Scott Powers, Author at Florida Politics - Page 2 of 177

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at

Mike Carroll calls child protective investigators ‘heroes,’ calls for more funding

Calling child protective investigators “absolute heroes” who are overworked and under-appreciated, the head of Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) pitched a House of Representatives committee for money to hire more.

DCF Secretary Mike Carroll told the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee Wednesday that his department struggles to keep enough investigators on staff because their workloads can be overwhelming in addition to being thankless as they seek to determine if children are living in horrible situations, and to do something about it.

The committee members responded with support but also with concerns that they want to know more about what DCF is, and how they can minimize turnovers, a rate that’s now about 45 percent. The lawmakers also wondered whether DCF has fully thought through the prospects of bringing on retired law enforcement officers, teachers, veterans and others as part-timers to ease the workload, or whether pay levels are an issue.

Carroll replied that all of that has only limited opportunity to help, but that some of it was being done, and promised follow-up information. But he also made it clear, as he had done in a Florida Senate committee meeting two weeks ago, that the investigators’ jobs are tough, and that the workloads and the nature of the job — being on call to work nights, weekends, holidays, whenever a child needs help — simply burns people out.

The only times they ever get public attention is when there is a tragedy and media focuses on the investigator involved, never focusing on the countless successful cases where children were saved from horrible situations, he said.

“One of the things that makes this a high burnout job as it’s pretty thankless,” Carroll said. “One of the things that angers me the most is when I read in the press they characterize our folks as bureaucrats. Far from it. These people do not make a lot of money. These people work unbelievable hours. Their job is unpredictable. They do not work an eight to five job. They’re often working on holidays and overtime. They’re on call on weekends. They don’t have any free time They do the best they can.”

His ask was for $4.4 million more from the state, which could bring a $3.6 million federal match to hire 69 more investigators and others. That’s in addition to 61 new investigator slots he intends to create by transferring positions from other functions. The department currently has 1,064 child protective investigators, 215 senior child protective investigators, 26 field supervisors and 230 supervisors. He plans to add 80 new investigators, 30 new supervisors, and 20 criminal intelligence specialists.

“To me, the folks that do this job are absolute heroes. Absolute heroes. They’re not treated that way by folks. They’re first responders, but they’re not treated that way,” Carroll added.

Carroll’s appearance was only a briefing; there was no immediate legislation for the panel to consider. But several members expressed strong support for offering what it could.

“I think everybody understands that if the role of government is to protect the most vulnerable, these are the folks who do that,” said Chairman Jason Brodeur, a Sanford Republican.

Victory Fund endorses Lauren Baer, David Richardson in CD 18, 27

Democrats Lauren Baer and David Richardson have received endorsements from the Victory Fund gay rights advocacy group in their quests to be elected to Congress in Florida’s  18th and 27th Congressional Districts.

Baer and Richardson are both openly gay, marking the second consecutive congressional election cycle in which Floridians have been presented with two opportunities to elect the state’s first openly-gay member of Congress. As in the 2016 campaign, both face tough Democratic primary challenges first. Last year Bob Poe and Valleri Crabtree both lost in their primaries, in Florida’s 10th and 9th Congressional Districts.

Baer, of Palm Beach Gardens, aims to re-flip the seat won last year by Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast in CD 18. She is a foreign policy expert who previously served in the Obama Administration as an official at the State Department. She faces labor lawyer Pam Keith in the quest for the 2018 Democratic primary nomination.

Richardson, of Miami Beach, is in the race to succeed outgoing Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a retiring Republican who comfortably held CD 27 for decades, though the district now has more Democratic voters. He is  the first-elected openly gay state legislator in the history of Florida. He is in a crowded 2018 primary battle with Matt Haggman, state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, Michael Hepburn, and Mark Anthony Person.

Baer and Richardson are two of five congressional candidates nationally to earn the Victory Funds’ support in this first round of early endorsements. The organization backs its endorsed candidates with cash and in-kind campaign support.

Victory Fund President Aisha Moodie-Mills praised Baer’s record of public service and her commitment to Victory Fund’s principles and goals, stating, in a press release issued by Baer’s campaign, “Lauren’s dedication to the values we share as Americans, first with the State Department and then at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, speaks volumes about the kind of representative we know she’ll be when she wins on Election Day. Chief among those values are acceptance and inclusion, two ideals especially important to us here at Victory Fund. We’re excited about Lauren’s candidacy and the opportunities we will have to collaborate with her campaign over the course of the next year – and beyond!”

Another press release, issued by Richardson’s campaign, cited the Victory Fund for praising Richardson’s efforts in the Florida Legislature to to remove a forty-year-old ban on gay adoption from Florida statute; secure Florida’s first-ever budget appropriation specifically earmarked to benefit the LGBT community; lead the effort to have administrative rules adopted to protect LGBT youth in the state’s foster care and Guardian ad Litem programs; pass the first ever pro-LGBT policy bill out of a legislative committee; push the state to permit the names of same-sex parents on the birth certificates of their children; and dispose of discriminatory “bathroom bills” similar to the legislation which made national headlines last year in North Carolina.

The Victory Fund has previously endorsed Richardson in his Florida House races.

“Victory Fund is excited to throw the full weight of our national grassroots network behind David’s candidacy,” Moodie-Mills stated in the release. “He has been a trailblazer on issues pertaining to LGBTQ equality in Tallahassee and now we have the chance to send him to Washington, DC. We’ll be doing everything in our power to ensure he has the resources to succeed.”


Orange County approves medical marijuana dispensaries

Medical marijuana dispensaries will be allowed anywhere in unincorporated Orange County that pharmacies might go, thanks to a unanimous vote Tuesday evening by the Orange County Commission.

After hearing scores of people testify in favor of allowing the dispensaries Tuesday and at a previous commission public hearing on Oct. 31, the board of commissioners decided that the 73 percent of Orange County voters who approved the statewide medical marijuana initiative last year can’t be wrong.

The vote came in part out of frustration as Mayor Teresa Jacobs and several of the six commissioners bemoaned the directive given them by the Florida Legislature last spring that they could either approve them without restrictions or ban them entirely. And they weren’t interested in banning them entirely, not after hearing from veterans suffering from PTSD, caregivers telling of loved ones needing something other than opioids, and assurances that the dispensaries look more like doctor’s offices than California pot shops.

Still, many of them said they must urge the Florida Legislature to give them more authority to limit where they might go. Currently, they can go in anywhere a pharmacy can be located, which includes all commercial districts, a few industrial districts, and a handful of planned developments. Jacobs suggested that the bans might wind up being ruled unconstitutional anyway, and said she wants the issue put on the county’s legislative to-do list for this Legislative Session.

With Tuesday’s approval, Orange County becomes the first in the immediate Central Florida area to allow the dispensaries. Lake County has banned them. Seminole and Osceola counties have temporary moratoriums and will take up the prospect of ban or allow later. And in Orange County, the cities of Winter Garden, Winter Park, Apopka, Windermere, Ocoee, and Oakland have banned dispensaries, while Edgewood, Maitland, Eatonville, and Belle Isle have moratoriums. Orlando has not, and it hosts the county’s first dispensary, located just north of downtown.

“There are very compelling reasons to do this,” said Commissioner Pete Clarke, who made the motion to allow them. “One is, it’s the law of the land, it’s the law of the state of Florida.”

He and the other commissioners had listened to several hours of testimony and almost all of it came from proponents. Much of the pro-effort had been organized by state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat, who spoke at the Oct. 31 hearing, but was in Tallahassee for the Tuesday’s hearing and so sent an envoy with additional testimony.

“This is a major victory for cannabis patients in Orange County,” Smith said in a written statement afterwards. “As cities and counties across Florida are moving to ban dispensaries in their area, it’s good to see that our local efforts to mobilize cannabis patients and advocates actually made a difference. The public spoke out, and Orange County officials listened.”

Perhaps the most compelling argument for allowing the dispensaries came from Commissioner Jennifer Thompson, who said two years ago she watched her step-father go through fatal stage 4 colon cancer, and then her [now ex-] husband suffer a heart attack, on top of PTSD symptoms. Both of them would have benefitted from medical marijuana, she said, but instead her father-in-law went on opioids to control his end-of-life pain, while her husband went on a long list of drugs.

“I made up my mind on this two years ago,” Thompson said.

Even with the approval, there were concerns, mainly about the on/off choice the commissioners were forced to make. Commissioner Betsy VanderLey raised images of dispensaries popping up in Orlando’s tourist district, saying she had real concerns about “what that does to the family-friendly brand. There has to be some discussion about our ability to limit where it can be located.”

Clarke noted he grew up in the 1960s and ’70s and knew plenty of people who used marijuana, and said it destroyed some lives. But he said the only people he heard from who were opposed were hiding behind the Internet.

Commissioner Victoria Siplin said that for her it came down to numbers: those who voted in favor of Amendment 2 last year. She checked the vote in the precincts in her district.

“About 78 percent of my voters voted for the medical marijuana amendment,” she said. “I had one district that voted 100 percent for it. What the Legislature handed to us, it has issues. But besides that, I have to look at the numbers.”

Bill to tighten All Aboard Florida rules gets approval – but so does train

A bill that would set tougher rules and safety requirements on the All Aboard Florida Brightline passenger rail train being developed along the East Coast got approval from the Florida Senate Transportation Committee Tuesday.

Yet members of that committee sounded as if they’ll be ready to derail the bill later, if they eventually conclude it’s going to be any kind of major impediment to a train set to start passenger service in south Florida in a few months and eventually extend, at speeds up to 125 mph, up the coast and over to Orlando.

Most of them sounded like they like the train, or think it is inevitable, or needed for Florida’s future transportation.

Still, the committee voted unanimously to support Senate Bill 572, which would require All Aboard Florida and the track owners, the Florida East Coast Railway, to adhere to state inspections, upgrade and maintain crossings, install security fencing and other restrictions that the railroads argue are covered by, and pre-empted by, federal law.

The votes almost all came with assurances that the bill needs more discussion and more consideration, and that should happen down the line. Its next stops are at the Community Affairs and Appropriations committees.

Sponsor state Sen. Debbie Mayfield, a Rockledge Republican, pushed the the Florida High Speed Passenger Rail Safety Act, similar to one she authored last year, as a means for Florida to ensure that Floridians along the line are protected both for public safety and for tax dollars as the private companies seek to open the first new private passenger service in decades.

“People keep wanting to bring this around, saying we want to target one particular high-speed rail. There’s only one here,” Mayfield said. “That’s not what this bill is about. This bill is about ensuring that whatever additional costs are associated with a private company putting a private passenger rail in, that cost is not transferred to local taxpayers.”

Yet committee member after committee member told Chairman George Gainer, a co-introducer of the bill, that they would show respect for Mayfield and her concerns now, but they really want the train, and after further discussion down the line, they’ll see where where the bill goes.

So both the companies behind the train and the determined opponents, centered in the Treasure Coast counties that will be ride-over counties in the second phase, declared some sort of victory coming out of the committee meeting.

“Today, every senator expressed significant concern over the bill and suggested more conversation is needed,” Rusty Roberts, vice president of government affairs for Brightline, stated in a release from the company.

“Brightline welcomes additional discussion and will continue educating members of the Florida Legislature on the unconstitutionality of the proposed legislation. Safety regulations for railroads are pre-empted by federal law and using the Legislature to impair contracts is against the U.S. Constitution,” Roberts continued. “We have been and are happy to continue working with the Treasure Coast communities to address remaining concerns as we progress on the billion-dollar investment we are making in the state. However, the Legislature is not the proper forum to settle these local concerns.”

“Today’s vote by the Senate Transportation Committee demonstrates the commitment our elected leaders have to the safety and well-being of Florida residents and to the taxpayers,” Brent Hanlon, chairman of Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida, stated.

“Residents of the Treasure Coast region have repeatedly expressed concerns about the ill-conceived All Aboard Florida rail project that will allow 32 trains to crisscross through pedestrian communities at high rates of speed. How can we expect school children, pedestrians, motorists and first responders to navigate through all this additional high-speed rail traffic? he continued. “Sen. Mayfield’s proposal is desperately needed because AAF and its leaders have fought the residents of our community every step of the way by not only rejecting our safety concerns and repeated requests for the implementation of safety measures, but by also shifting the costs of any necessary safety upgrades to the taxpayers.”

The key issue, besides the companies objections to seeing the state take on a safety regulatory role reserved for the federal government, is whether cities and counties along the way would pay for continued maintenance where their streets and roads cross the railroad tracks. All Aboard Florida said it has paid for all upgrades in the initial three counties of the project, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, and has no intention of billing the local communities for those improvements, and will do the same for all upgrades in Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, Brevard and Orange counties. But after that, the grade separations belongs to the local communities to maintain.

Afterwards, Gainer, a Republican from Panama City, declared it “a work in progress.”

“It’s going ot happen one day,” he said. “I think we want it to see it done right.”

Kamia Brown calls for ‘redoubled’ mental health efforts after school suicide

State Rep. Kamia Brown of Ocoee called Tuesday for the state to redouble efforts to provide mental health services for students after the apparent suicide of a student at Minneola High School in Lake County Tuesday morning.

The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that a 17-year-old student named Seth Sutherland shot and killed himself in the school’s bus loop out front of the school during a fire drill. The paper quoted school officials as saying the boy was alone and the shooting was not witnessed.

“I want to extend my deepest condolences to the friends and family of Seth Sutherland, who we so tragically lost this morning. Our hearts are with you as we all mourn a life lost far too soon,” Brown stated in a release issued Tuesday afternoon.

Brown serves on the House Education Committee and the PreK-12 Appropriations and Quality subcommittees.

“As we learn more about the causes behind today’s incident, what is clear is that we must redouble our efforts to improve mental healthcare for students throughout Florida,” she added. “When we look at ways to improve our public school system, a renewed focus on providing the types of wrap-around services that could potentially prevent these types of tragedies is key. With teen suicide rates on the rise for the first time in two decades, there’s no time to waste in making the critical investments in our children they deserve.”


Gwen Graham goes nuclear over recovery fees, fracking fees

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham wants to put a stop to Florida utility ratepayers paying for nuclear power  plants that were never built or which never worked, or for paying for fracking exploration in Florida.

The former congresswoman from Tallahassee went nuclear Tuesday denouncing the 2006 law that allowed Florida investor-owned utility companies to charge advance fees for nuclear power plants that were never built, something that the Florida Public Service Commission has allowed, to the tune of more than $3 million in fees, she said. She charged that the commission is out of control.

Her statement Tuesday in some ways echoes that made last month by her rival for the Democratic primary nomination, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who welcomed her on board the position Tuesday, yet also said “it feels like an election year conversion” for Graham.

Graham faces Democrats Gillum and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Winter Park businessman Chris King in seeking the 2018 Democratic primary nomination to run for governor.

On Oct. 17, Gillum declared in a statement, “Instead of forcing everyday Floridians to continue ponying up money for Florida Power & Light, the PSC should instead force FPL to pay for their Turkey Point nuclear energy license. Working people in this state face enough financial hardships as it is — they should not have to fork over more money to an enormous corporation who controls most of the state’s major energy decisions. Corporations have run roughshod over this state for too long, and when I’m Governor it will finally end.”

On Tuesday, Graham also called for an end.

“Floridians should not be forced to pay for nuclear power plants that are never built or for fracking exploration,” Graham stated in a news release. “For 20 years, the Republican politicians in Tallahassee have turned a blind eye to the Public Service Commission and utility companies as they’ve taxed seniors, small business owners and families. That ends when I’m elected governor.”

She also criticized both Gov. Jeb Bush and current Gov. Rick Scott for what she said was stacking the commission with what she called “unqualified, industry-friendly commissioners.” She then went after Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the leading Republican gubernatorial candidate, for having voted for an unbuilt nuclear power plant while he was in Congress, and then go after likely Republican gubernatorial candidate House Speaker Richard Corcoran for appointing to the PSC nominating commission.

In 2015, the commission accepted a utilities’ request to allow the charges to Floridians as much as $500 million a year for natural gas fracking projects. The Florida Supreme Court ruled the commission exceeded its authority by approving it.

Now proposed legislation that would grant the commission new authority to charge what Graham called “the fracking tax.”

She pledged that as governor she would fight that and push for a statutory ban on any fracking tax.

“Rick Scott has appointed unqualified, industry-friendly commissioners. Adam Putnam voted to approve the construction of a $24-billion nuclear expansion that is unlikely to ever be built. As Speaker of the House, Richard Corcoran makes half of the appointments to the PSC Nominating Council — which has refused to consider consumer advocates for the PSC,” Graham said. “Their records make it clear that Corcoran and Putnam would continue to allow the Public Service Commission and utilities to charge Floridians with outrageous and unfair taxes.”

Corcoran’s office responded by saying he has six appointments to that commission, and they included Democratic House Leader Janet Cruz and consumer Ann Marie Ryan.

The watchdog group Integrity Florida recently labeled the PSC a “Captured Regulatory Agency,” asserting it has been captured under the influence of the very utilities it is responsible for regulating.

“The Public Service Commission is out of control. As governor, I will appoint consumer advocates who will vote in Floridians best interests — not the special interests,” Graham said. “I will fight to repeal the advanced nuclear recovery taxes and to ban utilities from ever charging customers a speculative fracking tax.”

Central Florida officials ask Rick Scott for more coordination for Puerto Rico evacuees

The influx of Puerto Ricans evacuating their devastated homes in Puerto Rico are beginning to test the capacities of Central Florida and in particular Osceola County, and more state coordination is needed, a group of local officials told Gov. Rick Scott Monday.

Those officials, including Kissimmee Mayor Jose Alvarez, Osceola County Schools Superintendent Debra Pace, and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, told Scott during a roundtable meeting in Kissimmee Monday morning that they want to do all they can to help Puerto Ricans displace by Hurricane Maria but they expect to reach their limits, as Central Florida appears to be the first-choice of most of the more than 143,000 who’ve come to Florida already.

The problem is that evacuating people seek first to live with or near family they have stateside, and that means concentrated communities in South Florida, the Tampa Bay area, and the State Road 417 corridor through Seminole Orange and Osceola counties of Central Florida. While so far the vast majority of evacuees appear to be finding places to stay, mostly with families, officials are expecting an already-existant housing shortage to become a crisis. And certain schools already are crowding.

More than 6,300 children from Puerto Rico have enrolled in Florida schools since Hurricane Maria, following the pattern of their evacuee parents into communities that already have large Puerto Rican populations.

“We have 1,352 new students from Puerto Rico specifically from Hurricane Maria, and an additional 100 from the other storms,” Pace said.

That’s the equivalent of two full elementary schools of new students who arrived in a few weeks. And more are on the way, as some projections exceed 300,000 for the number of Puerto Ricans likely to relocate to Florida. Osceola schools already were peaking beyond projections before Hurricane Maria, Pace said.

“We’re welcoming them and doing all we can to serve them. But capacity is becoming a true issue: teacher needs, staffing to help support them,” Pace said. “And as you notice the conditions down there are not good, so the children are stressed. The families are stressed. It is really taking an emotional toll as well to educate them as well as to love them.”

The dilemma is created because the existing large communities of Puerto Ricans in Florida are where the evacuees are most likely to have family and friends who can offer them spare bedrooms, couches, and a few hot meals. But if they want to stay, and indications are most are expecting to stay, that’s a temporary situation that would last only a few months, and then the housing shortage and jobs pool will become bigger factors.

Housing is the next big challenge, Alvarez predicted. He made a couple of suggestions, including the placement of FEMA trailers, and the possibility of converting closed motels in the U.S. Highway 192 corridor into FEMA housing.

“We need to look at how we are going to get that resolved before that becomes a problem,” he said.

And the schools already are experiencing the imbalances, as Pace described.

“If they want to stay in Central Florida, which is a logical thing for them to want to do, even if we brought in housing, our schools may not be able to handle it,” Jacobs said. “So that’s why we’ve been looking to see if FEMA has a broader approach if we need it.”

Jacobs had written to Scott, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Florida Division of Emergency Management two weeks ago, along with the chairs of Osceola and Seminole counties, urging a meeting such as the one Monday be set up to examine how the federal, state and local authorities could plan long term and coordinate more closely to try avoid service capacity issues by overwhelmed areas, while other areas of the state might have plenty of housing, school capacity and jobs going untapped.

In addition to providing relief resources to the island of Puerto Rico, Scott has coordinated a number of efforts in Florida to assist evacuees, starting with the creation and opening of welcome centers at the Miami and Orlando international airports which have helped direct more than 26,000 evacuees and their families toward housing, food, transpiration, education, job placement, and other services, and, last week, directing the Florida Division of Emergency Management to activate the State Emergency Operations Center to Level 2, to better coordinate transitional housing.

“The biggest thing is to figure out how we go forward,” Scott said. “We’re going to continue to have housing, education, jobs, we’ll have all these issues.”

Jacobs said she heard what she hoped to hear.

“This addresses the need for a meeting, absolutely,” Jacobs said. “We were very pleased.”

David Santiago leads all Central Florida House candidates in October fundraising

Republican State Rep. David Santiago led all Central Florida candidates for the Florida House of Representatives in October fundraising drawing in $21,000 for his re-election bid in Florida’s House District 27 in Volusia County.

Santiago, of Deltona was one of five candidates region-wide who were able to attract at least $10,000, along with two other Republican incumbents, state Reps. Randy Fine of Palm Bay, and Mike La Rosa of St. Cloud; Republican hopeful Tyler Sirois of Merritt Island; and Democratic hopeful Anna Eskamani of Orlando.

The trio of Republican incumbents with five-figure October hauls got virtually all of their campaign donations in October from political action committees, lobbyists, and corporations, almost all of it coming in $500 or $1,000 checks, a common occurrence across all incumbents’ campaign finance reports for October.

Santiago raised all $21,000 of his October bounty from PACs, corporations, or lobbyists. Fine, who is unopposed, raised $20,500 in the month for his re-election bid in House District 53 in Brevard County, all of it in checks of $500 or $1,000 from PACs, lobbyists or corporations. La Rosa, $13,515 in his re-election quest for House District 42 in Osceola County, including $515 that came from individuals.

By contrast, Eskamani raised $16.892 through 221 donations from individuals. Sirois also raised much of his October revenue of $10,130 from individuals, though his 36 contributions included some from a couple of local car dealerships, a gun store, and a gambling interest.

Eskamani’s quest to succeed Republican incumbent state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park continues to be the region’s hottest race. She now has raised $126,267, and spent about $25,000 of that. Her opponent Republican Stockton Reeves, a Winter Park businessman, reported raising $1,300 in the month. Including a $90,000 loan he made to open his campaign, Reeve’s campaign has about $93,000 in cash, not far behind Eskamani’s war chest total.

In HD 27, Santiago’s opponent, Democrat Tyran Basil of Deltona, reported raising $125 in October, giving him about $1,591 in total funds raised, and about $650 in the bank.

In House District 28, for a Seminole County seat being vacated by Republican incumbent state Rep. Jason Brodeur, Republican David Smith of Winter Springs continues to have the most dominant position in fundraising. He reported raising just $1,406 in October, but finished the month with about $113,000 in the bank. Fellow Republican Chris Anderson of Lake Mary reported raising no money in October, and finished with about $7,700 in the bank. Democrat Lee Mangold of Casselberry raised just $120, and his campaign fund finished the month broke.

In House District 29, Republican incumbent state Rep. Scott Plakon of Longwood reported raising $8,000 in October, all through PACs, corporations, and lobbyists, giving him about $37,500 in the bank. October reports have not yet been posted for his Democratic opponent, Patrick Brandt of Longwood. Brandt started October with about $100 in the bank.

In House District 30, Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs, who is unopposed, picked up $9,000 in October, all of it from PACs, corporations, and lobbyists. He finished the month with about $53,500 in the bank.

In House District 31, Republican incumbent state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan of Mount Dora reported raising $500 in October, giving her about $15,700 in the bank. October reports have not yet been posted for her Democratic opponent Debra Kaplan of Eustis, who had finished September with about $1,700 in the bank.

In HD 42, La Rosa has now raised $69,432 and spent $30,018, giving him $39,416 in the bank. October reports have not yet been filed on his opponent Barbara Cady of Kissimmee, who had finished September with about $3,500 in cash.

In House District 43, Democratic incumbent state Rep. John Cortes of Kissimmee, who is unopposed, raised $2,500, all from unions and corporations, giving him $19,000 in-hand.

In House District 44, newly-sworn-in Republican incumbent state Rep. Bobby Olszewski of Winter Garden reported raising $6,200 in his first two weeks of a re-election campaign, which included $5,000 from various Walt Disney Co. companies. Democratic challenger Dawn Antonis‘s October reports were not yet posted Monday morning. She had finished September with $1,355. Democratic challenger Matt Matin just entered the race, and reported no financial activity yet.

In House District 45, Democratic incumbent state Rep. Kamia Brown of Ocoee, who is unopposed, reported raising $2,500 all from PACs and corporations, giving her $10,350. In neighboring House District 46, reports had not yet been posted for Democratic incumbent state Rep. Bruce Antone of Ocoee, who also is unopposed. In House District 48, Democratic incumbent state Rep. Amy Mercado, also unopposed, reported raising $3,500 in October, all from unions and corporations. She finished the month with $23,843 total raised, and about $16,000 in the bank.

In House District 49 Democratic incumbent state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith now has an opponent, Jose “Pepito” Aponte, an Orlando Republican. Smith raised $5,300 in October, with $3,000 of that coming from PACs and unions. He finished the month with about $5,800 in the bank. Aponte has not yet reported any campaign finance activity.

In House District 50, Republican incumbent state Rep. Rene Plasencia, now unopposed since his former opponent dropped out last month, collected $5,500 in October, all from PACs and corporations, giving him $76,200 raised so far, and more than $50,000 in the bank.

In HD 51, Sirois’s big October puts him solidly ahead of two Republican primary candidates who had mostly kept up with him in the money chase until recently. Sirois now has raised $56,650 and finished October with about $39,000 in the bank. Republican Thomas O’Neill of Rockledge raised no money in October and finished the moth with about $5,800. Republican Jeffrey Ramsey of Merritt Island raised $500 in October, leaving him with about $17,400 in the bank.

In House District 52, Republican incumbent state Rep. Thad Altman of Indialantic reported raising $4,500 in the month, most of it from PACs and lobbyists, giving him about $12,400 in the bank. Republican Matt Nye of Melbourne reported raising $550, giving him $508 in the bank.

Pete Clarke raises $9,300 in Orange County mayor’s race, while Jerry Demings, Rob Panepinto now top $240K

Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke reported raising $9,301 in his first month of campaigning for the Orange County mayor’s job in 2017.

That starts him off well behind the two leading candidates in the money chase so far, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings and Rob Panepinto, president of Orlando Inc., the Orlando-area chamber of commerce. They each announced or posted their campaign finance numbers early last week. Yet Clarke said he has not begun serious campaign fundraising yet, and has several major events set before the end of the year.

The October reports for the fourth major Orange County mayoral candidate, Orange County School Board Chairman Bill Sublette, have not yet been posted on the Orange County Supervisor of Elections website.

In October, Clarke picked up 20 checks, including a $1,000 donation to himself, and five other maximum-amount checks from businesses and individuals. He also received about $900 in in-kind contributions. He spent just $80, leaving him with $9,220 in cash at the start of November.

By contrast, Panepinto raised nearly $240,000 in the month of October, including $100,000 he donated to his own campaign. About $172,000 of that went into his official campaign fund, and another $69,000 went into his independent political committee, Vision Orange County. His big checks to Vision County included $10,000 from banker Sal Nunziata of Orlando, $9,000 from health care professional Davian Santana of Clermont, $8,000 from businessman David Carmany of Winter Park, and $7,000 each from Shawn Bush of Orlando and the 2013 Leford Revocable Trust.

Demings, who entered the race in July, maintains a slight edge in the money chase. He reported raising $60,676 in his official campaign fund and another $55,000 in his political committee, Orange County Citizens for Smart Growth, in the month of October. Between them, he has raised $251,412. His biggest checks to his independent committee were $25,000 apiece from the Colonial Medical Center and Mauricio Chiropractic Group, both of Orlando, and $5,000 from the Community Leadership PAC of Arlington, Va. He has spent $19,000 from his campaign committee.

Like Clarke and Panapinto, Sublette just entered the race, and did not file any previous campaign finance reports.

Dorothy Hukill raises $30K, Dennis Baxley $33K, in Florida Senate re-election bids

State Sen. Dorothy Hukill reported raising more than $30,000 in October toward her 2018 re-election bid in Florida Senate District 14 in the northern Space Coast.

Hukill’s haul was her biggest one-month total yet, and brings her contributions to $84,700. After expenses the Port Orange Republican had $57,400 in the bank at the end of October, according to reports posted on the Florida Division of Elections website.

Her opponent, Democrat Melissa Martin of Cocoa had a decent month herself, but remains far behind in the money chase. Martin reported raising $2,900 in October, bringing her three-month total to $8,300. After expenses, she reported having just under $8,000 in the bank.

The big difference thus far has been that virtually all of Martin’s contributions have come from individuals. She has collected but one $1,000 maximum donation, and only another 10 checks for more than $100, among her 105 donations. Meanwhile, all but a dozen or so of Hukill’s donations have come from political action committees, corporations, and lobbyists. Of Hukill’s 92 campaign donations, 47 were for the $1,000 maximum, and only one was for under $100.

Similarly to Hukill, state Sen. Dennis Baxley reported raising more than $33,000 in October, virtually all of it from political action committees, corporations and lobbyists. That brings the Ocala Republican’s fundraising total to $65,350 in his 2018 Florida Senate District 12 re-election campaign, leaving him with about $49,800 in the bank.

His Republican primary opponent, Keasha Gray of Ocala, has not reported raising any money since entering the field five months ago.

In other Central Florida state Senate contests, State Rep. Jason Brodeur‘s 2020 bid to succeed state Sen. David Simmons in Seminole County’s Florida Senate District 9 seat continues to roll three years out from the election, with another $17,150 raised in October, the most he’s collected in a month since his big start early this year.

That gives Brodeur, the Sanford Republican, $177,125 raised in his official campaign fund for the 2020 election, and he has another $1 million raised in his Friends of Jason Brodeur political committee. After expenses, Brodeur has $70,000 in his campaign fund and about $270,000 in his unofficial political committee.

The SD 9 race has one other candidate, Democrat Frederick Ashby of Oviedo, who reported raising no money last month. He’s raised $425 total since filing for the seat in May, and has lent his campaign $1,100.

State Sen. Victor Torres reported raising $6,500 in October giving him a donations total of about $31,000 for his 2020 Senate District 15 re-election campaign. Torres has about $23,000 cash on hand. He does not yet have an opponent.

State Sen. Randolph Bracy’s campaign finance reports for the month of October have not yet been posted in Florida Senate District 11. He also does not yet have an opponent. Neither state Sen. Linda Stewart nor anyone else has yet filed paperwork for the 2020 election in her Senate District 13.


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