Drew Wilson, Author at Florida Politics - Page 5 of 65

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for SaintPetersBlog and FloridaPolitics.com. While at the University of Florida, Wilson was an editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and after graduation, he moved to Los Angeles to cover business deals for The Hollywood Reporter. Before joining Extensive Enterprises, Wilson covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools.

More anti-Yvonne Fry flyers hit Hillsborough mailboxes

Another wave of mailers went out in Hillsborough County blasting HD 58 Republican candidate Yvonne Fry for her alleged lack of conservative bona fides.

Both mailers were paid for by “Hillsborough County Conservatism Counts,” a political committee formed at the end of last month by Ash Mason, who worked as a legislative aide in the Florida House from 2006 to 2011 and is now the regional director in the southeast for the Christian Coalition Of America.

The same committee was behind some other anti-Fry flyers that hit Hillsborough mailboxes last week, just days after the committee was formed.

The committee’s first campaign finance report, detailing who is funding the group, won’t be available until after voters head to the polls to decide whether Fry or fellow Republican Lawrence McClure will be the GOP nominee in the special election to replace former Rep. Dan Raulerson.

The first of the two mailers slams Fry, a Plant City businesswoman, as being against gun rights and claims she outright told the Tampa Bay Times last month that “she doesn’t support our Second Amendment rights.”

The front of the mailer says she “joined the ranks of Obama, Clinton and Pelosi in declaring war on the Second Amendment,” while the backside brands Fry, who has picked up support from many Republican officials including the entire Plant City Commission, as a “liberal” who wants to “take away your God-given gun rights.”

The second mailer targets Fry’s support for the infrastructure sales tax in Hillsborough, which it dubbed “the largest tax hike in Hillsborough County history.”

“Liberal Yvonne Fry’s billion dollar tax hike benefits a few people in downtown Tampa at the expense of hard working families in Plant City, Temple Terrace and the rest of East Hillsborough County.”

That mailer also pulls quotes from the Tampa Bay Business Journal coverage of the sales tax. The Plant City Economic Development Coverage, which Fry had a seat on, supported the sales tax. Fry has publicly supported the tax as well, calling it an “investment” in the county’s infrastructure that would benefit Plant City even though rail isn’t slated to come to the city under the plan.

The second mailer is largely similar to one of a handful of other mailers sent out last week, one of which railed against her opposition to expanding the homestead exemption, a move Fry sees as a home rule issue that the state should leave be.

The winner of the primary between Fry and McClure will advance to a Dec. 19 general election against Democrat Jose Vasquez, Libertarian Brian Zemina and no-party candidate Ahmad Saadaldin. District demographics give the Republican nominee the best chance to win on Election Day.

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Second Republican files for Broward’s GOP-friendly HD 93

The second GOP candidate has filed to take over for exiting HD 93 Republican Rep. George Moraitis, who can’t run for re-election next year due to term limits.

Second term Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca put in his paperwork Tuesday, joining Pompano Beach Republican David Hasenauer in the primary race.

Before LaMarca became the lone Republican on the Broward County Commission, he served as chair for the Broward County Republican Party and as a commissioner in Lighthouse Point.

Hasenauer has not reported any contributions for his campaign, so LaMarca is on even footing in the contest despite his opponent having a 10-week head start.

There are also three Democrats running for the seat, which covers the coastal part of Broward east of Interstate 95.

HD 93 is a Republican oasis within the traditionally Democratic county, and the winner of the GOP Primary next year has the best shot at replacing Moraitis, who is currently the only Republican state legislator in Broward.

Emma Collum leads the Dems in fundraising with about $27,500 on hand through August, followed by Stephanie Myers with about $7,000 on hand despite dumping $15,000 of her money into the race. Jonathan May, who filed in February, has a little over $100 in his campaign account.

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

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

Andrew Gillum hires new finance director to ramp up fundraising

Andrew Gillum added a new finance director this week, as the Democrat gubernatorial candidate looks to spark fundraising after losing ground to opponents Gwen Graham and Chris King.

Akilah Ensley heads to the Gillum camp from Invictus Strategy Group, a political and nonprofit fundraising consulting shop she founded. Her past experience also includes a stint as deputy director of major gifts at the Truman National Security Project.

“Our campaign is thrilled to add Akilah R. Ensley, a nationally-recognized leader in Democratic politics and nonprofit causes, as our new finance director,” said Gillum communication director Geoff Burgan.

“She brings a wealth of knowledge to the Gillum campaign, including numerous statewide campaigns in the Southeast. With the Democratic primary under a year away, her addition comes at a critical time, and we’re thrilled that she’ll be leading the charge as we run a strong people-powered campaign to take back Florida.”

Ensley does arrive at a crucial time.

While the Tallahassee mayor got off to a strong start on the fundraising trail, recent contributions — both to his campaign and his committee, “Forward Florida” — have slowed somewhat.

In March, his first month in the race, he brought in $241,000 for his campaign and another $428,000 through his committee.

After the initial excitement wore off, numbers dipped, but by the three-month mark, Gillum had raised $1.2 million. However, after the specter of an FBI investigation into the City of Tallahassee’s Community Redevelopment Agency, fundraising began to slow.

Gillum is not a target of the investigation, but his proximity to the case may have had a chilling effect on fundraising. An earlier investigation over the mayor’s use of city email software for campaign messages — although cleared of any wrongdoing — also hasn’t helped.

The campaign’s lowest point came in July after two weak fundraising months, which led to the loss of several high-level campaign staffers. Momentum slipped even further from Sept. 1 through Sept. 26 when the committee raised just $6,000, according to the Forward Florida website,

By August, the most recent month with full data available, contributions dropped to $75,000 combined, while spending came in at more than $125,000. Heading into September, Gillium had about $600,000 on hand, compared to about $2.5 million in the bank for Graham’s campaign and committee, $1.5 million on hand for King’s two accounts.

Second Democrat files to take over for Bill Hager

Last week a second Democrat decided to test the waters in HD 89, which is being vacated by termed-out Republican Rep. Bill Hager next year.

James Bonfiglio, an Ocean Ridge resident, filed paperwork to run for the Palm Beach County district on Sept. 18. He joins Ryan Rossi, who filed May 1, in the Democratic Primary for the race.

Bonfiglio graduated from the Loyola University School of Law in 1979 and was admitted to the Florida Bar shortly after, according to his website for his law firm (anyone who doesn’t like to cringe should steer clear of the “in the news” section).

Bonfiglio doesn’t have a lot of catching up to do with Rossi, who through three full months in the campaign has raised about $5,600 – including $1,100 in loans. At the start of September the William Raveis Real Estate sales associate had about $2,300 on hand.

Also running for the seat are Republicans Matt Spritz and Tommy Zeichman, who are both attorneys.

Spritz is an alumnus Emory University and New York University, where he attended law school. He’s gotten some rotunda experience from being an associate at lobbying Greenberg Traurig, and also has a few gigs working for lawmakers under his belt, most recently with Naples Rep. Bob Rommel.

Zeichman is running as a native son of Palm Beach County. The Boca Raton business attorney was recognized by as a “Rising Star” by Florida Super Lawyers and also serves on the Boca Raton Financial Advisory Board, FAU Honors College Advisory Board, and the Royal Oak Hills HOA Board of Directors.

HD 89 is one of the few dots of red within the county and 2016 statistics show the district with about 120,000 registered voters, including 43,000 Republicans, 40,000 Democrats and about 32,500 voters without a party affiliation.

Despite the close margins, Hager went unopposed on Election Day last year. In both the 2012 and 2014 elections the Delray Beach insurance expert beat his Democratic challengers by 5 points.

Bob Rommel draws NPA challenger in District 106

Bob Rommel picked up a challenger in his re-election bid for House District 106, but the Naples Republican has little to worry about in 2018.

Kristopher Knudson, a resident of Marco Island, filed for the seat in late July with no party affiliation, and through the end of August, he had raised $150 for his campaign.

Of that money, $50 came from Laura Knudson, who lists her occupation as “waitress/wife to candidate” on the official finance report. The other $100 came from James Corley a retiree from Champaign, Ill., who also appears to be close with Knudson.

Despite the 27-year-old candidate’s only two contributions coming from friends and family, his campaign lists a $5.20 expenditure for accepting a donation through fundraising support company Stripe.

Rommel, currently in his first term, has raised a little under $26,000 for his campaign and has about $22,000 on hand — a respectable sum for a candidate in a safe seat facing no major party opposition.

HD 106 covers coastal Collier County from the border of Lee County in the north through Everglades City in the south and Republicans have a greater than 2-to-1 voter registration advantage in the district.

Rommell had to make it through a three-way GOP Primary last year, which he won with more than half the vote, and the general election that followed was a cake walk.

Rommel went virtually unopposed, with his only competition coming from write-in candidate Connor Maguire, who took 14 votes out of the more than 71,000 ballots cast.

Four candidates qualify for HD 72 special election

The card is set for the special election in House District 72, and four candidates have qualified in the race to replace former Rep. Alex Miller, who left the House Sept. 1.

