Drew Wilson, Author at Florida Politics - Page 5 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.

Qualifying period begins for St. Pete Beach City Commission

The qualifying period for two St. Pete Beach City Commission seats opened Thursday and would-be commissioners have until Dec. 8 to put their name down for the March election.

The Pinellas County town of 10,000 pays commissioners $5,400 a year to meet twice a month.

Up for grabs are the District 1 seat held by Terri Finnerty and the District 3 seat held by Ward Friszolowski. Commissioners are elected to two-year terms

To make the ballot, candidates must have lived within the district they’re looking to represent for at least a year at the close of the qualifying period.

Candidates need to pay a $40 filing fee when they submit their paperwork for the March 13 general election. More information, including district boundary maps, can be found on the St. Pete Beach website.

Jeremy Ring announces ‘hat trick’ of congressional endorsements for CFO bid

Margate Democrat Jeremy Ring scored a “hat trick” of endorsements for his CFO campaign from Florida’s congressional delegation Thursday, and now has the support of seven of the 11 Florida Democrats in the U.S. House.

U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Frederica Wilson announced they were supporting the former state senator for CFO, joining Reps. Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings, Al Lawson and Darren Soto, who endorsed him earlier this month.

“Now more than ever Florida needs fighters,” Wilson said. “I had the opportunity to serve with Jeremy in Tallahassee and saw first-hand how he fought to protect the Florida Retirement System from the Republicans who wanted to tear it apart. This is why I’m excited to endorse him in his race to be Florida’s next Chief Financial Officer.”

Frankel added that “although the CFO isn’t someone you see in the headlines a lot, their actions arguably touch more Floridians than any other statewide office — from regulating insurance rates and serving as a vital check-and-balance to the Governor and Legislature. Jeremy Ring will ask tough questions, stand up to insurance companies and stand up for consumers. I enthusiastically support him.”

Ring, the only Democrat in the race, said he was “humbled to have earned the support” of the three congresswomen.

“I’ve been fortunate to know or work alongside all of them for many years. They are three of the most dedicated members of the U.S. House of Representatives and I am thankful to have them in our corner fighting on behalf of the people of Florida in Washington and excited to have them join our campaign,” he said.

Also in the race are sitting CFO Jimmy Patronis, whom Gov. Rick Scott has said is his hand-picked choice, as well as fellow Republican Antoanet Iotova, who lost to Democrat Gary Farmer in the race for Senate District 34 last November and is surely outmatched in the GOP primary for CFO.

Patronis is likely to also face Brandon Sen. Tom Lee in the Republican Primary, though Lee has not given a timetable for when he would enter the race.

Jay Fant announces major staff upgrades for his Attorney General campaign

Attorney General candidate Jay Fant announced Thursday he is doing a full-on rebuild of his campaign to replace Pam Bondi in 2018.

“The Attorney General in Florida is a critical shield between government overreach and the rights of individuals guaranteed under the Constitution. I am prepared to fight for those rights every day as our state’s top lawyer,” Fant said in a press release. “I have already invested $750,000 of my own money in this campaign and I am fully committed to doing what it takes to win. That’s why we have put together a winning team.”

Fant faces former circuit court judge Ashley Moody and fellow Republican Reps. Frank White and Ross Spano in the GOP primary for AG, and has seen his campaign lag in recent months as his rivals, particularly Moody and White, have picked up steam.

The Jacksonville Republican’s revamp effort includes bringing in Randy Enwright and Jim Rimes of Enwright Consulting Group to lead his political team and turning to The Tarrance Group for polling. Former Rick Scott communications chief Melissa Stone is also coming on board via Cavalry Strategies.

Fant is also going all in on advertising with the Strategy Group, which helped President Donald Trump last election cycle and have worked on 11 other Attorney General campaigns nationwide.

Josh Cooper’s Strategic Information Consultants will be handling opposition research, while Strategic Digital Services, founded by Matthew Farrar and Joe Clements, will handle the digital media operations.

Moody and Fant were the only two GOP candidates in the mix for a few months before White threw his name into the hat last month. Earlier this month, Spano made it a four-way primary.

