Drew Wilson, Author at Florida Politics - Page 2 of 174

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.

Senate Presidents endorse Denise Grimsley for Agriculture Commissioner

Senate President Joe Negron and a half-dozen of his predecessors announced Thursday that they were backing Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley in the Republican primary for Agriculture Commissioner.

“Denise undeniably has the best experience and background to be Florida’s next Commissioner of Agriculture,” said Negron, who is leaving the Senate effective Election Day. “I am proud to lend her my full endorsement and support, and look forward to seeing her continue to connect with voters around the state as she shares her compelling story of growing up in agriculture and becoming a nurse, businesswoman and lawmaker.”

Joining Negron were his three immediate predecessors, former Sens. Andy Gardiner, Don Gaetz and Mike Haridopolos, who, taken together, have headed the Florida Senate for the entirety of the 2010s. Also backing Grimsley were former Senate Presidents Ken Pruitt (2006-08), John McKay (2000-02), and Jim Scott (1994-96).

“Many of us, having worked in the Florida Legislature alongside Denise, have seen firsthand her determination and passion to help make Florida a better place to live and work for all Floridians,” said Gaetz, who served as Senate President during Grimsley’s first two years in the Florida Senate.

Gardiner added that Grimsley’s “background in health care, in management of a business and as a compassionate conservative will give all Floridians a caring voice,” while Haridopolos said Grimsley “was a force in the Florida Legislature and she’ll be a force in the cabinet.”

“Her management and budget experience both in the Legislature and in business gives her an unmatched ability to expertly lead the Florida Department of Agriculture and  Consumer Services,” Haridopolos continued.

Like Haridopolos’ tenure, Pruitt’s time as Senate President aligned with Grimsley’s service in the Florida House, where she represented Collier, Glades, Hendry and Highlands County in the old House District 77.

“Denise Grimsley is battle tested and ready to step into the role of Commissioner of Agriculture and I am proud to lend her my endorsement,” Pruitt said.  “She knows just how important agriculture is to Florida because she grew up in it, most importantly, she has a plan for its future that will ensure future generations of farmers and ranchers will prosper.”

McKay’s and Scott’s terms came before Grimsley’s first election, but nonetheless, they were impressed with her background and her 14-year record as a lawmaker.

“I grew up in the same part of the state that Denise did and I know much of her strength comes from being a daughter of Florida’s Heartland,” McKay said. “We need a thoughtful fiscal conservative on our Cabinet, a person who will fairly listen to all views and truly represent our best future, so I am pleased to endorse Denise Grimsley for Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services.”

Negron and the past Senate Presidents join incoming Senate President Bill Galvano and his likely successor, Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, in endorsing Grimsley for Agriculture Commissioner. She recently landed support from another nine sitting Senators, making for 12 of the 22 sitting Republican Senators, excluding herself, who have signed on in support of her statewide bid.

“I am honored to have the support of so many experienced leaders who have dedicated themselves to serving our state’s citizens by determinedly leading the Florida Senate,” Grimsley said. “As a mother and grandmother, businesswoman and legislator, and the fifth-generation Floridian in my family to be involved in agriculture, I know that the hard work to improve our state isn’t done yet; and, I am grateful to this esteemed group of servant leaders who have endorsed my campaign.”

Outside of legislative support, Grimsley has picked up endorsements from dozens of local officials, 36 current county sheriffs, the Fraternal Order of PoliceFlorida Professional Firefighters, the Florida Realtors and the Florida Medical Association, among many others.

Grimsley faces Lehigh Acres Rep. Matt Caldwell, retired U.S. Army Col. Mike McCalister and former Winter Haven Rep. Baxter Troutman in the Republican primary.

Caldwell and Grimsley are the standouts on the Republican side, with Caldwell also announcing endorsements by the truckload — his most recent bulk endorsement came in from 16 county constitutional officers, with other nods including the National Rifle Association and several of his Republican colleagues in the state House.

Grimsley, who recently released her first TV ad, leads the primary race in true fundraising with $2.65 million in outside cash raised since she entered the race in February 2017. She also currently holds the cash lead with more than $1.1 million in the bank between her campaign account and two political committees, Saving Florida’s Heartland and Let’s Grow Florida.

Caldwell, meanwhile, has also broken the $2 million mark since entering the race in April 2017 and had a little over $1 million in the bank at last check-in.

Troutman, however, has pumped $3 million into his campaign fund and raised about $500,000 in outside cash, though his high burn rate has left him with just $322,500 on hand as of Aug. 3. McCalister, for his part, has raised just $22,604, including nearly $19,000 in candidate loans.

The winner of the Republican nomination will move on to November when they’ll face one of three Democrats: lawyer Nikki Fried, Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter or South Florida Audubon Society President Roy David Walker.

Of the three, Fried has had the most success in fundraising and endorsements, with her most recent backers being Democratic U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist and Lois Frankel.

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

Ray Blacklidge up 25 points over Jeremy Bailie in HD 69 GOP primary

Madeira Beach lawyer Ray Blacklidge holds a better than 2-to-1 lead over St. Petersburg lawyer Jeremy Bailie according to a new poll of the two-way Republican primary for Pinellas County’s House District 69.

The St. Pete Polls survey found 48 percent of likely Republican primary voters were backing Blacklidge, while Bailie came in behind “undecided” with 23 percent support. The poll was conducted Aug. 13, just a few days after Bailie made negative headlines for swiping hand tags placed by Blacklidge canvassers.

Bailie has since apologized for the incident, which went semi-viral after a video recorded by a Blacklidge volunteer was posted to Facebook and YouTube.

The survey also found that 39 percent of Republicans had already cast their ballot in the primary race, and among that subset Blacklidge’s lead expanded to 35 points with 13 percent saying they were undecided. For the 61 percent of voters who’ve yet to cast their ballot but plan to vote, the spread is 42-21 in favor of Blacklidge with 37 percent unsure.

Blacklidge’s lead carries across both genders and among young voters, boomers, and seniors. The lone bright spot for Bailie came from 30- to 49-year-old Republicans, who favored him 36-27 with the balance undecided.

The pair are competing to fill the southern Pinellas County seat being vacated by Republican state Rep. Kathleen Peters, who is leaving the House after three terms to run for the District 6 seat on the Pinellas County Commission.

To date, Blacklidge has posted the better fundraising reports in the Republican primary, with more than $200,000 raised between his campaign and political committee, Friends of Ray Blacklidge. Including about $34,500 in self-funding, Blacklidge had more than $78,000 in the bank on Aug. 3.

Bailie, through the same date, had raised more than $76,000, including $6,125 in candidate contributions, and had a little over left $32,000 in his campaign account.

HD 69 covers part of southern Pinellas County including coastal communities from Redington Shores southward as well as a piece of mainland Pinellas. The district has a slim Republican advantage.

The winner of the Republican nomination will go up against Democratic nominee Jennifer Webb, who holds the overall cash lead with $160,000 raised and about $114,000 in the bank.

Webb was also the Democratic nominee in the 2016 cycle but lost to Peters by 13 points on Election Day. Peters, a former Mayor and Commissioner in South Pasadena, ran several points ahead of Donald Trump, who won the district by 3 points.

The automated phone poll took responses from 303 registered Republicans who said they planned to vote in the Aug. 28 primary election. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.6 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

Republican Governors Association starts spending spree in Florida

The GOP has held the Governor’s Mansion since the election of Jeb Bush in 1998, and the Republican Governors Association is spending big bucks to keep it that way.

According to newly filed campaign finance reports, electioneering communications organization Florida Facts received a $2.45 million cash infusion from the Republican Governors Association on Aug. 2, and it quickly put the money to work with a $2.12 million media buy through California-based Target Enterprises and another $225,000 in spending for “professional services,” likely media production, through that firm and Maryland-based OnMessage, Inc.

OnMessage has been the preferred media consulting shop for term-limited Gov. Rick Scott since he burst onto the political scene in 2010. In his two gubernatorial campaigns, Scott’s campaign and committee accounts paid the Annapolis firm more than $14.3 million.

Florida Facts, which shares an address with the HQ of the Republican Governors Association, finished the reporting period with just under $100,000 in the bank.

There are currently 33 Republican governors, including Scott, in office nationwide, and 26 of those Republican-held seats will be on the ballot in 2018. In its quest to shore up candidates ahead of a possible “blue wave,” the RGA has reeled in record-breaking fundraising hauls, including $113 million so far in the 2018 cycle.

In Florida, the winner of the Aug. 28 Republican primary between U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will be the beneficiary of the Republican Governors Association’s spending.

The eventual Republican nominee will go up against one of five Democrats running for the job, with former Congresswoman Gwen Graham and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine currently atop the polls heading into the final leg of the nominating contest.

The general election is Nov. 6.

Lauren Book speaks out on Pennsylvania report on childhood sexual abuse in the Catholic Church

A grand jury in Pennsylvania released a nearly 900-page report Tuesday detailing the results of an investigation into sexual abuse allegations in six of the state’s eight Roman Catholic Church dioceses.

The report claims there were at least 1,000 victims of sexual abuse, though it alleges there could be thousands more over the 70-year period the grand jury investigated.

State Sen. Lauren Book, herself a survivor of sexual abuse, released a statement on the grand jury’s findings Wednesday evening.

“The credible allegations of more than 1,000 victims of child sexual assault by Roman Catholic clergy throughout Pennsylvania are revolting. Over the course of 80 years, 300 predator priests were permitted to prey on their parishioners and their parishioners’ children, creating a scale of abuse never before documented,” Book said.

“We cannot tolerate a society that allows any institution, including religious institutions, to shield criminals. Instead of being held accountable for their actions, these predators were protected, even promoted, and their crimes hidden. The Roman Catholic Church harbored the predators they knew to be in their midst further perpetuating cycles of abuse. They simply moved these priests around where they were left to victimize a whole new set of children. The Roman Catholic Church is complicit in these crimes,” she continued.

“A blind eye was turned while one thousand — possibly many more — faceless victims were left to languish in their own personal purgatories with no voice, no justice and no help,” she continued.

“As one of 42 million survivors of child sexual abuse in America, I demand that justice is finally served to these priests and to the Roman Catholic Church for its role facilitating these crimes. If the Roman Catholic Church is interested in helping survivors heal and protecting the innocent, they will use their money and resources to establish a fund that will provide counseling to the victims and create programs that prevent child sexual abuse,” Book concluded.

Book, who was recently re-elected without opposition, was a victim of childhood sexual abuse for six years at the hands of her female nanny. In 2007 she founded the nonprofit organization Lauren’s Kids , which advocates on behalf of victims of child sex abuse.

During her brief time in the state Senate, she has addressed issues such as human trafficking, and co-sponsored a bill that would end child marriage in the state.

Charlie Crist, Lois Frankel endorse Nikki Fried for Agriculture Commissioner

Lawyer and medical marijuana activist Nikki Fried landed another pair of endorsements for her bid to take over as Agriculture Commissioner in the fall, this time from Democratic U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist and Lois Frankel.

“I’m thrilled about the prospect of Nikki Fried as Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture — she’s smart, prepared, and a tireless advocate for the people. We need Nikki elected to the Florida Cabinet to be a champion for rights, fairness, and progress,” said Crist, who recently sponsored a bipartisan bill to grant veterans and other federal workers access to medical marijuana without risking their jobs.

Frankel added: “It is exciting to see such a talented woman running for office in Florida. Nikki is someone we must elect to be the next Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services — a member of Florida’s Cabinet.”

Fried, 40, was a late entry into the statewide race, though her campaign has quickly picked up steam. To date, she has surpassed the combined fundraising total of her two Democratic primary opponents, Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter and South Florida Audubon Society President Roy David Walker.

In addition to Crist and Frankel, Fried has also landed endorsements from numerous Democratic politicians, most recently from former Congressman Patrick Murphy, with others coming in from former CFO Alex Sink, 25 state lawmakers, 33 county and municipal leaders, labor union SEIU, Ruth’s List, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, and others.

“It is incredible to have Congresswoman Frankel and Congressman Crist’s support. They have both been stalwarts for our environment, our water and for medical marijuana,” Fried said. “Like both of these leaders, I look forward to taking our fight to Tallahassee and putting an end to the disarray that the Republicans have put our state through for the last two decades.”

Fried, Porter, and Walker will duke it out in the Aug. 28 primary election, the winner of which will move on to face one of four Republicans vying for the position currently filled by term-limited Republican Adam Putnam, who is running for Governor.

Of the four Republicans, Lehigh Acres state Rep. Matt Caldwell and Sebring state Sen. Denise Grimsley, who recently rolled out her first TV adhave had the most success on the campaign trail and in fundraising.

Grimsley has raised $2.65 million since declaring for the race in February 2017 and currently holds the cash lead with more than $1.1 million in the bank between her campaign and political committees, Saving Florida’s Heartland and Let’s Grow Florida.

Caldwell has raised $2 million since entering the race in April 2017 and has $1.07 million on hand between his campaign and political committee, Friends of Matt Caldwell.

Fried, for her part, had raised about $256,000 between her campaign and Florida Consumers First political committee with $122,500 in the bank as of Aug. 3. She is likely to show a boost, however, thanks to a recent Orlando fundraiser hosted by Sink and Ruth’s List, as well as attorney and medical marijuana advocate John Morgan and Richard Swann, whose involvement in Democratic Party fundraising goes back decades.

Dana Young endorsed by Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

A pro-business group that represents the interests of more than 604,000 Hispanic-owned businesses in the Sunshine State said Wednesday that it’s backing Republican Sen. Dana Young’s re-election bid in Tampa-based Senate District 18.

“Senator Dana Young has the full endorsement of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and its statewide membership,” said Julio Fuentes, founder and president of FSHCC. “Senator Young’s leadership has benefited not just her constituents in her Tampa district, but Floridians across the state.

“Our chamber is very selective when it comes to endorsing candidates for office, but in Senator Young’s case, we were impressed with how she represented a diversity of interests and diversity of people,” Fuentes continued. “Dana Young has our support for re-election to the Florida Senate. We look forward to working with her on behalf of thousands of Hispanic business owners across the state.”

The Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is indeed selective in backing candidates, with the only other recent endorsement from the group heading to Rob Panepinto, a candidate for Orange County Mayor.

“To receive the backing of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and all of its members, is a true honor and I am extremely thankful to receive their overwhelming endorsement,” Young said. “Representing Senate District 18 in the Florida Senate, I have always taken into consideration all interests of our diverse community, and this is something that I will continue to do if re-elected to serve our area.

“I look forward to continuing to work with the FSHCC and the thousands of Hispanic business owners they represent to make sure their voices are heard and represented in Florida’s Capitol,” she concluded.

SD 18 covers northwestern Hillsborough County, including much of Tampa. According to the 2010 demographic profile of the district, about 30 percent of the district’s residents identify as Hispanic.

Young was elected to the seat in 2016, taking 48 percent of the vote in a four-way race against Democrat Bob Buesing and unaffiliated candidates Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove. In 2018, she faces a lone challenger: House Minority Leader Janet Cruz.

A poll released last month showed Young and Cruz in a tight race, with Cruz holding an inside the margin of error lead over the incumbent.

When it comes to fundraising, however, Young has gone gangbusters.

As of Aug. 3, she had more than $334,000 in hard money in the bank, with another $1.18 million at the ready in her affiliated political committee, Friends of Dana Young. Cruz, through the same date, had raised $169,500 in hard money and $273,200 in her committee, Building the Bay PC.

Neither Cruz nor Young face a primary opponent. The pair will go head-to-head in the Nov. 6 general election.

Floridians are leading the call for an NFL boycott, study shows

The NFL preseason has started, but along with the first taste of football in months came renewed calls for a boycott of the pro league over some player’s decision to kneel during the national anthem.

The issue is a divisive one. The players who kneel see their actions as a way to silently protest police brutality. To some, kneeling is seen as disrespectful to military veteran, the flag or the country. To other fans, it’s seen as a fair-game expression of free speech. And another subset questions why the anthem is played at all — NFL players being on the field for the anthem has only been standard practice since 2009.

Those fans who hate the protest had their outrage stoked by President Donald Trump, who has called for a boycott of the NFL if they don’t “fire or suspend” players who kneel. According to a new study from SportsBetting.ag, the offseason has done little to placate the most vocal among that crowd, many of whom live in the Sunshine State.

The online sports betting outfit found more than 75,000 geotagged tweets calling for a boycott — they sussed them out through the presence of hashtags such as #BoycottNFL, #BoycottTheNFL, and #BoycottNFLsponsors — and plotted them on a map of the United States.

The final results showed Florida had the highest volume of boycott-related tweets, with Maine, Mississippi, Arizona, Nevada rounding out the top-5.

The volume may be attributable to Florida being the third-most populous state or that it serves as home to three NFL franchises, however, the rest of the list insinuates having a team nearby has a negative correlation with boycott tweets.

Arizona, home to the Cardinals, was the only other high-tweet-volume state with an NFL franchise. Maine and Mississippi have no professional team in any of the four major sports and Nevada doesn’t have an NFL franchise either, though its set to be the new home of the Oakland Raiders in the next couple years.

California, home to four franchises, and New York, home to three (yes, two play in New Jersey), had a very low volume; Texas, home to two franchises, was barely lukewarm on the heatmap. Tennessee, home to the Titans, had a medium-high volume of tweets, though franchise-less states Alaska, Montana, Kentucky, New Mexico, South Carolina, Wyoming and West Virginia were the source of the same amount of Twitter outrage.

Time will tell whether the pre-season protesters follow through on a boycott with significant backing this season or if they cave and go back to spending their Sundays in front of the tube.

The map is below.

Mike Alvarez rolls out new digital ads in HD 62 primary

Tampa Democrat Mike Alvarez has launched a new digital ad campaign that contrasts his record against that of his chief rival in the Democratic primary for House District 62, School Board member Susan Valdes.

Sample ads provided by the campaign say that “District 62 has a choice,” with the one half of the ad featuring a full-color shot Alvarez and a caption saying he “hired people from our own neighborhoods,” and the opposite half featuring a red-tinted picture of Valdes and a caption saying she “fired people to protect her political career.”

The Alvarez campaign said the Valdes portion of the ad relates to a lawsuit filed by a former Hillsborough Schools employee who said she was fired after refusing to go along with an effort by Valdes’ to get one of her friends a district job. The Alvarez campaign also highlighted Valdes’ role in closing the school district’s construction department to avoid questions on shoddy work performed by campaign donors she steered contracts to.

Alvarez, by contrast, says he’s spent the past several years building up and making hires for Westfall Roofing, where he works as the director of operations.

“When I’m walking our neighborhoods and talking with voters, they want to know what I stand for and how that compares to my opponent,” said Alvarez, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. “This is another way we can inform voters about our records so they can make their own choice about who represents our Democratic values.

“We’re making sure that voters know that I’m the real Democrat in the race,” he continued.

The Democratic primary for the Tampa-based seat has been contentious, not to mention odd, since Valdes entered the race shortly before the end of the candidate qualifying period.

Her paperwork to run for the seat, was of questionable legitimacy and emails show she pulled strings to have it accepted by the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections office. Rather than address questions surrounding her candidacy, she went on the attack, accusing Alvarez of mudslinging.

Weeks later, her campaign was again embroiled in scandal after a video surfaced of her dodging a question about whether she would accept campaign contributions from charter schools. In the wake of that video going semi-viral, the Valdes campaign threatened to pull strings and have the man who recorded it fired from his job at the State Attorney’s office.

Again, Valdes’ response to the allegations only raised further questions, as she claimed the man who made the threats — a consultant that had sent out official communications for her campaign — was not affiliated with her and was merely “a supporter who is incredibly passionate.”

And two weeks ago, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor weighed in on the race by endorsing Alvarez and offering a scathing rebuke of Valdes, whom she accused of breaking the law and misleading voters by falsely claiming to have the Congresswoman’s endorsement.

She ended her endorsement by undercutting Valdes credentials on the School Board, saying that “if you support public schools, if you share our Democratic values, and if you want honesty from your elected officials, vote for Mike Alvarez.”

Alvarez and Valdes are running alongside Chris Cano in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary for HD 62, currently held by House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, who is running for state Senate and has endorsed Valdes as her successor.

The district is one of five state legislative seats, including three in the Tampa Bay area, to have its primary election locked down by a write-in candidate.

One of Alvarez’ ads is below.

Greg Steube - CD 17 Campaign Photo

Greg Steube leads Julio Gonzalez by 23 points in new CD 17 poll

Sarasota state Sen. Greg Steube holds a commanding lead in the Republican primary for Florida’s 17th Congressional District according to a new poll commissioned by Club for Growth Action, which is backing Steube in the contest.

The poll, conducted by WPA Intelligence, found the first-term state Senator with a 39-16 percent lead over Venice state Rep. Julio Gonzalez, with 5 percent favoring Charlotte County activist Bill Akins and 40 percent undecided.

The survey also measured name ID for Steube and Gonzalez, and found the former was known by nearly four-fifths of voters in the district and was seen favorably by a margin of 41-17 with the remainder not offering their opinion. About three-quarters of voters were familiar with Gonzalez, an improvement of 28 points since July 16, but his favorability has risen along his recognition. He was underwater 19-33 in favorability.

WPAi included crosstabs on how informed voters were leaning. Among Republicans who had heard of both lawmakers, Steube’s lead expanded to 46-19 percent, while Republicans who offered their opinion on both candidates preferred Steube by an even larger 54-25 percent margin. Akins didn’t cross 5 percent in either measure.

The Steube campaign touted the results in a Wednesday email, saying they showed he was “dominating the field” and highlighting some other recent successes.

“These results follow two recent straw poll victories for Greg Steube, including a win at the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce Political Hob Nob and an overwhelming 44-point victory at the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce that saw Steube garner 63 percent of the vote,” the campaign said in an email.

Steube and Gonzalez are competing for the seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, who announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election in the fall.

Gonzalez held a cash lead at the end of the first quarter, though Steube flew by him in the months that followed, raising more than $400,000 in hard dollars while Club for Growth and another outside group, Liberty and Leadership Fund, announced raising more than $1 million in support of his campaign.

In July alone, outside groups spent nearly $1 million in CD 17 with most of that cash pushing either a pro-Steube or anti-Gonzalez message.

The primary season has also seen a couple of stinging hits on Gonzalez.

The first uncovered some 2016 tweets where he expressed some negative opinions of then-candidate Trump — Gonzalez supported U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in the 2016 presidential race and has earned his endorsement for Congress this year.

The second, which came this week, hits Gonzalez over a campaign ad that insinuates that Gov. Rick Scott has endorsed him, something Scott campaign manager Jackie Schultz plainly stated was not true. Depending on the language of the ad, that misrepresentation could be a violation of state elections law.

Steube launched his campaign with dozens of backers already in tow, and has since added an official thumbs up from the National Realtors PAC and several conservative groups, including the National Rifle Association. Gonzalez landed a major coup with an endorsement from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but has fewer orgs backing up his bid.

CD 17 is a safe Republican seat that sprawls across parts of Sarasota, Lee and Polk counties as well as the whole of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee counties. Rooney has held the seat since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

The WPAi poll conducted 300 live telephone interviews (30 percent cell phone) of likely Republican primary voters on Aug. 8-9. Respondents were selected at random from the Florida voter file using Proportionate Probability Sampling based on turnout probability scores for each voter. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.7 percentage points.

The poll is below.

WPAi poll of the FL CD 17 Republican primary by Andrew Wilson on Scribd

Retailers recommend George Gainer for re-election

The political arm of the Florida Retail Federation said Wednesday that it’s backing Panama City Republican Sen. George Gainer in his bid for a second term in Senate District 2.

“Senator Gainer’s knowledge of what it takes to run a small business as well as his support for retailers during his time in the Senate are just two reasons we’ve chosen to endorse his campaign,” said FRF president and CEO R. Scott Shalley. “We look forward to him continuing to work in support of Florida’s business community and the retail industry in his return to the Florida Senate.”

In making the endorsement, the retail trade association highlighted Gainer’s past political experience, including his two stints as a Bay County commissioner, most recently from 2002 through 2016.

The FRF nod comes after Gainer’s re-election bid had already picked up an endorsement from the Florida Realtors PAC, the political arm of the state’s largest professional trade association.

Gainer was first elected to the state Senate in 2016, where he faced no opposition in his quest to succeed former Senate President Don Gaetz, thanks to then state-Rep. Matt Gaetz opting to run for Congress rather than state Senate.

This time around, Gainer faces Fort Walton Beach Democrat Mary Jeanne “Gigi” Gibson in the general election.

SD 2 covers all of Bay, Holmes, Jackson, Walton and Washington counties as well as the bulk of Okaloosa County and has a heavy Republican lean. The most recent bookclosing report published by the Florida Division of Elections shows registered Republicans make up more than 54 percent of the SD 2 electorate compared to 25 percent share for Democrats.

Gainer is also well-positioned in the money race, with more than $155,000 in hard money in his campaign account and another $50,000 waiting in his affiliated political committee, Northwest Florida Resource Fund. Gibson, meanwhile, has cobbled together $5,580, including $3,000 in loans, and has $3,383 banked.

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