Mitch Perry, Author at Florida Politics - Page 5 of 365

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa for 15 years. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

For your radar: Primary election today in House District 72

Democrats in House District 72 head to the polls Tuesday to choose their nominee to replace Republican Alex Miller, who stepped down from her seat in September.

Attorney Margaret Good and businesswoman and community activist Ruta Jouniari are the two candidates vying to advance into the general election that takes place next February.

Good is the establishment choice. She’s backed by Democrats like Christine Jennings, the former Sarasota County Democratic Executive Committee chair, House Minority Leader Janet Cruz and Florida House Victory.

Jouniari is the choice of Bernie Sanders supporters and other Democratic activist groups, such as the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, National Nurses United, and Stand up 4 Democracy PAC.

Good raised more than four times the campaign cash than Jouniari, raising more than $120,000, compared to Jouniari’s $23,429.

Good rejected ABC7 Sarasota news anchor Alan Cohn‘s request to engage directly with Jouniari on his nightly local news program, opting for a separate interview instead.

Good told Zac Anderson from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that she had already participated in numerous debates with Jouniari and that she wanted to devote the rest of the campaign to holding discussions with voters.

As of Monday, 5,856 Democrats already had cast ballots in the race, including 4,958 who voted by mail and 898 who voted early at a supervisor of elections office.

The winner will face Republican James Buchanan and Libertarian Alison Foxall on Feb. 13.

Hillsborough leaders unite behind Alma Gonzalez for Florida Democratic Party chair

On Monday, Alma Gonzalez released a slew of endorsements from elected Democratic officials in Tampa and Hillsborough County.

Each of them is backing the Hillsborough County State Committeewoman’s bid to become the next chair of the Florida Democratic Party. The list includes the entire seven-member board of the Tampa City Council.

Gonzalez is involved in a four-way battle for state chair with the election in Orlando Saturday.

“I am honored to receive the endorsement of these community leaders,” Gonzalez said. “I feel that it is a testament to my abilities as a consensus builder to have received the support of such a truly diverse group. The time is now to elect a Chair who can unite our party and speak to our many constituencies in a specifically culturally competent matter.”

However, the two members of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee whose votes will actually count toward electing the next chair this weekend — Party Chair Ione Townsend and State Committeeman Russ Patterson — are backing Terrie Rizzo, the Palm Beach County DEC Chair.

Other Hillsborough Dems getting behind the Gonzalez campaign include State Attorney Andrew Warren; Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez; DNC member Alan Clendenin; school board member Cindy Stuart; William Guerra, the president of the Hillsborough County Hispanic Caucus; Karen Clay, the president of the Disability Caucus; Patty Cohn, the president of the Democratic Women’s Club, and steering committee members Bryan Ferris, Alex Ayala and Ian Whitney.

Gonzalez faces Rizzo, Brevard County DEC Chair Stacey Patel and Monica Russo of the Service Employees International Union.

Gonzalez has been a member of the Democratic National Committee and spent time as treasurer of the state Party. She previously worked as legal counsel for the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and was also as the legislative director for finance and tax at the Florida Association of Counties.

Florida Democrats are choosing a new Party chair less than a year after electing former Miami Dade State Committeeman Stephen Bittel to a four-year term.

Bittel resigned last month following reports that he had a history of making demeaning remarks toward women.

‘Don’t count us out’ vows Florida Democratic Party chair candidate Stacey Patel

Stacey Patel traveled Sunday to Polk and Hillsborough County to visit Democrats as part of the Brevard County Democratic Executive Committee Chair’s statewide campaign to become the next leader of the state party.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” Patel said while sitting with her husband, Sanjay, at an outdoor table at the Bricks in Ybor City, where she met up with Hillsborough County DEC Chair Ione Townsend and Democratic Progressive Caucus’ Jessica Vaughn.

“We’ve had quite a fun tour of Florida. I think it’s going well. I think we had a strong performance in Miami at the forum (last Thursday) and that has certainly encouraged more people to reach out to me, and were certainly having a really interesting time meeting Democrats across Florida.”

Patel took to social media a week after Stephen Bittel resigned as party chair to determine if there was grassroots support for her to enter the race, setting a goal of raising $2,500 for the campaign and identifying 250 pledges of monthly donations and 250 volunteer pledges.

Ultimately, 118 campaign donors kicked in more than $6,000, while 255 people pledged monthly contributions and 252 pledged monthly volunteers who will work nearly 30,000 hours per year.

