to return to the NFL after a devastating leg injury two years ago.

When he was hurt, Bridgewater was already showing signs of becoming a dynamic NFL quarterback. After his contract expired last year, the Jets signed him.

Fowler also had to overcome a serious injury. After being the third overall pick, he suffered a season-ending knee injury on the first day of rookie minicamp.

The Jaguars could be looking for a solid backup for Blake Bortles at quarterback and have someone with NFL experience who could fill in if Bortles is injured. In addition, the team is well-stocked on the defensive side of the ball, making an addition to the offense something worth considering.

If the fight is more than just a training camp skirmish and the Jaguars are looking to promote locker room harmony, Bridgewater would be a good option. He is not known for having a flamboyant personality.

At first glance, such a trade might not appear to provide a fair return for the Jaguars. Bridgewater has yet to prove he is fully recovered.

There are two more preseason games remaining. Jaguars’ fans will have to wait and see how it all plays out.

Latest poll shows Al Lawson obliterating Alvin Brown in CD 5 primary

A new poll from the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab asserts that U.S. Rep. Al Lawson of Florida’s 5th Congressional District is headed toward a blowout win over Democratic primary challenger Alvin Brown.

The UNF survey of 402 likely Democratic primary voters shows Lawson has the support of 48 percent with just 29 percent backing Brown. Meanwhile, 22 percent of those surveyed are undecided.

UNF polling director Michael Binder notes that “Brown supporters might point to the large number of undecided voters as potential supporters, but late deciders never swing entirely for one candidate.”

Brown simply hasn’t gotten it done in Duval County, according to Binder, when it comes to amassing the kind of voter share that would overcome Lawson out west.

“Roughly half of Congressional District 5 voters are in Duval County, and even though Brown is ahead by 18 percentage points in Duval, that isn’t nearly enough. Lawson is ahead by nearly 60 percentage points in the counties west of Duval,” Binder said.

Alvin Brown’s margin, the survey shows, is underperforming former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, who beat Lawson in 2016 by 40 percent in Duval, yet lost by 9 percent overall.

In Duval, Alvin Brown is up 48 to 29 percent. Outside of Duval, Alvin Brown enjoys an anemic 10 percent level of support, remarkable given Brown’s claim to have been campaigning districtwide.

Binder notes Brown “needs to be +40 or +50 in Duval to have a chance and it’s not close.”

Alvin Brown has been hamstrung by Jacksonville endorsements, including from the Florida Times-Union, the local police and fire unions, and Rep. Tracie Davis, going Lawson’s way. As another vouchsafe of Lawson’s position, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi came to Jacksonville on his behalf.

Interestingly, both Brown and Lawson supporters back Andrew Gillum for Governor. Districtwide, the Tallahassee Mayor enjoys 31 percent support, essentially doubling Gwen Graham at 16 percent.

The UNF poll jibes with the only other public poll of this race:  a St. Pete Polls survey of the race released earlier this month.

A survey of 445 likely Democratic primary voters showed Lawson with 50 percent of the vote, with Brown at 28 percent.

Jacksonville preachers walk back Alvin Brown congressional endorsements

Heading into the weekend, Alvin Brown touted endorsements from Jacksonville preachers: “more than 30 faith leaders representing a large swath of the local faith community.”

This week, three of those preachers have walked their endorsements back for logistical reasons, saying that the listing of their churches in the endorsement emails compromised their organizations’ nonprofit status.

The narrative started when Pastor Reginald Gundy of the Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church contacted Florida Politics saying he didn’t endorse Brown, a former Jacksonville Mayor running for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 5th Congressional District.

Gundy said he asked the campaign to “take [his] name off” the list of endorsers, noting that he is “not endorsing Lawson or Brown, that is the statement for the record because of my organization of 501(C)(3) period,” and that he made an “honest error” when he signed a letter of endorsement in January, one that the campaign produced.

On Tuesday, a second pastor, the Rev. Wendell C. Webster, reached out to Florida Politics to walk back his endorsement.

“While I have known the candidate, Alvin Brown for many years and believe that he is a viable candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, District 5, I did not give permission to use the name of my church, New Fountain Chapel AME Church,” Webster wrote.

“I strongly oppose the use of my church’s name in any and all political ads and endorsements. As a not-for-profit5 01(C)(3) organization,” Webster added, “it is our standard policy and practice to not [engage] in political activities.”

On Wednesday, Rev. Tan C. Moss of the Greater Grant Memorial AME Church became the third pastor to walk back his endorsement.

“While I initially made a personal endorsement of candidate Brown, at no time was my church included or should have been assumed to be a part [of] that endorsement,” Moss said. “I have been assured by the candidate that this error will be immediately rectified and my [personal] endorsement has been withdrawn as a result of the confusion.”

The race increasingly looks like a comfortable win for incumbent U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, per a St. Pete Polls survey of the race released Monday that shows him with a 22-point lead, and his own assertions that FiveThirtyEight.com gave him a 99.8 percent chance to win.

Brown, who had $84,000 cash on hand as of Aug. 8, is still fundraising. On Tuesday morning, he sent out an appeal to supporters to help him continue an ad buy for a digital spot.

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