Drew Wilson, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 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.

Thanksgiving 2017, as brought to you by these Florida lobbyists and political organizations

It’s time to talk turkey. And stuffing, pie, football and 4 a.m. lines outside your favorite store.

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the winter holiday season; the first stop in a month of non-stop holiday parties and celebrations. It’s also a day for Americans to reflect on what they’re grateful for, something that is especially important in these tense times.

But it’s also a day to gorge yourself on goodies, sneak a snack in between meals, and loosen your belts while watching the big game. And you can’t enjoy a Thanksgiving feast without a stop at the supermarket.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual price survey, this year’s feast will be the most affordable it’s been in five years, with the average cost of Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people hitting $49.12. That’s a 75-cent decrease from the 2016 average of $49.87.

The survey found a 16-pound turkey will cost $22.38, or about $1.40 per pound. That’s a two-cent-per-pound decrease from 2016 – a 32-cent savings over last year for families picking up a 16-pound bird.

Hosting Thanksgiving dinner? You probably made a trip to Publix this week to pick up the essentials. Shopping is a pleasure there, with employees itching to help customers make their meal perfect. When the grocery store giant needs a hand in the Florida Legislature, it turns to Charlie Dudley, Teye Reeves, Jorge ChamizoThomas Culligan, and Lindsey Napier.

But don’t even think about running to your neighborhood Publix last-minute supplies such as whipped cream for your pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving, along with Christmas and Easter, is one of few days a year Publix shuts down so staffers can share the day with family and friends.

Don’t cook? Don’t worry. With more than 88 million tourists flocking to the Sunshine State so far this year, there’s plenty of restaurants to choose from if your family’s tradition is dinner out.

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association aims to “protect, educate and promote,” the state’s $82 billion hospitality industry. And the association has a team of A-list lobbyists, including Jim DaughtonWarren Husband, as well as Aimee Diaz LyonAndy Palmer, and Alli Liby-Schoonover on its side when it needs help pushing the industry’s priorities in the Legislature.

While the holiday is chance to give thanks and reflect on the previous year, it’s also the start of the holiday season. And for many people, Thanksgiving and shopping go hand-in-hand.

For some, Thanksgiving morning isn’t complete without a cup of coffee and a newspaper exploding with flyers for your favorite stores. The Florida Press Association is working to protect the freedom of the press in the Sunshine State. When the association needs a hand fighting for its rights in the Legislature, it turns to Kimberly CaseSamuel MorelyDean Ridings and Steven Uhlfelder.

Many Floridians aren’t just turning to their local newspaper for the news of the day, though. Instead, they’re on the hunt for deals and plotting their Black Friday plan of attack. Despite the lingering effects of Hurricane Irma, the Florida Retail Federation expects holiday sales to increase by up to 3.5 percent over last year, thanks in large part to high consumer confidence, robust housing, and a 10-year low in the unemployment rate. Some Floridians, particularly those in the Keys and the Jacksonville areas are still recovering, but the rest of the state is ready to get shopping.

“Hurricane Irma hit our state extremely hard, particularly in these areas, and we factored in this impact in our forecast, but we feel the overall strength of our economy and the incredible recovery efforts that have taken place will help lessen the impact on retail sales this holiday season,” said FRF President/CEO Scott Shalley.

FRF added that up to 29 percent of shoppers will finish their holiday shopping on Black Friday, and said “if you see a good deal on an item early on in your shopping, make sure to buy it then as opposed to waiting and hoping for a better deal.”

Those scouting for deals will inevitably find themselves at a Wal-Mart — represented by The Mayernick GroupThe Rubin GroupPittman Law Group, and Corcoran & Johnston. After you battle the crowds there, a trip to Target — which turns to GaryRobinson when it needs help in the Legislature —  might be in order.

The Florida Retail Federation is looking out for retailers big and small throughout the state. When the in-house team of James MillerSamantha Hunter Padgett and Melissa Joiner Ramba need an assist, they look to Travis BlantonJon Johnson and Darrick McGhee at Johnson & Blanton.

While stores across the state will be slammed this weekend, hundreds of thousands of Floridians will do all their shopping without leaving the comfort of their couch. If that’s how you roll, there’s no better place than Amazon, which has Ballard Partners representing it in the Capitol.

