Drew Wilson, Author at Florida Politics - Page 5 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.

Kayser Enneking pitches health care experience in first TV ad

Gainesville physician Kayser Enneking, a Democrat, started hitting TV Friday with a new ad backing up her campaign to oust incumbent Republican Sen. Keith Perry in Senate District 8.

The 30-second spot, titled “Caring For North Central Florida,” features footage of the anesthesiologist in operating rooms, waiting rooms and living rooms while pitching her as a candidate who can bring health care solutions to Tallahassee. If elected, the campaign notes, Enneking would be the only medical doctor serving in the state Senate.

“Health care in Florida is in crisis. Politicians had years to fix this, but nothing’s gotten better. It’s time to try something different. Meet Dr. Kayser Enneking. Doctor at UF, wife and mother, avid runner and biker,” the ad narrator says.

Enneking, outfitted in scrubs, takes over after the intro.

“I never thought I would get into politics. I’ve spent my whole life taking care of people,” Enneking says. “I’ve decided to run for the state Senate because we need someone who can fix our health care system, defend our environment and protect our public schools.”

Enneking’s campaign said the TV ad will begin airing in the Gainesville area on Friday. Federal Communications Commission filings show the initial media buys measured in at $2,920 and will keep the ad on NBC affiliate WNBW and CBS affiliate WGFL through Aug. 19.

Enneking faces fellow Gainesville Democrat Olysha Magruder in the Aug. 28 primary election, though she’s several steps ahead when it comes to fundraising and endorsements.

As of July 27, Enneking’s campaign account and political committee, Florida Knows Excellence, had brought in more than $450,000 and had $333,500 at the ready. In addition to endorsements from local politicians and groups such as Equality Florida and the AFL-CIO, Enneking’s campaign was recently singled out for some backup from progressive advocacy group For Our Future Florida.

Magruder, meanwhile, has brought in $34,300 for her bid and has about $8,500 banked less than three weeks out from the primary election. Perry, who doesn’t face a primary challenger, has raised more than $671,000 for his re-election efforts and had $505,700 on hand as of Aug. 3.

SD 8 covers all of Alachua and Putnam counties as well as the northern half of Marion County. It is one of a handful of districts that became more favorable to Democrats after the Senate map was redrawn ahead of the 2016 elections.

Despite Democrats holding an 8-point lead in voter registrations in the redrawn district, Perry defeated former FDP chair and state Sen. Rod Smith by 5 points two years ago. The seat was also carried by President Donald Trump, though only by 2 tenths of a point.

Enneking’s ad is below.

Poll puts Neil Combee up big in CD 15 primary

A new poll shows former state Rep. Neil Combee has a monster lead in the primary contest for Florida’s 15th Congressional District.

The Strategic Government Consulting poll, conducted Aug. 7 and Aug. 8, the Auburndale Republican is the pick for 31 percent of primary voters while Dover state Rep. Ross Spano, who had a double-digit lead in an early July measure from St. Pete Polls, is in a distant second place with 17 percent support.

The other three GOP contenders — Lakeland contractor Sean Harper, Brandon agribusinessman Danny Kushmer and Lakeland mental health practitioner Ed Shoemaker — showed up in the low single digits.

Despite the strong showing for Combee, two-fifths of Republican voters said they were still undecided three weeks out from the Aug. 28 primary election.

One thing voters were in near universal agreement on was their love of President Donald Trump. According to the poll, a full 87 percent of Republican primary voters in the district gave the president a positive assessment, including nearly three-quarters who said they “strongly approved” of him. Just 10 percent said they disapproved of him 19-months into his presidency.

Interestingly, voters were also asked whether they would vote for Trump’s preferred candidate come Election Day. Voters answered that question in the affirmative by a 58-12 margin, with 30 percent saying a presidential nod would not sway them one way or the other.

Though Trump has weighed in on the Governor’s race and a couple congressional races, he hasn’t issued an endorsement in CD 15. If he were to do so, however, Combee would be the likely recipient considering he gave up his seat in the state House last year to accept a presidential appointment at the USDA.

