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Rod Smith raises $168K in May for SD 8 bid

Rod Smith posted another strong fundraising month, his campaign announced Friday.

The Alacuha Democrat raised $168,695 in May. Smith raised $52,695 for his campaign fund, and an another $116,000 was raised by “Independent Leadership for Florida,” the political committee backing Smith’s Senate District 8 bid.

“I appreciate the continued support from people across North Central Florida and the state,” said Smith in a statement. “We are working hard to build a strong grassroots campaign that will get out our message of responsibility and of prioritizing our families and small businesses all the way to the Florida Senate.”

The May numbers bring his total fundraising haul to a combined $624,780.

Smith served in the Florida Senate from 2000 to 2006, where he earned a reputation for working across the aisle to get legislation passed for his district.

Prior to joining the Florida Legislature, Smith was State Attorney of the Eighth Judicial Circuit. In that role, he successfully secured the death penalty for serial killer Danny Rolling after a series of heinous murders that shocked the college community in Gainesville.

The Alachua County Democrat faces Gainesville Republican Rep. Keith Perry in the Senate District 8 race.


Ritch Workman references his battle to remove ‘pro-Muslim textbooks’ out of Brevard County schools in new ad

In the summer of 2013, Melbourne GOP Rep. Ritch Workman made an issue out of a textbook used in Advanced Placement history classes in Brevard County, claiming it displayed a pro-Islam bias.

In a new ad promoting his run for the Senate District 17 contest, the Republican refers to that opposition.

A narrator references Workman’s sponsoring $500 million in tax cuts, boasts about getting rid of the Department of Community Affairs, supports ethics reform, leads the fight to abolish Common Core and then says: “Ritch Workman is currently leading the battle to remove pro-Muslim bias and propaganda from our Brevard children’s textbooks.”

Florida Public Radio reported in August 2013 Workman brought his concerns about Prentice Hall’s “World History” textbook to the Brevard County School Board, which was reviewing the book. A spokesperson at the time denied the textbook was biased toward Islam and said the company treats all religions fairly. Workman said the book dedicated 36 pages to Islam and only several paragraphs to Christianity. He also said the book “sugarcoats the rise of Islam.”

In August 2014, the Brevard County School Board voted to create a “supplemental guide” for the textbook, but did not remove it.

Workman is running against Vero Beach House Republican Debbie Mayfield and health care professional Michael J. Thomas in the Aug. 30 primary.

U.S. Sugar pushes back over claims cane industry is to blame for postponed water projects

U.S. Sugar officials are pushing back after a guest editorial in a Southwest Florida newspaper said sugar producers are part of the reason why efforts to build reservoirs south of Lake Okeechobee have been postponed.

“At no point has anyone representing U.S. Sugar ever said anything about opposing scientifically and technically proven storage projects throughout the Lake Okeechobee system,” said Malcolm “Bubba” Wade, Jr., the senior vice president for corporate strategy and business development for U.S. Sugar, in a statement Thursday. “We have and continue to support the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), Restoration Strategies, the Modified Water Deliveries projects, and the South Florida Water Management District’s priority projects.”

In a guest editorial for the Fort Myers News-Press earlier this week, Eric Draper, the executive director of Audubon Florida, said following through with commitments to build large reservoirs south of Lake Okeechobee “will allow progress toward reducing massive discharges of polluted water to coastal estuaries.” However, Draper said state agencies have delayed planning.

“By postponing storage plans, the agencies leading Everglades restoration have caused a frustrating Catch-22 characterized as ‘no plan, no action,’” he wrote. “It’s time to move past delays and get together on a plan for storage and sending water south.”

Draper continued by saying: “Opponents of building reservoirs to store water that would otherwise be harmfully discharged to the estuaries are EAA landowners — primarily sugar producers. It is in their interest to do nothing for the Everglades and estuaries other than minimally comply with court-imposed water quality standards.”

In a statement, Wade said his company “has not only supported scientifically and technically proven solutions, but also provided land for the storage, treatment and movement of water” into the Everglades Agricultural Area.

