Ryan Ray, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 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.

Ken Sukhia nabs Jeff Sessions endorsement in CD 2

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, a leading figure in today’s evolving Republican Party, endorsed former U.S. Attorney Ken Sukhia in his bid for Florida’s 2nd Congressional District on Monday.

“Today I announce my wholehearted endorsement and support for Ken Sukhia in his race for Congress because I have known him for decades to be a principled, tested and proven conservative” said Sessions.

The rock-ribbed southern Republican cited his past work with Sukhia on conservative social issues the Tallahassee attorney is putting at the center of his campaign to replace U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham.

“Ken and I fought shoulder-to-shoulder as fellow U.S. Attorneys in South Alabama and North Florida enforcing our immigration laws and prosecuting violent criminals and narco-terrorists. Since then, Ken has taken on Planned Parenthood, fought Obama’s efforts to weaken our criminal justice system and joined the legal battle to stop Obamacare,” said Sessions.

“I know Ken will be a reliable ally in Congress to help in the fight to preserve our founding principles because he’s been fighting for them his entire life. Having known Ken and his family for years, I can attest to his sincerity and his commitment to conservative principles. He is immediately prepared to enter the battle in Washington, because he has already proven himself on the front lines.”

Sen. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump competed fiercely for Sessions’ endorsement during the 2016 presidential primary. The nod could be a major step forward for Sukhia’s congressional campaign against three other GOP candidates in the redrawn CD 2, now one of the state’s most conservative.

Sukhia is running against Panama City urologist Neal Dunn, former Scott administration attorney Mary Thomas, and Fort White businessman Jeff Moran to assume the reins in the North Florida House seat.

Sukhia thanked Sessions for his endorsement in a statement Monday.

“Like me, Sen. Sessions realizes the stakes are extremely high in 2016. In the wake of the horrific terrorist attack in Orlando, Sen. Sessions knows that its more important than ever to elect a person who has fought on the front lines to put terrorists behind bars,” said Sukhia, who recently hit the TV airwaves with his first ad in May.

“Leaders in both parties have failed us and America is in serious trouble. It’s time we send a person to Washington with a proven lifetime record of fighting for conservative principles. I’ve dedicated my life to fighting for those causes and I am prepared to continue that battle on Day One in Congress.”

A statement from the Sukhia camp notes that some of the sprawling Panhandle CD 2 seat borders Alabama. Members from the Florida, Alabama, and Georgia delegations have worked together on regional issues in the past, though tensions over the ongoing so-called “water wars” have strained the relationship in recent years.

Planned Donald Trump speech to pivot from Hillary Clinton to terror, immigration following Orlando attack

Following the nation’s most deadly mass shooting which left 50 dead at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Donald Trump said Sunday he will change the subject of a planned Monday speech to address “this terrorist attack, immigration, and national security.”

Trump had originally planned to use the speech to present a litany of attacks against Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

According to senior Trump campaign staff, the presumptive GOP nominee was going to serve up a “charge sheet” against Clinton, including broadside attacks on her infamous private email server, her handling of the Benghazi consulate attack, and allegations the former secretary of state tried to silence women who may have been involved with her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

While Republican consultants and party leaders advised Trump to avoid the more personally tinged attacks, most of which date back decades, events have forced Trump to abandon the speech altogether.

Trump said in a statement Sunday he will instead continue a favored line of argument: the need to “get tough” on what he called radical Islamic terrorism and stem the tide of immigration from Muslim-majority countries.

Earlier in the day Trump said he “appreciated the congratulations” from supporters who said he was right to make Islamic terrorism a central focus of his campaign, and claimed credit for predicting more attacks would afflict the nation.

“What has happened in Orlando is just the beginning. Our leadership is weak and ineffective. I called it and asked for the ban. Must be tough,” Trump tweeted on Sunday.

In the statement, Trump fixated on the attacker’s Muslim and Middle Eastern origins, rather than his anti-gay views or his use of a legally purchased AR-15 assault rifle in the deadly dance club siege.

“The terrorist, Omar Mir Saddique Mateen, is the son of an immigrant from Afghanistan who openly published his support for the Afghanistani Taliban and even tried to run for president of Afghanistan,” said Trump. “According to Pew, 99 percent of people in Afghanistan support oppressive Sharia Law.”

Trump brandished those facts as evidence in favor of his notorious plan to ban Muslims from immigrating to the United States.

