Drew Wilson, Author at Florida Politics - Page 4 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.

Brandes up big in first SD 24 poll since Lindsay Cross tagged in

Knocking off St. Pete Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes was always a long shot, and the first measure of the race since Lindsay Cross subbed in for Carrie Pilon shows those slim chances dwindling further.

According to a new survey from St. Pete Polls, Brandes has the support of nearly 39 percent of Senate District 24 voters, giving him a better than 2-to-1 lead over Cross, who was the pick for an even 19 percent of those polled. With 42 percent of voters undecided, there’s room for growth for both candidates.

Cross entered the race at the end of last month, a few weeks after the prior Democratic nominee, trial lawyer Carrie Pilon, withdrew from the contest due to the unexpected health problems of a close family member.

During her brief tenure in the race, Pilon worked up from a 9-point deficit in late May to within striking distance by early July. Cross will certainly see major gains in her poll numbers as Election Day approaches, though her poor showing in this inaugural measure is a bitter reminder that just because one candidate made headway by putting in some elbow grease, doesn’t mean another can swoop in and reap the benefits.

When it comes to name ID, she’s got a lot of work to do.

Brandes is a known quantity to 59 percent of SD 24 voters, and they find him favorable by a margin of 39-20. Cross, meanwhile, is known by just 27 percent of the district and those who offered their opinion gave her a somewhat lukewarm 21-16 favorability rating.

In addition to playing catchup on the name ID front, Cross needs to bring in some cold hard cash, pronto. Brandes, through Aug. 3, had nearly $863,000 in the bank between his campaign and political committee, Liberty Florida, and that’s after more than $807,000 in spending since the 2018 campaign cycle began.

As it stands, it’s unclear whether Cross is hunkering down to put in the work needed to put SD 24 in play.

According to her first campaign finance report, which to be fair only covered a partial week, she’s brought in just $3,000 in monetary contributions. One would expect Cross and her family, close friends, longtime co-workers and acquaintances to pitch in and jumpstart the campaign to build some buzz.

A typical candidate would have made the calls and had the checks ready for day 1 — Pilon did as much when she pulled together $100K for her inaugural reports.

The problem may be a bit deeper, however, as sources familiar with the Cross campaign say she is fresh off a European vacation and hasn’t quite returned to the day-to-day grind — If true, she better return from the clouds tout suite, or the conversation will quickly shift to the degree of electoral embarrassment she can expect come Election Day.

Of the cash she did bring in, two-thirds came from the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, stretched-thin pot of money overseen by Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson. The other $1,000 came from self-employed property manager Sidney Smith Wilson.

Gibson’s fund also threw in another $25,000 to kickstart research efforts, as well as buy a campaign computer and cell phone. While fronting that cash would be a no-brainer for the ever-flush Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, it is a much more significant investment for the FDLCC, which had $400,000 in the bank at last check in.

SD 24 covers most of southern Pinellas County except for the tip of the peninsula, which is included in neighboring SD 19. According to the most recent bookclosing report published by the Florida Division of Elections, Republicans hold a 4-point advantage in voter registrations within the district, which voted in favor of Barack Obama twice before going plus-7 for Donald Trump in 2016.

The St. Pete Polls survey was conducted Aug. 11-12 and received responses from 757 likely general election voters. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

White TV ad

Frank White ad sees sheriffs tout him as a ‘conservative we can trust’

Attorney General candidate Frank White is rolling out a new TV ad Monday saying he, not fellow Republican Ashley Moody, has a record county sheriffs can trust.

The 30-second ad, titled “Florida Sheriffs Support Frank White,” apes a recent TV ad by Moody by bringing in some backup from county sheriffs who are backing his campaign. Moody, a former circuit court judge and prosecutor, touted her law endorsement endorsements and another from Attorney General Pam Bondi, in an ad released last week.

White’s handful of sheriff backers were used to the same effect in the new spot.

