Headlines – Florida Politics

New equipment should boost Lottery revenues, agency says

The Florida Lottery projects an increase in sales from new vending machines and other equipment provided through a new multi-million dollar agency contract.

Lottery representatives on Wednesday presented to the state’s Revenue Estimating Impact Conference, a roundtable of state economists. Lawmakers use their projections to craft the state budget each Legislative Session.

Details on the actual numbers should be available later Wednesday.

Agency officials said it was negotiating a deal with a “big-box retailer,” which it didn’t name, to sell even more Lottery tickets in the state.

That’s part of a push to increase the number of places where people can buy Lottery products, which now stands at 13,000 retailers and has been “stagnant” in recent years.

Lottery proceeds go into the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, which helps pay for public education.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran had sued the Lottery last year, saying the Lottery was guilty of “wasteful and improper spending” and “signing a contract that spends beyond existing budget limitations.”

The contract is for new retailer terminals, in-store signage, self-service lottery vending machines, self-service ticket checkers and an upgraded communications network.

He won and the Lottery appealed. In December, the Lottery agreed to tweak the deal to require legislative oversight and approval. The appeal was later dropped.

The Lottery, which reports to Gov. Rick Scott, disclosed changes in what was originally a contract worth $700 million over an initial 10-year period, with three available 3-year renewal options.

Among others, the changes include reducing the number of “full-service vending machines” and requiring the vendor, International Game Technology (IGT), to “support the Lottery’s marketing efforts” by kicking back $30,000 a month.

Jimmy Patronis, Florida’s insurance overseer, once sanctioned in apparent insurance glitch

An apparent glitch in how the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles tracks and responds to drivers’ insurance coverage once resulted in the suspension of the driver’s license of the state’s current top insurance regulator, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis.

Through his staff, Patronis said he was unaware there had been any problems or missed notifications with his auto insurance, or that the department had taken action that led, at least on paper, to his driver’s license being suspended for nearly a year. The news came to him this week when Florida Politics inquired about it.

Patronis’ staff insists what happened was that in 2011 he changed insurance carriers, and the state department apparently was notified of the termination of his previous insurance, but did not receive notice that he replaced it with a policy from a new carrier, GEICO, on April 4, 2011.

The department suspended his license for nine months on July 13, 2011, according to driver records obtained by Florida Politics.

And now the suspension has been wiped from his record.

Patronis said in a written statement that he now is seeking to find out if this was a one-time fluke or a systematic failure that could be leading to on-paper suspensions of other Floridians’ driver’s licenses if they switch insurance carriers.

He called the apparent suspension showing up on his driving record “an erroneous record.”

“I have asked [FDHS&MV] Executive Director [Terry] Rhodes to look into how this erroneous record was generated and to see if this system failure affected other Floridians. There is always room for improvement in state government and it is my expectation that DHSMV will be able to better their system,” Patronis said.

Patronis was appointed to the vacant chief financial officer position on the Florida Cabinet last year and is running for election to a full term this fall. He’ll be going up against Democratic former state Sen. Jeremy Ring in the November election.

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation falls under the CFO’s department.

His insurance agent apparently got the 2011 driver license suspension wiped off of his driving record on Tuesday, according to other records obtained by Florida Politics. After being notified of the 2011 matter, the agent advised the department on Tuesday that Patronis had been fully insured in 2011 and asked that the driver’s license suspension be removed from his record.

An FDHS&MV official replied by email, “Yes, the FR 7 sanction was generated in 2011 after we received a cancellation of insurance from a different insurance company. Since the sanction is over three years old it has been deleted from Mr. Patronis’ driver record.”

A new copy of the driver record Florida Politics obtained late Tuesday through a record request did not include the suspension.

However, the suspension had appeared in an earlier copy of that driver record obtained elsewhere by Florida Politics.

A portion of that earlier copy had been shared with Patronis’ campaign staff when the staff had asserted Patronis had no knowledge of any insurance lapse or suspended license in 2011.

The shared copy itself is another issue.

It included information that the department normally redacts from copies provided through public records requests, and which was redacted from the copy the department sent to Florida Politics later Tuesday.

Patronis’ campaign raised suspicions that the record had been obtained improperly.

