A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics - Page 7 of 535

A.G. Gancarski

‘Kids, family, future’: New ad features Rick Scott’s grandsons

Following a diss-fueled debate and a seemingly endless series of news cycles with attack ads, Gov. Rick Scott is going positive.

In an ad released Thursday by his Senate campaign, Scott is getting help: His six grandsons made cameo appearances in the spot designed to remind Florida voters of the Naples Republican’s relatability and humanity.

“With all these attack ads, all Bill Nelson wants to do is throw mud,” Scott said, noting that he’s “used to it.”

“I have six grandsons,” Scott said. “That’s right. SIX BOYS.”

“We dig for bugs, make slime from scratch. With these guys — even lunch can get dirty,” Scott contended, before entering the call-to-action territory.

“Bill Nelson slings mud to make this race about me. It’s not. This race is about your kids, your family, your future,” Scott asserted.

Scott’s campaign has advanced the narrative of “Negative Nelson” since the summer, as part of a cycle of narratives asserting that Nelson is too negative, too “confused”, and too partisan to represent Florida.

“Now that Nelson is attacking Rick Scott, you might ask, after almost a half-century in office, why can’t Nelson find much good to say about himself? Bill Nelson. Negative. A long, long time,” the Scott ad from late June concludes.

Polling shows the race as too close to call.

A survey released this week by St. Pete Polls shows less than a one-point gap in Scott’s favor, though multiple other polls show a Nelson lean.

Clay Yarborough takes Northeast Florida lead on ‘Yes on 3’ campaign

In 2016, Jacksonville Republican Clay Yarborough emerged from a competitive primary in House District 12, where a variety of business interests – including gambling interests – sought to sink him.

Those efforts were for naught. Yarborough won his primary by nearly 10 points.

Yarborough is running for his second term, in a Republican-plurality district against a Democrat who can’t match his fundraising. But his re-election bid won’t be his only focus for the next few weeks.

On Thursday, “Voters in Charge” (a political committee supportive of Amendment 3, which would allow for voters in the future to decide on new casinos) rolled out its Northeast Florida leadership committee.

And Yarborough is the chair of that regional panel.

Yarborough, who has been a reliable social conservative policy voice since he joined the Jacksonville City Council in 2007, noted that he was “motivated to engage because the voters statewide have previously spoken on this, but the state attempts to work around it every year.”

He also acknowledges that there may be political blowback.

“I understand different groups are motivated to support those they believe are aligned on issues important to them,” Yarborough said.

Indeed, the issue is a polarizing one even in Yarborough’s Jacksonville. Agitating heavily for the opposing “No on 3” campaign is Ali Korman Shelton, a former senior staffer in City Hall whose family business includes bestbet and its kennel club affiliates.

Yarborough is not alone, however, in supporting the proposed amendment.

The group backing 3 is bipartisan and includes state Sen. Keith Perry (in a very competitive race in the Gainesville market), along with fellow Republican Sheriff Darryl Daniels of Clay County.

Democratic Sheriff Sadie Darnell of Alachua represents the other side of the partisan divide.

Polling this week via the Florida Chamber of Commerce is favorable to the amendment. Of those likely voters surveyed, 54 percent support the amendment, with 28 percent in opposition and the rest on the fence.

Supporters say the amendment puts “Voters in Charge” instead of the Florida Legislature and “gambling lobbyists.” Endorsements include the Florida Chamber and the League of Women Voters of Florida.

Voters in Charge got big checks from Disney and from the Seminole Tribe of Florida: $5 million apiece in September alone, suggesting the campaign has the resources for its closing push.


Florida Politics weekend correspondent Jacob Ogles contributed to this post.

Flag burning ad spurs debate challenge in Jax House race

On Wednesday in Jacksonville’s Memorial Park, House District 15 Democratic candidate Tracye Polson challenged Republican Wyman Duggan to a debate.

Accompanied by members of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and military veterans, Polson described her background as both a daughter of a military member and a niece to five uncles who served.