“Florida Sheriffs agree that for Attorney General, Frank White has the conservative record we can trust,” a narrator says before three county sheriffs — Escambia Sheriff David Morgan, Okaloosa Sheriff Larry Ashley and Santa Rosa Sheriff Bob Johnson — split the next three lines of the script.

“That’s why Frank White stood with President [Donald] Trump against illegal immigration and voted to outlaw sanctuary cities in Florida. And why Frank has the highest NRA A+ rating for defending the Second Amendment. Frank White has worked with us in law enforcement to increase penalties on child predators and strengthen the death penalty,” the sheriffs say.

“Frank White. Tough. Effective. Conservative. For Attorney General,” the narrator says in closing.

The ad is the latest in a string of ads the White campaign has released since early June, when he kicked off an 80-day advertising plan with a $1 million ad buy well before the “lowest unit rate” rule kicked in 45 days out from Aug. 28 primary election.

If polls are any indication, White’s strategy is paying off. A recent measure from St. Pete Polls shows him with a double-digit lead over Moody among likely Republican primary voters, and his lead is similarly high among each slice of the GOP electorate barring Hispanic Republicans and those living in South Florida.

Still, two weeks are left, and Moody’s campaign has shown no signs of slowing down.

For the week of July 28 through Aug. 3, she added another $233,630 between her campaign and political committee, Friends of Ashley Moody, while White tacked on $106,000 between his campaign accounts and United Conservatives political committee.

As it stands, Moody has brought in more than $3.86 million between the two accounts and had $1.43 million in the bank on Aug. 3. White, who has put $2.77 million of his own money behind his bid and has received at least $400,000 from his family, has a to-date total of 4.64 million with $1.18 million at the ready.

The winner of the Aug. 28 primary election will likely face Tampa Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw in November.  A pair of polls, now somewhat stale, showed Shaw with an edge no matter which Republican he faces on Election Day.

For his part, Shaw showed $115,885 received in his new report. He has now raised more than $1.15 million since entering the race early this year and had $676,795 in the bank on Aug. 3.

White’s ad is below.

Neil Combee takes lead in CD 15 Republican primary, poll shows

Former Auburndale state Rep. Neil Combee isn’t leading by double digits, as indicated by a recent poll commissioned by his campaign, but he does have an outside the margins lead in the Republican primary for Florida’s 15th Congressional District.

According to a new survey from St. Pete Polls, Combee has the support of nearly 36 percent of likely primary voters followed by Dover state Rep. Ross Spano at 30 percent. Another 22 percent of those polled are undecided, while the other three candidates vying for the GOP nom — Sean Harper, Danny Kushmer and Ed Shoemaker — poll in the low single digits.

The new results are the first time Combee has led in a public poll of the race. The last measure from St. Pete Polls, released July 9, showed Spano with a 32-20 percent lead over Combee, which itself was a breakaway for the one-time Attorney General candidate compared to a late May survey from the same pollster, when he led 29-23 percent.

Combee’s current 6-point lead mainly comes from running up the score among the two-thirds of Republicans who said they plan to vote in the primary but haven’t cast their ballot yet. Among the third who have already sent in their mail ballots, his lead over Spano tightens to 36-35 percent followed by Shoemaker at 9 percent, Kushmer at 7 percent and Harper at 3 percent.

Among the other subset, where there’s still two weeks left to duke it out, Combee leads Spano 37-26 with 28 percent undecided and none of the other three breaching 5 percent support.

Standouts in the date include Combee’s large lead among women, who prefer him over Spano by a margin of 36-27 percent. Among men, however, that 9-point gap is halved. Similarly, Combee holds a large lead among voters over 70, while Spano leads by 8 points among middle-aged voters and ties with Combee in the 30-49 crowd. Young Republicans, a very small subset in the poll, prefer Spano by a margin of 3-to-1.

Spano’s slippage in the polls can likely be partially attributed to the “mild cardiac event” he suffered late last month — the health scare followed an intense workout and the campaign said at the time that the 52-year-old lawmaker was “expected to make a full and complete recovery.”

