Jacob Ogles, Author at Florida Politics - Page 4 of 22

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

The Latest: Official: Michael responsible for Georgia death

The latest on Hurricane Michael:

2:00 a.m. – An official with an emergency management agency says Tropical Storm Michael is responsible for a child’s death in Georgia.

News outlets report Seminole County Emergency Management Agency Director Travis Brooks says someone called 911 as the storm passed through the area and reported the death. WMAZ-TV quotes Brooks as saying a tree fell onto a home Wednesday afternoon and killed an 11-year-old girl. Authorities have not released her identity.

Brooks says responding crews reached the home after nightfall due to clear downed power lines, poles and trees.

Early Thursday, the eye of Michael was about 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of Macon in central Georgia. The storm had top sustained winds of 60 mph (96 kph) and was moving to the northeast at 20 mph (32 kph).

The National Hurricane Center says the core of Michael will move across central and eastern Georgia Thursday morning, and then over southern and central South Carolina later in the day.

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12:00 a.m. – Hurricane Michael’s battering waves swamped streets and docks and shrieking winds splintered trees and rooftops. The most powerful hurricane on record to hit Florida’s Panhandle left widespread destruction and wasn’t finished Thursday as it crossed Georgia toward the Carolinas, a region still reeling from epic flooding in Hurricane Florence.

Authorities say at least one person died, a man hit by a falling tree on a Panhandle home.

The supercharged storm crashed ashore Wednesday afternoon amid beach resorts and coastal communities, a Category 4 monster packing 155 mph (250 kph) winds. Downgraded to a tropical storm over south Georgia, it was weakening by the hour. But it’s still menacing the Southeast with heavy rains, winds and a threat of spinoff tornadoes.

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4:20 p.m. – A Red Cross official says it’s possible that as many as 320,000 people on Florida’s Gulf Coast did not evacuate and are likely riding out the storm.

Evacuation orders were sent by state and local officials to about 325,000 people. Emergency managers say they don’t know how many left the area, but there were about 6,000 people in 80 shelters in five states, including nearly 1,200 who are still in shelters following Hurricane Florence.

Michael went from a tropical storm to a projected Category 3 hurricane in around six hours and could have caught thousands off guard.

Brad Kieserman is the Vice President of Operations and Logistics for the American Red Cross. He says the storm “intensified extremely quickly and didn’t give anyone enough time to do much.”

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3:30 p.m. – The director of the National Hurricane Center says Michael is going to keep its strength even as it moves into Alabama and Georgia.

By 3 p.m. EDT, Michael still had top sustained winds of 150 mph (240 kph) as its core moved over Florida’s Panhandle.

Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, earlier Wednesday afternoon with 155 mph (250 kph) winds.

Hurricane center director Ken Graham says that when a storm comes ashore with winds that strong, “it’s going to stay a hurricane for a while.”

Michael’s large size means its winds will continue pushing storm surge inland as well. The hurricane center said a National Ocean Service water level station in Apalachicola has reported storm surge of nearly 8 feet (2.5 meters) above ground.

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2:45 p.m. – The National Hurricane Center says Michael is making landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, as a catastrophic Category 4 Hurricane, pushing a deadly storm surge and whipping the coast with 155 mph (250 kph) winds.

Forecasters mark landfall as the place and time when the center of the eye strikes land. Minutes earlier, Michael’s eyewall came ashore between Panama City and St. Vincent Island, and the hurricane center warned everyone inside the relative calm of the eye not to venture outside.

Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 45 miles (75 km) from the center.

Those winds were tearing some buildings apart in Panama City Beach. One beachfront structure under construction could be seen collapsing, and metal roofing material flew sideways across parking lots amid sheets of rain.

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1 p.m. — The National Hurricane Center reports that Hurricane Michael’s eye will make landfall on the Florida Panhandle imminently and reminds everyone in the landfall area to remain in place despite the “relative calm” while the storm’s eye is overhead.

The storm is currently about 15 miles west southwest of Mexico Beach and about 20 miles south of Panama City and is moving to the north northeast at a speed of 14 mph. Maximum sustained winds remain at 150 mph, keeping Michael within the 131 to 155 mph range of a Category 4 Hurricane.

