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Not Just A Body Of Water — A briefing about Tampa Bay politics — 5.14.18

Congresswoman Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, says she “led efforts” by the bipartisan Tampa Bay Congressional Delegation to include funding for MacDill Air Force Base.

The National Defense Authorization Act cleared the U.S. House Armed Services Committee last Thursday.

“Castor also championed other investments for our military, their families and our community, including a boost in pay and expansion in the expertise and faculty at U.S. Special Operations Command Joint Special Operations University,” a press release said.

In addition, the act “prohibits any base closures by the Department of Defense.” MacDill is home to the Special Operations Command and the U.S. Central Command, two of the Armed Forces’ most important military command outposts.

Crist named ‘Gun Sense Candidate’

Gun safety advocate group Moms Demand Action named Congressman Charlie Crist its “Gun Sense Candidate” for “standing up for gun violence prevention and recognizing gun safety.” … “The real credit needs to go to moms and citizens all over our country standing up to special interests to get common sense gun reform passed,” the St. Petersburg Democrat said. “It’s been the activism of everyday people that moved the ball forward — now we just need to get it done in Congress.” Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, Crist became a leading voice for common sense gun reform, calling the tragedy a “wake-up call” to action and reform.

Brandes nets $100K in April

Jeff Brandes raised more than $100,000 in April for his Senate District 24 re-election effort. “Our message resonates with voters and is backed by results,” the St. Petersburg Republican said in a statement. “We have the momentum and are putting together a strong campaign to win in November.” Brandes faces Democratic challenger Carrie Pilon in the Republican-leaning district. In April, Brandes brought in $66,395 to his campaign account and $35,000 for his political committee, Liberty Florida, for a total haul of $101,395. Heading into May, Brandes had about $458,000 on hand. During the same time, Pilon brought in a combined $104,433 raised between her campaign account and committee, Moving Pinellas Forward.

Cruz makes early splash in SD 18

Less than a month after entering the race for Tampa’s Senate District 18, House Minority Leader Janet Cruz is making a splash, with $271K raised in total. This makes $146.6K raised in her first three weeks as a Senate candidate. “We are strong out of the gate and just getting warmed up,” Cruz said, “because the hard-working people of Tampa deserve to have a voice in Tallahassee — and that hasn’t been the case recently.” Her April fundraising totals include $115K for her Building the Bay committee and another $31.6K in her campaign account. Cruz filed April 10 for the SD 18 race against incumbent Republican Dana Young.

Heeren racks up local endorsements

Alex Heeren received endorsements from three local elected officials in his bid for term-limited Larry Ahern’s House District 66: Belleair Beach City Councilmember Wanda Schwerer and Belleair Bluffs City Commissioners Joe Barkley and Jack Nazario. “We need new leadership in the capitol,” Schwerer said. “Alex has the right priorities — his focus is on the people of our district.” Barkley continued: “Now more than ever, we need more teachers in Tallahassee … We need Legislators to understand what happens inside the classroom, and Alex’s experience will go a long way toward improving Florida’s public schools.” Republicans Berny Jacques and Nick DiCeglie are running against each other for the GOP primary.

Jacques nets $13K in April

Republican Berny Jacques tacked on another $13,275 last month for his campaign to replace termed-out Rep. Larry Ahern in House District 66. He brought in $12,275 of that cash through his campaign account, with the other $1,000 heading to his political committee, Protect Pinellas. The new report brings his combined fundraising to $172,960 since he filed for the seat in March 2017. Donors included former Ambassador Mel Sembler and husband and wife philanthropists Les Muma and Pam Muma. Pinellas County GOP chair Nick DiCeglie, who entered the HD 66 race six months after Jacques, raised $101,484 and had $77,200 banked through March. Also running for the seat are Democrat Alex Heeren and Reform Party candidate Paul Anthony Bachmann.

Webb first to qualify by petition in HD 69

Gulfport Democrat Jennifer Webb collected more than 1,157 signatures for inclusion on the 2018 ballot, making her first candidate in House District 69 to qualify by petition. Webb’s campaign also noted her fundraising has passed the $125,000 mark in April with $100,000 on hand between her campaign account and affiliated political committee. This gives her nearly as much money on hand as her two Republican opponents combined. Webb is the only Democrat vying for the seat currently held by Republican state Rep. Kathleen Peters, which covers Redington Beach, Madeira Beach, Treasure Island, South Pasadena and Gulfport. She will face the winner of the Republican primary between Jeremy Bailie and Raymond Blacklidge.

