Drew Wilson – Page 2 – 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.
WhereIsRon - Ron DeSantis

Email insights: ‘#WhereIsRon’ DeSantis?

Adam Putnam’s gubernatorial campaign sent an email Monday hitting Republican primary rival Ron DeSantis for spending time in Washington and questioning where he stands on the issues.

“Congressman Ron DeSantis prefers to spend most of his time in Washington, D.C. Not only is he rarely physically in the state, [but] he also refuses to take positions on issues that impact Floridians,” the email said.

“Apparently, the congressman has been so busy running his campaign from D.C. and seeking out of state donations that he hasn’t had time to weigh in.”

The email then highlights news coverage of a variety of issues, from DeSantis going “radio silent” on the two-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre to his campaign’s unwillingness to share specific details about his public safety policy plans.

Team Putnam’s email also coins the hashtag “#WhereIsRon?” which features a cartoon of the Northeast Florida Republican wearing the same threads as the eponymous character of “Where’s Waldo” fame.

Indeed, DeSantis has been a bit coy on policy positions, preferring instead to weigh in on a pair of scandals that have rocked Putnam in his day job as the state’s Agriculture Commissioner.

Putnam and DeSantis are the two major Republican candidates running to replace term-limited Gov. Rick Scott in the fall. According to a recent poll conducted by the Florida Chamber of Commerce (which has endorsed Putnam), the second-term Ag Commissioner is ahead 32 to 15 percent.

Putnam also leads DeSantis in fundraising raising more than $30 million compared to DeSantis’ $10.8 million, which includes $1.1 million raised for his congressional re-election campaign.

Sean McCoy

Sean McCoy files to succeed Jake Raburn in HD 57

Republican businessman and U.S. Army veteran Sean McCoy announced Tuesday that he has filed for House District 57, the seat currently held by Lithia Republican Rep. Jake Raburn.

McCoy’s announcement comes one day after Raburn announced he would not run for re-election to devote more time to his family and business.

“Our community enjoyed six years of strong representation in Tallahassee under the leadership of Rep. Raburn. We need a leader to succeed Rep. Raburn who will continue the same strong commitment to our conservative values and local priorities,” McCoy said.

“Our state needs servant leaders who will not back down but instead will work night and day to keep Florida on the right track. The Army taught me how to meet challenges head-on and work together as a team to win. I’ve done that in the battlefields of Iraq and the boardrooms of America, and I’ll do it in Tallahassee for those I seek to represent in District 57.”

McCoy, a West Point graduate, currently works as the strategy and commercialization director for Ideal Image. He is also the founder of Fishhawk Military & Veterans, which supports service members and their families. He lives in FishHawk with his wife and three children.

McCoy is currently the only Republican running for HD 57. Also running are Democrats Layla Hartz and Debbie Katt.

The deadline to qualify for state legislative races is Friday noon.

As of May 31, Katt had raised $6,810 for her campaign since filing in March with $5,233 of that on hand. Hartz, who filed in April, raised $1,520, with about $1,400 in the bank.

Republican candidates have the advantage in HD 57. Republicans have a 7-point lead in voter registrations within the district, and Raburn had no trouble holding the seat for three terms — he beat Democrat Bruce Barnett by 17 points to win his first term in 2012 and went unopposed in the 2014 and 2016 election cycles.

The seat also voted plus-12 for Donald Trump two years ago.


Florida Retail Federation backs Kathleen Passidomo for re-election

On Tuesday, the Florida Retail Federation announced its endorsement of Naples Republican Kathleen Passidomo for a second term in Senate District 28.

“Senator Passidomo has been a true champion for retail by helping ensure Floridians are prepared in the event of a disaster, working towards tort reform, providing more than $150 million in tax relief for Florida families and having the best interests of the state’s businesses at heart,” said FRF President/CEO R. Scott Shalley. “We’re eager to continue working with Senator Passidomo on identifying ways to support retailers, families and our industry going forward.”

The retail trade group specifically lauded Passidomo for sponsoring the 2018 bill creating the recent disaster preparedness sales tax holiday, which cut the sales tax off items including batteries, flashlights, tarps, generators and other hurricane prep supplies.

Passidomo was elected to the Senate in 2016 after serving three terms in the House. She faces Democrat Annisa Karim in fall 2018.

As of May 31, Passidomo had raised nearly $280,000 for her re-election campaign and had $211,563 cash on hand. She has another $325,000 banked in her affiliated political committee, Working Together for Florida.

Karim has raised $2,135 since entering the race on May 22. She has about $2,000 on hand.

SD 28 is a safe Republican. In 2016, Passidomo only faced a write-in challenger, and her district voted plus-23 for Donald Trump.

Jake Raburn

Jake Raburn won’t seek re-election in 2018

State Rep. Jake Raburn announced Monday that he is not running for a fourth term in the Florida House this fall, citing the need to spend more time with family.

“The past six years have been the most surreal, humbling, overwhelming, exciting, challenging and gratifying on my journey thus far,” said Raburn, a Lithia Republican, in an email from his campaign.

“What started as a glimmer of a dream in my heart many years ago came to fruition in 2012 when you elected me to serve you by representing our community in the Florida House of Representatives,” the 33-year-old added.

“Since then, I have been honored and humbled to represent southeast Hillsborough County and all who call this place home. The highlights of this journey include helping meet unique and specific needs of our constituents and meeting new people who have become treasured friends.

“After much thought and many hours of prayer with my wife, Melissa, and our family, I’ve decided to not seek re-election this fall. While serving in the Florida House has been a tremendous honor and pleasure, my No. 1 responsibility is to my family, and I’m confident my place right now is at home with them and in our family business.

“I know you might not always have agreed with the decisions I’ve made or the votes I’ve cast, but I hope you can see that this was a responsibility I took very seriously, with much time, research and prayer behind each and every decision and vote.

“For those of you who have voted for me and supported me throughout the years, your kindness has truly been life-changing, and your belief in me has made me strive to be a better person. I can’t possibly express my gratitude for this opportunity, but it is an experience and responsibility I will treasure for the rest of my life.

“Thank you for the opportunity you have given me to serve you. I look forward to seeing you, around town, in the coming days!”

Raburn’s exit leaves Democrats Layla Hartz and Debbie Katt alone in the contest. If the GOP is to retain control of the southwestern Hillsborough seat, another Republican will need to file and qualify before the candidate qualifying period ends Friday at noon.

Should a Republican make the ballot, they’ll be favored in the election. GOP voters make up 39 percent of the HD 57 electorate compared to a 32 percent share for Democrats, and the seat voted plus-12 for Donald Trump two years ago.

As of May 31, Katt had raised $6,810 for her campaign since filing in March with $5,233 of that on hand. Hartz, who filed in April, raised $1,520, with about $1,400 in the bank.

Raburn had not put effort into fundraising for his final run for the House in recent months. He finished last month with $26,200 raised and $12,200 on hand.

North Florida lawmakers draw re-election challengers as qualifying begins

New candidates filed Monday for three Republican-held seats in the state Legislature.

In Senate District 2, Fort Walton Beach Democrat Mary Jeanne “Gigi” Gibson is challenging Panama City Republican Sen. George Gainer.

Gibson is currently Gainer’s only real challenger — Pensacola Republican Jantzen Craine has had his name down to run for the seat since 2015, but has not yet shown any contributions for his campaign. His listed address falls within Sen. Doug Broxson’s district.

SD 2 is a heavily Republican district covering all of Bay, Holmes, Jackson, Walton and Washington counties as well as part of Okaloosa. Gainer was unopposed in the 2016 race, when the seat voted plus-49 for President Donald Trump two years ago.

Gainer has raised more than $175,000 for his campaign account with $156,439 in the bank.

In House District 4, Valparaiso Democrat Rebecca Koelzer will face Destin Republican Rep. Mel Ponder. She is the only other candidate who has filed for the Okaloosa County district, a Republican stronghold that voted plus-44 for Trump in 2016.

Ponder got his fundraising off to a good start early in his re-election campaign. Though he’s only raised $3,500 this year, his account has brought in more than $100,000 and had $63,353 in the bank.

In House District 11, Fernandina Beach Republican Rep. Cord Byrd also picked up a new primary challenger.

Joseph Francis Zimmerman, also of Fernandina Beach, joined Byrd and Yulee Democrat Nathcelly Leroy Rohrbaugh, who filed for the Northeast Florida district back in March.

Byrd, currently in his first term, raised about $71,000 for his re-election bid, with about $45,000 in the bank at the start of June. Rohrbaugh has raised $2,015 and has $1,875.

HD 11 is also a deep-red district, with more than twice as many registered Republican voters as Democratic. In 2016, Byrd only faced a write-in challenger, when Trump carried the Nassau- and Duval-based district by 45 points.

The qualifying period for state legislative seats began Monday and runs through Friday noon. As of Monday afternoon, Gainer and Ponder had qualified for the 2018 ballot.

