Danny McAuliffe – Florida Politics

Danny McAuliffe

Matt Caldwell racks up Panhandle endorsements

Agriculture Commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell on Tuesday announced his ninth wave of endorsements, showcasing support from key local leaders in the Panhandle.

The North Fort Myers Republican state Representative’s newest supporters include elected or retired officials in five Northwest Florida counties: Escambia, Holmes, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Franklin.

In Santa Rosa, County Sheriff Robert Johnson, retired Sheriff Wendell Holmes and Property Appraiser Gregory Brown are backing Caldwell’s Cabinet bid.

Holmes County Sheriff John Tate, Property Appraiser Bryan Bell and Tax Collector Harry Bell also are backing Caldwell.

Other endorsements include Escambia Tax Collector Scott Lunsford and Franklin Sheriff A.J. Smith, along with Sheriff Larry Ashley and Clerk of Courts J.D. Peacock, both from Okaloosa County.

In a statement Caldwell, who chaired the Government Accountability Committee in the 2018 Legislative Session, said he was proud of the support.

“Florida’s next Commissioner of Agriculture will work closely with these key leaders to support businesses and families across the Sunshine State and I am honored that they have placed their trust in me,” Caldwell said.

Though Caldwell represents a Southwest Florida district, he hasn’t had trouble appealing to officials in Florida’s Panhandle. The newest wave of support isn’t the first from notable Northwest Florida officials.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, whose CD 1 seat eclipses all of Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, and Walton counties, backed Caldwell in October. A former colleague of Caldwell in the Florida House, Gaetz said then he was backing Caldwell “because he is a consistent conservative.”

Gaetz has since offered tidbits of support for Caldwell via Twitter.

Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson also has previously endorsed Caldwell.

Traveling the state is a centerpiece of Caldwell’s campaign. Dubbed #2LaneTravels, the Ag Comish candidate’s digital tool allows voters to monitor his stops across Florida. It also shows who in each county has backed him for his Cabinet quest. So far Caldwell’s camp claims to have covered just under 60,000 miles of Sunshine State pavement.

A state legislator, Caldwell could not raise funds during Session. But since March 11, the most recent available campaign finance records show he’s amassed $38,475 in his PAC and $11,250 in his campaign account since Session. The campaign claims it currently has over $1 million cash-on-hand.

Republican primary opponents Sebring state Sen. Denise Grimsley and former state Rep. Baxter Troutman present formidable fundraising totals. The News Service of Florida reported earlier this month that Grimsley began April with $870,000 on hand, and Troutman has self-funded his race to the tune of $2.7 million.

Feds chip in $1M for Parkland first responders

The loss of life is priceless, but it seems the federal government is looking to mitigate other, tangible costs of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that left 17 dead.

On Monday afternoon the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance, or BJA, announced it would award a $1 million grant to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to help cover expenses incurred by area first responders following the shooting.

Specifically, the award will help the state, City of Parkland and Broward County pay salary and overtime expenses created by the shooting. A news release from the Justice Department said the money would help “defray costs” for personnel of the 18 agencies recruited for help.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who heads the Justice Department, spoke fondly of law enforcement and saw the grant as a follow-through on a promise made shortly after the Valentine’s Day massacre.

“As I told our state and local partners back in February, the Department of Justice stands ready to help them in any way we can,” Sessions said in a prepared statement. “Today we offer $1 million to support the police who have been working overtime in the aftermath of this tragedy. They can be sure about this: we have their backs.”

In a media appearance following the shooting, Time magazine reported Sessions also promised to reverse mass shooting trends and increase gun prosecutions.

The money will be funded through the Byrne JAG Program. Administered by BJA, the program is authorized by law to cover “precipitous or extraordinary increases” in crimes such as mass violence, according to the Justice Department’s news release.

Immediately after the shooting Attorney General Pam Bondi announced the state would cover funeral costs for each victim and counseling for survivors. The Florida Legislature passed and Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a $400 million school safety package to harden schools and address mental health issues to prevent other school shootings in the state.

Big in Canada: VISIT FLORIDA efforts correlate with increased visitation

State-backed tourism campaigns are producing a healthy return on investment.

Numbers released Monday from VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s public-private marketing agency, indicate that more Canadians are choosing to retreat to the Sunshine State for vacation stays. The uptick follows increased marketing efforts in the United States’ neighbor to the north.

Overall visitation saw an increase of 4 percent in 2017 with 3.48 million Canadian visitors — up from 3.35 million in 2016. Between January and November of last year, Canadian air travel to Florida was up 5.9 percent. 

VISIT FLORIDA in 2017 spent record amounts on advertising the state. According to the agency, ads were segmented across digital, television, out of home, paid social elements, and partnerships with companies like Expedia and the Weather Network in Canada. In fall 2017, Toronto saw Florida-focused digital billboards in Yonge-Dundas Square, along with display activations from various Florida destinations in Union Station. Gov. Rick Scott also took a trade mission trip to Canada in late October and announced the “Power Play” parity program, which offered discounts to Candian visitors to mitigate gaps in currency exchange.

In the eyes of Ken Lawson, VISIT FLORIDA President and CEO, the change in visitation numbers is no coincidence.

“These results show that more and more Canadians are visiting the Sunshine State, which is great news,” Lawson said in a statement. “These increases in Canadian visitation show that our new marketing strategies highlighting the diversity of Florida are working.”

Susan Harper, Consul General of Canada in Miami, attributed the campaign’s success to messaging.

“Their message focused on the warmth, diversity, openness and inclusion of their great state, which is why it resonated so well with Canadians,” Harper said in a statement. “Florida is a wonderful second home and vacation destination for so many Canadians, and I look forward to seeing the continued success of VISIT FLORIDA in attracting more Canadians to the Sunshine State.”

Some more numbers: Online, the Facebook segment of the campaign performed better than 91 percent of the average ad recall for other brands in Canada; the 35-44-year-old age group indicated significant improvements with respect to intent to choose the Sunshine State as a vacation destination; and Scott’s press conference generated 6 million impressions in the country.

#FlaPol in Review: A weekend roundup

Consider this a highlight reel of the weekend’s #FlaPol Twitter.

Kicking off our review is former Gov. Jeb Bush‘s eulogy of his late mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush, who passed away last week. Jeb Bush’s words resonated across party lines, as shown through universal support online. If you haven’t already, check it out:

On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott celebrated 46 years of marriage with his wife Ann Scott. His latest tweets between his campaign and official accounts have since focused on Puerto Rico. On Monday morning, the Governor met with his island counterpart, Gov. Ricardo Rossello.

In the statewide race to replace Scott, candidates are keeping active in the Twittersphere seven days a week — the exception being Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, whose account remained quiet over the weekend.

DeSantis’ primary opponent, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, however, appeared busy. And along the campaign trail, something very Putnam-esque happened to his canvassers:

On the Democratic side, two big events took place over the weekend. The Democratic Black Caucus of Florida hosted candidates in Orlando, and Hillsborough County Dems held their Spring Fling event.

Former Congresswoman and Democratic candidate Gwen Graham made a point of celebrating Earth Day. Most politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, did as well — but it looks like Graham campaigned on the subject, promising to “FIGHT … BAN … and RESTORE.”:

In Tampa, former Miami Beach Mayor and gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine stumped at the Black Business Bus Tour:

At the DBCFL meeting, Tallahassee Mayor and Governor candidate Andrew Gillum is pictured front and center:

Orlando businessman Chris King exhibited at the Spring Fling his ability to capture an audience’s attention:

Meanwhile, the race for Attorney General chugged on. Former Hillsborough Judge Ashley Moody, a Republican candidate, spoke to voters in West Pasco:

AG candidate and Republican state Rep. Frank White, of Pensacola, attracted ears in Osceola County:

Tampa state Rep. Sean Shaw, also an AG candidate, trekked behind his party’s gubernatorial candidates. He also hit the Black Business Bus Tour stop in Tampa:

Agriculture Commissioner candidate Denise Grimsley, who seems to be finding time in every nook of Florida, received some support from her chamber colleague, state Sen. Rene Garcia:

State Rep. Matt Caldwell, who’s competing against Grimsley and also covers the state extensively via his #2lanetravels, attended a memorial service for the two slain Gilchrist County officers.

