Influence – Florida Politics

Turkey re-ups Ballard Partners lobbying contract

Ballard Partners added a load of lobbying clients after an expansion to Washington D.C. last year; one of the biggest was pleased enough to ink another contract with the firm.

In mid-2017, the Turkish government inked a $1.5 million deal with the firm aimed at improving US-Turkey relations and promoting the country’s public image by highlighting its role as an energy hub and its efforts fighting terrorism.

Though the bonds between Ankara and Washington hit a speed bump due to tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump, the transcontinental state is happy enough with progress in other venues to stay the course with Ballard.

The new contract is a little lighter, however, measuring in at $750,000 a year.

Brian Ballard chaired the Trump Victory organization in Florida during the 2016 presidential campaign. After Trump’s election, Ballard Partners expanded its operations to Washington, picking up more than $3.5 million in deals with major Capitol Hill clients, including AmazonSprint and Uber.

Ballard’s reputation as one of the few lobbyists close Trump helped the firm land contracts with several nations looking for help understanding and communicating with the new administration, including Turkey as well as the Dominican Republic, Qatar and the Maldives.

The renewed contract with the Turkish government comes a week after Ballard Partners added two new clients to its Washington roster — Deerfield Beach-based health technology company Sentry Data Systems and Egyptian car importer ARTOC Auto.

John McKay says ‘no thanks’ to Citizens board chair

John McKay, a former Florida Senate President who serves on the Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Board of Governors, said Thursday he was “misunderstood” about serving as chair.

McKay

McKay told Florida Politics he’d be “honored that anyone would consider me,” but said he has “no interest whatsoever” in chairing the panel. Citizens is the state-run insurer of last resort.

The Bradenton businessman, a Republican who served as Senate President in 2000-02, was on a list of names released by CFO Jimmy Patronis‘ office earlier this week as having expressed interest in serving as chair.

At last week’s Cabinet meeting, the state’s chief financial officer had asked Citizens CEO Barry Gilway to identify board members who’d be interested.

The current chair, now Christopher Gardner, serves at the CFO’s pleasure; Patronis can name a new person at any time.

McKay confirmed he had spoken with Gilway, but said he likely misinterpreted a joking remark he had made. He was put on the board by Patronis last year.

Also on the list is Marc Dunbar, the Tallahassee-based lawyer and gaming lobbyist, whom Patronis only recently appointed to the board.

Gardner, CEO of HUB International Insurance in Orlando, has been chair since his appointment in 2013 by former CFO Jeff Atwater. He has told Patronis he’d like to stay on as chair. Also on the list is former state Rep. Gary Aubuchon, now the vice chair of the board.

Others who “indicated that they would be interested in accepting (the chairmanship) if asked,” include James Holton, president of Holton Companies; and Freddie Schinz, founder of the TIFORP Development Corp.

Senate incumbents ready for re-election campaigns

All but one of the Florida Senate incumbents running for re-election this year had qualified for the ballot as of Thursday morning — with two continuing to run unopposed. Candidates face a noon Friday deadline to qualify.

The state Division of Elections website Thursday showed 16 incumbent senators had qualified, while Sen. Daphne Campbell, a Miami Democrat running in District 38, had not.

Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican, remained unopposed in District 10. Also unopposed was Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat, in District 32, while Sen. Gary Farmer, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, had drawn only a write-in opponent in District 34.

In all, 22 Senate seats are up for election this year, with five not having incumbent candidates.

State considers options for Confederate statue

A state panel has scheduled a meeting next week to discuss where to display a statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith after the statue is removed from the U.S. Capitol.

The Statue Location Selection Committee will meet June 28 in Tallahassee, according to a notice published Thursday in the Florida Administrative Register.

The issue stems, in part, from a law approved during this year’s Legislative Session to place a likeness of civil-rights leader and educator Mary McLeod Bethune in National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol. Bethune’s statue is expected to replace the statue of Smith, who has long been one of two representatives of Florida in the hall. Florida’s other representative in the hall is John Gorrie, widely considered the father of air conditioning. Each state is allowed two representatives.

The Legislature voted in 2016 to replace the Smith statue during a nationwide backlash against Confederate symbols in the wake of the 2015 shooting deaths of nine African-American worshippers at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C. Lawmakers followed up this year with the decision to honor Bethune.

This year’s law, however, also included a requirement that state Division of Cultural Affairs take possession of the returned Smith statue and “make the statue available for public display.”

The law, which takes effect July 1, will serve as a formal request to the federal Joint Committee on the Library of Congress to switch the statues.

Lobbyist registration to start at Citizens Insurance

Lobbyists who represent clients at Citizens Property Insurance Corp. will have to register with the insurer beginning Sept. 1 under a policy unanimously approved Wednesday by the Citizens Board of Governors.

Although lobbyists seeking to influence decisions in the executive branch of state government must already register, the state-backed Citizens has not had a similar requirement.

In early May, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis asked the insurer to close that disclosure gap and to create a process in which lobbyists must register and disclose their clients.

Under the new policy, lobbyists will have to file a one-year registration form “before communicating or contacting a member of the Citizens Board of Governors or an employee of Citizens, outside of a presentation on the record at a publicly noticed meeting.”

Nancy Staff, Citizens director of ethics and compliance officer, said the registration, which can begin on Aug. 1, will be done online and that registration information will be available to the public on the internet. She said the process is similar to what lobbyists do now when they register to lobby executive agencies, like the governor’s office or the Office of Insurance Regulation.

“It will have the look and feel of the online registration that they are already doing for the executive branch,” Staff told the board.

Lobbyists who “knowingly” violate the registration policy could be barred from the Citizens procurement process and lobbyist registration for up to a year.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Brad Drake’s opponent shifts to Miami-Dade race

Maybe state Rep. Brad Drake won’t face an opponent in November after all.

A day after Miami-Dade County Democrat Heath Rassner filed paperwork indicating he would run in Drake’s Panhandle district, Rassner switched races Wednesday to run for a seat that is being vacated by term-limited Rep. Jeanette Nunez according to documents posted on the state Division of Elections website.

With election qualifying ending at noon Friday, that left Drake as the only candidate who had submitted paperwork to run in House District 5, which includes Holmes, Jackson, Walton, Washington and part of Bay counties.

In making the switch, Rassner joined a crowded field in Miami-Dade County’s House District 119.

That race also got another new candidate Wednesday, when Democrat Diana Marcel

a Ahmed qualified, according to the Division of Elections website.

Other candidates who have qualified for the race are Republicans Jose Barquin-Fernandez, Enrique Lopez and Annie Martinez and unaffiliated candidate Daniel Sotelo. Republican Bibi Potestad has an open campaign account for the race but had not qualified as of Wednesday evening, according to the Division of Elections website.

Kayser Enneking

Kayser Enneking endorsed by Equality Florida, AFL-CIO

Democrat Kayser Enneking rolled out a one-two punch on the endorsement front this week for her bid to unseat Republican Sen. Keith Perry in Senate District 8.

On Monday evening, the Gainesville physician landed a nod from the political committee tied to LGBTQ rights organization Equality Florida.

“Equality Florida Action PAC endorses Kayser Enneking in the election for Senate District 8,” the group said in a Facebook post. “Kayser is running one of the most competitive challenges to an anti-equality incumbent in the state and has earned a 100 percent score on the Equality Florida Action PAC candidate questionnaire.

“Kayser has committed to fight on day one to pass statewide non-discrimination protections for our community and to preserve marriage equality from attacks. Equality Florida Action PAC is proud to endorse Kayser Enneking in this critical and competitive race for Florida Senate District 8.”

The legislation Equality Florida is referring to would add LGBTQ protections to the 1992 Florida Civil Rights Act. It has been a priority for the group and numerous business interests for years but failed to get a committee hearing in the 2018 Legislative Session.

Enneking accepted the endorsement via Twitter shortly after it rolled out Monday evening.

On Wednesday, the Enneking campaign picked up the endorsement of the Florida AFL-CIO, which represents more than 500 labor unions and 1 million Florida workers.

In addition to the endorsement, a local AFL-CIO-affiliated group plans to hold a canvassing event in the Gainesville-based district in the coming weeks where union members will “be knocking on doors and making sure our members know that Senator Keith Perry is bad for working families and talking about our endorsed candidate Dr. Kayser Enneking.”

Enneking, a first-time candidate, is the leading Democrat running against Perry, who was elected to the Florida Senate two years ago after serving three terms in the Florida House.

Also running for the Democratic nomination is Olysha Magruder, a former schoolteacher who now works for Johns Hopkins University as an instructional designer.

As of May 31, Perry led in fundraising with $411,000 in the bank between his campaign and political committee. Enneking followed with about $306,000 on hand between her two accounts while Magruder started June with a little over $9,000 on hand.

SD 8 is one of a handful of districts that became more favorable to Democrats after the Senate map was redrawn ahead of the 2016 elections.

Despite Democrats holding a 9-point advantage in voter registrations, Perry ended up defeating Democratic nominee Rod Smith, a former state Senator and Florida Democratic Party chair, by 4 points on Election Day. SD 8 also voted in favor of Donald Trump, though by just two-tenths of a point.

Personnel note: Jennifer Wilson joins Shumaker Advisors

Attorney Jennifer Wilson, formerly with Adams and Reese‘s Tampa office, has moved to Shumaker Advisors Florida, LLC, to help boost its Florida practice.

The team is the lobbying subsidiary of the SHUMAKER® law firm, also known as Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP.

Wilson previously worked as a top advisor and campaign manager for several Florida lawmakers.

She brings more than a decade of experience, having drafted and analyzed legislation as a key staff member, including bills on economic development, transportation and criminal justice.

Shumaker Advisors President and CEO Ron Christaldi said the firm was “very excited to have Jennifer join our team. Her experience and leadership as a key staffer to multiple members of the Florida Legislature help bolster our presence in Tallahassee and throughout Florida.”

A native of Tampa, Wilson received an undergraduate degree in Political Science and Leadership Studies from the University of South Florida in 2007, then graduated from Stetson University College of Law in 2015.

In the community, she has volunteered her time for Bridging Freedom Tampa Bay, a nonprofit organization that works to fight domestic minor sex trafficking by bringing restoration to those who are rescued and spreading awareness of its threat in the community.

She also has volunteered for AMI Kids, a youth mentoring and behavioral development nonprofit that empowers troubled youth to reach their full potential through education and workforce development.

In her spare time, she’s an avid baseball fan.

Marc Dunbar says he’s ‘interested’ in Citizens Insurance chairmanship

Marc Dunbar, the Tallahassee-based lawyer and gaming lobbyist, has officially “expressed interest in serving as chair of the Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Board of Governors,” CFO Jimmy Patronis announced Tuesday through a spokeswoman.

Dunbar, whom Patronis only recently appointed to the board, was one of six names released by Patronis’ office. Citizens is the state-run insurer of last resort.

At last week’s Cabinet meeting, the state’s chief financial officer had asked Citizens CEO Barry Gilway to identify board members who’d be interested in stepping up to chair.

The chair, now Christopher Gardner, serves at the CFO’s pleasure; Patronis can name a new person at any time.

Gardner, CEO of HUB International Insurance in Orlando, has been chair since his appointment in 2013 by former CFO Jeff Atwater. He told Patronis he’d like to stay as chair.

Also on the list is former state Rep. Gary Aubuchon, now the vice chair of the board.

Patronis’ office also disclosed the names of three people who “indicated that they would be interested in accepting (the chairmanship) if asked”:

James Holton, president of Holton Companies.

John McKay, a former Florida Senate President.

Freddie Schinz, founder of the TIFORP Development Corp.

Personnel note: Jason Harrell to lobby for Florida court clerks

Jason Harrell has been named director of legislative and government affairs for the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers (FCCC), the organization announced Tuesday.

Harrell now is budget and communications director for the Florida Clerks of Court Operations Corporation (CCOC). He’ll continue in that role until the end of the Florida Legislature’s Revenue Estimating Conference in July, which will determine the clerks’ statewide budget authority for fiscal year 2018-19.

At FCCC, Harrell will “develop and direct the association’s new in-house legislative team and lead strategic advocacy for legislative policy and budget efforts on behalf of Florida’s independently elected clerks and comptrollers,” a press release explained.

“Jason’s addition to the FCCC team will enable us to further sharpen the focus on our mission to support Florida’s court clerks and comptrollers as they serve local communities throughout the state,” FCCC CEO Chris Hart IV said in a statement.

“His knowledge and understanding of clerks’ priorities and concerns, proven by his work at CCOC, and his success working on many prominent issues in the Florida House and the Governor’s Office will strengthen our legislative team as we work to increase awareness of the services provided by our members, as well as their needs and challenges.”

Harrell also has worked for the Florida House of Representatives’ Majority Office as deputy staff director under former Speakers Will Weatherford and Steve Crisafulli, former House Republican Leader (and now state Sen.) Dana Young, and former Republican Whip Rep. Jim Boyd.

Harrell also served in the Governor’s Office of Policy and Budget under Gov. Rick Scott, and in the Office of the Chief Inspector General under then-Gov. Charlie Crist.

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