“We admit more than 100,000 lifetime migrants from the Middle East each year. Since 9/11, hundreds of migrants and their children have been implicated in terrorism in the United States,” said Trump. “Hillary Clinton wants to dramatically increase admissions from the Middle East, bringing in many hundreds of thousands during a first term — and we will have no way to screen them, pay for them, or prevent the second generation from radicalizing.

“If we do not get tough and smart real fast, we are not going to have a country anymore. Because our leaders are weak, I said this was going to happen — and it is only going to get worse. I am trying to save lives and prevent the next terrorist attack. We can’t afford to be politically correct anymore,” Trump continued.

Trump made no specific reference to the apparent anti-LGBT motivation behind the shooter’s attack.

Trump will give his revamped remarks on Monday at New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm’s College in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Meet Alex Barrio, Democrat running for House District 48

There are more than 300 candidates running for the 160 seats in the Florida House and Senate. And, try as we will, FloridaPolitics.com won’t be able to interview all of them. So we are asking every candidate, including incumbents, to complete a questionnaire we believe offers an interesting, albeit, thumbnail sketch of who they are and why they are running. If you are a candidate and would like to complete the questionnaire, email Peter@FloridaPolitics.com.

Today’s candidate spotlight features Alex Barrio, a Democrat for House District 48. Here he is in his own words.

Significant other? Kids?

Single and no children.

Education? Professional background?

UCF Class of 2007 (Bachelor’s in Poli Sci); Florida International University College of Law 2012. District Secretary November 2006- April 2007 (Rep. Scott Randolph), April 2007-February 2008 (Rep. Darren Soto), Legislative Aide for Rep. Tony Sasso (Feb-November 2008); Legislative Analyst, Florida Senate Democratic Caucus (December 2012-May 2015); Political Director, SEIU Local 1991 (May 2015-April 2016); Business Manager, You Should Run, LLC (April 2016-Present)

What was your first job?

Bresler’s Ice Cream in the Avenues Mall, Jacksonville, FL.

In 25 words or less, why are you running for office?

To make Florida a better place to live for everyone.

Did you speak with anybody in your political party before deciding on running? Receive any encouragement? From whom?

I spoke to a number of people involved in the political process and in the party, but because of the nature of my competitive primary and their current job roles I cannot name names. Everyone I spoke to was generally positive and excited.

Who do you count on for advice?

My business partner and general consultant at You Should Run, Dave Plotkin. Darren’s Soto’s campaign manager and one of my best friends on Earth, Christine Biron.

Who is your political consultant? Campaign manager?

Dave Plotkin is my consultant. I have two campaign coordinators, Jennifer Thelusma and Sol Ortega.

Who was the first person to contribute to your campaign? Why did they donate?

Chauncey Graham. He is a very good friend of mine and Tallahassee roommate during the 2016 Session while I was at SEIU. He donated because he believes in me and was one of the first people to say “You have to run. You have no choice. It’s your time. Do it.”

Who, if anyone, inspires you in state government?

The Senate Democrats I worked with from 2012 to 2015 are a great group. Senators Soto and Chris Smith will be dearly missed but Senators Oscar Braynon and Jeff Clemens are going to be excellent leaders. The caucus will be fun to watch as it potentially nears the majority in the next few years.

Why do people mistrust elected officials and what are you going to do about it?

People mistrust elected officials because so many of them make promises they cannot keep. The nature of our process is that change is hard so when you campaign on making huge changes that help people or affect their lives and then can’t deliver, your opponents hit you on that. Strong challengers hit you hard. Our current political climate is bitterly divided. Republicans and Democrats are always on the attack, doing and saying whatever they can to get even the slightest edge. As a voter, it’s hard not to feel like everything is terrible and the politicians are to blame. They are the parties are, for creating an environment of distrust and anger where there is no dialogue and compromising or finding solutions are impossible.

What am I going to do about it? I’m going to work at talking to as many voters as I can and let them know that I’m fighting for them. I’m going to build relationships with my Republican colleagues along with my Democratic friends and work the margins on the issues for Progressive ends. I’m going to honestly and earnestly try to be the best Representative as I can, always leaving an open door for anyone who wants to come and argue their points or their beliefs. I’m going to work every day to address the needs of my constituents and hopefully be an example to other elected officials that illustrates what people really want is someone who will listen to the people’s needs and try to address their concerns and always be honest about it.

What are 3 issues that you’re running on? (You’re not allowed to say education or “improving the schools”)

I am running to improve our education system every school in the state, in particular, the ones in my district, are excellent schools providing great services for every student. I am running to bring economic development dollars to improve and diversify the economy of my district, an economy that mostly relies on low-wage service jobs around the tourism industry. Finally, I am running to improve access to affordable healthcare. The legislature won’t pass Medicaid Expansion but what will they do? Balance Billing and Pricing Transparency is a small first step. What else do the Republicans have? What else are they willing to do to help working people get access to health insurance? (So, Education, Economic Development, and Healthcare Access)

What is a “disruptive” issue (i.e., ridesharing) you are interested in?

AirBnB. How are state and local governments to regulate them? Will they collect taxes? How will it work? How are the HOAs and Condo Associations dealing with it? What about insurance? It’s a fascinating issue with a lot of different moving parts. I could go on all day.

What does your legislative district need from Tallahassee?

Money. We’ve been neglected for years as dollars poured into UCF, downtown, and even Poinciana. We need some help to grow our economy and fix our schools.

Who was the best governor in Florida’s modern history?

Reubin Askew. He changed Florida for the better and was probably the first (and one of the only) truly Progressive Governors we’ve ever had. He was a fighter.

If you could amend the Florida Constitution, what would you change?

Automatic Restoration of Voting Rights and a fully Independent Redistricting Commission. I hope to see those on the ballot in the 2018-2020 elections anyway.

Are yard signs an important part of campaigning in your district?

Yard signs are never an important part of a campaign. They neither vote nor convince a voter to vote for you.

What’s the first thing you read each morning?


Where do you get your political news?

Politcal Wire, Daily Kos, and FloridaPolitics.com

Who do you think will be the next President of the United States?


60 Minutes or House of Cards?

60 Minutes (but really “Veep”)

Social media presence? Twitter handle?

Twitter @YourBarrioFL. Facebook https://www.facebook.com/yourbarrio/

In 140 characters, what’s a Tweet that best describes your campaign message?

Vote Barrio for a Better Florida.


Reading literature and political books (currently reading “What It Takes”), collecting political campaign buttons. I’m also a film buff but that’s on break until after the election.

Favorite sport and sports team?

Basketball. The Orlando Magic.

Frank Artiles, now officially on 2016 ballot, brings in $134K in May Senate fundraising

Miami Rep. Frank Artiles brought in another massive fundraising haul during the May reporting period, raising $92,801 last month through his campaign account and another $42,000 through an associated political committee called “Veterans for Conservative Principles.”

That brings his overall fundraising total to some $341,000 for his Senate District 40 account, according to recently released state campaign finance data. His war chest now contains around $272,000 in cash on hand in his campaign account and an additional $73,000 through his political committee.

The Republican lawmaker is forgoing another term in his House District 118 seat to challenge Democrat Sen. Dwight Bullard in the redrawn SD 40 seat, which contains parts of Miami-Dade County.

Bullard’s May reporting figures were not available as of Friday, but he raised $72,023 through May 1. Only around $22,000 of that remained unspent.

Besides Artiles’ tough challenge, however, Bullard faces another obstacle in 2016 — a primary challenge from recent GOP convert Ana Rivas Logan, who joined the race June 1.

Democratic insiders say Rivas Logan stands a better chance to defeat the well-funded Artiles, since they say the redrawn SD 40 favors Hispanic candidates more than African-American Democrats like Bullard.

Rivas Logan is not required to to file a campaign finance report until July 10. In the meantime, she will certainly try to stem the tide of institutional money currently flowing to Artiles.

Artiles’ stout fundraising report comes the same day as his campaign announced he has officially qualified for the 2016 ballot.

“I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of encouragement and support from my community,” Artiles said in a statement marking the occasion. “From the beginning of my campaign, I have stood for a platform that encourages lowering taxes that hurt American families and stifle small business growth, investing in education for Florida’s future generations, and protecting our seniors and families. This support proves our message is resonating in our South Florida community, and I look forward to continuing to meet with voters on the campaign trail.”