Fred Costello

Pam Bondi endorses Fred Costello for CD 6

Attorney General Pam Bondi issued a lengthy endorsement Monday for former state Rep. Fred Costello’s bid to replace U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

“It is my pleasure to endorse Representative Fred Costello in the Republican primary for U.S. Congress. Representative Costello served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has been a long time supporter of veterans and law enforcement both locally as Mayor of Ormond Beach and while serving in Tallahassee as a State Representative,” Bondi said in a news release.

“Dr. Costello led the effort in the Florida House to pass legislation to adopt the Prescription Drug Management Program to give my office one of the tools we needed to put the pill mills out of business and fight opioid abuse. His effort helped us save lives.

“Fred is an outstanding example of a servant leader who answered the call to serve his community as a citizen legislator. He lives what he believes and has earned the respect of all who know him.

“We need more principled conservatives like Fred who support President [Donald] Trump and the #MAGA agenda to represent us in Washington. Because I know his heart, his values and his record of standing up for what he believes, I know Fred will well serve his district and all Americans with honor and distinction.”

Costello, who is a dentist and veteran of the Vietnam War, said he was “deeply honored” to receive Bondi’s endorsement.

“She is a fierce guardian of the public interest and deeply understands the critical public safety issues that impact the lives of our fellow Floridians. I join Attorney General Bondi in supporting President Trump’s mission to make America safe, secure, prosperous and great again,” he said.

Costello is one of three Republicans vying for the seat, which opened up due to DeSantis’ decision to run for Governor. He faces Fox News contributor Mike Waltz and businessman John Ward in the Republican primary, the latter of whom has gone to great lengths to paint himself as the most Trumpian candidate in the race.

Ward led the Republican field with $709,000 banked at the end of the first quarter of 2018, including $550,000 in candidate contributions, while Waltz was about $50K behind counting the $400,000 he’d pumped into his campaign. Costello was in a distant third with $15,720 banked at the end of the reporting period.

CD 6 is rated as a “likely Republican” district in University of Virginia political scientist Larry J. Sabato’s “Crystal Ball,” though Democrats Steven Sevigny, a Daytona Beach physician, and Nancy Soderberg, a former Ambassador to the United Nations, have raised well into the six figures.

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

Sean Shaw

Poll: Sean Shaw leads Ashley Moody, Frank White in Attorney General race

A new poll of the Attorney General race shows Tampa Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw leading his top Republican rivals in a head-to-head matchup.

According to an online poll commissioned by the campaign and conducted by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, Shaw currently leads former Circuit Judge Ashley Moody by five points, 41-36 percent, and Pensacola-area state Rep. Frank White by 4 points, 40-36 percent.

In both cases, 21 percent of voters said they were undecided.

The poll did not measure Shaw’s performance against Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jay Fant, the third-place Republican in both fundraising and a recent survey of the three-way GOP primary.

“This poll is a reflection of what I’ve been hearing from Floridians all throughout the state,” Shaw said in a news release. “People are excited to finally have an Attorney General willing to fight for the people of our state, not the powerful. It is clear our plans to enact common-sense gun safety reforms, lock up scammers and violent criminals, and fight to protect the civil rights of every Floridian are what voters want in their next Attorney General.”

Self-identified Republicans narrowly outnumbered Democrats in the poll, 37-36, with the remaining 26 percent of those polled identifying as independent. On a generic state legislative ballot, the advantage swings toward Democrats, 36-34, with independents favoring Democrats by 7 points, 27-20 with 53 percent persuadable.

The polling memo shows Shaw with a double-digit lead among independent voters in both head-to-heads, and his lead was nearly the same among women — plus-10 if Moody is his opponent and plus-9 if he faces White. Hispanic and Latino voters preferred Shaw by 33 points in the Moody matchup and by 25 points in the White matchup.

The ALG survey included another positive tidbit for Democrats: President Donald Trump is still underwater in the Sunshine State.

The poll found 43 percent of Floridians had a favorable view of the president, while 54 percent find him unfavorable. Among that group, 44 percent said they had a “very unfavorable” view of the president.

Independent voters were even resolute in their disapproval than the population at large, with 57 percent downvoting Trump and 38 percent in approval.

The online survey was conducted May 31 through June 6 and took responses from 1,204 likely general election voters. ALG said: “Because the survey was conducted online, there is no margin of error, and all respondents had access to the internet via a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.”

Shaw faces Hillsborough County attorney Ryan Torrens in the primary. Through May, Shaw held a massive advantage in fundraising, with $587,000 raised and $405,000 in the bank compared to $104,000 raised and $2,000 banked for Torrens. Shaw also leads in endorsements, including recent nods from the Florida Education Association and Florida Young Democrats.

On the Republican side, Moody leads in fundraising and has earned the support of term-limited AG Pam Bondi and 42 of 49 Republican county sheriffs. White, however, has self-funded to the tune of $2.7 million and leads Moody in cash on hand, $3.4 million to $2.1 million.

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

Ed Hooper hits the airwaves in SD 16

Clearwater Republican Ed Hooper is hitting TV screens throughout Senate District 16 this week with a pair of 30-second ads.

Depending on where in the Pinellas- and Pasco-based district viewers live, they’ll see a different version of the ad.

The ad airing in North Pinellas on Spectrum features an introduction from Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. West Pasco residents will see an ad with the same script but featuring an intro from Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco. Both Gualtieri and Nocco were early backers of Hooper’s Senate campaign.

“Ed Hooper’s life has been dedicated to service starting with 28 years as a firefighter, a business owner, and as State Representative. Now Ed is a candidate for the State Senate, and I am personally supporting him,” Nocco and Gualtieri say in the ads.

Both spots then cut to Hooper, who says he will “fight for issues that are important to our community, like growing a strong economy, protecting our seniors and making sure insurance is affordable.” He also says that by working with leaders like Gualtieri and Nocco, “we can get a lot accomplished.”

“Vote Ed Hooper. He’s our first responder in the Florida Senate,” the sheriffs say.

Hooper, who was a member of the Florida House from 2006 through 2014, is running against New Port Richey Democrat Amanda Murphy for the Senate seat once held by Jack Latvala.

Hooper has been running for SD 16 for a couple of years. At the end of last month, he had $412,760 in the bank compared to $66,240 for Murphy, who filed for the seat at the beginning of May.

Hooper’s ads are viewable on his campaign website.


Kelli Stargel

Florida retailers endorse Kelli Stargel for re-election

Florida retailers are endorsing Lakeland Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel’s re-election for Senate District 22.

Florida Retail Federation President/CEO R. Scott Shalley said in an announcement Monday: “In her role as Senate Finance & Tax Chair this past year, Senator Stargel showed continued leadership in her support of Florida’s retailers by including in the tax package a reduction in the business rent tax and multiple sales tax holidays. We’re thankful for her partnership in ensuring the growth of the retail industry and look forward to finding new ways to support the industry when she returns to the Senate.”

Reducing the commercial lease sales tax has been a top priority for FRF and other business groups for years. The tax package signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott this year reduced the tax rate from 5.8 percent to 5.7 percent.

In its endorsement, FRF also highlighted accolades Stargel has received from other interest groups, including the Foundation for Florida’s Future A+ Award and the Florida Farm Bureau Champion for Agriculture Award.

Stargel is running for re-election against former circuit court judge Bob Doyel and former Rep. Ricardo Rangel, both Democrats.

SD 22 has a Republican lean, but Democrats are hoping the “blue wave” can put it and other Republican-held Senate seats in play come November. In the 2016 cycle, Stargel scored a 7-point win over Democrat Debra Wright after outspending her 20-to-1. President Donald Trump also carried the district by nearly the same margin.

Through May, Stargel had a firm lead in the money race. She is also expected to get some reinforcements from incoming Senate President Bill Galvano, who is hosting a fundraiser for her in Bradenton next month.

Philip Levine

Philip Levine announces two Saturday campaign stops

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine has a couple of South Florida campaign appearances on his Saturday agenda.

The former Miami Beach mayor will be the keynote speaker at a luncheon hosted by the League of United Latin American Citizens as part of the group’s 2018 Florida State Convention.

The event is being held at the Miami Marriott Dadeland, 9090 S. Dadeland Blvd., and the Levine campaign said the keynote will begin at 12:15 p.m. According to the event website, Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo and newly elected Democratic Rep. Javier Fernandez will also be in attendance.

After the keynote, Levine will head over to Wilton Manors to “march with supporters and volunteers for tolerance and equality” as part of the Wilton Manors Stonewall Pride Parade and Festival. Levine is slated to arrive at 3:30 p.m.

Festival organizers list the parade start time as 5 p.m., though music and other entertainment will be in abundance along Wilton Drive earlier in the day. More information can be found on the event website.

Levine is one of five major Democrats running for governor in 2018. He faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene and Orlando-area entrepreneur Chris King.

The primary election will be held Aug. 28.

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