Jimmy Patronis, who’s running for reelection in the Chief Financial Officer race, received some unscientific, but still reassuring support.

Democratic CFO candidate Jeremy Ring had a chance to speak at the Hillsborough Spring Fling:

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, who’s seeking reelection to his Treasure Coast district, used Earth Day to message on Lake Okeechobee:

Orlando Democratic Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, on the other hand, used the holiday to flex her angling skills — and to message on preservation:

Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes, of Altomonte Springs, qualified for the ballot last week. Over the weekend he received support from Ryan Petty, who lost a child in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas massacre:

Orlando Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith posed alongside other Dems ahead of a Planned Parenthood event:

Northeast Florida state Rep. Cord Byrd attended fight night, also known as Jacksonville’s Guns ‘n Hoses event. Sponsored each year by the Fraternal Order of Police, the charitable event pits law enforcement officers and firefighters against each other in friendly boxing matches.

You can’t talk about fight club, but I guess you can tweet about it:

Orlando Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia, or ‘Coach P,’ isn’t showing any signs of stagnation in his reelection bid:

Rick Scott appoints new Taylor County Commissioner

The Taylor County Commission vacancy has been filled.

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday appointed Steve Spradley to fill the empty District 3 seat created by the passing of Frank Russell, who died in February.

Spradley, 62, of Perry, previously served as the county’s Emergency Management Director.

At that post, Spradley worked closely with commissioners. According to the Taylor County website, his responsibilities included serving as the Local Coordinating Officer for the commission. Under its guidance, he led emergency response initiatives.

During his tenure as director, Spradley was awarded the designation of Florida Professional Emergency Manager by the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association. It “recognizes devoted experienced Emergency Managers who possess advanced and diverse knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform effectively within a comprehensive Emergency Management program,” according to the Taylor County website.

Spradley also spent 31 years in law enforcement between the Taylor County Sheriff’s Department and the Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations of the Florida Department of Financial Services.

Spradley’s appointed term began Friday and will last through November 13. He joins District 1 Commissioner Malcolm Page, District 2 Commissioner Jim Moody, District 4 Commissioner Pam Feagle and District 5 Commissioner Thomas Demps.

Spradley’s District 3 encompasses Steinhatchee and areas immediately north.

Teachers ask Legislature to revisit school funding amid special session talks

Gaming session or not, Florida teachers want legislators to reconvene to iron out school funding concerns.

On Thursday the Florida Education Association renewed its push for the Legislature to reconsider funding stipulations in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which was rushed through the lawmaking process in the wake of the Parkland massacre.

FEA’s move is timely. It follows Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday announcing he had reached a gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The Tribe will continue to pay the state through May 2019. Earlier, the termination of a formal agreement between the state and Tribe sparked talks of a special session.

That session is still on the table, however. Florida Politics reported Wednesday that state Senate President-designate Bill Galvano said discussions of a special session will continue in the hopes of addressing unresolved gambling issues.

Regardless, FEA claims that the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, which gives school districts the option to arm personnel, thwarts districts from receiving the overall increase in per-student funding — estimated to be $101.5 per student — if they choose not to participate in the program. The News Service of Florida reported that school superintendents claim the base allocation increase amounts to just 47 cents per student.

“Public education is stuck with a measly increase of 47 cents per student in the new budget — and with money locked in for a Guardian Program that many districts have chosen not to use,” an FEA news release stated.

FEA President Joanne McCall said the shortage of money could have major negative impacts during the next school year.

“We’re already losing teachers at an alarming rate — and we’re afraid the 2018-2019 school year will have hundreds of thousands of students without a qualified classroom teacher if the legislators don’t put additional dollars in the budget,” said McCall. “This is a crisis they must address now.”

