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Authenticity of Hans Tanzler’s ‘Rawhide’ ad questioned

The first TV ad in the race for Florida’s 4th Congressional District is taking a hit for being inauthentic.

The ad in question is “Rawhide” by Republican Hans Tanzler.

Operatives from opposing campaigns have suggested “Rawhide” was filmed at Tanzler’s Gainesville-area ranch rather than in CD 4.

On Tuesday, Tanzler’s campaign fessed up.

“You need a lot of space to film something like that … (It) did not seem to quite fit the script to be running a horse through downtown Jacksonville or Riverside,” wrote consultant Brett Doster in response to an inquiry from FloridaPolitics.com.

When asked if filming outside the district raised any issues or if it was just a matter of a logical use of available resources, Doster indicated it was the latter.

“Generally speaking, ads are filmed outside of districts all the time. Specifically in this case, Tanzler has a farm an hour away in Northeast Florida, and it was fiscally responsible to be where his horse is and also better for the horse. We got footage with Hans all over Northeast Florida, and given his heritage and where his home is, I don’t think anyone can question his commitment to District 4,” Doster wrote.

Florida Times-Union columnist Ron Littlepage called Tanzler the “Ortega Cowboy,” suggesting his 30-second spot will be a contender for the worst ad of the campaign.

The ad, which will be seen in the Jacksonville market throughout June, is part of a sustained ad buy for the duration of the primary campaign.

Democrats Henry Lim and Clint Curtis battle sharply in HD 47 debate

Democrats Henry Lim and Clint Curtis made clear during a debate Tuesday night that House District 47 voters have a clear choice between someone not eager to compromise and someone who thinks its the best way for Democrats to be effective.

The two paired off in the first of two debates focusing on education and the economy, hosted Tuesday night by the Young Democrats of Orange County, at the Barry University School of Law in Orlando. In the second debate, House District 48 Democrats Alex Barrio and Amy Mercado found less to disagree about though both pushed their distinct personalities, Barrio as a seasoned Tallahassee veteran, Mercado as a mother and businesswoman.

Lim, an immigration lawyer and chair of the Orlando Citizens’ Police Review Board, took the hardline in the first debate, promising to stand firm in Tallahassee on Democratic principals.

“It is very important for this community to see the candidates: who is willing to fight? Who has the heart to fight? Who has the heart to bring our issues into November and beyond?” Lim challenged. He then proceeded to show that fight in question after question about economics.

Curtis, also a lawyer who gained fame 15 years ago as the whistleblower on a voting machine-rigging scheme in Florida that stopped computerized balloting, pressed the practical realities of getting work done. He belittled Lim as having the potential to be like radical Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, famous for shutting down the government by standing by principals.

“You can can see there are obvious differences between ‘Fight! Fight! Fight!,’ and ‘let’s get things done,'” he said. “When I was fighting against the voting machines, I was going against Jeb Bush, Tom Feeney and all the big shots. The odds of winning that were astronomic, right? But we won because we compromised. We we moved a little in their direction, they moved a little in ours, and we actually got things done.”

Nonetheless, Lim got more of the applause from a crowd of about 100, and won a straw poll afterwards.

His differences with Curtis were more on legislative tactics and strategy than on policy. And it’s possible neither of them get the nomination, because there is a third major candidate, Beth Tuuro of Orlando, who did not attend the event. The trio are set to take on state Rep. Mike Miller, an Orlando Republican, for a seat that has gone back and forth between the parties in recent elections.

Both agreed on most education issues. Both oppose school vouchers, which Lim said “hurt kids” in public schools. Both want schools to scale back or eliminate standardized testing, which Curtis declared, “turned out to be a big mistake.”

But on economic issues including budget matters, or offering tax subsidies to attract businesses, their differences flared.

Lim declared, “Hell no!” when he was asked if he would accept a Republican leadership offer to back a bill that made him uncomfortable, but which included funding for something in his district. Curtis said he would take the offer as a signal his vote was needed, and would negotiate for more.

“We’re going to have to compromise with them to get anything, because they still control the house,” Curtis said. “If we say ‘No! No! No!’ they still win.”

“That is the old way of doing things,” Lim said. “That is why Republicans beat us us every election cycle. It is time for us to get a backbone, stand for our principals and fight! We are on the right side of history.”

Democrats Alex Barrio and Amy Mercado, in a House District 48 race debate.
Democrats Alex Barrio and Amy Mercado, in a House District 48 race debate.

Barrio, a former legislative aide and union official who won the second straw poll, and Mercado, a former Orange County Democratic Party chair, are battling over a clearer path to Tallahassee. They have no other Democratic opponents and no Republicans have yet filed to run. Mercado’s father, state Rep. Victor Torres, currently holds the seat. He is running for the state Senate.

