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Frank Artiles, now officially on 2016 ballot, brings in $134K in May Senate fundraising

Miami Rep. Frank Artiles brought in another massive fundraising haul during the May reporting period, raising $92,801 last month through his campaign account and another $42,000 through an associated political committee called “Veterans for Conservative Principles.”

That brings his overall fundraising total to some $341,000 for his Senate District 40 account, according to recently released state campaign finance data. His war chest now contains around $272,000 in cash on hand in his campaign account and an additional $73,000 through his political committee.

The Republican lawmaker is forgoing another term in his House District 118 seat to challenge Democrat Sen. Dwight Bullard in the redrawn SD 40 seat, which contains parts of Miami-Dade County.

Bullard’s May reporting figures were not available as of Friday, but he raised $72,023 through May 1. Only around $22,000 of that remained unspent.

Besides Artiles’ tough challenge, however, Bullard faces another obstacle in 2016 — a primary challenge from recent GOP convert Ana Rivas Logan, who joined the race June 1.

Democratic insiders say Rivas Logan stands a better chance to defeat the well-funded Artiles, since they say the redrawn SD 40 favors Hispanic candidates more than African-American Democrats like Bullard.

Rivas Logan is not required to to file a campaign finance report until July 10. In the meantime, she will certainly try to stem the tide of institutional money currently flowing to Artiles.

Artiles’ stout fundraising report comes the same day as his campaign announced he has officially qualified for the 2016 ballot.

“I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of encouragement and support from my community,” Artiles said in a statement marking the occasion. “From the beginning of my campaign, I have stood for a platform that encourages lowering taxes that hurt American families and stifle small business growth, investing in education for Florida’s future generations, and protecting our seniors and families. This support proves our message is resonating in our South Florida community, and I look forward to continuing to meet with voters on the campaign trail.”

Matt Hudson, Kathleen Passidomo boost campaign coffers in May

Matt Hudson continues to build his campaign coffers, raising nearly $25,000 toward his Senate District 28 campaign in May.

State records show Hudson raised $24,945 in May. “Making the Right Call for Florida,” the fundraising committee backing Hudson’s campaign, took in an additional $9,000 in the one-month fundraising period.

Top contributors to Hudson’s campaign included Southeast Toyota Distributors, Colonial Interstate Investment, First Coast Conservatives, and Solarus Enterprises, LLC. Each of those groups gave Hudson’s campaign $1,000.

The Naples Republican’s political committee received a $5,000 donation from Florida Blue and a $2,500 donation from “Floridians for a Stronger Democracy.”

Since jumping into the race in January 2015, Hudson has raised $454,014 and spent $93,863. His campaign has more than $360,000 cash on hand.

His political committee has raised $851,026 since it was created in 2013. The committee has spent $205,272 since 2013, and has more than $645,000 cash on hand.

While Hudson has built up a significant war chest, his opponent out-raised him during the one-month fundraising period.

State records show Kathleen Passidomo, also a Naples Republican, raised $38,015 in May.

Top donors to her campaign included Automated Health Care Solution, Palm Beach Kennel Club, the Florida OB/GYN PAC, and the Florida Optometric PAC. Each of those organizations gave Passidomo’s campaign $1,000.

“Working Together for Florida PAC,” the political committee backing Passidomo, earned $7,500 in May, bringing its total fundraising haul to $158,000. The political committee has more than $132,000 cash on hand.

Since opening her campaign account in November 2014, Passidomo has raised $424,351. Her campaign has more than $283,000 cash on hand.

Hudson and Passidomo are battling it out to replace Garrett Richter in the Florida Senate. Richter, also a Naples Republican, can’t run for re-election again because of term limits.

No Democrat has filed for the seat. Hudson and Passidomo will face off in the Aug. 30 election.

$31K May haul for Travis Hutson for SD 7 re-election bid

In a torpid May in Northeast Florida fundraising, District 7 Sen. Travis Hutson is the exception to the rule, with his strongest month in over a year.

Hutson, whose district encompasses Flagler, St. Johns, Putnam and northern Volusia counties, brought in $31,750 in May.

Hutson, running unopposed in the Republican primary, has raised $93,225 in total and retains over $62,000 cash on hand.

Most of Hutson’s impressive May haul hailed from a May 17 fundraiser at the offices of The Fiorentino Group in Jacksonville, where Hutson collected $25,550, including donations from Gary ChartrandJ.B. CoxwellThe Jacksonville Kennel ClubDuke Energy PAC, and other deep-pocketed players who back winners.

Beyond the May 24 fundraiser, some interesting donations came from Mr. and Mrs. Hans Tanzler III, each giving $500 on May 31.

Tanzler was endorsed by Hutson in his race for the Republican nomination in the 4th Congressional District in May.

While Hutson faces no primary opponent, there is a Democrat running in SD 7 — Curtis Ceballos, currently the sole Democrat in the race.

Ceballos raised $50 in May, and has $55.03 cash on hand.

Edward James cracks $300K in HD 72 campaign, Alex Miller brings in $28K for May

Democrat Edward James surpassed the $300,000 mark during May fundraising in his campaign for House District 72, newly released campaign finance data shows.

James brought in $4,190 through his campaign account and $23,500 through an affiliated political committee, for a total of $305,328 raised overall since he joined the HD 72 race in June of 2015. Of that, some $263,000 remain on hand for the first-time candidate.

Republican Alex Miller, meanwhile brought in $28,907 last month, bring her total fundraising to $89,782. $50,000 of that came by way of a personal loan the health care executive made to her campaign when she entered the race in March.

Republican TV host John Miller, who threw his hat into the race last month, reported only a $5,000 personal campaign loan in an abridged May reporting period.

All three candidates are vying to replace Republican Rep. Ray Pilon, who left the HD 72 race earlier this year to pursue the Senate seat abdicated by outgoing Sen. Nancy Detert, who’s running for Sarasota County Commissioner.

Pilon had held the moderate swing seat from 2011, after ousting former Democratic Rep. Keith Fitzgerald in the 2010 Tea Party-inflected midterms.

Like many central Florida House districts, it favors Republicans more in gubernatorial “off” years than in Democratic-skewing presidential years, though Gov. Rick Scott narrowly lost the district to Charlie Crist in his 2014 bid to retake the governor’s mansion.

The race is shaping up to be one of the most expensive and competitive House campaigns in the 2016 cycle.

Frank White hauls in $23K in latest round of HD 2 fundraising

Pensacola Republican Frank White brought in another $23,700 last month in his campaign to take over the open House District 2 seat.

White’s May report, which also includes $10,914 in spending, shows the first-time candidate with an impressive $164,345 on hand after just two full months in the campaign.

His donor list also shows support from some influential Republicans, including former House Speaker Allan Bense, former ambassador John Rood and Gulf Power CEO Stan Connally.

White, who serves as vice chairman of the board of trustees for Pensacola State College, is currently the only Republican in the race to take over for Rep. Mike Hill, who is running for Greg Evers’ seat in the Florida Senate.

Though he faces Democrat Raymond Guillory, who has $11,309 on hand, White will certainly benefit from the heavy Republican advantage in HD 2, where Hill dispatched Democrat Jeremy Lau with more than 65 percent of the vote two years ago.

White’s prodigious fundraising skills, and the safety of the seat, could make him someone to watch for House leadership positions over the next few years.

‘Yes for Jacksonville’ political committee gets Shad Khan, Jaguars money in May

In its second month of fundraising, Lenny Curry’s “Yes for Jacksonville” political committee broke the half-million mark in money raised.

New money totaling $303,450 took the committee up to $528,450 raised, with over $514,000 on hand.

The big donor in May was Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, who put $50,000 of personal money and $100,000 more of Jaguars’ money into the sales pitch for the 1/2 cent pension tax, which, if an August referendum passes and collective bargaining allows one of the city’s three pension plans to close, will take effect once the Better Jacksonville Plan obligation is paid off, in or before 2030.

Gary ChartrandJohn BakerEdward BakerFirehouse Subs, and Harden Certainty all donated $10,000 or more.


Naples Mayor Bill Barnett endorses Kathleen Passidomo in SD 28 race

Naples Mayor Bill Barnett is throwing his support behind Kathleen Passidomo in the Senate District 28 race.

“I’ve worked alongside Kathleen Passidomo for years and have seen her conservative solutions to the problems facing Southwest Florida,” said Barnett. “It’s clear that she is the only candidate who knows how to get things done in our community, and I’m proud to give her my full support.”

Barnett was elected earlier this year to the mayor’s post. A longtime Naples resident, Barnett was the city’s mayor from 1996 until 2000, and then again from 2004 until 2012. Earlier this year, Naples residents once again elected him mayor.

The endorsement doesn’t come as a surprise to many Southwest Floridians. Barnett has known Passidomo and her husband, John, a well-known land use attorney, for decades. John Passidomo was the city’s vice mayor from 1990 until 1992, when Barnett served on the city council as a councilman.

“I’m honored to have the support of a leader like Mayor Barnett,” said Passidomo. “He’s created jobs for Southwest Florida as a successful entrepreneur and been a dedicated public servant to our community.”

Passidomo faces Republican Matt Hudson in the race to replace Garrett Richter in the Florida Senate.

While Passidomo, a state House member since 2010, has received the backing of several Southwest Florida Republican leaders — including Richter and former state Rep. Dudley Goodlette — Hudson continues to have a fundraising lead.

Hudson, who currently serves as the House Speaker Pro Tempore, is term limited and can’t run for re-election in House District 80. Hudson has raised about $1 million between his official campaign and the political committee backing his campaign.

No Democrat has announced a run in Senate District 28. Passidomo and Hudson will square off in the Aug. 30 primary.

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.”


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