Mitch Perry, Author at Florida Politics - Page 7 of 344

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

John Morgan brings his “talking tour” to St. Pete

Saying it was good to be back in “Charlie Crist country,” Orlando attorney/entrepreneur/celebrity John Morgan made an entertaining appearance at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club in St. Petersburg on Wednesday.

There, he discussed what he says is the very real possibility that he will pull the trigger next year and run for the Democratic nomination for governor.

As salty as ever, Morgan said he was absolutely not on a “listening tour,” as some candidates describe the early months of a potential candidacy, deriding that concept as “so much BS.”

“I’m on a talking tour,” he told the audience who assembled at the St. Pete Yacht Club. “I’m going to tell you everything I think. I may say two or things today that disqualify me, and that’s OK.”

The 61-year-old Lexington, Kentucky native has said previously that he won’t make a final decision on his political future until next spring, and with his high name recognition thanks to the ubiquitous “Morgan and Morgan” television ads that constantly air across the state of Florida and a personal banking fortune estimated at more than $100 million, it certainly makes sense.

Rick Scott, after all, didn’t get into the gubernatorial race in 2010 until the spring, and the rest is Florida political history.

A Florida Chamber of Commerce poll released Wednesday shows Morgan currently to be the most popular Democrat in the field, leading former Congresswoman Gwen Graham by eight percentage points, 23 percent-15 percent.

However, 44 percent have yet to make up their mind for the Democratic primary, which won’t take place until slightly less than 11 months from now.

Referring to the tragedy at the North Hollywood assisted living facility which lost air conditioning during Hurricane Irma, causing 10 seniors to perish due to excessive heat, Morgan blasted “tort reform” efforts by the state Legislature, where lawsuits at such facilities are capped at $250,000.

Morgan—the father of 2016’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment—said it’s inevitable that recreational pot will become legal from sea to shining sea in the future. The latest policy proposal that he’s working to get on the 2020 ballot would be a $14 hourly ‘living wage’ in Florida.

He’s also passionate about getting the right of nonviolent ex-felons to get their rights restored. When asked by a woman during the Q&A portion of the meeting why not even those who commit violent felonies pay their debt to society, Morgan said politics was about the art of compromise, and extending that proposal to include violent offenders will never pass in Florida.

He maintained that pragmatic stance when talking about guns, an incendiary issue between gun control advocates and most of the GOP-led Legislature in Florida, which continues to press for more unfettered access to guns, including on college campuses and airports (though to no avail in recent years).

“I’m not a gun guy,” he declared. “I don’t care about guns. Just don’t let crazy people have them.”

As part of his platform for criminal justice reform he derides private prisons, saying that their business model requires that they be filled up, so the companies that own them can make money.

He called public school teachers “heroes,” and blasted what he said was the Legislature’s war on public education. Morgan said the results from the charter school experiment were “terrible” and that it allowed the rich to prosper at the public’s expense.

Speaking of the rich, Morgan called himself the “ultimate capitalist” but also a “compassionate capitalist.” He said he believed in a separation of church and state, but said he didn’t believe that people could separate themselves from their beliefs.

“I believe that the God that I pray to lives not up there but in you and in you and in you. I believe that when I see somebody’s hungry, or begging, or without shelter, I’m not looking at a deadbeat, I’m looking at God, and that’s the only way that I can live and love God, to love people and love God.”

Morgan mused about some of the other candidates who have already declared their candidacies for governor. He joked that he needed Clearwater state Senator Jack Latvala in the race. “I need someone bigger than me,” he said of the Clearwater Republican. “I can’t be the fat guy in the race.”

Morgan is off to his home state of Kentucky, where he’s been hired by Attorney General Andy Beshear to sue the manufacturers of opioids, an option that Florida lawmakers have yet to publicly consider.

Many political observers say that Donald Trump’s electoral victory in Florida and in the Electoral College last November is a blueprint that the politically incorrect Morgan could follow to the Governor’s Mansion. He addressed the comparison only once during his speech.

“Some people say ‘if Trump can do it, you can do it!’ ” he said, pausing dramatically. “I don’t take that as a compliment.”

Vern Buchanan says aid for citrus growers will be part of new hurricane relief bill

Help is on the way to Florida’s citrus growers who have seen crops devastated by Hurricane Irma.

That’s according to Sarasota Congressman Vern Buchanan, who says House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady assured him that his legislation — the Emergency Citrus Disease Response Act — will be part of the next hurricane relief package Congress will consider next month.

“The chairman is very aware of the crisis facing orange growers in Florida, Texas, California and other states,” Buchanan said. “I’m pleased [with] his dedication and commitment to help the thousands of farmers who are struggling with crops destroyed by the hurricanes.”

The Florida Department of Citrus estimates that 30 to 70 percent of Florida’s citrus crop was destroyed by the impact of Irma ripping up the state earlier this month. Buchanan’s bill would make it less costly for growers to replace trees damaged by Irma or by citrus greening. The bill will provide tax incentives for farmers who can’t afford to replace damaged trees.

Under current law, growers are allowed an immediate deduction for the cost of replanting trees, but the farmer must bear the full cost. Buchanan’s proposal would allow struggling farmers to use this deduction even if they bring in investors to raise capital for replanting costs, as long as the grower continues to own a significant stake in the grove.

Congress already has passed one $15 billion hurricane aid bill and is expected to pass another tomorrow helping families and individuals recover through temporary tax relief. Buchanan’s measure will be added to a third aid bill next month.

Florida’s citrus industry was already in decline thanks to citrus greening, the debilitating disease which causes bitter and deformed fruits that were first diagnosed in Florida in 2005. It has reduced Florida’s orange and grapefruit revenue by $4.64 billion, according to Jacqueline Burns, the dean for research at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The price for orange juice is expected to rise nationally due to Irma, with predictions of prices rising as much as $2.30 more for a gallon of orange juice.

Yvonne Fry blasted in HD 58 race for ‘insufficiently conservative’

Two weeks before the primary, the Republican race is becoming more intense between Yvonne Fry and Lawrence McClure for the House District 72 special election.

In the past week, two mailers sent by outside groups blasting Fry have made their way into eastern Hillsborough County mailboxes.

One came from the Orlando-based “Ax The Tax” political organization led by Doug Guetzloe and describes Fry as a tool for Tallahassee special interests. It says that she has been silent on issues such as increasing local taxes, moving the Confederate monument from a county courthouse, and opposing light rail.

“We believe Fry to be the quintessential political insider who will not advance the conservative interests of the district in Tallahassee,” Guetzloe said Tuesday. “Conversely, we believe Mr. McClure will be a conservative star in the Florida Legislature.”

Responding to the charges, Fry said she has never been for light rail, calling it inappropriate.

However, back in May of 2016, Fry told the Tampa Bay Times’ Ernest Hooper that as a member of the Plant City EDC, she was part of a letter declaring their full support of the Go Hillsborough transit tax initiative, which included a light rail component.

“The Plant City EDC (Economic Development Corp.) wrote a letter stating we’re in full support of the (Go Hillsborough) initiative,” Fry said. “Plant City has been the city of no, if you will, but our understanding of our spot at the table and our future is so dependent on seeing transportation as an investment in our infrastructure and not a tax. We need to be part of the solution and being part of crafting the regional design. We need to see that just because we aren’t getting rail, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect the outcomes of our quality of life and how it all fits together. To me, a piece of this is educating women on how transportation affects them, how their lives would be different if we had better transportation solutions.

Regarding the Confederate monument debate, Fry says she is actually on the record on that issue, noting that both she and McClure were asked about it at the Plant City Republican Women’s Club. “Our history is our history,” she said. “I don’t think that they should be moved.”

“I think we should learn from our history,” she said, adding that there are too many other issues ongoing that she’d rather spend her time and energy.

A second mailer from the recently formed “Hillsborough County Conservatism Counts” declares that “Yvonne Fry is against lowering property taxes,” while arguing that she opposes a proposed expansion of the homestead exemption.

“Simply stated, Yvonne Fry said she is against increasing the homestead property tax exemption,” the mailer reads, while also describing her as “liberal.”

On this charge, Fry’s response is more nuanced.

She says she’s a “huge proponent” of cutting taxes, but believes that the constitutional amendment was a “political ploy” and not appropriate for the state to tell local officials how to run their governments.

“The state should be cutting state taxes,” she says. “I think it was all political,” adding that Hillsborough County’s government announced an immediate hiring freeze in anticipation of lower revenues coming in 2019.

Fry says that despite her misgivings about the proposal, she says she’ll vote for it next year.

“It’s a tax cut,” she says. “I’m for those.”

According to documents filed with the Florida Division of Elections, “Hillsborough County Conservatism Counts” is chaired by Ash Mason. He did not return our request for comment.

McClure, a Dover businessman, said that he was focused on getting out his message, offering no comment on the mailers.

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Democrat Margaret Good qualifies by petition for HD 72 race

Democrat Margaret Good qualified for the House District 72 special election Tuesday by submitting more than 400 petitions from local supporters.

“I’m proud of the effort our team organized in a matter of days to garner the support of hundreds of voters from around the district,” said Good, a Sarasota-based attorney. “The response we’ve seen from voters demanding new, progressive leadership in Tallahassee has been overwhelming.”

“Over the course of the past week, I have met so many of the incredible people who call this district home. I have listened to their ideas and appreciate the encouragement they have given me,” Good continued. “I thank all of the volunteers who walked the district with me and collected petitions from their family and friends. We are going to win this election by working together!”

Good is one of two Democrats filing for the seat that suddenly became available after Republican incumbent Alex Miller abruptly stepped down last month.

The other Democrat in the contest is businesswoman and community activist Ruta Jouniari, who like Good announced her candidacy last week. SPB reported Monday on some irregularities regarding Jouniari’s paperwork in filing for the office.

Much of the Democratic establishment appears to be coalescing around Good, however. In the news release announcing her candidacy, Democrats like House Minority Leader Janet Cruz,  future House Democratic leader Kionne McGhee and former Sarasota County Democratic Party Chairwoman Christine Jennings all listed as endorsing her candidacy.

“Having worked side by side with her for years, it’s heartening to see our community embrace Margaret,” said Sarasota City Commissioner Hagen Brody in a statement. “She has what it takes to be a pragmatic and thoughtful advocate for Sarasota’s values in the Florida House.”

“I found great support for Margaret among friends who are fed up with how things are run in Tallahassee, particularly in today’s era of Trump,” adds Lou Grossman, a local Democratic precinct captain and volunteer. “With her credentials and commitment, she will make a great representative for District 72 and all of Florida.”

The Department of State confirmed Tuesday that by submitting 441 petitions — about a quarter more than the 305 required — Good is approved to appear on the December 5 Democratic primary ballot.

Realtor James Buchanan, the son of Congressman Vern Buchanan, has already raised $165,835 for the race. He’s set to square off against Alexandra Coe in the GOP primary December 5. The General Election is February 13.

Brian Mast says any NFL player who takes a knee ‘should already be gone’

A day after dozens of NFL players kneeled in silent protest during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” U.S. Rep. Brian Mast weighed in with own hot take on the simmering controversy.

“The NFL doles out penalties for celebrating a touchdown, but won’t require respect for our flag?” Mast wrote on Facebook Monday.

Mast served in Afghanistan as a member of the U.S. Army. In 2010, he stepped on an IED in Kandahar and lost both of his legs and one of his fingers in the blast. He referenced his military past in blasting the NFL players who opted not to stand during the playing of the anthem on Sunday.

“I have taken a knee after jumping out of a helicopter as we looked for the enemy, taken a knee in front of the Soldiers Cross as we mourned a fallen brother and taken a knee in church. Any player who has taken a knee to protest this great country during its anthem should already be gone,” Mast writes, adding, “To all my brothers and sisters still serving overseas: we stand with you!”

Mast is a freshman Republican who was elected to Florida’s 18th Congressional District last November. His sentiment is similar to several other Florida Republicans who have weighed in over the past 24 hours regarding the controversy, which has been ongoing for more than a year after former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick became the first player to sit during the anthem, saying that he was doing so to highlight how blacks are treated by the criminal justice system.

President Donald Trump ignited passions about the issue over the weekend when he called for such players who refuse to stand during the anthem to be fired and called them “sons of bitches.”

Jack Latvala says he sides with Donald Trump’s criticism of NFL players

After Tampa Bay Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans opted not to stand for the national anthem in protest of Donald Trump’s election, Pinellas state Sen. Jack Latvala said he would personally boycott Bucs games until Evans apologized or was cut from the team.

He is maintaining that stance after Evans and fellow Bucs wide receiver DeSean Jackson joined many of their NFL brethren on Sunday by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem. The protests were in response to Trump’s comments made Friday night that NFL owners who have players “disrespecting the flag” should “get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired.”

“A year ago, long before I became a candidate for Governor I called out the Bucs receiver who knelt for the national anthem,” Latvala wrote on his Facebook page Sunday night. “This is not a new issue for me and my attitude has not changed.”

Two NFL teams – the Seattle Seahawks and the Tennessee Titans – chose to protest by not even leaving their locker rooms while the national anthem was played in Nashville. The Pittsburgh Steelers did the same thing before their game in Chicago, with the exception of one player, offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva.

Latvala says he’s a fan of Villanueva.

“Thankfully we still have players like Alejandro Villanueva who stood up for our country on the battlefield and stood up for our flag today!” Latvala wrote.

The Clearwater Republican announced his candidacy for Florida governor last month, joining Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the race.

Putnam tweeted Sunday that he also agreed with the president comments about NFL players who refuse to stand for the anthem.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who is strongly considering running for governor, tweeted a photo of Villanueva showing his support for standing for the anthem. “This is what a hero looks like,” Corcoran wrote.

After Latvala criticized Evans last year, the receiver backed down, saying that he would no longer sit during the anthem. Evans was criticized by fans not only for refusing to stand for the anthem in protest of Trump’s election but for also admitting that he didn’t actually vote in the presidential contest.

However, this time, the Bucs receiver sounds like he won’t back down.

“When the president has singled out athletes, or African-American athletes, myself and my other colleagues that took a knee just have different beliefs than him,” Evans told the Tampa Bay Times Sunday. “It was very childish on his part. It seems like he’s trying to divide us. I think this is an opportunity for me to do what I can. A lot of guys around the league did it and I understand why.”

“People are going to misconstrue and turn it to make it depict a different picture than it really is,” Evans continued. “I love the military. Like I said last year when I sat, it’s nothing against the military at all. The anthem is different for other people. People say it’s unpatriotic. But it’s unpatriotic for the president not to respect our rights.”

As was the case last year, Latvala is attracting plenty of comments on his Facebook page for his stance on the issue — pro and con.

“I don’t appreciate or support the Bucs’ stance on this issue,” wrote Cherie Anne Gaynor. “I’m finished with them and probably all NFL teams and will try not to buy any of their sponsors’ products.”

“I appreciate people who stand by their beliefs,” wrote Adam Miguel Harvey. “You’re not getting my vote but thank you for it being vocal about the argument.”

Libertarian candidate Alison Foxall to qualify by petition for HD 72 seat

Libertarian candidate Alison Foxall says she will personally deliver nearly 500 signed petitions to the Sarasota Supervisor of Elections office Monday afternoon to qualify to run in the special election in House District 72.

Foxall is one of five candidates who have entered the race since freshman Republican Alex Miller abruptly announced her resignation a month ago. Republicans James Buchanan and Alexandra Coe and Democrats Ruta Jouniari and Margaret Good make up the rest of the field.

Foxall runs Gobble Logic, a digital web marketing agency, and was recently elected to the Libertarian Party of Florida‘s director-at-large position.

More than two dozen campaign volunteers went door to door collecting petitions over the past ten days to get the 305 signatures required for Foxall to qualify.

“It was challenging,” Foxall said about gathering the petitions signatures. “When we started petitioning, I didn’t have power restored yet at my home, thanks to Irma. But my team and I persevered and got the job done. I knocked on a lot of doors this weekend, sometimes in the rain. Many people that I talked to were excited, not only because I’m not a part of the old establishment Republican and Democrat parties, but also because I was genuinely their neighbor down the road.”

The primary election for HD 72 will take place December 5, with the general election to follow on February 13.

The deadline for candidates to enter the race is Sept. 28.

Ruta Jouniari becomes second Democrat to join HD 72 contest

Sarasota businesswoman, philanthropist, and community activist Rita Jouniari announced her candidacy for the special election in the House District 72 seat, becoming the second Democrat to join the race.

A Boston native, the 50-year-old Journiari has worked for much of her career in health care, beginning with Aetna U.S. Healthcare.

She founded the International Staffing Group, back in January of 2004. It’s a recruiting agency that places aviation personnel globally.

In 2016, she founded Universal Crescent Clinic, a free Sarasota healthcare clinic staffed by volunteers that provides care for those without insurance in Sarasota, Manatee, Desoto, and Charlotte counties.

Jouniari joins Margaret Good in the Democratic primary.

House District 72 was won handily last November by Republican Alex Miller, who abruptly announced a month ago that she was resigning from her seat, citing family and business reasons.

Realtor James Buchanan, the son of Congressman Vern Buchanan, has announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for the seat. Republican Alexandra Coe and Libertarian Alison Foxall has also entered the contest.

The Democratic primary takes place on December 5, with the general election scheduled for February 13, 2018.

David Jolly, Patrick Murphy ready to take their act on the road

While he’s not sure if he will attempt to resume his political career by running against Charlie Crist in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, former Republican congressman David Jolly says he will be part of another campaign in the future – a GOP effort to block Donald Trump from being renominated in 2020 as the party’s presidential nominee. Read more

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