Influence – Page 6 – Florida Politics

Lawmakers’ hobbies amuse and confuse on social media

From karaoke to ballroom dancing to ice sculpting, the hobbies of Florida’s legislators are legion.

A Florida Politics reporter recently noticed and tweeted that Rep. Carlos G. Smith, an Orlando Democrat, listed but one “recreational interest,” karaoke, on his legislative info page.

That sparked a number of responses on social media last week.

TCPalm reporter Ali Schmitz noted that outgoing Senate President Joe Negron declares “courthouse architecture” as an interest. Must be all those columns.

Sun-Sentinel reporter Dan Sweeney chimed in: “You guys have cracked open a never-ending font of amazement. Reviewing the recreational interests of state reps is kind of a hobby of mine,” he tweeted.

“Along with the aforementioned, I’d also point you to the ballroom dancing of @ColleenLBurton and the ice sculpting of @JoeGruters.”

Burton soon defended her honor: “So you know, I competed in 2011. #notnicetohobbyshame

Lara Medley, Burton’s legislative assistant, also tweeted: “I would like a demonstration of Representative @JoeGruters hobby please.” Gruters liked that tweet but did not respond.

Sweeney added: “Not to mention the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu of @AmyMercado and the fact that @JamesGrantFL lists ‘the woods’ as a recreational interest without saying what it is he does there, which leaves a lot to the imagination.”

Undoubtedly after some #FlaPol Twitterati head scratching, Grant took to Twitter to explain: “Lest there be any confusion, bow & bird hunting.

“Fly rods on the water, my bow or Berettas in the woods, & a hockey stick on the ice are the 3 scenarios where I can truly get lost enough to make the world around me stop,” he added. “And no, I don’t get any of the 3 enough. #CarryOn …”

Even POLITICO Florida scribe Marc Caputo weighed in with a memory: The late “Sen. Larcenia Bullard had the best hobby in the clerk’s manual once: ‘collecting butterfly-shaped objects.’ I’m not making this up.”

Indeed, he was not. An old clerk’s manual confirmed that hobby, along with “skating,” “pinochle” and others. Bullard died in 2013 after serving 18 years in the Legislature. 

Outgoing House Speaker Richard Corcoran lists no hobbies. With six kids, he’s busy.

Ritch Workman lands job at Palm Bay City Hall

Former state Rep. Ritch Workman has a new job.

The Melbourne Republican recently started as a special projects manager at Palm Bay City Hall, where he is tasked with managing the Brevard County city’s effort to make its facilities more energy efficient.

Workman’s new gig was first reported by Rick Neale and Wayne T. Price of Florida Today.

“I did project management for Keiser and really that was the favorite part of that job. That type of work really is one my attributes, that I enjoy and do well,” Workman told Florida Today.

“At the end of the day, Palm Bay has decided to do the right thing, both for the taxpayer and the environment,” he said of the project he oversees.

The salary for Workman’s new job is $62,000 a year. Palm Bay City Manager Gregg Lynk said Workman came “highly recommended” from county level officials.

Workman held a seat in the Florida House from 2008 through 2016, and near the end of his tenure had ascended to the chairmanship of the powerful House Rules Committee.

Facing term limits in the House, he attempted to move up to the Senate in 2016 but came up 7 points short in a three-way primary won by now-Sen. Debbie Mayfield.

Outside of the Legislature, Workman owned and operated a mortgage company for nearly 20 years before being hired as Keiser University’s business development director in 2014, a position he held until earlier this year.

Last year, the former lawmaker attempted to get back into state politics by seeking nomination to the Public Service Commission, the regulatory body overseeing commercial utilities.

He ended up receiving Gov. Rick Scott’s nomination, but he stepped down before his first day after Fort Myers Republican Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto publicly accused him of making vulgar and inappropriate comments to her at a  2016 charity event. Workman did not recall the event but said he didn’t want to be a “distraction” and stepped aside.

Kelli Stargel revs up campaign with $36K take in April

Republican state Sen. Kelli Stargel put her foot on the gas somewhat in raising money in April for her re-election campaign in Florida Senate District 22, bringing in $36,850.

The haul is Stargel’s largest yet in the 2018 campaign cycle, marks the first significant fundraising month for her campaign since last October, and was tops among all Florida Senate candidates in Central Florida, from Lake County to Brevard County, and Volusia County to Osceola County.

Stargel’s April fundraising was highlighted by $1,750 from the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign and 28 checks, mostly from political action committees and businesses, for the maximum $1,000 donation, including three from different Walt Disney World entities.

Stargel, of Lakeland, now has raised $183,583, and entered May with $133,614 in cash reserves.

SD 22 covers parts of northern Polk and southern Lake counties, including part of the Four Corners community at Walt Disney World’s backdoor.

Her chief rival, retired Circuit Court Judge Bob Doyel of Winter Haven, who had out-raised  Stargel’s campaign the past three months, as she lost fundraising time during the Florida Legislative Session, reported raising $11,069 in April. His campaign entered May with $75,650 still in the bank.

Fellow Democrat former state Rep. Ricardo Rangel of Auburndale reported raising $3,010 in April, and entering May with $3,467 in the bank.

In District 14, Republican state Sen. Dorothy Hukill brought in $27,750 in campaign contributions in April for her re-election bid.

The take brought Hukill’s total campaign fundraising to $148,400 and left her with just under $100,000 left in the bank for her re-election campaign for SD 14, covering southern Volusia and northern Brevard counties..

Democrat Melissa Martin of Cocoa  reported raising just $1,689, but also loaned $2,000 to her campaign in April. That brought her total raised to $28,106, and left her with $24,750 in cash reserves at the beginning of May. A second Democrat, Brandon Maggard of Cocoa, entered the race in April but did not file any financial reports.

In Senate District 12, Republican state Sen. Dennis Baxley of Ocala did not raise much, but still nearly doubled his Democratic opponent in April. Baxley raised $6,100, and entered May with $112,482 in the bank. Democrat Gary McKechnie of Mount Dora reported raising $3,262 in April, and came into May with $22,788 in cash.

Looking ahead to 2020 races, Republican state Sen. Travis Hutson raised $4,250 for his re-election in District 7, covering north Volusia County on up into St. Augustine; Republican state Sen. Debbie Mayfield raised $4,000 for her re-election in District 17, covering south Brevard County and the north Treasure Coast; state Rep. Jason Brodeur reported raising $1,000 in his bid for the open seat of Senate District 9 in Seminole County; and Democratic state Sen. Linda Stewart reported picking up $700 for her re-election in District 13, in central and east Orange County. Neither Democratic state Sen. Randolph Bracy of District 11, in west Orange County, nor Democratic state Sen. Victor Torres of District 15, in south Orange County and Osceola County, reported raising any money last month for their 2020 re-election bids.

Hialeah Gardens mayor endorses Manny Diaz Senate bid

State Rep. Manny Diaz earned the support of yet another South Florida mayor in his run for Senate District 36, as Hialeah Gardens Mayor Yioset De La Cruz announced his endorsement of Diaz.

The news comes just days after Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez also threw his support behind Diaz.

“Manny Diaz has distinguished himself as an effective leader,” said De La Cruz. “During his time in the House, he has represented our community well and has been a tireless advocate for education reform and increased opportunity for all Floridians. I am proud to endorse his candidacy for Florida Senate, and I look forward to continuing to work with him.”

De La Cruz became one of the youngest mayors in the state when he was first elected mayor of Hialeah Gardens at the age of 27. Now 45, he remains the youngest mayor in Miami-Dade County. He also currently serves as chairman of the Intergovernmental Legislative Policy Committee for the Florida League of Cities.

Diaz was receptive to news of the endorsement. “I’m grateful to have the support of a dedicated public servant like Mayor De La Cruz,” said Diaz. “For many years, he has devoted himself to working hard to make Hialeah Gardens a better place, and I’m honored to have him and so many other local leaders supporting me.”

Diaz has served in the Florida House since 2012, representing House District 103. He’s now seeking to replace Rene Garcia in SD 36, which covers parts of Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Garcia is unable to run again due to term limits.

Democrat Cindy Polo and Republican Frank Mingo have both filed to run for Diaz’s HD 103 seat.

Keith Perry

Keith Perry outraised threefold in April

Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perry’s April fundraising reports lagged behind those of Democratic challenger Kayser Enneking, who reported her best-ever totals earlier this week.

The first term Senator brought in $27,700 in campaign funds last month and tacked on another $2,000 through his political committee, Building a Prosperous Florida.

Perry, a roofer by trade, brought in the much of the April haul from those in the same line of work. Of the 44 contributions he received last month, 13 came from roofing companies and trade associations. Those contributions totaled nearly $10,000. Also showing up in the reports were Disney, Data Targeting head Pat Bainter and a political committee tied to exiting Senate President Joe Negron. Each chipped in $1,000.

The April expenditure tally measured in at about $15,400, including about $4,800 in non-itemized expense reimbursements payed to Perry and campaign staffers, $3,700 in staffer pay and $2,300 for campaign t-shirts.

Perry started May with about $393,000 in the bank – $286,585 for his campaign and $106,316 for his committee. His overall total is still six figures ahead of Enneking’s $271,000 war chest, though she was enthused by her campaign gaining ground.

“Our campaign is coming on strong. We out raised Keith Perry three to one last month with the support of people from all walks of life, the majority of whom live within the district. It’s clear that this district and the rest of Florida are ready for a change,” Enneking said Thursday.

“This report highlights what I’ve been saying since I got in the race, Keith Perry’s votes have been bad for this district and for Florida. I’m ready and able to give District 8 the representation that it deserves, and the people of North Central Florida are excited to make that happen.”

The Gainesville physician is Perry’s likely general election opponent, though she still must make it by Democratic Primary challenger Olysha Magruder before she’s a lock for the November ballot.

Magruder is a former school teacher who now works for Johns Hopkins University as an instructional designer. She has not yet filed her April reports, though through March she had raised about $19,000 and had $7,727 on hand.

SD 8 covers all of Alachua and Putnam counties as well as the northern half of Marion County. It is one of a handful of districts that became more favorable to Democrats after the Senate map was redrawn ahead of the 2016 elections.

The district, along with SD 16, SD 18 and SD 24, is a top target for Senate Democrats this cycle and could be key in determining who will be Senate President after the 2022 elections.

Michael Gottlieb leads big April fundraising month in HD 98

The race to replace Kate Edwards-Walpole in House District 98 is heating up as three Democratic candidates raised big money in April.

Leading the way was attorney Michael Gottlieb, who raised more than $33,000, all of which came from outside contributors. That brings his total money taken to more than $87,000. $50,000 of that came from Gottlieb’s own pockets in the form of an earlier loan.

Right behind Gottlieb was Elaine Geller, who raised nearly $32,000. Almost all of that came from a $30,000 loan from Geller herself.

Geller lives in Plantation and works for Amercanex International Exchange an electronic commodities exchange for cannabis. She previously ran in 2014 as a candidate in HD 99 but dropped out before Election Day.

Small business owner Andrew Dolberg was the third Democrat to haul in big bucks, as he raised more than $20,000. Dolberg loaned $10,000 of that to his campaign.

Dolberg founded his company, Champion Briefs, at the age of 19. Champion Briefs helps students with their public speaking skills. He recently brought in a string of endorsements from a wide range of politicians and activists.

The April fundraising totals leave Gottlieb ahead with more than $85,000 cash on hand. Dolberg is second with nearly $32,000 on hand, just ahead of Geller, who has just over $31,000 available.

Two other declared candidates, Democrat Stephen Korka and Republican Joseph Cruz, have not declared any money raised, according to the Florida Division of Elections website.

The HD 98 seat became open after Rep. Edwards-Walpole announced she would not run for re-election. The district leans heavily Democratic. Edwards-Walpole won in 2012 by nearly 25 percentage points and re-elected without opposition in both 2014 and 2016.

Bob Rommel holds on to money lead in HD 106 despite challenger’s self-funding

Incumbent state Rep. Bob Rommel continues to hold a fundraising lead in House District 106 over his opponent, Democrat Sara McFadden, despite her ability to self-fund.

Rommel, a Naples Republican, raised nearly $15,000 in April, bringing his total fundraising haul to more than $106,000.

McFadden pulled in nearly $12,000 in April. But $10,000 of that came from the candidate herself in the form of a loan. That brings the total amount loaned to her own campaign to $60,000. Loans make up the vast majority of the $73,000 McFadden raised so far. She has more than $68,000 still available, compared to $93,000 for Rommel.

A third candidate for HD 106, nonaffiliated Kristopher Knudson, raised only $150, all from family and friends. That makes it highly unlikely he will have much of an impact come November.

Rommel heads into the election following his first term in HD 106. He came out on top of a three-person Republican primary in 2016, winning more than half the vote. He went on to win the general election over a write-in candidate, Connor Maguire, who earned only 14 votes out of more than 71,000.

McFadden is vice chair of the Florida Democratic Party. She has also spent time as an activist, founding the eight-county Coastal Coalition.

HD 106 covers parts of Collier and Lee counties and leans Republican. The GOP has a voter registration advantage of more than 2-to-1.

HD 118 challenger Anthony Rodriguez surpasses $100K raised

Incumbent Robert Asencio could face serious competition in November, as Republican rival Anthony Rodriguez surpassed $100,000 raised for his campaign. That’s after Rodriguez hauled in more than $10,000 in April alone.

Asencio, a Democrat, will look to hold on to his HD 118 seat despite being heavily outraised by Rodriguez. Asencio’s campaign has pulled in nearly $40,000, with nearly $30,000 of that still on hand. Compare that to Rodriguez, who has more than $73,000 available.

Asencio’s seat was always vulnerable, as he won in 2016 by the thinnest of margins. Asencio took in 50.04 percent of the vote, just barely edging out his Republican challenger, David Rivera, who received 49.96 percent of the vote.

Rodriguez also fought for the HD 118 seat in 2016 but lost to Rivera in the primary. Thus far in 2018, he’s running unopposed after Republican Luis Rolle withdrew. Asencio is also running unopposed.

HD 118 covers sections of Miami-Dade County including parts of Kendall and Tamiami. Rodriguez currently runs a business in Tamiami.

Before serving in the House, Asencio was a member of the Miami Police Department, rising to the rank of lieutenant. He also founded Florida Public Employees Partnership, a nonpartisan advocacy group for Florida public employees.

April sees Matt Spritz pulling nearly $19K in HD 89

Republican Matt Spritz showed off a strong month of fundraising in April, bringing in nearly $19,000 in his House District 89 bid. Spritz is one of five candidates running to replace Republican Bill Hager, who is term-limited.

Spritz pulled in $8,800 to his campaign account while his committee, Invest in Florida, raised an even $10,000. That leaves Spritz with nearly $115,000 on hand in his campaign fund, including $40,000 in loans. Spritz also has more than $33,000 available in his committee.

The fundraising news follows a recent series of endorsements announced by the Spritz campaign. Those include nods from several current Florida House members, along with former state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff and former U.S. Senator George LeMieux.

That will help Spritz, a Boca Raton attorney, in his quest to defeat Michael Caruso in the Republican primary, which will take place on August 28.

Caruso’s report shows $4,900 in new money and $17,380 in spending. Caruso’s $136,000 campaign total puts him in the lead when it comes to hard money, though Spritz edges him out by about $9,000 when his two accounts are combined. Caruso’s campaign fund is bolstered by $110,000 in candidate loans.

On the Democratic side, James Bonfiglio will take on Ryan RossiDeborah Gibson, an unaffiliated candidate, is also running for the HD 89 seat.

The district covers a portion of Palm Beach County coast and leans Republican. Hager has held it since HD 89 was redrawn prior to the 2012 elections. He won that election by nearly five points.

Hagar was unopposed in his most recent run, in 2016.

MaryLynn Magar

MaryLynn Magar posts nearly $18K in April for HD 82 re-election

State Rep. MaryLynn Magar took nearly $18,000 in April to help hold her House District 82 seat. That leaves her campaign with just over $95,000 on hand.

The Tequesta Republican is facing a primary challenge August 28 from Judson Epperly.

No Democrats have officially filed to run yet in HD 82, a heavily Republican district covering most of Martin with a slice of Palm Beach counties.

Magar’s fundraising news comes just a day after she announced she would not pursue a run for the Florida Senate. Magar was rumored to enter the race to replace departing state Sen. Joe Negron in Senate District 25.

However, in a statement, Magar said, “Serving the residents of District 82 in the Florida House has been the honor of a lifetime for me, and I want to conclude my service there with a strong finish.” She continued, “There is more work to be done, and I believe my experience and good working relationship with incoming Speaker Oliva put me in an exceptional position to continue reaching our goals of a stronger economy, more jobs, increased public safety, and protections for our precious natural resources. I look forward to working with him and the rest of the House leadership team to keep Florida on the path to continued prosperity.”

Her decision to remain in the House leaves state Rep. Gayle Harrell and Keiser University Vice-Chancellor Belinda Keiser competing for the SD 25 Republican nod.

Magar should be a heavy favorite to hold on to her HD 82 seat. She won her most recent re-election in 2016 by more than 25 percentage points. With no Democrats in the field, Epperly’s primary push is her only roadblock to holding onto her seat. Epperly currently has $23 available in his campaign, compared to Magar’s $95,000.

Her 2018 run will be the fourth and final time Magar could try for re-election. After, she is term-limited.

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