Mitch Perry, Author at Florida Politics - Page 7 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

Hillsborough PTC attorney Cindy Oster named to county court

Cynthia Oster, who has been serving as the in-house attorney for the soon-to-be dismantled Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, has been named by Gov. Rick Scott to serve as a judge in Hillsborough County Court.

The 47-year-old Oster’s official position, which she has held for the past 17 years, was Senior Assistant County Attorney in Hillsborough. She was previously an assistant state attorney for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit and an assistant public defender for the Tenth Judicial Circuit.

Oster received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and her law degree from Stetson University College of Law. She will fill the vacancy created by the appointment of Judge Jennifer X. Gabbard to the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court.

In recent years with the PTC, Oster was busy with lawsuits between the agency and ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft, who battled the PTC for more than two years until they came into compliance a year ago.

Legislation passed earlier this year calls for the PTC to be dissolved at the end of this year.

Jay Fant: I agree with Marco Rubio. Al Franken must go

Jacksonville Republican Rep. and Attorney General candidate Jay Fant said Monday that he agrees with Sen. Marco Rubio‘s declaration over the weekend that the sexual misconduct allegations against Sen. Al Franken are so egregious that the Minnesota Democrat should resign immediately.

“Senator Franken has already admitted to mistreating women in a way that would be offensive to come from any person, but is completely out-of-bounds for an elected official representing our public trust. He must go,” Fant said in a statement. “As the father of two daughters, I am sickened by public officials misusing the power of their office for harassment. Sexual harassment is wrong in any workplace, but is especially disgusting when it involves someone who represents the public trust.”

On Sunday, Rubio told CBS Miami’s Jim DeFede that the accusations of groping made against Franken are “horrifying,” “outrageous” and “offensive.” He added: “I do think on that alone he should consider resigning.”

The accusations against Franken began on Nov. 16, when Los Angeles radio personality Leeann Tweeden released a photograph that appeared to show Franken grabbing her breasts while she was asleep and wearing protective military gear. She also charged that the then-comedian forcibly kissed her while the two were rehearsing a skit.

Since her story went public, three additional women made similar accusations of sexual misconduct against Franken.

Franken said Monday that he was “tremendously sorry” and hoped to regain the trust of those he has let down, but also said that he would not resign over the controversy.

Fant is in a competitive four-person race to win the Republican nomination for Attorney General in 2018. He says if elected, he would create a position for a confidential investigator and an ethics officer.

“This person will have a background in working with sexual assault victims and will be able to meet with victims confidentially when the harassment involves a public official and refer information to law enforcement or the Ethics Commission, as appropriate,” he said. “We have a responsibility to protect the public, especially when it means protecting them from their very people who took an oath of office to serve their best interests at all times.”

Fant was equally as harsh regarding the plight of embattled Alabama Judge Roy Moore, who continues to campaign in a special election for the U.S. Senate next month, despite calls from Republicans from around the country to drop out following reports that he dated underage females nearly four decades ago.

“Sexual assault is a disgusting act that we shouldn’t take lightly,” Fant told Florida Politics earlier this month. “Under our Constitution, Roy Moore is entitled to due process. But if these allegations are true, Roy Moore belongs in prison, not the U.S. Senate.”

Fant is running against former Hillsborough County judge Ashley Moody and fellow state House Reps. Ross Spano and Frank White in next August’s primary.

David Jolly, Patrick Murphy to meet again at USF St. Pete

Former Florida Congressmen David Jolly and Patrick Murphy resume their fall college speaking tour in St. Petersburg.

The tour — called “Why Gridlock Rules Washington” — continues Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. on the 2nd floor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg Student Center. It will be televised live in the Tampa Bay area and Orlando markets.

Over the past couple of months, Jolly and Murphy have been holding public discussions about the state of chaos in Washington D.C., and what can be done to fix politics.

The one-hour event will be broadcast on Bay News 9 in Tampa Bay and Bay News 13 in Orlando, and will be moderated by Bay News 9 anchor Holly Gregory.

The two former lawmakers appeared on the USF Tampa campus last month, where Jolly repeated his comments from a year ago that part of the job as a member of Congress is to spend 20-30 hours a week raising money, and only 10 hours a week doing their actual jobs.

“I truly was taken aback by the fact that consumes every single minute,” the Pinellas Republican said. “If any member tells you that they spend more time on policy than fundraising, they’re lying.”

Attendees are asked to arrive at the ballroom on the 2nd floor of the University Student Center by 6:45 p.m. on December 5th. Those interested in attending must RSVP through Eventbrite.

HD 58 debate scheduled Dec. 4 in Temple Terrace

The four men running in the special election in House District 58 next month will meet up in a candidates’ forum Monday, Dec. 4, in Temple Terrace.

Republican Lawrence McClure, Democrat Jose Vazquez, Libertarian Bryan Zemina and non-party-affiliated Ahmad Saadaldin are running in the election Dec. 19 to select a successor to Republican Dan Raulerson, who stepped down from the seat in August due to health problems.

Last month, McClure defeated Yvonne Fry in the GOP primary and hopes to keep the seat red in the special election.

Vazquez has been unsuccessful in previous bids for office, including against Raulerson back in 2012.

It’s the first run for office for both Zemina and Saadaldin, a member of the Green Party who is running an independent.

The event will be at the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay and will be moderated by representatives of the Hillsborough branch of the League of Women Voters. There will be a straw poll conducted after the forum, with the votes to be counted by the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections.

The four candidates participated in one previous forum earlier this month in Plant City.

District 58 covers Plant City, Temple Terrace, Dover, Mango, Seffner, Thonotosassa, and parts of Tampa and East Lake-Orient Park.

Stacey Patel enters race for Florida Democratic Party chair


Brevard County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Stacey Patel is officially a candidate for the Florida Democratic Party Chair.

“We can build a party people can believe in,” Patel writes in a post on in announcing her candidacy Monday morning. “We can be the party that represents economic, social, and environmental justice for all, but our message must be clear, and we must act in integrity with our words. At our state conference last month, we overwhelmingly passed resolutions supporting guaranteed healthcare as a human right, free public education from pre-K through college or trade school, a living wage and fair compensation for all, investments in environmental protection and renewable energy, restoration of voting rights to former felons, public financing of elections to eradicate the corrupting influence of big money in politics, and other policies that serve the people. Let us turn our resolutions into a people’s platform that we can clearly communicate to all Floridians, and that can guide the priorities and decision-making of our party, our candidates, and our elected officials.

A delegate for Bernie Sanders in 2016, Patel told her supporters last week that she would enter the race if she could show sufficient support leading up to the FDP chair election and into 2018.

“WE DID IT!!!!!!,” she wrote on her Facebook page Sunday night, previewing her Monday announcement.

“In less than 5 days, with no budget, no plan, no organization but a whole lot of heart, we’ve come together to raise over $6,000 to support our campaign, and identify 250 monthly donors and 250 monthly volunteers who have pledged to give time & money to support the work of #OurParty upon our election.”

Patel originally said that she hoped to raise at least $2,500 to fund a race for the party chair, which will be decided December 9.

There are now four candidates in the race to succeed Stephen Bittel as FDP chair: Patel, Palm Beach County Democratic official Terrie Rizzo, Hillsborough County State Committeewoman Alma Gonzalez and Monica Russo from the State Employees International Union.

Bittel resigned Nov. 17 following a POLITICO Florida report that he had a history of making demeaning remarks toward women.

Two days later, the state party’s president, Sally Boynton Brown, alienated some women in the party by saying she never experienced Bittel’s behavior and said that she was “heartbroken” women did not feel comfortable coming to her with complaints. She resigned last Monday.

Patel referenced the incident in her statement.

“It is not enough, however, to simply speak our values; we must live them,” Patel writes. “Sexual harassment in our own party, for example, diminishes and undermines our efforts to stand up for equal pay, equal rights, and equal access to healthcare for women. In a party that stands for justice for all, we cannot stand silent or be accomplices to the abuses of people with power and money. When we look away, or worse yet, facilitate the misconduct of the powerful, we create the conditions for systemic injustice and oppression. We must create space to speak truth to power.”

Patel listed six endorsements backing her candidacy: Santa Rosa State Committeewoman Sarah Coutu and State Committeeman Norman Coutu; Leon State Committeewoman Kathryn Smith; Osceola State Committeewoman Sama Nuzuma; Brevard State Committeewoman Angie Matos; and State Committeeman Sanjay Patel (who is married to Stacey).

Patel was elected as Brevard County Chair last December. Under her leadership, the local party won the state’s “Golden Gavel” award for knocking on more doors in local elections than any other local delegation in the state.

She’s a graduate of Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz School of Public Policy, and boasts more than 20 years of diverse professional experience in organizational transformation, social media fundraising, project management, small business ownership, non-profit leadership and performing arts administration.

Margaret Good says she’s the Democrat who can win HD 72 in 2018

Can Florida Democrats pull off an upset and take northern Sarasota County House District 72 early next year?

There’s a lot of time before that special election takes place next year (Feb. 13), but Siesta Key attorney Margaret Good has emerged as a possible contender — if you gauge her fundraising prowess, where she raised nearly $88,000 in the first month of fundraising after entering the contest.

The HD 72 seat is being fought for after Republican incumbent Alex Miller abruptly left last August.

“I wasn’t getting into a race I didn’t think I could win,” Good said. “And one of the ways you win elections is by building coalitions and networks that are going to support you.”

Good has built support by meeting with as many voters as she can since entering the contest in early September.

A Georgia native, she spent her youth growing up there and in South Carolina, where she received an undergraduate degree from the University of South Carolina. It was during her youth when the idea of getting into public service first hit her.

She then attended law school at the University of Florida, where she edited the Florida Law Review. Good currently works at the Sarasota-based law firm of Matthews Eastmoore.

“When I moved to Sarasota, I started thinking more seriously about it, because I knew this was going to be the place I called home for the rest of my of my life,” she said.

Last year’s election results inspired Good to look seriously at pursuing such an opportunity.

Earlier this year she helped her friend, attorney Hagen Brody, get elected to the Sarasota City Commission. When Miller announced she wanted out in late August, Good pounced.

“I thought it was a really great opportunity for the Democrats to win a Florida House seat, and decided that this was the time to step up and serve my community.”

Good is running against businesswoman Ruta Jouniari in the Democratic primary scheduled for Dec. 5.

Ruth’s List and the Sierra Club have endorsed Good, but a co-endorsement from the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida was rescinded earlier this month after the group incorrectly said both Democrats support raising the minimum wage from $8.10 to $15 an hour.

“I’m for any increase that we can actually get passed in the state Legislature, but I do think we need to take an incremental approach,” Good says, refusing to define a specific hourly wage.

(Three years ago, South Florida Democratic state Sen. Dwight Bullard pushed legislation that would have raised the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. In 2015, Democrats, fueled by the Fight for $15! movement, then began raising that proposal to $15. In both cases, those plans have gone nowhere in the GOP-led Legislature).

It’s been reported that the two Democrats also differ when it comes to legalizing marijuana, with Jouniari supporting the idea and Good opposed, but Good says she’s “open to the idea of it.”

“The voters in Florida passed a constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana, and the implementation has, in my opinion not gone particularly well. I don’t think the Legislature has done a very good job in creating the laws implementing it,” she said, adding, “I think we need to get that off the ground first, and then look and see where we go from there.”

If elected, Good thinks she can work with Republicans on environmental issues, such as a fracking ban (sponsoring a proposal to do that in 2018 are Republicans Dana Young of Tampa in the Senate and Kathleen Peters of South Pasadena in the House).

Much of the Florida Democratic establishment believes in Good and support her campaign. That includes Florida House Victory and Christine Jennings, the former Sarasota County Democratic Executive Committee Chair who calls her a “dream candidate.”

In less than two weeks, HD 72 Democratic voters will make their choice.

Terry Power will challenge Jamie Grant in HD 64 primary

Terrance “Terry” Power, a 59-year-old Oldsmar-based certified financial planner, is launching a 2018 primary challenge against House District 64 incumbent Jamie Grant.

“I’m running for the Florida House because I am the best candidate in the race to serve the residents of our District,” the Republican said in a statement released Sunday.

“I’ll let the voters decide how corrupt, unethical, and ineffective my primary opponent is as a legislator and whether he needs to be find another line of work outside of Tallahassee. I’ve made up my mind. That’s why I’m in.”

Grant was cleared in 2014 of ethics violations regarding his involvement in a project to bring high-tech jobs to a rural Florida county. 

Power announced on his Facebook page that if elected, he would donate 100 percent of his salary to charities located in the district. State lawmakers earn $29,697 annually.

District 64 encompasses northwest Tampa, including Westchase, Northdale, and Carrollwood and northeast Pinellas County including Oldsmar, Safety Harbor, and eastern Palm Harbor (East Lake area).

The 35-year-old Grant was first elected in 2010, and was easily re-elected in 2012 and 2014. However, a dispute over the voting process led to a rejection of the 2014 result, leaving the seat vacant until Grant won a special election in early 2015.

Under the state Constitution, a candidate is eligible to run for a legislative seat until he has held that office for “eight consecutive years.” Because of that break between the November 2014 election and the special election, Grant’s win in 2016 ‘reset the clock’ for his time in office, giving him the potential to serve eight more years in the House.

Grant had aspirations of becoming House Speaker, but his bid for that position in 2022 fell short to Palm Coast Republican Paul Renner.


SEIU’s Monica Russo throws her hat into race for Fla. Democratic Party chair

Monica Russo, the current president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Florida and executive vice president at 1199 SEIU, officially declared her candidacy Friday for the Florida Democratic Party chair.

“I have been working in the trenches in Florida for 30 years,” Russo wrote on her Facebook page. “A large part of my work has been to organize with workers and grassroots activists who believe in the potential of every Floridian. This work has empowered us to dream and to wage strategic fights to lift up everybody.

“My vision and dream is to continue this work by building a Democratic Party where all of us can feel at home. We need a dynamic and doable plan for our movement that embraces the issues that make Floridians and our communities stronger.”


Russo is not a party chair or state committeewoman, which means she does not have an automatic entry into the election for FDP chair, scheduled for Dec. 9. She acknowledged that issue in her statement.

“Currently, the procedure to elect our next chair is closed and exclusive,” she writes. “We need an open process that reflects who we are as Democrats — inclusive and welcoming to all Floridians.”

The executive committee could amend the rules at the December meeting and open the race up for anyone to run, something that some activists called for last year after now former chair Stephen Bittel had to wrangle his way into becoming a state committeeman to become eligible to run in the state party election.

It was just a week ago that Bittel resigned as chair of the party, following a POLITICO Florida report that he had a history of making demeaning remarks toward women. His resignation was followed just days later by Sally Boynton Brown, the party’s executive director. She resigned after coming under fire for defending Bittel in a letter and being accused by two former staffers of “enabling” his misconduct toward women in the workplace, as Florida Politics reported.

Palm Beach County Democratic official Terrie Rizzo, Hillsborough County State Committeewoman Alma Gonzalez are the other two candidates officially in the race. Brevard County DEC Chair Stacey Patel may announce her candidacy Monday.

‘Long shot’ candidate Stacey Patel may enter the FDP chair sweepstakes

Brevard County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Stacey Patel may soon join the increasingly crowded field of candidates to select the next chair of the Florida Democratic Party.

On her Facebook page on Tuesday, Patel issued a statement declaring that she will enter the race next Monday if she can raise $2,500 to fund her campaign; identify at least 250 monthly donors in 2018; and find at least 250 people to pledge 10+ hours of canvassing or phonebanking per month for 2018.

“Our candidacy would be a long shot – but as a chair in a red county that’s increased membership by over 300% this year, knocked the most doors of any DEC in Florida, improved fundraising by focusing on small donors, and won three elections with a whole lot of heart and about $6000 – I’ve learned to believe in the power of US,” Patel declared on Tuesday night.

The Florida Democratic Party is seeking new leadership after now former Chair Stephen Bittel announced last Friday he would be resigning, following a POLITICO Florida report that he had a history of making demeaning remarks toward women.

Palm Beach County Democratic official Terrie Rizzo,  Hillsborough County State Committeewoman Alma Gonzalez  and Monica Russo from the State Employees International Union all announced their candidacies earlier this week.

Russo officially isn’t eligible to run at this time, as party rules require candidates for state party chair to be either a county chair or state committeewoman. However, neither was Bittel when his supporters began talking up his candidacy a year ago. Ultimately the state committeeman in Miami-Dade County resigned his seat, paving the way for Bittel to become a committeeman and become eligible for the FDP position.

Patel, an elected delegate to Bernie Sanders at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, was elected party chair for Brevard County last December.

“I believe when we demonstrate integrity, stand up for justice, give real power to the people, and provide training and tools – the people will be inspired to donate, to knock doors, to make calls, and we will win,” Patel told Florida Politics Thursday. “That’s what were doing in Brevard County. And it works.”

The election for party chair is scheduled for Dec.9.





Hillsborough’s Alma Gonzalez to run for FDP Chair

Alma Gonzalez, a member of the Democratic National Committee and a Hillsborough County committeewoman, announced Tuesday her bid for Florida Democratic Party chair.

The party is in crisis mode following the developments over the past few days. On Friday, now former Chair Stephen Bittel announced he would be resigning following a POLITICO Florida report that he had a history of making demeaning remarks toward women.

Florida Democratic Party President Sally Boynton Brown later announced her resignation after she wrote a letter defending Bittel.

“This is our moment,” Gonzalez said in a phone conversation with Florida Politics. “I am prepared to do whatever it takes to make sure we don’t lose our way as a result of what I think is a cathartic moment in our society.”

Gonzalez becomes the second official candidate to announce her candidacy for FDP chair, following Palm Beach County Democratic official Terrie Rizzo‘s announcement Monday.

Gonzalez said she believes she is best-fit to respond to the crisis.

She’s been a longtime Democratic Party official, a tenure that has included a stint as treasurer of the state party. She spent 30 years in Tallahassee before moving to Hillsborough in the last decade, working as a legal counsel for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and also as the legislative director for finance and tax at the Florida Association of Counties.

“I have worked in the trenches with (Democrats), precinct canvassing to working the Legislature, to walking picket lines, to making phone calls to dealing with our friends in Washington D.C., being part of international delegations promoting democracy around the world,” Gonzalez said.

Florida Democrats had been on a roll this fall, winning a special state Senate race in Miami-Dade County and a fierce mayoral contest in St. Petersburg.

Gonzalez said the party has the “wind in our sails,” but added that sexual harassment in the country and within the party is extremely serious.

“We need to take seriously what happened here,” she said regarding the events leading to Bittel and Boynton Brown’s resignations. “It’s an opportunity to do some of our own soul-searching and to make sure that we are not just talking the talk but walking the walk and allowing people to speak truth to power without having any retribution for that, and making sure to address any deficiencies that brought us to this moment.”

The election takes place Dec. 9.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons