Peter Schorsch – Page 4 – Florida Politics

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, Florida Politics, Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of the quarterly INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, SaintPetersBlog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

Last Call for 5.8.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

First on #FlaPol …

Onlookers have been wondering for weeks when House Speaker Richard Corcoran would do the expected and put his name in the hat to be Florida’s next Governor.

After millions raised and millions spent testing the water for a potential statewide run, his announcement is sure to be a shocker: He isn’t running, he’s endorsing Adam Putnam.

That’s according to multiple sources close to one or both men.

Corcoran will join Putnam at a news conference at the Florida Association of REALTORS® at 9:30 a.m.

Supporters of Putnam are already excited by the news of the Speaker joining their team.

“The Speaker has long been identified as closer in ideology with Ron DeSantis, so for him to join our team is a very big win,” said one Putnam booster.

We’ll have more details about this developing story on FloridaPolitics.com and in Sunburn.

Evening Reads

Florida politicians react to Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from Iran nuke deal” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics

Deep in the heart of Rick Scott’s Texas connections” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Fox News plays kingmaker in Florida governor’s race” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Why Chris King is still a contender” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

Belinda Keiser files to run for Joe Negron’s state Senate seat” via Sunshine State News

At height of opioid crisis, some Florida treatment programs face deep cuts” via John Kennedy of GateHouse Capital Bureau

Gambling rule takes aim at controversial card games” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida

Citizens Insurance board OK’s $1 billion-plus reinsurance plan” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics

Detective: Officer’s statement doesn’t match tape of killing” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press

A split-second decision saved his life in the Parkland shooting. The trauma haunts him.” via Chabeli Herrera of the Miami Herald

Quote of the Day

“Our teachers are doing an extraordinary job. They want respect, they want to be honored, and they want to be treated like the professionals that they are. That includes pay.” — Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic candidate for Governor Andrew Gillum. Today was “Teacher Appreciation Day.”

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

The Florida Chamber of Commerce will make a “special announcement” with CFO Jimmy Patronis, expected to be an endorsement of his 2018 campaign. That’s at 10:30 a.m., La Segunda Central Bakery, 2512 North 15th St., Tampa.

Members of the St. Lucie County legislative delegation will discuss the 2018 Legislative Session during a luncheon hosted by the St. Lucie County Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County, the St. Lucie County Educational Foundation and the law firm Dean Mead. That’s at 11:30 a.m., Club Talavera at Verano, 10291 S.W. Visconti Way, Port St. Lucie.

Florida Constitution Revision Commission members Jeanette Nunez, Frank Kruppenbacher and Brecht Heuchan are slated to speak to the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida. That’s at noon, Country Club of Orlando, 1601 Country Club Dr., Orlando.

Ned Lautenbach, chairman of the State University System’s Board of Governors, and Syd Kitson, the vice chairman, will meet to discuss the system’s operations. That’s at 1 p.m., 42881 Lake Babcock Dr., Suite 200, Babcock Ranch.

Gov. Scott, as part of his campaign for U.S. Senate, will highlight a proposal of his “Make Washington Work” Plan that requires a two-thirds vote of each chamber of Congress to approve any tax or fee increase. That’s at 3:30 p.m., PGT Innovations, 1070 Technology Drive, North Venice.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, will hold a “Brews with Brandes” fundraiser for his re-election campaign. That’s at 5:30 p.m., Green Bench Brewing Co., 1133 Baum Ave., St. Petersburg.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will hold one in a series of public workshops about issues related to stone-crab and blue-crab fisheries. That’s at 6 p.m., Crystal River City Hall, 123 N.W. Highway 19, Crystal River.

Florida politicians react to Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from Iran nuke deal

President Donald Trump is following through on his campaign threat and withdrawing the U.S. from the landmark nuclear accord with Iran.

The president has long criticized the 2015 agreement, which lifted most U.S. and international sanctions against the country. In return, Iran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear program making it impossible to produce a bomb, along with rigorous inspections.

The decision deals a profound blow to some of America’s closest allies — including Britain, France and Germany, who joined the U.S. only three years ago to sign the deal.

Here’s how Florida politicians are reacting to the announcement:

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson:

“We need to put more pressure on Iran with additional economic sanctions to stop them from developing their ICBM missiles. But pulling out of this deal now is a tragic mistake. It will divide us from our European allies and it will allow Iran to build a nuclear bomb within a year, instead of preventing it for at least 7 to 12 years.”

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio:

“I’m glad that President Trump decided today to withdraw from the flawed Iran nuclear deal and impose crippling economic and financial sanctions against the Iranian regime.

“This agreement was so bad that bipartisan majorities in both chambers of Congress voted against it after the last Administration refused to submit it as a legally-binding treaty under the Constitution. The deal enriched Iranian regime and empowered it to destabilize the Middle East. Instead of using the deal’s financial windfall to benefit the Iranian people, Iran’s mullahs aggressively built up their ballistic missile program, boosted their support to Hezbollah terrorists and Syria’s Assad regime, and escalated domestic repression.

“After Israel’s recent revelations of Iran’s secret archive of nuclear weaponization plans, the American people deserve better than a bad deal that paves the Iranian terror regime’s path to nuclear weapons. And the Iranian people deserve better as they continue to suffer under the regime’s criminal corruption, economic mismanagement, and system-wide human rights abuses.”

Governor Rick Scott:

“Last week I called on President Trump to withdraw from the reckless deal because it is naïve to think that the same people who chant ‘death to America’ and vow to destroy the entire state of Israel will be honest and play by the rules. Israel is our friend and our ally and I am always going to stand with them – not those that wish harm against Israel. The president made the right move today by scrapping the Iran Deal and re-imposing sanctions against the Iranian regime. The deal has done very little to stop Iran from staying on the path of developing a nuclear weapon, and a nuclear Iran is a dangerous proposition to the United States, Israel, and our other allies in the region. I look forward to the Administration pursuing ways to make sure we keep these weapons out of the hands of the Iranian regime.”

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist:

“Iran promotes violence and terrorism throughout the Middle East and around the world. Their development of ballistic missiles and human rights violations must continue to be addressed and dealt with severely.

“Tearing up the Iran deal, an international agreement to block their efforts to gain a nuclear weapon, is short-sighted and misguided. It divides the international coalition created to hold Iran accountable to a robust compliance regime and does nothing to advance U.S. interests. President Trump’s decision to withdraw from this agreement undermines America’s credibility, strengthens the hand of pro-nuclear weapon hard liners in Iran, and makes the Middle East an even less stable place.”

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, via Twitter:

“POTUS has consistently & correctly recognized Obama-Khamenei nuclear agreement as a disaster. Hope he allows domestic sanctions against Iran to be imposed. Won’t fully rectify mistake of the deal but can be start of an approach that holds Iran accountable for malevolent actions.”

U.S. Rep Ted Deutch:

“I regret the President’s decision to weaken American leadership around the globe.

“I have expressed my concerns about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but I have been clear that American leadership is necessary for the vigorous enforcement of its terms. Nothing in the deal precludes us from going after Iran’s dangerous non-nuclear activities. But unilaterally walking away from the JCPOA will not help stop Iran’s pursuit of ballistic missiles, nor will it give access for inspectors to sites of concern, and it won’t extend the length of the restrictions under the JCPOA.

“This isn’t how we ‘get tough’ on Iran. In fact, President Trump’s decision today makes it harder to exert American leadership and influence on all of the dangerous things Iran continues to do outside the scope of the deal. To stop Iran from developing and testing ballistic missiles and to crackdown on its support for terrorism, we should lead our allies on the imposition of tough multilateral sanctions. To stop Iran’s human rights abuses and its hostage taking of foreign nationals, including my constituent Bob Levinson, we should lead our allies in a broad coalition to exert significant pressure on the Iranian regime.

“We walk away from this deal alone, losing visibility into Iran’s nuclear activities and losing our ability to make sure the deal is being enforced in the strictest manner possible. By casting aside our allies we lose their trust and weaken our position to lead the international community in preventing Iranian nuclear weapons, stopping Iran’s destabilizing behavior, and on other pressing global security issues.

“Now that the President has chosen to pull the US out of the JCPOA, he must explain to Congress, the American people, and the world what is his plan to ensure Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon? How will we prevent Iran from continuing to destabilize the Middle East and threaten our national interests and the security of our allies?

“As the President chooses to walk alone, Congress must continue to work with our allies to stop Iran from exporting terror, pursuing ballistic missiles, violating human rights, and ensuring it never acquires a nuclear weapon. Unfortunately, the President’s decision today is an abdication of American leadership and trust.”

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart:

“I strongly support the Trump Administration’s withdrawal from the reckless and dangerous Iran deal, a serious threat to our national security that finances global terrorism.  I voted against the deal in 2015 because it did nothing to prevent Iran’s development of missiles, nor would it permanently end its nuclear weapons program.  As I said after that vote, the Iran deal paved the way for a dangerous state sponsor of terrorism to achieve what it wanted most – nuclear weapons, and the means and funds to deliver them.

“Since then, the deal has provided legitimacy and millions in economic relief to a murderous, oppressive regime that opposes U.S. interests and threatens America’s allies.  Iran continues to assist its terrorist proxies and international terrorist networks, directly endangering U.S. soldiers and America’s allies, has exacerbated violence in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, as well as instability in Lebanon.  Additionally, Iran has continued developing its missile arsenal, launching over 20 ballistic missiles since the deal was signed in 2015.

“I commend the Trump Administration for taking this bold step to withdraw from this reckless deal that poses a threat to the United States, and for standing with our close ally Israel.  The regime in Iran cannot be trusted, and today’s withdrawal gives the United States and our allies a chance to forge a better path toward global stability and a nuclear-free Iran.”

U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn:

“I stand with President Trump in his decision to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal. Iran has a proven record of state-sponsored terrorism and human rights abuses. Ensuring Iran does not have nuclear capabilities should remain a top priority. Unfortunately, the Iran nuclear deal did nothing to hinder the country’s ability to obtain these weapons and they continue to enrich uranium, which is explicitly forbidden in the deal.

“Further, President Obama entered into this agreement as an executive action behind closed doors and it was not a treaty. It was never voted on in the Senate. It has done nothing to inhibit this terror-ridden regime in Iran from causing terror and unrest throughout the world.

“I commend President Trump for keeping his promise and I continue to support stronger sanctions against Iran. We can and should make a better deal.”

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz:

“The Iran Nuclear Deal struck under the Obama administration essentially paved a yellow cake uranium brick road for Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. From its inception, the JCPOA was a fatally flawed deal that should have never been made and has never served the best interest of the American people or our allies. I fully support President Trump’s decision today to withdraw the United States from the Iran Nuclear Deal, as well as his ability and foresight to build a new structure that will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast:

“President Trump clearly understands the importance of many issues that the Obama Administration chose to ignore.  The government of Iran, by their own admission, wants America and Israel destroyed.  But this historically bad deal provided a clear pathway for Iran to expand its nuclear weapons program, and Iran has boldly declared that, despite the deal, they can kick-start and produce enriched uranium within two days.

“The sanctions lifted under the deal have emboldened Iran and given them access to more than $100 billion in previously frozen assets.  With the help of that money, Iran is colonizing the Middle East through their terror arm Hezbollah.  They have imprisoned U.S. citizens, taken our sailors hostage and fired rockets towards our Navy.  And a parade of concessions by the Obama Administration empowered Iran to test-launch more than a dozen ballistic missiles and threaten to use those same missiles to strike U.S. military bases.

“President Trump’s decisive action today is a much needed first step in the long road to undoing the damage caused by President Obama, Secretary Kerry, Secretary Clinton and their foreign policy advisors.   No deal with Iran is far wiser than a bad deal.”

U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross:

“The Iran Deal, agreed to by the previous administration without the consent of Congress, empowered Iran to continue its pursuit of terror and human rights abuse throughout the region. Rife with secret side agreements that jeopardize the safety of Americans both abroad and within our homeland, I welcome President Trump’s decisive action to withdraw from this deeply flawed deal, and to reimpose sanctions on the Iranian regime.”

“Iran is the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. We must hold them accountable, both now and moving forward.”

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz:

“President Trump’s misguided decision to violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action will make it considerably more difficult to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, which would present an unacceptable threat to our national security and the security of the State of Israel. While the deal isn’t perfect, it has placed verifiable limits on Iran’s nuclear program, and top Trump Administration officials have acknowledged that Iran is compliant with its obligations under the agreement.

The U.S. recklessly walking away from the deal, with no apparent plan in its place, provides the dangerous Iranian regime the freedom to immediately ratchet up its nuclear activity. I will work with my colleagues in Congress to fill the leadership void that the President has created on this global security issue.

We must continue to work with our allies and partners to redouble our efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and to continue to counter Iran’s other nefarious activity in the region. Regrettably, the President’s decision today is a step in the wrong direction, and I worry it will prove to be a mistake with grievous consequences.”

Belinda Keiser’s Democratic donations may trouble SD 25 Republican voters

Keiser University Vice Chancellor Belinda Keiser announced her bid for Senate District 25 Tuesday, but her past political contributions to Democrats should raise some questions about her attractiveness to Republican primary voters.

SD 25, held by exiting Senate President Joe Negron, covers St. Lucie and Martin counties as well as a piece of northern inland Palm Beach County.

Keiser University’s home base is also in Fort Lauderdale, though it has campuses all over the state, so a donation or two to Democrats in the largely blue South Florida county could be spun by Keiser as being pragmatic — in the age of Donald Trump, she may well say it’s evidence that “our system is broken” and, as a businesswoman, she had to do it.

That might serve as adequate cover for her donation to U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, who represents Keiser’s Parkland home in Congress. Ditto for her contribs to CD 20 U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, whose district includes Keiser University’s main campus, or Debbie Wasserman Shultz, who represents neighboring CD 23.

That same logic could apply to the checks she wrote former U.S. Reps. Peter Deutsch, Ron Klein and Robert Wexler, but at that point the “had-to-do-it” column is overfilled to the point of bursting.

Assuming Republican voters can look past those, which is a big ask, there’s a veritable host of candidates Keiser has supported that simply won’t be glossed over.

Keiser has cut checks to the failed presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Al Gore, to St. Petersburg U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. To top it all off, she’s donated to the Democratic National Committee and former California U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Sure, Charlie was a Republican once. And yes, he’s one of the Sunshine State’s most likable pols — he could teach a masterclass in retail politics. But that kind of logic won’t play well among Rick Scott voters. Same goes for Nelson. It doesn’t matter that SD 25 voters re-elected him by 10 points in 2012 — Keiser’s task of making them remember that is doomed in an election year where Nelson is standing in the way of a Scott Senate campaign.

And those Clinton and Gore donations. Yeesh. That’s going to be a hard one to sell in a district that voted overwhelmingly for Trump.

Then there’s the donations to Boxer and the DNC. There is simply no way to sidestep those.

A Republican who gives to their Democratic congressman? Fine. No GOP candidate is going to take down Deutch, anyway. A Republican who prefers Clinton to Trump? Not the best look in a primary campaign, but she’s definitely not alone on that one.

But in what world is someone who cuts checks to the DNC and boosts the campaign accounts of out-of-state Democrats considered anything other than a Democratic fundraiser? Not this one.

Good luck, Belinda. You’ll need it.

James Grant raising funds tonight at Tampa Theatre

Republican Rep. James Grant will hold a fundraiser for his House District 64 re-election campaign in Tampa on May 8.

The event will be held at the Tampa Theatre, 711 N. Franklin St., from 6 pm to 7:30 pm. Those interested in attending can let the Grant campaign know by sending a note to RSVP@JamesGrantFL.com.

Listed at the top of the invite are House Speaker Designate Jose Oliva, who is set to take the gavel after the 2018 elections, as well as St. Petersburg Republican Rep. Chris Sprowls and Palm Coast Republican Rep. Paul Renner.

Former House Speaker Will Weatherford is one of a dozen names included on the host committee for the campaign event.

Grant was first elected in 2010 and has been re-elected three times since, but a challenge to his 2014 results led to a brief period where he was out of office, resetting his term limits.

The reset is being challenged by Oldsmar retirement plan consultant Terry Power, who is running against Grant in the Republican Primary.

Through March, Grant had raised more than $100,000 for his campaign and had $42,000 banked, while Power had brought in $5,920 from outside sources while putting $70,000 of his own money into his campaign. He started April with $51,366 in the bank.

Also running for the safe Republican seat are Democrats Christopher Smutko and Heather Stahl as well as no-party candidate Andy Warrener. Stahl had about $10,000 in the bank in her most recent report.

The invitation is below.

James Grant fundraiser 5.8.2018

John Godwin - Tampa City Council District 2

First candidate files for Tampa City Council District 2

National security consultant John Godwin is entering the race for Tampa City Council District 2, the citywide seat currently held by Councilmember Charlie Miranda.

“I have dedicated my adult life to serving my community, state, and country; and I am excited about the opportunity to continue serving Tampa on our City Council,” Godwin said Monday.

“Tampa has experienced amazing growth, and more is to come — Tampa’s best days are ahead of us as long as we have leaders who are ready to bring together our many neighborhoods and communities to prepare us to be a city of the future. I am ready to do that. I will bring vision and energy to our City Council to serve all of Tampa.”

Godwin currently works for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and is based out of MacDill Air Force Base. According to his campaign announcement, he “specializes in political enfranchisement and works with military, governmental, and civilian entities to navigate challenges in countries around the world.”

He is also a member of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, the Hillsborough County Foster Parent Association, Hillsborough County Child Care Facilities Advisory Board, and the Tampa Tiger Bay Club. Additionally, he and his wife Catherine are licensed foster parents. The Godwins and their 2-year-old son live in South Tampa.

Miranda is eligible for another term in District 2, though he has not yet filed for re-election. Currently, Godwin is currently the only candidate signed up for the race.

Districts 1, 3 and 4 also feature lone candidates as of Monday. Councilmember Luis Viera faces one challenger in his District 7 re-election campaign, while five candidates have filed for the District 5 seat currently held by exiting Councilmember Frank Reddick.

Tampa City Council elections will be held March 5, 2019. In addition to the council elections, voters will decide who will replace exiting Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

The next mayor and council members will take office on April 1, 2019.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.8.18

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.

It’s the state procurement version of the “Thrilla in Manila.”

After losing the contract for Florida’s first responder radio system, lawyers for Harris Corp. and Motorola Solutions will duke it out in a bid protest before an administrative law judge, starting Tuesday.

On March 14, the state signaled its intent to go with Motorola over Melbourne-based Harris, which held the contract since September 2000. It’s been estimated to cost the state upward of $18 million a year, funded through a $1 fee tacked on to vehicle registrations.

The system, known as the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System, or SLERS, is “a single, unified digital radio network that meets the radio voice communications needs of state law enforcement officers and other participating agencies,” as the Department of Management Services (DMS) explains it.

The awarding of the deal concluded almost three years of bureaucratic and legislative infighting, with some lawmakers — often benefiting from political contributions — backing one side over the other.

The parties previously agreed on a protective order covering “confidential” and “restricted” information as it pertains to filings in the case. The order, signed by Administrative Law Judge J. Bruce Culpepper, is here.

The first round, as it were, starts at 9:30 a.m. at the Division of Administrative Hearings in Tallahassee.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

—@RealDonaldTrump: I will be announcing my decision on the Iran Deal (today) from the White House at 2 p.m.

–@NickKristof: It’s staggering that some powerful men resign or are prosecuted after abuse allegations are aired, while another man who is a veteran of many years of such allegations is in a position to grant pardons.

@NateSilver538: People may say Eric Schneiderman was a showboat who didn’t accomplish very much, but they forget that he saved New York state from the scourge of daily fantasy football for several weeks in late 2015.

@MarcoRubio: I was repeatedly told that the Parkland shooter was never in the Promise Program I was asking questions about. Now it turns out that in fact he was.

—@RepCurbelo: Saluting @MiamiHerald @HeraldOpEd and other Florida newspaper editorial boards for their commitment to raising awareness on #climatechange and #sealevelrise. These are serious challenges requiring every citizen to engage in order to build consensus for meaningful action

—@RosLehtinen: As a former #Florida certified teacher, I want to thank all the educators who shape the lives of our #SoFla children every day.

@JohnStemberger: The story is ridiculous & misleading because it is the lead of the story instead of the footnote and makes it seem much bigger than it was when it only involved 1 or 2 people. None of my 27 staff or volunteers could even verify they saw it. Hairs on dogs tail wags dog here.

@AndrewGillum: Graduation is a milestone for anyone who walks across that stage, and ALL people should be allowed to celebrate openly and respectfully.

@Conarck: Every time I pay for a @FL_Corrections public records request, I have to go to Publix for a money order. Every time I go to Publix, I have to get a pub sub. This is the rarely discussed public records sandwich industrial complex.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Mother’s Day — 5; Deadpool 2 release — 10; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 17; Memorial Day — 20; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in St. Petersburg — 32; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Miramar — 34; Time Warner/AT&T merger ruling — 35; Father’s Day — 40; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 45; Florida GOP Sunshine Summit starts — 51; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 61; MLB All-Star Game — 70; Deadline for filing claim bills — 85; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debate — 85; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in Miami — 86; Start of the U.S. Open — 111; Primary Election Day — 112; College Football opening weekend — 114; NFL season starts — 121; Future of Florida Forum — 141; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 168; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 169; General Election Day — 182; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 282; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 301.

— TOP STORY —

Backlash follows revelations that Parkland shooter was referred to PROMISE program” via David Smiley and Jessica Bakeman for the Miami Herald — After denying for months that Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz had any connection to a program created to soften school punishment and reduce student arrests — and characterizing assertions to the contrary as “fake news” — the Broward County school district is now acknowledging that Cruz was in fact referred to its PROMISE program. On Sunday, district spokeswoman Tracy Clark told Miami Herald news partner WLRN that Cruz was referred to the program in 2013 after he vandalized a bathroom at Westglades Middle School, located just down the road from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Clark’s admission was followed by swift reaction from Parkland parents and politicians who had been assured repeatedly that Cruz never had contact with the PROMISE program. Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina Petty was killed in the shooting, slammed the district for a “stunning revelation … that flies in the face of previous statements.” He argued that the news was part of a string of gaffes and failures, and said teachers have been sharing stories about “perverse” and contradictory disciplinary programs that are creating conflicts in schools.

Broward School’s Superintendent Robert Runcie is backtracking on Nikolas Cruz and the PROMISE Program.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Happening today — Gov. Rick Scott will be raising money in Texas at a private reception in the home of billionaire businessman Robert B. Rowling, 3832 Beverly Dr. in Dallas. Tickets are $500 per person, $2,700 to sponsor, $5,400 to co-host and $10,800 to host.

Ron DeSantis: I would not disinvite Dinesh D’Souza” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — In a video clip sent to media from progressive advocacy group American Bridge 21st Century, DeSantis is seen speaking with media. When one reporter asks DeSantis for comment on summit guest D’Souza, who mocked on Twitter students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were murdered during a February mass shooting, the congressman responds: “I disagree with what [D’Souza] tweeted but I would not disinvite him.” DeSantis’ rationale is that condemnations and revoking invitations are actions that disproportionately affect those with conservative views. He said there are imbalances in “scrutiny” if “you go down this road.” Specifically, it “comes down” on people on “the right.”

Ron DeSantis would remain tolerant of controversial author Dinesh D’Souza.

Gwen Graham to Pam Bondi: Where’s the opioid lawsuit?” via Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida – Graham is blasting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi for failing to file a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers after promising to do so more than a month ago. Bondi told reporters on April 5 that she would not be joining the massive federal lawsuit against the drug companies, but would, instead, have Florida go at it alone. … Bondi’s office confirmed on Monday that she had yet to select an attorney to handle the suit. “We are in the final round of interviews with attorneys to assemble the best team possible to protect Florida interests,” Bondi spokesman Whitney Ray wrote in an email. Ray confirmed Bondi’s office would be filing a suit in state court, indicating that Florida will in fact not join the federal lawsuit. But he didn’t respond to a follow-up question asking for a timetable on when they would file their own suit. Graham is now calling on Bondi — who is completing her last term in office — to pick up the pace.

Philip Levine campaign announces $2 million raised in April” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — It’s the fifth straight month that his fundraising totals have surpassed $1 million. The totals … include contributions and self-loans to both Levine’s personal campaign account and his political committee, All About Florida. The numbers include matched contributions by Levine, who through the end of March had already poured roughly $5.5 million into his campaign to claim the Democratic nomination to become Florida’s next governor. The latest donations boost his overall fundraising to $13 million, according to senior political adviser Christian Ulvert, and suggest there will be no let-up to the advertising blitz that Levine unleashed almost as soon as he got into the race in November. Levine’s fundraising totals — and his ability to match them dollar for dollar — have given him an advantage so far.

Assignment editors Levine joins leaders from government, nonprofit and relief groups, as well as hotel executives and others for a roundtable conversation on Puerto Rico relief beginning 3 p.m., 7217 E. Colonial Dr. in Orlando.

Andrew Gillum ramps up money game, adds $447K in April via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Can we call it “Gillumentum” yet? Tallahassee Mayor Gillum announced Monday that his gubernatorial campaign raised $447,711 last month, beating his March total by more than $100,000. “With a little less than four months to go in the Democratic Primary to go, our campaign is catching fire at the right time,” campaign spokesman Geoff Burgan said. “Andrew’s strong performance in the FOX13 debate, coupled with growing grassroots enthusiasm, make this month’s fundraising total particularly telling for our momentum. We’re on track to have the resources we need to communicate to voters and win in August and November.”

Meanwhile …Richard Corcoran continues to hemorrhage cash as political speculation builds” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — During April, Corcoran’s political committee brought in roughly $50,000, with half from from one donor, while spending more than $300,000. It’s a continuation of a trend since the state’s legislative session adjourned in early March. Last month, he raised just under $250,000, while spending nearly $820,000. The committee, called Watchdog PAC, now has less than $2 million cash on hand, which would put him a distant third behind Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the GOP primary front-runner, and Rep. RonDeSantis, both of whom have been bringing in far more than they spend. For months, many took for granted he would get in the race and be a viable contender for the Republican nomination, but as time ticks off the clock and his cash on hand sinks, there are few left who think the once-feared speaker has time to raise the money for a viable statewide campaign. “First we were interested. Then we were very curious,” one longtime GOP consultant said. “Now we are very bored. No one fears the one they are laughing at.”

Is Richard Corcoran’s fundraising prowess beginning to lose steam?

Attorney General candidates split on felons’ rights” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Democrats seeking the state Cabinet post oppose Pam Bondi’s handling of the legal battle and support a proposed constitutional amendment that, if approved by voters in November, would automatically restore voting rights to felons who have served their sentences. The Republican primary for attorney general, pitting state House members Frank White and Jay Fant and former Hillsborough County Judge Ashley Moody, has been more contentious than the Democratic contest. But White and Moody made clear they agree on supporting an effort led by Bondi and Gov. Scott to fend off a federal lawsuit that would require an overhaul of Florida’s process to restore felons’ voting rights. White said Bondi, who has been a key supporter of policies that have made it harder to restore felons’ rights, should be “commended for defending our Constitution.” In supporting Bondi, Moody echoed White, calling the lawsuit “another example of activists inappropriately attempting to use our judicial system to overturn decisions by our elected officials.”

Pride Fund, Rosie O’Donnell backing Lauren Baer in CD 18” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Baer has received the backing of the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence PAC … “I am honored to have the endorsement of the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence and look forward to working with them to advance their twin aims of sensible gun policy and LGBT equality,” Baer, who is openly gay, stated in a news release … The Pride Fund was begun in 2016 after the massacre at Pulse and has grown into one of the largest gun-control political action committees in the country, combining its focuses on gun legislation and protections and support for the LGBTQ community. Baer also got another big, national backing Sunday evening when comedian, actress, political activist O’Donnell threw support behind her with a tweet urging people nationally to go to ActBlue, the Democrats’ national fundraising portal, and contribute to her campaign. O’Donnell’s tweet went out to more than 1 million followers on Twitter.

Rosie O’Donnell tweeted her endorsement of Lauren Baer for Congress.

Anna Eskamani grabs Jerry Demings’ endorsement” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Demings also is a Democrat, and Eskamani faces two Republicans in her quest to win HD 47, which is being vacated by Republican state Rep. Mike Miller, who is running for Congress. Demings is running for Orange County mayor against two Republican candidates, though that office officially is nonpartisan. “I have known Anna since her days as an officer of the College Democrats at UCF. That was nearly 10 years ago, and it has been incredible to watch her grow into the community leader she is today,” Demings stated in a news release issued by Eskamani’s campaign. “Anna is someone who gets it — she works hard, takes time to understand the issues, and is always looking for common ground. She cares deeply about public safety and our first responders too. We will be in good hands with Anna as our next State House representative.”

— YEAR OF THE WOMAN —

In primaries nationwide, women are outperforming expectations. 

The trend, as reported by BuzzFeed News’ Ruby Cramer, is likely tied to cultural phenomena. “Everything from the Women’s March to #MeToo and #TimesUp to watching the incredibly powerful women gymnasts call out Dr. Larry Nassar means what we’re seeing is women stand up and demand to be heard,” Christina Reynolds told Cramer. Reynolds is the vice president of communications at Emily’s List, a group dedicated to electing pro-choice women. 

According to Cramer, “Women candidates … are benefiting from a built-in advantage unlike any previous election cycle. Not only are women running for office in record numbers — they’re securing top spots in crowded primaries against male rivals who are better known and have spent more money.” Though, the general election is still anyone’s guess. 

Gwen Graham was conspicuously absent in an article on the ‘Year of The Woman.’

Scoreboard: In Texas’ 7th Congressional District, Laura Moser and Lizzie Pannill Fletcher defeated two male candidates and advanced to a runoff. Eleven of the 15 Virginia state legislative seats flipped by Democrats were overturned by women up against male incumbents. So far, Emily’s List has backed 53 U.S. House candidates and 36,000 women have reached out to the group to run — the previous record number was 920. 

Exceptions?: Right now, it’s California. There, both women vying to challenge Republican Dana Rohrabacher have dropped out. Women candidates also aren’t expected to make it to the ticket to replace two retiring California GOP Reps. 

Florida: There’s no mention of Gwen Graham in the article; it focused on races for federal seats. But if the trendline holds true, it could be bad news for Andrew Gillum, Philip Levine and Chris King. 

— STATEWIDE —

Cracks where FIU bridge buckled may have signaled ‘imminent failure’” via Andres Viglucci, Nicholas Nehamas and Jenny Staletovich of the Miami Herald — Documents show that FIU’s construction and engineering team discovered potentially problematic cracks in the bridge earlier than officials have previously acknowledged. The cracks were found in late February at the base of a diagonal support member at the north end of the span. Independent engineers have identified that as the point where the structure shattered on March 15 while under construction, sending the 950-ton bridge crashing onto the roadway below and claiming six lives. Three independent engineers who examined the photos, records and bridge blueprints at the Herald’s request concurred the cracks were a red flag signaling potentially critical structural problems. Outside experts have zeroed in on that truss member, identified in plans as No. 11, as being “under-designed” — that is, not strong enough to withstand the pressure from the weight of the bridge it was supposed to hold up.

A key concrete support truss in the Florida International University pedestrian bridge developed worrisome cracks 10 days before the structure was lifted into place over the Tamiami Trail. (Image via Miami Herald)

Jimmy Patronis wants you to help stop arsons” via Florida Politics — CFO and State Fire Marshal Patronis is calling “on all Floridians to report suspicious activity and be on the lookout for those who attempt to commit arson-related crimes,” according to a Monday news release. National Arson Awareness Week is this week. “Arson-related crimes can destroy property, put lives at risk, and arson-for-profit schemes are one of the factors that can drive up insurance rates,” Patronis said in a statement. “In 2017 alone, 1,004 of the 3,695 fires my office responded to were arson-related. These fires caused 62 injuries, 38 fatalities, and approximately $23.4 million in property damage. Community awareness and engagement is essential in our fight against this deadly and costly crime.”

Assignment editors — Patronis holds a Tampa press rally Wednesday beginning 10:30 a.m., La Segunda Central Bakery, 2512 N. 15th St. in Ybor City.

State objects to woman’s anonymity in NRA case” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — Dismissing the potential danger feared by a 19-year-old who wants to join a legal challenge filed by the National Rifle Association, lawyers for Attorney General Bondi asked a federal judge to deny a request to keep the young woman’s identity private because they said her desire for anonymity was not justified. Lawyers for the NRA late last month asked U.S. District Judge Mark Walker to keep the identity of “Jane Doe” secret, based in large part on a declaration filed by the gun-rights group’s Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer, who detailed threatening emails she had received featuring derogatory words for parts of the female anatomy. But attorneys for Bondi, a defendant in the lawsuit who also represents the state, asked Walker to reject the NRA’s motion to use the Jane Doe pseudonym for the 19-year-old, portrayed in court documents as an Alachua County woman seeking to remain anonymous due to fear that public exposure could result in “harassment, intimidation, and potentially even physical violence.”

Democrats say Medicaid cut information wrong” via the News Service of Florida — Incoming Florida Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson sent a letter to the federal government accusing Gov. Scott’s administration of falsifying the record to show support for a $98 million Medicaid reduction and asked for a “thorough review” of the proposed cut, which would impact an estimated 39,000 people. “I felt compelled to ensure (the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) has no misunderstanding as to opposition on this ill-advised move targeting seniors and families facing catastrophic health care emergencies,” Gibson wrote to CMS Administrator Seema Verma. Florida is asking the federal government to approve limiting the length of time people have to qualify for the Medicaid program. The issue is known as Medicaid retroactive eligibility. Federal law has long required states to give people 90 days to apply for the program following a health issue. At the behest of the Scott administration, the Legislature during the 2018 Session approved requiring adults who aren’t pregnant to apply for the Medicaid program the month they required the health services.

Florida Chamber announces ‘first round’ of legislative endorsements” via Florida Politics — Though the bulk endorsement covers more than half the 105 incumbents running for re-election in 2018, and more than two-fifths of legislative races overall, the Chamber said its endorsements were merely the “first round” and to expect more in the coming weeks. All Republican Senators up for another term got the nod except for Thonotosassa Sen. Tom Lee, who has been unclear on whether he will or will not run for re-election to Senate District 20. Additionally, Republican Reps. Ben AlbrittonManny Diaz Jr. and Joe Gruters were endorsed in their respective campaigns to move up to the Senate … other endorsements went to 45 of 53 Republicans running for re-election to the Florida House, while St. Petersburg Rep. Ben Diamond was the only Democrat included in the Chamber’s list.

Justices asked to consider dismissed tobacco cases” via the News Service of Florida — About three months after an appeals court upheld the dismissal of 73 lawsuits against tobacco companies, plaintiffs’ attorneys are asking the Florida Supreme Court to take up the dispute. The attorneys filed a notice as a first step in seeking Supreme Court review … The 1st District Court of Appeal in February backed the dismissal of the lawsuits and refused to allow attorneys to amend the complaints because the clients had died before the cases were filed. The lawsuits stemmed from a 2006 Florida Supreme Court ruling that established findings of a series of issues including the dangers of smoking and misrepresentation by cigarette makers. The ruling helped spawn thousands of lawsuits in state and federal courts, with plaintiffs able to use the findings against tobacco companies — lawsuits that have become known as “Engle progeny” cases.

ICYMI: Money from Broward courts can’t be used for other state programs, judge rules” via Larry Barszewski of the Sun-Sentinel — Broward’s Clerk of Courts has reduced customer service hours, cut back on staffing and struggled to meet the county’s judicial needs because the state hasn’t lived up to its constitutional funding obligations, a judge has determined. Based on her findings, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers ordered the state to stop diverting court filing fees collected in Broward County to other state programs. The ruling could have statewide ramifications as other clerks have complained of insufficient funds coming from the state despite the amount of fees their offices are generating. The court fees — which include money the public pays for traffic citations and other fines, as well as fees to file civil cases and other litigation — are the main source of revenue for the state’s court system. (Florida Politics’ story when the case was first filed in 2016 is here.)

Pay up: Joe Redner seeks costs after winning ‘home grow’ lawsuit” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Redner now wants a court to order the state to reimburse his legal costs — including $16,000 for PowerPoint presentations — after he won a lawsuit to start growing and juicing his own medical marijuana. The Tampa strip club mogul last week filed a motion with Circuit Judge Karen Gievers, seeking more than $45,000 to pay for court fees, transcripts, and travel and lodging, among other things. The PowerPoint displays used at trial should be reimbursable, attorney Luke Lirot argued in the motion, because they “were admitted into evidence” … In a decision now under appeal, Gievers last month ruled that Redner — a 77-year-old lung cancer survivor — has an immediate right to ‘home grow.’

George Zimmerman accused of stalking, threatening private investigator” via Gal Tziperman Lotan of the Orlando Sentinel — Zimmerman has been charged with stalking a private investigator who contacted him about a documentary series on Trayvon Martin produced by the rapper Jay Z, court records show. The private investigator told Seminole County deputies that he had contacted Zimmerman in September on behalf of the series’ executive producer, Michael Gasparro, and gave Zimmerman his information. The private investigator told deputies he did not hear from Zimmerman again until December. Gasparro called him and said Zimmerman was “extremely agitated” and sending Gasparro threatening messages, deputies wrote in the request for a warrant. Between Dec. 16, 2017, and Christmas Day, the private investigator told deputies he got 55 phone calls, 67 text messages, 36 voicemails and 27 emails from Zimmerman, records show. Zimmerman is scheduled for an arraignment May 30 at 9 a.m. in the Seminole County Courthouse.

George Zimmerman returns!

FBI got tax records last year for Maddox-related firms” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — A federal grand jury last year demanded the state of Florida hand over tax filings of companies connected to Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox, his longtime friend and business partner Paige CarterSmith and other figures in the FBI’s long-running investigation into public corruption. The Tallahassee Democrat obtained copies of the subpoenas in March through a public records request … the October subpoena to FDOR marks the first time the name of one business, The Big Production, has surfaced in connection with the probe. The company, owned by Carter-Smith, served for years as Maddox’s in-house campaign advertising firm. From 2012 through 2016, Maddox paid The Big Production more than $210,000 for media and ad buys, according to campaign finance records. The firm got $50,000 alone for Maddox’s 2016 bid for school superintendent, which he ultimately abandoned.

Service for John Vogt set — A memorial service for Vogt, a former Senate President, will be held next Monday. The service will be at 10 a.m., Good Shepherd Catholic Church, 4665 Thomasville Road, Tallahassee. Vogt died March 21 at the age of 81 in Fort Mill, South Carolina. He served 16 years in the Senate, including as president of the chamber in 1986-88.

Senate parking garage repairs on schedule — should reopen in August” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — In less than a hundred days there will be an additional 210 parking spaces for Florida Senate workers. Twenty-eight million dollars of repairs to the garage that sits underneath the Senate Office Building plaza along Madison Street will be complete by the end summer. The Department of Management Services said the Senate garage will reopen in August with all spaces assigned by September. The garage was closed May 2016 when its main support girder provoked “life safety” concerns for an architectural consultant. Once the Senate garage is reopened a $30 million repair to the House parking garage will begin.

— PARKLAND EFFECT —

Some lives have changed significantly since the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — despite not being remotely related to those involved in the Feb. 14 shooting. 

Among them: Emma Jane Gonzalez. Not the Parkland student leading the charge against gun violence, but the vegan chef from Brooklyn, reported Danielle Paquette of The Washington Post. 

The Gonzalez featured in this story has suffered accusations that she is a crisis actor, calls to her work, and even personal encounters with conspiracy theorists from the internet who believed her to be helping ‘stage’ the shooting in South Florida. 

You’re real: A man with an Instagram account named @911NoPlaner followed Gonzalez on social media. Because he lived nearby, he went to her place of work and noticed she was much different from the Emma from Parkland. 

Context: Sandy Hook survivors have suffered similar troubles. So much so they’re suing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of Infowars. Jones is a source of news for @911NoPlaner. 

Ouch: Others have reached out to Gonzalez or publicly discussed how she could be a crisis actor, though such talk has dwindled recently. Still, when she walks home alone she places her keys between her fingers. “She wants to be ready if a stranger with worse intentions shows up.”

— D.C. MATTERS —

Donald Trump’s GOP ‘warriors’ lead charge against Robert Mueller” via Kyle Cheney of POLITICO — “Look, we have some absolute warriors,” Trump told Fox News when asked about his relationship with Congress, name-checking “Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows and Matt Gaetz and [RonDeSantis.” The 39-year-old DeSantis, who last week called for criminal investigations of former FBI director James Comey and his former deputy Andrew McCabe, won Trump’s early endorsement in Florida’s contested GOP primary for governor. He has also proposed cutting off funding for Mueller’s investigation. Jordan, Gaetz and DeSantis sit on the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Justice Department. Meadows, Jordan and DeSantis are also on the House Oversight Committee, which has broad authority to question the executive branch and has probed the FBI’s handling of the 2016 Clinton investigation and other decision-making by the bureau as the Trump-Russia probe was launched.

Marco Rubio applauds idea of election security consultants but again warns of risks” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Rubio, who’s raised alarms about Russian meddling in coming elections, praised a move by Gov. Scott to hire security consultants. But Rubio said that many state election officials “are underestimating the threat we face from Putin interference.” In a recent appearance before county officials, Rubio outlined a scenario where voter registration could be altered, leaving people unable to vote and creating chaos on Election Day. “I cannot emphasize enough the vulnerability,” the Florida Republican and Intelligence Committee member said.

Assignment editors — Rubio will deliver remarks at the 48th annual Washington Conference on the Americas, an event co-hosted by the U.S. Department of State and the Council of the Americas. Rubio’s speech begins about 6 p.m., State Department, 2201 C Street Northwest in Washington D.C.

Scott Pruitt loses his fourth EPA aide this week — and more might be on the way” via Emily Holden and Daniel Lippman of POLITICO — John Konkus, the second-in-command on the public affairs team, is leaving for a top communications job at the Small Business Administration. Before joining the Trump administration, Konkus was well-known in Florida political and state government circles. He served as the chief of staff to former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, then worked in Florida for Washington-based Republican consulting firm Jamestown Associates. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Konkus was chair of Trump’s Leon County operation. The news comes just a day after EPA’s top spokeswoman, Liz Bowman, announced she was heading to a job on Capitol Hill … Pruitt‘s lead security agent and Superfund task force head both quit. Policy chief Samantha Dravis left last month, and before that agriculture adviser Jeff Sands departed. The raft of departures comes just a week after Pruitt sat through a day of grilling in front of two House subcommittees in which he blamed staff for many of the controversies surrounding his penchant for first-class travel, his spending on a round-the-clock security detail and a $43,000 soundproof phone booth and the $50-a-night Capitol Hill condo lease he secured last year from the wife of an energy lobbyist.

— OPINIONS —

President Trump should nix the Iran nuclear deal” via Marco Rubio for Fox News – President Donald Trump will decide Tuesday whether or not to quit the Iran nuclear deal. He should not hesitate to nix this flawed and dangerous agreement that is beyond fixing. The deal’s first major flaw is that it enriched Iran and empowered it to destabilize the Middle East. The deal’s second major flaw is that it paves the path for the Iranian regime—whose leaders have repeatedly vowed to destroy Israel—to eventually get nuclear bombs. Perhaps the nuclear deal’s most unforgivable flaw is that its original architects chose to stand with and empower Iran’s mullahs over the Iranian people, whose opposition to their corrupt and criminal government continues to grow. Proposed “fixes” would do little to nothing to stop Iran’s development of regional-range missiles that can deliver nuclear warheads against U.S. troops in the Middle East, as well as against Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and other U.S. partners. President Trump should nix the flawed Iran deal and impose crippling economic and financial sanctions against the Iranian regime.

Adam Putnam ensures abortion will be major campaign issue” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — At a Republican campaign forum, Putnam said that if he is elected this fall and a so-called heartbeat bill reaches his desk, “I will sign it. That life is real. It should be protected. It should be defended.” That’s not an example of campaign pandering to friendly voices. That’s a core belief for Putnam and many conservatives, and there is no compromise. To them, Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, is one of the darkest days in the history of the United States. So, if Republicans keep control of the Governor’s Mansion and the Florida Legislature, we probably should expect that “heartbeat bill” Putnam alluded to will show up here in some form. And we also should expect opponents will pull out every legal or political means to block passage of such a law … saying he would sign a heartbeat bill, Putnam just raised the stakes in a campaign that already was assured of contentious and bitter. Compromise? On this issue? Forget about it.

Florida needs to get medical marijuana right” via the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board — Of the roughly 1,400 doctors who have signed on to the program, nearly one in five has a tarnished professional history … That’s a gross disservice to patients suffering from cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and a host of other maladies, and an affront to Floridians who voted for a safe and efficient medical cannabis program. Under the state’s emerging framework, doctors in the program must complete only two hours of training and pay a $250 fee to be able to recommend medical use of marijuana for patients diagnosed with certain chronic, debilitating conditions. While setting that low barrier to entry, the state makes participation unattractive to good doctors. The recommendations they must write too closely resemble prescriptions — and prescribing marijuana is illegal under federal law. One in five doctors who can recommend medical marijuana in Florida has a blemish in their past. That’s too high a ratio in a medical industry that is only going to grow.

Why should Citizens policyholders need their state lawmaker to get claims resolved?” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Citizens Property Insurance wisely ended its long-running fight with a Palm Harbor condominium association with a good resolution that finally will allow the homeowners to make needed sinkhole repairs. But the settlement only came about because an influential Pinellas state lawmaker [Rep. Chris Sprowls] intervened and persuaded Citizens’ CEO to view the property himself. Resolving legitimate claims should not take such extraordinary measures, and property owners should not be bullied by any insurance company, much less one that is state-run. Citizens’ contention that insurance payouts should always be used to fixed damaged homes is certainly correct, and statutory reforms that helped contain the runaway train of sinkhole claims were good for Florida taxpayers. Still, Citizens’ treatment of its own customers who just wanted to get their homes fixed was unacceptable. Citizens policyholders should not have to rely on their state legislator to get fair treatment from their insurer.

Why did Chris Sprowls have to get involved?

Tampa airport ignores ride-sharing trend, taxpayers beware” via Chris Hudson of Florida Politics — Several months behind schedule and more than $1 billion later, the shiny new rental car facility at Tampa International Airport opened earlier this year to decidedly mixed reviews. The rental car terminal is just the first phase of a $2 billion three-phase airport expansion and its completion gives Floridians a chance to see how our tax dollars have been spent so far. There is cause for concern. Tampa Airport has financed its expansion with a $195 million grant from the state and nearly $800 million in new bond debt that is supposed to be funded through existing sources of revenue, like airline ticket fees, as well as parking rate hikes and new rental car fees. Not a problem in 2011. In 2018 however, when ride-sharing services are taking over the market, this plan has holes. Nationally, Uber and Lyft now account for nearly 70 percent of ground transportation. Taxi cabs have fallen below 10 percent and rental cars are also on the decline … airport planners were caught flat-footed by the trend. Here’s the issue in a nutshell: Taxpayers were tapped to pay for the new rental terminal and SkyConnect train, but the airport isn’t bringing in as much money as it shortsightedly expected from rental cars and parking fees. So, now taxpayers will be hit up a second time on their ride to or from the airport.

— FOR YOUR RADAR —

Deer hunting, camping and weddings may come to Loxahatchee wildlife refuge” via David Fleshler of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, which covers an area the size of Chicago, has begun exploring opening itself up to a range of new activities, plans that leave environmentalists wary they could detract from the refuge’s principal mission of protecting nature. The refuge sprawls across 230 square miles of Everglades marsh and cypress swamp west of the county’s suburban fringes, from Boca Raton to West Palm Beach … the refuge currently supports bicycling, fishing and hiking, as well as limited hunting for alligators and ducks. But ideas under consideration by its management would add many more activities. These include hunting for deer, hogs and small mammals. They include camping, walking leashed dogs, more trails for hiking, biking and canoeing, a new fishing pier and an expansion of current hunting for waterfowl and alligators. They include outdoor weddings and yoga.

— ALOE —

What Richard Reeves is reading — “For those still hungering for ‘Hamilton,’ a new indulgence” via Michael Paulson of The New York Times — Here comes another way to indulge your “Hamilton” mania: a high-tech, interactive, traveling exhibition. The musical’s creative team, following other pop culture phenoms from “Star Wars” to “Downton Abbey,” has created “Hamilton: The Exhibition,” which will open in November in Chicago, where the musical has been running since 2016, and then move to other cities. The project differs from other brand-extending entertainment-industry gallery ventures in one key respect: Because this musical is a work of nonfiction, based on Alexander Hamilton’s life, the museum-style exhibition aspires to historical accuracy and has been developed in consultation with experts at Yale and Harvard. The exhibition’s creators — much of the same team that put together the musical — say they are seeking to answer questions asked by the show’s fans.

‘Hamilton’ goes interactive. (Image via Getty)

What Matt Florell is reading — “It’s not just you: those calls you’re ignoring are increasing” via The New York Times — Though automated calls have long plagued consumers, the volume has skyrocketed in recent years, reaching an estimated 3.4 billion in April, says YouMail, which collects and analyzes calls through its robocall blocking service. That’s an increase of almost 900 million a month compared with a year ago. Federal lawmakers have noticed the surge. The House and Senate held hearings on the issue in the past two weeks, and each chamber has either passed or introduced legislation aimed at curbing abuses. Federal regulators have also noticed, issuing rules in November that give phone companies the authority to block certain robocalls.

What Bill Carlson is reading — “Politics collides with art as Kennedy Center prepares for Cuban culture festival” via Mimi Whitefield of the Miami Herald — Despite the frost on U.S.-Cuba relations, the biggest Cuban cultural extravaganza ever held in the United States will get underway next week at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Almost every space of the performing arts center on the banks of the Potomac will be devoted to some aspect of Cuban and Cuban-American culture, with more than 50 events scheduled during Artes de Cuba’s May 8-20 run. Over the course of two weeks, 420 performers — 242 from the island and 178 from the Cuban diaspora — will serve up a rich Cuban stew of music, dance, theater, art, film, graphic arts and fashion. Among the performers: the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, which made its U.S. debut at the Kennedy Center 40 years ago; 87-year-old Omara Portuondo, the diva of the Buena Vista Social Club; the Havana Lyceum Orchestra; Teatro El Público; jazz pianists Aldo López-Gavilán and Jorge Luis Pacheco; drummer YissyLos Van Van; Afro-Cuban jazz musician Yosvany Terry, who now lives in New York, and Miami-based Aymée Nuviola, a multi-genre singer who glides from timba to ballads.

What Ashley Bauman is reading — “Tampa’s version of Central Park gets its finishing touches before Friday’s debut” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — Dozens of other little details remain for construction workers to complete in the final days before Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park opens to the public … Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the signature public works project of his two-term administration was 99 percent ready to go for its Mother’s Day weekend debut when concerts are scheduled by the Florida Orchestra, the U.S. Navy Band and pop act Third Eye Blind … But attracting millennials from downtown and Seminole Heights to the west side of the Hillsborough River is serious business for the city, which helped pay for the $35.5 million project with about $15 million from Tampa’s settlement with BP over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. The public investment in the park is already spurring private redevelopment in North Hyde Park, the mayor said, adding that its presence will activate the west side of the river.

Happy birthday to wonderful person and, arguably, the brightest mind in Florida Democratic politics, Ashley Walker. Also celebrating today are Juan Del Cerro, Michelle Merrell, Libby Pigman, and our favorite Cate, Elizabeth Ray.

At confab, Adam Putnam supporters asked to raise more money, game out Trump involvement

Adam Putnam was stumped.

Asked if he knew when was National Orange Juice Day, the proud scion of a citrus farming family drew a blank. It was last Friday, May 4th, he was reminded and immediately the term-limited Agriculture Commissioner realized he should have remembered such a fun fact about an industry he holds dear.

Putnam would quickly make up for forgetting a made-up day on the calendar by putting his knowledge of Florida, its history and the issues confronting the state on display during a policy-rich speech at the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity, held last Thursday at the Rosen Plaza in Orlando.

In a room full of civic activists, data geeks, and think tank officials, Putnam more than held his own, discussing back-burner but critical issues like child obesity and summer nutrition programs.

“Now is the time to focus on generational poverty,” Putnam said. “Now is the time to focus on prosperity to make Florida better, stronger, inside and out through interconnectedness of our faith partners, private sector and non-profit leaders.”

If the election for Florida governor was to be decided by the candidates taking a pop-quiz about the Sunshine State’s history, people, and geography, it’s very likely Putnam would not only win, he might just ace the test.

Footage of Putnam charming a Democratic protestor in northeast Florida with his knowledge of the backwoods of the state has been making the rounds and, as the Tampa Bay Times suggests, is a reminder of why Putnam’s opponents should still fear him.

Unfortunately for Putnam, whichever candidate can give the best directions through Florida’s agriculture belt is not how the Republican nominee for Governor will be decided. Instead, it will be fought in the dens of of Florida television viewers who seemingly must make a choice between the candidate they see on all the commercials on Fox News (Putnam) and the candidate they actually see on Fox News (Ron DeSantis).

It is verboten within Putnam’s circle of influence to describe the Polk County Republican’s gubernatorial campaign as the 2.0 version of Jeb Bush’s failed bid for The White House. This circle is the rear guard of Florida’s establishment, which has been forced to kowtow for the last seven-and-a-half years to Rick Scott and saw its hopes of invading Washington D.C. flummoxed by Donald Trump‘s filleting of not just Bush, but Florida’s other favorite son, Marco Rubio.

In 2018, the establishment — scarred by a decade of political water-treading, but flush with a booming influence economy — is determined not to let another interloper defy its well-laid plans.

The plan for Adam Putnam to eventually occupy the Governor’s Mansion began long before Trump and long before Scott. In fact, it was before Putnam was elected Agriculture Commissioner that a small group of key advisers began to meet in Boca Grande to plot out the then-Congressman’s path to the Governor’s Office.

Last week, this unofficial kitchen cabinet, made up of some but not all of the faces who have been with Putnam since before he arrived in Tallahassee gathered at Disney’s Contemporary Resort in Orlando the night before Putnam gave his speech to the Chamber.

According to eight sources who took part in the confab, the mood among Putnam’s key donors and supporters was increasingly upbeat, but deeply fearful of the possible role Trump might play in the gubernatorial primary.

“We can raise Adam another thirty million dollars, but if Trump sets up camp at the Florida Fairgrounds, the race is over,” said one of those who in attendance who asked to remain anonymous so that they could remain inside Putnam’s circle of advisers.

Among those in attendance were Former House Speakers Dean CannonSteve Crisafulli and Will Weatherford, former Senate President Mike Haridopolos, Disney lobbyist Adam Babington, Miami real estate developer Rodney Barretto, Ballard Partners’ Brad Burleson, U.S. Sugar executive Robert Coker, The Rubin Group’s Chris Finkbeiner, Florida Chamber board member Sonya Deen Hartley,  Smith Bryan & Myers’ Jeff Hartley, Anheuser-Busch exec Jose Gonzalez, Publix’s Clayton and Beverly Hollis, Greenberg Traurig lobbyist Fred Karlinsky, insurance lobbyist Robert Hawken, Justice Reform Institute president William Large, lobbyist and former state Rep. Seth McKeel, Comcast government affairs VP Brian Musselwhite, Mosaic government affairs VP Eileen Stuart, and AT&T Florida president Joe York.

Those gathered were given briefs by campaign chief Bret Prater, who has impressed many inside and outside of the campaign for his righting of a campaign they believed was adrift earlier this year.

Pollster Dave Sackett of The Tarrance Group also downloaded to the group, although those who spoke to Florida Politics said there was nothing particularly new in the numbers.

If there was one defining takeaway several of the Putnam supporters wanted to share it is that they are surprised by DeSantis’ less-than-spectacular fundraising efforts.

“It doesn’t look like the cavalry is coming,” said one lobbyist supporting Putnam.

In April, DeSantis political committee raised less than $500,000. What the Ponte Vedra Republican raised in hard dollars during April won’t be known until later this week. Whatever it is, he will have not kept pace with Putnam, whose Florida Grown political committee had another $2 million month in April. Overall, Putnam has raised $28.88 million between his campaign and committee.

But “when Putnam’s campaign talks about money,” said one top Republican lobbyist who is neutral in the race, “they couldn’t sound more like Jeb Bush circa 2016. All that’s missing is the ‘shock and awe.’ “

“We never expected to keep pace with Adam Putnam’s fundraising,” said DeSantis campaign manager Brad Herold. When pressed if there had been an expectation that DeSantis would, in fact, be competitive with Putnam, especially after DeSantis announced the backing of a list of nationally-known Republican donors that included casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, Herold insisted that “never campaign from the campaign.”

Herold points to an internal poll, shared exclusively with Florida Politics, that shows DeSantis leading Putnam 30 to 26 percent in a two-man ballot test and 30 to 23 percent (with House Speaker Richard Corcoran receiving 7 percent) in a three-way race.

Florida Statewide Republican Primary Toplines by Peter Schorsch on Scribd

What’s problematic for Putnam about these numbers is that they come after the National Liberty Foundation spent over $1 million on cable TV and radio trashing DeSantis. Herold points out that while DeSantis’ unfavorable numbers went up, his lead over Putnam also increased.

What all sides acknowledge is that what is buoying DeSantis is the endorsement of Trump and his presence on Fox News.

Some back-of-the-envelope math reveals that since Trump endorsed DeSantis, he has done 78 hits on Fox News. A separate source inside DeSantis’ campaign estimates that to be worth more than $5 million in earned media in Florida.

Despite the tightness of the race, Putnam’s supporters are increasingly optimistic. They say whatever Corcoran decides is a win for them.

“If he’s in the race, he forces DeSantis to protect his flank and probably keeps the Koch brothers out of the race,” said one of the attendees at Putnam’s gathering last week. “But if he doesn’t run, that’s alright too, because Richard knows Adam’s weaknesses better and would be better at exposing them.”

The wildcard is the president of the United States.

While his tweet last year was just 140 characters of support, Trump has gone on to identify DeSantis as one of his “absolute warriors.”

Along with three other House Republicans (including Florida’s Matt Gaetz), whom Trump singled out by name in late April, DeSantis now enjoys direct lines to the Trump White House and flights on Air Force One, notes Kyle Cheney of POLITICO.

It’s hard to imagine Trump not barnstorming for one of his “warriors” come July and August.

DeSantis’ support for Trump is not where the differences between he and Putnam end. In fact, Herold thinks Putnam is in worse position than Bush was in 2016.

To that end, he points to a ballot test of the messaging the DeSantis campaign plans to continue to use against Putnam. In it, DeSantis is described as “Navy veteran  … endorsed by President Trump ….” If you’re expecting this ballot test to be a push poll that makes fun of Putnam for his entire congressional record and the fact that he has red hair, you’re wrong. The poll describes him in almost the exact terms Putnam’s own campaign is using, such as him being a “Florida First conservative leader his entire life” and that he’s “running for Governor to continue his fight for liberty and conservative values.”

The results? It’s not even close.

Candidate A (DeSantis) nearly doubles up the support of Candidate B (Putnam). Among Trump supporters, Candidate A laps Candidate B nearly three times.

Whether DeSantis will have the resources to define himself and Putnam in those terms remains to be seen. Putnam’s television ads, with their six-figure production values, are ubiquitous not just on Fox News, but on major sporting events, such as the Kentucky Derby and the NFL Draft. They cannot be avoided online, either.

But if he is to win — and fulfill the ambitions of his dedicated supporters — it would appear that Putnam’s best bet is not to raise more money or expound on the history of Florida, but to make sure the only place Donald Trump visits in Florida is his home at Mar-a-Lago.

Generic Ballot test in Florida GOP primary by Peter Schorsch on Scribd

Last Call for 5.7.18 – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

Oil prices have reached a new 2018 high, on the belief that President Donald Trump may pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, the AAA said Monday.

Such a move would likely reinstate sanctions, resulting in reduced global supply and higher fuel prices, the association said. Florida motorists already are paying 35 cents more per gallon on gasoline than this time last year. Florida gas prices averaged $2.73 on Sunday.

“Preliminary projections had gasoline averaging around $2.75 this summer,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman for AAA-The Auto Club Group. “However, all bets are off right now, pending the president’s decision on the Iran deal.

“Gas prices were relatively stagnant last week, but we could see a slight boost, based on oil price gains last week and the potential for additional hikes in the coming days.”

The president has until May 12 to decide whether to extend the existing Iranian Nuclear Deal, or restore penalties on one of the world’s biggest oil producers.

Restoring sanctions could eliminate 1 million barrels of Iranian oil per day, further constricting supplies in what is already considered to be a tight global market.

Evening Reads

Marco Rubio applauds idea of election security consultants but again warns of risks” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott raising money in Texas” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Ron DeSantis: I would not disinvite Dinesh D’Souza” via Dan McAuliffe of Florida Politics

Andrew Gillum ramps up money game, adds $447K in April” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

Richard Corcoran’s political committee tops $52K in April” via the News Service of Florida

Philip Levine campaign announces $2 million raised in April” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald

Legislature left $28 million hole in prison budget. Now essential programs are cut.” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

Board of Education to consider civic literacy requirements for college students” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times

State objects to woman’s anonymity in NRA case” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida

Medical marijuana advocates say state promotes misleading ads on driving dangers” via Arek Sarkissian of the POLITICO Florida

Quote of the Day

“Guys like me can make it clear, I would not have tweeted that. He says a lot of things I disagree with and that’s just the reality of the situation.” — Republican Congressman and candidate for Governor Ron DeSantis, on invited Florida GOP 2018 Sunshine Summit speaker Dinesh D’Souza, who mocked students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Twitter.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

The Florida Department of Revenue will hold meetings about a new sales-tax credit scholarship program passed by lawmakers during this year’s legislative session and the “hope scholarship” program. That’s at 9 a.m., and 1 p.m., Capital Circle Office Complex, Building 1, 2450 Shumard Oak Blvd, Tallahassee.

The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments in four cases, including a dispute about whether a biological father should be able to establish legal paternity of a child. Arguments begin at 9 a.m. Florida Supreme Court, 500 South Duval St., Tallahassee.

The Governor’s Panel on Excellence in Long-Term Care will consider applications for nursing homes to receive “gold seal” awards. That’s at 9 a.m., Aloft Orlando Downtown, 500 South Orange Ave., Orlando.

The Florida Public Service Commission will decide whether to give key approvals to two proposed power plants that would generate electricity for customers of electric cooperatives across the state. That’s at 9:30 a.m., Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.

The South Florida Water Management District will host a site visit for the construction industry of a major reservoir project in Hendry County that is part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. That’s at 10 a.m., 3338 Congen Road, LaBelle.

The Florida Public Service Commission will hold a hearing about a proposal by Tampa Electric Co. to increase base electric rates to pay for two solar-energy projects in Polk and Hillsborough counties. That’s at 1:30 p.m., Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.

The Citizens Property Insurance Board of Governors is slated to hold a conference call at 3 p.m. Call-in number: 1-888-942-8686. Code: 5743735657.

Barbara Cady, a Kissimmee Democrat running in state House District 42, is slated to speak to the Lake Wales Democratic Club. Cady is seeking to unseat Rep. Mike La Rosa, a St. Cloud Republican. That’s at 7 p.m., Oullette Law Firm, 151 East Central Ave., Lake Wales.

Not Just A Body Of Water — A briefing on Tampa Bay politics – 5.7.18

It’s time once again to rank Tampa Bay’s most powerful politicians.

I am asking several of the leading political consultants, activists, bloggers, operatives and local lobbyists to provide a list of who they consider the 25 most powerful pols in the region.

For the purposes of this experiment, the Tampa Bay region is defined as Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Pasco, but can also include Hernando, Polk or Sarasota — if the politicians from those counties impact either Pinellas or Hillsborough.

If you are interested in being a panelist, please email me at saintpeter4@gmail.com.

Brandes featured at self-driving demo

St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes will be the featured guest at a three-day event in Tampa showcasing autonomous vehicles. The Society of Automotive Engineers’ inaugural SAE Demo Day, to be held May 9-11, will allow attendees to ride down the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway in a self-driving car outfitted by Virginia-based robotics company Perrone Robotics. The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority is a partner in the event. “Our residents will be able to experience the future of transportation and provide feedback that will be invaluable to industry leaders and policymakers as we chart a course toward the shared, electric and autonomous future,” Brandes said. In 2018, Brandes sponsored a bill allowing the expansion of self-driving cars in Florida.

Belleair Beach mayor endorses Jacques in HD 66

Republican hopeful Berny Jacques received the endorsement this week of Belleair Beach Mayor Leslie Notaro in his bid for House District 66. “I admire Berny’s conservative values, his commitment to listen and his realization that the American dream can only be achieved through hard work and determination,” Notaro said. Notaro is an attorney based in Belleair Beach and was first elected to the city council in 2010 and also serves as first vice president of the Suncoast League of Cities. Jacques faces Nick DiCeglie in the Republican primary to succeed term-limited Rep. Larry Ahern. Also running for the seat are Democrat Alex Hereen and Reform Party candidate Paul Anthony Bachmann.

Six county judges elected unopposed

Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark confirmed six candidates completed the requirements for County Judge during the qualifying period that ended noon Friday. All candidates qualified by either filing the required documents and/or paying a qualifying fee. The 2018 qualified candidates for County Judge include Cathy Ann McKyton — Group 2; Donald Horrox — Group 5; Myra Scott McNary — Group 7; Joshua Riba — Group 11; Loraine Kelly — Group 16; Susan Bedinghaus — Group 17. Each of these candidates was unopposed, will not appear on a ballot and was re-elected automatically. One judge, Claudia Blackwell of Group 11, did not qualify as of the deadline.

Pinellas County judges divorce

Pinellas County judges Christine and Jack Helinger jointly filed for divorce April 23, saying their 23-year marriage was “irretrievably broken.” Christine Helinger served on the Circuit Court since 2016. Jack Helinger serves in the family division. The Helingers said they did not need the court’s help dividing assets and liabilities because they had already completed that process. Records show that in May 2017, the Helingers sold the home they’d owned since 1992 — two years before they were married — for $690,000. Jack Helinger purchased his current home in March 2017. Two days after filing, in what appears to have been an unusually speedy process, their divorce was granted by Jack Helinger’s colleague, Judge Susan St. John.

Chase named Pinellas SOE’s Comms Director

Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark named former WFTS reporter Dustin Chase as the office’s Communications Director. Chase, 36, brings nearly 14 years of broadcast journalism, editorial, marketing and public relations experience. He has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communications, a master’s degree in Business Administration, and most recently worked as assignment editor and reporter with WFTS-TV/ABC Action News in Tampa, where he coordinated hurricane coverage. Before that, Chase was a journalist in Ft Myers, Miami, El Paso and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Tampa Downtown Partnership staffs up

The nonprofit Tampa Downtown Partnership named Ivy Niven as event coordinator, a newly created position to give the organization a focus on developing functions for members, stakeholders and the community. Acting CEO & President Lynda Remund said: “We’re excited to have a position that is dedicated to the day-to-day management of our events to ensure they maintain and build on the value our attendees have come to expect.” Niven will handle events and meetings on membership development and community engagement, including the Annual Downtown Development, Annual Luncheon and Meeting, Debriefing Series, Urban Excellence Awards and other member-exclusive events. “It’s an honor to contribute to the community I’ve always called home,” Niven said.

State agencies sued for nonpayment in canal fix

A canal running through property in Plant City leased by 3 Seasons Growers was regularly flooding, impairing the nursery’s business. To correct the problem, 3 Seasons entered a cost-sharing agreement with the Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District and Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services: 3 Seasons would pay 25 percent of the cost of cleaning and excavating 500 feet of the canal; agencies would pay the rest. The Department of Agriculture called the project “an example of successful cooperative effort” between government and private parties. A contractor, Centerstate Management, completed the work in November 2016, but the agencies never paid their share of the $68,922 bill. In a lawsuit April 4, Centerstate is seeking the court’s help.

Bayfront fights ‘excessive’ property tax bill

In 2017, the Pinellas County Property Appraiser’s office assessed the value of Bayfront’s St. Petersburg parcel at $65.7-million, which resulted in a $1.45-million property-tax bill. The hospital’s parent company fully paid the bill in November 2017 (minus 4 percent early payment discount). Bayfront then protested the appraisal to the county’s Value Adjustment Board, which agreed to lower the property’s value to $62.3-million. A lawsuit filed April 25, Bayfront says the Board didn’t go far enough. The suit names Pinellas County property appraiser Mike Twitty, tax collector Charles Thomas and Leon Biegalski as executive director of the Florida Department of Revenue. Bayfront is claiming the revised assess is “unlawful and invalid” and exceeds the property’s true market value.

Skyway Marina project hits another snag

In 2016, Tampa-based Phillips Development & Realty announced plans to build a 300-unit, $70-million, mixed-use apartment complex called Sur Club in St. Petersburg’s Skyway Marina District. Several web pages describe the project, and one says Sur Club will open in 2018. In December 2017, project engineer George F. Young Inc. filed a lien against its St. Petersburg property, claiming that Skyway Marina LLC owed $166,313 on a $315,625 bill. In a lawsuit filed April 20, Skyway claims George F. Young Inc. breached their contract, in part by producing “deficient work … that had to be redone by a new civil engineer.” Skyway seeks damages for breach of contract, slander of title and filing a fraudulent lien.

Investors accuse Tampa craft brewery of fraud

Within a year of opening Tampa’s Wild Rover Pub & Brewery in 2013, Derek Wells and son Ricky sought out investors to help move the pub to a larger location and build a larger brewery. From 2015 to 2016, Ami Forte and three other parties loaned Wild Rover $725,000 for a combined 35 percent stake in the company, which allowed the Wells’ to move to a new Tampa location. An April 5 lawsuit accuses the Wells family of fraud by selling brewery equipment to a buyer without authorization, signing the rest to themselves as payment of previously undisclosed debts as well as not making payments on promissory notes. Plaintiffs seek repayment; an order stopping the sale of brewing equipment; a freeze on any bank accounts containing proceeds from equipment sales; and dissolution of the LLC.

More Ruskin pot farm troubles

Medical marijuana entrepreneur John Radick says the Ruskin-based 3 Boys Farm “lured” him from Montana in 2017, promising a “substantial salary and the opportunity to be involved in Florida’s newly approved medical marijuana business.” Months after Radick joined the company as COO, President Robert Tornello left over his “rude, abusive, arrogant, retaliatory and offensive conduct.” But when the firm’s owners agreed to sell their stake in the company in March 2017, Tornello returned as CEO. Radick said Tornello was harassing and intimidating; he also claims Tornello cost the company more than $300,000. Radick was fired April 5. On April 24, Radick filed suit for unpaid wages, breach of employment agreement, negligent hiring, training, supervision and retention.

Midtown Academy jazz fundraiser

Advantage Village Academy, joined by Pinellas County School Board member Rene Flowers, presents “Breakfast with Musical Notes,” a special tribute to the Al Dowling Tampa Bay Jazz Association. The musically-themed fundraiser is Saturday, June 9, from 9-11 a.m. at the St. Petersburg Country Club, 2000 Country Club Way. Tickets are $35 per person and feature a full breakfast buffet. AVA is a nonprofit seeking to making a positive difference in neighborhoods in South St. Petersburg through wellness, education programs and activities that educate and empower. The Jazz Association was founded in 1981 by Al Downing and Ernie Calhoun, renowned saxophonist and Tampa-based humanitarian. For more information, contact Flowers at (727) 657-5680 or AVA founder Toriano Parker at (727) 235-4340.

Jane Castor has already raised $250K for Tampa mayoral bid

Former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor has brought in some serious coin since she announced her run for Tampa Mayor in mid-April.

The 31-year TPD veteran has now brought in nearly $250,000 from more than 300 donors.

“The numbers are humbling,” Castor said. “When I kicked off my campaign in April—only two weeks ago—I said that our citizens are our city’s strongest asset. This show of support only reaffirms that conviction for me.”

Castor has spent the past few weeks spreading a “Tampa Strong” message, with the pillars being “a strong foundation, stronger neighborhoods, and a strong economy.”

Her fundraising numbers instantly turn her into a leading candidate in the race to replace Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who is leaving office next year due to term limits.

Castor, 58, was Tampa’s first female police chief, as well it’s first openly LGBTQ police chief. Though the Mayoral race is nonpartisan Castor’s longtime partner, Tampa-based lobbyist and political analyst Ana Cruz, is the daughter of House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz.

The $250,000 total puts her ahead of the next closest candidate, Ed Turanchik, who had raised about $155,000 as of March 31. He announced he would again run for mayor in 2019 in early February.

Of the other four candidates in the race, only Christopher “Topher” Morrison has posted fundraising numbers of any significance – about $16,000 over three months – though a couple of major candidates yet to announce their first fundraising numbers.

District 4 City Councilmember Harry Cohen, a prolific fundraiser, filed in the last few days of March and has not yet shown his April numbers. District 1 Councilmember Mike Suarez made his candidacy official on May 1, so his first report won’t show up until June.

The mayoral election will be held March 5, 2019, when Tampa holds its municipal elections. Also slated for the ballot are the district 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7 city council seats. The new mayor and councilmembers will take office on April 1, 2019.

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