“What we have said is that state scientists will not know how much additional storage will be needed until currently planned projects are built and operating,” he said. “This may be an inconvenient truth to activists whose mantra is ‘buy the land, send the water south,’ but the fact is, there are already 120,000 acres of formerly productive farmland that are now in public ownership for water storage and restoration efforts, and the use of these lands has not been maximized by the government yet.”

Draper said environmental groups, like Audubon Florida, are just trying to encourage the South Florida Water Management District to begin planning storage projects south of Lake Okeechobee. The planning process would be the first step in a years long process, but Draper said agencies have said they don’t plan to begin planning until 2020.

“It’s such a small ask,” said Draper.

There has been renewed debate in recent months about the best ways to limit the discharges into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers. Earlier this year, the Army Corps of Engineers began releasing water from Lake Okeechobee into the rivers for about a month, after a wetter-than-normal January.

Environmentalists have said the discharge water is polluted with high levels of sulfur and nitrogen from farms around the lake.

“We encourage the activists attacking our business to join us in being part of the solution,” said Wade. “Instead of slinging mud, we welcome our critics to propose any ideas that are scientifically and technically proven and will stop the harmful discharges.”


Congressional Candidate Bob Poe: ‘I have HIV’

Democratic congressional candidate Bob Poe of Orlando announced Thursday that he has HIV, though he is healthy and has been so since first being diagnosed 18 years ago.

Poe, a Democrat running in Florida’s 10th Congressional District, said he struggled all year trying to decide whether, when and how to come out to voters and the public that he is HIV-positive.

Thursday he said he just could not live with himself keeping it secret any longer.

Human immunodeficiency virus, if untreated, causes AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Poe does not have AIDS.

Poe said his personal struggle included an encounter he had with a woman he met while he was canvassing on Orlando’s west side. She confided to him that she had just been diagnosed with HIV and thought she received a death sentence.

Poe said he assured her she did not have a death sentence, that with early intervention and treatment she could live a long, healthy life. But he didn’t tell her about himself. He didn’t yet have that courage.

Until now.

Poe, who is openly gay, released his revelation about his HIV diagnosis Thursday afternoon through Watermark, an Orlando-based magazine serving the LGBT community, in a note to supporters, and in a Facebook post, attached to a video in which he explains his condition and why he is going public with it.

“I’d like to share something deeply personal with you today, something that in the past I’ve only shared with a few family members,” Poe begins.

No member of Congress has ever publicly acknowledged having HIV or AIDS. Poe said he checked and found only two candidates for congress ever did so, one in New York in the early 1990s, and one in Massachusetts a few years ago. Both lost.

Poe faces a tough Democratic primary contest on Aug. 30, with former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings, state Sen. Geraldine Thompson and lawyer Fatima Rita Fahmy. Republicans running are led by Thuy Lowe.

He said he now will use his campaign as a platform to talk about HIV and AIDS and encourage people who suspect they might be at risk to get tested as soon as possible. HIV is spread by sexual contact or blood contact, as with shared intravenous needles.

After he left that woman’s porch, Poe said, he told FloridaPolitics.com, he “felt fear and guilt and shame and all the things that go with the [HIV] stigma. I just can’t allow myself to do that any more. I regret that. That was what sort of tipped things over for me.

“Then, as I talked to health professionals, they tell me that infection rates are rising at an ever-increasing rate, and there’s a big concern that with this heroin epidemic that there is going to be another spike with HIV rates because of that, ” Poe said.

“They tell me that people aren’t getting tested and diagnosed because of their fear. And that’s not a health thing. So I began to see an opportunity and a responsibility to bring this news out. And let’s have a discussion and see if we can start taking the stigma away,” Poe said.


Jeff Moran flaunts outsider cred in first CD 2 campaign ad

Jeff Moran has hit the airwaves in a hotly contested GOP primary in the 2nd Congressional District race to replace U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham.

