A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 535

A.G. Gancarski

Money momentum for Jim Overton in Duval Tax Collector bid

As September ended, a familiar narrative continued.

Republican Jim Overton maintained his lead in the money race with Democrat Mia Jones for Duval County Tax Collector — even though she was the choice of almost 47 percent of voters in the August blanket primary.

The latest filings to the Duval County Supervisor of Elections run through Sept. 28.

Overton (a former City Councilman and Property Appraiser) now has over $43,000 on hand after raising $16,034 in the two weeks leading up to the 28th.

Among the latest donors: Peter Rummell, the Jacksonville developer closely aligned with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny CurryHans Tanzler; and a couple of entities associated with Jacksonville Landing developer Toney Sleiman, currently feuding with Mayor Curry.

Jones was less productive during the Sept. 15 to 28 timeframe, raising just $3,835 and giving her nearly $20,000 on hand. Prominent backers include the AFSCME union and local trial lawyer Wayne Hogan.

Democrats enjoy a registration advantage in Duval County. Of the just over 600,000 registered voters, 244,542 are Democrats, compared to 219,850 Republicans.

However, that advantage doesn’t translate to wins in citywide races. All constitutional officers in Duval County are currently Republicans.

Despite being new to HD 15, Tracye Polson says she knows what drives voters

The general election race to replace outgoing state Rep. Jay Fant in Jacksonville’s House District 15 is beginning to heat up, with a pattern established last week.

Democrat Tracye Polson is determined to push back against what she sees as narrative distortions and distractions from the campaign of Republican opponent Wyman Duggan.

One such example: challenging Duggan to a debate, in the wake of a pyrotechnic attack ad that linked Polson to Resistance protesters, with stock footage of a flag burner catching the Democrat’s ire.

The ad said Polson is “with them, not with us.”

In that context, Florida Politics has learned of the second line of attack being mulled by the Duggan campaign, one focusing on Polson being a recent arrival to House District 15, a group of deep-rooted communities ranging from Riverside, Avondale, and Ortega to the more bucolic stretches of Jacksonville’s Westside.

The contrast would be implicit, between the deeply rooted Duggan and Polson, a candidate who moved to the district much more recently, according to voter registration records.

Polson registered in HD 15 in November 2016, records show. Before that, she was a registered voter in St. Johns County.

We asked Polson about this potential issue, and she framed it as yet another distraction put forth by the Republican campaign to distract from his career as a lobbyist.

“My opponent, career lobbyist Wyman Duggan is running a negative campaign — full of distortions, and without substance or proper attention to the issues that matter most to the voters I’ve been speaking with since Veterans Day of 2017,” Polson asserted.

“I have lived in the Jacksonville area for over eight years and I was thrilled to buy my home in District 15 in 2014. After first living in Atlantic Beach and then Ponte Vedra Beach, I chose my home in Avondale with care and love living here,” Polson added.

We asked Polson straight up: Should voters care about this issue, which seems likely to be part of a future mailpiece?

“I don’t tell voters what they should care about. I’ve been listening to them tell me what keeps them up at night as I started knocking on the doors of Republicans, Democrats, and NPA voters,” Polson asserted.

“More than one teacher told me that they care about public education and how they have to work more than one job and spend their own money on classroom materials and food for their students. They care about health care — one woman told me she had been diagnosed with cancer, and then after losing her health insurance, she told herself it was probably nothing. They care about gun violence in schools, opioid overdoses, and taking care of our veterans,” Polson said.

“More than one man told me they care about good jobs that pay a living wage and the flooding that has occurred in their streets,” Polson related.

“I promise to be their State Representative who will fully represent them and their families and keep in communication with them about what is happening in Tallahassee. I think they have a right to know that my opponent is a career lobbyist who has worked against the people of District 15, not for them,” Polson asserted.

“I don’t claim to be an expert on all issues. But I’ve had lengthy conversations with Jacksonville community leaders, attending meetings, visiting churches, reading and studying and most of all listening to people all across District 15. My team and I have knocked on more than 15,000 doors to learn what matters most to moms, dads, active military and veterans, teachers, factory workers, and retired voters,” Polson said.

