Influence Archives - Florida Politics

HOA group endorses a score of state legislative candidates

A trade group representing a consortium of community association managers rolled out a list of 20 endorsements for non-incumbent candidates running for state House and state Senate seats.

The Chief Executive Officers of Management Companies represents more than 18,000 licensed, professional community association managers who manage more than 14,000 community associations.

“Dedicated to protecting the quality of life and affordable cost of living for six million Florida homeowners, Florida’s licensed Community Association Managers, and the 14,000 Associations who employ them, understand the importance and necessity of educating our legislators and those who seek to become legislators in Florida,” said CEOMC executive director and lobbyist Mark Anderson.

“With so many incumbents not returning to the legislature next year, we focused most of our attention on candidates running in ‘open’ seats throughout Tampa Bay, Orlando, and South Florida. On behalf of CEOMC, I’m pleased to offer our industry’s support for the following candidates.”

Four Senate candidates, all Republicans, got the nod: Former Clearwater Rep. Ed Hooper, who is running against former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy in SD 16; Sarasota Rep. Joe Gruters, who faces Democrat Faith Olivia Babis in SD 23; Hialeah Rep. Manny Diaz, who is being challenged by Democratic nominee David Perez, a former firefighter; and Marili Cancio, who is looking to oust first-term Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo in SD 40.

The other 16 CEOMC endorsements went to state House candidates, including a dozen Republicans and four Democrats. A quintet of those endorsements went to candidates running in some of the most competitive House races of the 2018 cycle.

Those names include Orlando Democrat Anna Eskamani, who is looking to flip HD 47, the seat vacated due to Republican Rep. Mike Miller’s congressional bid; St. Petersburg Democrat Jennifer Webb earned CEOMC’s seal of approval in HD 69, currently held by exiting GOP Rep. Kathleen Peters; Ocean Ridge Democrat Jim Bonfiglio, who is seeking to succeed term-limited Republican Rep. Bill Hager in HD 89; Republican Chip LaMarca, a Broward County Commissioner running against Emma Collum in HD 93.

Miami Republican Anthony Rodriguez was the only House candidate who got CEOMC’s seal of approval over an incumbent lawmaker. Rodriguez is running against freshman Democratic Rep. Robert Asencio in HD 118.

The full list of CEOMC endorsed candidates:

— HD 28: Republican David Smith

— HD 32: Republican Anthony Sabatini

— HD 37: Republican Ardian Zika

— HD 47: Democrat Anna Eskamani

— HD 57: Republican Mike Beltran

— HD 59: Republican Joe Wicker

— HD 66: Republican Nick DiCeglie

— HD 69: Democrat Jennifer Webb

— HD 71: Republican Will Robinson

— HD 73: Republican Tommy Gregory

— HD 79: Republican Spencer Roach

— HD 89: Democrat Jim Bonfiglio

— HD 93: Republican Chip LaMarca

— HD 98: Democrat Michael Gottlieb

— HD 115: Republican Vance Aloupis

— HD 118: Republican Anthony Rodriguez

— SD 16: Former Republican Rep. Ed Hooper

— SD 23: Republican Rep. Joe Gruters

— SD 36: Republican Rep. Manny Diaz

— SD 40: Republican Marili Cancio

Lobby Up: Hurricane cleanup firm AshBritt Environmental hires Ballard Partners

AshBritt Environmental, a “rapid-response disaster recovery and special environmental services contractor” in Deerfield Beach, has hired Ballard Partners‘ namesake Brian Ballard and its Christina Daly Brodeur.

Veteran influencer Ron Book also remains the company’s lobbyist, according to lobbying registration records accessed Wednesday.

Daly Brodeur, formerly Secretary of Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice under Gov. Rick Scott, joined Ballard’s firm last month.

The new registration comes as the Gulf coast cleans up and starts rebuilding after category 4 Hurricane Michael ravaged it and a swath of north Florida last week.

AshBritt rose to prominence in the disaster mitigation industry after Hurricane Andrew passed through South Florida in August 1992.

At the time, founder Randy Perkins and his wife were running a small landscaping company which borrowed two wood chippers to help with Andrew as a local hurricane cleanup contractor.

Since then, AshBritt has become one of the nation’s leading disaster-recovery and debris cleanup firms, assisting after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, 2012’s “Superstorm” Sandy and last year’s Hurricane Irma. 

The firm’s history is not without controversy. “With the company’s success came accusations that Perkins overcharged the federal government, stiffed a consultant and subcontractors and used campaign donations to influence politicians to give him no-bid government contracts,” TCPalm has reported.

And the Miami Herald last month reported that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general now “is conducting an audit of debris-removal contracts in the Florida Keys approved right after Hurricane Irma ransacked the island chain.” Contracts were with six companies, including AshBritt, the paper reported.

Perkins self-funded an unsuccessful bid for Florida’s 18th Congressional District as a Democrat in 2016. He reportedly was worth about $200 million as of last year. 

Former Congressman Patrick Murphy vacated the Treasure Coast seat to mount a run for U.S. Senate. Murphy lost to incumbent Republican Marco Rubio; Perkins later lost to Republican Brian Mast.

State Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat, is AshBritt’s general counsel and director of government relations, according to his member page

The company was named after two of Perkins’ daughters, Ashley and Brittany, who is now its CEO.

In 2016, Perkins stepped down as CEO “to focus on the AshBritt Foundation, his work with mental health, and other business and philanthropic endeavors,” his website says. “The AshBritt Foundation supports communities impacted by disaster or crisis and internal and external workforce development and job training programs, with a focus on working with veterans.”

Perkins also sits on the board of directors of Lauren’s Kids, the child sexual abuse prevention organization founded by Ron Book’s daughter, Democratic state Sen. Lauren Book of Plantation.

University performance funding set for changes

Florida university leaders want to revise the system’s performance-funding model, looking to eliminate a dreaded “bottom three” that annually denies state money to the lowest-performing schools.

In this academic year, Florida A&M University, the University of North Florida and New College of Florida missed out on shares of $265 million in state performance funding because they were ranked in the bottom three on a 100-point scale.

The three schools lost out despite the fact that two of them, Florida A&M and the University of North Florida, improved their performances on an evaluation in June, while New College maintained its performance level from the prior year.

But that penalty would be eliminated under a plan discussed Tuesday by the Budget and Finance Committee of the university system’s Board of Governors during a meeting in Tampa.

The plan is a response to a new state law directing the university system to develop a “performance-based continuous improvement model focused on outcomes that provides for the equitable distribution of performance funds.”

Basically, the new model would allow any state universities that improve their performances on a series of measures, including graduation rates, salaries of recent graduates, retention of students and student costs, to receive full shares of the state performance funds.

If any school’s performance declined on the 100-point scale over two consecutive years, it would have to develop a “student success plan” to improve performance. The plan would be presented to the Board of Governors, and if approved, the school would receive 50 percent of its state performance funding.

A second evaluation would occur in March and, if approved by the Board of Governors, the second 50 percent of the funding would be released.

Beginning in the 2021-2022 academic year, all the schools would have to score at least a 70 on the performance scale to qualify for the state performance funds.

If a school fell below that level, it would only receive 50 percent of its allocation, divided into two 25 percent amounts subject to a performance-improvement plan and approval by the Board of Governors.

In the last evaluation, the 11 participating schools averaged 81 points on the performance scale, with only UNF falling slightly below the proposed 70 percent measure. Florida Polytechnic University, the state’s newest school, does not yet participate in the program.

Syd Kitson, chairman of the Board of Governors budget panel, said the new performance model retains a focus on student success as well as recognizing “continuous” improvement by the schools.

“We’re trying to be fair to the universities because this is a fairly significant change, but one that we think addresses the concerns that the Legislature had,” Kitson said.

He said, at the same time, it is designed to keep “everybody on their toes and there is a consequence to not performing.”

Kitson also noted the performance-funding system, which has been in use since 2014-2015, has resulted in significant improvements at the universities, including more than a 5 percent increase in four-year graduation rates and a 9.9 percent decrease in the number of undergraduates taking “excess” classes to earn degrees.

“There’s real data that shows that it is working. It’s really contributing to student success. And I think that’s exciting for all of us,” Kitson said.

Another aspect of the new performance model is that it would eliminate the use of a tie-breaking mechanism if more than three schools tied for the “top three” level, which guarantees 100 percent of schools’ shares of the state performance funds.

That formula proved costly this year to the University of South Florida and the University of West Florida, which both statistically ranked among the top three scores, but were eliminated based on the tie-breaker.

The full Board of Governors is expected to review the new performance-funding proposal at a meeting in November.

Lawmakers wait to see if storm action is needed

Roads are out. Some schools are rubble. Housing needs are growing.

The next leaders of the Florida Legislature say they’re ready to assist Gov. Rick Scott or state agencies in the recovery from devastating Hurricane Michael. They just need to be asked.

“If the governor identifies an unmet need that requires swift legislative action, we will certainly work with him to address it,” incoming Senate President Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, said Monday.

But Galvano and incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva, a Miami Lakes Republican, are not expecting such action until more is known about the impacts of the storm, which came ashore Wednesday near Panama City with 155 mph sustained winds. Michael plunged more than 400,000 utility customers into the dark and leveled homes and businesses in a deadly path that cut north across rural Panhandle communities into Southwest Georgia.

“In the here and now, if the governor or any agency needs resources or assistance for issues created by Hurricane Michael, the Florida House stands ready to help,” Oliva said.

State lawmakers are set to return to Tallahassee shortly after the Nov. 6 election for an organizational session that includes seating new members and formally making Oliva and Galvano the leaders of their respective chambers.

The 2019 Legislative Session will start in March. But lawmakers can take actions in the interim by holding special sessions or convening the Joint Legislative Budget Commission, which is made up of House and Senate members and can shift money to address needs.

Galvano noted that lawmakers from the hurricane-impacted areas have been working with Scott, Cabinet members and state agencies, while Senate staff members in Tallahassee has been coordinating with district offices to ensure the continuation of constituent services.

Also, Galvano said state budget reserves are available for Scott to direct toward the storm response.

“The governor has broad executive authority to utilize those reserves to allocate state resources needed to further a comprehensive response in the immediate aftermath of the storm,” Galvano said.

In waiting, Oliva said he would also like to see if measures crafted by the House Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness after last year’s Hurricane Irma had any effect.

“It is my hope that many of those recommendations became a reality, but we will likely assess what went wrong and what went right after we all work to help our fellow Floridians put their lives back together,” Oliva said.

Many of the post-Irma proposals were designed to address issues in the agriculture industry and more densely populated portions of the state, where major highways that serve as arteries for food, water and fuel also are primary evacuation routes.

Money was set aside for a variety of purposes, such as $15 million for affordable housing in the Irma-battered Keys and $11.2 million for beach restoration.

Lawmakers also approved, as part of a wider tax-relief package, a property-tax break for homeowners displaced by Irma. In addition, they approved tax breaks on fuel used to transport agricultural products after the storm; on agricultural fencing materials purchased for repairs after the storm; and for citrus packing houses that had their businesses interrupted by Irma or by the deadly disease citrus greening.

Despite the changes, other storm-related proposals — such as taking steps to strengthen the electric grid, create a strategic fuel-reserve task force, and use rail-tank cars to bring fuel into evacuation areas to avoid a repeat of runs on gas stations — failed to advance during this year’s Legislative Session.

Rep. Jeanette Nunez, a Miami Republican who chaired the select committee and is now the running mate of GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, said after the 2018 Session that she hoped lawmakers would try to tackle some of the recommendations that failed to advance rather than grow complacent.

State Senate now suing to stop federal harassment probe

A federal judge has set a hearing for next Tuesday in the state Senate‘s lawsuit to put an end to an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigation into a top aide’s sexual harassment and retaliation claims.

Rachel Perrin Rogers, chief assistant to Senate Republican Leader and future Senate President Wilton Simpson, says former Sen. Jack Latvala repeatedly groped her and made unwelcome comments about her body over a four-year period.

The Senate’s legal complaint, filled earlier this month, counters that “the ongoing EEOC action violates the Florida Senate’s sovereign and constitutional rights,” including “violat(ing) the Senate’s sovereign immunity.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The Senate is first seeking a “temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction” to suspend that inquiry.

But Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle faulted the Senate’s lawyers for not giving any notice of that request to Perrin Rogers herself.

“The Senate should take note (that) the likelihood that preliminary relief will be granted without giving Ms. Perrin Rogers notice and an opportunity to be heard is low,” he wrote Monday.

The hearing next Tuesday is for “only matters of timing and procedure, not matters of substance, (and) the conference will be conducted entirely by telephone,” Hinkle wrote.

He said “attorneys for all parties must confer … in a good faith effort to reach agreement on the scheduling of a hearing on the motion for a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction and on other procedural and substantive issues.”

Perrin Rogers first lodged harassment allegations last year against Latvala, the once-powerful Senate Appropriations Committee chair and Republican gubernatorial candidate from Clearwater.

An internal Senate investigation led to a special master’s report finding probable cause to support the allegations. Latvala resigned Dec. 19. A separate criminal probe ended in July without any charges being brought.

Perrin Rogers since filed a complaint with the EEOC, saying she was the victim of discrimination and retaliation after she came forward. Her case has been assigned to EEOC Administrative Law Judge Alexander Fernandez.

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Updated 2 p.m. — Holland & Knight attorney Tara Price, outside counsel for the Senate, told the court Tuesday her client “did not name Ms. Perrin Rogers as a defendant out of respect for and as a courtesy to her.

“(The Senate) did not think it appropriate — and indeed, thought it would be heavy handed and inappropriate — to seek … relief against Ms. Perrin Rogers as a private citizen …

“However, (the Senate) has no objection to Ms. Perrin Rogers appearing before the court and participating in this action in whatever manner the court deems appropriate … Also, (the Senate) has already taken steps to alert” all of the defendants in the case, Price said.

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Orlando correspondent Scott Powers, Tallahassee correspondent Danny McAuliffe, and Senior Editor Jim Rosica contributed to this post.

Florida Retailers endorse 10 incumbent senators for re-election

The Florida Retail Federation on Tuesday endorsed nine incumbent Republican state Senators and one incumbent Democrat for re-election in the fall.

Making the trade association’s general election list were Republican Sens. Dennis Baxley, Aaron Bean, George Gainer, Tom Lee, Kathleen Passidomo, Keith Perry, Wilton Simpson, Kelli Stargel, and Dana Young, as well as Democratic Sen. Bobby Powell.

“Florida’s retail industry is vital to the success of our state, and for our industry and our members to be successful we need legislative leaders who can help ensure Florida remains a retail- and business-friendly state,” said FRF president and CEO R. Scott Shalley. “These Senators have been supportive of retail during their time as legislators, and we look forward to working with each of them when they return to the Florida Senate.”

Many of the same lawmakers were issued solo endorsements earlier in the 2018 cycle — Bean, Baxley, and Passidomo each picked up FRF endorsements in June, while Young got the nod in July and Gainer’s re-election recommendation came along in mid-August.

FRF has also endorsed former Clearwater Republican Rep. Ed Hooper, who is competing against former New Port Richey Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy to take over the vacant SD 16.

Most of the incumbents endorsed by the Florida Retail Federation on Tuesday are primed for re-election in three weeks, though Perry, Stargel, and Young are each running for another term in a seat being targeted by the Florida Democratic Party.

Recent polling shows Perry, first elected in 2016, has a double-digit edge over Democratic challenger Kayser Enneking in the SD 8 race, while Stargel is up 12 points over retired circuit court judge Bob Doyel in SD 22.

Young, however, is in a tight race with House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in SD 18. The most recent poll of the race shows Cruz with a slim advantage in the northwestern Hillsborough district, which covers much of Tampa. Prior polls have shown the two women jockeying in the purple district.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Fresh poll: Kelli Stargel leads Bob Doyel by 12 points in SD 22

A new poll of the Senate District 22 race shows state Sen. Kelli Stargel has nearly doubled her lead over Democratic nominee Bob Doyel compared to a month ago.

A new St. Pete Polls survey, conducted Oct. 13-14, found the Lakeland Republican leading Doyel 52-40 percent with 8 percent of voters undecided. That margin was consistent among the 19 percent of voters who said they had already turned in their ballot as well as the 81 percent of voters who said they planned to vote but have not done so yet.

The new results come four weeks after St. Pete Polls last polled the district and show a statistically significant gain for Stargel as well as some minor slippage for Doyel, a retired circuit court judge. The month-old poll pegged the race at 48-41 percent, advantage Stargel.

The Doyel campaign has circulated internal polls showing him leading Stargel, however, those now-stale numbers were never corroborated by any public poll of the race.

Doyel has a little room for growth among the Democratic base, 12 percent of which is still undecided. About 18 percent of Democrats are leaning toward Stargel, however, which is considerable due registered Dems making up a plurality of the Polk County-based district’s electorate.

Likely Republicans voters are in lockstep, preferring Stargel 84-10 percent. Third- and no-party voters are also tilting toward the incumbent by a near 20-point margin.

There’s more good news for Stargel, first elected in 2012, further down the poll. She’s the pick for the majority men, women, white and Hispanic voters, Millennials, Gen Xers and younger Baby Boomers

Doyel, for his part, held a 4-point lead among voters over 70 years old and posted strong results among the few black respondents polled, though black voters only make up about 14 percent of SD 22’s voting age population according to U.S. Census data.

SD 22 covers southern Lake County and northern Polk County and has trended toward GOP candidates in the past despite registered Democrats outnumbering registered Republicans by a couple points.

In the 2016 cycle, Stargel beat underfunded Democrat Debra Wright by a touchdown while President Donald Trump carried the Central Florida seat by nearly the same margin.

Though Doyel has overperformed past Democratic nominees in fundraising, Stargel’s campaign and committee accounts are as flush with cash as ever, and she’s also received significant backup from the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, a well-stocked Republican Party-affiliated committee chaired by incoming Senate President Bill Galvano.

To date, Stargel has raised $487,000 in hard money and had $138,250 banked on Oct. 5. She also has $263,000 ready to deploy in her affiliated PAC, Limited Govt for a Stronger Florida Political Committee.

Doyel’s early October finance reports brought him up to $431,000 in total fundraising — $212,500 hard and 218,600 soft. On Oct. 5, the Winter Haven Democrat had $210,500 banked between his campaign account and affiliated political committee, Bring Back Democracy.

Florida Democrats are hoping the so-called ‘blue wave’ can put it and other Republican-held Senate seats in their column come November, though poll results in SD 22 and other targeted districts show waning odds that Democrats can force a tie or take the majority in the state Senate, where Republicans hold a 23-16 advantage with one vacancy.

The St. Pete Polls survey, commissioned by Florida Politics, was conducted via an automated phone call polling system. It received responses from 503 registered voters who said they planned to vote in the general election. The sample was 38 percent Democrats, 38 percent Republicans and 24 percent independents.

The top-line results have a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

Keith Perry up 10 in SD 8 re-election battle

Three weeks out from Election Day, incumbent Republican Sen. Keith Perry has a double-digit lead over Democratic challenger Kayser Enneking in the race for Gainesville-based Senate District 8.

A St. Pete Polls survey, commissioned by Florida Politics, found Perry leading Enneking 49-39 percent with 6 percent of voters opting for unaffiliated candidate Charles Goston and the balance still unsure of which candidate they’ll vote for in the general election.

Similar to the prior measure from the same pollster, Perry’s lead stems from his strong support among the Republican base compared to Enneking’s weaker support among SD 8 Democrats: Perry holds an 83-10 percent lead among GOP voters, while Enneking holds a 67-17 percent lead among registered Dems.

Part of the weak showing for Enneking, a Gainesville physician, is due to Goston, a former Gainesville City Commissioner, siphoning away 7 percent of Democratic voters. Goston also takes a 4 percent share among Republicans.

When it comes to no- and third-party voters, who make up 23 percent of the electorate, Perry leads Enneking 53-35 percent while Goston is the pick for 6 percent of those polled with the remainder unsure.

The crosstabs show Perry with a 20-point lead among white voters, who account for nearly three quarters of SD 8’s population according to U.S. Census data. Black voters prefer Enneking by a 57-12 percent margin. Goston, who is black, posted his best results among black voters, earning a 15 percent share.

Perry, a roofer by trade, holds a majority among men, 53-38 percent, and a plurality among women, 45-41 percent. He was also the pick for more than half of voters under 50 years old and carried Baby Boomers 48-43 percent and the 70-and-up bracket 46-39 percent.

St. Pete Polls took responses from 936 registered voters who said they planned to vote in the general election, and more than one in six said they had already cast their ballot. Among that comparatively small sample size, Perry held a 53-35 percent lead over Enneking. Those yet to vote lean toward the incumbent 47-41 percent.

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. About 55 percent of the district’s population lives in Alachua County, while 30 percent live in northern Marion County and the remaining 15 percent live in Putnam County.

Democrats hold an 8-point voter registration advantage over Republicans in the redrawn district. The district has a large population of young voters thanks to it being home to the University of Florida, though that slice of the population typically turns out in low numbers.

Data from the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections shows only about 300 votes were cast at the on-campus J. Wayne Reitz Union during the 2018 primary election.

Two years ago, Perry scored a comfortable victory over Rod Smith, a former state Senator and former Florida Democratic Party Chair. The district also voted in favor of President Donald Trump by two tenths of a percentage point — the slimmest margin among Florida’s 40 state Senate districts.

The St. Pete Polls survey was conducted Oct. 13-14 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

James Madison Institute hails Ron DeSantis’ economic plans, says Andrew Gillum’s would cost Florida

The conservative economics think tank James Madison Institute has issued a detailed economic analysis of the plans proposed by Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum, declaring that DeSantis’ would create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and Gillum’s would cost almost that many.

The institute, grounded in conservative economics championed by Republicans such as Gov. Rick Scott, concludes that Gillum’s proposals for a corporate tax increase, increased minimum wage, and increased teachers salaries “would adversely impact the business climate of the state,” costing 155,000 jobs and $28.2 billion in economic loses per year, the report’s executive summary states.

“Candidate Ron DeSantis agenda — to largely maintain the pro-growth-oriented strategy of Florida through low and stable taxes, would preserve and strengthen the state’s business climate … [and] lead to the creation of 215,000 jobs annually and $26.6 billion in annual economic output,” the summary continues.

DeSantis’ campaign quickly pounced on the report as vindication for the economic message he has been pushing, and as a repudiation of Gillum’s.

“Today’s report from the James Madison Institute, a nonpartisan, well-respected economic think-tank, proves what we’ve been saying all along — Andrew Gillum’s policies would be an economic disaster for every person in our state,” DeSantis stated in a news release from his campaign.

“My policies, on the other hand, would create over 200,000 jobs and add $25 billion in annual economic output,” he continued in the news release. “Floridians deserve a Governor who will work to ensure they get to keep more of their hard-earned money, create more jobs, and build on the economic success of our state, and that’s exactly what I will do as Governor.”

The James Madison Institute partnered with two business economic consulting firms, The Washington Economics Group of Coral Gables, and Arduin, Laffer, and Moore of Tallahassee, to produce the study.

At the heart of the study’s criticism of Gillum’s economic proposals is doubt that his proposed increase in the corporate income tax to 7.75 percent, from 5.5 percent, could raise the $1 billion he proposed to pay for his education plans, let alone pay for his broader spending plans, which the institute pegged at $2.6 billion. The institute predicted businesses leaving Florida to avoid paying the higher tax rate.

“Businesses can, and do, change their behavior based on tax changes, and now more than ever businesses are able to readily take their enterprises elsewhere. Consequently, the proposed corporate income tax rate hike cannot be expected to raise $1 billion in tax revenue,” it reported.

The institute’s estimate is that Gillum would have to raise the tax rate to 11 percent to raise the kind of revenue he seeks.

The study also goes at great length on the fiscally negative ramifications of Medicare for all, a proposal Gillum supports, but which would entirely be a federal proposal, completely out of the hands of Florida’s Governor.

The study does find potential money savings in Gillum’s proposed criminal justice reform platform, though it does not specify how much.

For DeSantis, the study gushes, “Ron DeSantis is committed to putting more money back into the pockets of Floridians because he knows they can spend their money better than government.”

It also states, “As Governor, Ron DeSantis will ensure we never become a high tax state hurtling toward bankruptcy like states that continue to spend on the backs of their citizens.

“Candidate Ron DeSantis’ proposed economic policy agenda is conducive to maintaining and likely increasing the growth trajectory that Florida has experienced over the last two decades. Funding State priorities, such as education, through reductions in the costs of educational administration that would allow the shifting of savings to the classroom is a pro-growth policy that improves human resources development without raising taxes,” the report states.

Mel Martin considers new SD 14 opponent ‘a business decision’

Democratic candidate Mel Martin has yet to meet her new Republican opponent in the Senate District 14 race, Tommy Wright.

But so far, she doesn’t like what she’s hearing.

When Martin heard Wright pitched to Republican Executive Committee leaders that he would “carry the Republican seat,” that’s all she needed to know.

“To me, that’s indicative of the intent to continue a statewide mentality of you only care for your voters and your campaign donors,” Martin said Monday. “Our care for all of our constituents already speaks for itself.”

Party leaders in Volusia and Brevard counties last week selected Wright as the replacement nominee for state Sen. Dorothy Hukill in SD 14.

Hukill withdrew from the election in September, announcing an aggressive return of cervical cancer. She died days later.

Since his selection, Wright paid his candidate qualifying fee and officially appears in the Division of Elections database, but has yet to report any campaign finance activity.

Party leaders indicated a willingness for Wright to self-finance his campaign. “It may have been a business decision,” Martin surmises.

Martin, a lawyer and Marine veteran, now holds an odd position in local politics.

She’s running in a district Hukill won in 2016 with 68 percent of the vote. Republican President Donald Trump that year won 56 percent of the vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 39 percent, according to MCI Maps.

But Martin entered the race in August 2017 and through Oct. 5, she collected $41,850 in monetary contributions. Her new opponent jumped in just last week, with no money raised and will not have his name on the ballot.

Elections officials have already printed ballots, and expect to inform voters through letters enclosed in mail-in ballots and through notices at polling locations that a vote for Hukill will count for Wright.

So far, Martin feels frustrated by how little effort she’s seen so far to promote Wright as an individual. She pointed to political mailers encouraging voters to “support Dorothy Hukill’s legacy” through casting a Republican ballot.

Wright also stressed the legacy message in an interview with the Daytona Beach News-Journal, where Republican leaders said he would clean up the Indian River Lagoon.

Martin, though, said she has a more detailed idea of what it takes to address that environmental project, including funding to get residents off septic tanks and onto sewer service in the region while fighting to upgrade wastewater treatment facilities.

“This is a paramount and urgent situation,” she said.

Martin herself only met Hukill a couple of times. Initially, she thought the Republican, like many incumbents, had been actively avoiding forums and debates with a challenger, but then she started hearing Hukill became hard to reach for everybody. At the last candidate event that both attended, Martin said Hukill sought her out for a friendly conversation. And a few weeks later, she announced her illness.

Now, Martin runs in an unusual political climate against a political newcomer in a district that still tilts right. But all in all, she feels optimistic about her chances.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” she said.

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