In the Ft. White businessman’s first ad — a one-minute spot entitled “Hands On” — Moran seeks to grasp the mantle of consummate outsider in a 2016 election cycle where polished, traditional politicians are out of fashion.

The ad portrays his opponents as business-as-usual pols while emphasizing his own downtown background as a former policeman and owner of an automotive body shop.

“Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: two lawyers and a lobbyist are running for Congress,” opens Moran in a dig against former U.S. Attorney Ken Sukhia, former Scott administration lawyer Mary Thomas, and Panama City urologist Neal Dunn, who once lobbied on behalf of the Florida Medical Association. “Unfortunately, that’s no joke.”

The ad was filmed inside Moran’s shop and includes sweeping shots of American muscle cars. It portrays Moran taking a break from working on a red Ford Mustang to talk about his run for Congress.

“Yes, I actually produce something,” says Moran.

The ad is in keeping with Moran’s “back to basics” campaign theme.

“I’m a blue collar conservative,” Moran told fellow Republicans at a campaign stop in Bay County. “I live this.”

The campaign to take back the redrawn CD 2 seat — now one of the state’s most conservative — has focused as much on identity as on issues. While Sukhia and Thomas have tussled over who is more conservative, Moran’s gambit seems to be an appeal to social class.

The sprawling Panhandle district’s next representative will all but certainly be decided in the Republican primary. Term-limited Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda has floated the possibility of running as a Democrat, but would face steep odds in a seat experts say favors Republicans by 20 points or more.

The GOP primary is Aug. 30.

See below for Moran’s new ad in full:

Todd Wilcox talks career pols, Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump

Is Todd Wilcox too honest for the 2016 United States Senate race?

His speech Thursday to the Republican Women’s Club of Duval Federated suggested that may be the case.

In a room full of career politicians, Wilcox began his remarks by discussing a “movement underway … fueled by disgust with career politicians.”

Wilcox described himself as running out of “frustration” and “desperation,” not “aspiration,” unlike the three “career politicians in this race who have positioned themselves for this moment in time.”

Wilcox, who is in single digits in most polls, mentioned his “opponents are taking jabs at [him].”

For his part, Wilcox believes there is a “white noise” machine from his opponents, serving up “poll-tested rhetoric” about the iniquities of the Barack Obama administration, talk which distracts from the “stark contrast in experience in those issues that will define this election — national security and the economy.”

Wilcox’s concerns are tangible: a “new phase of the Cold War with Russia,” “Pacific Ocean threats from China,” a $19 trillion national debt and $100 trillion of unfunded liabilities related to Social Security, Medicare, and retirement for federal employees.

Democrats take a “tax-and-spend” approach, said Wilcox.

Republicans? A “borrow-and-spend” model.

Another issue: “we don’t have enough natural-born children for our tax base.”

Indeed, says Wilcox, the current tax base looks bad too. Of the 119 million people filing tax returns, 75 million actually pay out.

This, said Wilcox, will be the “death of the country.”

So, despite not getting major traction in the polls, Wilcox is in the race for the duration, even if Marco Rubio gets in.

Online advertising starts this week, and he urged those on hand to pick up a bumper sticker, “unless you drive like a jackass.”


After his remarks, Wilcox spent a few minutes with FloridaPolitics.com.

One salient question: is he worried about the polls?

Wilcox says no, pointing out “40 to 60 percent of voters are undecided.”

Citing strong straw poll wins in Brevard and Hillsborough Counties, Wilcox notes that when people “hear the message, polls turn around.”


Another question: how would Wilcox campaign against Marco Rubio, should the senator reject private sector opportunities to re-enter the race?

“The same contrast [with career politicians] applies to Rubio,” said Wilcox, who sees his motivation, life story, and substance as superior to Rubio.

And regarding Carlos Beruff, the Manatee home builder who had some active weeks of TV ad buys, Wilcox was no more complimentary.

Describing Beruff’s “poll-tested talking points,” Wilcox called Beruff the “consummate insider,” spending seven figures to sway politicians on both sides of the aisle with his brand of “crony capitalism.”

Wilcox noted that he has put “more than a million dollars” of his own money into the race, and has the second-most cash on hand.

“When the time is right,” said Wilcox, “I’ll get my message out.”


As is obligatory at this point, Wilcox faced questions about the latest gaffes of Donald Trump.

“I’m going to support whoever the party’s candidate is,” said Wilcox, because the “alternative is disastrous.”

That said, he’s “not spending time worrying about other candidates,” and therefore is not endorsing Trump’s comments on the so-called Mexican judge.

Even with Trump’s baggage, Wilcox says it would be “foolhardy” to choose a different candidate at the convention.

The “base has spoken,” and the establishment “picked the wrong side.”

It would also, said Wilcox, be wrong to push Rubio back in the race.


Wilcox closed the conversation reiterating his call for all candidates to debate, any time before the election.

And he repeated his latest message to Beruff: “Man up.”

Tommy Hazouri among ‘bipartisan finance team’ for Jax pension-tax referendum sales pitch

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry announced his “bipartisan finance team” for his “Yes for Jacksonville” political committee, designed to market the pension-tax referendum.

“This group of community and business leaders come from both political parties and bring an incredible depth of experience,” said Curry. “Their dedication to the city’s future and commitment to a victory for this reform ensures we have the resources to demonstrate the importance of a ‘yes’ vote in August.”

Some members are to be expected, such as Marty Fiorentino of the Fiorentino Group, former General Counsel Fred Franklin, and stalwart Curry backers Tom Petway and John Rood.

One member is surprising: Councilman Tommy Hazouri, who famously battled with Curry on the human rights ordinance expansion issue months back.

Clearly, the former mayor and the current mayor have found a common political cause.

Feds: Reggie Fullwood motion that Division of Elections was not defrauded is ‘misguided’

State Rep. Reggie Fullwood filed a motion recently saying he could not be charged with defrauding the Division of Elections in his 14-count federal trial for 10 counts of wire fraud and four counts of failure to file federal tax returns.

This week, federal prosecutors disagreed.

“Defendant’s motion is misguided. It is premature, it is an incorrect statement of law, and it incorrectly conflates the “honest services” fraud standards with the more routine wire fraud standards. Accordingly, the United States respectfully requests this Court to deny Defendant’s motion,” claimed the prosecution.

The feds say evidentiary rulings must be preserved until trial, according to case law and precedent, to consider “foundation, relevancy, and context.”

If the court honored Fullwood’s ruling, argue the federal prosecutors, the court would be “making evidentiary decisions without a full picture” of the prosecution’s case.

The prosecution also takes issue with Fullwood’s interpretation of wire fraud statutes, saying the statute requires no identification of the “panoply of possible victims.”

As well, claims the prosecution, the “inclusion of the State of Florida” as a defrauded party is “appropriate” because “the government does not have to prove that the fraud involves deception of the same person or entity whose money or property is the intended object of the scheme.”

“There may be several persons or entities … who were tricked, deceived, or defrauded,” claims the prosecutorial motion.

“This is, instead, a case of an individual who defrauded both the State of Florida and his campaign contributors by lying to both. In the process, both the State of Florida and the campaign contributors were victims. The Government should be permitted to argue as much,” claims the prosecution.

The trial, as of now, is set for sometime in August.

Jax mulls future of Hemming Park … again

A 90-minute Wednesday public notice meeting in the Jacksonville City Council offices addressed the perilous future of Friends of Hemming Park.

This tradition is almost as old as Jacksonville itself.


The nonprofit Friends of Hemming Park, designed to run the park, has enough funds to last until early August, after a $100,000 appropriation during a May meeting of the council.

Even though they got that money, council members expressed grave concerns about the near-term future of the park, located directly across from Jacksonville’s City Hall.

With money to tide them over for some weeks, the assembled representatives from Friends of Hemming Park, Downtown Vision, the Downtown Investment Authority, the Parks and Recreation Department, and the mayor’s office addressed some of the existential questions related to the park’s future.

Among them: What are the expectations for the park? Should it be passive or active? What defines success? How can Hemming Park be improved? At what level should Hemming Park be funded? And is the current management structure the right one for the park?

The goal of the meeting, said Council President Greg Anderson: to create a unified stakeholder vision for the park’s future.

“It’s important that we get this right,” said Anderson, who noted the history of the park and its parallels with Jacksonville history, including a 1977 resolution for redevelopment of Hemming Park.

As well, a resolution for portable toilets in Hemming Park in the 1980s was “killed,” Anderson said.

More currently, in 2o14, the city council appropriated a million dollars toward running the park … which puts it in its current position, even as the group mulls a second appropriation of $150,000 later this summer.

Friends of Hemming Park President Wayne Wood noted that “Hemming Park was a cesspool” three years ago, “overrun … by crime and so forth.”

The idea was activity would move the “ne’er do wells” to the periphery of the “family-friendly park.”

Noting that half of park visitors are female, Wood asserts their plan has paid off, in terms of the requirements of the request for proposal that brought the park under the purview of FOHP.

“We’ve been frugal. We’ve spent our money wisely … and yet, we’ve been beat up a little bit,” Wood said, adding that he’d like some positive words from the city council.

“Our goal is to be self-sustainable. Nobody imagined we could do that in a year and a half,” Wood said.

FOHP CEO Vince Cavin said, “I thought we were meeting the goals” of the RFP.

“You’ve just got to bring more people in, more people in. That’s what it takes,” Cavin added.


Wood pushed for a “commitment from the city” to validate the importance of the effort, noting that by the end of the five-year contractual term, the park could be self-sustaining.

Cavin, meanwhile, cited the need for “huge corporate support” for capital improvements to “update the park,” including food destinations.

“The event comes and goes, but the impact isn’t felt unless you’re there,” Cavin said.

The city takes care of a number of park functions, including daily cleanup, maintenance of the electrical fixtures, the electric bill itself, fountain maintenance, and tree canopy management, particularly when safety concerns are provided.

As well, two-man sheriff’s office patrols are out during business hours, with a bicycle cop on weekends.

“They are often in the park,” Wood said, but if called away they are not there.


Councilman John Crescimbeni pressed the FOHP, asking if adverse coverage from the press impacted fundraising.

“By the time we had something good to show for” their efforts, said Wood, “doubt was cast on whether or not we would continue.”

Cavin, meanwhile, said a fundraising effort from the Delores Barr Weaver Foundation was paused. And Wood said friends who planned to contribute were advised to hold off, given the uncertainty.


Jake Gordon of Downtown Vision said his group “needs the park to work,” and that “the definition of success” mattered.

Gordon expressed concerns about a panoply of issues, including the “personal community” and the “civil liberties” of those in the park.

“It’s going to create a coalition to help,” Gordon said.


Jim Bailey spoke on behalf of the Downtown Investment Authority.

“Your budget is pretty close to the entire DIA,” Bailey said, remarking that Hemming Park encompasses a city block.

Bailey noted budget anomalies, such as an $850 late fee to a contractor, and a funeral charge that was termed a “gift” by FOHP.

“Those kind of things don’t make a whole lot of sense,” Bailey said, adding “I’m not sure the route we’re going can be successful.

“At what level can we do it? And can we do it better?”

Bailey wants the “auditors” to look at what’s “wise and frugal” at this point.

Wood pointed out “commingled” budget line items, and said they see the “wisdom” of separating funding more explicitly.


The question, said Daryl Joseph of Parks and Rec, is one of measuring success.

Is success the amount of events?

Is success a councilman eating barbeque from a food truck?

“At our other 399 parks,” Joseph said, “free programming” is discussed.

“We have to retrack and look back at what’s been done,” Joseph said regarding other cities with active parks.

Crescimbeni wanted to know what Joseph could do with “five or six hundred thousand dollars a year” for programming.


Questions still remain.

Is the FOHP group overstaffed?

Do FOHP functions overlap with other downtown groups?

Are too many events after hours? Should there be more daytime/weekday programming to make the park inviting to office workers, instead of tailoring events to the millennial crowd?

Should the park be more inviting to children?

“There is a perception that it is not a child and family-friendly location, as much as an adult location,” said Lori Boyer.

Wood noted that “during the day, we have programming all day long,” with live music, magic shows and yoga that “give the park an appearance of safety.”

“Programming the park is what we do most of the time when the park is in operation,” Wood added.


Speaking on behalf of the mayor’s office, Chief of Staff Kerri Stewart noted she feels safe in the park when she didn’t three years ago.

“These are the growing pains we work through as stakeholders,” Stewart said, “and I think we need to acknowledge that the park’s come a long way in a short time.

“What does the next phase look like? What does success look like?”

Sam Mousa, chief administrative officer, said if the FOHP had said there would be a yearly budget hit, it never would have been approved by the council.

Groups programming city facilities, he added, “keep coming back” for more money, despite their insistence they would become self-sustaining.

The contract, said Mousa, needs to be “much tighter” and “people need to be honest” regarding the contractual terms.

“Just keep in mind, most of our facilities end up this way. This meeting should not be a surprise,” he said.

“We need to be realistic up front. The bleeding is not going to stop,” Mousa thundered.


Though there is a general consensus Hemming’s initiatives shouldn’t be scuttled, council president Anderson urged “a decision on an interim step.”

Downtown Vision’s Bailey noted an interest in discerning the “synergies” between the organizations.

“We’ve got to have some information. We’ve got to have accurate responses from DVI,” he said.

Councilwoman Boyer, meanwhile, observed a “lack of confidence” in the numbers, wanting to hear more from auditors before supporting the $150,000 disbursement.

As her presidency approaches in July, her concern is the lack of time to process the auditors’ information.

And, if needed, a special council committee may be in order.


The mayor’s office does not know, said Mousa, what the FOHP budget will be for next year. Indeed, they haven’t even met with the FOHP yet.

The current expectation is a $500,000 city contribution.

Pam Bondi to fundraise for Angela Corey next week

Attorney General Pam Bondi is in the news this week for soliciting a donation from Donald Trump concurrent with a considered, then scuttled, 2013 investigation of Trump University.

Next week, she will be in the news for soliciting donations in a different context — the re-election campaign of Angela Corey, the incumbent Republican State Attorney in Florida’s 4th Circuit.

Bondi is the featured guest at an Epping Forest Yacht Club fundraiser the evening of June 16.

Though the host committee is full of heavy hitters, such as Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, former mayors John Delaney and John Peyton, Civic Council Chairman Ed Burr, Fire Union head Randy Wyse, and FOP head Steve Zona, questions come to mind regarding this particular fundraiser and its timing.

Even as Bondi faces media scrutiny for what some might frame as influence-peddling, Corey also is facing scrutiny for political operations … including having her campaign manager, Alexander Pantinakis, file campaign paperwork for a write-in candidate, Fleming Island “men only” divorce lawyer Kenny Leigh.

There is a trial on that front questioning Leigh’s legitimacy as a candidate. Meanwhile, for his troubles, Pantinakis was bounced from the Corey campaign, even as a close friend of the write-in candidate, Matt Justice, is still part of the political operation.

Corey’s fundraising has been slow all year, also. After a strong start, she has not raised more than $15,000 in a month this calendar year.

Corey, as of April numbers, has roughly $200,000 on hand. Meanwhile, opponent Melissa Nelson raised $108,000 for her “First Coast Values” political committee, and it is anticipated she will show strong May numbers on the hard money side later this week.

To sum: it appears that Angela Corey is calling in all of her reinforcements to battle back Nelson’s challenge. Though a Bondi/Corey presser at the country club would be Must See TV as both face torrents of media scrutiny, such should not be expected.

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