FIGHTIN' WORDS

Deep State, Local STYLE

Reading between the lines in #jaxpol

Posted

The question I get when I’m at Jacksonville’s City Hall more often than seems reasonable: Why are you spending so much time at City Hall?

Because of the nature of what I do on FloridaPolitics.com—quick-hit blogs, where being first to have information is key to the success of the larger initiative—I’m often the only media person at certain meetings.

I become the canary in the coalmine. If I have a blog post that may make for a useful TV story, they typically will retrace the steps of my reporting, and push it forward. It’s not credited, of course (after all, who am I compared to a diversified media corporation?).

But I’ve set the meme and established the parameters of discourse, so it’s fine by me.

Showing up has benefits beyond the transient news cycle. Generally, people will give useful insight on background, off the record, or whatever—though often this material is not intended for direct quoting, it’s there. And quite useful, especially considered in the context of what motivates that particular person to give information out in the first place.

Jacksonville’s mayor likes to say politics is a relationship business—and that’s true to a point.

It’s also a transactional business, and worth watching. It’s what may drive narratives in the upcoming political cycles of 2018 on the state level and 2019 on the local level.
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Police Story
One group of political actors worth watching this year and next is the local Fraternal Order of Police.

Right now, it faces challenges on several fronts.

One front: Even though FOP rank-and-file voted for the pension reform deal that came out of the mayor’s office, there’s still doubt about whether the city will be faithful to the deal—history teaches us the city has been less than reliable in the long term.

Worth noting is that the mayor’s chief political strategists, Brian Hughes and Tim Baker, managed to irk FOP head Steve Zona during last year’s primary race for state attorney. That race began with Angela Corey doing a prolonged victory lap until the precise moment Melissa Nelson entered the race, at which point the wheels came off the Corey wagon.

The FOP and State Attorney Corey, to quote 7 Seconds, walked together and rocked together. It was a good position to be in.

Melissa Nelson—a different matter.

Union members and brass have concerns about the SAO’s emerging human rights division and the focus it could put on police actions. Zona himself took to Facebook this month to express concerns about Octavius Holliday, who’ll be helming the division. Holliday represented Diallo Sekou of the Kemetic Empire when he and others blocked the Hart Bridge in 2014, protesting Eric Garner’s death by cop in New York City.

The FOP also has some issues with Sheriff Mike Williams, relative to body cameras. They believe camera use policies are subject to collective bargaining. The JSO disagrees.

Worth watching: Will anyone challenge Mike Williams or Lenny Curry in 2019 or Nelson in 2020? And will those challengers get police union backing?
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Next Level for Alvin
Weeks back, I wrote about how Rep. Al Lawson botched his Jacksonville trip during Congressional recess, deviating from his set schedule to appear in Eureka Garden without any local pols beside him on President’s Day, then standing up Mayor Curry during his neighborhood walk the next day.

Curry wanted to introduce Lawson to the local business community. Lawson had more important things to do.

Local Dems have never been sold on Lawson, and we’ve been hearing strong and persistent rumors that former Mayor Alvin Brown is looking at a run for Lawson’s seat, including meeting with potential donors and testing the waters.

Brown is slowly working his way back into visibility locally—look for his official portrait to show up in the mayor’s office at long last this spring. At that point, there’ll be a press event. Questions about the Lawson seat will emerge.

There are other Dems who could run. But Brown deserves a shot at redemption after a tough loss in 2015. And bet that he’ll be the Jacksonville candidate.
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Fantasia
While Alvin Brown may have a good shot at taking CD 5 to the next level, things are shakier for State Rep. Jay Fant’s expected 2018 run for Florida attorney general.

He reportedly had a fundraiser this month—trying to get people to give to his political action committee … which has all of $38,000 in it.

Many pols with deeper pockets and stronger connections—Ron DeSantis among them—are linked to that race.

DeSantis has millions in his PAC and an open line to Fox News.

Fant isn’t really a factor in the Florida Legislature, and found himself on the wrong side of the Enterprise Florida vote in the House last week. Apparently, the thought is, rather than just ride out eight years in a safe seat, he might take a shot statewide.

Fant was coy about his plans when we asked him last weekend. The truth of his viability will come out in the April fundraising reports, though.

The money always tells the real story.

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