The Center said the Gulf County Emergency Operations Center in Port St. Joe has reported gusts of 106 mph while another station in St. Andrew Bay has reported sustained winds of 62 mph with gusts reaching 77 mph. The Apalachicola airport has reported sustained winds of 63 mph with a gust of 89 mph.

Additionally, the National Ocean Service water level station at Apalachicola recently reported over 6.5 feet of inundation above ground level.

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11 a.m. — The National Hurricane Center reports Hurricane Michael continues to grow in strength and now has maximum sustained winds of 150 mph. The storm continues its northeast trajectory at 14 mph.

Winds may arrive near land at 2pm, with the worst storm surge expected later today and this evening between Tyndall Air Force Base and Keaton Beach, where 9- to 14-foot inundation is possible.

The highest risk of catastrophic wind damage will be between Apalachicola and Panama City, but life threatening winds can be expected well inland into Alabama and Southern Georgia.

The National Weather Service advises life-threatening flash flooding can occur throughout the Panhandle and Big Bend.

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9:30 a.m. — FEMA Director Brock Long says his agency has nearly 3,000 people in the field ready to assist with Hurricane Michael.

He says teams and aircraft are ready to support any search and rescue missions in Florida or elsewhere, and that staging areas with commodities needed after storms have been set up in Atlanta and at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.

He also says the Federal Emergency Management Agency is working “hand-in-hand” with Gov. Rick Scott. He praised Florida’s use on Tuesday evening of the wireless emergency alert system to let residents know that the storm was getting stronger.

As for the many people who ignored orders to evacuate, Long said Wednesday that people “who stick around and experience storm surge unfortunately don’t usually live to tell about it.”

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9:25 a.m. —National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham is warning that a Category 4 hurricane will bring catastrophic damage to Florida’s Panhandle.

Graham says Michael’s top winds of 145 mph (230 kph) are powerful enough to peel off roofs and cause the “complete destruction of houses.”

Stretches of the coast could see storm surge of at least 6 feet (2 meters), with waters rising in some places up to 14 feet (4 meters) above the ground. Graham wants people to think about how tall they are, and just how high that water can be.

Michael is powerful enough to remain a hurricane well inland as it travels over Georgia on Thursday. Graham says falling trees will pull down utility lines, leaving some areas without power for weeks, and hazardous conditions will persist long after the storm blows through.

He says the aftermath of a hurricane is “not the time to start learning to use that chainsaw.”

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8 a.m. — Hurricane Michael is strengthening as it races over the Gulf of Mexico approaching a landfall along Florida’s Panhandle.

Forecasters say deadly storm surge, catastrophic wind damage, and heavy rainfall are imminent.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami says the Category 4 storm has maximum sustained winds of 145 mph (230 kph) and is moving at 13 mph (20 kph).

At 8 a.m., Michael was centered about 90 miles (145 kilometers) southwest of Panama City, with tropical storm force winds already lashing the coast.

The hurricane center says Michael will be the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall on the Florida Panhandle.

Michael roared nearer to the Florida Panhandle as a still-growing Category 4 hurricane Wednesday, lashing wind and rain and pushing a storm surge onto white-sand beaches and coastal communities hours before making landfall.

The unexpected brute quickly sprang from a weekend tropical depression and grew swiftly into what could be one of the Panhandle’s worst hurricanes in memory, with destructive wind, up to a foot (30 centimeters) of rain and a life-threatening storm surge of up to 13 feet (4 meters).

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7:45 a.m. — Gov. Rick Scott is warning people in the path of massive Hurricane Michael that it’s too late to evacuate.

In a tweet on Wednesday morning, Scott said “If you chose to state in an evacuation zone, you must SEEK REFUGE IMMEDIATELY.”

Hurricane Michael grew into a Category 4 storm overnight and officials at the National Hurricane Center in Miami say a storm that strong has never hit the Florida Panhandle.

Meanwhile the Bay County Sheriff’s Office warned residents that a “shelter-in-place” order has been issued, and urged everyone to stay off the roads. Sheriff’s officials say deputies will continue to respond to calls for now, but that will change as the storm approaches the coastline.