“From what we have been told at this point, it appears that someone stole the CFO’s identity to access his personal driving record through a third-party website and because of the serious nature of identity theft, FDLE has been asked to look into this matter,” Katie Strickland, Patronis’ campaign communications director, stated.

FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger replied late Wednesday, “FDLE is aware of the situation and we have been in contact with DHSMV and they are addressing the issue.”

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles issued a statement saying that it relies on information from insurance companies, and is working to improve the process, but concedes that the system is old and “glitches can occur,” which the department tries to correct immediately on being notified by insurance companies that insurance was in place.

The department also insisted that it is “absolutely committed to protecting personal identifying information,” indicating it would not have released the shared record, because it included such information.

“The department has provided you the official driving record, which does not include any sanctions,” said a statement from Deputy Communications Director Alexis Bakofsky. “The department relies on information from insurance companies in order verify motorists have valid insurance; however, the department’s systems are dated and glitches can occur. As soon as we were notified of the error on the record by the customer’s insurance company, the record was immediately corrected. The department has made many improvements to its systems and processes over the past few years and, through DHSMV’s Motorist Modernization initiative, is dedicated to continuing improving systems and services for customers.

“The erroneous sanction should not have ever been a part of the record,” Rhodes said in the statement. “With regards to the record you claim to have received, federal and state law is clear and the department is absolutely committed to protecting customers’ personal identifying information. DHSMV takes this issue very seriously and is taking steps to ensure customer safety and security are maintained.”

State challenges ruling on life insurance law

The state is challenging a ruling by a Leon County circuit judge that part of a 2016 law imposing new requirements on life insurers is unconstitutional.

State Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and the Florida Department of Financial Services filed a notice this week in the 1st District Court of Appeal that they will fight the ruling by Circuit Judge Terry Lewis in a case brought by four life-insurance companies.

The case stems from a 2016 law that, in part, placed new requirements on insurers to try to determine if policyholders had died and to contact beneficiaries. The law was designed to spur insurers to pay benefits or to turn over unclaimed money to the state.

But Lewis ruled that part of the law requiring insurers to apply the changes retroactively to policies dating back as far as 1992 violated the companies’ constitutional due-process rights. In a seven-page order April 20, Lewis issued an injunction against applying the changes retroactively.

The notice of appeal this week, as is common, does not detail arguments the state will make at the Tallahassee-based appeals court. But in a document filed in January in circuit court, attorneys for the state contended that applying the changes to old policies is constitutional because it did not violate “vested rights.”

“For years, insurance companies ignored or avoided knowledge of the deaths of their insureds and failed to pay billions of dollars to beneficiaries, many of whom were unaware that a policy even existed,” the attorneys for the state wrote. “Plaintiffs ask the court to bless these avoidances of their existing obligation to pay monies rightfully owed to policy beneficiaries, while the amendments (changes to law) promote the fulfillment of these contracts.”

But in a motion for summary judgment last year that led to Lewis’ ruling, attorneys for the insurance companies argued it was unconstitutional to apply the changes to old policies, including policies that might have ceased for various reasons. The insurers filing the case were United Insurance Company of America, The Reliable Life Insurance Company, Mutual Savings Life Insurance Company and Reserve National Insurance Company.

“The parties do not dispute the state’s power to enforce these new rules against new life insurance policies issued after the statute’s effective date,” the motion said. “However, the state does not have the constitutional authority to enforce these substantive changes in the law retroactively against life insurance policies issued before the statute’s effective date — particularly against insurance policies that already lapsed, terminated, paid or escheated (the process of turning over unclaimed property to the state) during the last 25 years.”

Lawmakers approved the changes in 2016 after years of similar efforts by former state Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty. Multistate investigations, led at least in part by McCarty, resulted in Florida reaching 31 settlement agreements with life-insurance companies, including major players in the industry, according to the court document filed in January by the state’s attorneys.

The law made a series of changes, including imposing a requirement that insurers search what is known as the “Death Master File” or another comparable database annually to determine which policyholders have died, Lewis wrote. The Death Master File is a database of deaths reported to the federal Social Security Administration.

If matches are found in the searches, the law created a “presumption” of death and placed requirements on insurers to try to confirm the deaths and review policies, Lewis wrote. Among other things, the law included new requirements on insurers to contact beneficiaries after the deaths of policyholders and to inform them of benefits.

Traditionally, life insurers paid benefits only after receiving claims and proof of death, attorneys for the insurance companies wrote in the motion for summary judgment, adding that millions of “Florida residents complied with these policy requirements to claim billions of dollars in death benefits.”

Horse breeders, track battle over slots license

Thoroughbred breeders and trainers are accusing gambling regulators of erring when they allowed Calder Race Course to keep its lucrative slot-machine license after demolishing the grandstand where bettors once watched horses compete.

But during an administrative hearing Tuesday, lawyers for Calder accused the horsemen of trying to force the track to build a glitzy new stadium despite the dramatic decline in horse betting that prompted the destruction of the aged facility two years ago.

The challenge highlights the growing tension between the greyhound and horse industries and racetrack operators, who have sought to do away with live racing while keeping more-profitable gambling activities such as slots and poker, a process known as “decoupling.”

The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association filed the complaint against state gambling regulators last year, after the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering renewed the slots license for the Miami Gardens casino.

Under Florida law, slot-machine gaming areas must be “contiguous and connected to the live gaming facility.”

The complaint alleges that the renewal of Calder’s slot-machine license after the grandstand was torn down amounts to an “unadopted rule.”

In general, the horsemen want slots players to be able to view live races, believing that seeing the activity will enhance the odds that gamblers will also wager on horses.

When Calder added slots in 2010, the area where gamblers played the machines was connected to the live gaming facility, the parties involved in the case agreed.

But after the 400,000-plus square foot grandstand was razed in 2016, only a partially covered sidewalk now connects the slots area and the live racing area, Bradford Beilly, the horsemen’s lawyer, argued.

The destruction of the grandstand “materially changed” the configuration of the track, Beilly told Administrative Law Judge Lawrence P. Stevenson.

“There is nothing between the slots facility anymore and whatever Calder deems to be its live gaming facility,” he said.

But James Lewis, a lawyer who represents the state Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, said that “but for the demolition of the grandstand, Calder’s layout remains the same.”

The “contiguous and connected” requirement is fulfilled “by a sidewalk,” he said.

The complaint about the alleged unadopted rule is “a red herring,” said attorney Wilbur Brewton, who represents Calder.

“What this case is really all about is that the horsemen want to dictate how Calder should operate its pari-mutuel business” and “tell Calder to build an air-conditioned grandstand building,” he said.

According to testimony Tuesday and court records, Calder began tearing down the grandstand in 2015, about a year after its parent company, Churchill Downs, reached a deal with The Stronach Group, which owns Gulfstream Park. Under the agreement, Gulfstream — which is eight miles away — runs 40 races a year at Calder, the minimum number of live races required for Calder to maintain its slots license.

The tracks, which are also required to have revenue-sharing agreements with horsemen’s associations, cut a deal with the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association in which the breeders and trainers receive 10 percent of the revenue generated by the slots at the Calder site, according to testimony Tuesday. That amounts to about $8 million a year from the $80 million that Calder generates in revenue from slots,  Calder President and General Manager Maureen Adams told the judge.

The track decided to “outsource” the races because it was losing about $5.5 million a year on the horse races, Adams said.

When asked if she was concerned that tearing down the grandstand could put Calder’s slots license at risk, Adams answered: “Absolutely not.”

Beilly also raised the decoupling issue with Adams, asking her — over Brewton’s objections — if Calder wanted to eliminate live racing.

“We have actively participated with all other pari-mutuels in South Florida in a quest to have the legislation changed so that we could be free to either conduct pari-mutuel wagering or not, based on customer demand and whether or not the customer demand is there and whether or not the activity could be profitable,” she said.

The horsemen’s association first notified gambling regulators about concerns regarding Calder’s slots license in October 2016, after the demolition was completed, according to court records.

Division employees — including two investigators — visited the site after the demolition but did not launch any official inquiries into whether the changes would affect the slots license, according to Tuesday’s testimony.

But Beilly said that gambling regulators never formally ruled that the walkway met the requirements of the law.

“Where on record did anybody at the division make a conclusion, other than issuing licenses, that they (Calder) remained in compliance once the facility was knocked down?” Beilly asked.

The judge didn’t give any indication of how he might rule in the case, but said it seemed “that basically not a whole lot of thought was given to” the demolition.

“The investigator went out and said, eh, it’s contiguous. It wasn’t a big deal to the division until your client made it an issue,” Stevenson told Beilly, adding that regulators treated the elimination of the grandstand as if “it wasn’t a big deal.”

“…That’s what I’m going to walk away with, that impression, for better or worse. It’s contiguous. It hasn’t moved. The grandstand’s gone. Nothing else has moved. That may be good enough,” the judge said, describing gambling regulators’ attitude toward the demolition.

Stevenson said he is “up in the air” about his conclusions, and that his impression could benefit either side.

“Depends on whether I think it’s a big deal or not, to knock down the grandstand,” he said.

After the hearing, Beilly maintained that the post-grandstand track doesn’t meet the statute’s requirements.

“Remember, it needs to be connected to a live gaming facility, and that word live gaming facility doesn’t fit into walking across pavers,” Beilly told The News Service of Florida. “So, that was the whole point of the statute, that it would be connected and be contiguous to the live gaming facility — which was the original grandstand building — and once it’s gone it’s connected to nowhere.”

Tribe continues challenge to state utility taxes

The Seminole Tribe of Florida has gone to a federal appeals court as part of a long-running legal dispute about whether the tribe should be shielded from state utility taxes on electricity used on reservation land.

Lawyers for the tribe last week filed a notice of appeal after a federal judge refused to reconsider his decision to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Seminoles against the Florida Department of Revenue.

As is common, the notice of appeal does not detail the arguments that the tribe will make to the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But U.S. District Judge Robert Scola dismissed the lawsuit because he said it essentially involved the same issues as an earlier case in which the appeals court rejected the tribe’s challenge to state utility taxes.

The legal dispute deals with issues such as tribal sovereignty and federal limits on the power of the state to impose taxes on tribal land. In the latest case, the Seminoles are seeking a ruling on the constitutionality of the state taxing electricity used for 14 types of activities on tribal land, including law enforcement, education, health care, agriculture and gaming.

“The defendant (Department of Revenue) imposes and collects the utilities tax on utilities services that the tribe uses to conduct activities on tribal land that it contends to be exclusively and pervasively regulated by federal law and/or to constitute the exercise of its sovereign functions or the ‘use’ of its tribal land, all in violation of the tribe’s federal rights,” attorneys for the tribe wrote in a court document last year.

But Scola pointed to a 2015 ruling by the appeals court in dismissing the latest case. The 2015 ruling said that what is known as a state “gross receipts tax” on electricity is imposed on utility companies and not directly on customers. The tribe had argued that the tax dollars would come from the Seminoles for electricity used on tribal lands. As a result, the tribe argued it should not have to pay the state tax.

Scola wrote that the tribe was seeking the “same basic relief” in the latest case and that it should be precluded from moving forward.

“At their core, the essential facts in both cases are the same: The tribe uses utilities, including electricity, on its tribal land; Florida imposes a utilities tax on the utilities services provided to the tribe,” the judge wrote in dismissing the case.

But the tribe said in the filing last year that the legal issues in the cases are “entirely different,” at least in part because the latest case focuses on the 14 types of activities, rather than a broader question about the utility tax.

“In the prior case, the Eleventh Circuit held that federal law does not generally preempt the utilities tax on all utilities services used on tribal land as a matter of law simply because some of the services are used to conduct activities that are exclusively and pervasively regulated by federal law,” the filing said. “That holding is not an issue in the current case. In the current case, the tribe asked the court to determine whether the federal regulation of any or all of 14 specifically enumerated activities is exclusive and pervasive, such that federal law preempts the utilities tax on utilities services used to conduct those activities. The tribe also asked the court to determine whether any or all of those 14 specifically enumerated activities constitute the exercise of the tribe’s sovereign functions or the ‘use’ of tribal land.”

‘Framers’ of schools amendment seek role in court battle

Some members of the 1998 Constitution Revision Commission are seeking to file a brief in the Florida Supreme Court as part of a legal battle about whether the state is meeting its constitutional duty to provide a high-quality system of public schools.

Describing themselves as the “framers” of a 1998 ballot measure that put the duty in the Constitution, the former commissioners filed a motion Tuesday asking for approval to file a friend-of-the-court brief.

A footnote in the motion indicates 10 former commissioners want to join in the brief, including former Attorney General Bob Butterworth, former Supreme Court Justice Gerald Kogan and former House Speaker Jon Mills.

The motion came in a long-running legal battle led by the group Citizens for Strong Schools, which argues that the state has failed to comply with the 1998 voter-approved amendment.

A Leon County circuit judge and the 1st District Court of Appeal rejected the arguments, leading Citizens for Strong Schools and other plaintiffs to go to the Supreme Court.

The 1998 constitutional amendment says it is a “paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.” The amendment fleshed that out, in part, by saying adequate provision will be made for a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system” of public schools. The plaintiffs argue the state has not met those standards and should be forced to take steps to carry out the constitutional amendment.

But the 1st District Court of Appeal said, in part, it is not the role of judges to determine education policy.

In the motion filed Tuesday, the former Constitution Revision Commissioners said they want to address such issues in support of the plaintiffs.

“The commissioners, who are to be parties on this brief, were the framers of the (Florida Constitution) Article IX education amendments, and they wish to convey to the (Supreme) Court … their intent and legal basis for proposing the amendments to Article IX along with a legal analysis of how and why the 1998 amendments to Article IX provide judicially manageable standards, so that Florida children have access to the courts when it comes to their education,” the motion said.

The state opposes the commissioners filing the brief, the motion indicated.

Bill Nelson blasts government of Florida for not expanding Medicaid

Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on Tuesday blasted “the government of my state, the state of Florida,” for not expanding Medicaid, during a speech on the Senate floor.

Nelson did not name names beyond that, but his reference to the government could be directed at his opponent in this year’s U.S. Senate election, Gov. Rick Scott, who once, briefly, supported the federal offer to expand Medicaid in Florida under the Affordable Care Act, then backed down, and then turned against it.

In 2015 Florida rejected the offer that would have provided billions of dollars to Florida on a matching and sliding scale, to cover an estimated 800,000 residents who make too much money to qualify for existing Medicaid programs and not enough to afford insurance.

“There’s almost $5 billion a year that is sitting on the shelf,” Nelson said, “that is Florida taxpayer money that is going elsewhere.

“In my state of Florida, that is 800,000 people, almost a million people, poor people, disabled folks that would be getting health care,” Nelson continued. “What do they do? They end up going to the emergency room.”

Nelson’s blast came in a friendly exchange with U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, the Alabama Democrat elected last fall in a special election, who began by criticizing his own state’s refusal to accept the Medicaid expansion.

Nationally, 18 states including Florida and Alabama turned down the federal expansion program authorized through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Kerri Wyland, spokeswoman for Scott’s U.S. Senate campaign, responded, “If Bill Nelson is truly concerned about healthcare services for Floridians, he should propose real solutions instead of campaigning from the Senate floor.”

Florida Democrats want Ron DeSantis to disclose Elliott Broidy connections

Florida Democrats want Northeast Florida U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis to come clean about the contact he had with former RNC deputy finance chair and major gubernatorial campaign backer Elliott Broidy relating to Qatar.

The Florida Democratic Party is pointing to a Monday report from The Associated Press about Broidy lobbying in favor of anti-Qatar policies in Washington in order to ingratiate himself with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and possibly nail down up to $1 billion in business deals.

“New reports have raised the chilling prospect that Ron DeSantis’ outspoken opposition to Qatar was part of a quid-pro-quo with one of his leading donors, Elliott Broidy. DeSantis should immediately disclose whether he had any conversations with Broidy about U.S. policy towards Qatar. Floridians deserve a governor who will stand up for them — not someone who is controlled by DC lobbyists and foreign governments,” said FDP spokesperson Kevin Donohoe.

FDP then openly questions whether DeSantis’ hardline stance on Qatar may have been due to direct lobbying from Broidy, who is also a member of DeSantis’ national finance team.

“AP reports that Broidy worked to influence at least one member of Congress: Congressman Ed Royce of California. But did Broidy also lobby Ron DeSantis?” the FDP email asks.

The party pointed to DeSantis’ statements on the Qatari government over the past six months, including his demand that the Treasury Department crack down on terrorist financiers in Qatar and signing on to a letter criticizing UN Ambassador Nikki Haley for not saying that Qatar funds Hamas.

The party also mentioned Broidy’s resignation from the RNC finance committee after a Wall Street Journal report indicated President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid $1.6 million to a Playboy model to keep her quiet about an affair with Broidy.

DeSantis is one of two major Republicans running for Governor in 2018. He faces Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the Republican Primary.

Bill Nelson’s Brevard County property valuation challenged

A Brevard County taxpayer is challenging U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson‘s appraisal of land he owns there, alleging it has been undervalued for years, costing the county “hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions” in under-taxation.

It’s not a new issue, and Nelson, in a brief conversation on Friday, dismissed the complaint as something that comes up from political opponents in every election, while he insisted the property’s appraisal is appropriate as the land’s use is for grazing cattle.

The complaint was filed last week by James Peter Fusscas of Malabar with the Brevard County Property Appraiser’s office. It charges that Nelson’s property has been far undervalued, with the office listing the land’s market value at $3,038,750, while assessing its value for tax purposes at only $210,630, when Nelson had once listed the property, and a smaller adjacent parcel, for sale for at nearly $10 million.

That was a reference to a listing from the Allen Morris Company, a real estate agent based in Maitland, which had sought $9.975 million for the 75.7 acres along the coastline and U.S. Highway 1 near Malabar. That listing covered two parcels owned by Nelson, the agricultural area and an adjacent parcel that is zoned for single-family houses but also vacant. The listing included the projection that the two parcels combined could bring $21.5 million if redeveloped for housing.

Fusscas inaccurately contended in his complaint that the property is for sale.

In an email, agent Henry Pineiro told Florida Politics: “This property is not currently for sale and has not been for sale for the last couple of years.”

Nelson’s campaign staff also confirmed that the property is not for sale.

Fusscas’s complaint also refers previous media reports on the land that noted that Nelson leases it at no cost, and also notes that his federal financial disclosures have reported no income from the property for at least the previous seven years.

Fusscas argues that Nelson’s property should not be getting a tax break, and adds, “even if Senator Nelson is somehow entitled to a green belt exemption, his tax burden has nevertheless been much lower than the exemption contemplates.”

Last year Nelson paid $3,687 in taxes on the larger property and $4,309 on the smaller parcel.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is challenging Nelson’s re-election campaign.

In a brief conversation Friday, Nelson said he has not seen the complaint but said that Republicans try to make an issue of the agricultural appraisal on his property and the taxes in every election cycle, and said this is no different.

“It is agriculture, cow pasture for 60 years,” Nelson said. “This comes up every election.”

ashley moody

Ashley Moody adds trio of sheriff endorsements

Three more county sheriffs announced their support for Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody Tuesday, piling on to her insurmountable lead in law enforcement endorsements.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter and Jefferson County Sheriff Alfred Kenneth ‘Mac’ McNeill, Jr. joined the three-dozen Republican sheriffs who have already endorsed Moody, a former litigator, federal prosecutor and circuit court judge.

“As our next Attorney General, Ashley Moody will be a strong champion for keeping people safe. As a former federal prosecutor and judge, she’s put criminals behind bars while upholding the rule of law. That’s why I’m proud to endorse her candidacy and I encourage all of my friends here in Columbia County and throughout Florida to do the same,” Hunter said.

McNeill added, “Ashley Moody has the experience, knowledge, and drive to get the job done. She’s the tough conservative we need as our next Attorney General.”

Chronister said Moody, a Hillsborough native, “isn’t just the most qualified and best choice, she’s the only choice.”

Moody thanked the sheriffs for their support, adding that the 39 sheriffs who have lined up behind her statewide campaign make up more than 80 percent of Republican sheriffs in Florida. She also touted a recent primary endorsement she received from the Florida Police Benevolent Association alongside Tampa Rep. Sean Shaw, who is running in the Democratic Primary.

Half of the remaining Republican sheriffs – those in Escambia, Okaloosa, Putnam, Santa Rosa and St. Johns counties – have thrown their support behind Moody’s top rival in the primary race, Pensacola Rep. Frank White.

The third Republican in the race, Jacksonville Rep. Jay Fant, hasn’t landed any sheriff endorsements, instead touting support from his colleagues in the House and a long list of Republicans who worked as county chairs for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Moody currently leads the three-way race in fundraising with $2.19 million raised to date, though White leads in cash on hand due a substantial amount of self-funding by way of his wife and her family. He had $2 million banked as of April 30, and a source close to his campaign said he threw in another $1.25 million this month.

Fant is at the back of the pack with $839,000 banked, including $750,000 in loans.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

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