Blacklidge shows fundraising muscle

Ray Blacklidge continues showing fundraising muscle in his bid for House District 69. His campaign announced this week it raised $8,895 in April, giving him more than $121,000. When combined with his political committee, Friends of Ray Blacklidge, the total raised is $154,880. The Madeira Beach-based insurance executive and attorney is seeking the HD 69 seat vacated by South Pasadena Republican Kathleen Peters. “These solid fundraising numbers represent the strength of our conservative platform,” Blacklidge said. “I’m grateful and encouraged that so many folks are investing in our vision of limited government, more jobs and better education.” Blacklidge faces St. Petersburg attorney Jeremy Bailie in the GOP primary. Jennifer Webb is the lone Democrat in the race.

Godwin to run for Tampa Council

John Godwin, a national security and technical consultant with the defense, diplomatic and intelligence communities, is running for citywide Tampa City Council District 2. “Tampa has experienced amazing growth, and more is to come — Tampa’s best days are ahead of us as long as we have leaders who are ready to bring together our many neighborhoods and communities to prepare us to be a city of the future,” Godwin said. “I am ready to do that.” Godwin works for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency based out of MacDill Air Force Base. Recent projects include humanitarian assistance supplies to Syria, training women running for office in Azerbaijan, and helping make polling stations in the country of Georgia handicap accessible.

Lopez-Cantera endorses Patel

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera is endorsing Aakash Patel for Hillsborough County Commission District 1: “I had the opportunity to get to know Aakash Patel through his work with Leadership Tampa Bay and his service on their Board of Directors since 2014. Aakash has impressed me with his drive, ambition and ability to apply his conservative ideals to encourage and mentor others in the business community and leadership roles.” Patel faces fellow Republican C. Todd Marks and Democrat Jen McDonald for the seat currently held by Republican Sandra Murman, who has filed to run for the countywide District 7 seat in 2018. Patel leads the field in fundraising with more than $433,000 through the end of April.

Dillinger assistant announces public defender bid

Sara Mollo, the chief assistant public defender for the Sixth Judicial Circuit, plans to run for the office’s top job in 2020, reports the Tampa Bay Times. She is running for the upcoming vacancy from Public Defender Bob Dillinger. Dillinger decided he will not run again and is supporting Mollo for the election about two years away. Mollo told the Times she is announcing early to get to know the community after being “behind the scenes.” … “This is my home,” Mollo said. “Dillinger has done a good job and has been a good leader in the community and I want to preserve and protect his legacy.” Mollo has worked for Dillinger since 2003.

Young Republicans to honor Gualtieri

Pinellas County Young Republicans and Young Floridians for Opportunity will honor Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri at the Fifth Annual Statesman of the Year Award Dinner, scheduled for Saturday, June 30, at Feather Sound Country Club. As the head of the Florida Sheriff’s Association Legislative Committee, Gualtieri led the way in advocating for criminal justice policies that both protect Floridians and effectively help those most in need. After the Parkland high school tragedy, he chaired the Commission tasked with investigating the shooting and learning how to prevent future atrocities. Earlier recipients include state Rep. Chris Sprowls, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, former Congressman David Jolly, and state Sen. Jeff Brandes. Tickets are available at Email for sponsorship information.

Attorney beats up client, sued for battery

James Kelly was cited in late 2015 for driving with a suspended license. The 56-year-old Valrico resident was then arrested for failing to appear at a related court hearing. Kelly hired attorney Frank Blainey to represent him. But, according to a suit filed May 1, Kelly tried to terminate the lawyer’s services on Sept. 5, 2016, when Blainey, allegedly under the influence of alcohol, retaliated by “striking him repeatedly in his face” and body. Blainey was arrested and charged with felony battery, and eventually pleaded “guilty” to misdemeanor battery, receiving a year of probation. His law license still says he is a “member in good standing” of the Florida Bar. Kelly is now seeking damages for battery.

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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