Drew Wilson, Author at Florida Politics - Page 7 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.

Ben Diamond endorses Gwen Graham for Governor

The field of Democratic gubernatorial candidates could keep growing, but St. Petersburg Rep. Ben Diamond announced Thursday that he’s backing former Congresswoman Gwen Graham in the primary race to take over for Gov. Rick Scott.

“Gwen Graham has shown she is not afraid to take on the special interests or status quo. Gwen understands that hardworking Floridians should not have to pay investor-owned utilities for nuclear power plants that are never built or for fracking exploration,” Diamond said in a press release from the Graham campaign. “As governor, Gwen will stand with Florida’s families over Tallahassee special interests.”

Graham last week came out against utility companies putting the financial burden of their ventures on ratepayers through nuclear cost recovery fees and fracking exploration.

“For 20 years, the Republican politicians in Tallahassee have turned a blind eye to the Public Service Commission and utility companies as they’ve taxed seniors, small business owners and families. That ends when I’m elected governor,” she said.

Diamond also applauded Graham, the daughter of former governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, for her support of Florida Forever and other environmental programs.

“For too long, leaders in Tallahassee have ignored the will of the voters by refusing to fully fund Florida Forever. Gwen will listen. She will continue the legacy and leadership of her father in working to conserve Florida’s lands and protect Florida’s water supply for our children and grandchildren. As governor, I know Gwen will fully support Florida Forever and be a good steward of our environment.”

Florida voters in 2014 overwhelmingly backed the Florida Forever ballot amendment, dedicating more money for Florida Future — only to see meager appropriations in the three years since.

A senate bill filed for the 2018 Legislative Session seeking to commit the Sunshine State to spending $100 million a year on land acquisition and preservation through the Florida Forever Trust Fund cleared its first committee stop last week.

Graham called Diamond a “true leader” and said she was “proud to have his support.”

“Working with Floridians across this state, we will end the special-interest stranglehold on our government. We will fight to conserve our land and protect our clean water for generations to come,” she said.

Graham is currently in a four-way primary for the Democratic nomination for governor. She faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Winter Park businessman Chris King, and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who entered the race on Nov. 1.

Graham has raised about $4 million for her campaign, putting her behind only Levine among Democratic candidates. Looming on the horizon is the possible entry of Orlando attorney John Morgan, who told Florida Politics Thursday he would decide whether to run in the first quarter of next year.

Rebekah Bydlak maintains fundraising lead in HD 1 race

October campaign finance reports show Republican Rebekah Bydlak holding onto her lead in the three-way race for House District 1, currently held by term-limited Rep. Clay Ingram.

The Cantonment Republican added $7,240 to her campaign account last month for a to-date total of $71,512. Bydlak also spent $8,387, leaving her with $63,125 in the bank heading into November.

On Bydlak’s donor roll last month was former Senate President and prominent North Florida Republican Don Gaetz, as well as Ingram.

Bydlak ran against Gaetz’ son, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, in the Republican Primary for Florida’s 1st Congressional District last year. In 2018, she faces former Republican Rep. Mike Hill in the GOP primary for the Pensacola-based seat.

Hill gave up his HD 2 seat in 2016 to run for Florida Senate, but lost to then-Rep. Doug Broxson in the primary. Despite current HD 2 Rep. Frank White opting to run for Attorney General rather than re-election, Hill held in the HD 1 race.

Hill’s fundraising was sluggish when he entered the race in September and in October he raised $6,925, an improvement of $1,000 over his first-month effort. To date, he has raised $12,820 and has $11,063 on hand.

While still far behind Bydlak, Hill has surpassed Vikki Garrett, the lone Democrat in the race. After tacking on $3,400 last month she has $9,133 on hand.

House District 1 covers the western inland portion of Escambia County, including Brent, Bellview, Ensley, Ferry Pass, Gonzalez and Molino.

The seat is among the most heavily Republican in the state. Ingram went virtually unopposed in 2012 and 2016, and in 2014 defeated Democrat Gloria Robertson-Wiggins with nearly 70 percent of the vote.

Adam Putnam widened fundraising lead in October, while Phil Levine made a splash

Gubernatorial candidates raised big bucks last month, none more so than Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam who added $1.2 million between his campaign and committee accounts.

Putnam raised $571,932 of that sum through his campaign account and another $616,235 through his political committee, Florida Grown.

The former congressman and state lawmaker spent a combined $466,801 from the two accounts to leave him with nearly $14.7 million in the bank with a to-date fundraising total of $20.4 million.

Putnam’s campaign account received dozens of checks for $3,000, the maximum contribution for statewide races, with several donors doubling down with checks through their company’s subsidiaries or from their family members.

The October donor roll includes a political committee tied to Florida Transportation Builders Association, the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association and insurance company GEICO, among many others.

Florida Grown, which passed $17 million raised last month, picked up a $150,000 check from the Associated Industries of Florida on the last day of the month as well as $50,000 contributions from California Republican David Jenkins, Dallas-based Tenet Health, real estate group Rayonier Inc., and GMRI, an Orlando-based subsidiary of Darden Restaurants.

Among the expenditures were $115,755 in payments to Harris Media for digital advertising and web development, 17 payments combining to over $75,000 for Lakeland-based Silloh Consulting, and $43,430 to Tallahassee-based Forward Strategies for fundraising consulting.

As reported last week, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine brought in nearly $1 million for his political committee, All About Florida. With all candidate reports in, that total puts him in second place behind Putnam for October.

Levine filed as a candidate on Nov. 1, so he has yet to file a finance report for his campaign. His committee account is flush, though, due to him plunking down $2.6 million of his own money.

The committee had about $5.4 million socked away at the end of the month, earning Levine the No. 2 spot in cash on hand.

Embroiled Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala’s October numbers came in at $513,101 raised between his campaign and political committee, Florida Leadership Committee, putting him in a distant third place among the declared major-party candidates.

The new money was offset by $152,147 in spending, leaving Latvala with a little over $5 million in the bank, good enough to put him in third place for cash on hand as well.

Campaign donors included a committee tied to the Florida Automobile Dealers Association, hotel company Marriott, and North Palm Beach attorney James Williams Jr. and his wife, Maureen Williams.

On the committee side, Latvala picked up $25,000 checks from American Traffic Solutions, a political committee tied to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Sugar and public employee trade association AFSCME Florida.

Expenditures included a $50,000 contribution to the Republican Party of Florida, which paid that back with more than $60,000 worth of “in-kind” contributions last month, $30,000 to Champion Digital Media for advertising, and $20,000 to St. Pete mayoral candidate Rick Baker’s political committee. Baker lost that election to incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman earlier this month.

Former congresswoman Gwen Graham, who touted her fundraising efforts earlier this month, came in behind Latvala with $346,573 raised between her campaign and committee, Our Florida. Heading into November, the North Florida Democrat had raised more than $4 million between her campaign and committee and had $2.66 million of that money on hand.

Winter Park businessman Chris King, running as a Democrat, tacked on $151,834 through his campaign and committee, Rise and Lead Florida, while Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum came in last place among the major candidates. His campaign announced last week that it had raised $80,107 in October, though his committee, Forward Florida, saw negative fundraising last month.

King’s fundraising total to-date clocks in at about $2.7 million, with about $1.7 million on hand. Gillum has raised nearly $1.6 million to date, and had $557,571 on hand at month’s end.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who has not officially declared for governor, brought in $267,200 in October through his political committee, Watchdog PAC, making it the committee’s slowest month yet.

AIF’s Voice of Florida Business political committee gave the Land O’ Lakes Republican $50,000 last month, while Auto Glass America, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and a couple other donors chipped in with $25,000 apiece.

His $4 million on hand total would currently put him in the No. 4 position if he were to enter the race.

Mail ballots go out for HD 58 special election

About 19,000 mail ballots have been sent out for the special general election to replace former Rep. Dan Raulerson in Hillsborough County-based HD 58.

Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer announced the mailing in a Wednesday press release, adding that voters have until Dec. 13 to request a mail ballot.

Voters expecting to receive a ballot in the mail can track whether it has been sent on the supervisor’s website. Voters can also confirm online whether the supervisor’s office has received their completed ballot.

Election Day is Dec. 19, and early voting is set to run from Dec. 10 through Dec. 16. In order to participate in the election, would-be voters need to have registered by Nov. 20.

Four candidates are on the ballot: Republican Lawrence McClure, Democrat Jose Vasquez, Libertarian Bryan Zemina and no-party candidate Ahmad Saadaldin.

McClure, who defeated Yvonne Fry 55-45 in a contentious primary battle, is the odds-on favorite to win the seat given HD 58’s Republican majority.

In addition to having a favorable electorate, McClure also holds a commanding lead in the fundraising race. Through Nov. 6, he had raised $148,000 and had about $12,500 on hand, while his closest competitor, Saadaldin, had raised just under $12,000 and had about $4,000 on hand through the same date.

HD 58 includes Plant City, Temple Terrace, Dover, Mango, Seffner, Thonotosassa, and parts of Tampa and East Lake-Orient Park.

Raulerson represented the district until he announced in August that he would be leaving the legislature due to health reasons.

Pasco Commissioner Mike Wells earns endorsement from Sheriff Chris Nocco

Pasco County Commissioner Mike Wells picked up Sheriff Chris Nocco’s stamp of approval for his reelection bid, his campaign announced Wednesday.

“Commissioner Wells is dedicated to protecting and providing for the safety and security of the residents of Pasco County. It has been a privilege to serve alongside Commissioner Wells as together we work tirelessly to protect our community and our values, and to represent the best interest of the families who call Pasco County home,” Nocco said.

Wells, a Republican, said he was “proud” to receive Nocco’s endorsement.

“Sheriff Nocco and his team of dedicated women and men serve and protect our county day and night. They are on the front lines, keeping us safe and secure and make sure criminals are off our streets and behind bars,” he said. “I am thankful for the dedication and sacrifice of the women and men in law enforcement, and their families, for all this do for each of us. I am humbled to have Sheriff Nocco’s support and his endorsement.”

Nocco’s endorsement follows a late-October nod from U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, who represents part of Pasco County.

Wells holds the District 4 seat on the commission and is up for re-election in 2018. He is running against Democrat Brandi Geoit and currently has her beat by a mile on the fundraising trail.

Through the end of October, Wells had about $121,000 on hand in his campaign account compared to about $1,500 for Geoit.

The longtime Pasco resident was elected to the commission in 2014 and currently serves as its vice chairman and is the commission’s representative on a number of area boards, including the Area Agency on Aging, the Department of Juvenile Justice Circuit Advisory Board and the Early Learning Coalition of Pasco and Hernando Counties.

In addition to elected office, Wells is a member of several area realtor groups, the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce and sits on the board of the YMCA of the Suncoast.

He and fellow Republican Commissioner Mike Moore are up for re-election next year. Nocco endorsed Moore for re-election last month.

interim Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister

Chad Chronister has $540K on hand for bid for full term as Hillsborough Sheriff

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister announced Oct. 2 he would run for election in 2018, and his first campaign finance report shows more than $300,000 in contributions.

The newly filed report shows $305,890 raised and $10,716 spent through his first 30 days on the trail, leaving him with $295,174 on hand.

Chronister, a Republican, has been with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office since 1992 and was a colonel before the retirement of longtime lawman David Gee earlier this year, which landed him the job as interim sheriff. He filed for election a day after he was sworn in.

Shortly after filing, he announced a fundraiser featuring a couple hundred names on the host committee, including dozens of Tampa Bay area politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Among his donors last month were mega-lobbyist Michael Corcoran, the GrayRobinson law-lobby firm, Brandon attorney Clifton Curry, and multiple checks from former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo and his businesses.

Among Chronister’s expenditures was an $7,964 payment to the Italian Club in Ybor City, where his fundraiser was hosted, with the remaining expenditures paying for toward checks from The Bank of Tampa and credit card fees through fundraising platform Anedot.

A committee backing Chronister, Law Enforcement For Responsible Government, has also been piling on cash. Through Oct. 31 it had raised $246,850 and had nearly all of that money on hand.

The DeBartolo family provided a big boost when the committee started in August, and in October Edward DeBartolo was the top donor after putting in another $20,000.

So far, he is the only Republican running for sheriff. Other candidates include Democrat Gary Pruitt, a retired Tampa Police Department corporal who now works in private security, and no-party candidate Juan Rivera, a retired Central Intelligence Agency officer.

Pruitt filed for the race last week, so has not yet posted a campaign finance report. Rivera filed in June and had raised $722 through the end of August.

Top Republican lawmakers scored big in October fundraising reports

Top Republicans in the House and Senate brought in saw huge committee fundraising gains in October, with Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson leading the pack with $645,000 raised.

Simpson, a  Trilby Republican, is likely to take over as Senate President for 2021-22, brought in 75 contributions through Jobs for Florida, including nine contributions of $25,000 or more.

Topping the donor roll was the political arm of the Florida Manufactured Housing Association, which gave checks combining $67,500, followed by health insurer Florida Blue at $35,000.

Coming in at the $25,000 level were auto company JM Family Enterprises, Florida Crystals, Q Link Wireless, Sunterra Florida, private prison business GEO Group, and the Voice of Florida Business, a political committee tied to the Associated Industry of Florida.

Simpson’s committee also spent $110,000, including $47,670 in payments to Capitol Finance Consulting, a $25,000 contribution to Liberty Florida, and another $20,000 to Citizens Alliance for Florida’s Economy, chaired by uber political consultant Anthony Pedicini.

Simpson closed out the month about $2.16 million in his committee account.

Following Simpson was Republican Rep. Chris Sprowls, who is set to become speaker in 2021. He raised $190,000 for his political committee, Floridians for Economic Freedom.

The committee’s top donors for the month were Wal-Mart and Florida Blue, which chipped in $20,000 each, followed Windermere attorney Kimberly Russo and RAI Services Company, the parent of company RJ Reynolds Tobacco, both of which gave $15,000.

Another eight donors gave $10,000 apiece, including Publix Super Markets, PepsiCo, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and USAA.

Spending came in at a modest $3,900, leaving Sprowls’ fundraising vehicle with $592,655 to work with heading into November.

Senate President-Designate Bill Galvano and House Speaker Designate Jose Oliva, both set to take command after the 2018 elections, also showed six-figure hauls for their political committees last month.

Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, brought in $121,500 through Innovate Florida, which at the end of the month had $427,552 on hand.

Wal-Mart gave $50,000 of that money in an Oct. 20 contribution, while publicly traded health insurance group Centene Management Company and public employee trade group AFSCME Florida gave $25,000 apiece.

A political committee tied to the Florida Transportation Builders Association gave $10,000, as did the Florida Chamber of Commerce, with convenience store chain Wawa chipping in $1,000 and Boeing tossing in $500.

Oliva’s committee raked in $145,000 with a similarly short donor list.

Conservative Principles for Florida took in five $25,000 checks for the month, one each from the Voice of Florida Business, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Florida Blue, Florida Power & Light and JM Family Enterprises.

After paying DRC Consulting $10,000 and spending another $5,000 to sponsor a Miami-Dade Republican Party event, the committee closed out the month with $559,998 in the bank.

Jimmy Patronis takes commanding fundraising lead in CFO race

CFO Jimmy Patronis added another $431,100 to his political committee last month surpassing his only major competitor, Margate Democrat Jeremy Ring, in cash on hand.

Treasure Florida’s October numbers bring the committee to $653,850 raised since Patronis opened the account in August.

Spending last month came in at just $2,306, leaving the committee with $642,639 on hand at the end of the month. That figure nearly doubles Ring’s on-hand total through six months in the race.

Ring, a former state Senator, spent more than he raised last month and had about $193,000 on hand in his campaign account at month’s end. He also has another $135,723 on hand in his political committee, Florida Action Fund, for a combined total of $328,723.

A lot of Patronis’ committee money came in through large checks, the biggest of which was a $50,000 contribution from Florida Jobs PAC, a committee tied to the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Treasure Florida picked up another eight checks at the $25,000 level, including one from former House Speaker Allan Bense.

Two donors chipped in at the $15,000 level, followed by a half dozen at $10,000 with dozens more cutting checks for the GOP candidate at or below the $5,000 level.

Patronis’ only primary opponent so far is Antoanet Iotova.

She lost to Democrat Gary Farmer in the SD 34 last year and is surely outmatched in the GOP primary for CFO – especially considering she was arrested last fall and charged with two counts of grand theft.

She hasn’t reported any contributions since filing in September.

Patronis may end up facing a real primary challenge if Brandon Sen. Tom Lee decides to step in the race. The former Senate President tacked on an even $211,000 for his political committee, The Conservative, in October. He has more than $2.28 million on hand.

Lee lost to Democrat Alex Sink in the 2006 CFO race, which was the Democrats’ lone win in a Cabinet race this century, and has had his eye on another run since.

Florida Chamber wants an end to AOB, ‘gotcha’ lawsuits in 2018

The Florida Chamber of Commerce unveiled a legislative roadmap outlining its focus areas ahead of the 2018 Legislative Session, which starts Jan. 9.

The organization held a press conference in the Capitol on Tuesday.

“Year after year, the Florida Chamber has been at the forefront of solving issues that impact the competitiveness and future of Florida’s business climate. Our focus remains steadfast in our efforts to be the driving force uniting Florida’s business community, creating economic opportunity and growing jobs,” said Florida Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson.

Topping the “2018 Jobs and Competitiveness Agenda” is bringing an end to “assignment of benefits,” or AOB, an insurance practice where policyholders can sign away their home or auto insurance benefits to a third party for a quick repair rather than waiting on their insurance company to pay out on a claim.

The group says AOB is a breeding ground for “unchecked fraud” and “legal scams” and called on the Legislature to “put consumer protection first by finally closing the well-known Assignment of Benefits scam that is raising rates.”

The Chamber is also looking at to chip away at business expenses by pushing for lower workers’ compensation premiums, which they said are 14.5 percent higher than they should be in Florida and are responsible for a $1.5 billion negative impact on Sunshine State businesses.

Florida’s business community is facing a $1.5 billion impact from workers’ comp rates that remain 14.5 percent higher than they should be.

“The legislature should fix Florida’s workers’ compensation system by addressing the true cost drivers of the system, including attorney fees,” the Chamber said in a release. “Doing so will bring stability to the system and lower unnecessary costs.”

FCOC also wants lawmakers to “fix Florida’s broken lawsuit climate.” The agenda claimed Florida had one of the worst legal environments in the US and said “gotcha” lawsuits cost the average Florida family $3,400 a year.

The Chamber also wants more cash flowing to the Research and Development Tax Credit Program, which helps high-tech companies save on their tax bills by counting certain research expenses against corporate income taxes and sales taxes.

The Chamber of Commerce is also looking for lawmakers to pump more money into workforce development and infrastructure improvements, which they want to include sustainable water and energy policies and “innovations” in transportation.

A complete listing of the 2018 agenda is available on the Florida Chamber of Commerce website.

A Periscope video of Tuesday’s press conference is below:

Will Weatherford backs Nick DiCeglie for Florida House

Republican Nick DiCeglie, who is running to replace termed-out Rep. Larry Ahern in Pinellas-based HD 66, picked up an endorsement from former House Speaker Will Weatherford Tuesday.

“I’m proud to endorse Nick DiCeglie in his campaign for the Florida House. He has a great story to tell – from his humble childhood, helping his parents grow their family business, to being a successful small business owner himself,” Weatherford said.

When it comes to creating jobs for Florida families, he truly understands pro-business policies work and overregulation and red tape do not. I look forward to seeing the great things he will continue to do for his community as a member of the Florida House.”

The HD 66 Republican primary pits DiCeglie against Berny Jacques, an attorney at the St. Petersburg law firm of Berkowitz and Myer who previously served as an assistant state attorney in Pinellas County. The district covers part of Pinellas, including Clearwater, Belleair, Indian Shores and Indian Rocks Beach, where DiCeglie lives.

Since entering the race, DiCeglie has taken some momentum from Jacques. Most notably, Seminole Vice Mayor Chris Burke endorsed DiCeglie last month, tacitly retracting his endorsement of Jacques over the summer.

Still, Weatherford’s endorsement is by far the biggest to-date for either of the two Republicans.

“I’m honored to have the support of Speaker Weatherford. He is a principled conservative that knows how to get things done. His work as Speaker and in the private sector has made our state a better place to live, work and raise a family and I look forward to the opportunity to follow his example of effective service and leadership,” DiCeglie said.

DiCeglie filed to run for HD 66 in September, though he made his intentions known much earlier.

In addition to serving as the current chair of the Pinellas County Republican Party, DiCeglie runs solid waste collection business Solar Sanitation.

He has also chaired the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce for two terms, was a gubernatorial appointee to the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, and was a member of the Indian Rocks Beach Planning and Zoning Board for six years.

Jacques was the first-in candidate, but after a stellar opening month where he raised nearly $30,000 for his campaign, he posted middling campaign reports until DiCeglie filed.

Last month, the campaign began in earnest with both Jacques and DiCeglie holding “campaign kickoff” events a week apart.

For October, DiCeglie posted more than $30,000 for his campaign for the second month in a row, while Jacques tacked on a combined $26,000 through his campaign and committee accounts, putting him past the $100,000 mark in total fundraising.

Though DiCeglie is gaining ground in the money race, his $58,000 on-hand total trails Jacques’ $84,000 cash on hand – $57,000 in his campaign account and $27,000 in his committee, Protect Pinellas.

Also running for the seat is Reform Party candidate Paul Anthony Bachmann, who filed in August. He hasn’t uploaded his October numbers yet, though his first two months on the trail didn’t bring any contributions or expenditures.

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