Drew Wilson, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 65

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.

Voting restoration amendment clears 200,000 signatures

A proposed ballot initiative that would automatically restore some felons’ voting rights after they complete their sentences now has more than 210,000 confirmed petition signatures, according to the Florida Division of Elections.

And while that’s just the number of confirmed petition, Desmond Meade, president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, says 600,000 signed petitions have been gathered and that he expects the organization to have all the petitions it needs by December.

The Voting Restoration Amendment wouldn’t apply in the case of murder convictions or sex crimes, but all other Florida felons would be eligible once they exit state custody and finish out parole or probation and pay any restitution owed.

To make the ballot, initiatives need to have 766,200 confirmed signatures. Rules require those signatures be spread across Florida’s 27 congressional districts, with the total number due pegged to voter turnout in the most recent presidential election. Former state Senate Democratic leaders Arthenia Joyner and Chris Smith have also filed the proposal with the Constitution Revision Commission, which has the power to put it on the ballot.

During his term as Florida governor, then-Republican Charlie Crist worked with Cabinet members Alex Sink and Charles Bronson to push through restoration of rights for more than 150,000 non-violent felons. That process was quickly halted by Gov. Rick Scott when he took office in 2011.

Crist was elected to Florida’s 13th Congressional District last year as a Democrat, and as of Wednesday evening his Pinellas County district was the only one in the state that had hit its signature quota.

Current law requires Florida convicts to wait years after they complete their sentences to apply for restoration through the Board of Executive Clemency, made up of Scott and the Cabinet.

Once they complete an application, they have to play the waiting game. The line to go before the board is thousands of cases long, and it rarely hands down a decision in more than 100 cases during one of its four annual meetings.

The committee backing the measure, Floridians for a Fair Democracy, has been paying out substantial sums to petition gatherers pounding the pavement to get those signatures.

Last month alone saw Calabassas, Calif.-based petition gathering company PCI Consultants pick up more than $400,000 from the committee, while a significant amount of money also went to county supervisors of elections for signature verification fees.

At the end of the month, Floridians for a Fair Democracy had about $180,000 on hand, thanks in large part to the American Civil Liberties Union chipping in more than $1.4 million in the past four months.

September brings Rick Kriseman $215K, Rick Baker $185K

The race for St. Pete mayor has already gone down as the costliest election in city history, and new campaign finance reports show no lulls in the arms race between incumbent Rick Kriseman and former two-term Mayor Rick Baker.

Kriseman, who won the Aug. 29 primary election by 69 votes, jutted ahead of his competition in cash on hand after tacking on about $60,000 through his campaign between Sept. 16 and Sept. 29 and adding another $120,500 through his political committee, “Sunrise PAC,” during September.

The campaign had already reported raising $28,136 between Aug. 30 and Sept. 1 with another $6,963 coming between Sept. 2 and Sept. 15 for a total of $215,126 between his two accounts last month.

The reports bring Kriseman’s to-date fundraising numbers past the $1 million mark – $540,000 through the committee and $535,000 through the campaign. He has about $214,000 on hand once September spending is factored in.

Topping the committee’s donor roll was a $50,000 check from the Tampa Bay Rays, followed by retiree Rosalie Danbury who gave $10,000 for the second month in row. The bulk of the spending headed to the Florida Democratic Party, which got a $20,000 contribution, while San Francisco-based Sea Polling took in about $7,000 for polling work.

Baker edged out Kriseman on the campaign side with just shy of $69,000 in contributions in his newest report, but fell short with his political committee, “Seamless Florida,” which raised $95,000, bringing his to-date fundraising total a bit past $1.4 million.

Adding the two earlier September reports shows the former mayor raised a total of $185,688 last month, and after expenses he had about $149,000 work with a month out from Election Day.

Committee contributions included $25,000 from Liberty Florida, a committee tied to Liberty Insurance, as well as $10,000 a piece from Terence McCarthy, Mel Sembler, Heron Holdings, James MacDougald, and Republican Rep. Chris Sprowls via Floridians for Economic Freedom.