According to the National Retail Federation survey 69 percent of Americans – an estimated 164 million people – plan to get some shopping done over the holiday weekend. About 70 percent of those surveyed plan to shop on Black Friday, making it top dog for another year, but 48 percent of consumers said they planned to shop online on Cyber Monday – that’s a 12 percent bump from 2016.

If you’re looking to make a difference for the less fortunate this holiday season, consider helping out at your local food bank. The Florida Association of Food Banks, now called Feeding Florida, is a statewide network bringing together 14-member food banks across the state to try to reduce hunger. The association has the team at Johnson & Blanton and backing it up when it needs a helping hand.

And as you consider other ways to help Floridians in need this holiday season, use the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ “Check-A-Charity” tool to get detailed information about the organization you want to give to this year.

Florida Democrats want injunction to move forward special election dates

The Florida Democratic Party has filed a motion seeking to force earlier elections for the South Florida legislative seats recently resigned by Lake Worth Democrat Jeff Clemens and Coral Gables Democrat Daisy Baez.

The motion, filed in Leon County circuit court, requests an injunction to set the election dates for both seats earlier so new lawmakers can be in place for the start of the 2018 Legislative Session, which begins Jan. 9.

Gov. Rick Scott two weeks ago ordered the special primary election to replace Clemens in SD 31 for Jan. 30, with a special general election to follow on April 10. Last week Scott set the HD 114 special primary for Feb. 20, with the general election to follow on May 1.

The HD 114 date was set at a later date due to the request of Dade Supervisor of Elections Christina White, who said in an email that accompanied the executive order that due to a Jan. 23 election in the county, a Feb. 20 special primary election would be “in the best interest of voters.”

The injunction, filed Monday, is part of a lawsuit Democrats filed a lawsuit in Leon County circuit court before dates were set for either election asking a judge to force Scott to set special-election dates.

Clemens left the Senate on Oct. 27 after acknowledging an affair with a lobbyist, while Baez resigned from the House at the beginning of November after agreeing 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 in the 2018 Legislative Session.

Republican Rep. Neil Combee’s exit from HD 39, effective Nov. 24, will likely leave that seat unfilled for the 60-day session, while the abrupt exit of freshman Rep. Alex Miller two months ago will leave HD 72 unfilled until after a Feb. 13 special general election.

Republican Mike Caruso files for open HD 89 seat

A second Republican has filed to succeed term-limited Rep. Bill Hager in the Palm Beach County-based House District 89.

Mike Caruso, an accountant, opened his campaign account Nov. 16 and announced his bid with a Wednesday news release.

“I am excited to give back to the community that has, so often, given much to me and my family,” Caruso said. “Real, experienced, community-based leadership is needed in Tallahassee more now than ever.”

Caruso is currently serving on the Delray Beach Police Advisory Board and the West Atlantic Redevelopment Coalition Board, were he additionally co-chairs the WARC Economic Committee. He is also the president of the Villas of Ocean Crest Homeowners Association and Atlantic Grove Condominium Association.

The George Washington University alumnus started his professional career with the KPMG and Grant Thornton International accounting firms before moving to South Florida to start his own firm in 1987.

Caruso joins Matt Spritz in the Republican Primary for HD 89. Spritz filed in June and has had some success grabbing endorsements and raising money for his campaign, which had about $90,000 on hand heading into November, including $40,000 in loans.

Also running for the seat are Democrats Ryan Rossi and James Bonfiglio. Bonfiglio filed in the beginning of October and has about $22,000 in his campaign account, mostly through loans. Rossi filed in May and has raised just under $7,000 to date, with $3,000 on hand.

HD 89 is one of the few dots of red within Palm Beach 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 due to his opponent failing to qualify. In both the 2012 and 2014 elections, the Delray Beach insurance expert beat his Democratic challengers by 5 points.

Jason Fischer and Keith Perry want $3.5M for FloridaMakes in 2018

Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jason Fischer filed a bill Thursday that would provide $3.5 million in funding for a public-private partnership to boost the Florida manufacturing industry.

“The manufacturing sector offers high wage career paths for Floridians. The sector provides real jobs for real people, and they need our support. This investment in FloridaMakes will continue our efforts to build a strong and diversified economy,” Fischer said.

FloridaMakes is a nonprofit public-private partnership and Florida’s affiliate in the nationwide Manufacturing Extension Partnership. Fischer filed a bill in the 2017 Legislative Session that would have funded the program at $2 million, but that bill failed and state funding was set at $500,000 in the budget passed by lawmakers.

Fischer’s 2018 effort, HB 2737, has the support of Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perry, though it was unclear if he plans to introduce companion legislation in his chamber.

“Manufacturing is the key to attracting the best business, talent and economic development to the state of Florida,” Perry said.  “I could not be more supportive of this investment and the impact it will have on Florida’s future.”

The bill also has the support of FloridaMakes’ CEO, Kevin Carr, who said the partnership appreciated Fischer’s and Perry’s “leadership” on the issue.

“This level of funding will enable FloridaMakes to strengthen manufacturing statewide, particularly in less densely populated and rural areas, and also provide the necessary cost share to draw on the maximum funding available from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to support Florida’s manufacturers,” Carr said.

The program, launched in 2015, is an industry-led group run by manufacturers and for manufacturers, allowing them to keep apprised of best practices, advances in technology, and changes in regulations.

The project is supported by a statewide coalition of manufacturing groups, including the South Florida Manufacturers Association, Florida Advanced Technological Education Center, University of West Florida Division of Research & Strategic Innovation, Bridging the Innovation Development Gap, CareerSource Pinellas, Manufacturers Association of Central Florida, First Coast & Treasure Coast.

Neil Combee mentions familiar name defending Josie Tomkow

Outgoing state House member Neil Combee invoked a familiar statewide officeholder in an op-ed he submitted to the The Ledger, defending fellow Republican Josie Tomkow’s candidacy for the District 39 seat Combee is set to vacate next week.

Combee is exiting the House Nov. 24 to start a new job as Florida’s State Director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.

Tomkow was the first candidate to file for the impending special election, and quickly earned Combee’s endorsement, though most reports of her candidacy latched on to her being 22 years old.

Combee doesn’t think that’s right.

“Although I am aware she is young by time’s standard, I don’t think age should ever preclude someone from entering public service,” he wrote. “You can never be too old, or too young to want to give back to your community and help your neighbors.”

Combee then weaved a tale that many in the Polk County-based district might find a little familiar:

“Twenty-six years ago, Polk County voters sent what was then one of the youngest people ever elected to the Florida Legislature. He was 22. His accomplishments are well known.

“He rose up in leadership, defending conservative issues and values, leaving an enormous and lasting impact on everything from property rights to insurance regulation.

“When his service was done he came home and, at the age of just 26, Polk County sent him to the United States Congress. There too he was the youngest person during his tenure to serve and he quickly rose up to become a leader.”

That, of course, refers to Agriculture Commissioner and GOP gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, now 43.

Combee’s point was clear: “We here in Polk County have always sent leaders to the Legislature – leaders like Adam Putnam. We look beyond age and I hope we will do that yet again.”

Combee even noted his own youth when Polk County voters elected him to the county commission at 28, and echoed the sentiments from his resignation letter that there “is no greater privilege than having your neighbors send you to be their voice.”

The Auburndale Republican then reiterated his support for Tomkow.

“Now, as an older, wiser man, I can tell you I am endorsing Josie Tomkow because she is the best person for the job, period. She has the energy and passion to serve. She has the knowledge and experience to get things done for our community and her neighbors. She is the right person at the right time.”

Gov. Rick Scott has not yet announced special election dates to replace Combee, and Tomkow is currently the only candidate filed to run in the district.

HD 39 covers parts of Osceola and Polk counties, including Polk City, Auburndale, and the outskirts of Kissimmee at its eastern border and northern Lakeland along the district’s southwestern edge.

Combee’s full letter is below.

Matt Caldwell announces ‘fifth wave’ of endorsements in Ag Commissioner race

Agriculture Commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell announced another four endorsements Friday from county level elected officials in Lee, Nassau and Walton.

Caldwell got nods from Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson, Lee County Tax Collector Larry Hart, Nassau County Property Appraiser Michael Hickox and County Clerk John Crawford, also of Nassau.

“The importance of protecting our heritage and the economic engine that is Florida Agriculture cannot be overstated. The person that we entrust as Commissioner of Agriculture carries the solemn duty to send his law enforcement and firefighters into harm’s way in service of this state. As Sheriff, I understand that we need a Commissioner who can rise to these challenges. Matt Caldwell is that man,” Adkinson said.

Hart said the HD 79 lawmaker’s “experience working on agricultural policy along with his conservative principles and his legislative skills best qualify him to be Florida’s next Agriculture Commissioner,” while Crawford added that Caldwell is a “humble and serious public servant.”

“He cares deeply about Florida and its future. I’m proud to endorse my friend for Commissioner of Agriculture,” he said.

The press release from Caldwell’s campaign described the new endorsements as the “fifth wave,” following past bulk endorsements from elected officials. The previous set announced by the Caldwell camp included House Speaker Designate Jose Oliva, and Reps. Bryan Avila, Michael Bileca, Manny Diaz, George Moraitis, Jeanette Nunez and Carlos Trujillo

Caldwell said Friday he was “honored to receive the endorsements of these Constitutional Officers who serve a critical role in our State.”

“If given the honor to be elected as Florida’s next Commissioner of Agriculture, I will work hand in hand with these local leaders to support businesses and families across our State. The incredible individuals listed below are also either current or immediate past presidents of their respective constitutional officer associations in all 67 counties. They are each trusted by their peers as leaders in these positions and I am honored they have placed their trust in me,” he said.

The Lehigh Acres Republican is in a three-way primary race with state Sen. Denise Grimsley and former state Rep. Baxter Troutman, who served from 2003 to 2010, to take over for current Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who is termed out of the Cabinet seat and running for Governor in 2018.

Democrat David Walker also is running for the seat.

Between his campaign and committee, Caldwell had raised a combined total of $1.37 million as of Oct. 31 and had about $934,000 on hand.

Through the same date, Grimsley had raised a total of $1.91 million and had about $884,000 on hand, while Troutman had raised $2.61 million and had $2.56 million on hand. His total is buoyed by $2.5 million of his own money.

Personnel Note: Florida Chamber taps Orlando Health’s David Strong as Central Florida Chair

The Florida Chamber of Commerce announced Friday that it appointed Orlando Health CEO David Strong chair of the Central Florida Regional Board.

“David Strong is a highly experienced business leader that fully understands what it takes to lead Florida to a new and sustainable economy,” said Florida Chamber President Mark Wilson. “In his role as a Florida Chamber Regional Board Chair, Strong will help lead the Florida Chamber’s mission to secure Florida’s future.”

Bob Grammig, who chairs the Chamber’s board of directors and is a partner at lobbying firm Holland & Knight, picked Strong for the job.

In his new role, Strong will represent the Florida Chamber in the Central Florida business community and connect area business leaders with resources to help make the Central area—and Florida—more competitive.

“Serving as the Florida Chambers’ Central Florida Regional Board Chair is an exciting opportunity,” Strong said. “I am eager to unite Central Florida’s area business leaders behind the Florida Chambers’ pro-business initiatives.”

Strong has been the president and CEO of Orlando Health since mind-2015. Before joining the $2.8 billion health care network, he worked as the chief operating officer of UNC Health Care.

In addition to his work with the Chamber, he serves as a member of the CHRISTUS Health Audit and Finance & Strategy Committees, chairs CHRISTUS St. Vincent, and is a member of the Florida Hospital Association board of trustees.

Two more sheriffs back Ashley Moody for Attorney General

Republican Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody picked up endorsements from two more county sheriffs Friday and now has the support of the top cops in a third of Florida counties.

Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith and Washington County Sheriff Kevin Crews added their names to a list that already includes a score of other sheriffs, including those from BayBrevardClay, Hernando, Indian River, Lake, PascoPinellas, Sarasota, Sumter, Walton and other counties.

“When it comes to the security of our state, we don’t need a politician.  We need a trusted, conservative leader who has spent a lifetime in service to the law.  That is why I support and endorse former prosecutor and Circuit Court Judge Ashley Moody for Attorney General. She has the drive, commitment, and most importantly, the experience needed to keep our state safe,” Smith said.

Crews also highlighted Moody’s experience, adding that Moody is the only candidate in the field that is a “qualified, seasoned, and effective conservative.”

“Her life experience not only as a federal prosecutor and judge, but as the wife of a federal law enforcement officer and a mother, gives her a unique perspective that combines compassion and strength. Ashley Moody is the right person at the right time for Florida. I wholeheartedly support her candidacy and am proud to endorse her to be Florida’s next Attorney General,” he said.

Moody was grateful for the endorsements of both sheriffs, and lauded Smith for his decades-long career in law enforcement and Crews for his “long history of combating drug offenders that profit off the pain of our communities.”

Moody is leading in endorsements among an expanding primary field to take over for termed-out Attorney General Pam Bondi.

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 last month. On Thursday, Hillsborough County Rep. Ross Spano made it a four-way primary.

Moody had a similar lead in the money race before White made a splash in his first-month report, released earlier this week.

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.

Republican Chris Licata exits HD 69 primary, Jeremy Bailie and Raymond Blacklidge remain

Republican Chris Licata announced Thursday that he would withdraw from the three-way primary race to replace HD 69 Rep. Kathleen Peters, who is not seeking re-election in 2018.

“Having recently completed eight-years in the Navy, I returned home to the Tampa Bay region to continue a life in service to my fellow citizens. Service to others and to my community was first nurtured through my education at Admiral Farragut Academy and further refined through my time in the Navy,” Licata wrote in a Thursday email.

“When I entered my name in the race for the Florida House of Representatives, I did so in this spirit of service. However recent developments have lead me to believe that this is not the best way to serve at this time; thus I will be submitting my withdrawal as a candidate for public office to the Florida Division of Election in the coming weeks,” he continued.

Licata thanked his supporters for backing his campaign over the past few months and said he would continue being “very involved” with the Republican Party of Pinellas County and Pinellas County Young Republicans.

Licata was running against Jeremy Bailie and Raymond Blacklidge in the Republican Primary. He initially filed to run in HD 62 at the end of July, a left-leaning seat held by House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, but he sent a letter to the Florida Division of Elections in August switching his campaign over to HD 69, where he said “his roots run deep.”

Licata’s campaign failed to gain traction when it came to fundraising, however. Through four months he raised $645 and lent his campaign $1,000.

Blacklidge, a veteran insurance executive, was the first-in candidate and is the current leader in the money race. He has brought in over $70,000 so far, including $5,500 in loans. Heading into November he had about $50,000 on hand.

Bailie, who filed in September, has raised $22,309 through his first two months in the race and had $21,261in the bank on Oct. 31.

Also running is Democrat Jennifer Necole Webb, who entered the race at the beginning of the month. She challenged Peters in 2016 and lost by 13 points on Election Day.

HD 69 has a Republican lean, though voter registrations between the two major parties are relatively close.

Peters won her 2012 contest against Democrat Josh Shulman 52-48, and her elections since have had even greater margins — she won 58-52 in 2014 and took 57 percent of the vote in 2016.

Earlier this year, Peters announced she would not seek a fourth term for the Pinellas County seat and would instead run for county commission, citing an “assault on home rule” from Tallahassee.

Vance Aloupis sustains firm fundraising lead in crowded HD 115 field

Republican HD 115 candidate Vance Aloupis added another $10,175 to his campaign account last month, maintaining his lead in the three-way primary race to take over for term-limited Republican Rep. Michael Bileca.

Aloupis’ October fundraising report shows him with a to-date fundraising total of $192,634. It also showed $2,036 in spending, leaving him with $173,640 on hand heading into November.

The Miami Republicans’ donor roll included $1,000 checks from AT&T South Florida and Publix Super Markets VP Hoyt Barnett and his wife Carol Barnett, the daughter of Publix founder George Jenkins.

Expenditures included a $1,450 payment to Flagler Strategy Group for printing services and a few small expenses related to campaign travel, website hosting and fees for credit card contributions.

Aloupis faces Carlos Gobel, Rhonda Rebman-Lopez and Carmen Sotomayor in the Republican Primary, and neither Gobel nor Sotomayor have shown much in the way of fundraising.

Rebman-Lopez, however, is becoming more competitive largely due to her tossing $36,800 of her own money.

In the five months since she filed for the seat, she’s raised $48,429 in contributions and spent just $3,309. When the loans are added in, she has $80,920 in the bank.

Her October numbers included $9,425 in contributions, $800 in loans, and $1,000 in spending. Among her donors last month were Doral caterer Ben Fox, and Hialeah car dealer Gus Machado and his wife Lilia Machado.

Also running for HD 115 are Democrats James Schulman and Jeffrey Solomon.

Schulman raised $25 last month and spent $324, putting him at $3,241 after six months in the race. Solomon tacked on $3,075 and spent $2,040 for an on hand total of $4,813 through five months.

HD 115 covers an inland strip of Miami-Dade County, including parts of Pinecrest, South Miami and Palmetto Bay.

The majority Hispanic district has a Republican lean, and Bileca has had no trouble holding on to the seat against Democratic challengers, winning his most recent re-election campaign with about 54 percent of the vote.

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