Bolstered by $1.5 million of his own money, White had $1.73 million on hand in his campaign account to begin November, 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.

Erik Fresen zeroed out campaign fund with $93K to charity

Former Republican Rep. Erik Fresen‘s campaign account for his 2020 bid for Senate District 37 was zeroed out Wednesday with more than $125,000 in expenditures, most of which headed to charities.

Fresen represented part of Miami in the Florida House from 2008 through 2016, and did not file any personal tax returns while in office. Earlier this year he pled guilty to not filing his 2011 return and is currently serving the first of four 15-day-long stints in jail.

Among the expenditures listed on Fresen’s final campaign finance report were $20,000 to Coral Gables-based Generation N Media, $5,525 to accounting firm Riesco and Company, $3,000 for Discover credit card bills related to meals and travel, about $2,850 in payments to Extra Space Storage in Miami as well as about $330 for a few months of phone service from AT&T.

The rest of the money in his campaign account headed to various charities, about $93,000, with Liga Contra El Cancer receiving the largest donation at $20,000.

That contribution was followed by a $15,000 donation to St. Jude Children’s Hospital, $12,000 to Corpus Christi Catholic Church, $10,000 a piece to Amigos for Kids and American Dominican Alumnae, and $5,000 a piece to the United State Military Foundation, Jorge Mas Freedom Foundation, St. John Bosco Parrish, Lotus House and Agape Network.

The Children’s Miracle Network received $500 and Delou Africa got the final $857.53 in the account on Nov. 17, two days after Fresen reported to jail.

Fresen was running against Democratic Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez for SD 37, and no other Republicans have filed to run against the incumbent since Fresen exited the race.

Floridians back business incentives, split on how state should tackle 2018 budget

A new poll released Tuesday found a majority of Floridians support the use of state money to lure jobs to the Sunshine State and also showed significant shifts in attitudes about the Florida budget, taxation and the quality of government services.

The USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey found 58 percent of Floridians support business incentives while just over a quarter see them as corporate welfare and 13 percent said they had no opinion.

The optics on incentives have seen a significant drop-off from the height of the Great Recession in 2010, when a record 69 percent of Floridians supported the policy, and are a slight decrease from 2015, when 60 percent backed them.

White and Hispanic Floridians were most likely to support the use of incentives, with just better than three-fifths backing them in the survey, while more than two-thirds of Floridians aged 55 to 64 were in favor alongside 63 percent of high-income households.

The survey also keyed into Floridians’ perception of how the state handles its budget, with a full 63 percent having a negative view of state money management. Sussed out into four categories, 4 percent said the state was doing an “excellent” job with taxpayer money, while 29 percent selected “good,” 38 percent chose “fair” and 25 percent said the state was a “poor” financial steward.

Sunshine State residents were split when it came to what they expected from the state on marquee issues, such as tourism funding.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Gov. Rick Scott waged a public battle over funding for the state tourism marketing Visit Florida during the 2017 Legislative Session, and just slightly more respondents, 38-34, side with Scott by agreeing that slashing funds for the public-private partnership would be heading “in the wrong direction.”

When it comes to whether the state should cut services or increase taxes in the belt-tightening 2018 budget, voters were split 47-47, though the share that said it would support “raising taxes to improve critical services and infrastructure” spiked from 19 percent in 2015 to 27 percent in the new poll.

The issue of which tax was the “most unfair” was less murky: Floridians hate the communications services tax with a passion. A full 46 percent said fees tacked onto cell phone and internet bills were the least fair. In 2015, just 32 percent felt the same way.

Property taxes followed in a distant second place with 20 percent, tolls came in third with 13 percent followed by 8 percent who pegged the sales tax as the most unfair.

The survey gathered responses from 1,215 Floridians between July 24 and Aug. 14. It has a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points.

Florida public school enrollment has jumped by 8,000 post-Maria

Nearly 8,000 pupils from the Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and various Caribbean nations affected by Hurricane Maria have enrolled in Florida public schools, Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said Tuesday.

At a State Board of Education Meeting in Lake County, Stewart said the tally of new pupils included 7,212 Puerto Rican children and 710 from the Virgin Islands and elsewhere. Puerto Ricans and Virgin Islanders are U.S. citizens, and Stewart did not expound on how many pupils hailed from outside the U.S. territories.

The bulk of the new students settled into the I-4 corridor, among the most popular destinations for Puerto Ricans migrating to the mainland.

Orange County saw the largest bump when it comes to raw numbers with 1,793 new students, which accounts for a 0.8 percent bump in total enrollment, while neighboring Osceola County saw the biggest spike proportionally with 1,218 students causing a 2.2 percent jump in total enrollment.

Polk County enrollment increased by 1.6 percent with 559 new students, while Dade County added 764 for a 0.2 percent increase. Miami-Dade’s increase mirrors the statewide effect, which Stewart pegged at a 0.2 percent increase for the state’s 2.8 million students enrolled K-12 public schools.

Stewart said county school districts “have very clearly sent the message that these students are to be welcomed,” though she added that many of the new pupils don’t speak English as their primary language, which has presented some challenges as district workers try to place the migrant students in their new schools.

Reports from earlier this month peg total migration from Puerto Rico to the Sunshine State at more than 168,000 in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

The mass migration has led Florida politicians to advocate for increased funding to handle the influx, as well as long-term solutions for the thousands of displaced islanders who are likely to become permanent residents in Florida.

When it comes to schools, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy and several other members of the Florida congressional delegation have advocated for $1.2 billion in federal funding to help schools in Florida and other states to handle increased enrollment.

Earlier this month, Stewart said she was working with her counterpart in Puerto Rico on a plan that would allow Puerto Rican high school students who evacuated to Florida to study for and receive Puerto Rico diplomas in Florida, rather than Florida diplomas, which could cause graduation delays due to differing curriculums.

Denise Grimsley wants tax relief for spouses of late disabled veterans

Lake Placid Republican Sen. Denise Grimsley filed a bill Monday that would give the surviving spouses of disabled veterans a break on their property tax bills.

“A few years ago, we provided property tax relief to disabled military veterans,” said Grimsley. “But once they pass away, we’re seeing a number of their widows being reassessed the full tax. I think we owe it to these heroes to make sure their spouses continue to be taken care of and this is one way to make sure that happens.”

SB 1000 would extend to surviving spouses the same tax break passed in the 2013 Legislative Session which reduced ad valorem taxes for disabled veterans, regardless of what state they lived in when they served.

Prior to 2013, disabled veterans who were not Florida residents at the time of their service were ineligible for the tax break. But Florida voters in 2012 passed a ballot amendment with about 64 percent of the vote to extend the discount to all disabled veterans.

Florida disabled veterans who were honorably discharged can receive a $5,000 homestead exemption if their service-related disability is 10 percent or greater. Fully disabled veterans who were honorably discharged are exempt from all real estate taxes, less any portion of their property used for commercial purposes.

“This is a small but tangible way we can recognize the legacy of Florida’s disabled veterans by honoring their spouses,” said Grimsley, who is running in the GOP primary for Agriculture Commissioner in 2018.

Grimsley’s bill is the Senate companion to HB 527, which was filed by Tequesta Republican Rep. MaryLynn Magar earlier this month.

Magar’s bill has been referred to the Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, Government Accountability Committee, and the Ways & Means Committee.

Florida’s small businesses support LGBTQ workers, customers

A coalition of Florida businesses touted a poll Wednesday that shows broad support among Florida small business owners for laws protecting LGBTQ workers and customers from discrimination.

“Small business owners recognize that to find the most talented employees, they need to ensure their workplace has non-discrimination policies in place,” said Florida Competes spokesperson Christina Johnson. “Small businesses understand how discriminatory policies can adversely affect the business bottom line. This Saturday we encourage people to ‘shop small,’ and support small businesses that treat everyone equally and fairly.”

The Small Business Majority poll, released Nov. 16, found 73 percent of small business owners were in support of a federal law protecting LGBT people from discrimination in restaurants, hotels and other businesses open to the public, while nearly seven in 10 said they would back a state law against employment discrimination for LGBTQ individuals.

A slightly smaller number said they are in favor of a federal law preventing employment discrimination.

