Mitch Perry, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 324

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the 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. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at

Now a CFO candidate, Jeremy Ring to publish book on Yahoo experience

Former state Senator Jeremy Ring, the only official candidate in the 2018 race to be Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, has just completed a book about his experiences working as a founding member of Yahoo.

Ring said Monday he plans to publish his book this fall.

“We Were Yahoo” will describe how the Silicon Valley-based company changed the world twice, Ring told a couple of dozen supporters who gathered to learn more about him at an appearance at the University Club in downtown Tampa.

“The first time on the way up it pioneered the entire digital information age, and everybody knows that, but on the way down the major missteps of that company allowed Facebook and Google to grow and mature and become the companies that they were,” he said.

Ring said that Yahoo executives twice rejected buying Google before the search engine company had fully blossomed in the early aughts. The second time, he says, Yahoo could have purchased Google for $6 billion, but only offered $3 billion (Shares in Alphabet, the holding company that includes Google, went over the $600 billion mark in April)

Ring says that once the book is published, he “anticipates going on a significant book tour” which should be a nice boost for his candidacy.

Among the functions of Florida’s CFO are carrying out the state’s accounting and auditing functions, investigating fraud, regulating cemeteries and funeral homes, and licensing insurance agents and agencies.

Those aren’t the sexiest issues to campaign on, and one shouldn’t expect to hear Ring drone on about them. Instead, he’s using his candidacy as a platform to discuss a philosophical shift in Florida by creating an “innovation economy.”

“When people in Tallahassee talk about economic development, they’re not thinking about building the next Google, the next Apple. They’re thinking about how do I give X amount of money to create jobs,” he said. “I want to change the entire mindset.”

Among those in attendance included Democratic state Representative Sean Shaw, Hillsborough County Republican County Commission candidate Aakash Patel, and three members of the Tampa City Council: Yolie Capin, Mike Suarez and Harry Cohen, who introduced Ring by saying that while the job of CFO may not be at the top of most voters radar screen, “I beg of everyone else to remember, that it is one of four votes on the Cabinet in the state of Florida, and right now, we don’t have any one of those votes.”

Tampa City Councilman Harry Cohen introduces former state Senator Jeremy Ring Monday night.

“A lot of us believe that he will make an excellent addition to the leadership in Tallahassee,” Cohen added.

Although the CFO’s job isn’t really a partisan one, Ring bemoans the fact that it is one. Certainly, his message of attempting to bring Silicon Valley values to Florida is theoretically a universal one among those who want to see the state’s economy diversify.

“How do we bring together great colleges and great ideas that students have, with early stage incubation that is helping in on business planning, executive recruiting, proof of sales, accounting, legal, other governance?” he asked the audience. “How do we find early gap funding? How do we find institutional capital for early funding? How do we create this entire innovation ecosystem?”

Although Ring is a multimillionaire, he said he does not intend on self-funding his campaign. Having said that, he says the question of whether he wins or loses the race won’t come down to money.

The “ask” he made of his supporters on Monday night was that they spread the word about his candidacy.

“Deliver my message to everyone you know,” he said, referring to the fact that Florida is a state with 20 million people, most of whom won’t be thinking about who the next CFO will be until they get the ballot in their hands next summer.

While Republicans have been filing for other cabinet positions over the past couple of weeks, no one has filed to run yet for CFO. Ring attributes that to the fact that Governor Rick Scott is expected soon to select a Republican to fulfill the remaining term of current CFO Jeff Atwater. Atwater was scheduled to leave the job to move on to another position at Florida Atlantic University after the legislative session was completed.

The Florida Legislature returns on Wednesday for a three-day special session, and there is the possibility they could return again before July.

Bob Buckhorn crosses party lines to help Shawn Harrison’s bid for re-election

In 2016, Democrats targeted a handful of Florida House districts they believed they could flip from red to blue.

One of them was Hillsborough County’s House District 63, where the Florida Democratic Party put some money behind Lisa Montelione in her bid to oust Republican incumbent Shawn Harrison.

