Drew Wilson, Author at Florida Politics - Page 4 of 76

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.

Jose Mallea becomes fifth Republican to file for HD 119

Republican Jose Mallea has filed to run for office again five months after losing out to Rep. Daniel Perez in the special GOP primary for House District 116.

Mallea filed paperwork Tuesday to run in House District 119, currently held by termed-out Republican Rep. Jeanette Nuñez. Mallea joins Juan Alfonso Fernandez-Barquin, Enrique Lopez, Analeen “Annie” Martinez and BibianaBibiPotestad in what is now a five-way GOP primary for Miami-Dade County seat.

Also running for the seat in 2018 is no-party candidate Daniel Sotelo.

Mallea has an extensive background in politics, including running Sen. Marco Rubio’s successful U.S. Senate campaign in 2010. He also served as chief of staff to former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, and served stints in the federal government, working at the U.S. Department of State and the White House.

His political pedigree helped him score endorsements from former Gov. Jeb Bush, former House Speaker Will Weatherford, state Sen. Rene Garcia, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce when he ran in the special election earlier this year. But it also earned him some negative attention from outside groups which, among other things, believed that he betrayed Rubio by working for Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign.

When the votes were tallied Perez defeated Mallea 55-45 earning a spot on the special general election ballot, where he easily beat Democrat Gabriela Mayaudon with two-thirds of the vote.

So far Lopez and Potestad are the only two candidates to file campaign finance reports for the race as Fernandez-Barquin and Martinez both filed in November. Neither Lopez nor Potestad has a commanding lead in the money race, especially considering Mallea raised more than $250,000 during the four months he was running in the special election.

As of the end of October, Lopez had raised $21,600 including loans and had about $20,900 on hand, while Potestad had raised $19,091 including loans with approximately $16,750 in the bank.

HD 119 covers part of inland Dade, including Kendall, and has a substantial Republican lean.

About 34 percent of the electorate are registered Republicans, compared to a 30 percent share for Democrats, while nearly 35 percent of voters have no party affiliation.

Nuñez had held the seat since it was redrawn in 2012 when her only general election competition came from a write-in candidate. In 2014 she bested Democrat Milagro Ruiz with 61 percent of the vote, and last year she took 57 percent of the vote against Democrat Jeniffer Pinell.

Hmmm … poll shows Rick Scott with 10-point lead over Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate seat

A new poll from St. Leo University found Gov. Rick Scott has surpassed U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup in for Nelson’s seat in 2018.

The poll, conducted online between Nov. 19 and Nov. 24, showed Scott with a double-digit lead over Nelson in the matchup, 42-32, with 8 percent preferring another candidate and 18 percent undecided.

Eight months ago Nelson held a 5-point lead over Scott, 39-34, and in September the Scott took a slim 35-33 lead.

Scott, a Republican, has not formally entered the race for U.S. Senate, but he is termed-out as governor and is almost sure to challenge Nelson, a Democrat, in his campaign for a fourth term next year.

“We’re still almost a year out from the 2018 elections, but Rick Scott is in the best position he’s been in yet against incumbent Bill Nelson,” said polling institute director Frank Orlando. “It will be interesting to see if he can maintain this support while his party is hurting electorally throughout the country.”

Scott has also made considerable strides over the last two months when it comes to voters’ perception of his job performance.

Back in March, about 56 percent of Florida voters said they had a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” view of the second-term governor, while about 39 percent said they viewed Scott, a Republican, in a “somewhat unfavorable” or “not at all favorable” light.

Last month, the positive view climbed to about 61 percent while the negatives had dwindled to about 31 percent. The other 8 percent said they were unsure how they felt about Scott.

The poll also touched on the leading candidates to replace Scott in the governor’s mansion, though the bulk of the survey was conducted when Orlando attorney John Morgan was still considering a run in the Democratic Primary.

Morgan, who said the day after Thanksgiving he would not run for governor as a Democrat, had the most support among Dems at about 13 percent, followed by former congresswoman Gwen Graham at 9.4 percent.

Among all voters lumped together — Republicans, Democrats and independents — Morgan again came out on top with 24 percent support, followed by Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam at just under 19 percent.

About 53 percent of Democratic voters said they were unsure, leaving the race wide open for fellow Democratic candidates Andrew Gillum (6 percent), Orlando-area businessman Chris King (3 percent) and Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine (2 percent).

“No one has been able to rally establishment support and win the invisible primary. With some uncertainty removed as Morgan took himself out of contention, the process of winnowing the field might finally begin in earnest,” Orlando said.

Putnam, who has gone gangbusters on the fundraising trail, leads the Republican field with 15 percent support, though nearly 63 percent of GOP respondents were unsure.

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, not yet a candidate, was second-place among named options at 4.8 percent, followed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran and embroiled Clearwater Sen. Jack Latvala, both with under 3 percent support.

“Adam Putnam isn’t in an insurmountable position, but he’s at least the leader in the clubhouse,” Orlando said. “Other prominent GOPers are busy fulfilling the duties of their office or in the news for the wrong reasons. It’s difficult to compare Putnam against Morgan at this point, as our results show that voters would still prefer someone else in the governor’s mansion.”

The poll took in responses from 500 Florida voters — including 181 Democrats and 166 Republicans — and has a 4.5 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level. More detailed information on the poll’s methodology and findings can be found on the St. Leo University polling website.

Florida takes No. 1 spot on ‘Judicial Hellholes’ list

Florida takes the top spot among the states in more than a few lists, but it earned a “distinction” from the American Tort Reform Association which said the Sunshine State was the No. 1 “Judicial Hellhole” in the country.

Florida was one of eight states or judicial districts getting a write up in 2017-2018 Judicial Hellholes, earning the top spot in the ring of dishonor alongside courts in California, St. Louis, New York City, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Illinois and Louisiana.

“The Florida Supreme Court’s liability-expanding decisions and barely contained contempt for the lawmaking authority of legislators and the governor has repeatedly led to its inclusion in this report. And though the high court’s plaintiff-friendly majority this year shrunk from 5-2 to 4-3, a hushed discus­sion between two majority justices recently caught by an open microphone suggests that this majority is as partisan as ever and brazenly determined to influence the judicial selection process as three like-minded col­leagues face mandatory retirement in early 2019,” the report said.

“Meanwhile, an aggressive personal injury bar’s fraudulent and abusive practices in South Florida and elsewhere have also tarnished the state’s reputation. Encouragingly, at least some plaintiffs’ lawyers who’ve crossed the line are being held accountable, either with stiff court sanctions or criminal prosecutions. But with the help of some lawmakers, too many are still get­ting away with too much, and for the first time in this report’s 16-year history, enough shade has been cast on the Sunshine State to rank it as the nation’s worst Judicial Hellhole.”

The 2017-2018 report is the first in the 16-year history of the “Judicial Hellholes” series to name Florida the worst.

The report cites Justice C. Alan Lawson replacing retired Justice James E.C. Perry as a move in the right direction, but the report blasted the court for allowing Perry to help decide cases he had started to hear before his retirement date.

The ATRA cited a memo from Edward Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in calling that practice “contrary to the Florida Constitution.”

“It’s one thing to decide already-argued cases without the new member. It’s quite another thing to allow the retired justice to displace the new member in those cases. This elementary distinction seems to have escaped the Florida Supreme Court,” the snippet from Whelan said.

The report also blasted Florida Supreme Court rulings in medical liability cases that it said are detrimental to both patients and healthcare providers, while also making it more difficult to solve disputes disputes without litigation. It also warned that Florida attorneys are bracing for the court’s anticipated rejection of higher standards for expert testimony used in all federal and most state courts.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce pointed to the report as vindication for what it has been saying all along – that Florida’s legal system is one of the worst out there.

“Lawsuit abuse in Florida is an increasingly serious and expensive problem, and it just keeps getting worse. On average, it translates into a $3,400 ‘tax’ for Florida’s families each year, due to increased lawsuit abuse costs,” said Florida Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson.

“There have been five Wall Street Journal articles this year alone talking about Florida’s horrendous lawsuit abuse, the national Institute for Legal Reform named Florida the fifth worst state for legal climate, and now the American Tort Reform Association ranks Florida as the worst Judicial Hellhole, how much more evidence do lawmakers need to take action,” Wilson continued.

Margaret Good tops HD 72 fundraising in November, James Buchanan still leads

Among the four candidates vying to replace Republican Alex Miller in House District 72, Democrat Margaret Good was the top fundraiser last month.

Nevertheless, Republican James Buchanan still holds the lead in total fundraising, as well as cash on hand.