CD 15 is split between Hillsborough and Polk counties, with about 10 percent of the district’s voters living in Lake County. The district, which voted for Trump by double digits two years ago, is open in 2018 due to the retirement of current U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross.

Though previously considered a Republican lock, the lack of an incumbent combined with strong fundraising by Democratic candidates Kristen Carlson and Andrew Learned have caused political handicappers to shift their assessments of the seat from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican.”

SCG automated phone poll collected 508 responses from likely Republican voters. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.


CD 15 Republican Primary poll by Andrew Wilson on Scribd

Patrick Murphy endorses Nikki Fried for Agriculture Commissioner

Attorney and medical marijuana lobbyist Nikki Fried picked up another endorsement for bid in the Democratic primary for Agriculture Commissioner on Thursday, this time from former Congressman Patrick Murphy.

“I’m supporting Nikki because I know that she is dedicated to promoting the Democratic values we share like protecting Florida’s environment and natural resources, standing up for consumers, and ensuring our state’s agriculture industry has a dependable partner in the Cabinet,” Murphy said.

Murphy represented Florida’s 18th Congressional District from 2013 to 2017. He’s been on the sidelines since 2016, when he unsuccessfully challenged Republican U.S. Sen Marco Rubio’s re-election bid.

He joins former state CFO Alex Sink and 21 Democratic members of the Florida Legislature, among others, in backing Fried’s primary bid.

“I am honored to have Congressman Murphy’s support in this race. During his time in Congress, he was a fierce advocate for our coastal communities — especially when it came to the toxic blue-green algae blooms ravaging our state,” Fried said.

“As Florida’s next Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, I pledge to work tirelessly until this issue is resolved once and for all.”

Fried faces fellow Democrats Jeffrey Porter and Roy David Walker in the Aug. 28 primary.

Since entering the statewide race to replace term-limited Commissioner Adam Putnam in mid-June, Fried has raised more than $228,000 in funds between her campaign account and affiliated political committee, Florida Consumers First. That puts her even with the combined efforts of Porter and Walker.

Also running for the seat are four Republicans: North Fort Myers state Rep. Matt Caldwell, Sebring state Sen. Denise Grimsley, retired U.S. Army Col. Mike McCalister and former Winter Haven state Rep. Baxter Troutman.

Caldwell and Grimsley, who recently rolled out her first TV ad, have been the standouts on the Republican side. Each have piled on more than $2 million in outside cash and have seven figures remaining in their war chests.

Troutman, meanwhile, has spent more than $3 million of his own fortune trying to secure the GOP nom.

Fried has an Orlando fundraiser set for tonight, hosted by Sink and Ruth’s List, as well as Orlando attorney and medical marijuana advocate John Morgan, and Richard Swann, whose involvement in Democratic Party fundraising goes back decades.

Poll shows Bob Buckhorn’s popularity makes compelling case for Lt. Gov. pick

It seems like an eternity since Bob Buckhorn ended speculation that he would seek the Democratic nomination for Governor, but the popular two-term Tampa Mayor could very well end up spending the next four or eight years in Tallahassee.

According to a new poll conducted by ClearView Research, Buckhorn is still wildly popular among Tampa voters, making him a top-tier contender to join the Democratic gubernatorial nominee as their Lieutenant Governor pick on the November ballot.

The poll, conducted in May, found no evidence of “Buckhorn fatigue” among Tampanians. More than three quarters of respondents said they had a positive view of the 60-year-old politician more than seven years into his reign at City Hall. Of those, 36 percent said they saw Buckhorn as “very favorable.”

The rest of the crowd weren’t too down on him. Just 7 percent had a “somewhat unfavorable” impression of Buckhorn, while 5 percent were resolute in their dislike. The remainder, per the poll, were either unsure or refused to answer the question.

Of course, those numbers could shift in the current sharply divided political climate. It’s no secret that Buckhorn is a Democrat, but Tampa Mayor is a non-partisan office and no voter saw a “D” next to his name on the ballot in either 2011, when he won the job with 63 percent of the vote, or 2015, when he was re-elected with 96 percent support.

Buckhorn has his detractors, and while most attacks have rolled off him like water off a duck’s back during his time as mayor, their attacks would be magnified if his name was on the statewide ballot. Think the Koch brothers-backed blasts on Buckhorn’s involvement in the Tampa Bay Rays stadium proposal.

Still, would adding Buckhorn to the ticket help the Democratic gubernatorial nominee? It’s not unlikely.

Hillsborough County is among the most important in any statewide election. It has accounted for about 6 percent of the state wide vote in the last four general elections, but despite voting plus-7 for Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election and for Hillary Clinton by the same margin two years ago, the county has been much tighter in the past two gubernatorial races.

Charlie Crist won Hillsborough by a slim 48-46 margin when he ran for his old job as a Democrat in 2014, which was a downgrade from Alex Sink’s 50-47 performance in the county four years prior.

Take Buckhorn’s ubiquity in Tampa politics and his popularity and toss in the fact that Nov. 6 is shaping up to be a showdown between a loyal Donald Trump Republican and a Democrat — be it current poll leader Gwen Graham, Jeff Greene or Philip Levine — that has vowed firm opposition to the president.

That’s a recipe for running up the score in Tampa Bay.

But does Buckhorn even want to be Lieutenant Governor? It’s a largely ceremonial position that has no real assigned duties unless, per the Florida Constitution, the Governor doles them out.

That remains to be seen. Few believe he’ll sit on the sidelines after his term runs out in the spring, and rumors indicate he’s actively gunning for the job.

The ClearView Research poll was conducted May 1 through May 10 and took responses from 301 Tampa voters via live phone interviews, 38 percent of whom were reached by cell phone. The sample was balanced by gender, race, age, and party in order for our distribution to be consistent and similar to the actual voting population.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.64 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

Nancy Soderberg touts experience, bipartisan approach in first CD 6 ad

Former Ambassador Nancy Soderberg is the best-funded candidate in the race for Florida’s 6th Congressional District, and this week she has started putting some of that cash to work by hitting the airwaves with her first TV ad.

The 30-second spot, “Hurdles,” pitches the Democratic candidate as a problem solver by pointing to her experience as an Ambassador to the United Nations and as Deputy National Security Adviser during the Clinton administration.

That track record, the ad says, shows Soderberg would engage with both sides of the aisle in finding solutions for some of Washington’s more intractable problems, such as affordable health care.

“Everyone faces hurdles. Lord knows I have,” Soderberg says as she strolls along a running track replete with hurdles. “I helped bring Northern Ireland’s opposing sides together to secure peace. As a diabetic, I was denied health insurance. I was one of the first to say ‘let’s get [Osama] bin Laden.

“Let’s bring both parties together to deal with hurdles like unaffordable health care, protecting Social Security and Medicare. Hurdles don’t phase me, I’m about solutions,” she concludes while tipping over a hurdle.

In announcing the inaugural TV ad, Soderberg said she was “running to make Congress work for the people again” before hitting many of the same notes as the ad.

“I’ve taken on terrorists, negotiated with allies, and helped bring peace to a warring nation. In Congress, I’ll bring both sides to the table to fight efforts to cut health care, create jobs you can raise a family on, and protect Social Security and Medicare,” she said. “The people of Central Florida have been ignored for too long, and they deserve a representative who will fight for them.”

Not mentioned in the press release: Details on the media buy that’s backing it up.

Soderberg is the top fundraiser running for CD 6 with nearly $1.5 million raised and about $1 million in the bank at the end of the second quarter, though her primary opponent, Ormond Beach physician Stephen Sevigny, has brought in six-figure hauls as well and recently started rolling out his own suite of television ads.

A recent public poll put Soderberg atop the three-way Democratic primary contest with 30 percent support, followed by John Upchurch at 13 percent and Sevigny at 10 percent, with the rest of those polled saying they were undecided.

The winner of that contest has an uphill climb in the general election, however the outlook isn’t as dour for Democrats as in past cycles. CD 6 is currently held by U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who is giving it up to run for Governor. With no incumbent, high fundraising on the Democratic side and an expected boost in turnout among Democratic voters, a flip isn’t out of the question.

Running for the Republican nomination are former state Rep. Fred Costello, Fox News personality Michael Waltz and businessman John Ward. Waltz and Ward have each crossed the $1 million mark in total fundraising thanks to a hefty amount of self-funding.

Sketchy stroll: State House candidate filmed nabbing opponent’s flyers

The Republican primary race for Pinellas County’s House District 69 has taken an odd turn.

A supporter of Madeira Beach attorney Ray Blacklidge was out canvassing Monday when he and other volunteers noticed something fishy going on — the flyers they were leaving at front doors were going missing, only to be replaced by materials backing the campaign of Blacklidge’s primary opponent, St. Petersburg attorney Jeremy Bailie.

The canvasser had noticed Bailie was on the same route, and after finishing his knock list, he decided to do some recon by doubling back and ducking in some bushes, smartphone in hand. His espionage bore fruit — Bailie himself was pulling a door-to-door switcheroo.

On Tuesday, a video of the dirty deed was posted to Facebook and YouTube, where it has since garnered more than 3,300 views. In a comment on that Facebook post, the man who captured the video said this wasn’t the first time Blacklidge’s campaign materials had gone missing.

“Mr. Blacklidge has and had been told by multiple supporters that his yard signs and pamphlets keep ‘disappearing’ from their yards after Bailie workers walked the area after our own team,” said Dylan Kirkhart, later adding that “It’s just a loathsome and disreputable act that can’t be justified under any circumstance.”

Prior to witnessing Bailie doing the snatching, Kirkhart said Team Blacklidge had chalked up the lossage to immature volunteer workers rather than the candidate himself.

Though they only caught one of the swaps on video, Kirkhart and other volunteers shadowed Bailie without confronting him and estimate that he pulled the same stunt around 50 times during the walk.

Blacklidge said he reported Bailie to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office for stealing the flyers, though it’s unclear what law was broken. Under Florida law, taking a campaign yard sign is considered theft, with the severity of the charge tied to the cost of the sign. Unlike the flyers, which were left at unattended homes, campaign signs are placed with the permission of the property owner, often on request.

Bailie, 27, responded to the allegations in a brief interview with the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday.

“First of all, I want to apologize to my opponent and to everyone else. I called Ray to apologize,” he said. “We were out knocking doors for hours. It’s been a long campaign and I made a mistake. I’m sorry and I apologize to Ray and I promise it won’t happen again.”

While Bailie may not make the same mistake again, such antics aren’t uncommon during the silly season that precedes Florida elections. Recall earlier this year that a video posted by Cocoa Mayor and House District 51 candidate Henry Parrish showed a supporter of his opponent pulling up and flinging a campaign sign as if it were a frisbee.

Blacklidge and Bailie will go head-to-head in the Aug. 28 primary election, with the winner moving on to face Democratic nominee Jennifer Webb on the November ballot. The seat is currently held by third-term Republican Rep. Kathleen Peters, who is running for a seat on the Pinellas County Commission rather than re-election.

HD 69 covers part of southern Pinellas County including coastal communities from Redington shores southward as well as a piece of mainland Pinellas.

The video is below.

John Morgan, Alex Sink hosting Nikki Fried fundraiser Thursday

Democratic Agriculture Commissioner candidate Nikki Fried will be in Orlando Thursday night for a fundraiser hosted by Democratic rainmakers.

The host committee for the event includes attorney John Morgan of mega firm Morgan & Morgan, former CFO and early Fried endorser Alex Sink as well as Richard Swann, whose involvement in Democratic Party fundraising goes back decades. Also on the committee is Ruth’s List, a pro-choice group co-founded by Sink that supports Democratic women in state and local elections.