Republican James Buchanan, Libertarian Alison Foxall and Democrats Margaret Good and Ruta Jouniari made the cut before the noon deadline on Friday.

The primary election for the race is set for Dec. 5, and the winner of the Good v. Jouniari contest will move on to the Feb. 13 general election with Buchanan, the son of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, and Foxall.

A couple weeks ago it didn’t look like the primary date would be used, but Journiari ended up qualifying despite flubbing on her paperwork and using a personal check to pay the qualifying fee.

The GOP almost had its own primary as well, but Republican Alexandra Coe, who entered the race last week, failed to qualify according to the Florida Division of Elections.

Buchanan has earned the backing of a long list of Republican lawmakers in past few weeks, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, and likely would have fared well in a primary battle had Coe forced one.

He also had the advantage of already having a campaign set up for HD 71 before Miller made the surprise announcement she was leaving the Legislature. When Buchanan filed less than an hour later, he brought a six-figure campaign account with him.

HD 72 has a solid Republican lean, and even if Buchanan didn’t have political pedigree or campaign cash, he would still have been the odds-on favorite for the northern Sarasota County seat.

Democrats ran their best possible candidate for the seat last year, Ed James III, and despite being one of the top fundraisers in the cycle he lost 58-41 on Election Day.

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

PhRMA backs Rick Scott plan to combat opioid epidemic

Gov. Rick Scott and other elected officials said this week they would look to combat the opioid epidemic plaguing Florida by limiting first-time pain pill prescriptions to a three day supply, and Wednesday the CEO of a major drug manufacturer trade group said he was on board with a similar plan.

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) CEO Stephen J. Ubl said Wednesday the group supports limiting first-time prescriptions drugs such as Oxycontin and Vicodin at a week’s supply.

Scott’s plan, announced Tuesday, would also pump $50 million into drug treatment programs. Lawmakers are expected to debate the proposal during the 2018 Legislative Session, which starts in January.

“We are taking this step because we believe the worsening opioid epidemic demands additional solutions, with new protections for patients. Too often, individuals receive a 30-day supply of opioid medicines for minor treatments or short-term pain. Overprescribing and dispensing can lead to patients taking opioids longer than necessary or to excess pills falling into the wrong hands,” Ubl said.

Ubl’s comments weren’t a direct response to Scott’s proposal, but came out at a meeting of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction, which is chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and includes Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi among its membership.

“Appropriate script limits, when combined with improved prescriber education and better coverage of treatment alternatives, can help ensure proper prescribing and reduce the risk of abuse. Given the scope and scale of this crisis, we believe this is the right thing to do,” he added.

Ubl is correct: The ‘scope and scale’ of the epidemic warrants action from the entire chain of custody of prescription pain medication, from the groups PhRMA represents to the doctors prescribing powerful medication for short-term problems.

In 2015 alone opioids were blamed for more than 3,900 deaths in Florida, that’s more than 10 a day and a sharp increase from the peak of the “pill mill” crisis of a few years ago.

Patients seeking treatment for opioid addiction have also climbed dramatically. Aspire, the mental health and substance abuse contractor in Orange County, said such cases have more than doubled in two years.

Despite their danger if abused, opioids do have legitimate medical purpose, and a strict limit could leave some patients struggling with severe pain.

PhRMA’s compromise is a carve out in the rule for those in hospice care, patients fighting cancer or other chronic diseases, as well as medication assisted treatments for patients seeking long-term addiction recovery so long as they also receive counseling and mental health support.

Ubl said PhRMA also knows that a limit on prescriptions will only go so far, which is why the group is working with the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration to speed up the research and development of new non-opioid, non-addictive pain medicines that can help patients who need a long term solution.

Ben Albritton endorsed by three DeSoto commissioners

Three DeSoto County commissioners endorsed state Rep. Ben Albritton, who is looking to move out of the House and into the Senate in 2018.

Commissioners Elton Langford, Buddy Mansfield and Jim Selph announced they are backing the Wauchula Republican in a Tuesday news release put out by the campaign.

“Ben Albritton’s service in the Florida House has been characterized by hard work and conservative values,” Langford said. “He understands DeSoto County, and I’m confident he’s the right one to represent us in Tallahassee.”

Mansfield and Selph added that they believe Albritton would be a powerful advocate for DeSoto County in the Senate especially in the wake of Hurricane Irma, which crashed through the state earlier this month causing damage and power outages in almost all Florida counties.

“After Irma, it’s more important than ever that we have a dependable leader like Ben who will go to bat for DeSoto County in Tallahassee,” Selph said.

