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Educator uprising: FEA delegates opt for new leadership

Teachers overthrew sitting leadership for the Florida Education Association this weekend, electing new president Fedrick C. Ingram and a slate of new officers.

Ingram previously served as vice president under Joanne McCall, but in May made clear he would run against the sitting president. At the organization’s annual Delegate Assembly in Orlando, the 1,000 assembled voting members elevated him to power.

“Be assured that we go forward today as a united union dedicated to the students we serve and committed to be the strongest of advocates for the remarkable education professionals we represent,” Ingram said after his election.

“We will stand up every day for our students, our communities and for our members, who devote their lives to the success of public education.”

The organization also elected Ingram’s running mates, Andrew Spar as vice president and Carole Gauronskas as secretary-treasurer.

The moment was also history-making, as Ingram became the first African-American president of the FEA ever. He’d previously been elected as the first black president of the United Teachers of Dade.

Spar serves as president of the Volusia Educators Association and as secretary of the Florida AFL-CIO, Florida’s largest union.

Gauronskas, who succeeds McCall’s secretary-treasurer Luke Flynt, is president of the St. Johns Educational Support Professional Association.

When Ingram first announced he would run for president, long-standing doubts about whether the FEA had successfully challenged moves by the Florida Legislature to underfund and undermine public education.

“There comes a moment in one’s life when matters become so serious and challenges so steep that hard decisions must be made,” he wrote in a Facebook post in May. “The circumstances at FEA are just that serious.”

In his acceptance speech on Saturday, Ingram took a combative posture toward the Florida Legislature.

“To Florida elected officials, get ready,” he said. “We shall be mobilized, day in and day out, in Tallahassee and all across Florida. Our present funding for public schools and higher education is insufficient—and funneling millions of dollars to charter schools with no accountability is unacceptable.

“The pay scale for Florida teachers, education staff professionals, adjunct professors and the others who serve our students is among the lowest in the nation, so it’s no wonder it’s difficult to attract quality education professionals. The stakes for our students are too high to stick with the status quo.”

He also gestured thanks to McCall, and he stressed an “ironclad” commitment to working with all members.

“FEA is a united union, fighting for real change in Florida,” he said.

Kathleen Passidomo: To stop algae problem, get serious on septic tanks

If Florida wants to fight blue-green algae and red tide, it means getting serious about septic tanks, says state Sen. Kathleen Passidomo.

“Anyone of us who has a bathroom is at fault,” the Naples Republican said.

Passidomo spoke on South Florida’s ongoing water woes at a Naples luncheon organized by the Women’s Republican Club of Naples Federated.

There, she went over the history of waterway manipulation in Florida, from the expansion of farming around Lake Okeechobee to the creation of the Herbert Hoover Dike to stop flooding in the region and the manipulation of the Kissimmee River to more rapidly direct water from Central Florida into the lake.

Over the past century or so, humanity connected the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers to Lake Okeechobee artificially while altering the natural filtration of nitrogen and phosphates in the land.

These efforts started when 30,000 people lived in South Florida, she said, and now millions of residents face the consequences.

But to address the issue means more than focusing on a few large polluters, she said. As Big Sugar gets demonized by BullSugar and other groups, Passidomo noted its importance to guarantee compliance with environmental rules but also essential to see the big picture.

“We don’t have a statewide initiative or study that looks to form a global perspective,” she told Florida Politics. That needs to change, and it will require statewide support,

“This cannot be a South Florida thing or a Southwest Florida thing,” she said. North Florida, which looks to protect its own springs, and Central Florida, where many South Florida leaders point as the source of nutrients in Lake Okeechobee itself, need to focus on eliminating septic use as well.

Passidomo also referenced an attack by Annisa Karim, her Democratic challenger in state Senate District 28, noting the incumbent, in fact, voted to lift requirements that property owners regularly have septic tank inspections.

“If I could go back would I have voted to repeal it? Probably not,” Passidomo acknowledged.

But she noted that vote came at the early stages of the Great Recession when people feared a government inspection forcing them to pay for $25,000 or $30,000 worth of repairs or replacements at their own homes.

Now, Passidomo wants to take a fresh look at septic tank requirements. She noted communities like Key West addressed the matter at the local level.

Indeed, Melba Wagner, a former member of the Key West utility board, attended the luncheon today and said the decision to put septic requirements on homeowners created an uproar on the island but resulted in drastically improved water quality.

Passidomo says there must be septic improvements statewide, but it can’t be forced on communities.

“We can’t do what we usually do, which is to tell local government to just eat it,” she said. “What we need to do is say, this is a framework, and you have to decide on a community level how to get there.

“The issue is funding, and for all of those of us who live here we have to participate in the funding.”

As for Karim’s suggestion that lawmakers need more scientists in the Legislature and that Passidomo doesn’t follow the research, the incumbent pushed back hard on the notion.

“If you’re a scientist, go and do your job,” Passidomo said. “Don’t just talk about it. Come up with solutions. Standing up and saying the Legislature isn’t doing the right thing isn’t solving the problem. Go to Mote Marine and help. Then you can come to me and say this and this are the cause of that.”

“I can then take your science say let’s make sure this doesn’t happen and this doesn’t happen so that doesn’t happen. That’s what I can do. That’s what I’m good at doing.”

Extended lobbying ban is set to go before voters

State and local elected officials would be banned from lobbying for six years after they leave office under a proposed constitutional amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The proposal, Amendment 12, is largely the handiwork of former state Senate President Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican who served on the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, which meets every 20 years and has the power to place constitutional changes directly before voters.

Gaetz said offering a measure to improve ethics standards is ideally suited to a constitutional referendum, given the reluctance of the Legislature to aggressively pursue stronger restrictions.

“In the usual business of government and politics, there’s not much time or energy or space for discussions or initiatives having to do with ethics,” Gaetz said shortly before the Constitution Revision Commission approved the proposal in April.

A key provision would expand a current lobbying ban for state elected officials from two years to six years. It would mean state lawmakers and statewide elected officials could not lobby the Legislature, any state agency or Cabinet offices for six years after they leave office. Also, former state agency heads would be banned from lobbying their former agencies, as well as the Legislature and other state agencies.

At the local level, former county commissioners, school-board members, mayors, city-council members and constitutional officers would be banned from lobbying their former agencies for six years after they leave office.

And former judges would not be allowed to lobby the Legislature or state executive agencies for six years after they leave the bench.

Another provision would prohibit public officials, at both the state and local levels, from lobbying any other government entity, including the federal government, “for compensation” while they are in office.

Gaetz said the provisions are designed “to nail shut the revolving door between public office and private lobbying.”

The proposal would also establish a new ethical standard for public officials, prohibiting them from using their offices to obtain a “disproportionate benefit” for themselves, their families or their business interests. The state Commission on Ethics would have to define the terms of that benefit.

Gaetz said he knows the measure, if approved by the voters, would have an impact because of the reaction he got when he advanced the proposal this spring at the commission.

“State and local politicians have called me or come to see me, troubled that their present activities or future career plans might be in jeopardy, and that reassured me,” Gaetz said. “Everybody is for ethics until it knocks on our door.”

But some critics say the measure is too far-reaching.

Former state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, a Miami Republican who also served on the commission, said he feared the amendment would inadvertently “capture people that it doesn’t mean to capture.”

“I also think it’s going to discourage people from running or being appointed to positions, and we might lose some really good opportunities to have some good people serving in office,” he said.

If approved by voters, the lobbying ban would become effective in January 2023, while the new “disproportionate benefit” standard would take effect in January 2021.

Florida voters are slated to decide the fate of 12 proposed constitutional amendments on the November ballot. The amendments were put on the ballot by the Constitution Revision, the Legislature and through petition drives.

With higher-profile amendments on the ballot dealing with issues such as gambling, dog racing and taxes, the ethics measure is not attracting much attention. Three other amendments also fall into that lower-profile category, and they each “bundle” multiple provisions into single ballot measures.

Amendment 10 would require all charter county governments to have elected constitutional officers, including sheriffs, property appraisers, tax collectors, supervisors of elections and clerks of the circuit court. Miami-Dade, Broward and Volusia counties unsuccessfully filed a legal challenge against the proposal, arguing that local voters in charter counties should have the right to decide whether constitutional officers are appointed or elected.

If adopted by voters, the charter provision would be delayed until January 2025 in Miami-Dade, which has an appointed sheriff, and Broward, which does not have an elected tax collector.

The amendment would also require the Legislature to begin its annual Session in January in even-numbered years, two months earlier than the typical start date. It would create an Office of Domestic Security and Counterterrorism in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and would constitutionally mandate a state Department of Veterans’ Affairs, which already exists.

Amendment 7 would give constitutional authority to the governance system for the 28 state and community colleges. College presidents support the measure, arguing that it would give their system similar stature to state universities and public schools, which already have constitutional authority.

The ballot proposal also would require a supermajority vote by university boards of trustees and the university system’s Board of Governors when raising or creating student fees. It does not impact tuition decisions.

In addition, it would require the payment of death benefits when law enforcement officers, paramedics, correctional officers and other “first responders” are killed while performing their official duties. Florida National Guard members and active-duty  military members stationed in Florida are included in the provision.

Amendment 11 is described as a “clean-up” measure by its supporters. It would remove unenforceable language in the state Constitution that prohibits “aliens ineligible for citizenship” from owning property.

It would eliminate obsolete language that authorizes a high-speed rail system. And it would revise language to make it clear that the repeal of a criminal statute does not affect the prosecution of any crime committed before the repeal, although it could allow the punishment to be adjusted in light of the repealed or modified law.

Each of those amendments was placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission. They will have to be supported by at least 60 percent of the voters to be enacted.

Interviews scheduled for state Supreme Court vacancies

A review panel announced Friday it had decided to interview all 59 applicants for three upcoming Florida Supreme Court vacancies.

The Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) will meet Nov. 3 and Nov. 4 in Miami, and again Nov. 8 and Nov. 9 in Tampa.

“This schedule will position the Florida Supreme Court JNC to certify nominations at the earliest on Nov. 10 or sometime thereafter to give the Governor and Governor-elect ample time to do their vetting and minimize the time that these three judicial vacancies remain unfilled,” a press release said. 

The South Florida interviews will take place at the Miami International Airport Hotel; the Tampa interviews will be held at the Airport Executive Center. 

Each interview will last about a half hour. The schedule for individual candidates is here

Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, and Peggy A. Quince face mandatory retirement on the same day that term-limited Gov. Rick Scott, a Naples Republican, leaves office. He is now running against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate.

The next justices will likely determine the ideological balance of the state’s highest court: Pariente, Lewis, and Quince are regarded as the liberal-leaning contingent; Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justices Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson are the conservatives. Justice Jorge Labarga is often a swing vote.

Progressive groups have renewed a lawsuit against Scott, however, saying the outgoing governor doesn’t have the authority to appoint three new justices.

Scott has said he would agree to confer with the next governor-elect on the three justices. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is the Democratic nominee; Ponte Vedra Beach congressman Ron DeSantis is the GOP nominee.

Quince was the last justice to be appointed that way in 1998, and was the consensus candidate of then Gov. Lawton Chiles, a Democrat, and Gov.-elect Jeb Bush, a Republican.

A Gillum spokesman has all but spurned the idea, saying that “in our understanding of the constitution, the next Governor will appoint the next three Supreme Court justices.”

Scott said he will announce the new justices on Jan. 7, his last day in office, which coincides with the outgoing justices’ retirement date.

Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Chris Sprowls selected for fellowships

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and state Rep. Chris Sprowls have been selected for The Aspen Institute-Rodel Fellowships in Public Leadership.

The program is “designed to bring together elected officials who have demonstrated an outstanding ability to work responsibly across partisan divisions and bring greater civility to public discourse,” its website says.

Lopez-Cantera and Sprowls are both Republicans.

“These men and women represent the very best among the new generation of America’s political leadership,” former Congressman Mickey Edwards, the program’s director, said in announcing the new class.

“They have each won the notice and praise of their constituents and their colleagues and have shown a dedication to public service that is an encouraging sign in a time of great challenge,” he added. “There are now nearly 300 Rodel Fellows, at all levels of government, working to ensure that Americans receive thoughtful and responsive leadership. We are very proud to have these outstanding leaders join their ranks.”

The Rodel Fellowship program is open by invitation only to men and women who are in publicly elected office and who are ideally between the ages of 25 and 50, the website explains.

“Selected on an annual basis, each class consists of 24 Fellows, identified by the program’s leadership as America’s emerging political leaders with reputations for intellect, thoughtfulness, and a commitment to civil dialogue,” it says. “The 24-month fellowship program consists of three weekend-long seminars, generally held in Aspen, Colorado.

“The Aspen Institute-Rodel Fellowship program recognizes that by working to develop thoughtful, committed political leaders, it will also help to produce a more bipartisan approach to America’s most important domestic issues such as health care, public education, and the environment. All of these issues transcend the usual partisan political divide and are central to fostering a better society for future generations.”

Outgoing Gov. Rick Scott picked Lopez-Cantera, of Miami-Dade County, to replace former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who stepped down in 2013. He was then the elected Miami-Dade property appraiser after serving eight years in the state House, including stints as Republican whip and Republican leader.

Sprowls, of Pinellas County, is a former assistant state attorney first elected in 2014 and now chair of the Judiciary Committee. He’s in line to become speaker in 2020-22 after Jose Oliva.

State says Florida State Hospital ‘secure and safe’

State officials are pushing back against news reports that Hurricane Michael left Florida State Hospital (FSP) in Chattahoochee cut off from the outside world.

“While many roads in and around Chattahoochee are blocked, all residents and staff remain secure and safe at the facility,” Department of Children and Families spokesman David Frady said in a statement.

The hospital, run by the department, treats patients with severe mental disabilities who have been committed to the institution. Close to 1,000 residents are there now.

“Florida State Hospital was fully prepared for this storm and never lost contact with first responders,” Frady said. “While land lines and cell phone coverage in the area were down, the facility (used) emergency radios to remain in contact with first responders throughout the entire emergency.”

The facility never lost power, he added. It has emergency power generators and enough fuel to run them for several days.

Because a large tree was blown over, “an underground water line was broken,” Frady said.

“While the facility still had some water pressure capable of running toilets and showers, extra drinking water was delivered in an abundance of caution. The line is currently being repaired and the facility will have full utility services soon.”

More than 50 staff members from Florida’s other two state mental health treatment facilities are currently headed to Chattahoochee to provide assistance and “additional staff will be brought in as needed.”

FSP is the oldest and biggest psychiatric hospital in the state.

Tom Wright named as replacement nominee for Dorothy Hukill

Republican leaders named New Smyrna Beach businessman Tom Wright as the replacement nominee in state Senate District 14, replacing the late state Sen. Dorothy Hukill.

“I believe I have the skills, life experience, and record of success to strongly support our community as the Republican nominee for Florida Senate,” Wright wrote in a letter to party leaders.

District 14 political leaders say they have confidence in Wright as a candidate.

“We were pleased that the Brevard County Chairman and State Committeeman both gave Tom Wright their vote, giving Tom an 84 percent win for the nomination,” said Tony Ledbetter, Volusia County Republican Executive Committee chairman.

“We had many good candidates come forward for the position from both counties, however, Tom Wright was seen by us as the one most capable of immediately launching a winnable campaign with just 28 days to go until the election on Nov. 6.”

Brevard leaders showed equal enthusiasm.

“We’re very excited to rally behind Tom,” said Rick Lacey, chairman of the Brevard County Republican Executive Committee. “We feel he’ll be an excellent senator, and he’ll make us proud to be Republicans.”

Party leaders underwent the replacement process following Hukill’s departure. Hukill had previously been treated for cancer in 2016, then in September announced cancer had returned and she would enter hospice care. She died less than a week later.

State law allows party leaders to name a replacement nominee. Ballots have already been printed and Hukill’s name will appear on ballots. Elections officials will provide a letter with vote-by-mail ballots and through noticed posted at polling locations notifying voters in District 14 that votes cast for Hukill will now count for Wright.

According to Lacey, Wright has long supported Volusia County Republicans. Volusia makes up a majority of the Senate district.

Ledbetter said Wright serves on the Board of Halifax Urban Ministries and Chase Academy for Autistic Children and supports many projects for veterans.

“Tom has supported and advised Republican candidates and will serve with the same conservative voice Senator Hukill has promoted during her years in public service.,” Ledbetter said. “He has the experience and skills necessary to serve the citizens of Volusia and Brevard counties well in the Florida Senate.”

Florida Today reports Wright promised to “do you a good job and stay the course.” He will pay a candidate qualification fee to the Division of Elections out of pocket and promised he could largely self-finance the campaign, something that could be necessary with the short period between now and the Nov. 6 general election.

“I am a self-made businessman, I have no one that I owe or am beholden to,” Wright wrote to leaders. “Through hard work, I have been blessed with business success, and I know firsthand what it takes to run a business, make payroll, live within a budget and make the tough decisions that come with running a business.

“As a lifelong Republican business person, I have employed hundreds of people over the years, and know firsthand what is required of a small business to remain compliant and within the countless regulations and rules placed on them from a local level all the way up to the national level.”

Martin to date has raised $41,850 and chipped in a $2,000 loan.

The selection process was similar to the recent replacement nominee process Democrats held to replace deceased Congressional candidate April Freeman in Florida’s 17th Congressional District, though in many way the stakes could be higher in the Senate contest.

Hukill, of course, was the incumbent, one who won this district with more than 68 percent of the vote two years ago over Democrat Richard Paul Dembinsky.

Republican President Donald Trump won the district as well but by a smaller margin, with 56 percent of the vote over Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 39 percent.

Florida Today reports that Republicans make up about 39 percent of registered voters while Democrats make up 33 percent.

Wright will run against Brevard County Democrat Melissa “Mel” Martin in the November election. Martin, a former judge advocate in the U.S. Marine Corps, had raised $41,850 for the race as of last Friday and had about $27,000 in cash on hand, a finance report shows.

District 14 has not been one of a handful of high-profile Senate races that the state Republican and Democratic parties targeted this year. As of last week, for example, state Democratic leaders had provided little in-kind assistance to Martin — one indicator of attention from state parties and leaders, according to Martin’s finance report.

Hukill had raised $249,221 for her re-election bid, though she had not raised any money since mid-September, reports show.

Some high-profile names were floated as possible replacement candidates for Hukill, including former Senate President Mike Haridopolos, former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and state Rep. Tom Goodson — all Brevard County residents.

But Wright and three other finalists considered Thursday night did not have legislative experience.

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The News Service of Florida contributed to this post. Republished with permission.

Meet Debra Kaplan, Democrat running for House District 31

Just like in 2016, we’re again asking every candidate, including incumbents, to complete a questionnaire we believe offers an interesting, albeit, thumbnail sketch of who they are and why they are running. 

If you are a candidate and would like to complete the questionnaire, email Peter@FloridaPolitics.com.

Significant other? Kids?

Two dogs.

Education background? Professional background?

AA Mass Media Becker College 1972, 27 years as journalist at The Hartford Courant (Litchfield reporter); WOTW AM/FM covered 1976 Presidential Primary and sold advertising; reporter for Thomson Newspaper Chain in the Lower Naugatuck Valley in CT covering politics, city and regional governments, politics and homicide and police/courts; created entertainment and business sections for now-defunct Ansonia Evening Sentinel.

Reporter in Florida at now-defunct Sun Newspaper Group in Orlando and the Apopka Chief and Planter.

National bylines exclusives on Ronald Reagan presidential run in 1980, Abbie Hoffman interview after prison release for cocaine conviction and several feature pieces on Hot Air Ballooning, a Day in the life of a circus clown and awards for series on living with cancer; series on domestic violence and a series on AIDS.

Won Florida Newspaper Association sports reporting on a wheelchair athlete from Apopka and Best Series on Middle-Class People living without health insurance and using community health centers for care from the National Community Health Associations of America for best medical series from a small newspaper while at the Apopka Chief.

Wrote freelance pieces for the Amerasia News, Heritage Community News and other weeklies.

Worked in public relations and promotions doing movie product placement and tie-in events for Subway sandwiches for Lethal Weapon 2 and Bull Durham. Oversaw national tie-ins and events with the March Of Dimes, American Cancer Society and other groups.

Worked in promotions for the Villages including the opening events for the Rialto Movie Theater, the Senior Professional Bowling Association competition on CBS at the Community’s bowling center, events at Katie Belle’s and the Senior Mrs. America competition in the Villages.

Worked as a Senior Business Development Agent for the former HIG, PRC and now Alorica winning qualified business opportunities for high-tech and financial clients.

What was your first job?

Picking tobacco in Connecticut when I was 14. Worked that as a summer job over two summers. Also worked as a newspaper stringer for the Waterbury Republican when I was 16 as a summer job.

In 25 words or less, why are you running for office?

I believe the working people in this district have not been well represented. I feel public education has not gotten the financial support it deserves.

Did you speak with anybody in your political party before deciding on running? Receive any encouragement? From whom?

I spoke to many people in leadership including Nancy Hurlburt, Lake DEC chair and Jane Hepting, candidate development chair.

Who do you count on for advice?

My steering committee.

Who is your political consultant? Campaign manager?

None.

Who was the first person to contribute to your campaign? Why did they donate?

Connie Albright, She believes in my candidacy and she feels I would better serve our district.

Who, if anyone, inspires you in state government?

Anyone willing to work for the betterment of all citizens, not just their donors.

Why do people mistrust elected officials and what are you going to do about it?

Big donations from Big Sugar, Koch Brothers, and other special interests that get all of the attention and the ear of elected officials like the incumbent.

I believe that we must be open and accessible as well as accountable to the residents of this district, as well as speak to our mayors and chiefs of police and school officials. I have signed pledges I will not take money from the big donors.

What are 3 issues that you’re running on? (You’re not allowed to say education or “improving the schools”)

Bringing common sense to Tallahassee and working for the betterment of all citizens including protecting our water and acquirers from pollution, septic system leakage and fertilizer runoff; common sense educational funding by sunsetting programs which are not working and using those funds for public education and expanding vocational education; common sense gun laws which protect the second amendment but closes the gun show loophole.

We must keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have one. If you can pass a background check and take a course on safe gun handling you should be able to get a concealed weapon carry permit.

What is a “disruptive” issue (i.e., ride-sharing) you are interested in?

Do more to end the school to jail pipeline and juvenile justice reform.

What does your legislative district need from Tallahassee?

More access to their state Representative and a commitment to listen to voters no matter who they are because our job is to listen and act in the best interests of all.

Who was the best governor in Florida’s modern history?

Lawton Chiles

If you could amend the Florida Constitution, what would you change?

The process of deciding what amendments are included. Stop bundling disparate concepts because it is confusing to voters.

Are yard signs an important part of campaigning in your district?

Yes and no. A lot of Homeowners Associations prohibit them. I prefer billboards.

What’s the first thing you read each morning?

My emails.

Where do you get your political news?

Online, newspapers NPR.

Who do you think will be the next President of the United States?

I do not know. I am more concerned about this year and state races.

60 Minutes or House of Cards?

60 minutes

Social media presence? Twitter handle?

Facebook and @writer61752 on Twitter.

In 140 characters, what’s a Tweet that best describes your campaign message?

Common sense Kaplan bringing common sense back to Tallahassee.

Hobbies?

My dogs, Pinterest, writing, exercising, going to Broadway touring shows and rock concerts.

Favorite sport and sports team?

Football and basketball. Follow the New England Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars. Follow LeBron James.

Shawn Harrison

Legislative Black Caucus clarifies it has not endorsed Shawn Harrison

State Rep. Shawn Harrison’s re-election campaign has been sending out a direct mail piece showing him alongside members of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, and the group said Tuesday it wants to make it clear that it has not endorsed the Tampa Republican.

Topping the bullet points on the mailer is that the HD 63 Republican “stood with the Black Caucus to take out the Marshall Program from the School Safety Bill.” The “Marshall Program” would have allowed teachers to carry concealed weapons on campus to fend off active shooters.

The mailer also touts the Tampa lawmaker’s votes on a number of other measures supported by members of the FLBC: The Dozier School Bill, the removal of Confederate General Kirby Smith’s statue from the U.S. Capitol, the creation of the Florida Slavery Memorial and his vote in favor of a special Legislative Session to review the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Harrison was the only Republican lawmaker to vote in favor of the special session.

Despite aligning with caucus members on some issues, FLBC Chairman and state Rep. Bruce Antone, an Orlando Democrat, said the mailer could give recipients the wrong impression.

“The Florida Legislative Black Caucus is a non-partisan organization and does not endorse candidates for political office. Representative Harrison’s campaign mailer, which used a photo of members of the Black Caucus standing behind him as he presented a bill, is misleading and implies he has been endorsed by the Black Caucus,” Antone said.

“We ask Rep. Harrison to refrain from using photos of members of the Black Caucus in his mailers, television ads, and social media ads, if he has not obtained written permission prior to the use of photos. Furthermore, we also ask that Rep. Harrison inform his constituents that he has not been endorsed by the Black Caucus,” he concluded.

While Harrison doesn’t claim he’s landed an endorsement, his use of that photo is similar to other campaign communications that have been called out this cycle. In neighboring HD 62, for example, Democrat Susan Valdes received a stern warning from U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor for using a photo of the two of them in a direct mail ad.

“I am disappointed that the latest communication from Susan Valdes is inconsistent with Florida law and implies my endorsement of her campaign,” Castor said. “It is imperative that candidates follow the law to ensure fairness and transparency.”

The law referenced in that instance and the one between FLBC and Harrison is found in Chapter 106.143(4) of the Florida Statutes.

It reads as follows: “It is unlawful for any candidate or person on behalf of a candidate to represent that any person or organization supports such candidate, unless the person or organization so represented has given specific approval in writing to the candidate to make such representation.”

A violation of that rule can result in civil fees.

Harrison faces Democratic nominee Fentrice Driskell in the general election for HD 63, a perennial swing seat that Harrison for two terms.

As of Sept. 28, Harrison held a strong fundraising lead with $238,150 banked between his campaign account and his affiliated PAC, Committee for an Innovative Florida. Driskell, meanwhile, had $125,000 in her campaign account six weeks out from Election Day.

HD 63 covers part of Hillsborough County, including portions of northern Tampa and the communities of Lutz, Pebble Creek, Lake Magdalene, and Carrollwood. Democrats make up about 39 percent of the swing seat’s electorate, while Republicans hold a 32 percent share.

Margaret Good maintains cash advantage over Ray Pilon

State Rep. Margaret Good first won the political world’s attention last year when her fundraising ability matched that of a local political dynasty. She continues to dominate as she seeks re-election in state House District 72.

The Sarasota Democrat raised $51,425 in the second half of September. Republican Ray Pilon, who previously served the area in the House for six years, raised $13,500 in the same period of time.

Over the course of the election cycle, Good has raised $378,352 in monetary contributions to Pilon’s $106,372. And Pilon had a primary opponent, so he spent more than $25,000 before the general election season began in earnest.

Of course, Good has been spending too, almost $270,000 through Sept. 28, so she boasts a smaller cash-in-hand advantage. She still holds $110,093 compared to Pilon’s $79,149.

Republicans hope between Pilon’s not-too-shabby coffers and potential outside spending by the party, they have the resources to make up the different and dim Good’s rising star.

Good took the political world by storm in a special election earlier this year. In February, she defeated Republican James Buchanan, the son of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, in a nationally watched race that turned into a referendum on President Donald Trump.

That seat opened up for grabs last year after the surprise resignation of freshman state Rep. Alex Miller. Miller had been a successor to Pilon after he opted against re-election in 2016 to pursue a state Senate seat ultimately won by Greg Steube.

So there’s history here.

Good says she’s focusing her campaign efforts on a reliable set of Democratic issues that served her well in the special election this spring.

““We are communicating with voters about the issues that matter to Sarasota: public education, the environment, our local economy, and access to affordable healthcare,” said Good.

Pilon, meanwhile, hopes to appeal to the economic message that kept Republicans in power so long in this region and the state.

“The main message is that we need common sense in Tallahassee, not more taxes and spending” Pilon said.

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