Opinions – Florida Politics

Joe Henderson: Alex Sink says Trump’s stumbles should help Gwen Graham, all Dems

Alex Sink understands high-stakes politics.

Sink, a Democrat, became the first woman to win a major-party nomination for Governor in 2010, but she narrowly lost to Rick Scott. Sink’s late husband, Bill McBride, also ran for the state’s top office in 2002 but lost to Jeb Bush.

Sink is also the only Democrat to win a Florida statewide election in this century when she beat Tom Lee in the race for Chief Financial Officer in 2006.

So, when she says she knows what Gwen Graham faces in her campaign to be Florida’s next Governor, it carries considerable weight.

“There is still the woman factor,” Sink said. “I don’t know if Florida will elect a woman to the highest office in the state because we never have. She has to get through a primary first. She has to look at those pockets of voters who would naturally be inclined to support her and make sure they turn out on Election Day.

“My advice for the primary would be to focus on her two or three strongest issues that appeal to voters, especially those who are concerned about the right of privacy and the right of a woman to control her own body.”

Sink endorsed Graham earlier this week, which wasn’t a surprise, since Ruth’s List, a group Sink helped found, endorsed Graham earlier this year. She is the only woman among the candidates in either major party.

Ruth’s List was formed, as its website says, to build “ … a progressive Florida by recruiting and assisting pro-choice Democratic women to successfully run for public office in Tallahassee, in county commissions, in city councils, and in other key positions around Florida.”

Winning the Governor’s mansion after 20 years of Republican control would be a major coup for that movement. But the main thing, Sink said, is for a Democrat to win.

“I’ve been, like most Democrats, looking at the overall field and I think any of our field of candidates would make a good Governor,” she said. “But I’ve known Gwen a long time, and she shares my values. I think she has the best chance of any of them to succeed.”

For any Democrat to succeed, turnout will be vital.

Sink lost her election to Scott by just 61,550 votes, which she blames in part because of lower-than-expected turnout in the Democratic stronghold on the lower east coast.

That might change in November, given the horror from the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and President Donald Trump’s shaky popularity and his stumbles this week at the summit meeting in Helsinki with Vladimir Putin.

“One of the things we have as Democrats, going off the last 48 hours (with Trump), oh my God,” she said. “If we can’t see what’s going on in the nation right now, then we’re pitiful. Period.”

Joe Henderson: Aakash Patel doesn’t lack confidence in run for County Commission

I started the phone conversation Tuesday afternoon with Aakash Patel by asking, “If you are elected to the Hillsborough County Commission…”

He interrupted.

“You mean when I’m elected,” he said.

The man may be a first-time political candidate, running as a conservative Republican for a countywide District 7 seat, but he is not going into this venture at anything less than full speed and full confidence.

He knows what he wants to emphasize as a commissioner and anyone who knows him understands this simple truth: He will not be out-worked.

He released his first TV ad Tuesday, a 30-second spot called “A Better Hillsborough.” It’s a slick, well-produced pitch on some of his major themes: fresh voices, education, transportation and jobs.

He said those are the things voters have stressed are important to them, so they are important to him.

“I was just out in Sun City Center for three hours in the broiling sun, knocking on doors,” he said. “People tell me they’re tired of the same old people running. They want new ideas. When I tell them I’m a small-business owner, they tell me that’s exactly what they’re looking for – someone who can provide business solutions.”

Patel is one of only two Republicans in the Aug. 28 primary. He has raised more than $364,000 so far compared to nearly $109,000 for his opponent, Todd Marks. If Patel wins the primary, in November he’ll face the winner of a Democratic scrum that currently has four candidates.

Patel doesn’t sound like the stereotypical Republican that has dominated Commission politics for years. For starters, he said the decision by the Commission to keep the “Go Hillsborough” transportation sales tax referendum off the ballot in 2016 was a mistake.

He called it a “botch of resources” and added that of all the issues facing the Commission, he believes “transportation is the biggest.”

He believes it’s important to address the kind of runaway, unplanned development that has turned much of east and south Hillsborough into a chock-a-block mix of big-box and convenience stores.

How does that happen?

“For some reason, some parts of government aren’t talking to other parts,” he said.

The Commission could also face decisions on funding for a new Tampa Bay Rays baseball stadium. A plan was unveiled last week for $892 million, and team owner Stu Sternberg has said the team is unlikely to come up with even half of that cost.

