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Politics

Common Core Foe Jay Fant Files for First Coast House Seat as Republican

October 2, 2013 - 6:00pm

Business owner Jay Fant announced Thursday he will run for the Republican nomination for the Florida House seat currently held by Rep. Daniel Davis, R-Jacksonville. Davis, now the chairman of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, is not seeking re-election in 2014.

It appears to me that America is at a crossroads, Fant said in his announcement. Daily reports of government excess, reckless spending, and political expediency dominate our public conversation and impact us all at home and at work. We deserve better, and thats why Ive decided to become a candidate for state representative.

In Florida, we have had our share of success moving the economy forward, Fant added. I believe we can do more. I intend to do everything in my power to make sure that Jacksonvilles entrepreneurs, small-businesses and working families have economic opportunity.

During and interview with Sunshine State News, Fant talked about why he is running for the House seat, stressing the importance of how Florida uses its expected budgetary surplus. I think its a great opportunity, he said and he offered praise for the tax cuts proposed by Gov. Rick Scott.

The new candidate said he hoped the state government can make things easier for small businesses to launch across Florida. My focus is small business and what it takes for the man in the street to create a new business, he said.

Fant said he also intends to fight for better education in Florida and expressed concerns with Common Core standards. Common Core is not the answer, Fant insisted. Federal initiatives and approaches are not the way to go. He said he is optimistic about the future of the state university system, especially the University of North Florida in Jacksonville

Fants family has longtime roots on the First Coast. His grandfather, Julian Fant, founded First Guaranty Bank in 1947. While the bank did very well on the First Coast for many years, the Federal Deposit Insurance Commission (FDIC) shut down First Guaranty in early 2012. Analysts blamed a series of risky loans for the banks collapse. At the time First Guaranty was shut down, Jay Fant served as chairman and CEO.

Speaking with Sunshine State News, Fant said First Guaranty was hurt by the recession as small businesses could not repay loans.

Our bank was 100 percent dependent on the small-business clients we had, he explained. We felt like we did everything possible. When small businesses couldnt make it, the bank couldnt make it.

Fant said the federal government hurt First Guaranty and other small banks when it enacted TARP and other legislation to prop up larger banks.

Theres nothing wrong with big banks, he said. There is something wrong with the government picking winners and losers.

After the FDIC shut it down, First Guarantys deposits were taken over by CenterState Bank, which was looking to expand into the region. Gil Pomar, currently the North Florida president for CenterState, endorsed the new candidate Thursday.

Im supporting Jay because of his conservative principles and his desire to make state government smaller and more efficient, said Pomar. Jay is a devoted family man and I know he will take those values to the Legislature.

Fant also won the support of former Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton.

Jay and his family have been fixtures in Jacksonvilles small-business community for decades, Peyton said. Jay understands our community, reflects our values, and has a strong sense of what needs to be done to bring more jobs to Northeast Florida.

Im honored to have the support of local leaders who have a vision for Northeast Florida that is prosperous, safe, and rewards those who work hard, Fant said. With their help and yours, we will make sure that Florida is strong.

The seat represents parts of Duval County including the west side of Jacksonville. Fant does not have an open shot at this solidly Republican seat. Facing him in the Republican primary is attorney Paul Renner, who served in the Navy during Desert Storm and was an assistant state attorney in South Florida.

Renner filed his paperwork to run for the House seat in early July and has won the backing of some of the leading Republicans on the First Coast, including Duval County Sheriff John Rutherford, a few weeks after launching his bid. Davis remains filed as an active candidate with the state Division of Elections but has said he will not run next year.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or follow him on Twitter at @KevinDerbySSN.

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