Patel is running against Palm Beach Democratic Executive Committee Chair Terrie Rizzo, Hillsborough State Committeewoman Alma Gonzalez and SEIU President Monica Russo from Miami, though the status of Russo’s eligibility remains in question six days before the voting members cast their ballots.

Patel said the basis of her candidacy is to give power back to the people.

“I think our message really needs to inspire people, and I don’t think we’ve necessarily done an effective job of putting the values of the people first,” she said. “I think we need to create more transparency in our party, so people think that they can feel that they can walk into our party and participate.”

Compared to her competitors, Patel is a relative newcomer to party politics, as she was elected chair in Brevard just a year ago. She boasts that under her tenure, participation in the Brevard DEC has gone up dramatically, with around 35 members attending meetings in 2016 to the roughly 150 precinct members.

“We’ve increased the number of donations by our DEC by 540 percent in the first three quarters of this year, and we won three municipal elections,” she says, referring to Democrats winning in traditional Republican country in city council races last month by Angela Raymond in Cape Canaveral, Danny White in Malabar and Sammie Brown-Martin, who became the first black female ever elected to the Rockledge City Council.

She also says that there’s too much centralized power in the FDP, which she’d like to change so that people feel “empowered” as the party of the people.

“I feel like if people felt like they owned our party — if we had much more small donorship in our party — that would be part of giving people back our party as well,” she says.

One of the issues that Patel embraces is changing the party rules to allow much more participation in the election of a party chair.

Under the current weighted system, there are 1,204 possible votes for chair under the FDP system, yet only 182 electors will vote next Saturday. 

Bittel resigned last month after several women with the FDP reported inappropriate and demeaning behavior toward them during his tenure.

“Don’t count us out,” Patel said when asked she wants Florida Politics readers to know about her candidacy.

HART board rejects idea of consultant taking over agency

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) approved Monday the naming of Maryland-based Krauthamer and Associates to lead its search for a replacement for outgoing CEO Katharine Eagan.

Eagan will leave the agency next month after serving as HART’s CEO since 2014. She’s moving on to serve as CEO of Pittsburgh’s transit agency, the Port Authority of Allegheny County, which has an annual budget four times the size of HART.

The selection of Krauthammer and Associates came after Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman suggested that the board might be open to hiring a consultant — and not an individual — to serve as the new CEO, saying it’s been done by other big cities around the country.

Murman said HART would be moving from a traditional bus-focused agency to one that embraces all forms of transit, and that required a broad approach in thinking about the best way to succeed Eagan going into the next decade.

That prompted fellow County Commissioner and HART board member Stacy White to direct staff to prepare a Request for Proposal for firms applying to run the agency.

That suggestion received a fiery response from Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez, who believes such an idea needed to be much more thoroughly vetted before giving the new hiring firm the power to select a consultant vs. a single candidate.

“What does that mean for our agency and what does that mean to the public?” he asked, adding that if the agency wanted to change the “traditional model” of hiring a CEO, they needed to have a much deeper conversation about the implications of such a decision.

Suarez dissent was backed up by several other board members.

“I find that committees are not the best servants for this position,” said Temple Terrace City Councilwoman Cheri Donahue.

For board member John Melendez, the idea that the agency was looking at the possibility of hiring a consultant and not a single individual could chill the recruitment process. He said HART already had a challenge in finding an adequate replacement for the much-praised Eagan, and the notion that the board could go in a completely different direction could further limit its choices.

“The concept I think is something for discussion, but in the context of where we are right now, I wouldn’t vote for the motion,” he said, adding that an individual is “completely different” than an organization.

Murman wasn’t giving up, though, saying that it was important that HART be open to the best solution for the future. If that means there was a promising candidate to go with a competing firm, “then we’ll have that conversation when we get to it.”

Suarez said Murman wasn’t placating his concerns.

“We need to talk about us as a board making policy as to whether or not we actually want someone or an organization to run the agency,” he said.

White then offered a motion that would instruct Krauthammer and Associates to accept applications from firms and to bring them to the HART board as if they were qualified individuals for the CEO position. It failed to get a second vote of support and died on the floor.

HART officials had originally listed seven different companies to choose from to lead the search to replace Eagan. Krauthammer’s bid of $63,000 was more expensive than KL2 Connects in North Carolina $42,000 bid. Al Burns, the director of procurement and contracts for HART, said that while KL2 Connects was better on a pricing basis, Krauthammer had a technical superior score of over 50 points.

