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.

Outlier or not, new poll gives Ron DeSantis a 20 point lead(!) over Adam Putnam

If the Republican primary for Governor were today, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis would win in a blowout.

A new survey conducted by St. Pete Polls found the Ponte Vedra Republican pulling a full 50 percent of likely GOP primary voters while the heretofore frontrunner, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, is registering at 30 percent.

About one in six Republican primary voters said they were undecided.

The new poll more than corroborates a measure from Fabrizio-Lee released earlier Tuesday that found DeSantis up 42-30 over Putnam, not to mention the many internal polls Team DeSantis has touted in recent weeks.

There is no bright spot for Putnam in this poll.

While the Bartow Republican was seen as favorable by 49 percent of those polled, his otherwise enviable plus-27 rating pales in comparison to DeSantis, who came in at 61-11 on the fave/unfave question.

Perhaps more noteworthy is the towing capacity of President Donald Trump’s endorsement, which is undoubtedly DeSantis’ biggest asset in the race to replace Gov. Rick Scott.

When asked if they would be more likely to support a candidate who was endorsed by Trump, Republican primary voters answered resoundingly in the affirmative — nearly two-thirds said yes, while only 21 percent said no and 14 percent were undecided.

DeSantis leads among every slice and subset of Republican voter.

White Republicans prefer him 50-31, and that lead expands to 50-17 among black Republicans. He leads 52-30 among Republican men and 48-30 among Republican women. By age, the youngest voters swing plus-14 for DeSantis and that’s the closest it gets — among the 70-plus crowd DeSantis laps Putnam 52-26.

Despite Putnam spending millions on TV ads since he rolled out his first in late April, DeSantis also holds a double-digit lead in every region from Pensacola to Palm Beach barring Tallahassee, which preferred Putnam 48-38.

The automated phone poll was conducted July 16 and 17 and took responses from 1,709 Republican primary voters who said they planned to vote in the Aug. 28 primary election. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

FMA says Thad Altman is just what the doctor ordered for HD 52

The political arm of the Florida Medical Association announced Tuesday that it’s backing Indialantic state Rep. Thad Altman for another term in Brevard County’s House District 52.

“The FMA PAC is proud to support Rep. Thad Altman for re-election. Rep. Altman has worked closely with the FMA on many issues during his time in both the House and Senate and we hope to continue that collaboration with him in the future,” said committee president Mike Patete.

The FMA backing comes a week after the Florida Realtors re-upped their endorsement of the longtime Republican lawmaker for the 2018 cycle. He also recently got the nod from the Space Coast Business Force alongside Sen. Dorothy Hukill and state Rep. Rene Plasencia.

“It is a distinct honor to have the endorsement of the Florida Medical Association. The pursuit of medicine is one of the highest callings one can work towards and requires a sense of selflessness and compassion that physicians possess. We often count on doctors in some of the toughest moments of our lives, and I am honored that they have chosen to count on me in the Florida Legislature.” Altman said.

Altman has been in Legislature for 15 years. He was elected to the House in a 2003 special election and moved up to the Senate in 2008. After hitting term limits in the upper chamber, made returned to the House in 2016.

This cycle, Altman is up against Melbourne Republican Matt Nye in the Aug. 28 primary election and, if he proves successful, Melbourne Democrat Seeta Durjan Begui in the Nov. 6 general election.

As of July 6, Altman led the money race with nearly $40,000 raised and $30,220 in the bank. Nye has raised $18,105 and has $8,860 in his war chest, while Begui has raised about $2,000 and anteed up $3,550 in candidate loans for an on-hand total of $4,320 after seven weeks on the trail.

HD 52 covers the middle third of Brevard, from Viera in the north to Melbourne Beach in the south.

The district has a large Republican advantage, with GOP voters making up 46 percent of the electorate compared to a 28 percent share for Democrats. Altman went unopposed in the 2016 general election, though Donald Trump easily carried the seat with 58 percent of the vote.

Berny Jacques - TV ad

Berny Jacques tees up first TV ad for HD 66 bid

Just days after his Republican primary rival hit the airwaves, Berny Jacques is rolling out his own TV ad in the race to succeed term-limited state Rep. Larry Ahern in House District 66.

“For over a year now, our campaign has been talking directly with the voters of Pinellas, spreading our message of principled conservatism and our shared goals of holding government accountable,” Jacques said. “I am excited to release our first TV spot discussing these values; that of constitutional conservatism, support for President Donald Trump, and ensuring our nation’s laws are followed.”