Florida campaign weekender for June 11-12

Friday, June 10

The Florida Society of Ophthalmology is holding its annual meeting in Orlando this weekend from Friday, Jun 10 until Sunday, June 12. Legislative issues are always at the center as they prepare to strategize ahead of 2016 elections and the 2017 Legislative Session. The event will take place at the The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes (4012 Central Florida Pkwy, Orlando)

Saturday, June 11

House District 108 candidate Francesca Menes will be knocking doors in a “day of action” event in Miami Shores. Supporters will gather at the Miami Shores Veteran’s Memorial Park at 10 a.m. (9308 NE 2nd Ave, Miami Shores).

The NOVA Republican Club will hold their Annual Picnic by the Bay this Saturday morning at 11 a.m. Rep. Greg Steube and other local GOP dignitaries will be on hand. The event will be held at the Maxine Barrett Pavillion (1800 Harbor Dr South, Venice)

The Lake Worth Democratic Club will meet to talk 2016 presidential politics and hear from Oscar Bahena, Field Organizer for the Democratic Presidential Combined Campaign. The meeting is set for 11 a.m. at Brogues Downunder Restaurant (621 Lake Avenue, Lake Worth).

Sen. Darren Soto and Rep. John Cortes are partnering with Farm Share to host a food distribution event in Kissimmee. According to the Democratic legislative duo, more than 65 percent of Orland0-area are impacted by the lack of publicly funded meals from free or reduced-cost meals children receive at public schools. The event is set to run from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Gateway High School (93 Panther Paws Trail, Kissimmee, 34744).

A group of Pinellas Democratic clubs will hold a candidates’ forum ahead of the August primary in House District 70. St. Pete City Councilman Wengay NewtonCJ Czaia, and Dan Fiorini are all confirmed to attend. The Gulfport Democratic Club, St. Petersburg Democratic Club, and South St. Petersburg Democratic Club are jointly hosting the event, set to kick off at noon at the Sanderlin Center (2335 22nd Ave S, St Petersburg).

Democratic Senate candidate Frank Alcock is hosting a house party meet and greet as the New College of Florida professor campaigns for Sarasota-based SD 23. Light snacks, beer, and wine will be served. The event is set for 5 p.m. at the home of Randy & Martha Wells (708 Tropical Circle, Siesta Key 34242).

Sunday, June 12

The campaign team of Rep. Matt Gaetz will be out and about speaking to voters in Destin and Pensacola this Sunday as he keeps his bid for Congress rolling in Northwest Florida’s CD 1. For more information, contact Ryan Smith at ryan@mattgaetz.com.

The Lake County Democratic Party will be canvassing for local candidates in Leesburg. Supporters will gather at 2 p.m. (1223 W. Main Street, Leesburg). Contact Kathy Williamson at uffda_fyda@yahoo.com, 352-460-2145 to her know you’ll be there or if you have questions.

Rep. Greg Steube will be participating in a Flag Day ceremony on Sunday. The event is set for 6 p.m. at the Sarasota National Ceremony (810 State Rd 72, Sarasota).

Edward James cracks $300K in HD 72 campaign, Alex Miller brings in $28K for May

Democrat Edward James surpassed the $300,000 mark during May fundraising in his campaign for House District 72, newly released campaign finance data shows.

James brought in $4,190 through his campaign account and $23,500 through an affiliated political committee, for a total of $305,328 raised overall since he joined the HD 72 race in June of 2015. Of that, some $263,000 remain on hand for the first-time candidate.

Republican Alex Miller, meanwhile brought in $28,907 last month, bring her total fundraising to $89,782. $50,000 of that came by way of a personal loan the health care executive made to her campaign when she entered the race in March.

Republican TV host John Miller, who threw his hat into the race last month, reported only a $5,000 personal campaign loan in an abridged May reporting period.

All three candidates are vying to replace Republican Rep. Ray Pilon, who left the HD 72 race earlier this year to pursue the Senate seat abdicated by outgoing Sen. Nancy Detert, who’s running for Sarasota County Commissioner.

Pilon had held the moderate swing seat from 2011, after ousting former Democratic Rep. Keith Fitzgerald in the 2010 Tea Party-inflected midterms.

Like many central Florida House districts, it favors Republicans more in gubernatorial “off” years than in Democratic-skewing presidential years, though Gov. Rick Scott narrowly lost the district to Charlie Crist in his 2014 bid to retake the governor’s mansion.

The race is shaping up to be one of the most expensive and competitive House campaigns in the 2016 cycle.

Gaming interests in SCOFL brief: Leave expansion amendment off the ballot

A group of dog racing track owners and other gaming interests filed a brief with the Florida Supreme Court on Friday urging Attorney General Pam Bondi and the high court to nix a proposed amendment to the state constitution that could expand gambling by allowing counties to hold referendums on the matter.

The amendment’s opponents — including the Jacksonville Kennel Club, Dania Entertainment, and Melbourne Greyhound Park, among others — argue the amendment would both hurt their financial interests and run afoul of state law.

In the 26-page brief, attorneys for the amendment’s opponents argue the amendment:

  • Violates the “single-subject” provision of the constitution by contemplating changes to multiple areas of law;
  • Contains misleading language, as Florida voters cannot “control” gaming as the amendment reads, only “authorize” it;
  • Creates confusion and uncertainty regarding the status of currently extant and pending slot machine licenses; and
  • Violates state law by not specifying whether the changes would apply retroactively or not.

The brief accuses amendment proponents of greedily “logrolling” via the amendment’s language, or inappropriately trying to achieve multiple changes to state law via just one ballot initiative, which is prohibited.

“The Gambling Amendment includes two competing subjects which may appeal to voters with different and conflicting preferences,” lawyers for the opponents wrote. “This is textbook logrolling and is in clear violation of the single-subject requirement of the Florida Constitution.”

The brief, which can be found here, was filed by attorneys from the Tallahassee-based Lockwood Law Firm.

Jeff Moran flaunts outsider cred in first CD 2 campaign ad

Jeff Moran has hit the airwaves in a hotly contested GOP primary in the 2nd Congressional District race to replace U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham.

In the Ft. White businessman’s first ad — a one-minute spot entitled “Hands On” — Moran seeks to grasp the mantle of consummate outsider in a 2016 election cycle where polished, traditional politicians are out of fashion.

The ad portrays his opponents as business-as-usual pols while emphasizing his own downtown background as a former policeman and owner of an automotive body shop.

“Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: two lawyers and a lobbyist are running for Congress,” opens Moran in a dig against former U.S. Attorney Ken Sukhia, former Scott administration lawyer Mary Thomas, and Panama City urologist Neal Dunn, who once lobbied on behalf of the Florida Medical Association. “Unfortunately, that’s no joke.”

The ad was filmed inside Moran’s shop and includes sweeping shots of American muscle cars. It portrays Moran taking a break from working on a red Ford Mustang to talk about his run for Congress.

“Yes, I actually produce something,” says Moran.

The ad is in keeping with Moran’s “back to basics” campaign theme.

“I’m a blue collar conservative,” Moran told fellow Republicans at a campaign stop in Bay County. “I live this.”

The campaign to take back the redrawn CD 2 seat — now one of the state’s most conservative — has focused as much on identity as on issues. While Sukhia and Thomas have tussled over who is more conservative, Moran’s gambit seems to be an appeal to social class.

The sprawling Panhandle district’s next representative will all but certainly be decided in the Republican primary. Term-limited Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda has floated the possibility of running as a Democrat, but would face steep odds in a seat experts say favors Republicans by 20 points or more.

The GOP primary is Aug. 30.

See below for Moran’s new ad in full:

Dane Eagle posts $37K in May fundraising in HD 77

Rep. Dane Eagle does not currently face an opponent in his House District 77 re-election bid, but the Cape Coral Republican isn’t taking any chances.

The second-term lawmaker brought in $37,575 from more than 50 contributions during May, according to newly released campaign finance data.

Those included 18 contributions of $1,000, the legal maximum for state legislative campaigns.

Among those were checks from Rep. Dana Young‘s political committee, his own “Conservative Coalition for Florida’s Future” committee, Koch Industries, and the law and lobbying firm Becker & Poliakoff.

The haul brings Eagle’s fundraising totals to $113,461 for the 2016 cycle, with nearly $38,000 of that remaining on hand.

The May fundraising activity marks Eagle’s first contributions since January, before the 2016 Legislative Session. Legislators are prohibited from accepting donations during the annual lawmaking period.

Eagle announced his campaign kickoff last month with a fundraiser in Cape Coral co-hosted by Gary Aubuchon, a former state representative and the president of Aubuchon Homes; Brian Rist, the president and CEO of The Smart Companies; Michel Doherty, a prominent Lee County political supporter and Lee County Tax Collector Larry Hart.

Democrat Graham Madison Morris had originally planned to challenge Eagle but has since exited the race, giving Eagle a clear path to re-election in the conservative-leaning HD 77.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons