Orlando – Florida Politics

House Democrats repurpose attorney John Morgan’s slogan

Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, who toyed with the idea of a gubernatorial run this year and bankrolled the 2016 constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana, reveled Wednesday in U.S. House Democrats’ new mid-term slogan for the 2018 elections: “For the People.”

The House slogan, replacing the failed motto, “A Better Deal,” also is the catchphrase for the Morgan & Morgan law firm.

Morgan took the attention in his typical understated stride: “Also I agreed to allow @NancyPelosi, or Aunt Nancy as my children call her, to pay me only a nickel every time #ForThePeople is used by the DCCC. @SenSchumer will be paying a quarter for the DSCC,” was among Morgan’s tweeted reactions, referring to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and the party campaign organizations.

Anna Eskamani’s primary opponent drops out amid ‘fake primary candidate’ suit

Democratic House District 47 candidate Lou Forges dropped out of the primary field Thursday while faced with a court hearing coming up on his opponent Anna Eksmani‘s lawsuit claiming he was a fake Democratic candidate who had inproperly filed his candidacy paperwork.

Forges, an Ocoee real estate agent who does not live in the district, sent notice Thursday to the Florida Department of State Division of Elections requesting to withdraw his candidacy.

He had entered the race against Eskamani in the closing days of qualifying last month. He hired Corridor Consulting Group, consultants who have a history of primarily running Republican campaigns including that of the district’s incumbent, state Rep. Mike Miller. Orange County Democratic Party Chair Wes Hodge and Eskamani both publicly questioned whether he was being convinced to run by Republicans to force her into spending money on a primary.

On July 6 Eskamani filed a lawsuit in Leon County Circuit Court charging that Forges had violated the law by having his wife sign and notarize his documents. Earlier this week a hearing was set on that suit.

Forges’ letter of withdrawl was brief, giving no reasons.

Eskamani, who hopes to flip the central-Orange County seat, now can wait for the November election against either Republican Mikaela Nix of Orlando or Stockton Reeves VI of Winter Park.

“When we fight, we win,” she declared in a statement Thursday. “Two weeks ago we filed a judicial complaint seeking a declaration from a Tallahassee judge that our fake Democratic primary opponent failed to properly qualify, thus requiring him to be decertified as a candidate. Our opponent failed to properly qualify because his paperwork was notarized by his spouse, an act that is completely against Florida Statute.

“Today our fake primary opponent officially withdrew,” she continued in a news release. “I will never back down from protecting our democracy from corrupt political games and dirty tricks. House District 47 deserves better than that, and our community can count on me to always fight for what is right.

Eskamani maintained that Forges was recruited by Republicans to run against her and was exploited, and so she did not blame him directly.

“Our opponent was exploited by the Republican Party to run against me in a fake primary,” she stated. “There are no limits to how low the GOP will go to stop us from flipping this seat, and we must be ready for anything come November. Clear eyes, full hearts – can’t lose.”

Tracey Kagan picks up another women’s group’s nod in HD 29 race

Ruth’s List Florida, a group dedicated to electing Democratic women, has thrown its support behind Tracey Kagan in the race for the Florida House 29 seat.

Kagan, a criminal law practice lawyer from Longwood, faces Lake Mary lawyer Darryl Block in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary, and the winner is set to take on incumbent Republican state Rep. Scott Plakon in November.

“Tracey Kagan is a criminal law attorney, a bold leader and a mother of three daughters who supports gender equality, women’s reproductive rights and quality health care for all,” Pamela Goodman, Ruth’s List Florida executive director, stated in a news release issued by Kagan’s campaign. “The Ruth’s List community — now tens of thousands of members strong — is excited to support her candidacy.”

Earlier this week Kagan announced the endorsement from the National Organization of Women Florida Political Action Committee.

HD 29 covers central Seminole County.

“I’m proud to accept this endorsement and to count myself among the record number of women running for public office. Ruth’s List Florida is doing invaluable work to ensure that women’s voices are heard in our state legislature at a time when many of our rights are being threatened,” Kagan stated in the release. “As an attorney and a mom, I am wholly committed to the issues that impact women and families: public education, gun-sense legislation, protecting our natural resources, access to healthcare and preserving women’s reproductive rights. I will fight for us all in Tallahassee.”

Tracey Kagan

Tracey Kagan picks up endorsement from NOW PAC

Florida House of Representatives candidate Tracey Kagan has picked up the endorsement of the Florida National Organization of Women Political Action Committee in her campaign to be elected in Florida House District 29, her campaign announced.

Kagan, a criminal law practice lawyer from Longwood, declared she would always champion the rights of women and girls.

Florida NOW PAC is proud to announce its endorsement of Florida State Representative candidate Tracey Kagan,” Terry Sanders, President of Florida NOW, stated in a news release issued by Kagan’s campaign. “Tracey is a longtime feminist and women’s rights advocate. We heartily endorse her for the Florida State House. Tracey would add some much-needed good sense and support of the people of Florida, not the profits of large corporations. She will make a great representative and deserves the vote of District 29.”

She faces Lake Mary lawyer Darryl Block in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary. The winner wants a shot at Republican state Rep. Scott Plakon in the central Seminole County district.

“I am one of three sisters and I am the mother of three daughters,” Kagan stated in the release. “I am a feminist. I am deeply honored by this endorsement from Florida National Organization for Women PAC.

“I will always, always champion the rights of women and girls,” she added.

Tyler Sirois picks up FOP endorseement in HD 51 contest

Republican Florida House of Representatives candidate Tyler Sirois has picked up the endorsement of the Florida State Lodge and the District 7 Council of the Fraternal Order of Police in his campaign for House District 51.

“We believe that his dedication to serving his community will inspire others to lead Florida in the right direction and we look forward to working with him in Tallahassee,” the FOP stated in a news release.

Sirois, of Merritt Island, is in an Aug. 28 Republican primary battle with Cocoa Mayor Henry Parrish, with Democrat Mike Blake of Cocoa awaiting the winner for the Nov. 6 election.

The district covers much of northeast Brevard County, and is being vacated by the departure of term-limited Republican state Rep. Tom Goodson.

Democratic challenger Sanjay Patel out-raises Bill Posey in quarter for CD 8

Democratic challenger Sanjay Patel raised $101,000 in the second quarter of his campaign for Florida’s 8th Congressional District, besting incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey‘s fundraising efforts by more than $30,000.

At the end of June, Posey, the five-term congressman from Rockledge, still possessed a significant campaign cash advantage over the newcomer candidate, with $642,000 in the bank compared with Patel’s $160,000.

Yet the positive quarter led Patel to declare momentum in a district that Republicans have owned for many years. Patel’s first-quarter report was the best by a Democrat in that district in this century, and Patel’s campaign topped that in the second quarter.

During the second quarter, Patel picked up $101,067 for his campaign, for a two-quarter total haul of $192,178. Posey picked up $67,775 in the April-June fundraising period, giving him $548,888 raised during this election cycle.

“I am humbled, honored and inspired by the over 1,000 donors who have now contributed to our efforts, and by the incredible organizations who have endorsed our campaign,” Patel stated in a news release. “Together, we will win and work together to make healthcare a human right for every American, protect our environment, secure the American Dream for working families, and ensure that every kid can get a great education from pre-K through college or trade school without a lifetime of debt.”

Patel and his wife Stacey Patel, chair of the Brevard County Democratic Executive Committee, have pushed that party toward a grassroots organizing effort since they emerged in the county party leadership three years ago. His campaign receieved more than 1,200 individual contributions in the second quarter, averaging $68 apiece, and he noted that 84 percent of the quarter’s donations were vrom Florida, and 70 percent from the district.

He also contended that 90 percent of his money raised in the second quater was from individuals, while he attributed 65 percent of Posey’s second-quarter take to political committees.