Poli Solutions Consulting got a little over $24,000 from the committee for management, printing and voter contact work, while Mentzer Media Services received $18,460 for ad placement and Gainesville-based Data Targeting got about $6,000 for voter data and direct mail campaigns.

Election Day comes to St. Petersburg on Nov. 7, and a recent survey of 1,012 St. Pete voters found Baker with a slight advantage over Kriseman, 46.0-45.3, with the remaining 8.7 percent of voters undecided.

The spread is well within the 3.1 percent margin of error set by St. Pete Polls, which also published a poll in August that showed Baker with a 7-point edge on the eve of the primary that saw the field of six candidates whittled down to the only two who mattered.

Kriseman and Baker will have to give voters a look at their campaign finance numbers three more times before Election Day: Sept. 30 – Oct. 6 numbers are due Friday; Oct. 7 – Oct. 20 numbers are due Oct. 27; and Oct. 21 – Nov. 2 are due Nov. 3, the Friday before the election.

Reporting dates for the committee accounts aren’t as stringent. By the time Seamless Florida and Sunrise PAC release their next round of reports on Nov. 13, the victory will have had a week to celebrate his win.

Hurricane impacted fundraising efforts of top-tier legislative candidates

Election Day is 13 months away but a handful of rock star candidates, both Republicans and Democrats, have already started to break away from the pack in crowded races for open House seats.

Most of them saw a dip in September – blame it on the rain – but each remains the leader in their quest to join the Florida House’s 2018 freshman class.

Ardian Zika made headlines with big endorsements and by posting more than $100,000 in his first report after filing to run in HD 37 as a Republican at the beginning of August.

The Land O’Lakes businessman and banker raised $3,600 in September, including $1,000 a piece from the Law Offices of Lucas Magazine, Templar Contracting and Webco Dental and Medical Supplies. Lobbyist and former FDOT Secretary Jim Boxold pitched in $500, with three small-dollar donors making up the other $100.

Zika refunded a $1,000 August contribution from Victor Young, however, which combined with $800 in spending saw his campaign account grow by just $1,800 to $102,684.

Still, that leaves him with nearly 10 times more than the second place Republican, Elle Rudisill. The other two candidates, Bill Gunter and George Agovino, posted more goose eggs, so keep Zika down as the favorite to replace House Speaker Richard Corcoran in the Pasco County district.

Over in Orlando-based HD 47, Democrat Anna Eskamani has been on fire since stepping into the race after current Republican Rep. Mike Miller said he would runn for Congress rather than seek re-election.

Month three saw the Planned Parenthood exec post a respectable $14,000. Her to-date total is just shy of $110,000 and she has about $90,000 of that on hand.

In addition to hitting the six-figure milestone, the Orlando Democrat racked up endorsements over the past month. Among the most recent crop backing the Planned Parenthood executive are longtime Orlando civic fixture Dick Batchelor, former Colorado U.S. Rep. Patricia Schroeder and  Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

Republican opponent Stockton Reeves may be able to boast a cash on hand advantage, though his hair-width lead comes solely from a $90,000 loan and a complete lack of campaign spending. His fundraising remained flat, too, with just $1,400 raised last month and $4,420 total from those not named Stockton.

The race to take over for termed-out Republican Rep. George Moraitis Broward-based HD 93 heated up a bit after Democrat Emma Collum entered in June.

Her first month saw her bring in $24,000, but she’s yet to match that number even when combining her July, August and September reports, the most recent of which saw $5,050 trickle into her campaign account and $6,700 head out the door.

With $25,700 on hand, the JL Audio in-house counsel leads Democratic Primary rivals Johnathon May, who has $335 in bank, and Stephanie Myers, who has $6,841 on hand after blowing through most of the $15,000 in loans she made to her campaign.

Collum also picked up an endorsement from South Florida Democrat and House Minority Leader designate Kionne McGhee last week, cementing her status as the frontrunner in the tossup seat that voted plus-1 for President Donald Trump last year.

That could change pretty soon, however, as one of the few local Republicans that knows how to win an election set his sights on the seat. Chip LaMarca, Broward’s lone GOP county commissioner, filed for the seat on Oct. 3 and won’t put out his inaugural report until this month’s numbers are due Nov. 13.

Finally, September saw Vance Aloupis, arguably the biggest luminary among the current crop of would-be lawmakers, tack on just $3,000, though he still holds a firm lead in the four-way Republican Primary for Miami-Dade’s HD 115 with $182,500 in total fundraising and $165,500 on hand.

The tireless advocate for early childhood education and mentee of legendary former Miami Herald publisher David Lawrence Jr. brought in six-figures his first month and he holds a better than 2-to-1 lead over his closest opponent, Rhonda Rebman-Lopez, who is only keeping it somewhat close due to kicking in $35,000 worth of loans.

Carlos Daniel Gobel comes third with about $5,000 on hand, while Carmen Sotomayor rounds out the GOP cadre and her campaign is going about as well as her unsuccessful 2014 run in HD 117. Her newest report shoes her campaign account holding a pair of Jacksons.

Aloupis also picked up an endorsement termed-out HD 115 Rep. Michael Bileca since his last report, putting him another couple rungs above the competition.

A pair of Democrats have also entered the race, but through September neither have gained traction. James Linwood and Jeffrey Solomon have about $5,000 and $3,500 on hand, respectively.

Rebekah Bydlak adds $14K for HD 1 bid, as Mike Hill struggles out of the gate

Don’t call it a comeback, because it isn’t yet.

Former Rep. Mike Hill opened a campaign account to return to the House last month, but his first three weeks on the trail haven’t put much of a dent into Rebekah Bydlak’s lead in Escambia County-based HD 1, where current Rep. Clay Ingram faces term limits in 2018.

Hill’s effort brought in just $5,900, including $1,000 from a committee tied to Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala, $1,000 a piece from Pensacola flight instructor Mark Freymiller and his wife, Mia, and another $1,000 from Gulf Breeze chiropractor John Newlin.

Bydlak, for her part, piled on another $14,272 for her campaign account in September, a respectable follow up to her banner opening month, which saw her pull in $50,000 for her campaign and another $10,000 for her political committee.

Heading into October, she had about $57,000 on hand in her campaign account.

After 24 days in the race, Hill’s total puts him just a few bucks ahead of the Democratic candidate in the race, Vikki Garrett, who was able to scrounge up $5,700 for her campaign last month despite running in one of the most hopelessly unfavorable districts for Democrats statewide.

Hill made a valiant effort in the SD 1 primary last year, but his decision to jump ship in HD 2 and race for pink slips against Doug Broxson is probably starting to sting again.

A year after that 13-point loss in the primary, HD 2 has moved on with freshman Rep. Frank White and HD 1 is flirting with an up-and-comer in the next generation Republicans in Bydlak. There’s plenty of time before primary season rolls around, but Hill’s in for a competition if he wants his old job back.

Berny Jacques fundraising slows as Nick DiCeglie enters race

Nick DiCeglie has been in the race for House District 66 for a month and his first campaign finance report, released Tuesday, signals a momentum shift in the GOP primary between him and Berny Jacques.

Jacques filed March 3 and was the first-in candidate for the Pinellas County-based seat. Since showing $30,000 raised in his initial report, his contributions have slowed.

April brought him about $11,000 in campaign cash, and after the dog days of summer, he posted another five-figure report in August. His September report, though, brought about a new low: just $1,875 in new money came in, while about $5,500 went out the door.

His lone $1,000 check for the month came in from Sarasota attorney Patrick McCardle, while the remainder came from a smattering of small-dollar donors most of whom gave $50 or less.

In all, Jacques has raised $67,344 over the past six months and has about $52,000 in the bank.

DiCeglie, who entered the race at the start of last month, raised $30,751 in 30 days. All of that money that came in before his official campaign kickoff event, too. That event is set for Thursday evening in Bellair and features more than 50 names on the host committee that no other first-time candidate could dream of getting in the same room anywhere outside the Governor’s Club.

The abbreviated list: St. Pete Sen. Jeff Brandes, Clearwater Sen. Jack Latvala and his son Rep. Chris Latvala, and Pinellas County Commissioners Dave Eggers, John Morroni and Karen Seel, as well as Commission candidate and current HD 69 Rep. Kathleen Peters.

His pull with local Republican rock stars isn’t a surprise. In addition to owning and operating the lauded waste management company Solar Sanitation, Inc., for over decade, he spent two terms chairing the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce and earned a gubernatorial appointment to the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council.

Being the current chair of the Pinellas County Republican Party certainly doesn’t hurt, either.

Among his September donors were renowned attorney Brian Aungst Jr., Clearwater City Council Member Doreen Caudell, former Pinellas GOP Chair Jay Beyrouti, and lobbyist Alan Suskey.

Disney keeps money flowing to anti-gambling amendment

Disney isn’t a fan of casino gambling coming to the Sunshine State, and the House of Mouse hasn’t shied away from putting its money where its mouth is with its support of the committee backing a proposed ballot initiative that would limit gaming expansion.

Disney Worldwide Services contributed another $575,000 to “Voters in Charge” last month, bringing its total support to $2.33 million since March. Disney is virtually the only major backer of the committee, too.

Over its lifetime, Voters in Charge has brought in just $232,500 in monetary contributions from other sources, including the $195,000 check from major stakeholder No Casinos Inc. which kickstarted the fund in 2015, as well as $30,000 from the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association in April, soon after the Florida Supreme Court signed off on the proposal’s ballot wording.

No Casinos still provides heavy support to Voters in Charge through “in kind” contributions, mainly for staffing, legal fees and advertising.

The proposed amendment, titled “Voter Control of Gambling in Florida,” would remove casino gambling from the purview of state lawmakers by requiring any potential expansion to go directly before Florida voters.

Lawmakers have tossed around gambling bills in the legislature for several years, and casino companies such as Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands have tried to ply legislators with tens of thousands of dollars heading into re-election campaigns and committees as well as promises that casinos would bring jobs to the state.

None of those bills found much success, however, and lawmakers have also been slow to respond in the other direction as state pari-mutuels have slowly expanded their offerings in profitable card rooms while minimizing their loss leaders such as jai alai matches.

For the proposed amendment to make the ballot next year it will need 766,200 petition signatures across Florida’s 27 congressional districts, which is the equivalent of 8 percent of the turnout in the 2016 elections.

As of Tuesday evening, 285,526 valid petition signatures had been submitted, which is a gain of about than 73,000 signatures over the past month.

CD 13, which covers part of Pinellas County, has also became the first district pass its signature quota for ballot access. CD 14, which covers parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas, looks like the next district to pass the mark.

Richard Corcoran committee raised $445K in September

House Speaker Richard Corcoran brought in another $445,000 for his political committee and possible governor’s race fund, “Watchdog PAC,” between Sept. 1 and Oct. 9 according to reports available on the committee’s website.

The committee has now raised $4.4 million total since Corcoran started it up in June, and has just shy of $3.9 million on hand.

The largest contribution last month was a $100,000 check from The Voice of Florida Business, a political committee tied to the Associated Industries of Florida. Following the six-figure check is a three-way tie between Miami auto dealer and former Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman, Wal‐Mart Stores, and Conservative Principles of Florida. Each gave $50,000.

A committee controlled by Republican Rep. Jason Brodeur chipped in $30,000, while a number of other GOP movers and shakers came in at the $25,000 level.

Among them are former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli through his Growing Florida’s Future committee, political consultant Anthony Pedicini through Citizens Alliance for Florida’s Economy, and Rep. Jamie Grant through Floridians for Liberty and Innovation.

Corcoran’s committee received the money across just 27 contributions. And one of those, a $25,000 check from Orlando law firm Newsome Melton, was refunded.

Expenditures clocked in at $265,814 through Oct. 9, with $68,800 of that money heading to Ft. Lauderdale-based Fabrizio, Lee & Associates for surveys, consulting and travel expenses.

Rapid Loop Consulting received $42,500 for consulting work and expenses, followed by D.C.-based Go Big Media which took home about $33,000 for consulting and travel, and Jacksonville-based Political Capital with $20,000 for consulting.

Corcoran has said he is waiting to announce his future plans after the 2018 Legislative Session, which ends in March.

Currently, the only two major Republicans running to succeed Rick Scott as Florida governor are Adam Putnam and Jack Latvala. Putnam’s fundraising has reached the double-digit millions through his committee, Florida Grown, and campaign accounts, while Latvala has a few million of his own in his committee, much of it left over from his campaign to be Senate President.

Tampa Bay lawmakers file bills that would ban fracking

A pair of Tampa Bay Republicans filed bills in the House and Senate over the past week that would slap Florida with a full-on fracking ban come.

Fracking, shorthand for hydraulic fracturing, is a method of natural gas extraction that sees drillers inject a concoction of water and various chemicals into fault lines deep underground and at high pressure to force fossil fuels to the surface for collection.

Treasure Island state Rep. Kathleen Peters filed the House version, HB 237, last week, and Tampa state Sen. Dana Young followed it up with a Senate companion, SB 462, on Monday, the first day of interim committee weeks before the 2018 Legislative Session kicks off in January.

Their bills would prohibit all forms of “advanced well stimulation treatments,” meaning no high-pressure injections aimed at cracking the bedrock in search of black gold. Acid fracking – similar to hydraulic fracturing, with chemicals subbed in for water pressure to break through the rocks – is also expressly banned in the bills.

Non-fracking wells can carry on as usual, even if cleaning and maintenance requires operators to up the water pressure or use chemicals to restore ground permeability. So long as the pressure or pH doesn’t put a crack in the bedrock, it won’t be affected.

This isn’t Young’s or Peters’ first rodeo with fracking bills, which has become one of the major issues dividing Republican lawmakers the past few years.

Some lawmakers, including Republican Reps. Mike Miller and Ray Rodrigues, say a ban would be “foolish” before a scientific study on how fracking could affect the Sunshine state, while others say they’ve seen enough from the states that embraced fracking – or heard enough from their constituents – and want the ban on the books post-haste.

Young fought for the ban in the spring, but the measure sputtered out in the middle of the 2017 Legislative Session mainly due to the study-first camp.

Young was on the pro-study train in the 2016 Legislative Session when she was in the House, but in 2017 was trying to make good on a promise she made to voters during her campaign against Bob Buesing last fall.

Peters also backed the study bill, sponsored by former Naples Republican Sen. Garett Richter, and got pawed at by her 2016 opponent as well.

“The only bill that was presented to any legislator to stop fracking in Florida was that bill,” Peters said at the time. ”So in my opinion, anyone who opposes that bill, then supports what happened and now anyone can come into this state and do fracking. Anyone who voted no was absolutely irresponsible, because we do not have a moratorium on it.”

While fracking has unlocked wells of energy leading to rock-bottom natural gas prices, it has also been implicated in ground and surface water contamination and is likely a direct cause of earthquakes, including the string of shakers that vaulted Oklahoma well past West Coast states in total number of earthquakes in the 2010s.

Pro-fracking groups rebut those claims, but the scientific community has been consistent in linking the drilling technique to environmental damage.

Anti-fracking groups say Florida’s aquifer and the soluble limestone foundation much of the peninsula rests on would make the state even more vulnerable to damage from fracking, especially compared to low-population states such as South Dakota.

Rick Kriseman, Kerry Kriseman, GOTV Oct. 9, 2017

Rick Kriseman pounds the pavement as ballots hit the streets

Mail ballots have started to hit the streets in St. Pete cend incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman has started to pound the pavement again ahead of the second round of his re-election battle against former two-term Mayor Rick Baker.

Kriseman and his wife, Kerry, joined their corps of volunteers and staffers kicking off their get-out-the-vote efforts ahead of the Nov. 7 election.

Kriseman and co. knocked on doors across the city and talked one-on-one with voters to plead their case for another four years. The mayor also pitched in at the phone bank to give voters a heads up that the first mail ballots are on the way.

“We’ve come a long way in 4 years. Crime is down, big projects are moving forward, and our city is preparing for climate change,” Kriseman said in a Monday press release. “This November’s election is going to come down to conversations between neighbors in their front yards and living rooms. August turnout was record high, and we’re here to earn every vote to keep St. Pete moving forward.”

Despite polls showing him behind by as much as 7 points three days before the election, Kriseman edged out Baker by a hair in the August primary, which saw the field whittled from six candidates down to two. The slim win wasn’t lost on Kriseman, whose campaign acknowledged it was indeed a “come-from-behind” victory.

That doesn’t mean they see it as a meaningless win, either.

Even though both candidates had to turn around and fund raise their hearts out to reload for the what’s become the most expensive mayoral election in city history, the mayor’s campaign said Monday that the primary win brought forth “a surge in grassroots enthusiasm with volunteers from all over the bay area committing their time and energy to re-electing Mayor Kriseman.”

While the St. Petersburg mayor position is officially non-partisan, Kriseman was a Democrat in the Florida House before becoming mayor. He has picked up endorsements from top elected Dems, including U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and Congressman Charlie Crist.

The Florida Democratic Party has also been in his corner and treated the city election as a bellwether for 2018, while multiple left-leaning groups such as the Sierra Club have also flocked to his side.

One of the deciders in the August election was undoubtedly the 11th hour endorsement he received from former President Barack Obama.

Kriseman is historically an underachiever with black voters, who make up 15 percent of the city’s electorate. Baker, on the other hand, is one of the rare Republicans who excells at making inroads with the community. The Obama nod put a thumb on the scales, though, and may have been what shunted Baker’s chances of winning it all in the primary.

The Kriseman camp also pointed out Monday that the mayor bested every pre-primary poll in his 69-vote August win, and he may have to do it again in the general election. A St. Pete Polls survey released last week showed Baker with a 1-point advantage over Kriseman, 46-45 with about 9 percent undecided.

All St. Petersburg voters will get a chance to pick one of the Ricks on Election Day, set for Nov. 7, but voters in City Council District 2 and District 6 will also pick the replacements for Jim Kennedy and Karl Nurse, respectively, while District 4 voters will decide whether to give Darden Rice another term.

Kionne McGhee backs Emma Collum in three-way HD 93 primary

Minority Leader-designate Kionne McGee weighed in on the three-way Democratic primary in House District 93 Monday with an endorsement of Emma Collum.

“I’m proud to endorse Emma Collum for the Florida House. She is the ideal candidate for Broward County and for today’s political environment,” McGhee said in a press release.

“Floridians urgently need more women in leadership, especially with experience in both business and civic engagement. Emma is a staunch advocate for Democratic values and I look forward to working alongside her to fight for the interests of working families in South Florida and across the state.”

In addition to running the 20-chapter Women’s March group in Florida, the City University of New York law school alumna works as the in-house counsel for JL Audio, a family-owned business based in Miramar.

Collum was the third Democrat to jump into the race for HD 93, which is up in 2018 due to Republican Rep. George Moraitis hitting term limits. She faces Jonathon May and Stephanie Myers in the primary.

She currently leads the pack with approximately $33,000 raised from June 1 through the end of August, followed by Myers with $21,000 raised including $15,000 in loans. May has about $300 in his campaign account.

House District 93 is a Republican-leaning oasis within traditionally Democratic Broward County, though Florida Democrats have the seat pegged as a toss-up.

While voter registration numbers show only about 1,500 more Republicans than Democrats in the district, the margins on Election Day have shown GOP candidates have a much stronger advantage.

In Moraitis’ 2012 election, the first after redistricting, he beat Democrat Gerri Ann Capotosto by 10 points. He followed that up with 57 percent of the vote in 2014 and 54 percent of the vote against Doug Oberman last year.

Currently, the only GOP candidate in the race is Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca. Fellow Republican David Hasenaur had been running for the seat, but quickly withdrew after LaMarca filed his paperwork on Oct. 3.

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