Drew Wilson, Author at Florida Politics

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for SaintPetersBlog and FloridaPolitics.com. While at the University of Florida, Wilson was an editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and after graduation, he moved to Los Angeles to cover business deals for The Hollywood Reporter. Before joining Extensive Enterprises, Wilson covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools.

Four Seminole County mayors endorse David Smith for HD 28

Republican David Smith announced Monday that he had landed endorsements from the mayors of four Seminole County cities for his House District 28 campaign.

Smith, who qualified for the ballot via petition last week, earned the support of Oviedo Mayor Dominic Persampiere, Winter Springs Mayor Charles Lacey, Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett and Longwood Mayor Joe Durso.

“David has a reputation for honesty and integrity,” Persampiere said. “He has a proven track record of leadership and service from his 30-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps. I’m confident he will represent all the people of Seminole County to the very best of his ability.”

The other mayors also saluted Smith for his leadership, while Lacey and Triplett cited his conservative values in their statements of support. Durso hit the same notes, but also pointed to Smith’s community service as a deciding factor in his endorsement.

“David has worked hard to make our community a better place to live. His work with local Veterans has been especially noteworthy,” Durso said. “He has my full support.”

The four mayors join Seminole County Commissioner Bob Dallari, who announced he was backing Smith in March, shortly after he filed.

Smith said he was “humbled and proud” to get the mayors’ backing.

“Each of these gentlemen has a tremendous record of public service in Seminole County,” he said. “I look forward to working with all of them on key issues to make Central Florida a better place to live, work, get an education and raise a family.”

Smith is one of three candidates running for the seat, currently held by termed-out Republican Rep. Jason Brodeur. Casselberry Democrat Lee Mangold was the second-in, followed by Republican Christopher Anderson, who filed his paperwork in June.

Smith is far out front in fundraising. Through August, he had raised more than $120,000 and had about $105,000 on hand, though about half of that was his own money.

Mangold has raised about $13,000 since April, with $10,000 coming in through loans, while Anderson has brought in about $9,500.

Annette Taddeo hosting ‘souls to the polls’ on final day of early voting

Democratic SD 40 candidate Annette Taddeo and the Coalition of South Dade Pastors are teaming up for a “massive souls to the polls effort” ahead of Tuesday’s special election.

The Florida Democratic Party event is set for noon to 4 p.m. at the Community Bible Baptist Church, which is near the Coral Reef Branch Library early voting site.

Taddeo will be joined at the church by Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon, Pastor Ron Smith and former state Sen. Dwight Bullard, who represented most of the district before redistricting created SD 40. Bullard lost the 2016 contest for SD 40 by 10 points.

The event will be held at the Community Bible Baptist Church, just a short distance from the Coral Reef Branch Library early voting site. FDP said a DJ will be performing on site and that it will have food and drinks on hand for attendees.

Taddeo is going up against Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in the special election. The pair are running to replace Frank Artiles, who resigned from the seat after a racially tinged outburst directed at black colleagues in the senate.

Early voting numbers were leaning toward Diaz earlier this week, so Taddeo is likely looking to catch up and drive up numbers for what is expected to be a low-turnout race.

By Wednesday, 1,251-vote more GOP voters had turned out than Democrats. Even assuming a 60-40 split in Taddeo’s favor among NPA voters, she would still trail by 478 votes, or about 2 points.

FDP trades $150K with Ohio party; likely to spend in SD 40 special election

The Florida Democratic Party traded funds with the Ohio Democratic Party earlier this month, but neither party has said how the transferred money would be used.

FDP sent the Ohio party $150,000 from its federal account in exchange for funds that can be used for state-level expenses. Different rules apply to state and federal contributions and parties don’t mix the funds in the same accounts.

The Florida-to-Ohio transfer went through Aug. 9 and was reported to the Federal Election Commission in the Democratic Executive Committee of Florida’s most recent finance report, which covers through the end of August.

FDP spokeswoman Johanna Cervone wouldn’t confirm the party traded federal funds for state campaign money and only commented that the deal helped FDP “effectively allocate” resources.

The party is likely using at least some of the money to bolster Annette Taddeo’s campaign in Miami-based Senate District 40, where she faces Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in the race to replace Frank Artiles.

Both parties have dumped plenty of resources into the race, and each see it as a sort of bellwether for whether voter lines are shifting since Donald Trump’s election – especially the Democratic Party.

FDP hasn’t had to report its finances to the state since July, but due to special fundraising deadlines for the truncated election cycle, Taddeo’s most recent campaign finance report provides a window into how much is being pumped into the race by FDP and other Democratic committees.

On Thursday alone, the Miami Democratic Party put $45,000 in cash into Taddeo’s campaign account, while another $47,133 in “in kind” benefits came from FDP for campaign staff. The state party has also given Taddeo’s campaign about $47,000 in cash since Aug. 23.

The Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, controlled by incoming Senate Minority Leader Jeff Clemens, has also chipped in substantially. Between Aug. 11 and Aug. 24, it sent $45,000 in cash to Taddeo, and has provided another $136,000 in kind, including staffing, polls, phone banking and research.

FDP will find out Tuesday whether all the effort and money put into the race will tip the scales toward Taddeo, who has run several unsuccessful campaigns in the past few years.

Early voting numbers show Republicans with a significant advantage in turnout in a district that already has a slight GOP edge. By Tuesday, Republicans had a 1,251-vote advantage based on party registration alone and even assuming independents break 60-40 for Taddeo, that still leaves her in the hole.

Personnel note: FMPA names new general counsel

The Florida Municipal Power Agency has named Jody Lamar Finklea as its next general counsel and chief legal officer. The announcement came Friday.

Finklea, an graduate of the Florida State University College of Law who also holds a master’s degree in public administration, will take over for retiring General Counsel Fred Bryant. He has been with FMPA since 2001 and was Bryant’s deputy general counsel before the FMPA board of directors voted on the promotion.

“FMPA is fortunate to have someone with Jody’s knowledge and expertise,” said Bill Conrad, who chairs the FMPA board of directors. “Jody has a deep understanding of Florida law and its application to utilities and cities. He knows FMPA’s business in depth, making this transition seamless.”

Finklea, a board-certified expert in city, county and local government law, is also active in the American Public Power Association, the national trade group for public utilities. It recognized him as a “Rising Star in Public Power” in 2011.

In his new role, Finklea will also represent the Florida Municipal Electric Association, which has a membership largely mirroring the consortium of utilities that own FMPA.

FMPA is a wholesale power agency founded in 1978 and is jointly owned by 31 municipal power companies, including the Orlando Utilities Commission, Gainesville Regional Utilities and Ocala Electric Utility.

The group says its membership provides power to 2 million Floridians – about 10 percent of the state.

Nokia Phone in hand (Photo Credit: AP)

Nokia becoming major player in communications under Rajeev Suri

It’s been a little while since Nokia has been at the bleeding edge of the tech world, but Rajeev Suri has done quite a bit to put the communications company back on the path since he took over as CEO in 2014.

In an interview with Axios, the executive talked about his 10-year plan to put the company’s quibbles with competitors to bed and restore the Finnish brand’s name – and product lineup – to a place of prominence.

One of Suri’s major accomplishments this year was settling a years-long patent dispute with Apple, one of the companies that took the torch from Nokia in the cell phone market a decade ago.

That settlement ended up not only with Nokia receiving some up-front cash and ongoing payments, but was ended amicably enough that the two businesses are sitting at the same table when comes to forging new tech in digital health market.

What was once a legal headache is “now a collaboration,” Suri said. “We meet regularly and want to expand that.” The 49-year-old CEO can even be seen sporting an iPhone, which Suri pointed out is “just evidence of how well the relationship with Apple is going.”

Phones of course are what brought the Nokia name into homes worldwide, and for good reason. In their heyday, the devices – often compared to bricks aesthetically, but also for their unmatched durability – were considered some of the most reliable and high-quality pieces of kit consumers could get their hands on.

While the company isn’t diving head first back into the handset market, the brand name has been licensed out as part of a multi-year deal with fellow Finland-based company HMD Global.

That deal also brings in some cash for the company as it focuses on its modern goals of expanding its networking business and building new solutions in the virtual reality and health care markets.

And those goals are being reached.

In the past few years, Nokia has acquired and integrated the carrier networking businesses of Motorola, Siemens and Alcatel-Lucent and has been steadily climbing the ranks to become one of the top comms equipment providers for companies and government agencies everyone relies on – even Florida’s law enforcement communications network is built with Nokia products and technology.

Their network is also one of the strongest out there. According worldwide rankings from the Dell’Oro Group, Nokia ranks No. 2 in 4G/LTE, No. 1 in packet microwave radio systems, No. 2 in IP Edge Routing, No. 1 in copper broadband access and No. 2 in fiber access.

Even though consumers don’t see those iconic block letters above their phone’s earpiece nowadays, with Suri at the helm the communications world is starting to depend on Nokia as much as consumers depended on those lovable bricks a decade ago.

Children in line at fast food restaurant (Credit: AP)

Study shows more than a third of Florida youth are overweight

More than a third of Florida youths are overweight or obese according to a report released Tuesday by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The report is based on data released through the Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health (DRC) and published on stateofobesity.org.

The 2017 numbers are the first new data on U.S. childhood obesity since 2012, and according to that data Florida kids are becoming more overweight.

According to the report, 36.7 percent of 10-17-year-olds in the Sunshine State are overweight or obese, giving it the fourth highest rate among the states.

The national overweight and obesity rate among children and teenagers in this age group is 31.2 percent. The obesity rate among Florida adults is 27.4 percent, the 36th highest rate in the country.

The report defines “overweight” as a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 85th percentile for an individual’s age, height and gender. Individuals at the 95th percentile or higher are “obese,” while those at or below the 5th percentile are “underweight.”

The childhood data relies on estimates on height and weight from parents. The report says parents typically overestimate height and underestimate weight.

In 2012, 27.5 percent of Florida children were overweight or obese. Florida’s adult overweight and obesity rate, which is updated annually, was 25.2 percent 5 years ago. While the increase has slowed, the adult rate has jumped from 18.4 percent in 2000 and 11.4 percent in 1990.

Just under 60 percent of Florida children are described as “normal weight” in 2017, while another 3.5 percent are underweight.

Despite the uptick in Florida, experts say obesity rates may be leveling off nationwide.

“It’s clear that the progress we’ve made in fighting obesity is fragile and that we’re at a critical juncture where continuation of the policies that show promise and increased support and resources could truly help bend the rising tide of obesity rates,” said TFAH CEO John Auerbach.

“We’re far from out of the woods when it comes to obesity. But we have many reasons to be optimistic thanks to parents, educators, business owners, health officials, and other local leaders. Our nation’s policymakers must follow their example to build a culture of health.”

The report also tracks what policies states enact to combat the obesity epidemic, while Florida is on the level in some areas, it comes up short compared to its thinner peers.

Florida hasn’t put in place any policies to allow or encourage breastfeeding in early childhood programs, which correlates with lower obesity rates. And for older kids, there are no defined requirements for physical activity, such as a defined exercise time for middle school and high school physical education students or a set duration of recess for younger pupils.

Nationally, Tennessee children were the most overweight, with a 37.7 percent rate, and only a few tenths of a percentage point separated the Volunteer State from North Dakota and Mississippi, which took the No. 2 and No. 3 spots respectively.

Florida’s neighbors, Alabama and Georgia, also had higher-than-average rates.

Alabama came in at No. 6 with 35.5 percent of the fifth grade through high school senior population packing too many pounds. Georgia was further down the list at No. 18, with a rate of 32.2 percent.

Medical marijuana provider Surterra to pitch in on Irma relief

A Tampa-based medical marijuana company said it will donate a chunk of the total sales of a new vaporizer pen to Hurricane Irma relief efforts.

Surterra Wellness is one of the largest marijuana cultivators in the blooming Sunshine State medical marijuana industry, and among its products are a series of vaporizer “pens” – devices similar in size and shape to the electronic cigarettes found in many gas stations – that deliver marijuana extracts to patients via an inhaled vapor.

Unlike run-of-the-mill vaporizers the new device, the $45 “Relief Vaporizer Pen,” never needs to be charged.

Florida’s implementation of medical marijuana does not allow the plant to be smoked, and it must instead be consumed as an oil, tincture, vapor or some other non-combustable method.

The company said without the tech in the new pen the many Florida patients who lost power due to Irma would have had to go without a way to administer their medical cannabis. The company said added that they planned to celebrate the new tech by putting a percentage of its sales toward Irma relief efforts.

“In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, we want to give some relief with Surterra’s Relief products,” Surterra CEO Jake Bergmann said. “Surterra wants to help more people every day with the highest quality cannabis, and this hurricane served as a great reminder that we must continue to strive for advancements in cannabis options so Floridians never have to go without their medical marijuana treatments.”

The company plans to donate 10 percent, or $4.50 per unit, of Relief Vaporizer Pen sales to relief efforts through the end of the month.

Surterra’s facilities took some hits during the storm, which left millions without power and caused billions of dollars in damages. After Irma cleared the Bay area, the company tweeted out that despite “minor flooding” and a “missing roof” that all the plants at its indoor grow operation were spared.

In the week since Irma, Surterra said all of its dispensaries have reopened and deliveries have resumed statewide. Medical marijuana patients can call (850) 391-5455 to place an order with the company or learn more about their product line.

Ardian Zika raises $100K in first month of campaigning for HD 37

House District 37 hopeful Ardian Zika raised more than $100,000 last month, putting him far ahead of the other candidates vying for the Pasco County seat held by termed-out House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

The Land O’ Lakes businessman, who filed Aug. 1, brought in $101,457 and spent only $555 leaving him comfortably over the six-figure mark in cash on hand after his first month in the race.

The campaign finance report shows 174 contributions, including 76 checks for the primary campaign maximum of $1,000.

Notable donors included future Senate President Wilton Simpson, who along with his wife, Kathryn, and a pair of his companies cut four $1,000 checks to Zika. Lobbying firm Souther Strategy Group chipped in with two $1,000 checks from a pair of its offices, and former House Speaker Will Weatherford chipped in $1,000 through his political committee, “The Committee for a Stronger Florida.”

The only expenditures for the month were fees paid to fundraising company Anedot and a small payment for checks.

Zika, 37, was born in the former Yugoslavia and emigrated to the U.S. from Kosovo in 1997. When he entered the race he said he was “the product of American exceptionalism and I, like you, am working tirelessly in pursuit of the American Dream.”

The one time Tampa Bay Business Journal “40 under 40 Up and Comer” was the fourth Republican to file for the race, and so far no Democrats or third-party candidates have opened up campaign accounts in the staunchly Republican district.

First-in candidate George Agovino has raised just $1,000 since March and has about $300 in the bank. Elle Rudisill had nearly $10,000 on hand at the end of August, while Bill Gunter has about $4,400 in the bank.

Gunter hasn’t filed his August report yet, but he should have it in by the end of the week. The deadline for campaign finance reports was originally Sept. 11, though it was extended to Sept. 22 due to Hurricane Irma.

Lawrence McClure crosses $100K raised threshold in HD 58 special election

The two GOP candidates running to replace retired Rep. Dan Raulerson in House District 58 raised a combined $169,000 between Aug. 1 and Sept. 7 according to newly filed campaign finance reports.

Plant City businessman Lawrence McClure, 30, brought in the bulk of the money, with his first campaign finance report showing $107,205 in contributions as well as $39,654 in expenditures, leaving him with $67,550 in the bank.

McClure took in 156 contributions, including several dozen for the campaign maximum of $1,000. The donor roll includes John Geehr, who runs a financial adviser firm in Ponte Vedra, and several checks from people connected to Tampa-based environmental contractor FGS Group.

Expenditures mainly went to Jensen Beach-based Strategic Image Management, which took home $28,321 during the reporting period. Kelsey Newsome got $3,000 for managing the campaign, while Jerad Combee and Jared Nicolette were each paid $2,500 for campaign support.

Fellow Plant City Republican Yvonne Fry, who was the first Republican to enter the race, brought in $61,515 during the reporting period and spent $33,337, leaving her with about $35,000 on hand.

South Florida Baptist Hospital President Karen Kerr, Zymphony Technology Solutions CEO Rick Lott, Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham and Plant City Commissioner Michael Sparkman and his wife were among the donors pitching in with $1,000 checks during the six-week reporting period.

Like McClure, Fry’s main expenditure was a massive payment for campaign consulting. In her case it was $29,526 to Tampa-based Momentum Strategy Group.

The special primary election for the Hillsborough County seat is set for Oct. 10, with the general election to follow on Dec. 19.

Also running for the seat are no party candidate Ahmad Saadaldin, Libertarian Bryan Zemina, and Democrat Jose Vasquez, though none of them have made much progress in the money race.

HD 58 has a Republican lean. Vasquez, the only Democrat to make the general election ballot since the seat was redrawn, got beat by 16 points in his 2016 contest against Raulerson.

Bill Galvano, Jim Boyd backing James Buchanan in HD 72

A couple more lawmakers came out in support of Sarasota Republican James Buchanan in the special election for House District 72, which was vacated by Alex Miller Sept. 1.

Future Senate President Bill Galvano endorsed Buchanan, saying that he knows the real estate agent and business owner “will be ready to hit the ground running” if elected to the Florida House.

“He will be an asset to our local delegation as someone who will help get things done,” the Bradenton Republican said.

Also backing Buchanan is Republican state Rep. Jim Boyd, who currently represents neighboring House District 71.

“James will be a great partner in the House.  When it comes to passing tax relief for hardworking families or education reforms that help our children, I look forward to working with him,” he said.

Buchanan thanked the Galvano and Boyd for the endorsement, calling them “icons in the legislative process.”

“I am humbled by their endorsement and will seek to serve as they do,” he said.

In addition to being the son of Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, Buchanan is an alumnus of Florida State University and the University of South Florida, where he earned an MBA.

Buchanan entered the race less than an hour after Miller said she would step down, and so far he is the only major party candidate to declare for the special election, though Libertarian Alison Foxall announced her candidacy shortly after Buchanan, ensuring the election will not go uncontested.

Gov. Rick Scott set the primary election for Dec. 5, if necessary, with the general election to follow on Feb. 13. The deadline for candidates to enter the race is Sept. 28.

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