After a close race, Harrison ultimately prevailed, 51 to 49 percent.

Although off-year elections are traditionally harder for Democrats, there is hope that an energetic resistance to Donald Trump could make 2018 a year of opportunity.

But as Harrison already begins looking forward to getting re-elected next year, he’s getting assistance from one of the biggest Democrats in the region, Bob Buckhorn. The Tampa mayor is listed as a special guest at Harrison’s June 29 campaign kickoff fundraiser at the Tampa Theatre.

“I support people who support the City of Tampa and our legislative issues,” Buckhorn told in a text message. “Shawn has consistently been willing to advocate on behalf of issues that were important to the City, even if it meant going against their leadership of his own party. He never forgot what it was like to be a local elected official and has been a voice of reason in a political party that has made local government a target. It seems to me that we are all better served when our elected officials care more about their community that their political issues.”

Harrison has voted against the majority of his party in a few notable cases, such as when he supported a hybrid version of Medicaid expansion a few years ago. He also supported economic incentives for Enterprise Florida, a position Buckhorn backed and which earned him the public rebuke of Governor Rick Scott at an appearance at MOSI early this year.

As House Minority Leader, Tampa state Rep. Janet Cruz was charged with attempting to get as many Democrats elected to the House last fall. She’s also close with Buckhorn and had no issue with him backing Harrison.

“Nothing new,” Cruz told “Buckhorn served for many years with Harrison on Council. I believe they became good friends then.”

With Americans saying that they’re tired of partisan bickering, some would say the Buckhorn-Harrison connection should be celebrated. However, that’s not the way some Tampa Democrats see it.

“Flabbergasted” was the term used by Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Ione Townsend after learning of the Mayor’s efforts.

“I’m disappointed because the mayor claims he’s a good Democrat,” said Hillsborough County Democratic Committeeman Russ Patterson, adding that he’s aware that Buckhorn and Harrison are friends. “Friendships are allowed to cross party,” he added.

“I’m not surprised,” said public relations executive Tom Hall, who teamed up with former Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and others last year to form The Hillsborough Society, which raised over $40,000 to support local Democrats in Hillsborough County in 2016 and is actively recruiting candidates for 2018.

Hall cited Buckhorn’s support for Republican Pam Bondi against Democrat George Sheldon in the 2014 attorney general’s race, and his refusal to back Democrat Charlie Crist in the gubernatorial race that same year as moves that Democrats haven’t forgotten about.

“I think that those two were big mistakes, and the Democrats that I know and talk to have not forgiven him for that,” said Hall, adding that his group is looking for a good Democrat to challenge Harrison in 2018.

Buckhorn won’t be the only elected Democrat from Tampa at the Harrison fundraiser. City Councilman Frank Reddick is also listed on the fundraising announcement. Reddick endorsed Harrison over Montelione last year.

Montelione did not return a request for comment.

In Tampa, public officials call for common sense solutions to end gun violence epidemic

After the bloody assault at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando nearly a year ago resulted in the deaths of 49 people, 13 members of the Florida Legislature — 12 Democrats and Miami GOP state Sen. Anitere Flores — were on the losing side of a request to hold a special session on gun regulations.

Despite that attitude at the Capitol, Michelle Gajda, the leader of the state chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, says Floridians have the power to end gun violence.

“There are reasonable, common sense solutions on the table in states across the country,” she told a crowd of around 100 people gathered Saturday at The Portico in downtown Tampa. “All we have to do is support them and elect individuals who will support us.”

The event in Tampa was one of 17 held in Florida this weekend centered around National Gun Violence Awareness Day, which was Friday.

Before the legislative session began this March, there were more than a dozen bills filed that would have expanded the rights of gun owners, including proposals to lift bans on allowing concealed weapons permit-holders to carry guns in airports, legislative meetings, and college campuses.

None of them passed.

Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren said the issue of sensible gun control shouldn’t be turned into a partisan battle between Second Amendment loving Republicans and gun control supporting Democrats. “This is a public safety issue,” he declared to cheers from the audience.

“This is a common-sense issue,” he added. “Common sense that we have to have a frank and candid conversation.”

“Common sense isn’t common, certainly not in Tallahassee,” countered Democrat Sean Shaw, who recently completed his first regular session in the Legislature (and will return for a special session next week). Shaw, who represents Tampa’s House District 61. said he was flabbergasted to hear some of the rhetoric about guns during the legislative session.

“If you were in Tallahassee, and you heard the debates that took place before the Senate and the House, you would be disgusted at your elected officials, as you should be, because the words coming out of people’s mouths were lies,” Shaw said, referring specifically to statements by lawmakers who said some bills weren’t about Trayvon Martin (he didn’t elaborate).

Among the gun bills debated in Tallahassee this spring included a proposal to shift the burden of proof from defendants to the prosecution in Stand Your Ground cases.

Warren joined a group of state attorneys throughout the state who lobbied against the change, to some success.

“It’s gone from being a terrible bill to a bad one,” he said, adding that the impact will still be significant.

“I don’t see the Second Amendment gun rights and reasonable standards as being mutually exclusive, and I don’t know why we have to have these arguments across the aisle instead of coming together, as other countries have done,” said former Tampa Police Chief (and potential mayoral candidate) Jane Castor.

Castor blasted the proposal (that failed for a second consecutive year) that would have allowed for people over the age of 21 to carry guns in Florida’s state colleges and universities. Referring to how her two sons will be attending college this fall, she said the combination of 18-year-olds who aren’t used to used to socializing with other cultures amid an atmosphere that includes consumption of alcohol was a toxic mix.

“How does that make sense to anyone to have firearms on a school campus?” Castor asked. “Common sense is what we have to try to strive for as a nation, and we can start here as a grassroots group.”

The crowd also heard intensely emotional comments from Deanna Joseph and Andrea Pinkett, both members of the Tampa chapter of Circle of Mothers, a group formed by Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin.

The group was established as a way to empower women who have experienced the loss of a child, especially due to gun violence.

“It doesn’t matter the nationality, it doesn’t matter where you live, we gotta start loving each other more, we gotta start caring for each other, we gotta stop fighting,” said Pinkett, whose son was killed by gun violence on the last day of 2015. “It don’t make no sense.”

Rick Scott OKs two memorials for Dozier School abuse deaths, rebury victims

Gov. Rick Scott signed a new law Friday allowing for the creation of memorials for boys who died from abuse at the now-closed Dozier School for Boys as well as abuse survivors.

The bill sets aside $1.2 million to build two memorials regarding the boys who lived and died at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys.

Nearly 100 boys died between 1900 and 1973 at the school located near Marianna, some 60 miles west of Tallahassee.

The bill authorizes the creation of a memorial at the state Capitol and one near Marianna. It also calls for reburying victims of a 1914 fire at the school cemetery in Marianna, and rebury other remains in Tallahassee.

The legislation would also allow portions of the shuttered campus to be turned over to Jackson County.

“Today’s signing, coupled with an official apology led by the House earlier this year, will hopefully bring some closure and healing to all those affected directly or indirectly by the atrocities that occurred at the Arthur Dozier School for Boys,” said House Speaker Richard Corcoran. “I thank Governor Scott for signing this legislation; I thank the many House and Senate Members who passionately took up this cause, and look forward to seeing the construction of a memorial that is a tribute to those lost and a testament to the strength of those who never gave up the fight.”


Kathy Castor: Investigations on Russia, Trump administration are ‘cloud’ over D.C.

While there are many things both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill want to accomplish, Kathy Castor laments the business of Congress has slowed considerably by what she calls a “cloud” over the Trump administration’s possible collusion with Russia during last year’s election.

“What an atmosphere it is,” the Tampa Democratic congresswoman said in opening remarks at the Oxford Exchange Friday morning.

“I hope we can remove this cloud. The economy is better. People are generally hopeful, they want America to be a world leader, and this cloud has got to go away, because I think that everything that we have going for us, as long as that cloud remains over the White House in Washington. We’re not able to reach our full potential.”

For months, Castor had been among Congressional Democrats calling for an independent commission to investigate allegations about members of the Trump administration and the Russian government. She called the recent Justice Department appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller to investigate the situation a positive development.

“I think that broke the fever a little bit,” she said, adding that the constant news revelations about Trump and the Russians have “stalled a lot of the business going on in the Congress.”

“There have been some things going on,” she acknowledged, “but the pace of lawmaking is much slower than I’ve seen over the past ten years.”

The Tampa Representative touched on just a few of those items not being covered in the media that she worries about, such as the president’s signing of a Congressional resolution repealing rules that would have required internet service providers to get customer permission to collect, use and sell information about one’s online habits.

Castor says the role of Congress should now be to do a “broader dive” into recommendations on how to prevent the interference of foreign governments into our elections. In March, former FBI Director James Comey told a congressional panel the FBI was investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination.

No member of Congress has been more active in promoting relations between Cuba and the U.S. than Castor, who represents one of the largest Cuban-American communities in the U.S. She admitted that recent reports of the Trump administration being ready to roll back some of the major pieces of the Obama administration’s opening with Cuba and reinstating limits on travel and commerce, citing human rights abuses by the Castro government as justification for a more punitive approach.

“I’ve been an optimist on these until the last few days,” she confessed, charging Trump with being on a path “just to flex his muscles, notwithstanding logic and facts.”

“I think we are somewhat in risk of President Trump in his pledge to change Cuban policy and that would be a real shame for the families in this community and families across the country,” she added.

Castor’s appearance at the weekly “Cafe Con Tampa” meeting was, in essence, a regular town-hall meeting. It was the type of event she has eschewed in recent years, opting for events where she invites the public to meetings, meeting up on a one-on-one basis.

Traditional town hall meetings haven’t been scheduled very often after an explosive encounter with Tea Party activists during the discussions about the Affordable Care Act back in 2009.

All of the questions were of a friendly nature, including a softball from an official with the Hillsborough County School Board who asked her opinion of HB 7069, a charter-school-friendly $419 million school bill in the Florida Legislature that she had already vocally opposed. Public education officials and organizations vehemently opposed the legislation.

“What the Florida Legislature has been doing to our public schools is criminal, and we have got to stand up and fight for it,” she said, adding that it wasn’t too late to have people contact Gov. Rick Scott to veto the bill.

Former Hillsborough Judge Ashley Moody launches bid for Attorney General

Ashley Moody, who served a Hillsborough judge for more than a decade until resigning abruptly in late April, has filed as a Republican candidate for Attorney General.

Moody was elected to the 13th Judicial Circuit in 2006 at the age of 31, becoming the youngest judge in Florida.

Moody is a 1996 graduate of the University of Florida and received her J.D. degree from the UF College of Law in 2000.

She is the daughter of longtime federal judge James Moody Jr.

Another important note, Moody has already lined up GOP heavyweight Nancy Watkins to serve as her campaign treasurer.

Florida’s current Attorney General is Pam Bondi, who many speculated would join the Donald Trump administration. She is term-limited from running again.

Moody is the second Republican to enter the race. Jacksonville state Representative Jay Fant filed last month. On the Democratic side, Hillsborough County Attorney Ryan C. Torrens announced his candidacy last week.


Bill Gunter taking another stab at HD 37 seat

Bill Gunter, a pastor of the Redeemer Community Church in New Port Richey, will make a second run for the Florida Legislature, seeking the House District 37 seat being vacated next year by term-limited Richard Corcoran.

“Our great President Donald J. Trump has inspired me with his leadership and direction over the past year,” Gunter said in a statement. I will fight for the issues important to my fellow citizens if elected to serve in Tallahassee.”

Gunter won a GOP primary election in 2013 in the special election to replace Mike Fasano in House District 36 but ultimately lost to Democrat Amanda Murphy in the general election.

Gunter is the second Republican to announce their candidacy to succeed the current House Speaker in 2018. Earlier in the day, Elle Rudisill, an assistant state attorney for the 6th Judicial Circuit in Pinellas/Pasco counties, announced that she, too, would be running in the GOP primary to succeed Corcoran.

He is staking out his claim as the true conservative in the race, saying that his plan includes protecting second amendment rights, a strong immigration policy, lowering taxes and “decreasing excess government.”

Gunter grew up in Bradenton and played football under coach Steve Spurrier at the University of Florida in the early 1990’s.


Pinellas-Pasco prosecutor Elle Rudisill announces HD 37 run

Elle Rudisill, an assistant state attorney for the 6th Judicial Circuit in Pinellas/Pasco county since the fall of 2014, announced Thursday that she will seek the House District 37 seat in Pasco County to be vacated by term-limited Richard Corcoran in 2018.

“Today, I embark on an incredible journey of running as a Conservative Republican candidate for the Florida House of Representatives,” Rudisill said in a statement. “My first year in college, I decided I wanted to make a difference in the world around me and have been striving to make that difference every day that I can. Back then, I jumped head first into volunteering for grassroots and national campaigns, and I still volunteer to this day.

“For the past few years, I have had the privilege of serving as a Prosecutor right here in Pasco. Now is my chance to make even more of a positive impact for my hometown of Land O’ Lakes and Central Pasco County. Growing small businesses, educating all of our youth, and protecting Pasco will be my aim in Tallahassee.”

A 2009 University of South Florida graduate, Rudisill continued to get her J.D. from the Stetson University College of Law in 2013. Before going to the 6th Judicial Circuit, Rudisill worked as a legislative analyst for the Florida House of Representatives.

Activist group targets Republican Dennis Ross for ‘Putin us off’

Although Polk County Republican Rep. Dennis Ross easily won Florida’s 15th Congressional District each of the four times he’s been on the ballot since 2010, Democrats seem particularly energized in challenging him when he runs for re-election next year.

As previously reported by, no fewer than five Democrats have already filed to run in a primary next year, with the winner getting the opportunity to take on Ross in November of 2018.

A billboard in Brandon from Indivisible East Hillsborough County shows Democrats are particularly energized against Dennis Ross in 2018.

Indivisible East Hillsborough County is an activist group formed after last year’s presidential election. Frustrated by what they say is Ross’ inattention to that part of the district (which also includes Polk and Lake counties), the group placed a billboard in Brandon on State Road 60 across from the Westfield Mall, criticizing him for his lack of attention with the statement, “Congressman Ross, stop PUTIN us off!'”

“Republican Dennis A. Ross, has refused to hold a public town hall since the first congressional recess, especially following his crucial vote in favor of the AHCA, which critics argue could cause millions to lose their health coverage,” read a statement sent out by the group. “In addition, many feel that Ross, known for his support of President Trump, has not adequately addressed his constituents concerns over the growing scandal involving Trump and Russia.”

The group says that it has extended invitations to all candidates who plan to run for the CD 15 seat in 2018, regardless of party affiliation, including Ross, on to a forum this Monday, June 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the Lakeland Public Library.

However, they don’t want the candidates to speak at the event. Instead, they say the goal is for “constituents to voice their concerns and talk to the candidates about the issues that matter most to them and to the future of their district.”

A second billboard is now up in Lakeland, located a block from his office at South Florida Avenue and Schoolhouse Road.

A spokesperson for Ross declined to comment.

A second anti-Dennis Ross billboard appeared in Lakeland this week located a block from his office at South Florida Avenue and Schoolhouse Road.

Vern Buchanan tells Justice Department ‘pay up’ for Bernie Madoff victims

Sarasota Republican Vern Buchanan wants the Department of Justice to begin paying the victims of Bernie Madoff‘s multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme with some of the recovered funds.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Buchanan points out that the victims of Madoff’s crime have yet to receive a penny from the $4 billion victim fund created in 2012, four years after federal authorities apprehended Madoff.