The fundraiser is set to run from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Swann’s home in Orlando. According to the invitation, supporters who want to attend are being encouraged to pitch in $1,000 to the Fried campaign.

Fried, a lawyer and lobbyist specializing in medical marijuana issues, entered the Ag Commissioner race in mid-June, joining Jeffrey Porter and R. David Walker in the Democratic primary.

As of July 27, her campaign and political committee, Florida Consumers First, had brought in $228,000 in contributions and more than $166,000 at the ready. That puts her atop the primary field, but she has a ways to go to catch up to the well-funded Republicans vying to succeed term-limited Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Both Lehigh Acres Rep. Matt Caldwell and Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley have cleared more than $2 million raised with more than $1 million in the bank. A third Republican, former state Rep. Baxter Troutman, has thrown $3 million of his own money behind his campaign.

The nominees for each party will be decided in the Aug. 28 primary election. The winners will go head-to-head on the November ballot.

The fundraiser invitation is below.

Andrew Learned says ‘dark money’ fueling Kristen Carlson’s CD 15 bid

Valrico Democrat Andrew Learned attacked his primary opponent in Florida’s 15th Congressional District on Wednesday over recent spending by a so-called “dark money” group.

The Learned campaign pointed to recent Federal Elections Commission filings showing that a super PAC by the name of “REINVESTING IN AMERICA” had tossed $19,487 to Washington-based Resonance Campaigns for a data file and a direct mail campaign in support of Lakeland Democrat Kristen Carlson.

Resonance Campaigns says it creates “direct mail and digital content for labor unions, Democratic candidates and progressive organizations.” The shop’s website shows off work completed for public employee union AFSCME, labor union SEIU and a Democratic state senator in Virginia, among other clients.

REINVESTING IN AMERICA, however, is a little more secretive about its work.

Documents available on the FEC website show the committee was opened in mid-July by Lauren E. Leonard, a former federal employee who most recently worked as the White House liaison at the U.S. Department of Commerce during the Obama Administration.

The committee has not yet filed a finance report, though the spending reports it has turned in indicate it has also spent about $75,000 on direct mail campaigns backing Detroit Democrat Haley Stevens, a former Obama Administration official who on Tuesday won the primary for Michigan’s 11th Congressional District.

The Learned campaign said the lack of transparency in who is funding REINVESTING IN AMERICA is troubling while also hitting Carlson for past campaign contributions to Republican politicians, most recently a $50 check to Bartow Republican Jennifer Spath, who lost the special primary for House District 39.

“Dark money is coming in at the last minute to help Carlson, after she wrote thousands of dollars in checks to Republicans,” said campaign manager Jaden Slagle. “There is no place for this in the Democratic Party. This is shameful and Kristen Carlson needs to disavow this group.”

Learned’s team then reiterated the candidate’s vow to not accept contributions from corporate PACs and to end Citizens United.

While that commitment is becoming more common among Democratic politicians, it’s important to note that independent expenditures — what REINVESTING IN AMERICA’s spending is classified as — must be made without consulting or communicating with candidates, otherwise such expenditures are considered campaign contributions and subject to limitations.

Carlson and Learned are running alongside Ray Pena in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary for CD 15, which is open due to the retirement of Republican U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross.

The winner of the Democratic nomination will face one of five Republicans, likely Dover state Rep. Ross Spano or former Auburndale Rep. Neil Combee, in the Nov. 6 general election.

CD 15 is split between Hillsborough and Polk counties, with about 10 percent of the district’s voters living in Lake County. The district voted plus-10 for Donald Trump two years ago and had been considered a Republican lock, but the combination of Ross’ retirement and strong fundraising numbers from the 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.”

Charlie Crist sponsors bill allowing veterans to use medical marijuana

Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist announced a new bill Wednesday that would allow veterans to be treated with medical marijuana without getting canned from federal government jobs.

Crist introduced H.R. 6589, also known as the “Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act,” during a roundtable discussion with veterans and cannabis industry representatives in Largo.

“Medical marijuana is an issue of compassion, and in the veterans’ community, access is even more important as more and more veterans are turning to cannabis to address chronic pain and PTSD. At the same time, the federal government is the largest employer of veterans; however, private cannabis use even in states that have legalized medical marijuana is prohibited in these positions,” Crist said.

“Our bipartisan bill would protect federal employment for those in compliance with their state’s cannabis laws. Because our veterans shouldn’t have to choose between treatment options or job opportunities,” he continued.

Republican U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson of Georgia, who is co-introducing the measure with Crist, added that “no one should face unemployment for choosing to pursue private legal medical treatment,” including federal workers, one-third of whom are veterans.

Crist’s email announcing the bill said it had already earned the backing of numerous marijuana advocacy organizations, including Americans for Safe Access, Florida for Care, Marijuana Policy Project, the National Cannabis Industry Association, NORMLVeterans Cannabis Coalition and the Weed for Warriors Project.

“Congressman Crist has been a strong ally in our fight to allow Florida patients access to medical marijuana and efforts to protect this access from federal interference. Florida for Care is proud to support his common-sense bill to protect employment of Floridians whose well-being depends on continuing medical marijuana treatment,” said Ben Pollara, executive director of Florida for Care, and campaign manager of the successful 2016 campaign to approve medical marijuana in Florida.

“We applaud Congressman Crist’s leadership on this important issue as we continue working together to protect patients and strengthen the state’s medical marijuana system.”

Medical marijuana company Surterra Wellness, which operates 10 dispensaries in the Sunshine State, also lauded the plan in a separate statement.

“We applaud Congressman Crist for introducing a bipartisan bill to protect veterans’ treatment options. Surterra stands proudly beside the Congressman as he pursues medical cannabis reform in Congress so that our communities and local veterans can have access to safe and effective treatment options,” said Surterra CEO Jake Bergmann.

“We have a significant veteran community in Florida that deserves the highest quality, most consistent medical cannabis products available. We are proud to lead a company that seeks to improve the quality of our brave men and women’s lives through safe, natural means,” he continued.

Progressive group sending backup to state Senate battlegrounds

Progressive advocacy group For Our Future Florida announced Wednesday that it will pitch in on the effort to flip the state Senate, starting with the seats held by Republican Sens. Keith Perry and Dana Young.

Senate District 8, the Gainesville-based seat held by Perry, and Senate District 18, the Tampa-based seat held by Young, sit atop the Florida Democratic Party’s wish list for 2018.

Young was elected to SD 18 with a plurality of the vote two years ago as the district voted for Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket, while Perry won his seat by 4 points as Donald Trump claimed a narrow victory despite Democrats holding an 8-point lead in voter registrations.

In 2018, both seats have drawn competitive challengers. House Minority Leader Janet Cruz currently leads the polls in her quest to unseat Young, while Gainesville physician Kayser Enneking, a first-time candidate, has posted impressive fundraising numbers in her bid to knock off Perry.

“All Florida has to show for Keith Perry and Dana Young’s time in Tallahassee is millions funneled out of our public schools leaving our state one of the worst for K-12 education in the country and nearly one million low-income residents blocked from accessing healthcare through Medicaid,” said For Our Future spox Blake Williams. “Working Floridians deserve representatives like Kayser Enneking and Janet Cruz who will look out for their best interests, advocate for the middle class, and fight for affordable healthcare.”

For Our Future Florida added that the “State Senate program will be a comprehensive field effort focused on both persuasion and mobilization universes and will include a vote-by-mail program layered into the field campaign.”

The same group, a branch of For Our Future Action Fund, recently held a “Statewide Canvass Day of Action” that consisted of 72 separate events in all corners of the state to make the case Democrats running for the state Legislature and U.S. House as well as for re-electing U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson to a fourth term and sending a Democrat to the Governor’s Mansion for the first time this century.

For Our Future Florida pushes for progressive-backed plans to expand Social Security and Medicare, boost investments in green energy production, increase education funding and end the “school to prison pipeline.”

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