Still, that kept him grounded from campaigning for at least a week during the critical leadup to primary Election Day, and but according to a new interview with Florida Daily, Spano is back on the campaign trail. He also had some positive words for President Donald Trump, who carried CD 15 by 10 points two years ago, saying the Commander in Chief has exceeded his expectations since taking over as President and expressing support for some of Trump’s cornerstone politicies.

“People want a wall built,” Spano said. “They want to be safe in their communities. They want to know that certainly criminal illegal aliens that they are picked up by local authorities that they are turned over to the federal government to be deported. That is an important thing.”

Combee’s lead appears to have grown during Spano’s downtime, which came just a few days after Combee released his first TV ad touting his connections to Trump — he resigned from House District 39 last year to accept a presidential appointment at the USDA.

But, as of Monday, Federal Communications Commission filings don’t list any media buys to back up Combee’s ad and it’s unclear when or if he plans to get it on the air. Spano, the fundraising leader on the Republican side, announced his first 30-second spot on Friday and already has media buys in place throughout the district, making him the first of the five GOP contenders to truly hit the airwaves.

CD 15 is split between Hillsborough and Polk counties, with about 10 percent of the district’s voters living in Lake County.

Though the seat had been considered a Republican lock, the retirement of current U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross combined with strong fundraising from Democratic candidates caused the political handicappers at the Cook Political Report to shift their assessment from of the seat from “Likely Republican” to “Lean Republican.”

CD 15 is still rated “likely Republican” by Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the prediction newsletter from University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato.

The winner of the Republican primary will face whomever emerges from the three-way contest for the Democratic nomination between former Citrus Commission general counsel Kristin Carlson of Lakeland, Navy veteran Andrew Learned of Valrico and aviation instructor and retired police detective Ray Pena of Lakeland.

Carlson leads the overall field in fundraising and started hitting TV on July 26. Learned has nearly matched her in fundraising, though he’s been in the race a good deal longer. He announced a TV ad on Aug. 6, though no media buy has been made by his campaign according to FCC records.

Both primary elections are Aug. 28. The general election is Nov. 6.

The St. Pete Polls survey was conducted Aug. 11 and Aug. 12 and polled 360 registered Republicans who said they planned to vote in the CD 15 primary election. The results has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.2 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

Ron DeSantis adds another $1M as Adam Putnam’s money machine slows to a crawl

Congressman Ron DeSantis has held an edge in the polls for weeks, but now he’s started eating into Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s fundraising lead, too.

DeSantis, whose chances surged after an endorsement from President Donald Trump, brought in more than $1 million between July 28 and Aug. 3. Putnam, meanwhile, brought in $191,901.

DeSantis’ cash mostly came in through his committee account this time around, with his campaign receiving $399,031 and Friends of Ron DeSantis adding $635,100.

By far the largest check he cashed was a $300,000 payment from Conservative Principles for Florida, the main fundraising vehicle for incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva. Showing up with $50,000 checks were Save Our Everglades PC, a newish committee chaired by Mary Barley of The Everglades Trust, and Miami-based Duty Free Group.

Included further down was a $20,000 check from The Presidential Coalition, an affiliate of Citizens United that says its mission includes “seizing upon the momentum of President Trump’s historic victory to build a ‘farm team’ of up and coming candidates who share our vision for America as a ‘shining city upon a hill.’”

On the campaign side, DeSantis received $183,005 in state matching funds alongside more than 40 checks for the maximum campaign donation of $3,000.

The state campaign matching funds program, open only to candidates for Governor and Cabinet positions, matches contributions of $250 or less from individuals who were state residents at the time of making the contribution. The first distribution of those funds is made 60 days before the primary election.

Also on the report were hundreds of small-dollar donations. Of the 1,357 campaign contributions he received, more than 1,200 were for $100 or less. Excluding the matching funds check, DeSantis’ average campaign donor chipped in $159.19.