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Previous coverage — At 5 a.m., an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter crew reported top sustained winds up to near 140 mph (225 kph) with higher gusts. Michael’s eye was about 140 miles (225 kilometers) from Panama City and 130 miles (209 kilometers) from Apalachicola, but moving relatively fast at 13 mph (21 kph). Tropical-storm force winds extending 185 miles (295 kilometers) from the center were already lashing the coast.

Florida officials said roughly 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast had been urged or ordered to evacuate, including all non-essential personnel at Tyndall Air Force Base east of Panama City. The home to the 325th Fighter Wing and some 600 military families appeared squarely targeted for the worst of the storm’s fury, and declared “HURCON 1” status, ordering everyone inland.

Evacuations spanned 22 counties from the Florida Panhandle into north central Florida. But civilians don’t have to follow orders, and authorities feared many failed to heed their calls to get out of the way as the hard-charging storm intensified over 84-degree Gulf of Mexico water.

“I guess it’s the worst-case scenario. I don’t think anyone would have experienced this in the Panhandle,” meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com told The Associated Press. “This is going to have structure-damaging winds along the coast and hurricane force winds inland.”

Maue and other meteorologists watched in real time as a new government satellite showed the hurricane’s eye tightening, surrounded by lightning that lit it up “like a Christmas tree.”

University of Georgia’s Marshall Shepherd, a former president of the American Meteorological Society, called it a “life-altering event,” writing on Facebook that he watched the storm’s growth on satellite images with a growing pit in his stomach.

Sheriff A.J. Smith in Franklin County, near the vulnerable coast, sent his deputies door to door urging people to evacuate.

“We have done everything we can as far as getting the word out,” Smith said. “Hopefully more people will leave.”

On the exposed coast of Florida’s Big Bend, most of the waterfront homes stood vacant in Keaton Beach, which could get some of the highest water — seas up 9 feet (2.75 meters) above ground level.

“I know it’s going to cover everything around here,” said Robert Sadousky, who at 77 has stayed through more than four decades of storms.

The retired mill worker took a last look at the canal behind his home, built on tall stilts overlooking the Gulf. He pulled two small boat docks from the water, packed his pickup and picked some beans from his garden before getting out — like hundreds of thousands elsewhere.

U.S. Senate authorizes reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee

The U.S. Senate authorized a proposal for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, which should cut down and potentially eliminate the discharge of blue-green algae into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said the news should help Florida deal with the twin catastrophes of algal blooms in the rivers and red tide explosions on the east and west coast.

The Water Resources and Development Act, a massive bill that budgets money for inland waterways and maintenance for America’s locks, damns and ports, passed by a vote of 99-1, Only Utah Sen. Mike Lee voted against the bill.

TC Palm reports the bill includes federal funding for the $1.6-billion Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir, a solution proposed by the South Florida Water Management District.

Florida Sens. Rubio and Bill Nelson pushed for the reservoir’s including in the water bill this year.

The Army Corps of Engineers schedules discharges of water from Lake Okeechobee, which is coated with cyanobacteria, into the adjacent rivers to prevent the flooding of populated areas around the lake, but Nelson called for a complete re-evaluation of the schedule.

A number of environmental groups in the state say there’s a correlation between the blue-green algae and blooms with red tide because nutrients from one feed the other when the water discharges reach estuaries and saltwater.

The water management district said in its proposal use of the reservoir will “reduce damaging discharges to northern estuaries, deliver clean water for Everglades restoration and achieve water quality standards.

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Sarasota Republican, said the bill this year included $15 million over five years to identify and develop strategies to fight red tide, and $3 million annually for the Army Corps of Engineers to identify and develop technology to detect, prevent and manage harmful algal blooms.

““Red tide poses a serious threat to our environment, marine life and economy,” said Buchanan. ““We need to understand more about the toxins in red tide so we can stop the damaging effects.  I strongly support efforts to prevent and mitigate this and other algal blooms.”

The bill passed the U.S. House by a unanimous voice vote last month.

President Donald Trump signaled support for the legislation this week and is expected to sign the bill into law.

Miami Mayors Dan Gelber, Alex Penelas blast Ron DeSantis for ‘hurricane politics’

Florida Democrats chided Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis for running negative ads against opponent Andrew Gillum as Florida faces Hurricane Michael.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber expressed shock that DeSantis would run attack ads as Panhandle residents glue themselves to TV sets for live storm updates.

“This was a knowing decision to exploit one of the most fearsome storms our state is ever going to encounter,” he said.

A new attack running in North Florida has DeSantis attacking Tallahassee Mayor Gillum over an ongoing FBI investigation in the city, as reported by CNN’s Ryan Nobles.

Republican Party of Florida officials say those ads will no longer run.

“The order to take the ads down in the affected areas was made,” said Meredith Beatrice, RPOF Communications Director. “Any statement to the contrary is simply wrong.”

Regardless, Gelber and former Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas lambasted the decision to run ads during a conference call with reporters.

Penelas and Gelber both led Miami Beach government through hurricane threats, and said politicians should dispense with hyperpartisan attacks as communities rally together amid storms.

“There’s clearly a time for politics and there’s time to govern,” Penelas said. “Right now, people’s lives are literally at risk.”

Gelber noted the FBI ads come on top of ads criticizing Gillum for Tallahassee’s response to Hurricane Hermine.

Florida Politics today asked DeSantis at a Jacksonville rally about his decision to run those ads but he declined to discuss the matter.

DeSantis today elected not to hold a typical rally and instead gathered supplies to be dispersed in Michael’s aftermath.

But the mayors said the actions of Gillum, who left the campaign trail to lead storm preparation in Tallahassee, stand in stark contrast to DeSantis’ decision to continue campaigning.

“Ron DeSantis decided a month ago that he was going to resign from Congress,” Penelas said. “He has no official role in this moment, so now he’s resorting to this very dirty and partisan politics, which is unfortunate and there couldn’t be a worse time.”

And the men also said that response stood in contrast to Democrats, who defer to Republican Gov. Rick Scott during storm preparation and recovery.

They noted that Scott also left the campaign trail; he’s the Republican nominee challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

“I’m supporting Nelson full-throatedly,” Gelber said, “but I have previously said I feel that Scott doesn’t inject partisanship into these moments. And nobody should. That’s what’s amazing. Who does this?”

On the call, the Democrats also dismissed comparisons to a lawsuit filed by Florida Democrats to extend voter registration, or to the fact Nelson continues to send fundraising emails.

So how long should any moratorium on negative campaigning last? How long should DeSantis hold back on criticizing his opponent’s record with Election Day less than a month away?

“We can’t answer that question,” Penelas said. “We don’t know what the aftermath is going to be. We’ve had some storms here in South Florida where in a day or two, you’re back up and running.

“But if you’ve got communities without power, where supplies aren’t arriving, if you’ve got widespread damage and people are actually suffering, that’s still not the time to engage.”

Gelber added: “I don’t know exactly the safe harbor, but I can tell you now, it hasn’t been the last day or two.”

Did Pensacola mayoral hopeful Grover Robinson entice an endorsement with job offer?

For a city of more than 50,000 people, Pensacola politics feel more like those of a small town.

As a mayoral runoff plays out, rumors of illicit promises have made headlines, putting two candidates on the defensive — just as the region braces for a devastating Hurricane Michael.

Political leaders today widely believe early front-runner Grover Robinson made an illegal job offer to minor candidate Drew Buchanan in exchange for his endorsement.

While both men deny this, Buchanan alleges another candidate, Brian Spencer asked him directly to drop out of the race, something virtually no one believes.

Without hard evidence of anything, candidates have little reason to admit such shenanigans considering any endorsement made in exchange for personal enrichment would violate state law.

Nevertheless, the accusations are shaking up the conversation in a community that has already suffered through its share of corruption scandals.

An open election for Pensacola Mayor this year drew out a range of candidates. Six ran in the August election where Robinson, an Escambia County Commissioner, took just over 34 percent of the vote. Spencer, an architect and business leader, earned about 21 percent, allowing those candidates to advance to a Nov. 6 runoff

Buchanan came in fourth, with just under 13 percent of the vote, not too surprising for a first-time candidate running on an outsider message. Buchanan, an openly gay liberal 27-year-old in a Republican town who promised not to take PAC money, posted a message on his website after boasting that even those results bode well for the future.

“We brought thousands of regular working Pensacolians together and set an example of what politics could be — what our future will be,” he wrote.

A few weeks later, he surprised the political world again and endorsed Robinson.

Throughout the campaign, he attacked the good ol’ boys’ neighborhood, establishment politicians and officials who listened to the business community over neighborhoods.

“I was one of a couple of political outsiders running,” Buchanan says. “And the insiders won, mostly due to money.”

But he says Robinson approached him after the campaign about an endorsement. Ultimately, he issued one on Sept. 20 saying his former opponent was “prepared to collaborate, unify, and expand opportunity for all Pensacolians at this critical time.”

Robinson confirms he did approach Buchanan, and the other three eliminated candidates, about an endorsement.

“Of course I tried to get their support, and their supporters’ support,” Robinson states.

But rumors soon began swirling: Why would a political outsider who chided the system suddenly back the long-time elected official running for office?

Multiple sources tell Florida Politics that Buchanan admitted to people after the endorsement he’d been promised a job in the administration in an outreach capacity. The rumors spread around town rapidly.

This weekend, The Pensacola News-Journal columnist Andy Marlette reported being besieged by anonymous tips.

“There was one question from several readers that I had to check up on. ‘Is it true that Grover Robinson promised Drew Buchanan a job in exchange for the endorsement?’” he wrote.

“Surely not. Surely, no candidate would do something like that. Especially not the candidate who was specifically campaigning as a contrast to the [outgoing Mayor Ashton] Hayward administration. Surely, that candidate wouldn’t promise taxpayer-funded public employment in exchange for political support from a former Hayward loyalist.”

Buchanan and Robinson both say no promise of a job was ever made.

“Whatever happens happens when we move forward,” he tells Florida Politics.

Buchanan insists he’s focused on winning the election right now, not on staffing. The only hire he’s given any thought over is a potential city administrator; the only person he’s talked to about that job lives outside the city, he says, and hasn’t made an endorsement in the race.

Buchanan also points out that no discussion took place about a job, and that he wasn’t offered anything in exchange for his endorsement.

He does say Spencer seemed surprised to hear the news, but should not have been. Further, Buchanan says Spencer asked him to drop out of the race entirely before the first vote.

Buchanan pointed to a blog post by Derek Cosson on The Pensacolian alleging as much, including a text message asking “What positions are a going to be perfect fits for you and Drew?”

Spencer did not return calls on this story.

But few in Pensacola put much weight to that story, noting Buchanan lacks credibility for a number of reasons.

First, when Buchanan entered the city election, he claimed to be a nephew of Reubin Askew, the former Escambia County politician who served as Florida Governor from 1971 to 1979. In Pensacola, the Askew name alone helps generate contributions.

But it turned out Buchanan was really a great-nephew; he says the ex-governor was his grandmother’s brother.

Buchanan also professed a long connection to Pensacola but actually grew up in Fort Walton Beach, never living in Pensacola until 2014. He’d once registered to vote with the American Independent Party (the party of George Wallace). And the self-described progressive made an enemy of Occupy Pensacola in 2014.

What’s more, Buchanan never owned a home in Pensacola. A search shows he owns no property in Escambia County. (After this article published, he posted a 2012 deed on a lot within the city)

Of course, all this leaves many people — even those who are taking for granted that Robinson did make a job offer to Buchanan — questioning why he would even covet an endorsement in the first place.

As rumors grew, Robinson asserts he has called up Buchanan just to make abundantly clear that he never meant to even imply a place in the administration awaited the candidate in exchange for an endorsement.

“We never talked about that or what may happen in the city moving forward,” Robinson says.

Buchanan concurs; he ultimately backed Grover because he was the more progressive of two conservative options, and was more likely to work with neighborhoods once in office.

“I honestly wasn’t a big fan of both of the candidates,” Buchanan says. “But Grover Robinson is the one who reached out to me proactively. I didn’t get a call or a message from the other candidate or his campaign.

David Shapiro, Margaret Good rally Sarasota voters around Democratic slate

Democrats running in the Sarasota-Bradenton area banded together at an event organized by the progressive group Indivisible.

State Rep. Margaret Good, the incumbent in state House District 72, and Democratic Congressional candidate David Shapiro, who thus far mustered a serious campaign for Florida’s 16th Congressional District, rallied the crowd of activists from both Indivisible’s Northeast Sarasota chapter and the Sarasota Democratic Party.

“I am proud to share the field of battle and walk along a slate of incredible Democratic candidates,” said Shapiro.

The event lured more than 100 volunteers and campaign professionals to the Selby Library in downtown Sarasota.

Margaret Good addresses Indivisible in Sarasota.

Good, whose special election win in District 72 in February has helped fuel enthusiasm among Democrats throughout the region, told Florida Politics there’s hope to expand the party’s presence in the region.

“I’m incredibly proud of the work all of our candidates up and down the ballot are doing,” she said.

“We are working together — knocking on doors, making phone calls, and finding the resources we need to communicate with voters.”

The event drew a range of candidates from Congress down to hospital board.

Among the notables, state Senate District 23 candidate Faith Olivia Babis, state House District 71 candidate Tracy Pratt and state House District 73 candidate Liv Coleman.

Pratt, a Bradenton attorney, said the angst over President Donald Trump’s surprise win in 2016 inspired candidates to run, and environmental disasters like red tide only energized the base more.

“I’ve been involved in community organization for two decades but I have never seen the energy I have for the last two months running for office.”

Olivia Babis, Liv Coleman and David Shapiro greet volunteers.

Babis, who would be the first disabled member of the Florida Legislature is she wins her Senate race, said voters were connecting with all candidates.

And Coleman said the entire election landscape feels radically different. She noted her own recent endorsement from Emily’s List as an oddity in a race where such groups rarely get involved.

What will this mean four weeks from now? Every legislative candidate sans Good trails their opponents in monetary contributions.

But Democratic leaders felt confident in the quality of candidates this year. Jo Bloom of Indivisible also said progressives and mainline Democrats this year were working in tandem in ways unthinkable just two years ago.

Margaret Good maintains cash advantage over Ray Pilon

State Rep. Margaret Good first won the political world’s attention last year when her fundraising ability matched that of a local political dynasty. She continues to dominate as she seeks re-election in state House District 72.

The Sarasota Democrat raised $51,425 in the second half of September. Republican Ray Pilon, who previously served the area in the House for six years, raised $13,500 in the same period of time.

Over the course of the election cycle, Good has raised $378,352 in monetary contributions to Pilon’s $106,372. And Pilon had a primary opponent, so he spent more than $25,000 before the general election season began in earnest.

Of course, Good has been spending too, almost $270,000 through Sept. 28, so she boasts a smaller cash-in-hand advantage. She still holds $110,093 compared to Pilon’s $79,149.

Republicans hope between Pilon’s not-too-shabby coffers and potential outside spending by the party, they have the resources to make up the different and dim Good’s rising star.

Good took the political world by storm in a special election earlier this year. In February, she defeated Republican James Buchanan, the son of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, in a nationally watched race that turned into a referendum on President Donald Trump.

That seat opened up for grabs last year after the surprise resignation of freshman state Rep. Alex Miller. Miller had been a successor to Pilon after he opted against re-election in 2016 to pursue a state Senate seat ultimately won by Greg Steube.

So there’s history here.

Good says she’s focusing her campaign efforts on a reliable set of Democratic issues that served her well in the special election this spring.

““We are communicating with voters about the issues that matter to Sarasota: public education, the environment, our local economy, and access to affordable healthcare,” said Good.

Pilon, meanwhile, hopes to appeal to the economic message that kept Republicans in power so long in this region and the state.

“The main message is that we need common sense in Tallahassee, not more taxes and spending” Pilon said.

***Updated***New David Shapiro ad goes after Vern Buchanan—and Nancy Pelosi; Republicans scoff

A new campaign ad from Democratic congressional candidate David Shapiro attacks incumbent Vern Buchanan—and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

The advertisement, titled “Build,” features Shapiro inspecting the rotting foundation of an old, dilapidated home, then compares the weak structure to leadership failures in Congress.

“My father built houses. He’d tell me, if the foundation is weak, you have to tear the whole thing down,” Shapiro says in the ad.

“And now, gridlock and partisanship are making Washington weak. We need change. Politicians like Vern Buchanan and Nancy Pelosi have to go.”

Shapiro in August won the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 16th Congressional District. He’s challenging Buchanan, a six-term incumbent, in one of Florida’s hottest federal elections this cycle.

The new 30-second advertisement begins with family pictures of Shapiro with his father in military garb, then goes on to attack Washington politicians for passing tax cuts benefiting the wealthy and allowing influence from special interests on legislation, which he ties directly to red tide blooms savaging the coastal district.

Shapiro announced in September he would not vote to keep Pelosi in charge of the Democratic caucus, as first reported by Florida Politics.

That decision came shortly after Buchanan’s camp released an ad labeling Shapiro as Pelosi’s Puppet.

And Republicans scoffed at the notion Shapiro would be anything but a Pelosi Democrat in the House.

Max Goodman, Buchanan campaign manager, said the tie between Shapiro and Pelosi is too strong to ignore, noting Washington Democrats recruited him into the race.

“Shapiro’s in deep panic but he’ll never outrun Pelosi’s shadow because he was recruited by her and financed by her,” Goodman said.

Other GOP leaders agreed.

“If by some miracle David Shapiro were to make it to Congress, the first meaningful vote he would take would be for Speaker of the House,” said Maddie Anderson, National Republican Congressional Committee regional press secretary.

“Anyone who believes that he would vote for the Republican over Nancy Pelosi is living on another planet. Regardless, this politically expedient stunt won’t work. Vern Buchanan will win reelection.”

(In the past, Democrats voting against speaker have often voted for a different Democrat, such as when former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham backed Tennessee U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper.)

Shapiro’s campaign says the new ad seeks to promote his message of shining a light on dysfunction in D.C., which involves demanding a change in leadership for both parties.

Pelosi in September told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that she remained “confident” she will become Speaker of the House again should Democrats win back a majority in the House, but that it’s “up to the caucus.”

Later that same month, the Democratic Caucus shelved a petition that sought to undermine her ambitions to become Speaker, according to the Washington Examiner.

Shapiro closed his ad with another shot at Pelosi.

“We won’t change congress until we change the people we send there,” he says.

HD 71 Candidate Will Robinson with his family

Will Robinson maintains hefty fundraising advantage in HD 71

Republican Will Robinson continues to hold a massive fundraising lead over Democrat Tracy Pratt in the open seat race for state House District 71.

Robinson, a Bradenton attorney, raked in $23,050 in the last half of September alone. In total, he’s pulled in $295,350 in monetary contributions since launching his campaign in February 2017.

In comparison, Pratt raised $12,012 in the same fundraising period for a total of $53,484 in monetary donations since she opened her account in March.

Pratt, also an attorney, has also chipped in a $20,000 as a campaign loan and boast $47,963 in cash on hand.

But Robinson still has $90,000 in loan money on top of contributions, so he sits pretty with $267,697 in cash with a month of election to go.

The big difference in funds undermines hopes of the district becoming a battleground in the state.

State Rep. Jim Boyd, a Bradenton Republican, represents the district today but could not run again because of term limits.

The voter make-up of the district closely resembles that of District 72, where Democrats pulled an upset in a special election in February.

In District 72, Democrats make up 33 percent of registered voters and Republicans 42 percent. In neighboring District 71, Democrats represent 32 percent of the electorate to Republicans’ 42 percent.

Considering Margaret Good won District 72 by 7 percent in a culturally similar terrain, that shows potential for Democrats to win 71 as well.

But a year-long head start on the campaign and deep family connections to the region appear to elevate Robinson as a candidate and a safe investment for donors.

The Republican Party of Florida also provided more than $5,000 assistance to Robinson in-kind. There’s not been the same type of state support by statewide Democrats for Pratt, even as they provided more than $20,000 in in-kind support to Good in the last two weeks of September.

But Pratt has maintained if she could bring her coffers to $75,000, a goal achieved in the last fundraising period including her loan, that she could compete in the district.

Personnel note: Allen Ellison announces campaign team

Allen Ellison

Allen Ellison, the replacement Democratic nominee in Florida’s 17th Congressional District, announced a campaign team of staffers with experience working for national campaigns.

The team will be led by campaign manager Daniel Sohn, Haverhill Town Councilman. Ellison said the team boasts experience working on campaign teams for presidential candidates Barack Obama, John Kerry and Martin O’Malley.

“I am excited and confident the team I have assembled will secure a victory on Election Day,” said Ellison “I want to thank the team for joining me on this journey to honor my friend April Freeman.”

Freeman, who won the Democratic nomination in August, died unexpectedly in September. Democratic leaders in the nine-county district named Ellison as replacement nominee last month.

Ellison faces Republican state Sen. Greg Steube in this heavily Republican district. Ballots, printed before Freeman’s death, will have her name on the ballot, but votes for Freeman will count toward Ellison.

“I need everyone’s help to make sure that when we cross the finish line on Nov. 6 that we win for the people of CD 17 and the Freeman family. A vote for April is a Vote for Allen,” Ellison said.

Sohn briefly considered running for Agriculture Commissioner last year. Then a district aide to Palm Beach Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor Pat Edmonson, he previously ran for the board himself and once considered a run for the Dania Beach City Commission.

Aisha Alayande, executive director of Drug-Free Highlands, will serve as scheduling director.

Anthony Dowling, an Indiantown Village Councilman, serves as deputy political director and communications director.

Samantha Gholar, a former journalist and founder of Emerge Sarasota, will be deputy communications director under Dowling.

Kelvin Lindsey, a Bowling Green agent for FEMA and Bobby Norfleet Racing, will be campaign strategist.

Finally, Sonya McGrady, operations and compliance manager with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, will serve as compliance director.

The race in the district became an open seat after sitting U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney announced earlier this year he would retire.

In 2016, Rooney won with 62 percent of the vote over Freeman, who won 34 percent of the vote.

Steube as of Aug. 8 held $131,941 in cash on hand. He suspended campaign operations temporarily upon Freeman’s death and has remained largely silent since Ellison’s selection as a replacement nominee.

Spencer Roach retakes cash lead over Mark Lipton

Republican Spencer Roach continues to out-raise Democrat Mark Lipton in race to succeed Matt Caldwell in the state House.

Roach now leads in cash, but Lipton just spent thousands to broadcast his message.

Roach, a North Fort Myers attorney, brought in $7,800 in the last half of September, most of that in a four-day period as groups like the Realtor PAC chipped in big donations.

In addition to $1,000 from Realtors, Roach also raked in $1,000 from the Thomas Piccolo-led Building A Brighter Future For Florida and state Rep. Daniel Perez’s Conservatives for a Better Florida committees.

Lipton, meanwhile, continues to raise small donations and pulled in $472 in the same period, the biggest chunk being $100 from the Democratic Club of Cape Coral.

But Lipton, an attorney and local columnist, has chipped in more than $50,000 toward the campaign, a little more than the $41,883 in monetary contributions over the course of the campaign.

Lipton as of Sept. 28 held $38,349 in cash on hand, compared to $48,198 in cash for Roach.

That’s a turnaround from two weeks ago, when Lipton still held a cash lead even as Roach outraised the Democrat.

Roach has also been spending his money aggressively. Roach spend $2.378 in the last two weeks of September, most of it with campaign shop Supernova Digital Communications.

We recognize we need to get out message out in every form, not just one-on-one but mail, and we realize the digital aspect is of increasing importance,” Roach said.

Lipton meanwhile, has spent $5,000 with Fort Myers-based Red Sneakers Mobile Marketing & Communications, then more than $8,000 on broadcasting within the Fort Myers market, where he’s running ads in English and Spanish.

He hopes work in civic groups within North Fort Myers and Lehigh Acres bring some community capital, and he hopes a federal lawsuit seeking to stop the Attorney General’s Office from involving Florida in an anti-ObamaCare lawsuit generates some free media.

Lipton’s overall strategy, he says? “To win,” he said.

Caldwell, now the Republican nominee for Agriculture Commissioner, won in this district with 51 percent of the vote over Democrat John Scott’s 38 percent and independent Matt Miller’s 11 percent.

This year, Roach defeated Miller in the Republican primary.

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