Lenny Curry at first pension tax townhall: ‘We’ve got one shot at this’

“This has to pass.”

On Tuesday, in the atrium of Jacksonville’s City Hall, Mayor Lenny Curry held the first of 10 town hall meetings with city employees over the next couple of months, with the aim of selling the pension tax referendum, which he called “one of the most important votes Jacksonville has faced in its consolidated history.”

As has been the case since Curry began messaging toward extending the half-cent infrastructure tax as far out as 2060 to deal with the unfunded pension liability of 2016, the language was urgent and the hard sell was on to “Team COJ.”

Curry began his remarks by noting the “tough years” endured by city employees during the revenue crisis created by the $2.7 billion unfunded pension liability, billing the referendum as a “solution once and for all,” a solution which would close the old plan to new employees.

Much of what Curry said was familiar to those paying attention.

Curry noted the current unfunded liability is almost three times the operating budget, an untenable situation that has created a local version of a “big crisis facing every city” and “governments around the country.”

In Jacksonville, where the current fiscal year’s hit from the unfunded liability is $260 million, services have been “slowly cut over years.”

A new bit of information: Curry said that based on current estimates, the current unfunded liability would be “fully funded around 2045.”

Curry also sought to reassure the future pensioners: “all three plans are closed to new employees only,” with the only hit to current employees being a hike from 8 to 10 percent of their income for their contribution.

New employees, said Curry, will receive “plans that reflect the market” and are “sustainable” as a result of collective bargaining every three years.

“City employees did not create this problem,” said Curry; rather, the culprit was “bad decisions made over years.”

****

Curry outlined the elements of the campaign to sell the pension tax, including a website, TV ads, mail pieces, and “grassroots” efforts, like the town hall meeting.

“The website will be in language you understand,” Curry told one employee, “and you will probably get tired of getting mail from me and seeing me on TV.”

As well, he expects “wherever you see suffering,” a category that includes issues ranging from infrastructure woes to public safety shortfalls, to be something voters should notice as proof positive that the dedicated revenue source for the unfunded liability must be approved.

And, as he has said many times, he is “absolutely opposed” to a millage hike.

Ultimately, Curry is all in behind the sales tax extension, and expects to bring voters along with him.

“Friends, we’ve got one shot at this … there is no going back to Tallahassee and getting a second bite of the apple.”

****

As has been the case for many of these pitches, there is a certain castor oil effect to the language.

“I can tell you without question,” Curry said, “a reduction of services” would result if the referendum failed.

“Without a yes vote,” Curry said, “the financial crisis … will only get worse.”

“The crisis exists now,” Curry added, but it can be solved.

With a yes vote.

****

The close involved Curry, the CPA who campaigned as being “not a politician,” calling for what he referred to as a “rah rah moment.”

On the count of three, the dozens and dozens of city employees listening to Curry, not just from the atrium of City Hall, but also on each of the three floors and a mezzanine above, called out, in unison, “Yes for Jacksonville!”

Worth watching: the May fundraising report for the “Yes for Jacksonville” political committee, which will surface this week.

April, the first month of operations, saw an intake of $225,000.

There will be, of course, a direct correlation between the money this committee takes in through May and June, and the message presented to the public in July and August.

Truckers block downtown Tallahassee traffic to protest ‘deterioration’ of industry

A group of trucker owner-operators briefly held up traffic in Tallahassee’s busiest downtown thoroughfare to protest what they call the “deterioration” of the trucking industry.

The group convoyed from Miami, with around a dozen semi trucks bringing traffic at the intersection of Monroe and Tennessee streets — about three blocks from the Florida Capitol —  to a completely standstill for 15 minutes.

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, two arrests were made at the scene of the protest. Javier Figueroa was booked by Florida Highway Patrol officers for blocking an intersection and resisting arrest without violence, while Magdiel Millar was arrested by LCSO for impeding the arrest of Figueroa and resisting arrest without violence.

In a memo released Monday, truckers Ponce Seoane and Alberto Cruz-Torres, two of the protest’s main organizers, said changes in the industry are leaving them with precious little to show for their work.

“We provide for an entire nation while barely providing for our own families,” they wrote in the trucking publication Overdrive Online.

The protestors cited decreasing wages, the rise of transportation brokerage firms who take a profit and limit the autonomy of owner-operators, and a lack of transparency in the rates of profit and driver payment in the industry.

One truck bore the slogans, “No more brokers, no more abuse” and “Say no to cheap freight.”

“We’ve just had enough. We feel like we should be compensated fairly for what we do,” they said Monday. “We want transparency from the brokers and a fair wage.”

Carlos Smith maintains fundraising lead in HD 49, adds $15K in May

Democrat Carlos Guillermo Smith has crossed the six-figure fundraising mark in his campaign for the open House District 49 seat.

Smith, the one-time Chief of Staff for former HD 49 Rep. Joe Saunders, raised $15,325 in May for a campaign total of $108,355. After expenditures, he entered June with just under $80,000 on hand.

Most of the May haul came from donors chipping in $100 or less, though Smith did pick up five maximum contributions. Among the $1,000 donors were beer distributors Florida Beer Wholesalers, City Beverages and Florida Distributing Company.

Campaign expenses hit $7,588 last month, with the bulk of the money heading to campaign staff and other individuals for voter outreach services.

Smith is the only Democrat running in HD 49, which is currently held by first-term Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia, who decided to shift into the more GOP-friendly HD 50 this election cycle.

The three other candidates running for the seat, Republicans Amber Mariano and Martin Collins and no-party candidate Shea Silverman, have not yet filed campaign finance reports for May, but none had managed to keep pace with Smith through April.

Mariano, a former intern of Plasencia’s, is in a distant second with about $6,000 in her campaign account at the end of April, followed by Silverman with about $350. Collins has not reported any contributions since filing on May 19.

Thomas Leek tops $100K mark in HD 25 campaign

Republican House District 25 candidate Thomas Leek has crossed the $100,000 mark in the race to replace Rep. Fred Costello in the Volusia County seat.

According to newly filed campaign finance data, Leek raised $26,300 last month and spent just $2,676, leaving him with just over $110,000 in his campaign account after four months in the race.

Among the 70 May contributions were 11 checks for the campaign maximum, including $1,000 checks from at least four businesses tied to former House Speaker J. Hyatt Brown and his son, James Powell Brown.

Also on the list were lobbying mega-firm Greenberg Traurig and NASCAR-related companies Motor Racing Network and ISC Properties.

The few expenditures reported include a $1,200 payment to Ormond Beach-based Bald Eagle Strategies for campaign staffing, and another $841 to South Daytona-based Wishworks Media for campaign swag.

Leek, an attorney, entered the HD 25 race shortly after Costello announced he would run for Congress, and with the exit of fellow Republicans Deb Denys and Beck Reichenberg from the race, he is the only GOP contender for the right-leaning seat.

The only other candidate filed is Democrat Noel Bickford, who has not yet filed a campaign finance report for May. Through the end of April, the New Smyrna Beach resident had $4,275 on hand.

All Aboard Florida opponents to offer candidate ‘report card’ on rail expansion

A group opposing All Aboard Florida announced Tuesday they would issue “report cards” measuring where candidates for public office stand on the railroad project connecting Orlando to Miami.

The Coalition Against Rail Expansion in Florida, or CARE FL, sent a 12-question survey to candidates in districts affected by All Aboard Florida with instructions to send them back by June 17 so the group can communicate the results to voters ahead of the Aug. 30 primary election.

“For the past two years, we have worked closely with elected leaders, business leaders and first responders in this region to educate the public on the negative impacts of the Brightline/All Aboard Florida (AAF) project,” said CARE FL’s Jane Feinstein, who is leading the survey initiative. “Until Election Day and beyond, we will actively pursue all possible legal and public communication channels to stop the ill-conceived AAF rail project that will destroy our quality of life and put our residents in harm’s way.”

The survey was sent to about 120 candidates in total, including all candidates for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Marco Rubio, as well as those who filed for Florida’s 18th Congressional District, and all Florida Legislature and county commission seats in Martin, Indian River, St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties.

CARE FL is made up of South Florida and Treasure Coast residents and organizations that oppose the rail line because of its possible impact on the region’s well-being.

“Our concerns are based upon the financial implications of rail expansion for communities and municipalities, as well as on safety, environmental and waterway impact,” CARE FL Steering Committee Chairman Brent Hanlon said. “Our goal is to protect the safety, welfare and way of life for the families, businesses and retirees who live in our communities.”

California U.S. Rep. Juan Vargas endorses Darren Soto in CD 9

Democratic state Sen. Darren Soto has received another congressional endorsement in his bid to be elected in Florida’s 9th Congressional District, this time from U.S. Rep. Juan Vargas of California.

Vargas, the son of Mexican immigrants who grew up on a California chicken ranch, said he sees in Soto someone who understand immigrant families.

“Darren Soto has already proven that he has what it takes to fight for justice for immigrant families. He stood up against Republican attempts to bring the xenophobic, Arizona-style immigration law to Florida which would have allowed for racial profiling. Darren fought for in-state tuition for Dreamers and to allow them to be admitted to The Florida Bar,” Vargas stated in a news release issued by Soto’s campaign. “I am eager to have Darren stand with me in Congress to fight for commonsense immigration reform.”

Soto faces Susannah Randolph, Dena Grayson and Valleri Crabtree in a Democratic primary contest on Aug. 30. The winner would have a shot of succeeding Grayson’s husband, Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando. The Republican primary candidates include Wayne Liebnitzky and Wanda Rentas.

“Congressman Vargas is an exemplar of why we must fix our broken immigration system. He and his family have contributed to our country to make it better for everyone. I’m proud to have his support,” Soto stated. “I look forward to working with Juan in Congress where we’ll focus on keeping families together rather than tearing them apart.”

Jax Council Rules committee relaxes inspector general ‘2-year rule’

On an otherwise quiet Tuesday in the Jacksonville City Council Rules Committee, the panel moved to remove the provision that the inspector general shall not have been employed by city government or any other governmental entity within two years before before being selected, unless the appointment was in the IG’s office.

The bill, moved on an emergency basis, was timed to help facilitate the city government’s search for a new inspector general, after the previous one resigned earlier this spring.

Former City Hall attorney Steve Rohan serves currently as the interim inspector general.

The bill simply deletes the two-year requirement, said President-Designate Lori Boyer, that was adopted in a Rules Committee amendment in 2014 at the urging of the council auditor’s office, which was worried their employees would be “poached.”

Boyer, who helms the Inspector General Selection and Retention Committee, notes the committee wants the restriction lifted from the ordinance to broaden the pool to people employed by independent authorities and the sheriff’s office.

If there were “potential conflicts,” Boyer said they would be discussed in the hiring process.

Ethics head Carla Miller believes the idea a “fallacy” that someone who has been gone for two years automatically has the necessary “degree of independence.”

Ultimately, it is council’s decision, she said.

Rules Committee members pushed back.

Anna Brosche said she had “reservations,” but could support it nonetheless. Tommy Hazouri “shared those same concerns,” but said he’d support the measure nonetheless.

John Crescimbeni, who is not a Rules member, expressed concerns about “poaching city employees” and also posed the idea that someone who left an agency could give proper “scrutiny” in that investigation.

“The risk of coming from somewhere in city government that may be the subject of a complaint” worried Crescimbeni.

Miller said that risk was a potential issue, and that the inspector general’s office needed to develop a policy to deal with it.

“We have to depend on the integrity of the person we hire for that position,” Miller said, and “protocols and rules have to be established.”

Crescimbeni noted a previous iteration of the inspector general “worked for the mayor, so there [was] no independence.”

“That doesn’t always pass the smell test in the eyes of the public,” Crescimbeni said.

Boyer noted that familiarity with how city government works creates an advantage for an incoming candidate, in terms of knowing where the issues were, as compared to a candidate, such as the previous IG, who was from out of town and out of his depth.

Crescimbeni pushed for an amendment to outline the procedure for how an internal candidate might handle potential conflicts of interest. Ethics head Miller said more IG-related “cleanup bills” will be coming before the committee to address that and other issues, but Crescimbeni was not mollified, wanting an amendment ahead of Tuesday.

Interim IG Rohan noted there is a “very elite and accomplished selection committee … vetting the candidates and making good decisions.”

Rohan said if Crescimbeni’s logic were extended, no candidate who had ever worked for the city could qualify for the position.

“You have a solution that you’re looking for a problem for,” Rohan said, given the “superb” committee in place.

“I can’t imagine an official of the city whom I would not be willing to investigate,” said Rohan, including a member of the Office of General Counsel, city council, or the mayor.

Rohan, meanwhile, “has not ruled out” filling the role himself, albeit on a part-time basis that wouldn’t impact his retirement.

Concerns about independence (or the lack thereof) notwithstanding, Rules passed the measure 6-0, which will need to be approved by the full council on June 14.

Andrew Korge has raised more than $200K during last two months on campaign trail

Andrew Korge, a first-time Democratic candidate for Senate District 39, has raised more than $200,000 during the last two months on the campaign trail.

Korge announced Monday that he brought in roughly $102,000 in May. That’s on the heels of more than $100,000 raised in April.

“Voters in District 39 are responding to our 21st century vision for Florida, and our fundraising proves it,” Korge said Tuesday.

This is the third time since Korge entered the SD 39 race he has cleared the $100,000 per month hurdle. In March 2015, Korge reported an impressive $250,000 raised in just two weeks.

Perhaps the most interesting part of Korge’s May report is that he is starting to raise Tallahassee money, which many expected would only go to Republican Sen. Anitere Flores.

“As a pro-growth Democrat who is business partners with Jeb Bush Jr., it makes sense that major donors would play both sides in a highly competitive race like this,” Korge said. “I am humbled by their support and confidence in me.”

The Korge campaign says it is likely more Tallahassee donors will cover their bases in the coming months because many are starting to realize that GOP nominee Donald Trump could be a major drag on down-ticket races in Hispanic areas like Miami. In 2012, Barack Obama won Miami-Dade by more than 200,000 votes against a far less controversial opponent.

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