Spending for the week was a few bucks shy of $3 million, with $2.93 million paying for media buys and the remainder paying for a list of expenses including credit card processing fees, printing, catering, direct mail and fundraising consulting from Picotte & Porter, the Jacksonville-based shop run by Gretchen Picotte and Rick Porter.

In all, DeSantis has raised $16 million for his gubernatorial bid and had $2.24 million in the bank on Aug. 3.

Putnam’s comparatively anemic campaign haul included an $81,170 matching funds disbursement, nine max checks and just over 300 contributions overall. His political committee, Florida Grown PC, added another $54,520, with a $15,000 check from The Florida Justice Reform Committee leading the way. Also on the report were $10,000 checks from Winter Park land development company Keewin, Vestcor Companies Chairman and former Ambassador John Rood as well as Heartland Dental Care founder Richard E. Workman.

Both the campaign and committee reports are tiny compared to the numbers Putnam has pulled down throughout most of his campaign. The last time Florida Grown raised less than $54,250 was the week before Election Day 2016, when Putnam was not on the ballot. The last time Putnam’s campaign account reeled in less than $56,212 — it’s total excluding the matching funds — is never.

Despite the meager week, spending totaled $2.67 million and included $2.13 million in ad buys and another $518,000 in direct mail campaigns.

As of Aug. 3, the second-term Agriculture Commissioner had raised $37 million between the two accounts and had $4.8 million in the bank.

DeSantis and Putnam are a little over two weeks away from the Aug. 28 primary election, when Republicans will decide which man will represent the party on the November ballot.

Gayle Harrell leads Belinda Keiser 48-26 in fresh SD 25 poll

Despite being massively outspent by Keiser University vice chancellor Belinda Keiser, a new poll shows state Rep. Gayle Harrell with a commanding lead in the Republican primary for Senate District 25.

The St. Pete Polls survey, conducted Aug. 8, found Harrell with 48 percent support among voters who said they had either already cast a ballot or that they planned to vote in the Aug. 28 election.

Keiser, who has juiced her campaign with $925,000 in candidate loans, was the pick for just 26 percent of those polled, with a slightly higher share saying they were still unsure which of the two candidates they would vote for.

Among the 22 percent of Republicans who said they had already voted, Harrell’s lead expanded to 35 points. It contracted to 44-26, however, among the 78 percent whose vote is still outstanding.

Another piece of good news for Harrell: Voters who know about her tend to like her.

About 51 percent of Republicans offered their opinion on the term-limited state representative, handing her a plus-13 in favorability. The margin was only a little tighter among those who haven’t voted, with 35 percent saying they saw her favorably compared to 23 percent with an unfavorable view.

Keiser, the poll found, holds a double-digit lead when it comes to name ID, but there weren’t too many fans of the Broward Republican. Of the 65 percent of Republicans who gave their opinion, she scored a minus-16 in favorability. The measure bottomed out at minus-36 among early voters, while those who haven’t voted saw her unfavorably by a 35-26 percent margin with 39 percent undecided.

Harrell and Keiser are the only Republicans running for SD 25, which is open two years ahead of schedule due to exiting Senate President Joe Negron’s decision to resign the seat rather than serve out the remainder of his term.

The winner of the Harrell versus Keiser contest will move on to face Port St. Lucie Democrat Robert Levy in the Nov. 6 general election.

SD 25 includes the whole of Martin and St. Lucie counties, where Harrell has held elected office for 16 of the past 18 years, as well as part of Palm Beach County. The district is safely Republican — Negron was re-elected with nearly two-thirds of the vote in the 2016 cycle, while Trump carried the district by double digits.

The St. Pete Polls robopoll took responses from 357 registered Republicans who said they planned to vote in the SD 25 primary. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.2 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.

Gwen Graham adds $1.5M as Philip Levine, Jeff Greene pour more cash into Gov. campaigns

Gwen Graham’s campaign for Governor added nearly $1.5 million to its coffers last week as Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine continued juicing their campaign accounts with seven-figure checks from their own fortunes.

Though the haul is Graham’s largest yet, it mainly came in through a pair of state matching funds checks — one check for $991,598 on July 28, and another for $103,970 on Aug. 3, the final day of the reporting period.

The state campaign matching funds program, open only to candidates for Governor and Cabinet positions, matches contributions of $250 or less from individuals who were state residents at the time of making the contribution. The first distribution of those funds is made 60 days before the primary election.

The campaign tacked on another $167,500 or so from donors. While seven max checks — $3,000 for statewide races — topped the list of individual supporters, her campaign added hundreds more contributions.

Overall, Graham received a whopping 1,900 contributions from individuals and a well over 1,700 of them measured in at $100 or less. Excluding the matching funds, the average campaign contribution for the week was about $88.

The campaign haul was accompanied by another $218,150 raised for her affiliated political committee, Gwen Graham for Florida. Graham’s cousin, Stephen Graham of New York City, topped the committee report with a $50,000 check alongside Anne Pajcic of the prominent family of Duval Democratic boosters that includes former Rep. Steve Pacjic.

Checking in at the $25,000 level were Pompano Beach retiree Michael Cohen and Hugh Culverhouse Jr., the son of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse Sr., who died in 1994.

The Democratic Services Network, the Florida Institute for Politics and NARAL Pro-Choice America also cut five-figure checks, with most of the rest of the committee haul coming in from individuals who have already maxed out on the campaign side.

In all, Graham’s two accounts shelled out $1.57 million for the week, with $1.41 million of that heading to Virginia-based Screen Strategies Media for an ad buy, and another $141,501 paying for media production services from Washington-based Dixon/Davis Media Group and Virginia-based Deliver Strategies.

With the books closed at midnight on Aug. 3, Graham’s overall fundraising had had passed the $12 million mark and she had about $1.35 million banked between her two accounts.

Graham’s on hand total tops the primary field, as does her fundraising total if loans are excluded. Including them, however, puts her in third behind Levine and Greene.

Greene anted up another $4.35 million for the week, and spent another $4.6 million, and in keeping with the strategy he’s employed thus far, the campaign account served merely as a pass through for checks to media buying agencies.

Between July 28 and Aug. 3, California-based Fortune Media picked up $3.2 million in checks from Team Greene, while Washington’s The Incite Agency received $526,668 and Coral Gables-based Adkins & Associates received $78,925.

In addition to media buys, the campaign spent more than $550,000 on “communications services” — $319,000 for Washington’s Winning Connections, $227,446 for Nashville’s Counterpoint Messaging and $10,000 for Gainesville’s Everblue Communications.

Various consulting contracts and travel expenses ate away the rest of the funds.

Greene has now pumped $22.45 million into his campaign account and has brought in just $2,315 from donors. He finished the reporting period with just shy of $20,000 in his campaign account.

Levine, meanwhile, bolstered his $72,843 in outside fundraising with a $1.37 million loan, for an overall haul of $1.45 million for the week. Like his opponents, his nearly $1.5 million spending during this leg of the sprint outweighed his income and mainly went toward media buys.

The $10,343 in outside cash raised by the campaign came in from about 150 or so small-dollar donors who gave an average of $67.12 apiece. The bulk of the committee’s 62,500.00 haul came in through a $50,000 check from Cuban-born Miami businessman Paul Cejas, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Belgium during the Clinton Administration.

Levine’s TV spending rang up at $1.37 million for the week, while another $38,000 in advertising dollars were directed to various online publications $4,215 was spent boosting Levine’s tweets. The rest of the outflow mainly went toward bills to keep the lights on and the doors open at the campaign’s many field office throughout the state.

Overall, Levine has raised $25.19 million between his campaign and All About Florida political committee, including about $16.4 million in candidate loans and candidate contributions. He had about $400,000 in the bank between his two accounts on Aug. 3.

Graham, Greene and Levine are the top three Democratic candidates in most polls of the race, though recent measures have shown Graham rocketing into first place as Greene and Levine have tussled over past comments on President Donald Trump — both of them were more gracious in than glowing when they made their comments, which simply wished the president luck and success for the good of the country.

Greene has additionally come out hard against both his top-tier rivals by releasing attack ads bashing their environmental records. The Levine attack says human waste was dumped into Biscayne Bay; the Graham attack says American Dream Miami megamall being developed on land partly owned by the Graham Companies will damage the Everglades.

Coming in fourth in most polls of the five-way race is Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who raised $409,419 between his campaign and Forward Florida political committee last week.

Three-quarters of that cash came in from a pair of checks from some nationally familiar names. NextGen Climate America, the advocacy group headed up by billionaire Tom Steyer, chipped in $250,000, while Jonathan Soros, the son of business magnate George Soros, gave $50,000.

Gillum’s campaign account brought in another $100,900 from 1,370 donors who gave an average of $74.42 apiece. Spending for the week nearly hit $1 million, including $888,000 in advertising spending and along with a host of charges for campaign travel.

Since entering the race early last year, Gillum has raised $5.2 million with $817,515 on hand on Aug. 3.

Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King rounded out the pack with a report that shows signs of a slowing campaign. The week brought him just over $10,000 in new money while $109,238 went out the door. The measly numbers come after he pumped another $2 million into his campaign during the first half of July.

including $4 million in candidate loans, King has now raised $8 million between his campaign and committee, Rise and Lead, Florida. He had $779,865 at the ready on Aug. 3.

The five Democratic hopefuls are only about two weeks out from the Aug. 28 primary election, when four of their campaigns will end and the winner among them will head on to face either U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis or Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on the November ballot.

Melissa Howard tells Tommy Gregory to ‘stop the lies’

House District 73 candidate Melissa Howard says her Republican primary opponent, Tommy Gregory, has been trying to smear her with one lie after another as the pair fight to succeed exiting state Rep. Joe Gruters in the Sarasota-based district.

According to Howard, the Gregory campaign has been employing a strategy that is all too common among low-tier debaters: The Gish gallop. Toss out a large enough volume of lies that an opponent can’t respond to each one individually and presto — the galloper wins without making a positive case for himself.

“Tommy Gregory is a liar. The proof speaks for itself. First his campaign tried to push a story out to Floridapolitics.com claiming I wasn’t a Republican. The Ohio registrar confirmed the Gregory campaign lied,” she said.

Indeed, Gregory made that easily disprovable claim and Hamilton County (Ohio) Election Administrator Chuck Eckert confirmed it had no merit.

His response at the time: “Under Ohio election law, political party affiliation is done by requesting the ballot type for the political party with which you wish to be affiliated in a Partisan Primary Election. Your voting history reflects only General Election activity, no partisan primary election activity.”

“Then the campaign pushed another story that I didn’t have a Bachelor’s Degree. So, I flew to Ohio went back to my alma mater, picked up my transcripts and helped my mom find my diploma. Again proving Tommy Gregory’s entire campaign is built on lies,” Howard said.

Howard provided Florida Politics with a picture of her and her mother next to the framed diploma from Miami of Ohio.

***Update*** — Miami University in Ohio told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that Howard attended the school but never graduated. The school also says the diploma she produced is counterfeit, saying it doesn’t match those issued in 1994.

“I am calling on Tommy Gregory to stop the lies, quit the negative campaign, and stop trying to slander my reputation in my community,” she concluded.

Howard and Gregory are the only two Republicans vying for HD 73, a GOP stronghold that covers parts of Manatee and Sarasota County. The seat is open due to current Gruters’ decision to run for the Senate seat currently held by Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube, who is running for Congress.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

Ross Spano vows to protect ‘American Dream’ in first CD 15 ad

Dover state Rep. Ross Spano has started running his first TV ad in the race for Florida’s 15th Congressional District, pitching himself as a candidate who will fight to keep the American Dream “alive and well.”