The 30-second ad, titled “A Conservative We Can Trust,” indeed touches on most of the issues du jour for Republican primary voters set to the backdrop of Jacques speaking with Pinellas voters at a picnic table, working behind a desk and even holding a baby.

“As a former prosecutor, I know what it takes to keep us safe from criminals. Now, I want to protect Pinellas from politicians who are doing harm to our country,” Jacques says in the ad.

A narrator then takes the reins to tout the Seminole attorney’s conservative credentials.

“Constitutional Conservative Berny Jacques. He’s A rated by the NRA and supports Term limits. Berny Jacques is a former prosecutor who supports President Trump and will fight illegal immigration and ban sanctuary cities in Florida,” the ad says.

“Together let’s hold politicians accountable,” Jacques says in closing.

Jacques faces Belleair Bluffs businessman Nick DiCeglie in the Republican primary for HD 66, a coastal Pinellas seat that covers part of Clearwater as well as Belleair Bluffs, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores and Seminole.

Democratic candidate Alex Heeren, a schoolteacher, has already locked up his party’s nomination without opposition.

Through July 6, Jacques led the money race with more than $200,000 raised, including $123,680 in hard money and another $81,100 for his affiliated political committee, Protect Pinellas. He has $140,692 in the bank. DiCeglie is nearly even with Jacques in hard money fundraising with $122,256 raised, though with $65,555 in his campaign account, his war chest is less than half the size of his rival’s.

Heeren is a distant third in fundraising with $26,176 in receipts and $9,367 at the ready.

HD 66 has a Republican lean. Ahern has held the seat since it was redrawn in 2012, when he won re-election by 6 points. His next two re-election bids ended in double-digit wins, and Trump had similar success in 2016, when he carried the district 55-41.

The primary election is Aug. 28. The general election is Nov. 6.

Jacques’ ad is below.

Aakash Patel rolls out first ad for Hillsborough Commission bid

Republican Aakash Patel announced Tuesday that the first TV ad backing his Hillsborough County Commission campaign is already hitting the airwaves.

The 30-second spot, entitled “A Better Hillsborough,” features a half dozen Hillsborough residents saying what they are looking for out of the next commissioner to hold the countywide District 7 seat.

“My county commissioner should be a trusted conservative, who protects our values and has always fought for Hillsborough,” the residents say. “I don’t want a career politician. I want someone who will fix the term limit loophole, so they actually work. My commissioner should want what we want: Less traffic, more jobs and the best education for our children.”

The ad then turns over to Patel, who says that “together we can work toward a better Hillsborough County.”

In a press release announcing the ad, Patel thanked Terry Castro of Patriots 4 Trump, Marsha Craig of Tampa Republican Women Federated and Jake Hoffman of Tampa Bay Young Republicans for volunteering to appear in the campaign ad.

“I continue to be humbled by the outpouring of support for my campaign. I want to express my sincere gratitude to these Hillsborough Voters who have come out and publicly supported me. These are only a few of the ever-increasing number of supporters we are gaining as we move toward Election Day,” Patel said.

Patel, who runs a business consulting firm, is running against attorney Todd Marks in the Aug. 28 Republican primary. Also running are Democrats Ray Chiaramonte, Mark Nash, Kimberly Overman and Sky White as well as Green Party candidate Kim O’Connor.

Through July 6, Patel led the money race with more than $364,000 raised for his campaign and about $130,000 in the bank. He also had another $75,570 on hand in an affiliated political committee, Elevate Tampa.

The only other candidate to crack the six-figure mark in fundraising is Marks, who like Patel was a candidate for the District 1 seat held by Commissioner Sandra Murman before switching over to the District 7 seat held by retiring commissioner Al Higginbotham.

As of July 6, Marks had raised $108,768 in hard money and had $99,365 in the bank.

Patel’s ad is below.

Tom Steyer’s ‘NextGen Climate’ opens state-level political committee

A group connected to activist Tom Steyer has opened a state-level political committee, signaling that the San Francisco billionaire has more plans for the Sunshine State in 2018.

NextGen Climate Action Committee was added to the Florida Division of Elections political committee database on Tuesday. The national version of the climate change-focused group is one of many operating under Steyer’s “NextGen America” banner.

The committee listing for the Florida spinoff names Chris Fadeff as chairman. Fadeff serves as the chief financial officer and vice president of legal for NextGen America. He has worked for the advocacy group since 2013, the year it was founded.

The committee’s treasurer is Rita Copeland, who holds the same position at the national NextGen Climate Action Committee according to Federal Elections Commission records.

Both Fadeff and Copeland list their address as a Washington DC office belonging to international law firm Perkins Coie, which represents a number of corporate and political clients, including serving as counsel to Hillary Clinton during her 2016 presidential campaign.

Carly Cass, who serves as youth organizing director of NextGen Florida, is listed as the new committee’s registered agent. The Tampa-based operative is the committee’s only listed officer with a Florida address.

Florida Politics reached out to the contact number listed by the committee but did not receive a response.

Back in February, Following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, NextGen alongside two other anti-gun violence activist groups announced they’d spend $1 million to register eligible high schoolers to vote.

In March, Steyer said NextGen America would to spend as much as $3.5 million in the 2018 cycle to register, engage and turn out young voters across the state of Florida. The group also announced it aimed to defend Florida’s 7th Congressional District, held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, and flip Florida’s 18th Congressional District, held by Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast.

Last month, NextGen America announced it was backing Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the Democratic primary for Governor and that it would put $1 million behind his bid — $500,000 via a grant from Steyer to Gillum’s political committee, Forward Florida, with the other half coming from elsewhere.

That adds up to $5.5 million in commitments this cycle, and with the new political committee there could be more announcements on the way.

Kristen Carlson - CD 15

Kristen Carlson tops CD 15 field in Q2 fundraising while Ross Spano goes on spending spree

Florida’s 15th Congressional District is a safe Republican seat by nearly every metric, but that didn’t stop Lakeland Democrat Kristen Carlson from outraising the 10 other candidates vying to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross.

Carlson, a former prosecutor and former general counsel to the Florida Department of Citrus, raised just shy of $250,000 during the two months she was a candidate in the second quarter. According to her campaign, about $100,000 of that cash came in during her first two weeks in the race.

While her total includes $50,000 in candidate loans and about $25,000 in candidate contributions, her $174,158 in outside fundraising would still best the total haul of any of the five Republicans running for the seat — former Auburndale state Rep. Neil Combee, Sean Harper, Danny Kushmer, Ed Shoemaker and Dover state Rep. Ross Spano.

Carlson’s $56,000 in expenditures included a $17,580 direct mail campaign, $16,000 in payroll as well as the $10,440 qualifying fee. She finished Q2 with $192,731 in the bank, $84,500 ahead of Spano, the next-closest candidate.

Spano, who hails from the Hillsborough County portion of the tri-county district, brought in $112,068 in outside money and kicked in another $45,000 in loans for a grand total of $157,068.

The Dover Republican shelled out $50,500 during his first 10 weeks in the race, including $14,000 in email and digital marketing, $11,000 in consulting contracts, the qualifying fee, $6,405 in campaign signage and more than $1,200 in credit card processing fees.

But the spending didn’t stop there — Spano’s campaign also took on another $43,000 in debt from a half-dozen consulting shops. More than half that sum is owed to Brandon-based Momentum Strategy Group, which provided $24,685 worth of campaign management, printing, catering and advertising services, but consultants near and far have some invoices waiting for payment.

Dover-based LGM Consulting Group is owed $7,500 for email work; Texas-based Prevail Strategies is owed $4,700 for consulting work and travel expenses; Virginia-based KB Strategic Group is owed $2,000 for fundraising consulting; Tallahassee-based Strategic Government Consulting is owed $1,900 for survey work; Tallahassee-based Bulldog Strategy Group is owed $1,500 for communications consulting; and Plant City-based Fryed Egg Productions is owed $750 for media production.

In all, Spano’s spending spree left him with $108,275 banked and $88,025 in debt at the end of the quarter.

Combee, the first-in Republican, bested Spano in outside fundraising with $128,515 raised without whipping out his own checkbook, and all but two of his 114 contributions came from within the Sunshine State and only $2,500 of his total came from political committees.

Spending measured in at $44,000 and included the qualifying fee, $10,000 in payroll, $6,768 in signage, $2,540 in software and voter data, $2,350 in advertising and $1,000 for a campaign website. The Combee campaign took on a bit of debt, but nowhere near the level of Spano — Strategic Image Management is owed about $5,700 for consulting work and campaign shirts.

Combee, who hails from the Polk County portion of CD 15, finished Q2 with $86,163 in the bank and $5,683 in debt.

The only other candidate to crack six figures for the quarter was Valrico Democrat Andrew Learned, who filed for CD 15 well before Ross’ retirement announcement.

Learned, a U.S. Navy veteran and businessman, tacked on $100,622 in the second quarter for a to-date fundraising total of $223,618. His total includes $2,000 in candidate contributions and $4,000 from political committees, with the rest of his campaign cash coming in from individual donors.

His campaign also reported nearly $74,000 in expenses for the quarter, the most of any candidate in the race. That outflow included $18,500 for fundraising and campaign coordination, the qualifying fee, $5,325 in consulting work and $2,000 in web or social media work.

Learned finished the quarter with $65,400 in the bank and $2,000 in debt. The remaining candidates trailed considerably behind the top-4 fundraisers.

Harper, a Lakeland businessman, raised $82,541 and had $43,314 in the bank on June 30, including $15,500 in loans. Kushmer, a Brandon businessman, reported $75,837 in fundraising and had $54,039 banked, including $52,000 in loans, heading into July. Shoemaker, also a Lakeland mental health practitioner, brought in $17,387 of outside money and finished Q2 with $3,035 on hand.

Ray Pena, the third Democrat in the race, has not yet posted his second-quarter report. At the end of Q1 he was $7,500 in the hole.

CD 15 is split between Hillsborough and Polk counties, with about 10 percent of the district’s voters living in Lake County. The district, which voted plus-10 for Donald Trump two years ago, is rated “likely Republican” by Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the prediction newsletter from University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato.

The primary election is Aug. 28. The general election is Nov. 6.

ardian zika family

Two more police unions back Ardian Zika for HD 37

Land O’ Lakes Republican Ardian Zika announced Monday that two chapters of the Florida Police Benevolent Association have endorsed his bid to succeed House Speaker Richard Corcoran in Pasco County’s House District 37.

“The West Central Florida Political Benevolent Association and the Tampa Police Benevolent Association is proud to inform you of our endorsement for your candidacy for State House Representative, District 37,” West Central Florida PBA president Nick Marolda and Tampa PBA president Abe Carmack said in a joint statement.

The two PBA chapters join the Pasco County branch of the Fraternal Order of Police in backing Zika, a businessman who immigrated to the U.S. from Kosovo in the 1990s. He has also been endorsed Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco, who announced his support alongside Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano in May.

“I am honored to have the endorsement of the women and men of law enforcement, who put their lives on the line each and every day, for us,” said Ardian Zika. “Our community respects, values and trusts these law enforcement professionals and I am humbled to have earned their confidence and support. No one will fight harder for law enforcement, first responders and their families in our state capitol.”

Zika faces Ryan Patrick Boney and Elle Rudisill in the Republican Primary, while Tammy Garcia has already locked up the Democratic nomination.

As of July 6, Zika held a massive lead in the money race with more than $195,000 raised and nearly $168,000 in the bank. No other candidate has cracked the $15,000 mark in total fundraising.

HD 37 covers the majority of inland Pasco County, including the communities of Land O’ Lakes, Odessa, Heritage Pines, Shady Hills, Meadow Oaks and Moon Lake. It is a safe Republican seat.

Dana Young lands firefighter support in SD 18

Two firefighter unions announced Monday that they were backing Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young in her re-election bid for Senate District 18.

The Florida Professional Firefighters and Tampa Firefighters Local 754 are the latest first responder groups to endorse Young, who had previously earned the support of several other first responder groups, including five police unions.

“The 25,000 men and women of the Florida Professional Firefighters and Paramedics are proud to endorse Senator Dana Young for re-election,” said Rocco Salvatori, vice president of the Florida Professional Firefighters. “She stands up for Firefighters in the Florida Senate, and we proudly stand with her.”

“We as representatives of Tampa Firefighters, Local 754, take great pleasure in endorsing your candidacy for 2018 Florida State Senate, District 18,” said Tampa Firefighters President Stephen Suarez and secretary Ken Huff in a joint statement.

In accepting the endorsements, Young said, “Floridians around the state and in our Tampa community depend on Florida’s first responders to be the first on the scene when there is an emergency, and as a lawmaker, it is my duty to ensure we have their back as well.

“During my time in the Florida Legislature, I have supported measures to benefit the men and women who are committed to the safety and protection of our state, and I am proud to have earned the support of both the Florida Professional Firefighters and Paramedics and the Tampa Firefighters, Local 754.”

Young is up against House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in November, and recent polls show the pair in a dead heat with Cruz holding a slim edge.