Good, who has a primary challenger in Ruta Jouniari, raised $32,613 for her campaign from Oct. 20 through the end of November, narrowly edging out Buchanan, who raised an even $32,000. Good also spent more than $67,000, leaving her with $51,170 in her campaign account a few days ahead of the primary.

Good also tacked on another $23,000 through her committee, New Day Florida, which has raised a total of $38,000 since it started up in October. The combined fundraising numbers show Good with over $55,000 raised between her campaign and committee during the 41-day reporting period.

During the same stretch, Jouniari added $15,950 and spent $6,125, leaving her with $14,168 in the bank ahead of Tuesday’s special primary.

Buchanan, the son of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, had raised a total of $227,130 and had $169,398 on hand heading into December. In addition to bringing in $32,000 in contributions during the 41-day reporting period, Buchanan also received $13,000 worth of “in kind” support from the Republican Party of Florida, which covered staffing and polling.

As only Republican in the race, Buchanan and Libertarian Alison Foxall will get to wait on the sidelines to see which Democrat will be on the Feb. 13 special general election ballot.

Foxall, the second candidate filing for the seat, added $6,600 to her campaign account last month for a to-date total of $11,097. She also spent a little over $1,000 and has $8,844 on hand.

HD 72 has a solid Republican lean.

Statistics from last year show HD 72 with about 52,000 Republican voters compared to about 35,000 Democrats and another 30,000 with no party affiliation. Miller’s landslide victory over Ed James III last year came alongside a 5-point win for President Donald Trump in the district.

Aakash Patel has raised more than $310K for Hillsborough Commission bid

Hillsborough County Commission candidate Aakash Patel piled on another and a few thousand more for his campaign and committee last month, to give him $310,121 in total fundraising a year out from Election Day.

Patel is running for the District 1 seat being vacated prematurely by Commissioner Sandy Murman next year. Murman intends to leave the seat she won re-election to in 2016 so she can run in the countywide District 7 in 2018. Since Murman’s decision is not official yet, the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections office lists Patel as running in 2020.

Back in August the Tampa Republican picked up a high-profile endorsement from freshman U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who said he was “proud to support” his longtime friend’s campaign.

The new campaign report has not yet been filed with the Hillsborough County Supervisor of elections, but previous reports have shown contributions from big names such as shopping center developer Brent Sembler and some of his companies, and have also included many small-dollar donors. The account took in a total of $230,788 and had $141,408 on hand through the end of October.

Patel’s committee, Elevate Tampa, has also not posted its November report, but as of the end of October, it had $75,196 in the bank. Patel’s campaign said total fundraising between the campaign and committee accounts was $310,121 through the end of November.

Democratic state Rep. Janet Cruz is also running for the seat, and according to her most recent campaign finance report, covering October, she has about $42,300 on hand. She filed for the commission seat in September.

Prominent GOP lobbyist Ron Pierce is crossing party lines and supporting Cruz over Patel. Last month, along with entrepreneur Tom Pepin and RSA Vice President Natalie King, Pierce hosted a fundraiser in to launch the House Democratic Leader’s campaign for local office.

A second Democrat, Yolie Capin, had filed to run, but has since withdrawn.

Ashley Moody picks up endorsement from Gulf County sheriff

Gulf County Sheriff Mike Harrison announced Monday he would back Republican Ashley Moody in the race to replace termed-out Attorney General Pam Bondi next year.

Moody is a former prosecutor and circuit court judge and is running against state Reps. Jay Fant, Ross Spano and Frank White in the GOP primary for the Cabinet seat.

“Florida Sheriffs need an Attorney General who has prosecuted criminals, Ashley Moody has the experience in our criminal justice system that makes her uniquely qualified for this important job. As a prosecutor and judge, she earned the respect of the law enforcement community and has a proven track record of combating crime. I’m honored to endorse Ashley Moody and know that she will serve us well as Florida’s ‘top cop,’” Harrison said.

Harrison makes for nearly two dozen county sheriffs who have endorsed Moody, including the current sheriffs from Bay, Bradford, BrevardClay, Hernando, Indian River, Lake, PascoPinellas, Sarasota, Sumter, Walton, Washington and other counties.

“Our law enforcement community is filled with selfless and brave leaders who are passionate about public service and the safety of others. Sheriff Harrison’s commitment to those ideals and his leadership within the LEO community is admirable. He is tough on crime and relentless in his pursuit of justice, and I’m incredibly honored to have his support,” Moody said.

Moody and Jacksonville Rep. Jay Fant were the only two GOP candidates in the mix for a few months before Pensacola Rep. Frank White threw his name into the hat in October. A few weeks later, Hillsborough County Rep. Ross Spano made it a four-way primary.

Moody had been the far and away leader for much of the early part of the race but White, of Pensacola, made a splash in his first campaign finance report as an AG candidate after putting $1.5 million of his own money on the line. He also broke Moody’s monopoly on endorsements from sheriffs with a few lawmen in his corner.

Fant, who has also put a lot of his own money on the line, has stepped up his game in recent weeks. Last week, he announced major staffing changes across the board for his campaign.

At the end of October, White had $1.73 million on hand in his campaign account, putting him ahead of Moody, who through the same date had about $920,000 in her campaign account and another $207,000 in her committee, Friends of Ashley Moody.

Fant had about $910,000 on hand to start November, including $750,000 in loans, while Spano joined the race with about $44,000 on hand from his House re-election campaign.

Ryan Torrens, the lone Democrat in the race, has about $6,700 in his campaign account.

November reports for all candidates are due next week.

Early poll of CFO race shows Jeremy Ring with slight lead over Jimmy Patronis

An early poll of the Chief Financial Officer race shows Margate Democrat Jeremy Ring with a slim lead over Republican Jimmy Patronis, who was appointed earlier this year to the CFO spot.

The EMC Research poll shows Ring with 37 percent support among voters and Patronis with 35 percent, with 28 percent undecided. The 2-point spread, though encouraging for Ring, falls well within poll’s the 3.7 percentage point margin of error.

The polling group said it used a turnout model that assumed GOP voters would have a six-point turnout advantage over Democrats, 44 percent to 38 percent.

“Jeremy Ring’s lead over Jimmy Patronis in an uninformed, head-to-head matchup shows Ring has a path to victory on Election Day next November with a well-funded campaign that has the resources to communicate his unique qualifications for the position of Chief Financial Officer,” the polling group said in news release.

The poll also showed Ring, a former Yahoo! executive, had stronger support from Democrats than Patronis had among Republican voters.

More than three-quarters of Democrats support Ring, while 4 percent support Patronis. Conversely, two-thirds of Republicans back Patronis while 7 percent back Ring. Among independents, Ring leads Patronis 25-23.

The poll did not take into account Brandon Sen. Tom Lee’s likely entry into the race.

Lee, a former Senate President, ran unsuccessfully for CFO in 2006 and has said he plans to take another stab at the job in 2018 though he is in no rush to officially announce his candidacy.

If Lee entered the race, he would be in the first-place spot in fundraising as he has more than $2 million socked away in his political committee, The Conservative.

Ring’s only primary opponent so far is Antoanet Iotova, who lost to Democrat Gary Farmer in the SD 34 race last year and is surely outmatched in this race – especially considering she was arrested last fall and charged with two counts of grand theft.

Ring served in the Florida Senate from 2008 through 2016 and was the first-in candidate for the Cabinet post. Through the end of October, he had about $193,000 on hand in his campaign account. He also has another $135,723 on hand in his political committee, Florida Action Fund, for a combined total of $328,723.

Patronis was appointed to the job by Gov. Rick Scott earlier this year after CFO Jeff Atwater resigned the position to take a job at Florida Atlantic University. Scott has said Patronis is his pick for the job in 2018.

Though Patronis, a former member of the Florida House, didn’t officially file for election until Nov. 1, he had raised $653,850 for his political committee, Treasure Florida, as of the end of October.

The EMC Research poll was conducted from Nov. 12 through Nov. 16 and received responses from 705 likely general election voters.

Democrats’ request for earlier special election gets court date

Florida Democrats last week requested an injunction to move up the dates for a pair of South Florida special elections and the motion will get its day in court Dec. 7.

The motion, filed in Leon County circuit court, aims to get new dates for special elections in House District 114 and Senate District 31. Current special election dates, set by Gov. Rick Scott with input from county supervisors of elections, will keep both seats vacant for the 2018 Legislative Session.

Circuit court Judge Charles Dodson will preside over the arguments.

The injunction request is part of a lawsuit Democrats filed Nov. 6, before dates were set for either election, asking a judge to force Scott to set the dates.

Scott earlier this month ordered the special primary election in SD 31 for Jan. 30, with a special general election to follow on April 10. He also set the HD 114 special primary for Feb. 20, with the general election to follow on May 1.

SD 31 was vacated by Lake Worth Democrat Jeff Clemens on Oct. 27 after he acknowledged an affair with a lobbyist, while HD 114 was vacated by Coral Gables Democrat Daisy Baez at the beginning of November after she agreed to plead guilty to perjury in a case related to her legal residency.

The two South Florida districts are not the only ones expected to go without representation.

Republican Rep. Neil Combee’s exit from HD 39, effective Nov. 24, will leave that seat unfilled until a May 1 general election, while the abrupt exit of freshman Rep. Alex Miller in September will leave HD 72 unfilled until a Feb. 13 special general election. It’s unclear whether House budget chief Carlos Trujillo, who has been nominated to a U.S. ambassador post, will resign ahead of Session.

Linda Stewart files for re-election to SD 13

Orlando Democratic Sen. Linda Stewart opened a campaign account to run for re-election to Senate District 13 this week, joining 10 of her Senate colleagues who have already taken similar steps toward another term.

Stewart is the only candidate filed to run for SD 13. Likewise, all other incumbents who have filed for re-election are running solo in the 2020 cycle so far.

Stewart also was the final senator eligible for re-election in 2020 to open her account.

The Orlando Democrat served in the House from 2012 through the 2014 election, when she was defeated in a surprise upset by GOP Rep. Mike Miller in a successful cycle for Republicans across the board.

After sitting out for two years, she bested better-funded former Democratic Rep. Mike Clelland as well as Judge “Rick” Roach in the three-way primary race.

SD 13 gained a sizable Democratic advantage when new district lines were approved by Florida courts, which gave Stewart the go-ahead win over Dean Asher, a well-funded Republican who would have otherwise likely fared well.

Sitting Republican Sens. Doug Broxson, Travis Hutson, Debbie Mayfield and Greg Steube have filed for 2020, as have Democratic Sens. Randolph Bracy, Victor Torres, Darryl Rouson, Kevin Rader, Perry Thurston and Jose Javier Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, who is running in a Democratic Primary for Congress in 2018, was the only incumbent to have had a challenger in the nascent 2020 election cycle, but he is currently running uncontested after former Republican Rep. Erik Fresen withdrew after pleading guilty to not filing a tax return in 2011.

Frezen, currently finishing up the first of four court-ordered stays in jail, zeroed out his campaign account earlier this week.

Eight of the other nine seats up for grabs in 2020 are held by termed-out senators, while SD 31 is vacant due to the resignation of Lake Worth Democrat Jeff Clemens and will be filled via a special election next year.

AFP slams Marco Rubio-backed amendment to GOP tax bill

Conservative group Americans for Prosperity blasted an amendment to the Republican tax reform bill put forward by U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Mike Lee, saying it would “undermine” the plan’s supposed benefit to families.

The Rubio-Lee amendment sets the corporate tax rate at 22 percent, compared to the 20 percent rate in the current GOP tax bill.

The group said 20 percent is the line for a “pro-growth, competitive” rate.

“The Rubio-Lee Amendment breaks the promise of the unified framework at the 11th hour by raising the corporate tax rate to an unacceptable level. Worse, it does so in exchange for a tax credit that doesn’t directly achieve the economic growth that families need. American families would reap greater economic benefits from a level playing field, cutting of special-interest handouts, and low, flat rates for individuals and businesses alike,” said AFP President Tim Phillips.

“President Donald Trump, the House and two Senate committees have certified that lowering the corporate tax rate to 20 percent is crucial to achieve the goals of creating jobs, spurring growth and expanding opportunities for all Americans. We continue to strongly support the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and urge lawmakers to oppose any attempt to deviate from that plan with amendments that would increase the corporate tax rate above 20 percent,” he continued.

Rubio said the slightly higher rate, still a 13 percent cut from the current rate, would “allow us to do the pro-worker reform that we desperately need.”

The Rubio and Lee plan would extend child tax credits to lower income families, many of whom do not pay federal income tax and instead are primarily taxed via payroll taxes.

The current Republican tax plan would double the child tax credit from $1,000 per child to $2,000 per child, which would make little to no impact on lower-income families.

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