Headlines Archives - Florida Politics

Team Ron DeSantis announces new stats and staff

The campaign of Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis announced more than two dozen new hires Friday as well as some stats on phone banking and door-knocking outreach.

Since Sept. 1, Team DeSantis has made more than 100,000 phone calls and knocked on more than 40,000 doors to spread the word for the Ponte Vedra Congressman’s campaign.

Those figures don’t include the outreach efforts of the Republican Party of Florida or Rick Scott’s Senate campaign, which will join the gubernatorial battle at the top of the ticket in November.

The team’s “multi-million-dollar field program” also saw them add another half-dozen directors to handle various aspects of the general election campaign. Samantha Mims has been hired on as data director; Patrick Johnson is the new director of advance; Tyler Russel was named surrogate director; Courtney Veatch will direct the campaign’s election day operations; and Peter Cuderman and Cody Hanshaw will each oversee a team of deputies in their roles as coalitions director and field director, respectively.

The campaign’s expansion announcement comes a few weeks after DeSantis easily won the Republican primary for Florida governor while his Democratic opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, earned his party’s nomination in what was considered a surprise upset.

Most polls released since DeSantis and Gillum earned their spots on the November ballot have shown Gillum with a slight lead, usually within each poll’s margin of error.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

The list of coalitions directors under Cuderman:

— Hispanic Coalitions Coordinator Fabio Andrade

— Jewish Coalition Coordinator Derek Silver

— Minorities Coalition Coordinator Latanya Peterson

— Women Coalitions Chair Nancy McGowan

— Veterans Coalition Coordinator Kris Hager

The list of regional directors under Hanshaw:

— Brevard Regional Field Director Scott Read

— Ft. Myers Regional Field Director Sean Kempton

— Gainesville Regional Field Director Conner Mann

— Hillsborough Regional Field Director Joe LaFauci

— Jacksonville Regional Field Director Garrett Mann

— Miami Regional Field Director Luis Rodriguez

— Orlando Regional Field Director Andrew Forst

— Orlando Regional Field Director Sarah Gibson

— Pensacola Regional Field Director Chancer Teel

— Pinellas Regional Field Director Ben Hudson

— Sarasota Regional Field Director JR Kennelly

— Tallahassee Regional Field Director Preston Wilson

— West Palm Beach Regional Field Director John Rich

‘Contest of ideas’: Matt Caldwell wants debates in Ag Comm’r race

If Republican nominee for Agriculture Commissioner Matt Caldwell gets his way, he will have a two-debate “contest of ideas” with Democrat Nikki Fried.

However, the two can’t agree on when and where to debate.

“Florida’s future is at stake this November. Will we continue the low tax, pro-jobs policies that have brought prosperity to Florida, or will we reverse course with policies that raise taxes by over a billion dollars and kill jobs? Those decisions will have a profound effect on Florida’s future,” Caldwell wrote to Fried Friday.

“We are very different candidates, with very different track records, running on very different policy platforms. I propose that this be more than the two candidates settling into fixed ideological positions or descending into partisan bickering. These debates should be meaningful and substantive and offer voters our visions for Florida’s future,” Caldwell added.

The idea of “track records” soon came up in Fried’s messaging. She called attention to reportage of the NRA’s Marion Hammer‘s strong influence over the office under Adam Putnam, calling Caldwell “another NRA sellout” who “chose not to investigate the failures and corruption of the concealed weapons permitting system” while serving as Chair of the House Government Accountability Committee.

Beyond that issue, expect non-traditional issues in Ag Commissioner races to come up, including the cannabis industry.

Caldwell, who helped to write the 2014 Charlotte’s Web legislation, believes that cannabis should be rescheduled to allow more federal research (even as he does not believe a medicine can be smoked). Fried, a cannabis lobbyist who advocates smokable and legalized adult-use variants of the substance, has been frustrated by banks being unwilling to handle her campaign contributions because they are tainted with the verboten herb.

One debate Caldwell proposed would be in Miami, on CBS-4 moderated by Jim DeFede. The second debate is more open, with “several invitations from interested parties.”

However, Fried spox Max Flugrath notes that in the last week, Fried agreed to two dates, but “on both, the Caldwell campaign declined any availability.”

Flugrath reiterated Fried’s question for Caldwell regarding why he “chose not to investigate the failures and corruption of the concealed weapons permitting system, and explain to voters why he opposed and obstructed the medical marijuana amendment that 71% of Floridians supported.”

Caldwell is slowly replenishing his campaign coffers after an expensive primary. With $157,000 of new money between Sept. 8 and 14 for his “Friends of Matt Caldwell” political committee to add to the nearly $200,000 he had on hand, the Fort Myers state Rep. is well positioned against Fried, who has roughly $100,000 cash on hand as of Sept. 14.

Recent polling shows Fried up two points on Caldwell (inside the margin of error); however, it is possible that the resource disparity between the two campaigns may impact future surveys.

Progressive group repping Andrew Gillum, Bill Nelson in new ad buy

Progressive advocacy group Priorities USA Action said Friday that it’s rolling out a multimillion-dollar digital ad campaign to mobilize black, Hispanic and young voters in support of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson this fall.

“With health care, fair wages and the environment on the ballot in this election, the stakes could not be higher — and Bill Nelson and Andrew Gillum know it,” said Priorities USA Action spox Matt Lopez. “Nelson and Gillum are proven fighters who show up and listen to every Floridian, and they won’t let the needs of any community be ignored. Priorities is proud to launch this campaign to empower voters to stand with Nelson and Gillum and to take the fate of their state and their country back into their own hands.”

The group said it’ll spend $3.7 million on digital ads that will run statewide in English and Spanish on Facebook, YouTube, Spotify and Telemundo. Example ads included in the announcement focus on issues including wages and “Stand Your Ground,” and pitch Gillum and Nelson as politicians that will give attention to those issues in office.

“Gonna get serious, fam. We need better wages here in Florida. Our teachers are some of the lowest paid in the country and we have a racist ‘Stand Your Ground’ law,” says one of the ads. “Most politicians think they don’t have to listen to people like me, but Andrew Gillum and Bill Nelson will.”

Gillum being at the top of the ticket this fall has been viewed as a boon for Nelson’s re-election chances as the third term Senator wasn’t polling well among black and Hispanic voters in the early phases of his battle against Gov. Rick Scott, who has so far outspent the incumbent five-to-one.

While Nelson trails Scott by a couple of points in most polls of the Senate race, Gillum has consistently polled ahead of Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis. A Reuters–Ipsos–UVA Center for Politics poll released this week showed the Tallahassee Mayor with a 6-point lead over DeSantis, which falls outside of the poll’s margin of error.

The Priorities USA ads are below.

Gun control group backs Andrew Gillum for Governor

Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, a group advocating for stricter gun control measures across the U.S., announced Friday it was endorsing Andrew Gillum in the race for Governor.

Volunteers for the Moms Demand Action, a subset of the Everytown organization, were on hand at Gillum’s campaign office in Broward County to announce their support for the Democrat in his race against former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

Gaby Loewenstein, the Moms Demand Action deputy chapter lead for South Florida, spoke out about Gillum’s efforts regarding the group’s push for gun reform measures.

“Mayor Gillum has stood by our side the entire time,” Loewenstein said.

“As Governor, he will work to prohibit assault weapons, require a criminal background check on every gun sale in Florida, restrict gun access for people with dangerous histories and close the ‘boyfriend loophole’ to prohibit gun possession for those with domestic violence and stalking convictions.”

Gillum added: “Moms Demand and all of us in this state who believe in common, decent gun reform will have a champion in me.”

It’s no surprise Everytown is allied with Gillum over DeSantis in this race. DeSantis has made clear his positions on gun control.

Last month, he reportedly said a permit should not be required to openly carry guns in public. DeSantis has also said he would have vetoed the state law passed after the Stoneman Douglas shooting that added additional hurdles to purchase weapons in the state.

“The contrast between myself and my opponent on the issue of guns could not be any clearer,” Gillum said.

“I don’t believe that it is in any way extreme to say that if you want to carry the power of God at your waist belt, that you ought to at least have a background check.”

Gillum also referenced his time as Tallahassee Mayor fighting a lawsuit supported by the NRA regarding Gillum’s refusal to repeal an ordinance barring the shooting of guns in city parks.

He said he’ll do plenty more should he become the first Democrat to serve as Governor in 20 years: “Let’s get to work. Let’s get to organizing. Let’s get to voting. And let’s win this state back on Nov. 6.”

Jobs numbers announced: 1.6M added since late 2010, state says

Gov. Rick Scott announced that “Florida businesses have created 1,615,500 jobs since December 2010, with 20,000 private-sector jobs being added in August.”

The Governor’s Office released the latest employment numbers Friday in a news release.

“Over the past year, 217,600 new private-sector jobs were created in Florida, and the state’s annual job growth rate has outpaced the nation for 76 of the past 77 months,” it says.

Scott discussed the numbers at Promise in Brevard, an assisted living community for young adults with special needs.

“The Florida turnaround story continues with another milestone being achieved — 1.6 million jobs created in under eight years,” he said in a statement.

“Floridians should be proud of this accomplishment and the entire nation should take note: By cutting taxes and creating a positive environment for business, we’ve grown our economy. We’ll never stop fighting for job creation.”

In August, Florida’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.7 percent, a drop of 7.1 percentage points since December 2010.

“This drop is faster than the national decline of 5.4 percentage points,” the release said.

The August 2018 employment data is here.

New GOP website blasts Andrew Gillum for ‘lobbyist slush fund’

Referring to a dubious bank deposit from 2016, Republicans are blasting Democrat Andrew Gillum with a new website calling out his “lobbyist-fueled slush fund.”

On Friday, the Republican Party of Florida launched ReleaseTheReceipts.com, a website that calls on the gubernatorial candidate — and front-runner in several polls — to “tell the truth about his luxury Costa Rica vacation in 2016,” as well as a “suspicious” $15,000 deposit.

“Ask yourself this question … would you trust an elected official that has a suspicious $15,000 deposit made into his personal account?” RPOF Chair Blaise Ingoglia asked in a statement Friday. “A deposit that large should have an easily explainable answer, but unfortunately we’re not getting receipts or answers these days out of Andrew Gillum.”

Earlier this month, Gillum’s campaign unintentionally released personal bank statements — part of what POLITICO called a “public relations transparency effort” — which shows Gillum receiving a $15,000 deposit during a period under investigation by the Florida Commission on Ethics.

The bank statement in question covers April 21 to May 23, 2016, during which Gillum took a questionable May 2016 trip to Costa Rica. While Gillum is not personally under investigation, the trip is being watched in an FBI probe looking into corruption at Tallahassee’s Community Rehabilitation Agency.

“Andrew Gillum refuses to come clean about the $15,000 deposit in his bank account and who really paid for his luxury vacation to Costa Rica,” said the RPOF’s Meredith Beatrice. “Gillum’s botched attempt to cover up the truth and hide his connection to the ongoing FBI investigation only resulted in a poorly-redacted bank statement. Does Andrew Gillum have a lobbyist-fueled slush fund? The voters of Florida deserve answers.”

Most recent polling from Reuters — Ipsos — UVA Center for Politics gives Gillum a 6-point lead over Republican Ron DeSantis in the increasingly combative Florida gubernatorial campaign. The survey found 50 percent of voters surveyed support Gillum, while only 44 percent back DeSantis.

Ballots trickle in for November election

The first ballots of Florida’s 2018 general election have been cast, according to the state Division of Elections.

A division webpage said Thursday morning that four Democrats and one Republican had returned vote-by-mail ballots and that more than 1.5 million vote-by-mail ballots had been requested.

Two of the Democratic voters who had already returned their ballots were from Monroe County, with the other two from Manatee and Leon counties. The Republican was from Lee County.

In the Aug. 28 primary elections, 1.28 million vote-by-mail ballots were cast from 2.4 million that were sent out.

Earlier this week, the division announced that Saturday is the deadline for county supervisors of election to send the first vote-by-mail ballots to uniformed service members who are absent overseas or stateside and to civilian voters who are overseas.

The initial window for supervisors to get the first ballots in the mail to other voters is from Oct. 2 to Oct. 9. The last day a voter can request that supervisors send a vote-by-mail ballot is Oct. 31. The last day for supervisors to send mail-in ballots is Nov. 2. Voters can pick up vote-by-mail ballots from their local supervisors’ offices up to the day before the election. The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 9.

Rick Scott’s coordination with justice nominating panel unconstitutional, groups argue

Gov. Rick Scott may have acted beyond his constitutional authority last week when he jump-started the Judicial Nominating Commission’s process of vetting potential justices to fill three soon-to-be vacancies on the state Supreme Court, new legal action contends. 

In a writ of quo warranto filed with the Supreme Court on Thursday, Common Cause and the League of Women Voters of Florida challenge Scott’s power to coordinate with the JNC and to require the nine-member panel submit three to six candidates for the high court by Nov. 10.

The Supreme Court later on Thursday asked Scott to respond to the petition no later than Sept. 26.

The groups had earlier challenged Scott’s authority to nominate three new justices before his term ends in January. At stake in the new year is the potential to swing the court’s political leanings. The three justices with expiring terms are Fred LewisPeggy Quince and Barbara Pariente — considered the liberal wing of the high court.

The Nov. 10 deadline, the petition argues, is outside of a constitutional provision that “nominations shall be made within thirty days from the occurrence of a vacancy unless the period is extended by the governor for a time not to exceed thirty days.”

The lawyers representing Common Cause and the League interpret the 30-day clause as meaning no potential replacements can be considered before a vacancy on the bench occurs.

The petition later reads, “Governor Scott’s attempt to require the [JNC]  to convene and, more importantly, to set a deadline for nominations is unquestionably beyond his authority.” 

The legal action comes after the Supreme Court in a 6-1 decision refused to rule on a lawsuit requesting the court block Scott from appointing three new justices on the day his term ends, Jan. 7. Then, the court agreed that Scott hadn’t made an official move regarding the nomination of new justices outside of comments to the press, and therefore it couldn’t weigh in.

When Scott corralled the JNC last week, the petition claims, he took “official action.”

But John Tupps, Scott’s communications director, pointed to precedent as justification for beginning the nomination process.

“The Governor is following precedent set by Governor [Lawton Chiles] and has said in good faith that his expectation is that he and the governor-elect will agree on the selection of three new justices,” Tupps said in a prepared statement. Chiles reached an agreement on a new high court pick with then-Gov.-elect Jeb Bush in 1998.

“It’s disappointing that these partisan groups filed a politically-motivated lawsuit that would create three prolonged vacancies on the Florida Supreme Court, contrary to all historical practice,” added Tupps.

Regardless of history, a lawyer handling the litigation told Florida Politics, Scott is still acting outside of his delegated powers.

“What politicians do in the past cannot possibly change the meaning of the Constitution,” Tallahassee-based attorney John Mills, who’s handling the litigation, said. “This is not an olive branch it’s a power grab.”

The petition requests the court consider the matter promptly, as the nomination process launched by Scott already is underway.

Andrew Gillum among list of candidates backed by Brady Campaign

Only a few Florida names were included in the latest endorsement rollout from the longstanding, national Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum and his running mate Chris King, however, made the cut. So did Congressional District 27 hopeful Donna Shalala, who’s engaged in a hard-fought battle to turn the South Florida district blue.

The choice between Gillum and Republican opponent Ron DeSantis, the executive committee of the Florida chapters of the Brady Campaign claim, “couldn’t be any clearer.”

“One candidate for governor said he was ‘disappointed’ in efforts to stop mass shootings after the Parkland massacre,” the members noted, referring to DeSantis’ take on the state Legislature’s gun-control actions after 17 were killed at the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. “The other has stood arm-in-arm with students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the fight for change.” 

The organization lauded Gillum and King for pledging to increase gun control. Gillum’s anti-gun violence platform includes bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines — positions supported by the Brady Campaign.

Brady noted Shalala’s ties to President Bill Clinton, who passed a federal assault weapons ban in 1994. Then the Secretary of the Health and Human Services Department, “Shalala was part of the team that passed the 1994 assault weapons ban, and she is committed to doing so again,” the organization claims.

With vocal support could come monetary aid, according to the campaign. The group is thoroughly vetting candidates on gun issues and claims it will support friends and target enemies of the organization’s mission via its Brady PAC.

“These are all fantastic candidates who join an already impressive group of diverse gun safety champions,” said Kris Brown, co-president of the Brady Campaign. “We look forward to supporting them to victory in November.”

Spending spree: Senators send back up to swelling GOP Senate fund

Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young offloaded more than half of the cash available in her affiliated political committee last week with a single, $800,000 check to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Her committee, Friends of Dana Young, had $1.38 million in the bank on Sept. 7 but at the end of the reporting period ending Sept. 14 the committee had about $573,000 left to spend.

It’s likely that much of that cash will come back to her via “in-kind” support for her SD 18 re-election campaign from FRSCC, a cash rich party affiliated committee helmed by incoming Senate President Bill Galvano that’s charged with maintaining the Republican majority in the state Senate.

As of Aug. 31, FRSCC had provided nearly $400,000 in assistance to Young’s campaign.

Young’s contribution comes as she faces a tough battle against House Minority leader Janet Cruz to hold her seat, which covers much of Tampa. Polling has indicated it will be a close race. At one point, Cruz held a slim lead, but Young is now back on top by 3 points according to a St. Pete Polls survey conducted this week.

After the transfer, Young had about $1 million left to spend between her campaign and committee accounts. Cruz, meanwhile, has about $165,000 at the ready between her two accounts.

Young’s transfer came alongside another infusion from the political committee of Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson. His committee, Jobs for Florida, chipped in $550,000 last week, bringing the committee’s lifetime contributions to the fund past the $1.9 million mark.

Simpson, who represents SD 10, will also be on the ballot in the fall though he will only face nominal opposition from Spring Hill Democrat Michael Cottrell. Unlike Young’s SD 18, which has a purple electorate, SD 10 voted has voted overwhelmingly for the Republican candidate in nearly every statewide race over the past decade.

Jobs for Florida had $1.57 million on hand on Sept. 14.

Young’s and Simpson’s contributions give a window in the financial health of FRSCC, which has more infrequent reporting deadlines than political committees. FRSCC had nearly $2 million in the bank at the end of the April through August reporting period, with its next report due just a few days before the Nov. 6 general election.

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