“Several of my key endorsers have stated clearly that my diligence in studying the issues — and my openness to learn still more, including perspectives from all parties, was critical to earning their support,” Polson added.

Indeed, Polson has scored key endorsements, including from former mayoral candidate Audrey Moran (a Republican), as well as from the nonpartisan Fraternal Order of Police and Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters locals.

Duggan, meanwhile, is starting to rebuild his campaign war chest, raising more than$56,000 between Sept. 15 and 28 between his campaign account and that of his political committee.

All told, he has roughly $82,000 on hand, a number that is still behind the Polson campaign, which had as of its most recent campaign account and committee filings roughly $123,036 on hand after having raised and self-financed about $125,000 during the same period.

Polson is spending big on television, and her ability to finance her own campaign has gotten her into the game. The next four weeks will show if her campaign can go toe to toe with a Republican machine with deep tentacles into GOP power structures in Jacksonville and Tallahassee both.

Race to replace Ron DeSantis in Congress a sprint to the center

The race to replace Ron DeSantis in Congress is on, and it’s looking more like a race to the center between two former White House staffers as the 30-day mark before the primary approaches.

“Let’s bring the warring parties together and get things done,” asserted Democrat Nancy Soderberg early in a debate televised last week on WESH TV.

Soderberg, who won her primary in August with more than 55 percent of the vote, worked in former President Bill Clinton’s administration on the National Security Council and as Ambassador to the United Nations.

Those roles brought her high-profile endorsements, including from former colleagues like Paul Begala and from former President Barack Obama.

The latter endorsement, a boon in the sense of national visibility, became a talking point for Republican Mike Waltz (who won his own primary with 42 percent of the vote) during their debate.

“This choice is about America moving forward,” between “individual liberty” and a “government that piles on regulation and taxes,” Waltz (a former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney) said, framing the debate before at least once conflating the name Nancy Soderberg with Nancy Pelosi and reminding CD 6 voters that Obama endorsed his fellow Democrat.

“In the [Obama] administration, the military really floundered … their funding was cut year over year … incredibly restrictive rules of engagement,” Waltz chided.

“This President and this Administration have reasserted American leadership,” Waltz said, framing that as necessary given the problems established by the Obama and Clinton administrations. “It may be unconventional what he’s trying to do, but heck, what [was done] for the last 35 years didn’t work.”

Soderberg identified foreign policy affinities with the Trump administration, including moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, advocating the “two-state solution,” and the “new NAFTA accord.”

“I believe the President is fighting for American interests abroad in a way that is unconventional for sure, but I wish him well in that,” Soderberg said, trying to pivot the debate midway through to a major campaign talking point for her: a Republican health care plan that would be bad for people with pre-existing conditions.

Waltz said he opposed any plan to limit coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, before saying “Obamacare has been a failure.”

“You need to stop distorting my positions,” the Democrat protested.

Just as Soderberg didn’t want to get identified with the Washington left (including going so far as to say she wouldn’t vote for Pelosi for party leader), Waltz (despite the historic GOP lean in the district, which went with President Trump in 2016), realizes that post-primary base appeals come with diminishing returns.

As POLITICO Florida reported Thursday night, Waltz rebuffed an invitation from President Donald Trump to rally for him in his district. A Trump fundraiser was more agreeable to the candidate, but that fell through also.

For Waltz, a candidate pilloried during the primary for being #NeverTrump, the chance to hit the reset button wasn’t worth the optics of the rally. A fundraiser closed to the press was worth the risk, in no small part because Soderberg has already raised more than $2 million, a number Waltz’s team realizes it can’t match.

A rally though, with potentially pyrotechnic quotes? Not worth it given the dynamics of this contest, very much a swing race at this point.

CD 6 is a Republican-leaning seat, a Daytona-centric district that hugs the Atlantic Coast, including territory in St. Johns, Flagler, Volusia, and Lake counties.

The 2016 race between DeSantis and Democrat Bill McCullough was not competitive, with DeSantis winning by 17 percentage points.

This one should be closer.

A survey from St. Pete Polls released Sept. 20 revealed just a five-point lead for Waltz.

Both candidates are consolidating support within their respective parties. Soderberg is the choice of 74 percent of Democrats, Waltz of 76 percent of Republicans. Independents skew slightly to Soderberg (46-43).

However, with the district showing a strong GOP plurality (205,633 Republicans, compared to 177,345 Democrats and 152,330 independents), these results suggest Soderberg will need to further strengthen her appeal to independents to make up for the realities of party loyalty.

She has the resources to do so. DeSantis, according to Soderberg polling, was underwater in his district when he resigned. And yet, despite running a textbook centrist campaign, Soderberg may find the lean of the district proves prohibitive.

Consultants on both sides bring the spin. Those close to the Waltz campaign paint a picture of Soderberg burning through hundreds of thousands of dollars on TV yet not moving polls. Those close to Team Soderberg counter that Waltz isn’t communicating with voters and use phrases like “campaign in crisis” to describe the Republican effort.

New polls and Q3 fundraising reports will soon enough paint a picture of the race that is less impressionistic and more realistic.

Matt Caldwell stretches fundraising lead in Ag. Commissioner race

As September receipts approached a close, Republican Matt Caldwell continued to outraise Democrat Nikki Fried in the race for Agriculture Commissioner.

Between his campaign account and his Friends of Matt Caldwell political committee, the North Fort Myers state Representative raised $610,220 between Sept. 22 and 28.

Caldwell has $159,128 in his campaign account, and another $595,691 in committee cash, giving him a total of $754,819.

Among the campaign account donors: Associated Industries of Florida, various regional associations of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Sugar, and several accounts associated with The Villages. All told, $178,220 came in during the last reporting week.

The committee side saw $432,000 of new money. Among the notable donors: the Chamber affiliated Florida Jobs PAC ($100,000); Floridians United for Our Children’s Future ($100,000), a political committee chaired by Ryan Tyson, the VP of political operations for Associated Industries of Florida; and the Republican State Leadership Committee ($50,000).

Fried is showing momentum, meanwhile, after a light week before. Her political committee (Florida Consumers First) brought in $70,000 between Sept. 22 and 28, pushing the committee total to $150,014 on hand.

The campaign account had $115,601 raised in the same period from 464 contributors. It has $175,964 on hand.

All told, Fried has $325,978 at her disposal.

Big name donors on both sides, as Sean Shaw leads Attorney General fundraising race

Democrat Sean Shaw, as of Sept. 28, is the cash-on-hand leader in the Attorney General’s race … despite having less than a million dollars between campaign and committee accounts.

And ironically, the state Rep. from Tampa has Republican House colleagues Frank White and Jay Fant to thank for his advantageous position.

Republican Ashley Moody, despite having raised $5,488,619 since becoming a candidate, burned through a big chunk of that money to win the nomination against the two state Reps.

Jacksonville’s Fant was a nuisance through qualifying; Pensacola’s White was the frontrunner in polls until a few weeks out. Both invested big chunks of their personal fortunes in primary fights they couldn’t win.

While Moody, a retired judge from Hillsborough County, has demonstrated fundraising ability throughout the campaign, she can’t rest on those laurels if cash-on-hand is the relevant metric.

Her campaign account has just $328,439 in it. Her Friends of Ashley Moody political committee account has just $103,315 more (after moving $250,000 to the Republican Party of Florida account Sept. 25).

In the most recent reporting week (Sept. 22 to 28), Moody demonstrated positive momentum, with a total of $239,808 raised between the two accounts.

Moody has donors that, if they engage aggressively, can make a difference. Mel and Betty Sembler maxed out at $3,000 each to her campaign account. Brent Sembler and lobbyist Brian Ballard invested in the committee.

However, $431,000 on hand is likely not where Republicans expected their Attorney General nominee to be as of Sept. 28, and it’s not a sum reflective of other GOP Cabinet nominees.

Both Agriculture Commissioner nominee Matt Caldwell (who, like Moody, had a competitive primary) and incumbent CFO Jimmy Patronis have massive leads over Democratic opponents.

Shaw mostly kept pace with Moody during the reporting week, bringing in $108,410 to his campaign account and $119,000 to his Sean Shaw for Florida political committee.

The campaign account was at $711,888 on hand as of Sept. 28. The committee had an additional $216,926, for the total of $928,814.

Interesting donors abounded for Shaw. Billionaire Tom Steyer, so key to the campaign of Gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum, ponied up $3,000 to the Shaw campaign account. The Collective PAC, the committee that helped Gillum drive up Gwen Graham‘s negatives, went $1,000 deep to the campaign kitty.

They were not listed as committee donors, but it is obvious that Steyer, were he to decide to invest in Shaw as he has in Gillum, could offer support Moody would struggle to match, unless the fundraising can kick into gear in the next couple of weeks.

With the Governor’s race in play, how much more will Republicans invest downballot? That’s the open question here.

Democrats reboot Adam Putnam attacks on Ron DeSantis Fair Tax support

For the second time this week, the Florida Democratic Party reprised attacks against Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis that were first rehearsed against him in the GOP primary by Adam Putnam.

Gene Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy under Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, was the point man in a Friday media call blasting DeSantis’ support of the Fair Tax.

If this seems familiar, it’s because it is. Putnam, DeSantis’ main opponent, ran an ad spotlighting this weeks ahead of the primary.

“What would a 23 percent sales tax do to Florida’s economy? If Congressman DeSantis had his way, everything would cost 23 percent more — groceries, gas, home purchases. Congressman DeSantis sponsored legislation to increase sales taxes by 23 percent, hurting families, destroying jobs, devastating tourism. Washington is full of bad ideas and phony politicians. Ron DeSantis and his huge tax increase fit right in,” the narrator asserted.

On behalf of the Putnam campaign, spokesperson Meredith Beatrice made a forceful case against the Fair Tax.

“Conservatives have railed against this tax and explained how it would result in higher taxes for the middle class. This policy is particularly bad for Florida considering that retirees, who paid taxes on their wages during their working lives, would find themselves having to also pay higher taxes on everything they used their accumulated savings to buy,” Beatrice said.

Beatrice cited studies published in the canonically conservative National Review suggesting a sales tax hike would shift the tax burden on the middle class.

Ironically enough, especially given that Beatrice is now messaging for the Republican Party of Florida on behalf of the DeSantis campaign, Sperling rehashed that same NR article castigating the Fair Tax as inherently regressive.

Sperling said DeSantis had “very clearly shown us when it comes to tax, budget, and policies what his priorities are,” with a “dogged and repeated commitment” to misleading economic presentations, policies that privilege the wealthy and corporate interests at the expense of “health care to the middle class, seniors, and the most vulnerable members of our society.

“That 23 percent number … is misleading. Even under his description … it’s a 30 percent tax increase,” Sperling said.

“No one thinks that you could actually replace all of the federal income with 30 percent,” Sperling added, noting alternative projections that would be “dramatically higher,” 44 percent and up.

The tax, per Sperling, goes beyond simply being “flat” and “regressive,” “designed to have a tiny percentage of income from the highest earning people and a far higher real rate for people … who have to spend all their money to survive and support their families.”

As Putnam contended ahead of the primaries, the tax also punishes seniors, said Sperling.

“This would equally punish seniors who have already saved their money,” Sperling said, along with cutting out the estate taxes, a protection of the scions of wealth.

“This punishes the middle class,” Sperling said, “with a tax increase.”

“This is the most sweeping tax proposal DeSantis has proposed,” Seth Hanlon, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress Action Fund, noted, adding that corporate and estate taxes would be a thing of the past.

Kevin Donohoe, a spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party, contends that the party actually amplified the anti-Fair Tax case, with data and facts going beyond what Team Putnam provided.

“We made an argument about priorities that Adam Putnam never did,” Donohoe said, spotlighting a new microsite: DeSantisTax.com.

Among the features of that site, examples of Republican opposition.

Including a quote from RPOF spox Beatrice.

Jimmy Patronis continues to dominate Jeremy Ring in CFO cash race

CFO Jimmy Patronis continued to press his cash lead over Democratic challenger Jeremy Ring as September receipts came to a close.

Patronis, a Panama City Republican appointed by the Governor and running for his first full term, dominated fundraising over the Margate Democrat on both the campaign account and political committee (Treasure Florida) planes.

Patronis brought $108,915 into his campaign account between Sept. 22 and 28. It’s now raised $2,049,963 and has $1,234,319 on hand.

Among the late-September donors: regional offices of the Florida Chamber; the Fiorentino GroupRon Sachs of Sachs Media Group; and various insurance industry interests.

Treasure Florida was even stronger, with $347,750 brought in during the same one-week period. Its now raised $3,834,505 and has $1,917,617 on hand.

All told, Patronis has $3,151,936 to work with down the homestretch of the campaign.

And to put that haul into perspective, Patronis had only one month better than that week, a signal of unstinting investor interest in his campaign.

Florida Blue took home top honors with $75,000 chipped in. The Chamber affiliated Florida Jobs PAC ponied up $50,000. Floridians United for Our Children’s Future (affiliated with Associated Industries of Florida) gave $25,000.

Whereas Patronis has well over $3 million to deploy (even after moving $500,000 out of the committee account to the Florida Republican Senatorial Committee last week), Ring is running out of ammo on the other side.

The Democrat is spending big and fundraising has stalled.

His campaign account saw just $14,549 raised between Sept. 22 and 28, with the Florida Police Benevolent Association and a couple of trade unions ponying up.

However, the account spent $106,970 during the same period. And now, only $24,381 remains.

Meanwhile, Ring’s Florida Action Fund was fairly inert during the one week reporting period, bringing in just $1,000, leaving it with $131,927 on hand.

The tale of the tape: Patronis has $3,151,936 on hand, and Ring has $156,308.

Jason Fischer holds money lead, moves committee cash in re-election bid

State Rep. Jason Fischer, first-term Republican representing Jacksonville’s District 16, continued to maintain his cash-on-hand lead over Democrat Ken Organes as September closed.

As of Sept. 28, Fischer had nearly $117,000 in his campaign account, and another $9,000 in the account of his political committee, Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville.

Fischer’s political committee has spent $85,000 in the last month, but the money didn’t go far: it was moved to another political committee, Citizens for a Conservative Future.

The committees have a number of commonalities. Among them: opaque nomenclature and the same treasurer (Eric Robinson).

It will be interesting to see how that $85,000 is deployed in the coming weeks. Will “Citizens for a Conservative Future” be filling up HD 16 mailboxes, or will the money be moved to other races? Time will tell.

Fischer downshifted fundraising efforts between Sept. 15 and 28, bringing in $2,000 off two checks. However, his six-figure nest egg dwarfs the cash-on-hand of Democrat Organes, a first-time candidate and retiree from railroad concern CSX.

Organes, who raised just $825 between Sept. 15 and 28, has roughly $27,000 on hand.

HD 16 has a strong GOP plurality: of its 120,186 registered voters, over 55,000 are Republican.

12-gauges and checkbooks: Shooting range setting for John Rutherford fundraiser

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford has had countless fundraisers in his political career. However, few invites have urged attendees to bring their shotguns.

Friday’s funder will fall under the latter category, as financial supporters of the straight-shooting Jacksonville Republican are urged to bring their 12-gauge guns and their checkbooks to a combination clay shoot/fundraiser.

The event, at Jacksonville Clay Target Sports on New Berlin Road, kicks off with an 8 a.m. registration. Lunch will be provided.

There is no minimum threshold for marksmanship; however, there is a minimum buy-in ($250 per shooter). Each member of a four-person team gets 100 rounds. (RSVP here).

Rutherford represents Florida’s 4th Congressional District, which encompasses Nassau and portions of Duval and St. Johns counties.

A former three-term Jacksonville Sheriff, the first-term Congressman won election for his first terms in 2016 with 70 percent of the vote in a district that is nearly 50 percent Republican.

Rutherford faces Democrat Ges Selmont on the November ballot. Though recent fundraising totals are not available, at last check Rutherford had $317,255 on hand, while Selmont had just over $3,000.

John Rutherford has never lost an election.

Hermine hangover: Andrew Gillum ‘unfit to lead,’ Republicans charge

In Florida, responding to a hurricane is often the ultimate measure of leadership.

On Thursday, Republicans began hitting Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum on the issue, charging him with failure to lead when Hurricane Hermine struck Tallahassee in 2016.

This critique is nothing new: Days after Gillum’s surprise win in the August primary, the conservative National Review lowlighted Gillum’s quixotic response to power outages after the 2016 storm, which was slowed because Gillum refused to allow nonunion workers to help with the complex and time-consuming task of power restoration.

National outlets spotlighted this issue for a reason. It is, potentially, a damning indictment of Gillum as Mayor, although he later said he had not been told of offers of help and his utilities head admitted he didn’t accept them.

In 2016, as power restoration delays mounted, the candidate admitted that “I know we made mistakes — I can’t name them all right now — but we’re working really, really hard.”

Not a good look.

Those power outages, naturally, affected actual people. To that end, two Republican Party of Florida spots underscore the contention that Gillum is “unfit to lead.”

Each spot features a white female spokesperson in the 35- to 44-year-old age bracket, suggesting an appeal to swing voters who have yet to firm opinions about the Tallahassee Mayor as the race tightens (as per recent polling).

“After the Hurricane, we had no electricity for over a week,” one spot contends.

“Gillum refused help from workers. The trucks just sat, while people suffered. Incompetence, or extreme politics, I don’t know. But leaders are supposed to help people in tough times. And Andrew Gillum, he didn’t help us. He failed us.

The second spot raises the stakes, spotlighting a mother of a special-needs child.

“My son was diagnosed with complex autism. High temperatures typically cause health complications for children like him, that require specially licensed facilities. After the hurricane, they lost power, and should have been first-restored,” the voice-over asserted.

“Gillum turned away workers who could have restored our power,” the voice-over vowed. “It was devastating. Pure politics or bad judgment, Andrew Gillum failed us, and we’ll never forget.”

After the storm, Tallahassee officials clarified they did not “reject” offers of help from outside utilities in the wake of Hurricane Hermine, but rather just didn’t say “yes” to everyone right away.

That was because too many workers, rather than being a boon, would have presented a coordination and safety nightmare, officials suggested at a special meeting to “discuss the impacts of Hurricane Hermine and the (electricity) restoration progress.”

City utilities chief Rob McGarrah explained “it would have been very easy for us just to turn the power off to the whole system and bring in a couple of thousand people in from other utilities.

“While our focus is to get the customers back up, our No. 1 job is to do it without anyone getting hurt,” he added. “…When I bring mutual aid crews in, I’ve got to have my people with them, to help do that coordination and (give) a situational awareness to where everybody else is working.

“…If crew A doesn’t know where crew B is, and we energize a line, somebody’s going to get hurt,” he said. “It’s about what we can manage … everybody I know in our business does it that way. We’ve reached a saturation point of how many we can manage safely.”

Moreover, Gillum — perhaps limited by Tallahassee’s weak-mayor form of government — had said he was in the dark about a formal offer by Florida Power & Light to help restore power after Hermine.

“I was never aware that there was a formal offer of anything,” Gillum told Florida Politics at the time.

“I heard them list what assets they had available … (City) staff listed our assets and needs and they said that if the utilities didn’t take their offer that night, they would move them all to North Carolina to assist others. Following those reports the governor suggested they all get together and figure it out.”

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