Richard Corcoran hosts ‘Democrat Jeopardy!’

This… is… Politics!

Anticipated gubernatorial candidate and Republican state House Speaker Richard Corcoran works quickly.

The Speaker released a digital video Thursday afternoon creatively slamming the most cringe-worthy blooper of Wednesday’s Democratic gubernatorial debate, which saw each candidate fumble — some more than others — over how much the state spends annually on K-12 education: $21.1 billion is set to fund the Florida Education Finance program in the upcoming fiscal year, according to the budget. In Corcoran’s video, a $25.1 billion figure is used, a result of factoring in allocations for multiple programs outside the FEFP.

The bit is a play on “Jeopardy!” complete with the legacy show’s theme music, buzzer sounds and graphics. It took less than 24 hours to make, and it’s now marinating on Corcoran’s Twitter and YouTube accounts.

Fox 13‘s Craig Patrick pressed each candidate to answer how much the state dishes out to schools, and if it should spend more or less. Public education is an issue in the fore for state Democrats and was a point of hot contention during the 2018 Legislative Session.

Still, these candidates faltered. And in doing so fell into a Republican pitfall that’s sure to haunt them throughout the election. “Democrats want to spend more money without knowing any of the facts,” reads the second-to-last frame of the video.

Candidate Philip Levine, former mayor of Miami Beach, said public education spending is one of the “top numbers.” His best guess? “Right in the billions, Craig. … I think it’s in the multibillions, Craig.

“And there’s no question that we absolutely need to spend more going forth.”

Orlando businessman Chris King answered within range, though he is clipped in Corcoran’s video saying, “It’s whatever it needs to be to honor our commitment.” King estimated that it’s between “$21 and $22 billion.”

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum came close, saying the appropriation is in “the 22-billion-dollar range.”

Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham said the number is “15 percent below what it needs to be currently.”

No candidate answered right on the money. And Corcoran’s digital response is timely and likely to generate some buzz.

It’s worth noting that immediately after the across-the-panel hiccup, Florida Politics’ Publisher Peter Schorsch suggested Corcoran and his team run loose with it.

Correlation isn’t causation, but still.

A ‘Daily Double’ for the Speaker: When will you get in the race?

Correction: A previous version of this article did not include King’s estimated range of the state K-12 budget.

President of FSU Alumni Association to step down

Scott Atwell, who’s led the Florida State University Alumni Association since 2008, announced Thursday he’ll step down to pursue a new opportunity.

A valued asset of FSU’s alumni program, Atwell is ending his tenure to lead alumni relations for Grenzebach Glier and Associates where he’ll also serve as senior vice president. Grenzebach Glier and Associates is an international consulting firm specializing in nonprofits and philanthropic efforts.

Atwell will leave the university post on June 1. David Overstreet, the Association’s director of programs and operations, will succeed Atwell in the interim. As is common, FSU will conduct a national search for the next Association president.

Atwell is credited with expanding the Association’s annual budget from $1.5 million to nearly $4 million. He landed at the university in 1983, working a graduate assistant gig in the FSU Sports Information Office. He worked for the university for more than 20 years and earned his master’s degree from FSU in 2015.

“Scott generated so much excitement about Florida State,” said FSU President John Thrasher in a prepared statement. “He really energized our alumni base to spread FSU’s story of pre-eminence and academic success. The FSU family will miss him, but we’re grateful for all he’s done in lifting the Alumni Association to new heights.”

Beginning in June, Overstreet will supervise communication and engagement with more than 340,000 FSU alumni worldwide. He currently is responsible for the Association’s budget, long-term strategic forecasting, facility management, board relations, data analytics, and other administrative and financial matters, according to a news release from the university.

The interim director designate’s prior experience includes a stint at the Department of Children and Families, where he oversaw the Children’s Home Society.

Overstreet will report to FSU Vice President for University Advancement Tom Jennings, who lauded Overstreet for his work thus far and expressed an eagerness to work with him.

“I am grateful that he is willing to step up and manage the association in this interim role. David’s steady hand will help the Alumni Association attract an outstanding leader as its next president,” Jennings said in a statement.

Shots fired: Rick Scott teases governors on tax ratings

He’s no Donald Trump, but Governor Rick Scott is beginning to peek out of his Twitter shell.

Three consecutive tweets fired off from the Governor’s state account Tuesday (he has a campaign one, too) mark a break from Scott’s online persona of unflinching positivity. His digital activity is usually reserved for highlighting progress or appearances across the state — but this time the Governor had some fun.

Following a study from WalletHub that showed Florida had the fourth lowest tax burden, Scott dished out comments to leaders of three of the better-ranked states via Twitter.

The remarks are competitive, but they’re by no means aggressive. And with Scott’s clout, they should warrant some interesting responses, especially because two of the other governors aren’t Republicans. 

Subtle shade was thrown at Alaska Governor Bill Walker, a former Republican who was elected as an independent candidate in 2014. Scott “congratulated” him on keeping taxes low for a small population (talk about a backhanded compliment):

Delaware Gov. John Carney, a Democrat, got a friendly lesson from Scott: There’s no personal income tax in the Sunshine State:

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, was reminded that Florida is dead set on keeping taxes at bay:

Scott’s Twitter fingers are itchin’ — and it’s no surprise the uptick in digital activity comes after his entrance into the U.S. Senate race.

Though the term-limited Governor has made a point of flexing on other states in the past, touting Florida’s fertile business climate in attempts to convince companies to relocate.

He told businesses in Connecticut last year to “give up” on the Nutmeg State, and in 2016 made headlines when he suggested Yale come to Florida. In October, he brought a similar message to Chicago, Illinois.

The WalletHub rankings were released on April 9, the day Scott launched his bid to unseat incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson. Scott wisely released the Tweet assault on Tuesday, as it’s the federal deadline for reporting 2017 income.

Per WalletHub, “To determine the residents with the biggest tax burdens, WalletHub compared the 50 states across the three tax types of state tax burdens — property taxes, individual income taxes and sales and excise taxes — as a share of total personal income in the state.”

Voters will decide on lobbying reform this fall

The ‘revolving door’ of elected officials and lobbyists could soon get jammed.

A proposed constitutional amendment that would mandate a six-year lobbying ban on all elected officeholders, agency heads and judges cleared the Florida Constitution Revision Commission in a 30-4 vote on Monday.

If approved by 60 percent of voters in November, public officers will be barred from lobbying before local, state and federal governments for the duration of the ban, which begins when the officer leaves their post.

The amendment (Proposal 6007) contains drafted language of the ethics provisions provided in Commissioner Don Gaetz‘ Proposal 39. Unlike other proposals, the ethics package will appear by itself on the ballot.

Also included in the amendment is a constitutional mandate for officeholders to not abuse their power to receive a “disproportionate benefit” for themselves, their relatives or their clients and business interests. It leaves the Florida Commission on Ethics to decide how to define “disproportionate benefit.”

Former state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, who began working this year at lobbying firm Ballard Partners, spoke against the proposed amendment.

The provisions, Diaz said, could prevent elected officials from advocating to change bad policy. Genuine legislative efforts could be misconstrued as working on behalf of an outside client’s interest.

He also expressed concern over codifying sweeping ethics reforms in the constitution. It could be accomplished by the Legislature, he said.

“My fear is that this bill tries to accomplish so much that if there are any issues with it, we’re going to have a very difficult time having a constitutional amendment to fix whatever loopholes some court somewhere will find,” Diaz said.

Commissioner Frank Kruppenbacher disagreed with Diaz. A former member of the Florida Commission on Ethics, Kruppenbacher spoke fondly of the commission, and said its rule-making process will result in effective policy because members work closely with affected parties, including elected officials.

“They don’t go to extremes,” Kruppenbacher said of the would-be rule-making body. “They try to figure out how to interpret things in a way that achieves the goal of protecting the integrity of the public and the people in the elected bodies.”

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