Langford represents District 4 on the DeSoto County Commission and was elected in 2006. Selph, elected in 2010, holds the District 2 seat while Mansfield was elected in 2008 and represents District 1.

Albritton said the three commissioners were “outstanding public servants.”

“I’m so grateful for their support and leadership, and I look forward to working with them to make sure the interests of the hardworking families of DeSoto County are well represented in the Florida Senate,” he said.

Albritton, who represents District 56, has been a member of the Florida House since 2010. Facing term limits, he has opted to run for the District 26 seat in the Senate which is currently held by Sen. Denise Grimsley, who is running for Agriculture Commissioner in 2018.

So far Albritton is the only candidate in the race, and through August he had raised $53,400 and had $26,300 of that money on hand.

SD 26 is largely similar to the pre-redistricting SD 21 and covers all of DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee counties as well as parts of Charlotte, Lee and Polk counties.

There are roughly 27,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats in the district, and that gulf was apparent last year, which was the first election since the seat was redrawn.

Grimsley won re-election without opposition in the primary or general elections, while President Donald Trump beat out Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton 49-46 on Election Day.

Tech program for disabled youth gets big results

A program that helps disabled Florida youth graduate high school and move on to jobs or further education is moving along swimmingly according to The Able Trust.

The Florida High School High Tech program, or HSHT, saw 99 percent of participating high school seniors graduate last year, with better than four out of five getting a job or furthering their education after earning their diploma.

Able Trust CEO Susanne Homant, who announced a report on the program Monday, said calling HSHT “a success is an understatement.”

“Through empowering, educating and employing our youth with disabilities, we are able to contribute to the economy, but most importantly, we are able to help Floridians with disabilities realize their true potential,” she said.

HSHT is a vocational rehabilitation program designed to steer students with all types of disabilities toward exploring employment or education in technology-related fields.

The program brings together students, parents and caregivers, businesses, educators and rehabilitation professionals to help encourage enrollees to finish school, imrpove self-esteem and get work experience.

In addition to the sky-high graduation rate, the report noted than 77 percent of HSHT graduates took home a standard diploma, which was 13 points higher than the rate for non-HSHT students last school year.

During the 2016-17 school year, HSHT operated in 151 high schools and alternative education settings at 43 sites, including a pair of Department of Juvenile Justice facilities.

Of the 1,550 students served by the program last year, 373 graduated and 85 percent of those students either found a job or started on their post-secondary education. The program also helped 459 students get paid work experience, either through an employer-sponsored stipend or through grant providers such as Career Source.

The Able Trust said 37 percent of enrollees had a specific learning disability, while 15 percent of enrollees had a cognitive impairment and 12 percent were on the autism spectrum. Students who were deaf, blind, had a speech disability or an orthopedic impairment were also served by HSHT.

Four Seminole County mayors endorse David Smith for HD 28

Republican David Smith announced Monday that he had landed endorsements from the mayors of four Seminole County cities for his House District 28 campaign.

Smith, who qualified for the ballot via petition last week, earned the support of Oviedo Mayor Dominic Persampiere, Winter Springs Mayor Charles Lacey, Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett and Longwood Mayor Joe Durso.

“David has a reputation for honesty and integrity,” Persampiere said. “He has a proven track record of leadership and service from his 30-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps. I’m confident he will represent all the people of Seminole County to the very best of his ability.”

The other mayors also saluted Smith for his leadership, while Lacey and Triplett cited his conservative values in their statements of support. Durso hit the same notes, but also pointed to Smith’s community service as a deciding factor in his endorsement.

“David has worked hard to make our community a better place to live. His work with local Veterans has been especially noteworthy,” Durso said. “He has my full support.”

The four mayors join Seminole County Commissioner Bob Dallari, who announced he was backing Smith in March, shortly after he filed.

Smith said he was “humbled and proud” to get the mayors’ backing.

“Each of these gentlemen has a tremendous record of public service in Seminole County,” he said. “I look forward to working with all of them on key issues to make Central Florida a better place to live, work, get an education and raise a family.”

Smith is one of three candidates running for the seat, currently held by termed-out Republican Rep. Jason Brodeur. Casselberry Democrat Lee Mangold was the second-in, followed by Republican Christopher Anderson, who filed his paperwork in June.

Smith is far out front in fundraising. Through August, he had raised more than $120,000 and had about $105,000 on hand, though about half of that was his own money.

Mangold has raised about $13,000 since April, with $10,000 coming in through loans, while Anderson has brought in about $9,500.

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