Patel is a member of Rays 100, a local civic group dedicated to helping get the stadium built. But if that solution includes using tax money, Patel said to count him out.

“I want the Rays to stay here,” he said. “But I don’t think public dollars should be used. We want to see dedication from ownership on this.”

Would that position include standing against the use of tourist taxes to help pay for the stadium? That depends on what local tourism officials decide.

“My opinion is, they will have a hard time coming to a consensus on it,” he said.

If that is true, does he believe the business community and Rays ownership can figure a way to get the stadium built?

“Absolutely,” he said.

Joe Henderson: Has Donald Trump become liability for Florida GOP gubernatorial contenders?

I wonder if GOP gubernatorial candidates Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis are feeling a little queasy.

It was a quite the global spectacle Monday, watching President Donald Trump all but genuflect to Russian “President” Vladimir Putin, but it had to be worse for Putnam and DeSantis right here in our little corner of the planet.

Both men have been unflagging in their bro-love for Trump in the lead-up to the Aug. 28 Republican primary. DeSantis has been saturating TV with ads trumpeting his endorsement by “the big man himself” while Putnam hasn’t let that little detail derail his undying allegiance to the “commander” in chief.

While that strategy may appeal to Trump’s true believers who turn out for the primary, it becomes problematic in the general election.

After the President’s inept performance Monday in his face-to-face with Putin was widely panned, even by many Republicans, close association with Trump, while always a risky election-year strategy, may be downright toxic now.

Florida voters generally approve of the president a little more than most, but it’s a stretch to think that number won’t go down after Trump sided with a dictator over his own intelligence reports regarding Russia’s covert attempt to influence the 2016 election.

That sets up a dilemma for DeSantis and Putnam.

Do they begin to distance themselves from “the big man himself” and risk the wrath of the almighty base? Or do they just pretend Monday never happened and hope so much other stuff will occur between now and November that undecided voters forget about Helsinki?

That’s not Putnam’s only problem, either.

The latest Gravis poll has him trailing DeSantis by six points. And now he may face a renewed backlash from the tweet that wouldn’t die That’s the one, almost a year ago, where he declared himself a “proud NRA sellout.”  

The Tampa Bay Times reported on a whistleblower lawsuit brought by a former supervisor at the Florida Department of Agriculture, which Putnam has headed for nearly eight years. The department is supposed to do background checks on people applying for concealed weapons permits.

The 2013 lawsuit, which was settled for $30,000, claims the supervisor, Xenia Bailey, was threatened with retaliation because office workers weren’t processing the permits quickly enough and failed to meet a daily quota. The lawsuit claimed Bailey was told she “worked for the NRA.”

Big ouch!

Putnam’s office, in a statement to the Times, denied all that.

Either way though, it’s not a good look for Putnam, who earlier faced embarrassing revelations that his department allowed 291 people to received concealed weapons permits because of a reviewing error.

Putnam once was presumed to be the GOP nominee and, by extension, Florida’s next Governor. And, this being Florida, that may yet come to pass. Or, DeSantis may be able to take advantage of Putnam’s struggles.

For victory in November to happen, though, both major Republican candidates have to ask themselves if continuing to defend some of the indefensible things Donald Trump does will cost them in the end.

Joe Henderson: Tampa transportation group makes petition push

Florida lawmakers seem to be convinced that any problem where the solution is a tax increase is a problem worth ignoring.

According to WalletHub, Florida is the ninth-lowest state for taxes. Since we rank third-highest in population, that means something has to give. Actually, a lot of things have been cast aside as either unimportant (Medicaid expansion, for instance), or at least underfunded (public education).

But few things are more glaring than Florida’s inadequate transportation system, and in Tampa, that problem is bad and getting worse. A 2016 study showed Tampa drivers spent more than 27 hours stuck in traffic that year, with a loss of $923 per driver.

That ranked 31st in the U.S. for worst congestion.

With projections that show about 600,000 new residents expected in Hillsborough County alone in the next 30 years, doing nothing is not an option.

That explains why we could be in for a showdown between an acute need for a better way to move people around, and the dug-in heels who have never met a tax they believe is worth paying.

A Hillsborough citizens group called All for Transportation has been out for several weeks trying to gain enough certified signatures on a petition to put a one-cent sales tax hike on the ballot this November. They need more than 48,000 signatures by July 27, and as now they are well short.

William March of the Tampa Bay Times reported Sunday that as of late last week, just 8,437 petitions were turned in to the Supervisor of Elections office — although Committee Chairman Tyler Hudson they have more than 12,000 others they haven’t yet submitted.

Hudson estimates the tax would generate $280 million next year, which would be divided among the Hillsborough Area Rapid Transit for more buses, and the city, county, Temple Terrace and Plant City for various transportation needs — things like road and bridge repairs, sidewalks, and so on.

There is so far no mention of rail.

Opponents have proved adept at beating these kinds of initiatives. A 2010 referendum that included light rail was trounced, and in 2016 the Republican-controlled County Commission wouldn’t even let a proposal called Go Hillsborough on the ballot.

Hudson’s initiative, backed by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, would be an end-run around the Commission by allowing voters to make this part of the county’s charter.

It won’t be easy.

Hillsborough public schools have also floated the idea of going after a sales-tax referendum to help pay for more than $1 billion in current capital needs along with the need to build more schools and hire more teachers to keep up.

School funding, of course, will be a major campaign issue this fall in the Governor’s race, so it’s possible for school officials to hope/pray that they get some relief from Tallahassee after years of being a political chew toy.

A new $892 million stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays will not be a major election issue, but the team has already made it clear that it will not pay anywhere close to the full cost of the project.

Backers will concentrate on cobbling enough tourist tax and other outside revenue streams that don’t hit local residents, but you know how that goes. Hearing the word “tax” too many times, no matter the source, can have a negative impact on convincing locals to dig deeper.

But there is a reason to believe local commuters have enough of gridlock and don’t see a way to improve their lives by simply building more roads. That’s the best thing this potential referendum has going.

First, though, they have to round up about 28,000 more signatures in a short amount of time. You’ll probably see volunteers out around the area — assuming they can get through the traffic to their destinations.

Islara Souto: Patient protections and health care access must be defended

As an advocate for health coverage, I value the progress America has made in recent years. We’ve opened up health insurance to more Floridians, and health plans are welcoming all types of patients and ensuring they obtain great care.

These are trends we must entrench and enhance.

Leading the ACA enrollment program for the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, I’ve seen how health coverage can change lives. We serve more than 400,000 Floridians with epilepsy, a serious health condition that can develop at any time.

A patient’s initial epileptic seizure will frequently happen in the first year of life, but others don’t experience them until middle or old age. One in 26 people will suffer from epilepsy in their lifetime — and for too long, the condition used to bar too many from obtaining health insurance.

In this, epilepsy had a lot in common with other chronic conditions. From cancer survivors to people born with a congenital heart defect or suffering from depression, patients with pre-existing conditions often could not get health coverage. The experience wasn’t restricted to those with the most serious ailments, either. Asthma and allergies could be enough to put insurance out of reach.

Passage of the Affordable Care Act changed all that. It guaranteed patients, regardless of pre-existing condition, access to insurance at the same price as anyone else their age. One of the most rewarding aspects of my job has been making people aware of these new patient protections, and helping them enroll in a health plan.

The difference was incredible for so many of my clients. With health insurance, many patients were finally able to see a specialist, find a medication without as many side effects, or otherwise experience better disease management.

Before the ACA, being shut out of health insurance meant being excluded from most medical care, including preventive services — while paying too much to get any treatment at all. Today, wellness programs — which include checkups, cholesterol screenings, nutritional advice and stop-smoking assistance — are included free with a health plan. Millions of beneficiaries can now get help they never could before.

The positive impacts of the ACA have been especially significant for vulnerable populations, including non-English speakers and immigrants. Health plans are offering care coordination in multiple languages. They’re conducting outreach to high-risk groups and those unfamiliar with health insurance, helping them understand what services are available and how to navigate the network. Patients are being encouraged to get care proactively, and their health outcomes are improving.

Illness, injury, and aging are part of the human condition. We can all benefit from good medical care. Fortunately, the ACA made health insurance more accessible and improved quality across Florida — that’s why must keep protecting and expanding these landmark reforms.


Islara Souto is Statewide Navigation Program Director for the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida. She is based in Miami.

Joe Henderson: Ken Hagan’s likely pitch for Rays stadium? It’s an investment

Perhaps no politician in Hillsborough County has been more identified with the effort to build a stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays than Ken Hagan.

The veteran County Commissioner was key in trying to convince the Rays that Ybor City was the right place to put a stadium. What he does behind the scenes could decide whether the proposed $892 million ballpark is ever built.

His absence at Tuesday’s pep rally/stadium unveiling at the Italian Club in Ybor was conspicuous. There certainly were many other public figures on hand, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Commissioner Sandy Murman.

I called Hagan’s office Wednesday just to double-check that he wasn’t there – it was a crowded room – and it was confirmed. The aide said he had no idea why Hagan missed the party.

I also called Hagan as of this writing and haven’t received a ring back.

It’s an election year and Hagan, a Republican, is running in District 2.

While many politicians in this atmosphere would be trying to stay an arm’s length from a pro sports team wanting public cash for a stadium, I can’t imagine Hagan is too concerned about winning.

He has raised more than $475,000 compared to about $46,000 combined for his two opponents – Democrat Angela Birdsong and Republican Chris Paradies.

Among his contributors: Rays owner Stu Sternberg.

Hagan has been on the Commission since 2002, and most of that time he has been reliably pro-business and development.

And brother, this stadium definitely qualifies as both.

Hagan has often pledged that no tax dollars will be used for a stadium, but let’s be blunt: If that’s the case, it won’t be built.

Sternberg all but ensured that Wednesday when he told The Tampa Bay Times editorial board that while, yes, the team will pay more than the $150 million he initially pitched, “I also know it’s not going to be multiples.”

If there was any doubt what he meant, Sternberg emphasized, “I don’t envision it” when asked if the Rays share of the project would cover at least half the cost. He then said that could change, but how much?

Certainly not enough to expect there is any doubt Sternberg eventually will look Hagan in the eye and tell him just how much Hillsborough County should expect to pay if it wants this stadium built.

This is a good time to recall that in 2012, Hagan was the lead dog in originally offering about $15 million in taxpayer-backed incentives to lure Bass Pro Shops to Brandon. His argument was that the return on the project in future taxes would more than cover the amount of the original investment.

After public outcry, the package was reduced to about $6.5 million in infrastructure improvements – and Bass Pro came to Brandon.

But keep the original pitch in mind: It’s not a subsidy, it’s an investment. The project will generate more in return than it will cost taxpayers. That’s what Hagan argued then to help land Bass Pro.

I’ll bet it’s what he will argue now to land a bigger fish.

Joe Henderson: Cost of Rays new stadium: $892 million! Yikes

I’ll admit something right up front.

I had to suppress a gasp Tuesday afternoon when the Tampa Bay Rays unveiled the sticker price for the baseball stadium they propose in Ybor City and hope to play in by 2023.

$892 million!

That’s about $200 million more than I expected, but I guess it’s roughly in line with what stadiums cost these days. The question is, how badly does the city of Tampa and Hillsborough County want this?

We’re about to find out.

If built, it will be a dandy ballyard all right. Fixed translucent roof, which will give a nice natural light to the place. With 28,216 fixed seats – expandable to 30,842 if people don’t mind standing at some of the bars and other hangouts – it will be the smallest ballpark in the major leagues.

That’s not a bad thing.

And yes, I believe Ybor City is the perfect, central location to attract fans from the entire Tampa Bay market. The Rays say 1.6 million people live within a 30-minute drive of the proposed location. They also went to great lengths during the roll-out at the Italian Club in Ybor to stress that the ballpark could be used year-round in a variety of ways by the community – for free, in some cases.

But …

$892 million!

That’s a lotta playground.

Don’t ask for details about how much the Rays are willing to pay versus how much the bill they expect/hope/pray the public will foot. Those numbers aren’t even close to being available, and it will be a torturous process to craft something that works.

It will take a combination of tourist tax money, maybe a special taxing district where the newly generated revenues go to pay for the stadium, and …. oh, who knows. Tampa business groups are working hard to make this happen, so that might be another revenue stream.

It won’t be enough to cover the cost.

The question then becomes how much are the Rays willing to pay?

As Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said after watching the presentation, “You’re not going to see the city of Tampa write a check. I’m willing to walk away if it doesn’t make sense.”

Rays Owner Stu Sternberg regrettably suggested last spring the team might pay $150 million toward the project. Let’s just forget about that and chalk it up to something he shouldn’t have said out loud. If he wants this thing built – and I really believe he does – it’s going to take, well … a LOT more.

Because …

$892 million!

Sternberg did say that “we expect to be here for generations to come” and I believe that is what he wants.

To make that happen, yes, the Rays need a new stadium because Tropicana Field’s usefulness has long passed. Bad stadium in a bad location – too far away from too many people to make economic sense. Everyone talks about the problems the Florida Marlins are having drawing fans to their relatively new stadium, and that’s because they built it too far away from the center of their market.

The Rays, with a ballpark in Ybor, would not be repeating Miami’s mistake.

“We believe baseball cannot only survive here but thrive,” Sternberg said.

The timetable is tight.

The Rays and Hillsborough have to first work out a financing plan, then get it approved. You can almost book it that it won’t go to a public referendum like Raymond James Stadium did.

And the ferocity of opposition by some to even using one cent of public money – whether tourists pay it or not – should not be under-estimated.

So, yes, it looks like a fabulous ballpark. It would secure baseball’s future here, and I’m in the group that thinks that is important. The Rays are an asset to the community. Fans would realize what they’ve been missing from all those seasons at the Trop.

Until we hear details on how to pay for this though, I can’t get that figure out of my mind.

$892 million!


Louisa McQueeney: We have to protect ACA, pre-existing condition fix

The Trump administration’s refusal to defend the pre-existing condition exclusion and the ACA provision that insurance companies cannot charge more based on a person’s health status, makes you realize once what is at stake.

In February, 20 state attorneys general, including Florida, filed suit in the U.S. District Court of Northern Texas, claiming that when President Trump signed the “Tax Cuts and Job Act” into law, the individual mandate was repealed, making the entire ACA invalid.

In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, Attorney General Jeff Sessions states that with the repeal of the penalty, the protections of guaranteed issue (pre-existing condition exclusion) and community rating (the sicker you are the more you have to pay) are no longer valid either and the justice department will not defend these important ACA protections in the lawsuit.

GOP efforts to repeal the ACA have failed for a good reason since the public understands the protections the law provides and doesn’t want to go back to a system where an insurance company can deny coverage based on age, health status or put limits on the amount they have to pay out, leaving you to pay the rest.

While both sides of the aisle are talking about various forms of repeal with their own versions of replacement, no Floridian, of any political affiliation, should support the outright repeal of the ACA. It’s just too important to too many people. Instead, we should be using the protections afforded under the ACA as a building block to increase access and coverage for Floridians.

Protections like free annual well-care visits, including screenings like mammograms or flu shots, the ability to keep your child on until the age of 26, tax credits if you make less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level, no annual or lifetime limits, and the closing of the doughnut hole for Americans on Medicare.

The piecemeal repeal of the ACA by the Trump administration, and other attempts to repeal the ACA, continue to undermine the protections of the health law and increase the cost of health insurance. This effort will push older, middle-class Floridians, who do not qualify for tax credits under the law, into a more precarious, expensive health care system, where medical bankruptcy is rearing its ugly head again.

Rather than destabilizing the health insurance markets, we should all work together to strengthen and maintain consumer protections and reduce the cost of health care to Floridians.


Louisa McQueeney is program director for Florida Voices for Health.

Joe Henderson: Newman Cigar gets reprieve, but it’s only temporary

When you own the last cigar factory in the Cigar City, and you’re fighting the Food and Drug Administration over regulations that could put the company out of business, you take victories where you can get them.

That’s what Eric Newman, president of Tampa’s J.C. Newman Cigar Company, is doing today. He won a skirmish in a years-long legal war with the FDA over proposed regulations that Newman has argued would spell the end of a family-owned business that has been around nearly 125 years in Tampa’s Ybor City.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted a temporary stay on an FDA requirement that cigar industry places large new health warnings on boxes it sells. That would force an expensive redesign, and Newman said additional cost is one thing his company just can’t handle right now.

The legal victory is a short-term relief — the stay lasts only until July 25 — in a long-term fight

“We won a skirmish,” Newman said. “Really, what happened is that we got a reprieve. I don’t want the public to think we’ve won anything yet.”

It hasn’t been for a lack of trying in the face of a government agency that treats premium cigars as the same health hazard of cigarettes. Newman has argued strongly that it’s apples and oranges.

Starting in 2009, the FDA won approval from Congress to regulate all cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, in the hope of discouraging minors from starting a bad habit. But it also was given the ability to expand its reach into the cigar industry.

Since then, Newman and other cigar-makers around the country have been fighting regulations that restrict new product lines, increase requirements for testing products, and other measures that drive up the cost to produce a cigar.

Newman has argued that his company produces a premium product that doesn’t pose the same health risk as cigarettes, and he has had plenty of bipartisan political muscle behind him to reinforce that point.

Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio recently combined on a letter to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb asking that premium cigars be exempt from these regulations.

It was co-signed by 15 other Senators — nine Republicans and six Democrats.

So far, no dice.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, has been a vocal supporter. She once told me, “Nothing is more Tampa than the Newman cigar factory. I’m not going to stand for this, and I think we have a good chance to win.”

That was in 2014.

The fight goes on.

There have been attempts to provide legislative relief by attaching riders to other bills, but that has gotten nowhere. And the regulatory squeeze tightens on an industry that is a rich part of Tampa’s heritage.

At one time, there were more than 150 cigar factories in Tampa. Many of those grand old buildings have been reconverted to other uses, but the Newman company is the last one still in the business of making cigars. It sells to all 50 states and more than 80 countries.

But now?

“We can’t donate cigars to silent auctions,” Newman said. “We can’t give cigars to the military, where a soldier might want to unwind back in camp with a good cigar after a day in the field. Business has been good; people are still smoking cigars. But this fight has been about as much as we can bear.”

Meanwhile, smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em.

No one can say for sure how much longer that will be.

Joe Clements: The ‘big picture’ predictions on Election 2018

This cycle, our firm has worked with dozens of Republican campaigns from Cabinet positions to Congress. One advantage of our workload has been an opportunity to see the results of dozens of polls and focus groups conducted by several national and Florida-based research firms.

Without sharing specifics on data, campaigns or researchers, I want to give a few of my big picture ideas and predictions about what is happening this cycle in Florida.

After I analyze an article of research, I keep notes in a document, which eventually provides an outline for the macro trends I notice across research products. The items below are extracted almost verbatim from my notes and I hope they help provide some context for the current cycle.

Andrew Gillum is underestimated by establishment Republicans and Democrats. Democratic activists are angry about Donald Trump and want someone who shares their anger. In a crowded primary, Gillum has a built-in advantage with African-American voters and has a clear play to voters under 35 years old. He is also hurting Philip Levine and Gwen Graham by pushing them further left.

– The Democratic left flank is the single most underestimated factor of this election. Bernie Sanders was not a fluke. For the first time in a century, there is a true socialist/social justice/leftists voter group on the left with a clear guiding philosophy that pulls and energizes the rest of the party. The problem for Democrats is that their left wing is as far, if not further from center, then the Republican right.

– The Republican conservative right has replaced the role of philosophy (conservatism) with personality (Trump). There is no longer a uniting philosophy on the right outside of populist nationalism. Republican voters appear to differentiate between Trump and other Republican candidates but do want to see reflections of Trump in their candidates.

– Trump is equal parts headwind and tailwind for Republicans. Lower propensity Republican-leaning voters do appear eager to cast a proxy vote in support of him. It’s not clear the same energy exists to cast protests votes against Trump among lower propensity Democratic voters.

– College educated suburban and urban women are going to be the Achilles’ heel for Republicans. These women previously leaned Republican but dislike Trump and will vote Democrat if a good option is available. These “Whole Foods Moms” are the 2018 manifestation of the 2004 “Soccer Moms.” They still vote for security and safety, but Parkland, not 9/11, is now their marquee fear.

– Republicans have work to do on immigration. The issue is considered vital among the Republican base but general election voters think Democrats would do a better job handling the issue.

– Democrats have a real shot at Attorney General. They have decent candidates and room to use populist messaging that appeals to Republican segments on “Big Pharma,” “Big Sugar,” and “Big Insurers.” This race will be the clearest square off between an economic growth message and a populist message.

– Millennials are likely to comprise a significant portion of the electorate for the first time this year as they’ve aged into their thirties. My prediction is that men will break slight Republican and women will break hard Democratic.

– Guns won’t be the watershed issue in the general. Both sides will use the issue to drive turnout but it does not appear to be the strongest issue with moderate voters. We are likely to hear a lot about jobs and the economy come October.

– Floridians are generally optimistic about Florida’s path, which is favorable for incumbent candidates and parties, but Democrats and Republicans live in different worlds on the issue. Republicans are happy, Democrats are not happy, and NPA voters lean happy. Democrats really need the economy to slump and Republicans need it to keep growing.


Joe Clements is co-founder and CEO of Strategic Digital Services, a Tallahassee-based tech company. He is also co-founder of Bundl, a campaign contribution management app.

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