Eagan gave her own imprimatur of support, saying that Krauthammer had been involved in the recent hiring selections in Austin and Atlanta, and said that their price was lower than the $90,000 that the Port Authority of Allegheny County had spent in ultimately finding her to become that agency’s new CEO.

The meeting was the first with the entire board together since the news broke that Eagan would leave HART for Pittsburgh, and she was given a trophy that unfortunately broke after it was handled by board chairman Les Miller as he presented it.

“Our loss is Pittsburgh’s gain,” he said.

“I think you’ve done wonders here with what you’ve had,” added Suarez, referring to the agency’s meek budget, which is lower than those of any other metro transit system in the country. “Now you’re going to a system that has state funding. That’s a great concept.”

“We don’t have a lot of powerful women CEO’s in our community,”  Murman said, adding that she’ll continue to be that in Pittsburgh.

“It’s been, not just a pleasure, not an honor, but a defining point not just for my career but for me as a person to have this opportunity,” Eagan told the board while at the dais.

The board also approved Chief Financial Officer Jeff Seward to become the interim agency head through June 2018. He’ll now receive a 20 percent pay bump (from his current $150,000 salary to $180,000). Once a permanent successor is named, Seward will return to his job as CFO.

Tampa public affairs startup Publicus now up and running

As Cesar Hernandez was finishing up his fifteen-month experience in the IE Brown Executive MBA program earlier this year, he sat down with advisers to discuss his future.

The 31-year-old Brooklyn native wanted to continue working in tech development and public affairs management, skills he has honed since graduating from USF as student body president, and then working as a legislative aide to former Tampa City Councilwoman Lisa Montelione before ultimately becoming the government affairs specialist for the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART).

The only problem was that most of the places to thrive in that environment are in places like Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area and other metropolia, like Pittsburgh, Boston New York City and Chicago.

Having worked to make himself a player in Tampa, Hernandez didn’t want to leave the region, however. After consulting with his advisers, it was decided he should set up his own shop in the Tampa Bay area.

That’s what led to the creation of Publicus, a civic innovation public affairs and strategy group.

“The way that I structured the firm is to support new concepts and ideas,” says Hernandez.

The civic innovation projects he’s focusing on are things like bringing autonomous ride-sharing, autonomous nautical vehicle systems and aero mobility systems to market.

The public strategy portion of the firm will work to help individuals who have already entered into the market and have new concepts like Roberto Torres, the owner of the Blind Tiger Café and Black and Denim Clothing.

“When we first started working with Robert he had a coffee shop, but now his brand is more like a millennial entrepreneur involved with economic development, so his branding is completely different, and the way that we help him with it is, straight public affairs strategy,” he says, referring to recent articles on Torres that have appeared in Forbes, the Miami Herald and a segment on Bay News 9.

Hernandez already has the jargon down. He says part of Publicus’ function for Torres and other clients is “enhancing the narrative.”

“There’s a lot of good people doing a lot of good work in Tampa, but nobody is showcasing them,” he says.

Advisers at Brown were able to connect Hernandez with some investors for seed money, but the rest was up to him to raise the capital needed to create the startup.

He’s not doing it alone.

Former Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe is as an adviser with the group, while Jennifer Webb and Christian Leon are managing partners. Webb is the former director of community partnerships at USF’s Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships (and is once again running for the House District 69 seat in the Legislature) while Leon runs Bitmotive, the Tampa-based IT group.

Ned Pope and Alexandra Esparza are some of the other partners in the group.

“The partners are responsible for their own clients,” Hernandez explains.

Publicus’ mission, he says, is to develop his firm to be able to “enhance and supplement” a new company or new concept or new “market disruption.”

“We can do a community engagement component, a communications component and help them find some kind of funding and be able to navigate whatever local policy environment there may be,” he says.

It’s an ambitious goal, but Hernandez has never shied away from a challenge. Back when he served as student body president at USF in 2011, he once went on a 24-hour filibuster in an attempt to woo Barack Obama to speak at the North Tampa campus. The gambit didn’t succeed, but it showed the aplomb that has him running his own public affairs group now.

David Straz makes first public appearance as potential Tampa mayoral candidate

Philanthropist and former banker David Straz Jr. had a coming-out party (of sorts) Sunday, hosting a spaghetti lunch for more than 250 people in West Tampa.

It was his first public appearance since forming an exploratory committee two months ago for a potential run for Tampa mayor in 2019.

The 74-year-old Wisconsin native already had enjoyed a long and distinguished career before becoming a much better-known quantity in the Tampa Bay-area in November 2009. That’s when he made a substantial financial contribution (rumored to be as high as $25 million) to the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center which resulted in the facility changing its name to the Straz Center.

He’s also been involved for over a decade with individuals like Al Fox to advocate for closer relations between Tampa and Cuba.

A political independent, Straz was an ally of former mayor Dick Greco, supporting him when he ran for yet another reign as Tampa mayor in 2011. After Greco lost to Bob Buckhorn in the primary, Straz backed Buckhorn and then became in charge of his transition team.

Since announcing that he was forming an exploratory committee in late September, Straz has refused interviews with inquiring reporters about his possible candidacy. When confronted by this reporter shortly after the doors opened at the Sons of Italy hall on Sunday, he initially said it was “not a media event” before succumbing to answer a couple of questions.

“What I’m doing right now is getting around to various constituencies around the community,” he said. “I’m listening to what they have to say and what their priorities are.”

On Friday, Straz met with members of the black community. Councilman Frank Reddick is onboard with a Straz candidacy and said the meeting went well.

“In order to get my support, you’ve gotta put a plan together that the people can benefit from,” the District 5 representative said, adding that there’s been too much emphasis on downtown in the Buckhorn years.

Reddick wants the next mayor to engage more in developing both east and west Tampa.

“We need someone who understands the lack of resources and economic development in that area,” Reddick said. “David Straz will look into that and see what he can do to improve those areas.”

Straz is a political independent who has given substantial campaign contributions to both Republicans and Democrats over the years.

“Honestly, I thought he was a registered Democrat,” joked Travis Horn, a member of the Hillsborough Republican Party. “I’m involved in Ybor City and as a businessman. I don’t go around asking people for their party ID.

“Money is green, and we want to see the city succeed.”

The most problematic event for Straz since forming his exploratory committee was the revelation last year that he supported Donald Trump for president. That led to some comments on social media that he already disqualified himself in such a Democratic-leaning city, but prominent Hillsborough County Democrat Patrick Manteiga defends Straz over his support for the president.

“I think he would not vote for him again, he’s already told me that, and mistakes happen,” said Manteiga, who is editor/publisher of La Gaceta. Last year, a lot of Manteiga’s friends surprised him by opposing Hillary Clinton and choosing Trump.

Manteiga pushes back on the theory that Straz is an unknown political quantity.

“We do know where he is on a lot of things,” he said. “The guy gave a lot of money to the performing arts and a lot of money to education, so you’re talking about somebody who’s obviously has made a decision before he was running that this was a city that he wanted to invest in, this was a city that he wanted to put his name on.”

What excites Mario Nunez about a potential Straz candidacy is his alliance with Fox in promoting the liberalization of Cuban relations.

“I’m going all in on the Cuba conversation,” Nunez said. “That’s where my heart is.”

Where Straz’s heart is at when it comes to putting together a campaign to lead the city in 2019 is still being determined.

Before announcing last month that he would not pursue the Democratic nomination for governor, Orlando attorney and entrepreneur John Morgan told a Tiger Bay Club audience in St. Petersburg he wanted to see how much interest the public had in him before decided to upend his life to pursue a run for elected office.

Reddick said Straz is also currently assessing if there is sufficient support in Tampa for him to go all out in a run for the mayor’s office in 16 months.

“He wants to see what type of support base he’s going to get, that’s what he’s looking at now,” the councilman said. “And if the community really wants a visionary, David’s that person and I’m just hoping that people reach out to him, and say ‘do this.'”

Over 6,300 people already voted in HD 58 special election

More than 6,300 registered voters in Florida House District 58 special election have already cast a ballot through the mail ahead of the Dec. 19 special election.

Republican Lawrence McClure, Democrat Jose Vazquez, Libertarian Bryan Zemina and non-party-affiliated Ahmad Saadaldin are the choices for the voters in the district, which encompasses Plant City, Temple Terrace, Dover, Mango, Seffner, Thonotosassa, and parts of Tampa and East Lake-Orient Park.

As is customary before every election, Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer conducted Friday what is known as a logic and accuracy test of the county’s voting equipment.

SOE employees took a stack of pre-filled ballots and scanned them through machines to ensure they’re reading every position on the ballot accurately.

“This is kind of the first step in assuring for accurate elections because we’re testing machines to make sure that, in fact, they are counting correctly,” Latimer said.

During the test, ballots with either under votes or over votes were quickly scanned and placed into a different bin. If they were real ballots, the Hillsborough County canvassing board would ultimately inspect them to determine if they were legitimate, and if so would need to detect the intent of the voter if they would ultimately be counted.

The canvassing board was also assembled to compare the voter check-ins with the number of ballots scanned and would also perform a manual audit by hand, counting the ballots to verify reported results.

After the test, the machines were locked up until. They’ll be deployed to the 39 different voting sites that will be open on Election Day.

Early in-person voting begins Saturday, Dec. 9 and ends Dec. 16. There are four early voting sites available in this contest: The County Center at 601 E. Kennedy Blvd. in Tampa; the Robert L. Gilder Elections Service Center at 2514 N. Falkenburg Road in Tampa; The Bruton Memorial Library at 302 W. McLendon St. in Plant City; and the Temple Terrace Library at 202 Bullard Parkway in Temple Terrace.

Unlike the intense Republican primary between McClure and Yvonne Fry, there has been little controversy during the general election process between the four men vying for the office.

The four candidates will participate in a debate on Monday, Dec. 4, at the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay, beginning at 6 p.m.

Moderating the event are representatives of the Hillsborough branch of the League of Women Voters, with a straw poll on the race taken at the end of the evening.

Charlie Crist, Gus Bilirakis team up on anti-Iranian legislation

Who says bipartisanship is dead in Washington?

Tampa Bay-area Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist and Republican Rep. Gus Bilirakis are teaming up to sponsor a bill that would prohibit U.S. military assistance to any country that sells restricted weapons or technology to Iran.

The No Arms Sales To Iran Act‘s goal is to discourage foreign governments from engaging in arms sales to Iran, named earlier this year by the U.S. State Department as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.

“Iran’s aggressive actions remain a threat to America, Israel, and the rest of the world. As the top state sponsor of terrorism, Iran’s nefarious pursuit of restricted weapons further destabilizes the region,” Crist said. “Our bill sends a strong message to countries considering arms deals with Iran that supporting state sponsors of terrorism will not be tolerated.”

Bilirakis said that despite the Iranian nuclear deal that was negotiated by the Obama administration and the four other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany in 2015, Iran “continues to demonstrate its commitment to tyranny through its continued support and spread of terror in an effort to destabilize the Middle East.”

“As we work with allies to keep the pressure on Iran, we must ensure that our efforts are not being undermined by other nations and, if so, that they are exposed and held accountable,” Bilirakis added.

President Donald Trump announced in October that he would not certify the Iran nuclear deal, and instead called for a variety of new sanctions against the government in Tehran.

While serving as governor in 2007, Crist signed the first bill in the country that called for a state to divest in any investments in companies that would invest in Iran.

Financial services CEO fundraises for Carlos Curbelo immediately after his GOP tax reform vote

Democrats running against Miami-Dade Rep. Carlos Curbelo are claiming his support for the GOP tax reform bill that passed the House earlier this month is a boon to his corporate supporters, and not his constituents in Florida’s 26th Congressional District.

Shortly after joining most of his fellow House Republicans to vote in support of the tax reform bill in mid-November, Curbelo extolled how the legislation will benefit everyday Americans.

“What a country and what a day,” Curbelo said. “Today is a big day for so many in this country, especially for those who have been struggling to get by; who haven’t been able to get ahead; who have read about the economic recovery for years but have never experienced it. Today is a great day for them.”

As a member of the House Ways and Means Committee that was responsible for drafting the legislation, Curbelo’s message is one that Republicans have made over the past few weeks: it will provide tax cuts to working-class Americans (while ignoring how it will benefit the well-off).

As nonpartisan organizations have reported, every income level would receive an immediate tax cut from the Republican proposal, something that changes in the out years.

According to the Tax Policy Center, under the House plan, every income group would see tax cuts through 2027, but the richest one-fifth of Americans would receive 56 percent to almost 75 percent of the cuts.

Under the Senate plan currently under deliberation, every income level would receive a tax cut in 2019, but those earning $20,000 to $30,000 annually would face a tax increase the subsequent year, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. By 2027, most people making under $75,000 each year would see a tax increase, while those making more would continue to receive a tax cut.

Supporters of the Senate plan say the bill offers a 20 percent small business tax deduction for all small businesses earning less than $500,000 a year, which they contend would allow them to keep more of their earnings, helping them to compete with their big business and international competitors – as well as hire more employees, raise wages and expand.

According to the Tax Foundation, 97 percent of small businesses earn less than this $500,000 threshold, meaning the overwhelming majority of small businesses would see relief from this provision.

Among those being called winners in the House bill is the commercial real estate industry.

“Commercial Real Estate, Which Fueled Trump’s Fortune, Fares Well in Tax Plan,” the New York Times reported Nov. 3.

Specifically, the paper reported that the industry had been concerned that the special tax treatment of “carried interest” — fees that are taxed as capital gains and not income — would be changed, or that they wouldn’t be able to deduct interest expenses from their taxable profits. There were also fears that that certain exchanges of commercial property, which currently enjoy a tax deferral, would face immediate taxation.

However, those provisions weren’t included in the House.

The day after Curbelo voted along with the majority of his GOP colleagues to support the Tax Cuts and Job Act, he flew off to New York City, where he attended a fundraiser held in his name by Julio Gonzalez, the CEO of Engineered Tax Services from West Palm Beach, which specializes in assisting property investment firms and their CPAs in identifying areas of “tax savings opportunities,” according to the organization’s website.

On their website, Engineered Tax Services boasts that “as a commercial property investor and owner, there are several IRS-sanctioned tax benefits within your reach designed to uncover hidden value and profitability within your investments.”

New York Republican Chris Collins turned some heads earlier this month when he described the intense lobbying from special interests seeking to protect favored tax provisions, saying, “My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again.”

Some of his Democratic opponents said the fundraiser echoes Collins’s gaffe.

Curbelo’s tax plan is a handout to big corporations and the most wealthy at the expense of middle-class families so it’s not surprising they would want to throw him a thank you fundraiser,” said Debbie Murcasel-Powell, one of three Democrats who is running for the seat. “He’s a Washington politician playing quid pro quo with special interests plain and simple and at the end of the day, it’s our families in South Florida that will suffer.”

Curbelo is running for reelection to his District 26 seat next year, which runs from Miami-Dade County down to Key West. It’s become one of the most desired seats that the Democrats hope to flip next year, and the Sabato Crystal Ball Thursday calls the race a toss-up.

A spokesman for Curbelo’s reelection campaign said he intended to respond to the report, but ultimately did not reply back to Florida Politics.

The Senate is scheduled to resume work on their tax reform bill Friday.

Larry Sabato ‘Crystal Ball’ moves Charlie Crist seat to ‘likely Democratic’

With the way U.S. congressional districts are apportioned, any representative who wins their seat by less than five points is considered to be in a swing-seat district.

That makes them potentially vulnerable in a re-election bid.

Other (sometimes unforeseen) variables also determine the political landscape in an electoral cycle, such as a “wave” election that can result in dozens of seats switching parties.

For example, wave elections took place in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2014.

In 2016, Charlie Crist defeated David Jolly by 3.8 points. And while that makes the former Florida governor potentially vulnerable to a 2018 challenge, that is growing less likely by the day.

In the latest Sabato Crystal Ball (the prediction newsletter named after University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato), managing editor Kyle Kondik now moves Crist’s 13th Congressional District from “leans Democratic” to “likely Democratic.”

“Both Crist and (New Jersey Democrat Josh) Gottheimer represent ‘swingy’ districts, but these freshmen members are also raising boatloads of cash and benefit from the environment,” Kondik writes. “Crist does not have a viable challenger at the moment.”

Jolly has previously said that he would declare whether he would run again for his former seat in January, but the odds look less likely that will occur. Never a prolific fundraiser, there is still considerable doubt whether the National Republican Congressional Campaign (NRCC) would come to Jolly’s financial aid next year.

The NRCC opted not to help out Jolly when he truly needed it in his 2016 bid to maintain the seat against Crist, still indignant over the Pinellas Republican outing the organization for placing an emphasis on the need for members of Congress to fundraise every single day.

The district was also substantially redistricted in 2015, making it much more Democratic in voter registration, as well as much harder for any Republican to win.

Add to the fact that Crist had more than $1.4 million cash on hand, and it does seem a safe bet to move the St. Petersburg Democrat into the “likely Democratic” category.

Other Sabato predictions include Republican Mario Diaz-Balart moving from “likely Republican” to “safe Republican” in District 25; Republican Brian Mast in District 18 staying “likely Republican”; Carlos Curbelo‘s District 26 seat being a “tossup” against an eventual Democratic nominee and Florida’s 27th Congressional seat — vacated after 30 years by Republican Illeana Ros-Lehtinen — leaning Democratic.

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