Current Florida law protects workers from discrimination by race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, marital or disability status. Proposals sponsored by Democratic Sen. Darryl Rouson, Democratic Rep. Ben Diamond, and Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes.

Neither the Senate bill (SB 66) nor the House bill (HB 347) has been heard in committee.

The poll also found a majority, 53 percent, of respondents said anti-discrimination measures based on sexual orientation and gender identity help attract and retain employees, while 56 percent feel that such laws contribute to a robust employee pool.

Just over half of respondents said nondiscrimination laws improve bottom lines by bringing in the best and brightest employees, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“At The Loop Pizza Grill, our employees are recruited based on their merits, and retained and promoted based on their job performance,” said Mike Schneider, co-founder of the Jacksonville-based restaurant chain. “We believe in order to hire the best employees, we must create an open, diverse work environment for everyone to grow. It’s not just good business sense; it’s the right thing to do.”

Florida Competes said the state could boost its total economic output by $5.46 billion over the next 10 years and create 35,759 new jobs by enacting employee nondiscrimination legislation, which would raise the Sunshine State’s attractiveness among workers.

Raquel Regalado exits crowded race to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

One of the top Republican candidates running to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Florida’s 27th Congressional District withdrew from the race earlier this week, leaving two GOP candidates and a slew of Democrats in the mix for 2018.

Raquel Regalado’s exit from the race was first reported by the Miami Herald, which received a letter from the candidate Wednesday explaining her decision to bow out of the race.

“I was a nonpartisan School Board member for more than six years. Some of my former constituents were shocked to learn my party affiliation given my ardent defense of public education, pro-labor platform, and commitment to social services,” she wrote. “In the months that followed, I repeatedly explained that I am and have always been a fiscal conservative and a moderate. And while well received by most, it was somewhat concerning to see how some reacted to the terms moderate, progressive or socially responsible Republican.”

Regalado went on to express her disenchantment with the political climate in 2018, saying she was “saddened that the first words that come to mind when we think of our national government is ineffective and circuslike.”

“As the granddaughter of political prisoner who spent two decades in prison and the daughter of a Peter Pan who was sent to this country as a child seeking freedom and who dedicated more than two decades to public service, the current political climate and the level of disrespect and disregard for the values that our nation is founded on is disheartening — on both sides of the aisle,” she wrote.

Regalado’s exit from the race leaves two Republicans in the race: County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro and Bettina Rodriguez-Aguilera.

Barreiro is far ahead of his primary opponent in fundraising with $218,000 raised and $187,050 on hand as of the end of the third quarter. Rodriguez-Aguilera had reported just under $5,000 raised and $4,681 on hand through the same date.

More than a half-dozen Democrats are also running for the seat, which Hillary Clinton carried by 20 points despite sending Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, back to congress for another term.

Among them are state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, state Rep. David Richardson, Mary Barzee Flores and Matthew Hagman, each of whom have campaign accounts with well more than a couple hundred thousand dollars on hand.

Fourth Republican files to replace termed-out HD 119 Rep. Jeanette Nuñez

A fourth Republican has filed for the House District 119 seat currently held by Rep. Jeanette Nuñez, who faces term limits in 2018.

Analeen “Annie” Martinez opened her campaign account Wednesday, joining Juan Alfonso Fernandez-Barquin, Enrique Lopez and BibianaBibiPotestad in what is now a four-way GOP primary for Miami-Dade County seat.

Martinez is a committeewoman in the Miami-Dade GOP and currently works as an office coordinator for Florida International University.

Lopez, who filed in March, is the current fundraising leader with about $21,000 on hand through the end of October, including $4,000 in loans, however Potestad has nearly matched his total in half the time.

Since filing in July the Cuban-born attorney has raised about $19,100, including $3,000 in loans, and has $16,753 on hand.

Fernandez-Barquin, a real estate attorney, filed earlier this month and has not yet had to file a campaign finance report. His and Martinez’ first campaign finance reports, covering November, are due by Dec. 11.

Also running for the seat in 2018 is no-party candidate Daniel Sotelo, who filed earlier this month.

HD 119 covers part of inland Dade, including Kendall, and has a heavy 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 has 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.

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