The ad, titled “American Dream,” sees the Hillsborough County Republican touch on that concept before rattling off a litany of outside attacks against it.

“My dad taught me that if you work hard, honor God and treat people right, you can succeed. That’s our American Dream,” Spano says in the ad.

Then a record scratch hits and the ad flashes between images of some of the most disliked politicians, pundits and groups among Republican circles: U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, a man who appears to be a member of the “Antifa” movement and comedian Kathy Griffin.

“But now career politicians, special interests and liberals are working to kill that dream, attacking our rights and increasingly our values. I’ll fight back for you in Congress, so the American Dream is alive and well for the next generation,” Spano says.

The Spano campaign said the ad launch is backed up by a digital buy and a TV buy that’ll put it on the airwaves throughout CD 15, which covers parts of Hillsborough, Lake and Polk counties. Federal Communications Commission filings indicate the initial media buy runs through Aug. 19.

Spano is one of five Republicans running for CD 15, which is open this cycle due to the retirement of Republican U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross.

He faces former Auburndale state Rep. Neil Combee, Lakeland contractor Sean Harper, Brandon agribusinessman Danny Kushmer and Lakeland mental health practitioner Ed Shoemaker in the Aug. 28 primary election.

A new poll from SCG shows Combee with a double-digit lead among primary voters, however a St. Pete Polls survey released early last month showed Spano, the fundraising leader on the GOP side, up big in the five-way race.

Spano’s campaign mentioned his polling position in the ad announcement, saying “as early voting begins in most of the District next week, a succession of three publicly commissioned polls all show Spano with a lead over the rest of the Republican candidates in the field.”

The winner of the Republican nomination will go up against one of three Democrats: Kristen Carlson, Andrew Learned or Ray Pena.

CD 15 voted plus-10 for Donald Trump two years ago and had been considered a safe Republican seat until Ross’ retirement announcement and the subsequent fundraising successes of the Democratic candidates in the race.

That led the political handicappers of at the Cook Political Report to shift their assessment of the race from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican.” Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the prediction newsletter from University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato, still lists the district as “likely Republican.”

Spano’s ad is below:

Denise Grimsley adds dozens of local endorsements for Ag. Commish bid

Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley expanded her list of backers in her statewide bid for Agriculture Commissioner on Friday with a bulk endorsement from three dozen local elected officials from all corners of the state.

The additions came in from mayors across the I-4 corridor, from Temple Terrace to Melbourne; school superintendents stretching from Gulf to Hendry; tax collectors in from the Panhandle to the Treasure Coast; school board members from Duval on one end of I-10 to Okaloosa on the other; county clerks spanning from Suwanee to Martin; and county commissioners from the Florida-Georgia line in Baker to the top of the peninsula in Miami-Dade.

“Florida’s next Commissioner of Agriculture will not only work alongside the Governor and other members of the Cabinet, but local leaders as well, which is why I am proud that so many public servants have lent me their support and endorsement,” Grimsley said.

“I look forward to continuing to work with local elected leaders, who play such a vital role in their communities and Florida, if elected Florida’s next Commissioner of Agriculture. Together, we can further our collective mission of making Florida flourish for generations to come,” she continued.

“As Florida’s next Commissioner of Agriculture, I will utilize the sum of my experiences that I gained as a farmer, nurse, hospital administrator and running a small business to advocate on behalf of the agriculture industry, as well as Florida consumers,” she concluded.

If in addition to those 34 pols, Grimsley added another pair to the already well-stocked quiver of county sheriff endorsements: Hamilton County Sheriff J. Harrell Reid and former Highlands County Sheriff Susan Benton.

For those keeping score at home, that makes for 36 sitting county lawmen — seven Democratic and 29 Republican — backing her bid in the four-way Republican primary to succeed Adam Putnam, who is term-limited and running in the Republican primary for Governor.

Grimsley has been a member of the state Legislature since 2004, first as a member of the Florida House and, since 2012, as a member of the Florida Senate. She currently holds the District 26 seat, which covers all of DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee counties as well as parts of Charlotte, Lee and Polk counties.

She’s up against Lehigh Acres Rep. Matt Caldwell, retired U.S. Army Col. Mike McCalister and former Winter Haven Rep. Baxter Troutman in the Aug. 28 primary race.

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, meanwhile, 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.

Troutman, however, has pumped $3 million into his campaign fund and raised about $500,000, though his high burn rate has left him with just $315,000 on hand heading into the last leg of the race. McCalister, for his part, has yet to hit $25,000 raised for his effort, even with nearly $19,000 in candidate loans.

The winner of the Republican nomination will be on the November ballot alongside one of three Democrats: Nikki Fried, Jeffrey Porter and Roy David Walker.

The full list of Grimsley’s new endorsements is below:

—Melbourne Mayor Kathy Meehan

—San Antonio Mayor pro tempore and Parks Commissioner Elayne Bassinger

—Seminole Mayor and Former House Speaker pro tempore Leslie Waters

—Temple Terrace Mayor Mel Jurado

—Winter Park Mayor Steve Leary

—Calhoun County Superintendent of Schools Ralph Yoder

—Glades County Superintendent of Schools Scott Bass

—Gulf County Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton

—Hendry County Superintendent of Schools Paul Puletti

—Pasco County Superintendent of Schools Kurt Browning

—Suwannee County Superintendent of Schools Ted Roush

—Brevard County Tax Collector Lisa Cullen

—Hendry County Tax Collector Pat Langford

—Indian River Tax Collector Carole Jean Jordan

—Lake County Tax Collector Bob McKee

—Okaloosa County Tax Collector Benjamin Anderson

—Pasco County Tax Collector and former state Rep. Mike Fasano

—Calhoun County Property Appraiser Carla T. Peacock

—Duval County School Board Member Becki Couch

—Duval County School Board Member Lori Hershey

—Highlands County School Board Member Donna Howerton

—Okaloosa County School Board Member Tim Bryant

—Hamilton County Sheriff J. Harrell Reid

—Highlands County Former Sheriff Susan Benton

—Martin County Clerk of Court Carolyn Timmann

—Pasco County Clerk of Court Paula O’Neil

—Suwannee County Clerk of Court Barry Baker

—Baker County Commissioner James Croft

—Clay County Commissioner Mike Cella

—Hardee County Commissioner Colon Lambert

—Hardee County Commissioner Rick Knight

—Highlands County Commissioner Don Elwell

—Indian River County Commissioner Peter O’Bryan

—Indian River County Commissioner Tim Zorc

—Miami-Dade County Commissioner Esteban Bovo

—Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey

Casino stakes anti-Amendment 3 group with $525K

The political committee fighting against a proposed constitutional amendment to limit gambling expansion brought in $525,000 from the parent company of Miami’s Magic City Casino.

The committee, Vote NO on 3, received the check from West Flagler Associates on July 31. That stack is the only contribution the committee has reported since it was formed early last month.

Vote No on 3 spent nearly all of that cash shortly after the it cleared by way of a $523,600 radio buy through Miami-based IGT Media Holdings on Aug. 3. The only other expenditure was a $20 wire transfer fee, leaving the account with $1,380 in the bank at the close of the July 28 through Aug. 3 reporting period.

Amendment 3, also known as the “Voter Control of Gambling” amendment, would tie the hands of the Legislature by “ensur(ing) that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling,” according to the ballot summary.

The committee backing the amendment, Voters In Charge, has received a heavy amount of support from Disney and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, who both have a stake in limiting the expansion of gambling in the state. Each chipped in $5 million in April; the committee has not posted any fundraising since then.

Overall, the pro-Amendment 3 effort has received nearly $16.75 million in contributions and has about $10 million at the ready. Earlier this week, Voters in Charge announced plans for a $30 million ad buy.

Amendment 3 is one of 13 measures that will go before voters in the 2018 general election. Proposed amendments need at least 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons