Influence – Page 3 – Florida Politics

Polk County delegation piles on the campaign cash in May

The five lawmakers representing a piece of Polk County in the Florida House continued cruising toward Election Day with more than $90,000 in combined campaign fundraising.

Winter Haven Republican Rep. Sam Killebrew had the strongest May fundraising report of the five members of the Polk delegation, all of whom are Republicans.

The House District 41 lawmaker added $35,525 in contributions and spent just $2,395, leaving him with $80,790 in the bank as he runs for a second term against Democratic challengers Carmelo Garcia and Alex Perkins.

Garcia, who filed May 26, posted a waiver for the brief period he was a candidate last month, while Perkins hasn’t reported raising a dime since filing for the Republican stronghold in February.

Over in House District 56, term-limited Wauchula Rep. Ben Albritton showed $24,450 in new money for his campaign to succeed exiting Republican Sen. Denise Grimsley, who is running for Agriculture Commissioner in the fall.

The report, his best since October, brings his fundraising total to $172,050 with $105,646 banked. His opponent in the Senate District 26 race, Democrat Catherine Price, had raised just under $17,000 for her campaign through the end of April and had $14,263 on hand.

The gulf in fundraising between Albritton in Price is even wider when committee money is included in the tally —Albritton has another $175,000 on hand in Advancing Florida Agriculture, including $11,000 raised in May.

Taking the No. 3 spot on the Polk delegation list was Lakeland Republican Rep. Colleen Burton, who received $19,150 in campaign contributions for her House District 40 re-election bid.

Burton, currently in her second term, has now raised nearly $135,000 for the 2018 election cycle. After $7,666 in May spending, she has $88,080 banked.

Her lone opponent is Democrat Shandale Terrell, who showed $250 raised in May. Since filing for the seat in November 2016, Terrell has raised about $3,200 and had $2,330 in the bank heading into June.

St. Cloud Rep. Mike La Rosa, who represents a piece of western Polk, was $50 shy of the $10,000 mark in his May report. The third-term HD 42 lawmaker’s $9,950 in fundraising was almost completely wiped out by $9,843 in spending, leaving him with $66,765 in his campaign account on May 31.

His main opponent, Democrat Barbary Cady, hasn’t posted her May numbers yet, though she had raised a not insignificant $32,000 through the end of April with $20,175 on hand.

Also running are Republican Bienvenido Valentin and unaffiliated candidate Lonzell Ivory, neither of whom have gained traction in the money race.

The final member of the Polk delegation is also the newest member of the Florida House: Polk City Rep. Josie Tomkow.

In her first campaign finance report since winning the special election to replace former Rep. Neil Combee in House District 39, Tomkow showed $2,220 in contributions.

The small haul isn’t anything to worry about — no other candidates have filed for the seat and it’s unlikely another Republican files to challenge her before the end of the candidate qualifying period on June 22. If a Democratic candidate were to enter the fray HD 39 already proven to be a safe fortress to ride out “blue wave.”

Rebekah Bydlak has over $100K on hand for HD 1 bid

Rebekah Bydlak has a bundle of cash on in the bank a couple months out from her primary showdown against former Republican Rep. Mike Hill in House District 1.

The Gonzalez Republican added about $18,500 to her campaign account last month — her best tally since August 2017— and spent just $2,350, leaving her with more than $112,000 at the ready heading into June.

The May finance report listed nearly 50 contributions, including a dozen for the primary campaign maximum of $1,000. A good chunk of those funds came in on May 8, the day current HD 1 Rep. Clay Ingram helped boost Bydlak’s campaign by hosting a fundraiser for her at his Pensacola home.

He has since endorsed Bydlak as his successor in the Northwest Florida district.

Topping the report were lobbying firms Floridian Partners and Floridian Partners, Southern Strategy Group lobbyist Paul Mitchell and a trio of political committees chaired by William S. JonesFight for Florida, Florida Strong and Freedom First Committee.

Spending included a $1,000 check to Gainesville-based Data Targeting Research, $870 in reimbursements for campaign expenses, $350 for accounting work. The rest of the spending was credit card processing fees paid to fundraising platform Anedot.

Hill has not yet posted his May finance report, though he finished April with nearly $37,000 in total fundraising and about $19,000 on hand.

Also running for the seat are Democrats Vikki Garrett and Franscine Cecilia Mathis, though HD 1’s Republican lean will give the winner of the Aug. 28 primary contest between Bydlak and Hill a near insurmountable advantage in November.

Garrett finished last month with about $6,860 in her campaign account while Mathis, who entered the race May 22, has not yet filed her first report.

Regulators to convene on medical marijuana rules

State medical marijuana regulators are slated to hold three rulemaking hearings Monday in Tallahassee.

The Department of Health regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use.

The first hearing, at 9 a.m., will cover a proposed rule on the “Medical Marijuana Treatment Center Supplemental Licensing Fee,” the “annual payment by a registered (provider) to cover the (state’s) costs of administering” the law governing cannabis.

The fee has been set at $174,844, “due within 45 days of the effective date of this rule.”

The second, at 11 a.m., is on change of ownership applications, “establishing a procedure for the Florida Department of Health to process ownership transfer requests made by a medical marijuana treatment center (MMTC).” (Florida has a vertically-integrated market, meaning the same provider grows, processes and sells its own marijuana.)

One such deal was just in the news. Last week, MedMen Enterprises Inc. of Los Angeles announced it had agreed to pay $53 million for the license held by Central Florida’s Treadwell Nursery, which is now authorized to grow but not yet sell. A Department of Health spokesman said the agency “will review” the proposed sale once it’s received.

Here’s one excerpt: If a provider “intends to claim any exemption from public records disclosure … (as) part of its transfer request, it shall indicate on the request the specific sections for which it claims an exemption and the statutory basis for the exemption … All identified trade secrets are subject to review by the department.”

The third hearing, at 1 p.m., is on an MMTC “variance procedure.” It would “establish a procedure for the Department of Health to grant variances from the representations made in a medical marijuana treatment center’s initial application for registration.”

For example, if that rule is approved, a provider who had originally applied to use a certain marijuana processing procedure can later ask to use a newer, better technology.

All three hearings take place in Room 301 at the department’s offices in the Capital Circle Office Center, 4052 Bald Cypress Way, Tallahassee.

Personnel note: Jonathan Kilman opens own lobbying firm

Jonathan Kilman, formerly with Foley & Lardner, has started his own influence firm, Converge Government Affairs.

Kilman, chairman and partner of the new company, announced the move on LinkedIn this week.

“I am pleased (OK, excited) to announce the launch of Converge Government Affairs, a Miami-based government and public affairs firm,” he wrote.

The new concern will represent clients “before state and local governments throughout Florida and assist clients with management of their U.S. multi-state and global government affairs portfolios.

“Distinct from many U.S. government affairs firms, we are launching with an international component to our firm that will continue to grow,” he wrote. “We are incredibly grateful to the many clients who transitioned with us to our new firm and look forward to the many new clients with whom we will work.

“After nearly 20 years as an associate, partner and ultimately co-chair of a practice in large law firms, I knew it was time to pursue my dream of building something unique. Now, I can never look back and wonder, ‘what if?’

“My law practice will continue in a boutique firm setting to support our clients’ regulatory law needs, but Converge Government Affairs will be completely dedicated to government and public affairs matters.”

A full interview with Kilman and others on the new business will be on Florida Politics later this week.

Rick Scott, Cabinet set tight timetable to fill OFR spot

In a brief conference call Friday, the Governor and Cabinet agreed to accept applications to become the next commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) from next Monday through June 22.

Depending on who applies, Scott and Cabinet members — CFO Jimmy Patronis, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Attorney General Pam Bondi — will conduct public interviews and select a new commissioner as early as June 27.

Patronis, Gov. Scott’s friend and political ally, recently told outgoing OFR Commissioner Drew Breakspear he “no longer ha(d) confidence” in Breakspear’s ability to lead the office, which acts as the state’s watchdog for the financial industry.

Breakspear eventually said he was resigning effective June 30, the last day of the state’s fiscal year, to “ensure a smooth transition.”

Beginning in 2015, Breakspear was one of three agency heads in Scott’s crosshairs to replace, including now-former Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty and former Department of Revenue executive director Marshall Stranburg. He quit in December 2015, followed by McCarty in January 2016.

Adam Putnam

Adam Putnam holding Sun City Center rally Saturday

Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam is heading to Hillsborough tomorrow for a campaign rally in Sun City Center.

The event, hosted by the Sun City Republican Club, will be held at the Sun City Center Chamber of Commerce, 1651 Sun City Center Plaza. Doors open at 2:00 pm and the rally is scheduled to get underway at 2:30 pm.

Putnam’s campaign said supporters who make their way to the south Hillsborough town can expect to meet Putnam and hear about his “Florida First vision for our state.”

The event is free to attend, though registration is required. Those looking to attend can take care of that ahead of time by heading to the rally’s Eventbrite page, though registration will also be available on site.

Putnam, currently in his second term as Agriculture Commissioner, was the first major Republican to enter the race to replace term limited Gov. Rick Scott. He faces U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who is holding a pair of rallies in Northwest Florida Saturday, in the primary race.

At the end of April, Putnam held a fourfold lead in total fundraising and had about $19 million banked compared to $7 million on hand for DeSantis, who has since reported $3 million raised in May including $1.1 million in transfers from his now defunct re-election bid in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

Personnel note: Cameron Yarbrough joins Ramba Consulting 

Cameron Yarbrough has joined the Ramba Consulting Group lobbying firm, led by David Ramba, bringing over his book of business formerly at the Gunster lobby shop.

“We are excited to have Cameron join our team, blending our existing client base with his and adding his expertise to our firm,” Ramba said.

“Cameron’s experience, relationships, and background all meld well with the philosophy of our firm and we look forward to continuing to grow together.”

He joins Ramba Consulting as a partner, joining partner Allison Carvajal and associates Evan Power and Thomas Hobbs, rounding out an all-star lobbying team.

“I have enjoyed my time at Gunster and appreciate how my time there has led me to this new chapter,” Yarbrough said.

“Ramba Consulting is known as a growing and dynamic lobbying shop, representing blue-chip clients and delivering results for their clients. I am proud and excited to join this team.”

Prior to joining Gunster, Yarbrough was president of Yarbrough & Associates, a governmental advocacy firm acting as a voice for corporations and associations before state agencies and the Florida Legislature.

In his nearly two decades of work as a governmental consultant in Tallahassee, he has held various positions within the Executive Office of the Governor, as a legislative liaison for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, as well as a legislative director for the Department of Management Services.

Yarbrough received his bachelor of science in political science from Florida State University.

Ron DeSantis, Matt Gaetz teaming up for two campaign rallies Saturday

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who is running for Governor, and U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz are holding a pair of joint campaign rallies Saturday within Gaetz’ Northwest Florida district.

The two Republicans, described as “absolute warriors” by President Donald Trump, will start their day in Pensacola with a 10:30 AM (CT) rally at the Polafox House, 196 N. Palafox St.

They’ll then travel the 50 miles or so to Valparaiso, where they’re scheduled to start rally No. 2 at 2:30 PM (CT). The afternoon event will be held at Compass Rose, 303 E Glen Ave.

Both events are open to the public.

DeSantis, who currently represents Florida’s 6th Congressional District, faces Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the Republican primary for Governor. The Trump-backed candidate will likely find a healthy base of support in the Panhandle region, where the president is very popular.

Gaetz, currently in his first term representing Florida’s 1st Congressional District, faces a two Republicans and two Democrats in his re-election campaign, though none of their campaigns have shown real traction.

Democrat Phillip Ehr has cracked six-figures in the money race, but his party affiliation will be a hinderance in CD 1. Republican Cris Dosev, a military veteran, finished third in the 2016 primary for the seat, however his 2018 bid is looking a little rocky.

The primary election for federal and state offices will be held Aug. 28.

ZooTampa continues makeover, tapping Southern Strategy Group for lobbying assist

With rebranding and a host of upgrades, Tampa’s former Lowry Park Zoo is now adding a power player as its voice in Tallahassee.

The newly christened ZooTampa at Lowry Park announced it is bringing on governmental relations firm Southern Strategy Group as a strategic partner.

As one of the state’s most influential lobbying shops with locations across Florida, SSG has a regional office in Tampa led by managing partner Seth McKeel.

“We are thrilled to partner with ZooTampa at Lowry Park, a crown jewel in the City of Tampa. The Zoo is a true leader in species conservation in our state,” McKeel said Thursday. “We look forward to playing a part in ZooTampa’s mission to protect animals both locally and globally.”

After an extensive and comprehensive search, ZooTampa — one of 229 zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) — chose SSG to spearhead its government affairs efforts.

“We are excited to welcome Southern Strategy Group as an integral partner,” said ZooTampa CEO Joe Couceiro, praising SSG for its “deep local roots and a statewide presence.”

“Southern Strategy Group will be a key contributor in accomplishing our visionary goals for the future,” added Coucerio, a longtime marketing pro who recently came onboard after stints with both Busch Gardens and SeaWorld.

The addition of SSG is part of a renewed focus for the 65-acre zoo located deep in the heart of Tampa, including the biggest expansion in a decade.

In March, Lowry Park Zoo, which is operated by the nonprofit Lowry Park Zoological Society, announced its name change to ZooTampa at Lowry Park, in addition to several new features and renovations, including Roaring Springs, a water ride that takes visitors on a boat journey through Florida wildlife.

Roaring Springs, and the makeover of the surrounding area, will cost upward of $6 million, COO John Muller told the Tampa Bay Times.

Also new is Joe’s Diner, a restaurant that serves “classic Florida favorites with a twist.”

Other regular and seasonal events have been added, such as Creatures of the Night, Christmas in the Wild, ZooBrews festival, Zoo University and Yoga in the Wild.

As for the zoo’s increasing popularity, ZooTampa recently joined TripAdvisor’s Excellence Hall of Fame, making it one of the most popular zoos in the southeastern U.S., with more than a million visitors annually. In 2009, “Parents” magazine named Lowry Park Zoo among the best zoos for kids.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2018, SSG operates five offices: Tallahassee, Tampa Bay, Orlando, Miami and Jacksonville.

Florida retailers endorse Dennis Baxley for re-election to SD 12

The Florida Retail Federation on Thursday endorsed Ocala Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley’s bid for a second term in Senate District 12.

“Senator Baxley has made tremendous strides in helping to protect retailers by supporting legislation on limiting organized retail crime and by not increasing the felony threshold limit,” said FRF president and CEO R. Scott Shalley. “We’re eager to see the continued progress Senator Baxley makes in his return to the Florida Senate.”

The failure of a bill to increase the “felony threshold limit” — the value of goods an individual must steal before they can be charged with felony theft — was one of the retail trade group’s top successes in the 2018 Legislative Session. The bill died in committee, however, Baxley voted in favor of the measure when it came before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee according to Senate vote records.

Baxley served seven terms in the Florida House, taking a break from 2010 to 2012 due to term limits, before he was elected to Senate District 12 in 2016. The Ocala funeral director faces fellow Republican Keasha Gray and Democrat Gary Philip McKechnie this cycle.

As of April 30, Baxley had raised $158,450 for his campaign and had $112,500 on hand. He also has another $20,000 or so in an affiliated political committee, Floridians for a Strong Economy, though he’s been using that fund more to boost the campaign accounts of other Republican lawmakers than as an auxiliary for his own re-election effort.

McKechnie has $27,250 on hand and Gray has $1,100.

SD 12 covers parts of Lake and Marion counties as well as the whole of Sumter County. There are about 50 percent more registered Republican voters in the district than Democratic ones. Baxley was only opposed by a write-in in 2016, the same cycle the district went plus-30 for Donald Trump.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons