Drew Wilson – 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.

Associated Builders and Contractors endorses David Smith for HD 28

Winter Springs Republican David Smith announced Thursday that the state’s largest commercial construction trade group has endorsed his campaign for House District 28.

Associated Builders and Contractors is the commercial construction trade association for Central Florida and we are pleased to endorse David Smith for Florida House District 28,” said Mark Wylie, president and CEO of the Central Florida Chapter ABC.

“Our members include general contractor and subcontractors in all trades, as well as material and service providers, for the industry. David’s knowledge and understanding of the key issues affecting our industry, as well as specific educational programs is impressive. We believe he will work to create and sustain a business and regulatory environment that will result in a strong Florida economy and a growing workforce.”

The new endorsement for Smith, a Marine Corps veteran, follows recent nods from Republican Sen. David Simmons and current HD 28 Rep. Jason Brodeur, who leaving the seat due to term limits.

“I’m honored to have the support of the Associated Builders and Contractors,” Smith said. “As someone who graduated vocational training and started my work-life as a certified welder, I have great respect for the men and women that work in the trades. We see eye to eye on the issues that affect not only their industry, but what’s needed to create good jobs for Central Florida families.” Smith added.

HD 28 covers part of northeastern Seminole County, including Sanford, Winter Springs, Casselberry and Oviedo. Republican voters make up nearly 40 percent of the electorate in the Central Florida district, compared to a 33 percent share for Democrats.

The only other candidate running to succeed Brodeur is Democrat Lee Mangold.

As of May 31, Smith had nearly $150,000 in the bank for his campaign account including $85,000 in loans. Through the same date, Mangold had about $15,000 at the ready. His total includes $10,000 in loans.

James Buchanan opens new political committee

Aspiring lawmaker James Buchanan launched a political committee Thursday to support his bid to succeed exiting Rep. Julio Gonzalez in House District 74.

The committee, Buchanan For Florida, is chaired by the Venice Republican. Former Sarasota County Republican Party chair Eric Robinson is listed as the committee’s treasurer.

The PAC is the first for Buchanan, who was the Republican nominee in the special election for House District 72 earlier this year, losing by 7 points to now-Democratic Rep. Margaret Good.

He raised more than $350,000 for his special election run, all of it through his campaign account. Still, Good trounced him on the fundraising trail, mainly since her committee, New Day Florida, reeled in $188,900 from a handful of donors in the lead-up to the Feb. 14 special.

That fundraising was made possible because committee accounts don’t have the same strict contribution limits as campaign accounts, which only allow individual donors to give up to $1,000 per election.

The committee filing may indicate Buchanan will get some backup in his primary contest against North Port Vice-Mayor Linda Yates.

As of May 31, he had raised $39,510 for his campaign with all but two of his donors sending in max checks. Some of the names on his campaign finance reports, such as HCA, have deep pockets and would likely chip in more cash if they had a venue to do so.

Also running for the seat are Democrats Yves Junior Chery and Tony Mowry as well as unaffiliated candidate Robert Samuel Kaplan.

HD 74 covers southern Sarasota County and carries a hefty Republican advantage. The district voted 60-37 in favor of President Donald Trump in the 2016 election. By comparison, HD 72 voted only voted plus-4 Trump.

Fentrice Driskell

Fentrice Driskell gets Ruth’s List seal of approval

Tampa Democrat Fentrice Driskell announced Thursday that Ruth’s List Florida is backing her campaign to unseat Republican Rep. Shawn Harrison in Hillsborough-based House District 63.

“Fentrice is an attorney and a dynamic community leader in Tampa who supports gender equality, women’s reproductive rights, and investing in education to ensure that all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential,” said Pamela Goodman, executive director of Ruth’s List Florida. “The Ruth’s List community — now tens of thousands of members strong — is excited to support her candidacy.”

The Democrat-aligned org bills itself as “the state’s only resource dedicated to recruiting and aiding Democratic women candidates.” Since 2008 it has notched 72 Election Day victories and raised more than $4 million to support women seeking state or local offices.

“I am grateful for the grassroots support Ruth’s List Florida provides Democratic women in Florida,” Driskell said. “I’m proud to accept the endorsement of Ruth’s List and its tens of thousands of members and supporters who believe like I do, that we need more women’s voices in the Florida Legislature who will focus on the things that really matter: investing in our public schools and our communities, expanding access to health care and affordable housing for hard-working families, growing Florida’s economy and supporting our small businesses, and taking care of our seniors and veterans.”

The Harvard- and Georgetown-educated Tampa lawyer filed for HD 63 in early February. She is the only candidate challenging Harrison in the fall. As of May 31, she had raised more than $95,000 for her campaign and had $76,600 on hand. That’s about a third of Harrison’s $225,000 on-hand tally.

The district covers part of Hillsborough County, including portions of northern Tampa and the communities of Lutz, Pebble Creek, Lake Magdalene and Carrollwood. Democrats make up about 39 percent of the swing seat’s electorate, while Republicans hold a 32 percent share.

HD 63 is a perennial target for both major parties.

Harrison served in the House from 2010 to 2012, when former Democratic Rep. Mark Danish beat him by about 700 votes to flip the newly redrawn HD 63 despite raising less than $20,000 for his campaign compared to nearly $300,000 for Harrison.

Harrison reclaimed the seat in the 2014 cycle with a 5-point win over Danish, and in 2016 he emerged victorious in a tough re-election battle against Tampa City Councilwoman Lisa Montelione. His sub-2-point victory came as Democrat Hillary Clinton carried the seat by double digits.

AFSCME Florida backs Nancy Soderberg in CD 6

Former U.S. Ambassador Nancy Soderberg received an endorsement Thursday from the Florida branch of the nation’s largest public employee union in her bid for Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

AFSCME Florida is proud to endorse Nancy Soderberg, who will fight side by side with us to make sure we have the freedom to organize, collectively bargain and stand up for our rights,” said Jana Weaver, executive director of AFSCME Florida. “Nancy will fight to stop the assault on workers and do everything she can to provide people with the freedom and opportunity to join the middle class.”

Richard Flamm, an AFSCME member and chair of the Central Florida PEOPLE Committee, added that Soderberg will “fight for our freedom as workers to organize, collectively bargain and stand up so we can improve life for ourselves, our families and our communities across Florida.”

Soderberg, a Democrat who served as Ambassador to the United Nations under Bill Clinton, is one of six candidates vying for the seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who running in the Republican primary for Governor.

She has previously earned endorsements from former Vice President Joe Biden and the Florida Young Democrats and has also caught the attention of the national Democratic Party, which added her campaign to their “Red to Blue” program earlier this year.

Soderberg is running against Steven Sevigny and John Upchurch in the Democratic primary, while former state Rep. Fred Costello, Fox News contributor Michael Waltz and businessman John Ward are duking it out for the Republican nomination.

CD 6 is a Republican-leaning seat, though through the end of the first quarter of 2018 Soderberg led the Democratic field with an impressive $920,000 in total fundraising and $595,000 on hand. Sevigny, a Daytona Beach physician, entered the race halfway through Q1 and raised posted $250,000 in his first report.

Ward was the top Republican with $709,000 banked at the end of Q1, including $550,000 in candidate contributions, while Waltz was about $50K behind counting the $400,000 he’d pumped into his campaign.

CD 6 covers a stretch of Florida’s east coast, from southern Jacksonville to New Smyrna Beach.

Aakash Patel

Aakash Patel lands endorsement from Trey Traviesa

Hillsborough County Commission candidate Aakash Patel snagged a nod former Republican Rep. Trey Traviesa Thursday, making for three endorsements in the past week.

“I met Aakash Patel while he was a student at Florida State University working in Student Government and a member of the Seminole Torchbearers, an organization which acknowledges and encourages leaders at FSU to continue their exceptional service through leadership in the community,” Traviesa said.

“I know that Aakash will uphold these leadership standards when he serves on the Hillsborough County Commission. I look forward to his implementation of conservative principles on the Commission to improve our economy, our tourist industry and education opportunities for our children. I am pleased to endorse Aakash Patel in his race for County Commission.”

The endorsement from Traviesa, who represented South Tampa in the House from 2004 to 2008, follows a pair of high-profile backers announced by the Patel campaign over the past week. On Friday, House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced his support for the Republican businessman. Attorney General Pam Bondi did the same Tuesday.

“It is an honor to have the support of such an inspirational leader and friend, Trey Traviesa. He has long served our community and I look forward to working with him when I serve on the Hillsborough County Commission,” Patel said.

Patel, who runs business consulting firm Elevate Inc., is running for the countywide District 7 seat currently held by retiring Commissioner Al Higginbotham.

Before entering that race, Patel was a candidate for the District 1 seat held by Commissioner Sandy Murman, who was expected to resign her seat early and make her own run in District 7.

After a year in the District 1 race, Patel raised $351,149 for his campaign and another $109,525 for his political committee, Elevate Tampa. He had more than $270,000 of that money in the bank on May 31.

He is one of ten candidates vying for the open seat, though only Republican attorney Todd Marks — also a former District 1 candidate — and Democrat Kimberly Overman have posted any substantive fundraising numbers.

Also running are Democrats Ray ChiaramonteCharles Davis IIIMark NashCorey Reynolds and Sky White as well as Republican Cherie Denham and Green Party candidate Kim O’Connor.

Only Chiaramonte, Patel and White had qualified for the ballot as of early Thursday afternoon. The qualifying deadline is noon Friday.

The District 7 seat will be on the 2018 ballot alongside Districts 2, 4 and 5, all three of which feature an incumbent Republican running for re-election.

Turkey re-ups Ballard Partners lobbying contract

Ballard Partners added a load of lobbying clients after an expansion to Washington D.C. last year; one of the biggest was pleased enough to ink another contract with the firm.

In mid-2017, the Turkish government inked a $1.5 million deal with the firm aimed at improving US-Turkey relations and promoting the country’s public image by highlighting its role as an energy hub and its efforts fighting terrorism.

Though the bonds between Ankara and Washington hit a speed bump due to tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump, the transcontinental state is happy enough with progress in other venues to stay the course with Ballard.

The new contract is a little lighter, however, measuring in at $750,000 a year.

Brian Ballard chaired the Trump Victory organization in Florida during the 2016 presidential campaign. After Trump’s election, Ballard Partners expanded its operations to Washington, picking up more than $3.5 million in deals with major Capitol Hill clients, including AmazonSprint and Uber.

Ballard’s reputation as one of the few lobbyists close Trump helped the firm land contracts with several nations looking for help understanding and communicating with the new administration, including Turkey as well as the Dominican Republic, Qatar and the Maldives.

The renewed contract with the Turkish government comes a week after Ballard Partners added two new clients to its Washington roster — Deerfield Beach-based health technology company Sentry Data Systems and Egyptian car importer ARTOC Auto.

Las Vegas woman says Jaguars player assaulted her at Lutz mansion

A Las Vegas woman is accusing Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Marcell Dareus of a sexual assault from January 2017.

In a civil lawsuit filed in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, Adrianna Cravin, 37, says she was at AJA Channelside nightclub early last year when a man approached her and invited her to the “VIP section,” where she met Dareus and others. After a couple of hours, Dareus invited her to a party at a mansion he was renting in Lutz

She accepted the invitation and once at the party — which purportedly featured a DJ, a dozen strippers, cocaine, marijuana and other NFL players — Cravin said she gravitated toward the kitchen, where the man who introduced her to Dareus made her a drink she insinuates was drugged.

She says she remembers Dareus groping her in the kitchen and telling him to stop, but at some point, she “blacked out.” The lawsuit says Cravin awoke the next morning next to an unclothed Dareus and “began to immediately realize that there had been sexual physical acts upon her person.” She then “hurriedly straightened her clothes and ran frantically out of the room.”

Cravin is seeking monetary damages for the alleged assault. She did not report the incident to law enforcement at the time, nor did she visit a doctor in the days following the alleged sexual assault.

Dareus’ attorneys seized on those facts in a motion to throw out Cravin’s complaint. They say her three filing — the original, and two amended versions — are “replete with typographical errors, factual inconsistencies and incorrect statements of law, and fails to allege facts necessary to satisfy the required elements of the two claims brought against Mr. Dareus—assault and battery.”

According to online records from the Las Vegas Justice Court, Cravin was cited in 2003 for soliciting prostitution and in 2007 for DUI.

Dareus’ history includes a couple of arrests as well. In 2014 he was arrested for felony drug possession in Alabama, and for reckless driving and reckless endangerment in New York stemming from a car race. He has also been benched multiple times during his NFL career for violations of the league’s substance abuse policy.

The Buffalo Bills drafted 28-year-old player third overall in the 2011 NFL draft. In 2017, he was traded to the Jaguars.

The filing is below.

aaron bean

Aaron Bean earns backing of Florida Retail Federation

Republican Sen. Aaron Bean, who faces challengers on all sides in his 2018 re-election bid, got a boost Thursday by way of an endorsement from the Florida Retail Federation.

The retail trade group highlighted the Fernandina Beach lawmaker’s help voting down a bill to increase the “felony threshold limit” — the value of goods an individual must steal before they can be charged with felony theft.

“Senator Bean’s support of Sunshine State retailers has been instrumental particularly in fighting to ensure the felony threshold wasn’t raised and expanding access to healthcare to help protect Florida families,” said FRF President/CEO R. Scott Shalley. “Our members are appreciative of the Senators’ efforts, and we know we can count on his continued support when he returns to the Florida Senate.”

The FRF endorsement also touted Bean’s background in elected office as well as his public service, including holding a board seat with the First Coast YMCA, Big Brothers & Big Sisters and the United Way.

Challenging Bean for the District 4 seat this year are Democrat Billie Bussard, Republican Carlos Slay and Libertarian Joanna Liberty Tavares.

When it comes to Bussard and Tavares, Bean has SD 4’s heavy Republican tilt in his corner. When it comes to Slay, who went negative from the jump, Bean is looking to out-campaign him the old-fashioned way — door knocking and fundraising.

Bean is in good shape on the fundraising front. As of May 31, he had more than $100,000 banked for his campaign with another $72,000 at the ready in his affiliated political committee. None of his opponents have posted a campaign finance report.

Treasure Coast House seats draw new candidates

Another pair of candidates filed Wednesday for two open state House seats in the Treasure Coast region.

Jensen Beach Democrat Matt Theobald put his name down for House District 83, a Republican-leaning seat that covers part of Martin and St. Lucie counties.

HD 83 is currently held by Stuart Republican Rep. Gayle Harrell, who is term-limited in the House and is running to succeed Senate President Joe Negron in SD 25.

Theobald, a high school social studies teacher, is the only Democrat in ­­the race. He’ll face the winner of the Republican primary between attorney Sasha Dadan and businessman Toby Overdorf.

Since filing in March 2017, Overdorf has raised more than $70,000 with more than $40,000 still on hand. Dadan, who joined the race in late May, pulled in $15,000 in her first report. Almost all of that remains available.

Only Dadan had qualified for the ballot as of Wednesday afternoon.

Also on Wednesday, Fort Pierce Democrat Kim Johnson filed for House District 84 which has now added its second new candidate in as many days.

HD 84 is a swing seat currently held by Democratic Rep. Larry Lee, who is not running for re-election in the fall.

Johnson joins Forest Blanton, Delores Hogan Johnson and Robert Joseph in the Democratic primary. On the Republican side, Mark Gotz is squaring off against Teri Pinney, who filed Tuesday.

While Blanton and Gotz are the only two candidates qualified for the ballot, Johnson and Joseph are the only ones who’ve been around long enough to turn in a campaign finance report. As of May 31, Johnson had about $4,100 banked; Joseph had about $875.

Qualifying for state races ends noon Friday.

Kayser Enneking

Kayser Enneking endorsed by Equality Florida, AFL-CIO

Democrat Kayser Enneking rolled out a one-two punch on the endorsement front this week for her bid to unseat Republican Sen. Keith Perry in Senate District 8.

On Monday evening, the Gainesville physician landed a nod from the political committee tied to LGBTQ rights organization Equality Florida.

“Equality Florida Action PAC endorses Kayser Enneking in the election for Senate District 8,” the group said in a Facebook post. “Kayser is running one of the most competitive challenges to an anti-equality incumbent in the state and has earned a 100 percent score on the Equality Florida Action PAC candidate questionnaire.

“Kayser has committed to fight on day one to pass statewide non-discrimination protections for our community and to preserve marriage equality from attacks. Equality Florida Action PAC is proud to endorse Kayser Enneking in this critical and competitive race for Florida Senate District 8.”

The legislation Equality Florida is referring to would add LGBTQ protections to the 1992 Florida Civil Rights Act. It has been a priority for the group and numerous business interests for years but failed to get a committee hearing in the 2018 Legislative Session.

Enneking accepted the endorsement via Twitter shortly after it rolled out Monday evening.

On Wednesday, the Enneking campaign picked up the endorsement of the Florida AFL-CIO, which represents more than 500 labor unions and 1 million Florida workers.

In addition to the endorsement, a local AFL-CIO-affiliated group plans to hold a canvassing event in the Gainesville-based district in the coming weeks where union members will “be knocking on doors and making sure our members know that Senator Keith Perry is bad for working families and talking about our endorsed candidate Dr. Kayser Enneking.”

Enneking, a first-time candidate, is the leading Democrat running against Perry, who was elected to the Florida Senate two years ago after serving three terms in the Florida House.

Also running for the Democratic nomination is Olysha Magruder, a former schoolteacher who now works for Johns Hopkins University as an instructional designer.

As of May 31, Perry led in fundraising with $411,000 in the bank between his campaign and political committee. Enneking followed with about $306,000 on hand between her two accounts while Magruder started June with a little over $9,000 on hand.

SD 8 is one of a handful of districts that became more favorable to Democrats after the Senate map was redrawn ahead of the 2016 elections.

Despite Democrats holding a 9-point advantage in voter registrations, Perry ended up defeating Democratic nominee Rod Smith, a former state Senator and Florida Democratic Party chair, by 4 points on Election Day. SD 8 also voted in favor of Donald Trump, though by just two-tenths of a point.

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