In fundraising, however, Young is far outperforming her challenger.

Young currently holds a better than 3-to-1 lead in cash on hand, with more than $315,000 of hard money in the bank and another $1.05 million on hand in her political committee, Friends of Dana Young, as of July 6. Through the same date, Cruz had $400,472 between her campaign account and political committee, Building the Bay PC.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Florida Retailers back Mel Ponder for re-election

The Florida Retail Federation announced Friday that it was backing Destin Republican Rep. Mel Ponder’s re-election bid in Okaloosa County’s House District 4.

“Representative Ponder is a successful small business owner and fought on behalf of the thousands of other small business owners throughout Florida during his first term in the House,” said FRF President/CEO R. Scott Shalley. “His efforts to protect Floridians and fellow small business owners by supporting pro-business legislation are issues we look forward to him continuing to work on in his return to the Florida House.”

Ponder runs a business that trains local business leaders and individuals, as well as ministers and others of faith to make a difference in their communities. He also works as a real estate agent.

The FRF endorsement comes the same week that Ponder made the Florida Realtor’s list of lawmakers it’s backing in the 2018 cycle.

Ponder is currently in his first term representing HD 4, which covers all but the northern reaches of Okaloosa County. He faces Valparaiso Democrat Rebecca Koelzer in the Nov. 6 general election.

As of July 6, Ponder was far ahead in fundraising, with more than $105,000 raised and nearly $65,000 in the bank for his re-election campaign. Koelzer, who filed in just ahead of the qualifying deadline, has raised $70 and kicked in another $2,000 via candidate loans.

HD 4 is a safe Republican seat. Ponder’s only opponent in 2016 was write-in candidate Christopher Eugene Schwantz, who holds the distinction of being the only candidate to compete against the Republican nominee in the district since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections.

The seat also voted plus-44 for President Donald Trump two years ago.

Stephen Sevigny

Stephen Sevigny adds $350K, union endorsement in CD 6

Ormond Beach Democrat Stephen Sevigny said this week that his campaign for Florida’s 6th Congressional District reeled in another $350,000 during the second quarter.

Sevigny’s haul bests his first-quarter fundraising numbers by $100,000 and brings him to around $600,000 in total fundraising since he entered the race in midway through Q1.

The campaign didn’t say whether the Q2 report includes any candidate contributions — the Q1 report was bolstered by $50,000 in loans from Sevigny — but it did say that it had more than $350,000 banked at the end of June. That indicates campaign spending measured in at around $225,000 between April 1 and June 30.

Sevigny, a physician, took to twitter to celebrate the fundraising success as well as a recent endorsement his campaign picked up from a local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

IBEW 756 said its membership voted to endorse Sevigny for the First Coast congressional seat after hearing from all three Democratic contenders — Sevigny, former U.S. Ambassador Nancy Soderberg and John Upchurch — at the labor union’s monthly meeting.

“Steve earned our support with his passion for healthcare, education, and our community. Working families need a friend in Congress they can rely on to put people before profits, and Steve Sevigny is that person,” said Dan Hunt, IBEW 756’s business manager.

Sevigny’s fundraising puts him firmly in the No. 2 spot, fundraising wise, in the race for the Democratic nomination.

Soderberg, who has been in the race since July 2017, announced this week that she had nearly $1 million in the bank at the end of the second quarter. Her campaign has raised close to $1.5 million so far. Upchurch had raised about $258,000, including $40,000 in candidate loans, at the end of June. He has about $172,000 on hand.

CD 6 is a Republican-leaning seat, though the odds of it flipping went up significantly after current U.S Rep. Ron DeSantis announced he would seek the Republican nomination for Governor rather than run for re-election.

Three Republicans are vying to succeed DeSantis: Former state Rep. Fred Costello, Fox News personality Michael Waltz and businessman John Ward.

Waltz broke the $1 million mark with his Q2 report. He’s put $400,000 of his money down so far, and has about $617,000 in the bank. Costello tacked on $43,000 in contributions and $100,000 in loans in his Q2 report, which showed him with $51,000 banked on June 30.

The only report still outstanding is Ward’s. Ward, who has the capacity and willingness to self-fund, had raised over $900,000 with over $700,000 on hand, back at the end of March. His total includes $555,000 in candidate loans.

CD 6 covers a stretch of Florida’s east coast, including southern St. Johns County, northeastern Lake County and the whole of Flagler and Volusia counties.

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