Drew Wilson, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 192

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.
Gulf Power Hurricane Michael

Gulf Power restores power to 25K customers, but there’s a long way to go

Utility company Gulf Power said Thursday that it’s already restored power to 25,000 customers affected by Hurricane Michael, but nearly a quarter of its 457,000 customers are still waiting for their lights to come back on.

Gulf Power said between its own workers and personnel flying in from across the country, it has 3,000 boots on the ground working to chip away at the power outages, but the company cautioned customers that it might be a little bit before their bigger bucket trucks can get in place.

“Our process following the storm begins with our evaluation teams arriving in smaller trucks that can more easily navigate through debris and damage,” said Gulf Power spox Jeff Rogers. “Those teams are working to determine the damage to our grid in Panama City, but roads must be cleared and made safe before crews can get their larger bucket trucks in to begin the restoration and rebuilding process.”

The utility said it won’t be twiddling its thumbs while it waits for the roads to be cleared — it has dispatched planes and drones to assess the damage in inaccessible areas so once the clean-up effort has progressed it will have a more informed game-plan for utility workers.

Gulf Power created a video detailing the power restoration process and added that it will have line crews inspecting the infrastructure while other crews will be inspecting and repairing damage to substations, which step down the voltage of the electricity from the power plants to a level that powers homes and businesses.

As the utility warned ahead of the storm, the rebuild and restoration process may take weeks in the hardest hit areas.

“Gulf Power is committed to restoring power to customers in every community we serve across Northwest Florida,” said Rogers. “We’re in this together, and this is why our crews do what they do — restoring power and hope for our customers.”

The company also reiterated the safety tips it put out before the storm, and said customers can monitor progress in their areas through the company’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts as well as its outage map.

As of noon central time, 101,276 of the 113,563 customers without power where in Bay County. There are 6,252 customers without power in Washington County; 2,572 in Holmes County; 2,087 in Walton County; 1,344 in Jackson County; and 16 apiece in Escambia and Okaloosa county. There are no outages in Santa Rosa County.

Gulf Power Trucks

Gulf Power expects to rebuild as it restores power to the Panhandle

Gulf Power, which has more than 460,000 customers in the Florida Panhandle, said it’s preparing for the possibility that system will have to be rebuilt in the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Michael, delaying power restoration efforts.

Hurricane Michael made landfall on the Florida Panhandle near Panama City on Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 155 mph. The storm is expected to pass through the state stretching from Crestview in the west to Tallahassee in the east.

“Northwest Florida has never encountered a storm of this magnitude,” said Gulf Power spox Jeff Rogers. “In the hardest hit areas, the possibility exists that we will be rebuilding our system while we are restoring power. Customers in the high impact areas could be without power for weeks. We’re estimating that 225,000 customers could be without power after Michael passes through.”

The high winds brought by the storm will keep Gulf Power’s lineworkers — including more than 2,600 out-of-state personnel, 1,187 employees and 330 contractors — grounded until the worst is over.

“Crews will restore power until winds reach 30 mph when it becomes unsafe for them to be up in buckets,” Rogers said. “As soon as winds drop they’ll be right back out there restoring power. Every Gulf Power employee has a storm duty and they’re ready for this,” Rogers said. “We drill every year and crews train year-round — we’ve become very skilled in power restoration.”

In the aftermath of the storm, Gulf Power said it’s imperative for residents to not step in any water near a downed power line; not to attempt connecting a generator to your household wiring; and to turn off all large appliances during an outage and wait to plug them back in until 15 minutes after power is restored in order to prevent damage from a possible power surge.

Other preparation and safety tips are available on the Gulf Power website.

The utility company said it will remain active on social media throughout their power restoration and rebuilding efforts. Customers can get the latest information from MyGulfPower.com, Facebook, Twitter as well as through the Gulf Power apps available for Apple and Android devices.

Those without a smartphone can sign up to receive “PowerOut alerts” via text message by texting REG to MyGulf (694853). Customers with questions about their outage can also reach the company by phone at 1-800-487-6937.

Hurricane Michael is the company’s third test of the 2018 hurricane season. Pensacola got hit by subtropical storm Alberto back in May. Last month, Tropical Storm Gordon hit the region and Gulf Power was able to get its customers within a day and a half.

Fast, furious: How Michael grew into a 155 mph monster

Moist air, warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico, and ideal wind patterns supercharged Hurricane Michael in the hours before it smacked Florida’s Panhandle.

Hurricane Michael was barely a hurricane Tuesday morning, with winds of 90 mph. A little over a day later, it had transformed into a monster. When it made landfall Wednesday afternoon, it was blowing at 155 mph. That’s a 72 percent increase in wind speed in less than 33 hours.

“Michael saw our worst fears realized, of rapid intensification just before landfall on a part of a coastline that has never experienced a Category 4 hurricane,” University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy said Wednesday morning.

Hurricanes have something called a potential intensity. That’s how strong a storm can get if all other factors are aligned, said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climate and hurricane expert Jim Kossin said. Michael had nothing holding it back.

“Everything was there for it to reach its potential and it did,” Kossin said.

As Michael’s eye started coming ashore, it boasted the third lowest central pressure of any storm to hit the United States, behind only a 1935 Labor Day storm and 1969′s Camille.

Meteorologists first got a sense something big could be happening by watching how Michael’s eye changed shape. Early Tuesday, it was oddly shaped and ragged. Later in the morning it started to get better organized, and by Tuesday night real-time satellite imagery was showing the eye getting stronger and scarier by the minute.

Another factor: Its pressure, the measurement meteorologists use to gauge a hurricane’s strength. The lower the pressure, the stronger the storm. Before landfall, Michael’s pressure fell so low it looked like the winds were sure to pick up fast, said Ryan Maue, a meteorologist for weathermodels.com.

And none of the factors that hold a storm back were present, especially something called “wind shear.” Wind shear is when there’s a mismatch either in speed or direction between winds near the surface and those five to six miles (8 to 10 kilometers) up.

That mismatch “pushes the storm over” or decapitates it, Kossin said. When the wind shear near Michael eased, the storm took off, he said.

“It’s kind of like someone was holding on to it when it was trying to run and they let it go,” Kossin said.

Another huge factor was the water temperature. Warm water is the energy that fuels hurricanes, and the Gulf water is 4 to 5 degrees warmer than normal.

Water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico vary along with weather, but some scientists said the warm waters are signs of human-caused climate change.

“Have humans contributed to how dangerous Michael is?” Kossin said. “Now we can look at how warm the waters are and that certainly has contributed to how intense Michael is and its intensification.”

The warm waters, Kossin said, are a “human fingerprint” of climate change.

Kossin and others have a study out this month in the Journal of Climate with computer simulations showing that human-caused global warming will increase rapid intensification of tropical weather across the globe in the future.

Other studies have shown rapid intensification has already increased over past decades. One study this year in Geophysical Research Letters found that since 1986, the rate of intensification of storms like Michael has increased by about 13 mph.

David Robertson

Circuit Judge candidate called up to hurricane duty by National Guard

David Robertson, a candidate for a judgeship in Florida’s 8th Judicial Circuit Court, temporarily suspended his campaign Wednesday after his Florida Army National Guard unit was activated to assist in hurricane recovery.

“Today, I announce the immediate, temporary suspension of my campaign for Circuit Judge for Florida’s 8th Circuit. Hurricane Michael and duty call, and it is all hands on deck” he said in a press release.

The Category 4 hurricane now has maximum sustained winds of 155 mph according to the National Hurricane Center. Those winds are expected to start affecting the Florida Panhandle about 2 p.m. Wednesday. In preparation for Hurricane Michael’s landfall, Gov. Rick Scott activated 3,500 members of the Florida National Guard.

“The timing is less than ideal for any campaign, but when duty calls, you answer. This is the routine sacrifice soldiers make. I ask that you keep Floridians in the path of Michael and recovery personnel in your thoughts and prayers,” Robertson said.

“I have committed to attend many events over the closing weeks of the campaign, and unfortunately I will not have time to call and cancel. I trust event organizers will understand,” he concluded.

Earlier Wednesday, Scott said that it’s time for those living in coastal communities to “hunker down” if they have not already evacuated the area.

Robertson works as chief counsel for the Florida Department of Transportation Lake City district. He faces Gloria Walker, the director of litigation for Three Rivers Services, in the judicial election.

Nancy Soderberg expects to win the money race in CD 6.

New poll shows Nancy Soderberg, Michael Waltz statistically tied in CD 6

Democrat Nancy Soderberg and Republican Michael Waltz are tied in the race for Florida’s 6th Congressional District according to a new poll from Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.

The poll, conducted Oct. 1 through Oct. 4, found both candidates pulling 45 percent among voters in CD 6, the seat recently vacated by Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis. The remaining 9 percent are undecided.

The new numbers indicate there has been a bit of jockeying in the sprint toward Election Day — GQR’s prior measure of the race, released Sept. 6, found Waltz had a 2-point lead with only 7 percent of voters undecided. The pollster claims the Fox News personality’s slippage is due to weak support among Republicans.

“Waltz is failing to motivate his own base, earning just 75 percent of the vote among registered Republicans. Soderberg receives 82 percent of the vote among registered Democrats,” the polling memo says. “Soderberg also leads Waltz among self-ascribed independents by 20 percentage points and voters who are undecided more closely resemble Soderberg supporters than Waltz supporters.”

The GQR poll surveyed 400 voters via live telephone interviews with a 43 percent cell phone component. A third of the sample were registered Democrats, while 42 percent were Republicans and 24 percent were independents. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

CD 6 covers parts of St. Johns, Putnam, Flagler and Volusia counties on Florida’s Atlantic coast. President Donald Trump won CD 6 by 17 points two years ago while DeSantis, who held the seat for three terms, won re-election by 17 points.

The Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato both rate CD 6 as “likely Republican,” while Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight puts the odds of a flip at less than 25 percent. Their forecasting model currently expects Waltz to win 52-48  in November.

Still, Soderberg had raised more than $1.7 million for her campaign through the pre-primary reporting period while Waltz had raised $1 million. She also held a nearly 4-to-1 lead in cash on hand thanks in part to Waltz having to get through a bruising three-way Republican primary.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Florida Republicans begin replacement process for Dorothy Hukill

The Republican Party of Florida on Tuesday informed the Florida Department of State that it was beginning the process of selecting Sen. Dorothy Hukill’s replacement ahead of the November election for Senate District 14.

Hukill died Oct. 2, just days after announcing that she could no longer campaign due to a recurrence of cancer first diagnosed and treated last year. She was 72.

“It is with great sadness I inform you that due to the passing of Senator Dorothy Hukill, there now exists a vacancy in the nomination for the Republican Party in the 2018 General Election for the Florida Senate District 14 race,” RPOF Chair Blaise Ingoglia wrote in the letter. “Senator Hukill served our state with distinction and honor, and we will forever be grateful for her lasting impact on the lives of so many Floridians.”

“Upon your notification, the Republican Party of Florida will begin the process of designating a nominee for the District 14 race as outlined in section 100.111, Florida Statutes, and our internal party rules,” Ingoglia concluded.

Under state law, candidate vacancies after the primary elections have taken place “are required to be filled by committee nominations.” The law also states that “the ballots shall not be changed and the former party nominee’s name will appear on the ballot. Any ballots cast for the former party nominee will be counted for the person designated by the political party to replace the former party nominee.”

With Ingoglia’s letter, Florida Republicans have one week to decide on a new nominee. That responsibility will fall upon local Republican leaders in the Brevard- and Volusia-based district. The majority of SD 14 voters live in Volusia County and the panel that decides on Hukill’s replacement could tilt toward choosing a Volusia candidate if there is a lack of consensus early on in the nomination process.

Department of State spokeswoman Sarah Revell explained last week that since the ballots cannot be changed, “a notice would be provided to voters at the polls, and enclosed with any future vote-by-mail ballots.”

Brevard Republican State Committeeman Mike Thomas, Brevard Republican Executive Committee Chairman Rick Lacey and Brevard State Committeewoman Cheryl Lankes, each of whom will sit on the panel that decides Hukill’s replacement, told Dave Berman of Florida Today that there were more than a dozen candidates who had expressed interest in running for SD 14. Thomas also told the paper that a meeting was planned for Thursday evening to choose a nominee.

Brevard County names being floated for the job: Titusville City Councilman Matt Barringer, term-limited Rockledge Rep. Tom Goodson, RPOF regional director Margaret Goudelock, Republican precinct committeeman Brian Hodgers, Canaveral Port Authority Chairman and retired Coast Guard Adm. Wayne Justice, Republican precinct committeewoman Pam LaSalle, Republican district leader Cindy Roberts, Melbourne City Councilman Tim Thomas.

Possible candidates from Volusia County: Mims Republican Cindy Thompson, DeBary City Councilwoman Erika Benfield, former Deltona City Commissioner Zanaida Denizac, former Volusia County director of corrections Marilyn Ford and retired businessman Tommy Wright.

Also mentioned as a possible candidate is Seminole County Republican State Committeewoman Susie Dolan. Seminole County is not contained in SD 14, though Florida law does not require candidates live within the district they seek to represent until they are elected to office.

Hukill started her career in public service in 1992, when she was elected the Town of Ponce Inlet Council. She entered the Legislature as a member of the Florida House in 2004, and after four terms in office she moved up to the Florida Senate. Hukill was running against Cocoa Democrat Melissa “Mel” Martin, a retired U.S. Marine Corps major, in the general election.

SD 14 covers the southern half of Volusia County and the northern half of Brevard. It was one of the districts to see substantial changes after Florida courts approved new district maps at the end of 2015. Registered Republicans make up 39 percent of the electorate while registered Democrats make up 33 percent.

Mitt Romney carried SD 14 by 7 points in 2012, and in 2016 it voted plus-18 for Donald Trump. Hukill’s opponent two years ago was no-party candidate Richard Paul Dembinsky, whom she beat 68-32 on Election Day.

Shawn Harrison

Legislative Black Caucus clarifies it has not endorsed Shawn Harrison

State Rep. Shawn Harrison’s re-election campaign has been sending out a direct mail piece showing him alongside members of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, and the group said Tuesday it wants to make it clear that it has not endorsed the Tampa Republican.

Topping the bullet points on the mailer is that the HD 63 Republican “stood with the Black Caucus to take out the Marshall Program from the School Safety Bill.” The “Marshall Program” would have allowed teachers to carry concealed weapons on campus to fend off active shooters.

The mailer also touts the Tampa lawmaker’s votes on a number of other measures supported by members of the FLBC: The Dozier School Bill, the removal of Confederate General Kirby Smith’s statue from the U.S. Capitol, the creation of the Florida Slavery Memorial and his vote in favor of a special Legislative Session to review the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Harrison was the only Republican lawmaker to vote in favor of the special session.

Despite aligning with caucus members on some issues, FLBC Chairman and state Rep. Bruce Antone, an Orlando Democrat, said the mailer could give recipients the wrong impression.

“The Florida Legislative Black Caucus is a non-partisan organization and does not endorse candidates for political office. Representative Harrison’s campaign mailer, which used a photo of members of the Black Caucus standing behind him as he presented a bill, is misleading and implies he has been endorsed by the Black Caucus,” Antone said.

“We ask Rep. Harrison to refrain from using photos of members of the Black Caucus in his mailers, television ads, and social media ads, if he has not obtained written permission prior to the use of photos. Furthermore, we also ask that Rep. Harrison inform his constituents that he has not been endorsed by the Black Caucus,” he concluded.

While Harrison doesn’t claim he’s landed an endorsement, his use of that photo is similar to other campaign communications that have been called out this cycle. In neighboring HD 62, for example, Democrat Susan Valdes received a stern warning from U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor for using a photo of the two of them in a direct mail ad.

“I am disappointed that the latest communication from Susan Valdes is inconsistent with Florida law and implies my endorsement of her campaign,” Castor said. “It is imperative that candidates follow the law to ensure fairness and transparency.”

The law referenced in that instance and the one between FLBC and Harrison is found in Chapter 106.143(4) of the Florida Statutes.

It reads as follows: “It is unlawful for any candidate or person on behalf of a candidate to represent that any person or organization supports such candidate, unless the person or organization so represented has given specific approval in writing to the candidate to make such representation.”

A violation of that rule can result in civil fees.

Harrison faces Democratic nominee Fentrice Driskell in the general election for HD 63, a perennial swing seat that Harrison for two terms.

As of Sept. 28, Harrison held a strong fundraising lead with $238,150 banked between his campaign account and his affiliated PAC, Committee for an Innovative Florida. Driskell, meanwhile, had $125,000 in her campaign account six weeks out from Election Day.

HD 63 covers part of Hillsborough County, including portions of northern Tampa and the communities of Lutz, Pebble Creek, Lake Magdalene, and Carrollwood. Democrats make up about 39 percent of the swing seat’s electorate, while Republicans hold a 32 percent share.

Bill Nelson

FiveThirtyEight says Bill Nelson’s re-election odds are on the upswing

A month after claiming U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson was the most vulnerable incumbent nationwide, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight says his odds of defeating Gov. Rick Scott are improving.

Based on polls alone, the political forecasting website currently lists the third-term Democrat with a 57 percent chance of earning another six years in Washington. He fares a little better in the site’s “Classic” model, which accounts for x factors such as incumbency, fundraising and historical trends.

Despite the improved odds, the vote tally is expected to be as close as ever: FiveThirtyEight currently predicts Nelson will take 50.5 percent of the vote on Election Day while Scott, a Republican, will get a 49.5 percent share.

Still, the new forecast shows a marked improvement over FiveThirtyEight’s mid-September assessment, which predicted Nelson would eek out another term by just one-tenth of a percentage point.

“It might seem surprising that the fundamentals calculation regards Florida’s Bill Nelson as the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent since Florida is quite purple and there are Democrats up for re-election in some genuinely red states,” Silver wrote a month ago.

“Nelson has a very good challenger in Florida Gov. Rick Scott; one way our model accounts for candidate quality is by looking at the highest elected office the opponent has held, with races against current or former governors or senators falling into the top category.”

Nelson one of 10 Democratic U.S. Senators running for re-election in a state that voted for Donald Trump two years ago, and his battle against Scott has been lopsided, spending wise, since the term-limited Governor entered the race in April.

Scott’s media blitz and high name ID translated into polling leads in the early phase of the race, but recent polls have seen Nelson bounce back.

A recent St. Pete Polls survey, commissioned by Florida Politics, found Nelson, Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat, and Scott essentially tied with 47 percent support apiece. Polls published by the University of North Florida and Public Policy Polling have also indicated Nelson has closed the gap since the general election began in earnest.

Florida’s U.S. Senate election is seen as a “must-win” by national Democrats, who are holding out hope they can flip both chambers of Congress in the fall. Republicans currently hold a 51-49 advantage in the Senate.

When it comes to Democrats’ chances of flipping the upper chamber, however, FiveThirtyEight says that possibility is rapidly waning as embattled Democrats in Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee and North Dakota have slipped in the polls.

“Republicans’ chances of keeping the Senate are up to about a 4 in 5 (79 percent), according to the ‘Classic’ version of the FiveThirtyEight forecast,” Silver wrote Tuesday. “Republicans have always been favored to hold the Senate, but that’s nevertheless a meaningful improvement from recent weeks, when their odds were generally hovering between 2 in 3 (67 percent) and 7 in 10 (70 percent) instead.”

Gulf Power Alberto power restoration effort

Gulf Power stands ready to respond to Hurricane Michael

Hurricane Michael is expected to make landfall in Northwest Florida Wednesday as a category 2 or category 3 hurricane. If the current track holds, Gulf Power said its prepped for a speedy recovery.

If the wind, rain and tidal surges brought about by the storm lead to major outages for the North Florida utility’s customers, Gulf Power has 1,200 employees and 330 contractors standing at the ready and prepared to shift to storm duty rolls after the worst is over.

That platoon of power pros will have plenty of backup, too. The company said it has already secured “more than 1,350 outside resources” to help with power restoration efforts and it will be able to lasso in more help if needed.

If Hurricane Michael hits Gulf Power territory this week, it’ll be the company’s third test of the 2018 hurricane season. Pensacola got hit by subtropical storm Alberto back in May. Last month, Tropical Storm Gordon hit the region and Gulf Power was able to get its customers back on the grid tout suite.

“Our crews were able to restore 26,000 customers from Tropical Storm Gordon within a day in a half,” Gulf Power spox Gordon Paulus. “We train year-round for these types of scenarios. That training and developing of skills has really paid off in helping us quickly and safely get our customers’ power back on.”

Even though Gulf Power is prepared for what Hurricane Michael could bring to the Panhandle and Big Bend regions, the company urged its customers to make sure they make the proper preparations to ride out the storm. Especially since Michael is expected to pack quite a bit more punch than Alberto or Gordon.

“Customers should prepare for the possibility of losing power for an extended period when tropical storm to hurricane force winds and storm surge or flooding occurs,” Paulus said. “We have our storm plans in place and are ready for any scenario.”

The Florida Division of Emergency Management has evacuation and shelter information, as well guides and resources to help outline a family plan for natural disasters and a checklist that Floridians should go over ahead of any storm. Gulf Power adds that customers should crank down their A/C so cool air can last longer during an outage; charge their devices; keep freezer doors sealed; and turn off major appliances to avoid damage from a power surge when service comes back online.

Because of the storm, Gulf Power also announced that it was postponing its annual Economic Symposium, which was scheduled to be held Oct. 10 and 11 in Destin. The symposium will be rescheduled at a later date.

Stephen Lytle

Stephen Lytle raises $32K in 30 days for Tampa City Council bid

Stephen Lytle has gotten off to a fast start in his bid to replace exiting Tampa City Councilmember Yvonne Yolie Capin in the District 3 council seat.

Lytle, a University of South Florida alumnus, launched his campaign at the end of August, and said Tuesday that he’d raked in more than $32,000 in campaign contributions through the end of September.

“It has been a truly humbling experience to take on the challenge of running for Tampa City Council. At the same time the outpouring of support I have seen from my neighbors, friends, and family has been absolutely encouraging,” Lytle said in a press release. “They understand that together we can achieve more than any single person ever could.”

Lytle, 36, has not yet uploaded his new campaign finance report, though he was able to raise $4,110 on the last day of August and entered September with all of that cash in the bank. The release announcing the fundraising numbers claims the report will beat out all other City Council candidates in unique donors for a monthly reporting cycle.

“I believe that residents across the entire city can rally around the concerns I see as essential to Tampa building a more prosperous future,” Lytle said. “Strong, empowered neighborhoods, sound fiscal policy, and improving our city’s infrastructure are issues that I am ready to tackle now to help Tampa move forward.”

In addition to the fundraising success, Lytle has already amassed a long list of endorsements, including one from state Rep. Jim Boyd, a Bradenton Republican.

Also competing for the at-large district are former Councilmember John Dingfelder, who was in office from 2003 through 2010, and real estate agent Vibha Shevade, who entered the race on Sept. 9.

Dingfelder currently holds a cash lead in the race with about $90,000 raised $84,000 in the bank. His tally includes a $50,000 candidate loan he used to jumpstart his campaign in March. Outside of that report, his best effort thus far is the $10,025 he posted in May.

All seven Tampa City Council seats will be up for grabs in the March 5, 2019, municipal election, when Tampa voters will also choose who will succeed exiting Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

The only incumbents running for re-election next year are Guido Maniscalco, who is unopposed in the District 6 race, and Luis Viera who is up against Quinton Robinson.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons