Staff Reports, Author at Florida Politics - Page 4 of 112

Staff Reports

Ex-Obama official to challenge Brian Mast in CD 18

Lauren Baer, a former senior official in the Obama administration, is launching a Democratic challenge to Republican Brian Mast in Florida’s 18th Congressional District.

CD 18 covers St. Lucie and Martin counties, as well as the northeastern Palm Beach County.

From 2011 and 2017, Baer served as senior adviser to Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, as well as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power. Human rights and international law were her specialties.

“America’s ability to project strength around the world begins with a strong foundation at home,” Baer said in a statement Monday. “That means focusing on job creation and economic policies that preserve and expand the middle class; protecting our environment and our coastline; ensuring that all children have access to first-rate public schools; and guaranteeing that all people have quality, affordable health care.”

The citizens of Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast “deserve a representative in Congress who will work across the aisle to make government work for them,” Baer added.

Baer continued: “As the mother of an infant, and the daughter of parents in their 60s, I am committed to creating a bright future for all of our children, making government work for working families, and protecting our seniors.”

The Palm Beach Gardens native raised over $250,000 since launching an exploratory committee in August, with more than $200,000 in the 21 days since she filed her candidacy statement Sept. 12.

A Palm Beach Gardens native, Baer’s extended family owns and operates Baer’s Furniture, founded by her great-grandparents in the late 1960s. After spending time in the family business, her father founded a commercial real estate company based in Palm Beach Gardens.

Baer holds a degree from Harvard University, a J.D. from Yale Law School, and a Masters in Philosophy from the University of Oxford, where she was a Marshall Scholar. She began her legal career focused on international disputes, and had successfully argued the U.S. Supreme Court to limit Citizens United, the Jan. 2010 decision that changed the way money is spent in elections.

Currently, Baer works with the Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm founded by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She and her wife, Emily, have an 11-month-old daughter, Serena.

Rick Scott orders flags at half-staff for Las Vegas shooting victims

Gov. Rick Scott Monday has ordered flags at half-staff “in honor and remembrance of the victims of the act of violence committed in Las Vegas during the late-night hours of Oct. 1.”

The U.S. and state flags will be flown at half-staff “at all local and state buildings, installations, and grounds throughout the State of Florida,” according to a statement from his office.

“The flags shall be lowered immediately and remain at half-staff until the expiration of the President’s national directive until sunset on Friday.”

“Ann and I are praying for Las Vegas and all the innocent lives senselessly taken in this tragic attack,” Scott said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to every family impacted by last night’s shooting.”

President Donald Trump‘s proclamation is here.

Incoming Puerto Rican students eligible for free school meals

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced Friday that Puerto Rican students displaced by Hurricane Maria will be able to get free school meals through the National School Lunch Program.

That’s “in response to the ongoing crisis in Puerto Rico and in preparation for an influx of evacuees,” Putnam’s office said in a release.

Since 2012, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has overseen the state’s school nutrition programs.

“Federal laws allow students in households evacuating a designated disaster area access to free school meals,” it said.

“Our neighbors and fellow Americans in Puerto Rico need all the help and support we can provide,” Putnam said. “To any families fleeing Puerto Rico and coming to Florida, you will not have to worry about how you’re going to pay for your child’s school meals.”

For more information, call (800) 504-6609 or email

Rick Scott backs raise for juvy officers

Gov. Rick Scott said Friday he will propose a 10 percent pay raise for juvenile detention and juvenile probation officers in his 2018-19 recommended budget.

That budget is expected to be revealed at The Associated Press’ annual legislative coverage planning session on Nov. 2 at the Capitol. 

Scott will recommend $8 million in pay raises to support officer recruitment and retention, a press release said. The state has more than 2,000 juvenile detention and juvenile probation officers.

“Over the past six and a half years, we have taken aggressive steps to reform Florida’s juvenile justice system,” Scott said in a statement. “Florida’s juvenile detention and probation officers have the important responsibility of working with youth in DJJ (Department of Juvenile Justice) care, but they also have the unique opportunity to help change lives and redirect our youth to a successful path.

“I look forward to working with the Legislature during the upcoming session to pass this 10 percent pay raise, which will ensure DJJ can hire highly qualified and dedicated detention and probation officers to help our youth and keep our communities safe for years to come.”

“The proposal builds on the Governor’s proposed $30 million investment in pay raises for our state law enforcement agencies to use for officer recruitment and retention, and the pay raises for state law enforcement and correctional officers included in the current year’s budget,” the release said.

The 2018 Legislative Session begins Jan. 8.

Brevard Sheriff endorses Ashley Moody for Attorney General

Brevard Sheriff Wayne Ivey is endorsing Republican Ashley Moody as Florida’s next Attorney General.

“There is no better choice to serve Floridians as our next Attorney General than Ashley Moody,” Ivey said in a statement Thursday. “Her strong and reasoned approach to the criminal issues that plague our state will have a lasting impact on the safety of our communities.

“I’m proud to endorse her and hope you will join me in ensuring Ashley Moody is Florida’s next Attorney General.”

“A strong voice in support of law enforcement and our constitutional rights, Sheriff Ivey has proven to be a successful and beloved leader in his community,” Moody responded. “He is devoted to his deputies and the people he serves.  I’m humbled and honored to have his support.”

Moody, a fifth-generation Floridian, is a native of Hillsborough County.  She attended the University of Florida where she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting and juris doctor. Moody attended Stetson University College of Law, earning a Masters of Law in International Law.

Later, Moody joined the United States Attorney’s Office prosecuting drug, firearm and fraud offenses.  While a federal prosecutor, the Drug Enforcement Administration commended Moody for prosecutorial excellence and outstanding initiative in drug law enforcement. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement also acknowledged her for leading “Operation Round-Up,” a targeted prosecution of violent and repeat offenders.

In 2006, at the age of 31, Moody became the youngest judge in Florida when elected Circuit Judge of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in Hillsborough County. As a judge, she founded the Attorney Ad Litem program recruiting volunteer attorneys to stand in the place of parents who did not appear in court with their children.  Moody also developed a mentoring program for at-risk children within the juvenile delinquency system. Ashley previously served as the president of two American Inns of Court and chaired both the Pro Bono and Professionalism Committees for Hillsborough County.

Moody lives with her husband, Justin, a federal law enforcement agent, in Tampa with their two sons, Brandon and Connor.


Personnel note: Thomas Hobbs joins Ramba Consulting

Thomas Hobbs is the newest lobbyist with Ramba Consulting Group, and will become Chief Pilot and Operations Manager for Capital Air Service, according to a Thursday press release.

Hobbs, Thomas

Hobbs, a captain in the Florida Army National Guard, is just back from National Guard duty in the Florida Keys after Hurricane Irma, and less than six months after a deployment in Iraq.

“We could not be more excited to have Thomas joining our team,” said David Ramba, founder of Ramba Consulting Group.

“His devotion to country, his commitment to serving others, his depth of policy experience, and his natural leadership abilities make him a tremendous asset, both as an aviator and a government consultant,” he added. “Florida and the nation have benefited from his prior service, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to benefit from his expertise now.”

Here’s the rest of the release:

Hobbs is a UH-60 Blackhawk pilot and Future Operations Planner for the 1-111th Aviation Battalion of the Florida Army National Guard, based out of Cecil Field in Jacksonville.

He most recently spent 10 days based in Opa Locka on state active duty in support of Hurricane Irma activities as the officer in charge of aviation recovery operations for the Florida Keys. He returned home in May from deployment to Taji, Iraq, in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

That other “hat” Hobbs wears with pride puts him squarely into the public policy arena, and he will be able to pursue that interest with Ramba Consulting.

Hobbs earned his bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Social Science and a master’s degrees in Applied American Politics and Policy, both from Florida State University. He interned in the office of then-Gov. Jeb Bush before working in the Office of Policy and Budget. He then served as deputy director of the Majority Whip’s office in the Florida House.

Drawn by his desire to serve his country, Hobbs attended U.S. Army Flight School. After graduating, he worked at a lobbying firm prior to being deployed overseas.

What they’re saying about Annette Taddeo’s victory in SD 40

After three attempts at elective office, Democrat Annette Taddeo finally won Tuesday’s special election to represent Miami-area Florida Senate District 40.

Taddeo, 50, defeated former state Rep. Jose Felix “Pepi” Diaz 51 to 47 percent to fill the seat of Republican Frank Artiles, who resigned in April after using the N-word in front of two black Senate colleagues. She has run for Congress twice and was running mate to Democrat Charlie Crist in his unsuccessful 2014 bid for Florida Governor against Republican incumbent Rick Scott.

For many, Taddeo’s come from behind win — where Republicans led early voting coming into Election Day — was a rebuke of the hate-filled, divisive politics in the Donald Trump era, both in Tallahassee and Washington.

Here are what some leading Democrats, nationally and in Florida, are saying about Taddeo’s victory:

Florida Democratic Party Chair Steven Bittel

“Congratulations to Annette Taddeo on this major victory for Miami-Dade and our entire state. This is a win for all of Florida. Democrats represent 16 of 40 state Senate seats. Annette will head to Tallahassee ready to fight for higher paying jobs, affordable health care and fully funded public schools. Democrats across the state are energized and mobilizing to flip Florida blue. After nearly 20 years of harmful GOP policies, voters are ready for a better deal.

The Florida Democratic Party joined progressive partners like the FDLCC, unions on a community engagement effort that sets a new standard for our Party. We actively engaged both the Latino and African-American communities of SD 40 in neighbor-to-neighbor conversations focused on the issues that matter most. This victory is the first of many, as we are poised to claim the governorship, we are prepared to re-elect Senator Bill Nelson, and we are within striking distance of reaching parity in the upper chamber of the state Legislature.

The FDP has made significant strides in building long-term political and grassroots infrastructure that will help Democrats win critical seats at the local, state and federal level. We are organizing year-round and we will be engaging in neighbor-to-neighbor conversations in every one of our 67 counties to turn Florida blue in 2018 and beyond.”

Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee Executive Director Jessica Post

“This crucial win tonight is a great representation of Democrats’ winning momentum and increased engagement in the Trump era. Annette reached Florida voters because they know that she will fight for them, defending school funding and protecting natural resources along with standing up for immigrant families and protecting access to health care. The DLCC worked with legislative leaders and our progressive allies to ensure Annette’s campaign had the resources and support needed to win. We are proud of the DLCC’s work to deliver this special election win and help put Democrats on track to challenge Florida’s Republican trifecta by taking back the state Senate in 2018.”

Senate Democratic Leader-Designate Jeff Clemens

“I am thrilled to congratulate Annette Taddeo on her great victory. The Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee committed to righting a wrong in this district and electing a proven champion who will join our caucus to fight for an agenda that puts working families first.”

Florida House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz, a DLCC board member

“Senator-elect Taddeo’s win tonight is not only a step forward for Floridians, it is a step forward for Florida Democrats looking to bring progressive change to Tallahassee and prevent more harmful Republican gerrymandering in 2020.”

Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, a Democratic candidate for Florida Governor

“Annette Taddeo ran and won on the values that unite us as Floridians — renewing public education, defending our clean land and water, and building an economy that works for every family. She will represent every member of Miami’s diverse community,” Graham said. “I look forward to working with her to build a brighter future for the state we love.”

Miami Beach commissioner and congressional candidate Kristen Rosen Gonzalez

“Frank Artiles’ resignation in April 2017, after making insulting racial remarks, set off a chain of events that ended last night. Annette Taddeo, after an often bruising campaign, made South Florida political history by turning a seat held by a bedrock Republican into a Democratic seat, beating State Representative Jose Felix Diaz.

“Annette will be taking not just the best wishes of South Florida voters to Tallahassee, but the hopes of Florida Democratic women, as well.

“We need more smart women in positions of power.

“Not just in Tallahassee, but in Washington, too.”

Evacuation Route Sign, photo: AAA

Personnel note: Bryan Koon quits as state emergency management head

With a little more than two months left in the 2017 hurricane season, Florida’s emergency management head is leaving his job “to pursue an opportunity in the private sector,” the Governor’s Office announced Tuesday.

Gov. Rick Scott announced Bryan Koon’s resignation as director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management (DEM), effective next Sunday.

AP/Wilfredo Lee

“On Sept. 1, Koon notified Gov. Scott of his intention to resign to pursue an opportunity in the private sector,” said a release from Scott’s office. “The Governor asked him to remain in his position throughout the month of September due to potential hurricanes forming in the Atlantic.”

“I appreciate Bryan’s willingness to stay on as we prepared for, responded to and now recover from Hurricane Irma,” he added. “I wish Bryan and his family the very best in this next chapter of their lives.”

Koon has served in the position since 2011 and was one of Scott’s initial appointments as governor. He came into the position having worked as the chief of emergency response for mega retailer Wal-Mart, “where he was responsible for the emergency management operations of over 8,500 facilities worldwide” according to the news release, which also detailed past positions Koon held at the White House Military Office and as a Surface Warfare Officer in the United States Navy.

Prior to his appointment, Koon said his job with Wal-Mart gave him experience coordinating private organization efforts with those of state and local governments. His salary from the state was $141,000 a year.

His tenure coincided with the back half of a decade-long stretch where no hurricanes hit Florida. That streak snapped in 2016 with Hurricane Hermine’s landfall south of Tallahassee followed by Hurricane Matthew’s close pass on the Atlantic Coast. So far, Hurricane Irma is the only major storm to make landfall in Florida this year, but it’s pass through the state earlier this month caused untold billions in damage.

“Under Bryan’s leadership, Florida has been recognized as a national leader in emergency preparedness,” Scott said in a statement. “Since day one, Bryan has done an excellent job ensuring our state is prepared and able to respond to countless weather events including Hurricanes Hermine, Matthew and Irma.

Scott said Wes Maul will serve as interim Director. Maul spent about three years working as a special assistant to Scott, with duties ranging from running the governor’s daily schedule and coordinating his travel, before joining DEM about a year ago. His salary from the state is listed at $116,000 a year.

Before joining Scott’s office, Maul attended law school at the University of Florida and worked as a delivery associate at Mattress Town of Gainesville. According to his LinkedIn profile, he increased “average daily delivery capability by 211% through improved inventory analysis, logistics, and sales operations.”

Hurricane season ends Nov. 30.

Latest on the legislative staffing merry-go-round

With a tip of the hat to LobbyTools, here are the latest movements – both on and off – of the legislative merry-go-round.

On: Jonathan Capps became a legislative analyst for the Senate Majority Office.

Off and on: Staff director Jennifer Hrdlicka has moved from the Senate Criminal Justice to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development. Lauren Jones replaces Hrdlicka on Criminal Justice.

Off and on: Tempie Sailors replaces Karen Manning as an administrative assistant in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development.

Off and on: Vincent Aldridge went from attorney to deputy staff director for the House Ways & Means Committee.

Off and on: Shirlyne Everette has moved from administrative assistant to the Senate General Counsel to again become Senate committee administrative assistant to the Senate Committee on Community Affairs.

Off and on: Michelle Perez has moved from being committee administrative assistant in Senate Education to administrative assistant to the Senate General Counsel; she will also serve as Public Records Coordinator, replacing Tessa Wagoner who enrolled in FSU law school.

Off and on: Jay Ferrin is out and Diana Caldwell is in as staff director for Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability. Caldwell will also be staff director for the Senate Committee on Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities.

On: Tamra Redig, the committee administrative assistant for Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability, joins Caldwell on both the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability and Senate Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities committees.

On: Tonya Kidd is a new deputy staff director for Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.

Off: Courtney Pickus is no longer a legislative assistant for Democratic state Sen. Lauren Book of Plantation.

On: La’Toya Sheals is now a legislative assistant for Democratic state Sen. Daphne Campbell of North Miami Beach.

Off: Elizabeth Fetterhoff is no longer legislative assistant for Port Orange Republican state Sen. Dorothy Hukill.

On: David Ballard is now a legislative assistant for Brandon Republican state Sen. Tom Lee.

Off: Kayla Lott is no longer legislative assistant for Republican state Sen. Keith Perry of Gainesville.

On and off: Clint Streicher is the new legislative assistant for Boca Raton Democratic state Sen. Kevin Rader. Kathleen Roe is no longer Rader’s legislative assistant.

Off: Jamesha Cox is no longer legislative assistant for state Rep. Thad Altman, and Indialantic Republican.

On: Kristin Fulwylie is the new legislative assistant for Ocoee Democratic state Rep. Kamia Brown.

On and off: Karen Riggien is now a legislative assistant for Jacksonville Democratic state Rep. Kim Daniels. YuVonda Steward has stepped down as Daniels’ legislative assistant; George Davis is her new district secretary.

On: Kathleen Larsen is now district secretary for Cape Coral Republican state Rep. Dane Eagle.

Off: Justin Gendler is no longer district secretary for Democratic state Rep. Katie Edwards of Sunrise.

On and off: Chesten Goodman is now a legislative assistant for Jacksonville Republican state Rep. Jay Fant. Jake Farmer is no longer the legislative assistant for Fant.

Off: Kimberly Simon is no longer a legislative assistant for Republican state Rep. James Grant of Tampa.

On: Lauren Williams is now a legislative assistant for Pensacola Republican state Rep. Clay Ingram.

On: Jackie Gomez-Tejeda is now district secretary for Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Winter Park.

On: Karly Humphrey is the new district secretary for Palm Harbor Republican state Rep. Chris Sprowls.

Personnel note: Christian Minor to lead juvenile justice group

J. Christian Minor has been selected as the new Executive Director for the Florida Juvenile Justice Association (FJJA), a Monday press release announced. He begins Oct. 23.

Minor has been Legislative Affairs Director for Bridges International, “the largest provider of non-profit inmate reentry in the state of Florida,” the release said.

“Our juvenile justice system plays an incredibly important role in Florida, one that mostly goes unnoticed, but I am ready to tell the story of how important it is to continue to invest in public safety, use tax dollars wisely, and help children change their lives by holding them accountable with respect and dignity,” Minor said in a statement.

“Investing in the system that our members are trusted stewards of is a wise decision today and for the future of Florida,” he said.

Added Dr. Pam Alvarez, FJJA President: “Christian’s passion, legislative expertise, and perspective make for the perfect fit to lead our Association forward. As the needs of Florida’s children, families, and communities continue to change, Christian’s skills and knowledge are imperative in  furthering our members’ critical advocacy role and belief in the future.”

“The Florida Juvenile Justice Association was formed in 1994, in conjunction with the legislature’s creation of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ),” the release explained.

“FJJA is a member organization of DJJ’s contracted service providers who care for children and families throughout the juvenile justice continuum. (The association) works collaboratively to enhance public safety, further public policy, and address delinquency through high quality service delivery across the State.”

Minor, 30, has an undergraduate degree and graduate degree in applied politics and policy from Florida State University.

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