Ryan Ray, Author at Florida Politics - Page 2 of 95

Ryan Ray

Ryan Ray covers politics and public policy in North Florida and across the state. He has also worked as a legislative researcher and political campaign staffer. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

Another day, another position on guns for Darren Soto

At first blush, Sen. Darren Soto joining other Orlando-area lawmakers in calling for a Special Session to implement new restrictions on firearms purchases make perfect sense.

After all, he’s a young Democrat from an urban Central Florida district who occasionally makes liberal noises when it comes to LGBT rights, women’s access to health care, and other relatively safe social issues.

So it stands to reason that in the wake of the Pulse nightclub massacre that has left Orlando traumatized and angry, Soto would take off the gloves and stand up for common-sense gun control measures like those proffered by the Democratic federal lawmakers Soto wishes to join.

Just one thing, though: Soto’s record on guns is about as conservative as a Democrat can get away with, and even to the right of many moderate Republicans.

In an appeal to supporters, Soto — who’s running for Congress to replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson in CD 9 — had tough words for the NRA, asking folks to help him “stand up to the gun lobby” by signing his petition to ban gun sales to anyone on the federal government’s “no-fly” and terrorist watch lists.

But only last year, Soto was singled out for praise by NRA past president and a lion of the Tallahassee gun lobby Marion Hammer for voting in favor of strengthening the state’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law.

No surprise for a Democrat right-leaning Sunshine State News called “about as good as conservatives can hope for” and “an ally on economic and fiscal issues more often than not” and which the left-leaning Florida Squeeze called “the poster child for conservative Democrats who seek higher office by running in safe Democratic seats backed by Republican money and the support of large elements of a bipartisan political establishment.”

Given his predilection for supporting other conservative causes, like charter school expansion, Soto often postures as standing with, Soto’s pro-gun stance shouldn’t surprise anyone.

But to stage a sudden about-face on the issue to capitalize on a tragedy? That’s too much opportunism to countenance even from a slippery pol like Soto.

See below for screen grabs that put Soto’s remarkable reversal on guns into perspective.

image (1)

Kathleen Peters to hold St. Pete fundraiser with Jeff Brandes

Rep. Kathleen Peters will look to infuse her House District 69 re-election campaign with a festive, craft beer-fueled fundraiser on Tuesday.

The Gulfport lawmaker will be hosted by fellow Pinellas Republican, Sen. Jeff Brandes at the Green Bench Brewing Company in St. Pete on Tuesday, June 21.

Peters is seeking a third term in the House in a moderate swing seat. She drew a Democratic challenger in Jennifer Webb in April, but expects local GOP support to rally around her.

The HD 69 seat includes Gulfport, Madeira Beach, Pinellas Park, South Pasadena, St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island and parts of St. Petersburg.

Maximum contributions are $1,000 under state law.

See below for the invitation:

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 9.40.11 AM

Democrats’ problems ousting Manny Diaz in HD 103 about to get worse

In a way, House District 103 is the Democrats’ Moby Dick.

The younger-skewing, heavily Hispanic district spanning parts of Miramar, Hialeah Gardens, and Medley elected President Barack Obama by a 10-plus-point margin in 2012.

The HD 103 seat straddles Broward and Miami-Dade counties, places Democrats need to plant their flag and hang their hats big-time if they’re ever going to get anything close to a majority again in Tallahassee.

Even CFO Alex Sink — a Tampa Bay politician with a Southern accent — got 47 percent of the vote there in the kind of low-turnout election Democrats always swear they’ll never face again in the midterms.

But they just can’t seem to get rid of Republican Rep. Manny Diaz.


Partly because Diaz is so well vetted and well loved by the community he serves.

After handily dispatching his opponents in 2012 and 2014, the second-term lawmaker went on to bring his district outsized influence as chair of the House’s education Choice & Innovation Subcommittee and vice chair of a key healthcare panel.

Diaz has also built a reputation locally as a sharp campaigner and a smart legislator Tallahassee leaders look to to run point on matters related to charter schools and K-12 curriculum issues.

And then there’s the flawed Democratic opposition.

After Democrat Benjamin De Yurre was handed a 58-to-42 shellacking in 2014, the Democrats’ next HD 103 hopeful appears she may be on a path for more of the same.

Coral Gables attorney Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich has raised just $40,000 to Diaz’s $243,000.

And state GOP insiders say it’s about to get even worse — institutional and local donor money will continue to come in at the same or great rates, sources say. Some Democrats, meanwhile, are reportedly feeling shaky about putting more money down for a seat they’re unsure they can keep in the D column in 2018.

And that’s not all.

FloridaPolitics began hearing this week Petkovich — or “IGP” as she’s known in political circles — may soon face charges of ethics violations over a contribution to the Hillary Clinton campaign she made using campaign contributions.

Combine these headaches with the pledged support of Speaker-to-be Rep. Jose Oliva, and you’ve got the makings of yet another South Florida district where the Republicans — “Donald Trump effect” or no — will continue to keep the GOP flag flying.

Gwen Graham co-sponsoring Bill Nelson’s gun purchase oversight bill

U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham may straddle the fence on some issues dear to progressives, but she came out on Thursday with a full-throated endorsement of Senate Democrats’ plan to notify the FBI when a suspected terrorist buys a firearm.

The bill’s main Senate sponsor is Florida’s senior Sen. Bill Nelson, who introduced the bill Wednesday in response to renewed political will to rein in guns following Sunday’s lethal mass shooting at a gay night club in Orlando.

“In the wake of the horrific terrorist attack against the LGBT community in Orlando, Floridians from across our state are demanding change. There is no one answer to solve the problem of gun violence in America — but that doesn’t mean Congress shouldn’t try to make our streets safer, to save lives, to prevent another tragedy like the Pulse shooting.” Graham said in a statement announcing the move.

“This is commonsense legislation that will help prevent suspected terrorists from attacking Americans, without infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens. I applaud Sen. Nelson for his leadership on this issue, and I’m proud to join him in this effort,” continued Graham.

Specifically, the bill would mandate anyone is, or who has been, under a terrorism investigation be entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which gun dealers now check when vetting a potential gun buyer.

The administrators of that background check list shall notify the FBI if someone on the list buys a gun, according to the proposed legislation.

Graham joins Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson of California in backing the law in the Republican-dominated House.

“We need to make sure that those responsible for our country’s security have all the information they need to help keep Americans safe,” said Thompson. “By alerting the FBI when individuals formerly under a terrorism investigation purchase guns or explosives, the FBI can determine if there is new cause for concern and, hopefully, intervene before tragedy strikes.”

The move may signal a shift in Graham’s political priorities. The bill is far more palatable to Florida’s statewide electorate she will try to woo as a gubernatorial in candidate in 2018 than it is to her constituents in the 2nd Congressional District seat she is vacating after 2016.

Joe Geller will not join SD 38 race vacated by Gwen Margolis

Rep. Joe Geller announced Wednesday he will not run for the state Senate in Miami-Dade County-based Senate District 38. He was exploring a run for the safe Democratic seat.

The announcement comes after Sen. Gwen Margolis declared she would not run for the seat, bringing her 2016 plans to an abrupt end.

“While serving in the Senate would certainly be a new challenge, particularly given the district itself, I will not be a candidate for Senate District 38,” said Geller in a statement.

“I am honored to serve the people of House District 100 as their Representative, and I am fully committed to seeking re-election to that position. I have a lot left to do as a member of the House, and I am dedicated to the ambitious agenda I have pursued for justice, equality, fairness, safety and prosperity,” said Geller.

He gestured toward the retirement of the “legendary” Margolis — who recently dropped her bid for the seat amid fallout from a disparaging comment she made about her opponents — as the impetus for his announcement.

Miami Rep. Daphne Campbell and self-funder Jason Pizzo are among the five candidates currently squaring off to replace Margolis in a Democratic primary.

Miami Beach Rep. David Richardson also announced this week he would take a pass on a Senate run in SD 38.

Geller’s safe Democratic seat consists mostly of Aventura, a large suburban city north of North Miami Beach.

Mary Thomas releases CD 2 TV ad promising to ‘tame the establishment’

In the latest among a procession of new ads in the district, Mary Thomas hit the North Florida television airwaves on Wednesday with her first campaign ad in the 2nd Congressional District race to succeed U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham.

The new 30-second spot, entitled “The Fight,” heralds the Scott administration attorney’s support for Donald Trump‘s presidential candidacy, congressional term limits, and a staunchly conservative approach to illegal immigration.

The ad is calibrated to a 2016 election where the mantle of outsider is coveted by Trump-style Republicans, recalling the 2010 midterms which birthed the Tea Party movement in Congress.

“Conservative Republican Mary Thomas wants to take on the career politicians who are destroying the America we love,” the ad intones. “Thomas will tame the establishment by passing term limits, eliminating the IRS and taking away special breaks for the powerful.”

The spot portrays Thomas talking to older, white rural voters in a dressed-down red plaid shirt as a narrator tosses off a laundry list of conservative talking points.

“Unlike weak-kneed politicians, Mary stands strong against amnesty,” the ad continues, referring to immigration reforms once contemplated by a bipartisan coalition of federal lawmakers which has since fallen apart.

“Politicians never seem to fight for us. Conservative Republican Mary Thomas will. Wife, mother, devout Christian. Mary Thomas for Congress,” the ad concludes.

The ad makes Thomas the fourth and final Republican to go on television in a hotly contested GOP primary. Former U.S. Attorney Ken Sukhia, Fort White businessman Jeff Moran, and Panama City urologist Neal Dunn have all hit the airwaves so far in CD 2, a seat redrawn amid redistricting which now stands as one of Florida’s most Republican-leaning.

See the full ad below:

Disney donates $1 million to One Orlando fund for victims of nightclub shooting

Tuesday, City of Orlando officials unveiled a new fund to support victims of last weekend’s deadly attack at a gay nightclub.

The One Orlando Fund will aid victims and survivors, their families, and various communities affected by the attack at the Pulse club on Saturday night, now the most lethal mass shooting in American history.

Stepping up to bankroll the fund: Disney, the area’s most influential business and cultural institution. City officials have confirmed the entertainment giant donated $1 million to kickstart the fund’s efforts.

“We are heartbroken by this tragedy and hope our commitment will help those in the community affected by this senseless act,” said Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

“With 74,000 cast members who call Orlando home,” Chapek said, referring to the park’s myriad employees, “we mourn the loss of the victims and offer our condolences to their families, friends and loved ones.”

According to a news release, Disney has also been working in coordination with other agencies and officials to provide assistance to other types of support. These include blood donations via OneBlood, and through an effort led by the city and the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association to provide temporary housing accommodations for the families and friends of the victims.

The fund — which supporters can donate to at OneOrlando.org — will go to a nonprofit called Strengthen Orlando, founded in 2009 to benefit “municipal purposes of the City of Orlando that will ultimately help strengthen our community.”

Ramon Alexander tops $150K in HD 8 fundraising, looks to take momentum into summer

Ramon Alexander continues to lead the way in the House District 8 Democratic primary to replace term-limited Rep. Alan Williams.

The nonprofit leader and former Florida A&M University student body president raised $3,120 during May fundraising, according to recently released campaign finance data. The modest haul takes him to about $155,000 raised overall.

For the first time during the 2016 cycle, state worker Dianne Williams-Cox slightly out-raised Alexander, bringing in $4,580 last month. But she also spent more than she took in (about $4,900) and has virtually no cash on hand. Combined with a $6,000 personal loan she made to her campaign in February, Williams-Cox has raised some $38,000 and spent $35,000.

Former aide to the Tallahassee mayor’s office Brad Johnson raised $1,400 while spending $3,700, for a total of $35,000 raised overall through June 1.

Meanwhile, Gretna City Commissioner Clarence Jackson also continued his exorbitant burn rate, raising $700 and spending $1,600. He has raised about $25,000 overall.

Alexander has also cemented his position as the clear favorite in HD 8 by way support from leading local and state Democratic constituencies, as well as institutional players like Disney-related companies and insurance interests.

No-party candidate Richard Allen Burns is also running for the seat, though he has so far reported raising zero campaign contributions or expenditures.

HD 8 takes in all of Gadsden County – the state’s only majority-minority county –  and the southern half of Tallahassee, including the state Capitol.

The district’s next representative is all but certain to be decided in the Democratic primary next August. The liberal-leaning district gave more than 70 percent of its votes to President Barack Obama in 2012.

Loranne Ausley extends fundraising advantage in HD 9, raising $34K in May

Loranne Ausley brought in another formidable fundraising haul as she campaigned for her old legislative seat in House District 9 during the month of May.

According to new campaign finance reports, the attorney and former lawmaker took in nearly $35,000 last month, $24,925 through her campaign account and $10,000 through an affiliated political committee called Florida 2020.

Republican Jim Messer is running against Ausley in the open swing seat, but was handily outraised again last month.

Messer, also an attorney by trade, brought in just shy of $6,000 last month. That raises his total 2016 fundraising to $108,953, about one third of what Ausley has raised.

Maximum $1,000 campaign checks came in to Ausley’s coffers from five separate Disney-related entities, the Beer Distributors’ Committee, the North Florida branch of the HCA chain of hospitals, a leading firefighers’ union, and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer‘s Moving Florida Forward PAC.

Ausley’s father DuBose Ausley — one of the most powerful lobbyists of the Florida Legislature’s so-called “Golden Era” under Gov. Reubin Askew in the 1970s and 80s — wrote the single $10,000 check raised by her committee in May, according to a new fundraising report.

Ausley also received more than $20,000 in in-kind contributions from the state Democratic Party, including $10,900 for opposition research, some $7,000 for campaign materials, and $1,700 for campaign staff.

HD 9 is the most Republican-leaning House seat currently held by a Democrat, and it’s trending more conservative every cycle. Conventional wisdom says the Rs could swoop in and flip the seat, but the GOP threat has been lagging behind this cycle.

Republican Peter Boulware put up a valiant fight against term-limited Democratic Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda in 2008, the last time the seat was open. Boulware lost by just 430 votes in a presidential year which saw President Barack Obama win by a healthy margin in Tallahassee.

David Richardson declines run in Gwen Margolis’ redrawn Senate seat, will seek House re-election

Though Rep. David Richardson had been making gestures toward a state Senate run amid speculation last year Sen. Gwen Margolis might retire, the second-term lawmaker said Monday he will decline a run for the now-open Senate District 38 seat.

Richardson will instead seek re-election in his current solidly Democratic House District 113 seat based in Miami Beach.

Richardson praised Margolis — the outgoing Dean of the Florida Senate, or its longest-serving member, and former president of the chamber from 1990-1992 — in a statement Monday.

“I commend and congratulate Sen. Gwen Margolis on her leadership and service to Miami-Dade County. She is a trailblazer in her own right and someone who helped paved the way for so many others and me,” said Richardson.

“I am humbled and honored by the many calls encouraging me to consider a run in the now-open Senate District 38. While I filed to run for the state Senate in early 2015, the newly drawn SD 38 is vastly different from the previous SD 35,” said Richardson, who was briefly mired in a tug-of-war over the seat with Senate candidate Andrew Korge.

“I am honored that the people of HD 113 have allowed me to be their voice in Tallahassee for the past four years. Today, I am committed more than ever to earn my re-election in HD 113 and continue to serve as a member of the Florida House of Representatives.”

“With the support of my constituents and my Democratic Caucus colleagues, I hope together we can break new barriers in the upcoming years. The journey ahead can once again be history-making and I am excited by the opportunity to be a uniting force as our community and state continue to be challenged,” said Richardson.

Margolis announced she was retiring from the Legislature last week, after reportedly disparaging her rivals for the seat, whom she called “three Haitians, some lawyer and some teacher.”

HD 113 includes Little Havana, the Miami Heat and Miami Marlins’ stadiums, and some of downtown Miami’s major government buildings.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons