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Staff Reports

Hard Rock Daytona Beach

Hard Rock coming to Daytona Beach

Seminole Tribe of Florida-controlled Hard Rock International says it’s opening a fourth location in Florida later this year with the addition of the 200-room Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach.

“Catering to the unique needs of business and leisure travelers,” the new property “will provide 20,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, including bright meeting rooms with views of the Atlantic Ocean and an open-air terrace suitable for any meeting or special event needs,” a Tuesday press release said.  

The new beachfront hotel also will feature “all-day dining, 24-hour in-room dining, a grab-and-go coffee shop and a poolside bar and grill.” Gambling will not be offered.

Tuesday’s news follows Hard Rock’s recent purchase of the former Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, and a deal to open a Hard Rock Casino in Ottawa, Canada.

The company also wants to build a $1 billion casino in northern New Jersey just outside New York City.

The Tribe last year consolidated its control over the rock ‘n’ roll-themed Hard Rock hotel and casino brand, buying out remaining rights from the owner-operator of Las Vegas’ Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

Hard Rock-themed properties are now in Tampa, Hollywood (both include casinos) and Orlando.

Andrew Gillum takes a swipe at Rick Scott’s ‘victory tour’

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democratic candidate for governor in 2018, is slamming Gov. Rick Scott‘s and House Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s “victory tour.”

Saying he’s standing up for public schools, Gillum released a statement Tuesday in the wake of Scott’s announcement of a five-city “Fighting for Florida’s Future Victory” tour to “celebrate the major wins for Florida families and students during last week’s legislative Special Session.”

Corcoran plans to join him on some of the stops, set for Miami, West Palm Beach, Fort Myers, Tampa and Jacksonville Beach.

“This tour will highlight an all-time high of K-12 per-pupil spending, the establishment of the $85 million Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, full funding for VISIT FLORIDA, and $50 million to kick-start repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee,” the governor’s press release said.

Gillum isn’t buying it.

“The only person less deserving of a ‘victory tour’ than Gov. Scott and Speaker Corcoran is Donald Trump‘s lawyer,” he said.

Scott’s and Corcoran’s “backroom deals will destroy our public schools’ futures, and they ought to be ashamed of what they’ve done to our state over the past week,” he added.

Gillum and public schools advocates have been critical of Corcoran’s favored bill, HB 7069, a wide-ranging education policy bill they say slights traditional public schools in favor of charter schools run by private concerns.

“The end of the Special Session is not ‘mission accomplished’ on behalf of Florida’s students and teachers,” Gillum said, a likely reference to a 2003 speech by then-President George W. Bush, after which he was criticized for prematurely saying the U.S. had “prevailed” in Iraq.

“I’m running for governor because our children are not well when they can’t read at grade level, take anxiety medication for high stakes tests, and suffer while for-profit charter school executives and their allies fly around on a ‘victory tour,’ ” Gillum said.

Jose Mallea raises more than $50K toward HD 116 race

Jose Mallea brought in more than $50,000 in his race to replace Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in House District 116.

State records show Mallea, a Miami-Dade Republican, raised $50,640 between May 22 and June 8, bring his total raised to $140,156. Mallea faces Daniel Anthony Perez in the July 25 special primary to replace Diaz, who resigned effective Sept. 26 to run in the Senate District 40 special election.

Top contributors during the fundraising period include Andrew Card, who served as former President George W. Bush’s chief of staff and former Ambassador Al Hoffman. Other top donors include American Principles PAC; IRL PAC, which is affiliated with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen; MCNA Health Care Holdings; and Sunshine Dade Investments.

Records show Mallea spent $50,018 during the fundraising period. He ended the fundraising period with $88,488 cash on hand.

Mallea has received the backing of former Gov. Jeb Bush and former House Speaker Will Weatherford. The owner of JM Global consulting, Mallea ran Sen. Marco Rubio’s successful U.S. Senate campaign in 2010. Prior to that, he served as chief of staff to former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz. He’s also served stints with the federal government, working at the U.S. Department of State and the White House.

State records show Perez raised $33,660 in the fundraising period. Top contributors during the fundraising period included JAC-RU Consulting Services, Doral Station II Corp, and Quintana & Associates.

Perez spent $45,128 during the fundraising period. He ended the period with $40,418 cash on hand.

The winner of the July 25 special primary will face Democrat Gabriela Mayaudon in the Sept. 26 special general election. Records show Mayaudon raised $1,800 and spent $1,781 during the fundraising period.

Personnel note: Greg Black joins Gunster

Greg Black is joining Gunster‘s statewide government affairs law and lobbying practice, the firm announced in a press release.

Black joins the firm with an extensive background advocating for a wide range of clients in the financial services, insurance, health care, biomedical research, pharmaceutical, and technology industries.

He previously represented the Florida Bankers Association where he advised financial institutions of all sizes. Black’s experience also includes procurement matters at the state and local levels.

Prior to joining Gunster, Black worked for a firm that specializes in legislative and governmental affairs.

“Gunster is strategically focused on recruiting and integrating top talent across all 13 of our Florida offices,” said Lila Jaber, regional managing shareholder and head of the firm’s government affairs practice. “Greg’s knowledge and experience in legislative law is a pivotal addition to our talented team as we continue to expand the services we offer to our clients.”

Black graduated from the Florida State University College of Law where he co-founded the Volunteer Student Law Project, a pro bono legal service partnership with the Legal Aid Foundation of the Tallahassee Bar Association.

Black has remained engaged with his alma mater by serving as director of the alumni board, and was recently appointed chair of the development committee. In addition, he frequently returns to the FSU campus to speak with participants in the Donald J. Weidner Summer for Undergraduates program.

Black also serves on the board for Take Stock In Children, Inc., a nonprofit providing opportunities for a post-secondary education to low-income students throughout all of Florida’s 67 counties.

Jack Latvala raises more than $47K in May

Sen. Jack Latvala raised more than $47,800 in about 20 days in May.

Florida Leadership Committee, the Clearwater Republican’s political committee, raised at least $47,891 between May 10 and May 31, according to contribution data posted to the committee’s website.

The Division of Elections’ deadline for reporting May numbers is Monday. Florida Leadership Committee hadn’t posted its information with the state as of Monday morning, but has posted contribution data on its website.

Top contributors during the three-weeks included AT&T Services, Third Amendment Media Production, and real estate executive Edward Pantzer.

Latvala, the chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, is believed to be mulling a 2018 gubernatorial bid. In May, Latvala said he planned to announce his decision in August.

He appears to be boosting his coffers ahead of an eventual decision. State records show the political committee has raised more than $1.4 million between January and April of this year. It ended April with more than $3.1 million cash on hand.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam already launched his 2018 gubernatorial campaign. His political committee, Florida Grown, raised more than $1.01 million in May, according to contribution data posted to the political committee’s website.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran is also believed to be considering a 2018 gubernatorial bid. His new political committee, Watchdog PAC, did not report raising any money in May.

Trulieve opens The Villages dispensary

Clearwater-based Trulieve is opening its seventh medical cannabis dispensary starting Tuesday with a new location at The Villages.

The Villages Trulieve will be at 13940 US Highway 441, #601 in the Oakland Hills Professional Center.

“We’re excited to have a location in The Villages. Many of our patients are seniors, which makes this location key,” said Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers. “Our goal is to serve as many patients as we can and we will continue to open more locations throughout the rest of the year.”

In addition to The Villages, Trulieve now delivers medical marijuana products statewide and through dispensaries in Clearwater, Edgewater, Miami, Pensacola, Tallahassee, and Tampa.

Patients are offered an assortment of both low THC and high-THC products with various delivery methods including capsules, vaporizers, and tinctures.

Trulieve will be holding an official announcement Tuesday 10 a.m. at a news conference followed by tours of The Villages dispensary.


Jose Oliva’s political committee spreads the (financial) love

In advance of his 2018-20 House Speakership, state Rep. Jose Oliva‘s political committee this year has been sharing the wealth with his friends and allies, campaign finance records accessed Monday show.

Most recently, the Miami Lakes Republican’s committee, called Conservative Principles for Florida, gave $1,000 on May 19 to fellow House Republican Jose Felix Diaz’s state Senate run.

Diaz is seeking to take the South Florida seat vacated by former Sen. Frank Artiles.

On March 7, the committee chipped in $1,000 to Miami Republican Jeanette Nuñez, now the House Speaker pro tempore.

She’s eyeing current Sen. Anitere Flores’ seat in the 2020 election, according to the Division of Elections.

That month, the PC also wrote a check for $10,000 to the Friends of Matt Caldwell political committee.

The House Republican from North Fort Myers recently declared his candidacy for agriculture commissioner to replace the term-limited Adam Putnam, now a GOP candidate for governor.

In January, the committee gave $1,000 to political newcomer and attorney Mike Mena, who won a seat on the Coral Gables City Commission after a first-ever runoff election in the city’s history in April.

Also In January, insurance agent Jorge Gutierrez was the recipient of $1,000 for his Hialeah Gardens City Council campaign. “He is currently serving a four-year term until March 2021,” the city’s website says. 

Oliva remains as CEO of Oliva Cigar Co. after selling the company last year to a European concern.

Ray Rodrigues, other SWFL leaders host fundraiser for Matt Caldwell’s bid for Ag Commissioner

Rep. Matt Caldwell is getting a little help from his friends in bid for Agriculture Commissioner.

Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, Rep. Dane Eagle, and Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen are among the more than three dozen Southwest Florida officials scheduled to host a fundraiser for Caldwell on Monday night.

The fundraiser, according to a copy of the invitation, is scheduled to kick off around 5:30 p.m. at Suncoast Beverage in downtown Fort Myers.

Rodrigues, an Estero Republican, was selected to serve as Majority Leader under House Speaker Richard Corcoran for the 2016-18 term; while Eagle, a Cape Coral Republican, serves as Majority Whip. Fitzenhagen, a Fort Myers Republican, is the chairwoman of the House Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee. All three were elected to the Florida House in 2012.

The invitation also lists former state Rep. Gary Aubuchon; Lee County Commissioners Brian Hamman, Larry Kiker, Frank Mann, and Cecil Pendergrass; Lee County Clerk Linda Dogget; Lee County Property Appraiser Ken Wilkinson; Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott; and well-known Lee County residents Sandy Stilwell and Bruce Strayhorn as hosts.

Caldwell faces Sen. Denise Grimsley and Paul Paulson in the race to replace Agriculture Adam Putnam as Agriculture Commissioner in 2018. Democrat Michael Damian Christine has also filed to run; and Republican Baxter Troutman is considering jumping into the race.

According to Caldwell’s campaign, the North Fort Myers Republican raised $101,1575 for his 2018 agriculture commissioner bid during a 20-day period in May. Caldwell is expected to report ending the month with $100,458 cash on hand, according to his campaign. His political committee, Friends of Matt Caldwell, will report raising $712,825 since January.

Alex Diaz de la Portilla labeled ‘not a conservative’ in new mailer

A new mailer landing in South Florida mailboxes has labeled Alex Diaz de la Portilla “not a conservative.”

The mailer is the second from Making a Better Tomorrow, a Venice-based political committee, targeting Diaz de la Portilla in the special election to replace Sen. Frank Artiles in Senate District 40.

“Alex Diax de la Portilla claims to be a conservative, but his record tells a different story,” reads the mailer.

Much like an earlier mailer from Making a Better Tomorrow, the mailer says the Miami Republican raised taxes, increased the size of government, and hurt business and job growth. The ad also slams Diaz de la Portilla for having a “disregard for the law” and “living recklessly.”

Among other things, the ad points to case in which a warrant was issued after Diaz de la Portilla failed to obey an order to turn over a dog in his divorce case.

The ad urges voters to “tell Alex Diaz de la Portilla his behavior is atrocious and certainly not conservative.”

Diaz de la Portilla served in the Florida House from 1994 until 2000, when he was elected to serve in the Florida Senate. He served in the Senate until 2010, serving stints as the Majority Leader and Senate President Pro Tempore.

He faces Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in the special election to replace Artiles, who resigned earlier this year amid scandal, in Senate District 40. The race for the GOP nomination is expected to be a bitter and expensive battle, with outside groups pouring thousands upon thousands of dollars into the race.

Making a Better Tomorrow has raised more than $289,331 million since 2014, according to state records. The group hasn’t received any donations since February 2017, when it received a single $4,000 contribution. State records show it ended May with $41,923 cash on hand.

The special primary election in Senate District 40 is July 25, with the general election set for Sept. 26.

Adam Putnam’s political committee racks up another cool million in May

Republican candidate for governor Adam Putnam’s political committee posted more than $1 million in contributions for May, the committee’s own reports show.

The Division of Elections’ deadline for reporting May numbers is Monday. Florida Grown hadn’t posted its information with the state as of Monday morning, but has rolling contribution and expenditure information on its website.

May contributions totaled more than $1.01 million, while monthly expenditures were just over $244,000.

Big contributors early in the month included the A. Duda & Sons agricultural and land development company of Oviedo at $100,000, and Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association Mutual of Maitland at listed at $60,000. 

Among top individual donors, physician Gordon W. Ondra of Lakeland gave the PC $50,000.

Later in the month, the SSLP Political Committee of Venice, also affiliated with Putnam, closed out and gave Florida Grown all its remaining $221,237, records show.

Produce distributor Six L’S Packing Company of Immokalee chipped in $50,000.

Not counting May, the committee has over $8 million in cash-on-hand funds.

Putnam, the current agriculture commissioner, is term-limited next year. The 42-year-old declared his long-expected candidacy for governor last month, followed by a statewide bus tour.

His campaign has yet to post its own numbers.

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