“It is outrageous that victims languish in hardship while government-sanctioned administrators collect millions in fees,” Buchanan said.

Bloomberg News reported last week that Madoff Victim Fund administrator Richard Breeden was hired by the U.S. to distribute $4 billion to Madoff’s victims, but investors are still waiting for their first checks.

Breeden’s fees, paid from cash in the fund, covered his work through 2016.

After New York, where the investment company was based, Florida is home to the largest number of Madoff victims. As reported by the Miami Herald, Madoff’s client list shows nearly one in five of his customers hailed from Florida.

“These victims, many of whom are from Sarasota and Southwest Florida, are being victimized twice,” Buchanan writes. “They were cheated out of their life savings and now they’re being denied timely compensation from a fund that was specifically set up to help them. It is a disgrace that the process of reimbursement has yet to begin.”

The compensation fund was created in December 2012 by the Justice Department to repay thousands of Madoff’s victims after the U.S. seized $2.4 billion from the estate of one of his biggest investors, the late Jeffry Picower. The fund grew by $1.7 billion following a 2014 forfeiture deal with Madoff’s bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co., which was accused of turning a blind eye to the scam.

“These victims, many of whom are from Sarasota and Southwest Florida, are being victimized twice,” Buchanan writes. “They were cheated out of their life savings and now they’re being denied timely compensation from a fund that was specifically set up to help them. It is a disgrace that the process of reimbursement has yet to begin.”

Buchanan’s letter comes while Madoff is on the minds of many Americans this month, with HBO airing “The Wizard of Lies,” a biopic directed by Barry Levinson and starring Robert DeNiro as Madoff.

You can read Buchanan’s entire letter to Sessions below:

Dear Attorney General Sessions:

Despite the government’s recovery of billions of dollars from Bernie Madoff, victims of his Ponzi scheme have yet to receive a single dollar, while tens of millions of dollars have been spent on administrative costs. I urge you to correct this injustice immediately.

It has been more than eight years since Mr. Madoff’s arrest. His massive, multi-decade fraud ruined the lives of thousands of investors, many of whom lost their lifetime and retirement savings. To date, the Justice Department has recovered more than $4 billion for Mr. Madoff’s victims and established a fund to distribute this money in 2012.

Not a single dollar has been paid to these victims. Yet, the firm hired to oversee the fund has received more than $38 million in payments. It is outrageous that victims languish in hardship while government-sanctioned administrators collect millions in fees.

For seniors, Mr. Madoff’s crimes were particularly damaging. Rather than enjoying the comfortable retirement for which they spent decades saving, these victims have been forced to struggle in their golden years. Residents in my home state and congressional district were greatly impacted by this colossal swindle. As reported by the Miami Herald, according to Madoff’s client list, nearly one in five of his customers hailed from Florida.

These victims, many of whom are from Sarasota and Southwest Florida, are being victimized twice. They were cheated out of their life savings and now they’re being denied timely compensation from a fund that was specifically set up to help them. It is a disgrace that the process of reimbursement has yet to begin.

Shortly before Mr. Madoff pleaded guilty to his crimes, newspapers in the area I represent published local victims’ stories. One man who had transferred all his retirement money to Madoff said “I’m 64 and I’m barely holding on. I’m still paying my bills but I don’t know how much longer I will be able to do that.”

Another local victim said that his “whole family was affected,” including his 86-year-old mother who was forced to sell the home she had lived in since 1958.

It has been said that justice delayed is justice denied. That is particularly true for seniors that were victimized by Mr. Madoff.

Given Florida’s large number of victims, I want to know why this process is taking so long, and what steps your department will take to ensure the firm moves immediately to distribute repayments.

I urge you to do all you can to expedite payment to these victims. Money should be flowing to victims, not bureaucratic overhead.


Vern Buchanan

Member of Congress

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