Polson was spotlighting her bona fides in what is becoming an increasingly high-profile race for good reason: Republican Duggan slammed Polson in a hard-hitting attack ad.

Not with Us,” a 30-second spot from Duggan’s campaign that dropped last week, paints “political insider” Polson as too radical for the district.

As a series of vivid images ranging from Resistance marches to footage of a flag burning flash onto the screen, the voiceover depicts Polson as a devotee of “socialized health care, job-killing taxes, and big government education,” including but not limited to “putting unions ahead of students.”

The flag burning image clearly irked Polson, a social worker who works with veterans who have PTSD.

“I am prepared to defend these values as a person and a candidate against someone who would clearly say anything to get elected,” said Polson Tuesday, rolling out the debate challenge.

“The citizens of District 15 deserve to hear the truth about where we stand, and to decide for themselves who will better represent their needs in office instead of what is fabricated in a false and misleading television ad,” Polson added.

On behalf of the Duggan campaign, consultant Tim Baker noted that the Polson campaign has not directly contacted Duggan for a debate.

Baker then noted that Polson had decided the tone of the general election campaign, as she hit Duggan with an attack spot first.

The furor over the flag burning ad is driven in no small part because this race is polling as a dead heat.

An internal Polson poll from SEA Polling and Strategic Design showed Duggan up two points (41-39) in what Democrats see as a swing district. There are polls, we are told by Republican operatives not aligned with Duggan, that also have Polson up.

The resource battle is worth watching down the stretch, and as of Sept. 14 it was favorable to the Democrat: Duggan has under $23,000 on hand after a bitter primary battle, putting him well behind Polson’s $116,000-plus, in a district that has a slight Democratic plurality.

However, the Republican bet is that an image of a burning flag will trump the very real paper trail documenting Duggan’s lobbying endeavors.

It’s a family affair: Andrew Gillum fundraiser in Jacksonville Thursday

A Jacksonville fundraiser for the gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Andrew Gillum is slated for Thursday evening, allowing Duval donors to help “bring it home.”

For those on a budget, no worries: The cover charge for the event, which starts at 6 p.m. at WJCT, is a mere $75 — hardly George Soros or Tom Steyer money, in other words.

“For a small donation of $75, there will be music, beer and wine, local cuisine from 8 local chefs, and a guest speaker. 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Gillum campaign,” the event notice asserts.

That guest speaker knows the candidate very well: Gillum’s paternal aunt, Patricia Gillum Sams.

Gillum Sams has managed the diversity program at Jacksonville’s local utility JEA since 2011. In that role, she is “in-house consultant and strategic partner to management and a diversity change agent for an organization of 2,000+ employees.”

Meanwhile, Andrew Gillum himself will be in Jacksonville Friday morning for his grandmother’s funeral.

As the Miami Herald reported this week, Elizabeth Gillum died Sunday at Jacksonville’s Mayo Clinic.

Koch Network support for Ron DeSantis was issue in primary, now issue in general

Given that Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis has been supported by the Koch Network since getting into the race, it’s not a surprise that it’s become an issue in the general election.

The surprise is why it’s taken so long.

With just 34 days before the election, the Florida Democratic Party on Wednesday excoriated the Republican nominee as a tool of the Koch Network’s “special interest” agenda.

“If Ron DeSantis wins, the Koch Brothers and their special interest agenda will own the governor’s mansion — and that’s why they are spending big in this race,” asserted FDP spox Kevin Donohoe.

“Ron DeSantis has spent his entire political career voting to rip away health care from Florida families to pay for massive tax cuts to the Koch Brothers. The Kochs have a long record of destroying Florida jobs and schools and almost singlehandedly killed Florida’s solar and film industries — and with Ron DeSantis they would bring their extreme agenda to Tallahassee.

“Ron DeSantis is nothing more than a puppet for the Kochs’ extreme agenda — and that’s why the Kochs are running dishonest ads propping up his campaign,” Donohoe added.

Indeed, the Koch Network is working on a number of different levels.

Just this week, an offshoot of Americans for Prosperity (Concerned Veterans for America Action) announced intentions to spend six figures on direct mail to message on DeSantis’ commitment to those who have served.

As well, the Palm Beach Post noted this week that another Koch offshoot (Freedom Partners Action Fund) spent over $323,000 on primary messaging against Adam Putnam.

Koch affiliates’ moves in the primary led to a stunning decision by the Putnam campaign to paint the Koch Network as anti-conservative and anti-Donald Trump.

Putnam’s camp wondered early in August: “Is DeSantis happy to accept millions from people against strengthening our borders and negotiating powerful trade deals?”

Putnam’s campaign doubled down on those criticisms a week later.

A fiery news release from Putnam spokesperson Meredith Beatrice asked, “Is D.C. DeSantis taking Koch money illegally in an attempt to hide his support for weak borders and anti-American trade policy?”

“The anti-Trump, open-border Koch group backing D.C. DeSantis isn’t reporting the source of $300K in contributions. This appears to be another attempt from D.C. DeSantis to cover up his betrayal of President Trump,” Beatrice added.

“D.C. DeSantis is choosing to to be a puppet of the open-border, anti-Trump Koch brothers and turning his back on President Trump who recently slammed the Koch brothers, calling them a ‘total joke’ and saying they are ‘against Strong Borders and Powerful Trade,’ ” the Putnam camp charges.

Beatrice, in a plot twist, is now handling Republican Party of Florida messaging for the Governor’s campaign.

The 2018 gubernatorial primary illustrated the double-edged sword of Koch support. A candidate like DeSantis wants the money. But the strings include attacks … not just from the left, but sometimes, from the right.

DeSantis, who worked hard for the Kochs’ backing even before getting into the Governor’s race (winning the unofficial Koch primary against Putnam endorser Richard Corcoran), was endorsed before the primary by the network, with direct mail in the works even then, even as the Republican National Committee urged donors to divest from Koch efforts as the Kochs and the President continue to feud publicly.

Jacksonville Cultural Council punts on Michael Boylan hire

Jacksonville City Council candidate Michael Boylan, the former CEO of WJCT, was poised until last month to become interim director of the city’s Cultural Council.

Boylan, who is just six months from an election against fellow Republican Rose Conry, noted that while it was “premature” to assume the posting was a “done deal,” he could serve in a short-term role and also still run for City Council.

“As to serving as the interim head of the Cultural Council, I first must note that board has not yet voted on my hiring, so it’s a bit premature to assume it’s a done deal,” Boylan said.

Boylan told us he was not looking for the permanent gig; he sought to “fill a temporary void.”

“I still believe I can best serve this community on the Council where I can impact policy,” Boylan added.

Indeed, it was not a done deal after all.

And now it seems he will be able to focus on his electoral run.

As WJCT reported Tuesday, the Cultural Council decided not to hire Boylan in the wake of concerns about a pattern of comments perceived as racially insensitive “microaggressions” (Folio Weekly had the primary reporting there).

The publicity of recent weeks is unwelcome for Boylan, who was already behind Conry in the fundraising race in the Southside/Mandarin district.

In the past two months, he has raised just $2,245, and has just under $41,000 on hand.

Conry, who has over $83,000 on hand, raised $7,100 in August alone.

Conry has the backing of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and the political machine of Mayor Lenny Curry, presenting further obstacles for the Boylan candidacy.

New study: Drug law changes would reduce Florida prison population

A new study from the left-leaning Urban Institute offers one simple trick to reduce Florida’s prison population by three percent.

Merely reclassifying drug possession as a misdemeanor, per the group’s analysis released Tuesday, could lead to 2,700 fewer inmates by 2025.

Five states have done so thus far, the Urban Institute contends, and all have seen salutary results.

In Utah, the prison population is down 9 percent since 2015.

In Connecticut, the population in for drug possession is down 74 percent.

California, the leader in such reforms, was able to move $100 million from prisons to local government for the kinds of changes that offer prevention and intervention.

Reclassification of possession offenses, the study notes, would have other benefits beyond economics.

Social equity, including suffrage, is at issue. Florida is one of five states with a disenfranchisement rate of seven percent or higher.

“Florida has the most restrictive law in the country and blocks 1.5 million residents — 10 percent of the voting-age population — from exercising their right to vote. Nearly 90 percent of the disenfranchised people in Florida have completed their sentences and cannot vote because of old felony convictions,” the study contends. “Recent analysis estimated the economic statewide impact of restoring voting rights for people convicted of a felony in Florida at $365 million annually.”

Among the recommendations from the study: expunging felony convictions.

The Urban Institute study joins a growing body of literature that links Florida’s incarceration industry with adverse social outcomes.

The Florida Policy Institute asserts that Florida’s per capita incarceration rate has almost doubled since 2005, and “will have tremendous social and economic costs to the state.”

Clemency hearings under the Gov. Rick Scott administration have been infrequent (four times a year), meanwhile, and notable for the tone-deafness from the Cabinet (see the Florida Phoenix take).

Some help may be on the way on the November ballot, at least when it comes to rights restoration.

Amendment 4, which would restore reformed felons’ civil rights, generally is above the required 60 percent threshold for passage in polls.

Democrats charge Republicans, Ron DeSantis with exploiting Pulse victims in attack ad

The Republican Party of Florida continues to hammer away at Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum.

However, the Democrats are claiming that their counterparts went too far with one image in their latest spot: a Spanish-language salvo, “Miseria,” spotlighting Gillum’s ties to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and “the extreme left.”

That image, asserts Democrats, means that Republican Ron DeSantis should apologize, and the ad should be taken down.

The ad continues the general election agitation on the right against the so-called socialism of the Democratic ticket (per the voiceover, “Andrew Gillum owes himself to Bernie Sanders. Gillum is financed by the extreme left and under a cloud of corruption.”)

Almost immediately after the spot dropped, the Gillum camp noted an unexpected image in the ad: a seeming mockery of the Democrat receiving a commemorative ribbon from the family of someone who was killed during the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando.

Spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice said the Republican Party of Florida was not aware of the context of that photo when they used it.

“There was no intention to be insensitive in any way. The image is being swapped out. However, we stand by the message of the ad,” Beatrice said.

By mid-afternoon, the image indeed was removed and the ad republished to YouTube. But the ad will not be pulled.

Swapping out the image wasn’t enough for Florida Democratic Party spokesperson Kevin Donohoe, however. Nor did that satisfy the surrogates who spoke up against the spot.

The FDP called for the ad to be taken down, saying DeSantis “has shamelessly exploited the Pulse tragedy by using an image of Mayor Gillum receiving a Pulse ribbon from a victim’s family. DeSantis will say or do anything to get elected — even if it means desecrating the memory of 49 angels who were murdered at Pulse.”

Pulse survivor Brandon Wolf and state Rep. Amy Mercado echoed these concerns Tuesday afternoon.

Calling for a formal apology from the Republican, Wolf called the DeSantis campaign “disgusting” and the RPOF “a gutter swamp … soulless and morally bankrupt” for running the ad, which showed Gillum receiving the ribbon from a victim’s sister.

Mercado lambasted the ad as “incendiary” and “heartless,” compelling a “reliving” of the Pulse tragedy for viewers with “fearmongering” directed to a Spanish audience.

Donohoe also asserted that Gillum is “not a socialist and to use that term to deceive and divide is an insult to the thousands of Floridians who have fled dictatorships.”

To support that premise, a number of Hispanics backed him up in messaging.

State Senator Annette Taddeo and State Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez were among those who lambasted the ad as evidence of a “desperate campaign.”

“This is fear-mongering at its worst,” Taddeo (of Colombian descent) said about the socialism claim, an example of “going into the gutter on this campaign.”

Despite the furor over the spot’s use of the objectionable image, the ad can be seen as part of a larger strategy to drive up Gillum’s negatives, a strategy that Republicans note has never been tested in a campaign against the Tallahassee Mayor.

It’s any pollster’s guess where the target audience for these ads (Hispanic voters) will go.

The latest poll of the race, a survey from St. Pete Polls that was released Tuesday, showed a statistical dead heat between DeSantis and the Democrat.

Survey results have shown a wide range amongst Hispanic voters.

The NBC News/Marist poll released last month showed Gillum up 52 to 38. A Quinnipiac poll from last week showed Gillum up 18 (even as a previous Q Poll showed DeSantis up double digits with the demographic.

Flag flap dispatched: Jacksonville raises military flags across from City Hall

Months back, a code enforcement issue became global news, when a city of Jacksonville employee cited a local business for flying military flags.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry overruled his employee.

“Let them fly,” he tweeted.

And so they did at the business.

And now those flags will fly, permanently, at City Hall, after a ceremonial raising of the flags of all military branches (along with a POW/MIA flag) Tuesday.

Curry noted the city’s “gratitude for members of the armed forces” factoring into the decision to fly the flags as a “daily reminder of all that served and all that have served.”

Curry noted after July 4 that he realized that he needed to do something to honor the military, as he wrote at the time.

“A week ago, as I sat on the south bank of the St. Johns, my family and I enjoyed the fireworks and celebrations with our downtown as a backdrop. As the fun of the evening faded and we returned home, I spent some time reflecting about our city and our nation. My grandfathers and my father came to mind as I thought of the many men, women and families who have sacrificed by serving in our military to defend our way of life,” Curry asserted.

“With these reflections in mind,” the Mayor added, “I have decided that in addition to flying the United States flag, we should add the five military branch flags in an array around the National Colors in front of City Hall.”

“To honor that long tradition,” Curry added, “I want everyone who works in or visits City Hall to be reminded of the dedication of our Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. Therefore, today I have asked my staff to install the necessary hardware next to the National Colors in Hemming Park to let our military flags fly.”

Worth noting: discussion of proper flag order was held before Independence Day, per an email from Chief of Staff Brian Hughes to Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa.

“There are five branches of the United States military; the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy. While each branch of the military dedicates their time to certain aspects of protection and service, the five military branches work together to some extent in their role of security for the country. Each branch of the military has a separate flag, represented by emblems and insignia specific to the different branches. When displaying military branch flags together, the order of precedence should be the National Colors, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard,” Hughes wrote on July 3.

We asked Curry about this Tuesday, and he reiterated his contention that “reflecting and going into the holiday and the holiday is what today’s about.”

Koch-backed veterans’ group to boost Ron DeSantis with direct mail

Concerned Veterans for America Action announced Tuesday its intentions to wade into the Governor’s race, with direct mail on behalf of Republican Ron DeSantis.

CVAA is an offshoot of Americans for Prosperity, a Koch Network initiative.

Koch support was a flashpoint in the Republican primary between DeSantis and Adam Putnam, with a Putnam spox describing “D.C. DeSantis” as “a puppet of the open-border, anti-Trump Koch brothers.”

That messaging won’t be heard again this campaign season.

The campaign, per the Koch veterans’ group, is “highlighting his dedicated support for veterans.”

Expect a six-figure spend for this purpose.

“In a landscape full of negative ads, this is a refreshing spot of positive messaging, showing Floridians the good DeSantis has done for veterans over the years he has served,” asserted CVAA press secretary Kyle Buckles.

“During his time in Congress, Ron DeSantis demonstrated that he was a steadfast champion for veterans and we are confident he will continue to be their champion in Tallahassee,” said Dan Caldwell, CVAA Senior Advisor.

Caldwell added that “Floridians and Florida veterans will be well served with DeSantis as governor, and we urge them to vote for him this November.”

The first mail piece, seen below, spotlights DeSantis’ efforts to improve veterans’ health case options.

This effort comes as polls seem to be tightening in DeSantis’ race with Democrat Andrew Gillum. A survey from St. Pete Polls show that Gillum leads by just two points, a number slender in contrast with polls released just last week that showed the margin as wide as nine points.

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