Alexandria Ocasio Cortez has proven that a campaign for the people can be won by the people – even against long odds and established incumbents,” Patel stated in the news release, citing the upstart progressive Democrat who won an upset primary victory over an incumbent in a New York congressional district this spring. “I hope our community will continue to support us as we move our campaign to the streets to knock on doors across the district.”

CD 8 covers the whole of Brevard and Indian River counties as well as a chunk of eastern Orange County. It voted plus-21 for Donald Trump in the 2016 election, and is currently listed as “safely Republican” by University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato‘s “Crystal Ball”

Former lawmaker Dwayne Taylor loses appeal in wire fraud case

A federal appeals court Tuesday rejected an appeal by former state Rep. Dwayne Taylor, a Daytona Beach Democrat who was convicted last year on wire-fraud charges.

Taylor was sentenced to 13 months in prison after being convicted on nine counts of wire fraud related to the personal use of campaign funds. It is illegal in Florida to use campaign contributions for normal living expenses.

In the appeal to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Taylor’s attorney contended that the issue of “willfulness” had been improperly left out of instructions to the jury about the crime of wire fraud.

“The omission of willfulness from the jury instruction prevented the jury from considering all the elements necessary (to) reach a valid verdict,” Taylor’s appellate attorney, Tom Dale, wrote in a March brief. But in a two-page ruling Monday, a panel of the appeals court said the two sides in the trial submitted “joint proposed jury instructions to the district court that — consistent with the pattern instruction for wire fraud — did not include the word ‘willfully.’ ”

The appeals court said it would not review what it described as “invited error.” Taylor, 50, who served in the state House from 2008 to 2016, is in a federal penitentiary in Atlanta and is slated for release in December, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website.

FMA says Thad Altman is just what the doctor ordered for HD 52

The political arm of the Florida Medical Association announced Tuesday that it’s backing Indialantic state Rep. Thad Altman for another term in Brevard County’s House District 52.

“The FMA PAC is proud to support Rep. Thad Altman for re-election. Rep. Altman has worked closely with the FMA on many issues during his time in both the House and Senate and we hope to continue that collaboration with him in the future,” said committee president Mike Patete.

The FMA backing comes a week after the Florida Realtors re-upped their endorsement of the longtime Republican lawmaker for the 2018 cycle. He also recently got the nod from the Space Coast Business Force alongside Sen. Dorothy Hukill and state Rep. Rene Plasencia.

“It is a distinct honor to have the endorsement of the Florida Medical Association. The pursuit of medicine is one of the highest callings one can work towards and requires a sense of selflessness and compassion that physicians possess. We often count on doctors in some of the toughest moments of our lives, and I am honored that they have chosen to count on me in the Florida Legislature.” Altman said.

Altman has been in Legislature for 15 years. He was elected to the House in a 2003 special election and moved up to the Senate in 2008. After hitting term limits in the upper chamber, made returned to the House in 2016.

This cycle, Altman is up against Melbourne Republican Matt Nye in the Aug. 28 primary election and, if he proves successful, Melbourne Democrat Seeta Durjan Begui in the Nov. 6 general election.

As of July 6, Altman led the money race with nearly $40,000 raised and $30,220 in the bank. Nye has raised $18,105 and has $8,860 in his war chest, while Begui has raised about $2,000 and anteed up $3,550 in candidate loans for an on-hand total of $4,320 after seven weeks on the trail.

HD 52 covers the middle third of Brevard, from Viera in the north to Melbourne Beach in the south.

The district has a large Republican advantage, with GOP voters making up 46 percent of the electorate compared to a 28 percent share for Democrats. Altman went unopposed in the 2016 general election, though Donald Trump easily carried the seat with 58 percent of the vote.

Aramis Ayala endorses Andrew Gillum in governor’s race

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has received the endorsement of Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala, someone who polarized much of Florida last year with her anti-death penalty stance but also won strong statewide recognition and support among many progressive Democrats.

“I’m proud to stand with Mayor Andrew Gillum in his campaign to take this state back for working people,” Ayala stated in a news release issued by Gillum’s campaign. “He’s shown true courage in this race — from speaking truth to power, to standing up for our most important values of inclusion and decency. His track record as a progressive leader in Tallahassee, combined with his bold vision of a true north star for this state, will serve him well as our next Governor. I’m looking forward to campaigning with him this summer and fall.”

She also joined him for an announcement in downtown Orlando.

Ayala, the state atorney for Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit serving Orange and Osceola counties, also has been credited for courage, by her supporters – and for wrecklessness, by her critics. Last year she became the first Florida state attorney to declare a ban on death penalty prosecutions for capital murder cases in her circuit. That led to a high-profile, high-stakes, protracted legal and political fight with Gov. Rick Scott and others. Ultimately she lost and was forced to develop a system to institute death penalty prosecutions. And because the case was decided by the Florida Supreme Court, she likley will be the last state attorney to attempt such a stance under current Florida laws.

The fight made her famous statewide, and also attracted national attention, a poster child for liberal excesses to many Republicans and conservatives, and a champion of judicial reform to many Democrats and liberals. She has followed up with a couple more, less-controversial reforms, including a roll-back of automatic bail requests in many non-violent crime cases.

As the state’s first African-American state attorney, Ayala also has fostered a strong statewide base in Florida’s black communities, and she may be something of a role model for Gillum, who is seeking to become the state’s first African-American governor.

She won a shocking upset victory in the Democratic primary in 2016 over then-State Attorney Jeff Ashton before winning the post in the fall election. Her victory was fueled in large part by a third-party campaign financed by New York billionaire George Soros, who has declared his dedication to helping black candidates get elected to high offices. Soros also has poured $750,000 so far into a political committee to support Gillum this year.

Gillum faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, businessman Jeff Greene, and businessman Chris King heading into the Aug. 28 Democratic primary. King also advocates a ban on the death penalty.

“I’m deeply honored have State Attorney Ayala’s support in this race,” Gillum declared. “She is a deeply dedicated public servant and a strong advocate for justice and fairness, and the personification of leadership in her community and across the state. I’ve been deeply impressed by her criminal justice reforms, including the elimination of cash bail, as a way to make our justice system more equitable. She’s not afraid to stand up for what she believes in, and I can’t wait to continue campaigning with her throughout the summer and fall.”

Mike Miller launching his first TV ad in CD 7 race

State Rep. Mike Miller is taking to the airwaves in the hotly-contested Republican primary race for Florida’s 7th Congressional District with a television commercial featuring Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio praising him.

The 30-second TV spot, “They Both Like Mike,” is essentially a mashup of some video highlights from two internet ads that Miller’s campaign released this spring. It features Scott talking about Miller at an event the governor held in Orlando earlier this year, and then Rubio talking about Miller at a Miller campaign fundraiser.

Rubio has endorsed Miller. Scott has not.

Miller, of Winter Park, faces two other Republicans, Sanford businessman Scott Sturgill and Orlando lawyer Vennia Francois in the Aug. 28 primary for CD 7, which covers Seminole County and north and central Orange County.

Neither of them nor the Democratic frontrunner, incumbent U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, have launched any TV commercials yet. She has a primary opponent in Chardo Richardson.

The commercial begins with a narrator declaring, “Marco Rubio and Gov. Rick Scott are saying the same thing about conservative Mike Miller: I Like Mike.”

It then cuts to Scott saying, “I want to thank Mike Miller for all that he’s done. He’s making sure our taxes are low.”

It then moves to Rubio declaring, “That individual liberty is something we value and cherish.”

Scott continues, “That we have a great education system, and that people are safe.”

And Rubio finishes, “Mike will make a difference. And I look forward to working with him in making that difference.”

Text also notes him as “100 percent pro-life.”

“It is an exciting time for our campaign,” Miller’s campaign manager Alex Bolton stated in a news release. “Momentum is building with voters and this ad further illustrates the fact that Mike is the only conservative in this race. Voters should not be tricked by false claims about Mike,” continued Bolton. “Sen. Rubio and Gov. Scott know Mike will protect the Trump tax cuts and is 100 percent pro-life.”

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