Orlando – Florida Politics

Associated Builders and Contractors endorses David Smith for HD 28

Winter Springs Republican David Smith announced Thursday that the state’s largest commercial construction trade group has endorsed his campaign for House District 28.

Associated Builders and Contractors is the commercial construction trade association for Central Florida and we are pleased to endorse David Smith for Florida House District 28,” said Mark Wylie, president and CEO of the Central Florida Chapter ABC.

“Our members include general contractor and subcontractors in all trades, as well as material and service providers, for the industry. David’s knowledge and understanding of the key issues affecting our industry, as well as specific educational programs is impressive. We believe he will work to create and sustain a business and regulatory environment that will result in a strong Florida economy and a growing workforce.”

The new endorsement for Smith, a Marine Corps veteran, follows recent nods from Republican Sen. David Simmons and current HD 28 Rep. Jason Brodeur, who leaving the seat due to term limits.

“I’m honored to have the support of the Associated Builders and Contractors,” Smith said. “As someone who graduated vocational training and started my work-life as a certified welder, I have great respect for the men and women that work in the trades. We see eye to eye on the issues that affect not only their industry, but what’s needed to create good jobs for Central Florida families.” Smith added.

HD 28 covers part of northeastern Seminole County, including Sanford, Winter Springs, Casselberry and Oviedo. Republican voters make up nearly 40 percent of the electorate in the Central Florida district, compared to a 33 percent share for Democrats.

The only other candidate running to succeed Brodeur is Democrat Lee Mangold.

As of May 31, Smith had nearly $150,000 in the bank for his campaign account including $85,000 in loans. Through the same date, Mangold had about $15,000 at the ready. His total includes $10,000 in loans.

Space Coast Business Force endorses Rene Plasencia, Thad Altman, Dorothy Hukill

Business Voice of Florida’s Space Coast has endorsed the re-elections of state Sen. Dorothy Hukill and state Reps. Rene Plasencia and Thad Altman in Brevard County districts, the organization announced.

Those endorsements are in addition to the previously announced nod toward Tyler Sirois for the open seat for House District 51.

All four are Republicans and all of them except Hukill have Republican primary challenges on August 28.

The organization, established to be the political voice for the Space Coast business community, also made endorsements of Chuck Nelson and Curt Smith in the Brevard County Commission District 2 and 4 elections, respectively; and Misty Belford and Andy Ziegler in the Brevard County School Board District 1 and 5 races, respectively.

“The state legislature, the county commission and our local school board have an incredible impact on the local economy,” said Kathryn Rudloff, executive director for the group, in a news release. “Ensuring the Space Coast remains a great place to live, work and do business is our priority. That is why local job creators are excited to support these proven leaders who are committed to the long-term health and sustainability of our diverse regional economy.”

Hukill is clear until November when she faces the winner of the Democratic primary, either Brandon Maggard or Mel Martin, for Senate District 14.

Plasencia faces George Collins in a Republican primary for House District 50, while Altman faces Matt Nye in the primary for House District 52. Democrats will be awaiting the winners in November.

“These candidates are asking the voting public for a job. The business community takes very seriously the opportunity to interview candidates and consider their qualifications for the office they seek,” Rudloff added.

Darryl Block wins AFL-CIO endorsement in HD 29 race

Florida House candidate Darryl Block has received the endorsement of the Florida AFL-CIO heading toward the Democratic Democratic primary to run in House District 29.

It’s the second endorsement Block recently has picked up, following the blessing he received from Democratic state Sen. Victor Torres of Orlando.

Block, a Lake Mary lawyer, social worker and mediator, is battling with Longwood lawyers Tracey Kagan and Patrick Brandt for the August 28 Democratic primary nomination. The prize is the task of facing longtime Republican incumbent state Rep. Scott Plakon in the general election.

In a news release issued by his campaign, Block said he was thrilled to receive the backing of the labor union with more than 1 million members, retirees and their families. Block expressed his commitment to serve working families and veterans and be a strong advocate of employee rights, pay equality, environmental protection, public schools and sensible gun-control legislation, and to advocate for Puerto Ricans in Central Florida.

Block also slammed Plakon for his bill last winter setting new regulations on teachers unions and other public employee unions.

“The action taken this week by the AFL-CIO is just the beginning of our battle to bring fairness and equity to Florida workers, who have been ignored for far too long by a hostile Legislature,” Block stated in the release. “I look forward to joining my fellow progressives in championing workers’ rights in Tallahassee.”

Tyler Sirois picks up Business Voice endorsement in HD 51 race

Republican Tyler Sirois has received the endorsement of the Business Voice Political Committee, a group representing a broad cross-section of Brevard County businesses and entrepreneurs, in his quest to be elected to the House District 51 seat, his campaign announced.

Five candidates are running for the seat opening up because incumbent Republican state Rep. Tom Goodson is leaving due to term limits. So far, only Sirois, of Merritt Island, and Democrat Mike Blake of Cocoa have qualified for the ballot. Also running are Cocoa Mayor Henry Parrish, a Republican; Thomas O’Neill, a Republican; and Shain Honkonen, who is running as an independent candidate.

In a letter to Sirois, Business Voice Political Committee Chairman Larry McIntyre and Executive Director Kathryn Rudloff jointly declared that “due to your commitment to bring common sense leadership to Tallahassee and support local job creators, we believe you are the right choice to represent the Space Coast.”

HD 51 includes Cape Canaveral, Cocoa, Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island, and Rockledge in Brevard County.

“On the Space Coast, job creators and employers want to see a greater emphasis placed on vocation and technical skills in our public schools,” Sirois stated in a news release. “Parents want their kids prepared to enter the workforce and participate in the economy. The support of Business Voice underscores the importance of this message, and I am grateful for their support.”

Darren Soto picks up Human Rights Campaign endorsement in CD 9 race

The national Human Rights Campaign, the nations’ largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, has endorsed the re-election bid of Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto in Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

The endorsement is part of Soto’s efforts to shore up the progressive wing of the Democratic Party as he prepares for the August 28 Democratic primary showdown with his predecessor in the CD 9 seat, former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson.

The winner faces Saint Cloud Republican Wayne Liebnitzky. CD 9 covers southern Orange, Osceola and eastern Polk counties.

JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president of policy and political affairs for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement:

“HRC is proud to endorse Darren Soto for re-election to Congress. Darren has been a strong ally to the LGBTQ community throughout his career, including standing up to the Trump administration’s hateful anti-LGBTQ policies and pushing for progress to expand civil rights and protections under law.

“In Central Florida, he brought community leaders together when the Trump administration rescinded protections from transgender students. He has fought for workforce and housing protections, and he supports legislation to make sure our elders get the care and services they need.

“We need Darren Soto in Washington, and we encourage Central Floridians who support LGBTQ rights to support him.”

Bob Cortes: more than 230 students displaced by hurricanes graduate in Central Florida

Newly-released data show that 209 students from Puerto Rico and 22 from the U.S. Virgin Islands whose families fled hurricane devastation were able to graduate from Central Florida schools this spring, state Rep. Bob Cortes announced Tuesday.

Cortes pushed last fall for the state to streamline and expedite the school transfer processes for students evacuated from the island devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, including helping arrange a deal that allows Puerto Rican students, if they chose, to get Puerto Rican diplomas under Puerto Rican rules while finishing their education in Florida. He did so assisting Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart and her counterparts in the islands.

Data Cortes provided Tuesday shows that 237 Puerto Rican high school seniors had enrolled in schools in Orange, Osceola or Seminole counties, and 102 graduated with standard Florida diplomas, 85 with standard Puerto Rico diplomas, and 23 with other diplomas or certificates. Thirty-two Virgin Islands high school seniors transferred to Central Florida schools and 20 got standard Florida diplomas, while two got certificates of completion.

Cortes said in a news release that most of the remaining students either returned to Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands before the school year ended, transferred somewhere else, or are continuing this summer to complete their requirements.

“Hurricane Maria was a catastrophe that displaced so many families, and we wanted to make sure Florida did everything we possibly could to help,” Cortes stated in the release. “If we had not taken proactive steps to help students, especially high school seniors, many would not have graduated. I’m so proud of how folks came together to make this happen for these young people who have been through so much.”

Cortes’ data showed that 128 of those displaced island students enrolled in Orange County, 105 in Osceola County, and 36 in Seminole County.

Charles Hart elected chair of Orange Co. GOP

For the first time this century, the Orange County Republicans have a new leader, attorney Charles Hart, who was elected Monday night to serve the remaining six months of retiring Lew Oliver‘s term as head of the county party.

Hart, of Windermere, was elected by acclamation with no other nominees after also-departing Vice Chairman Chadwick Hardee withdrew, throwing his full support behind him.

Lou Marin is replacing Hardee after being elected Monday night in a landslide over Randy Ross.

Oliver chose to step down after 19 years leading the Orange County Republican Executive Committee. Earlier this month he announced he was leaving leave to focus more time and effort on his business.

“It has mostly been a joy,” Oliver said Monday night. “And it matters … Trust me; the committee has made a difference.”

While Oliver received universal praise for leading numerous election victories for candidates, charter amendments, and other matters supported by the Republican Party, he’s also overseen a period of steady decline in the party’s share of the Orange County voter base as demographics have shifted dramatically in Orlando. Today Democrats now outnumber Republicans by more than 100,000, and the party has a fraction of the precinct chairs compared to just a few years ago.

Hart has been involved in the Republican Party “since I was four years old” upset by President Jimmy Carter‘s handling of the Iran hostage crisis. “You guys have elected a true believer. I’ve always been a true believer,” he said.

He pledged to lead to victories this fall and prepare the party for a likely bigger transition in the official two-year elections taking place in December.

“We need to get out there and help all of our candidates because ultimately guys our success is completely predicated by candidates’ success and then also your success. I cannot be your leader, I cannot help you, I cannot do anything for you unless we win together,” Hart said. “I want to win.”

Hart had a moment of controversy last fall when he filed a lawsuit challenging Democrat Paul Chandler‘s qualification to be a candidate in the House District 44 special election.

The suit wasn’t so much about Chandler, who had little or no chance of winning, but had ramifications that could have reset the rules for the August Republican primary, possibly nullifying it. The suit never was heard. Chandler withdrew.

Bobby Olszewski won both the primary and the general election over the Democrats’ replacement candidate.

Olszewski, who was momentarily at risk of having his primary victory nullified, welcomed Hart’s election Monday night.

“I look forward to working with chairman Hart and the new OCREC board,” Olszewski said.

Rene Plasencia alleges espionage by opponent’s treasurer, seeks criminal charge

State Rep. Rene Plasencia is alleging that a volunteer who moved from his re-election campaign to the campaign of his Republican primary opponent George Collins illegally downloaded Plasencia’s campaign data and took it with him to Collins’ campaign.

Plasencia and his campaign met with an Orange County Sheriff’s Office detective Monday. Plasencia said they intend to pursue criminal charges, perhaps theft of intellectual property, a third-degree felony.

Plasencia is alleging the man now serving as Collins’ campaign treasurer, Zane C. Matter, used access to Plasencia’s webElect political data account to download data after-hours onto a home computer. Matter then left Plasencia’s campaign and joined Collins’ campaign.

Florida Politics was unable to reach Matter for a response on Monday.

Collins Monday afternoon confirmed that Matter worked for him, and called him invaluable. But Collins said Matter has provided no such information from Plasencia’s campaign to him, or said anything about it to him. And Collins said he wouldn’t want it even if Matter had it to offer.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office is investigating, Plasencia said. The sheriff’s office was not able Monday afternoon to confirm that, comment, or provide a copy of the incident report, as it was still being processed.

Plasencia and Collins are battling in the August 28 Republican primary for Florida’s House District 50, covering eastern Orange County and northern Brevard County. They met in the primary two years ago and Plasencia won. Collins filed for a rematch on June 5, and later added Matter as his campaign treasurer. The winner would take on Democrat Pamela Joy Dirschka in the November general election.

On Monday Plasencia said Matter had volunteered for his campaign this spring, and was given a task doing computer work, with log-in access to the webElect account. After a while, in mid-May, Matter stopped showing up, Plasencia said. After someone saw Matter appear with Collins in photographs posted on-line, Plasencia said his campaign grew concerned and brought in a computer analyst. The analyst told Plasencia’s campaign that computer activity history showed that Matter had logged in to the campaign account from home, after hours, and had downloaded campaign data.

That occurred in late May after Matter stopped showing up, Plasencia said.

Matter did not have authority to do so and the campaign did not know he was doing so, Plasencia said. When the activity was discovered, Matter’s access was terminated.

“We feel terrible about it because we were giving this person an opportunity. He was a young college student and it really looks like from the very beginning he was here to steal information,” Plasencia said.

Plasencia also said he believes Collins has used Plasencia’s data while campaigning in north Brevard County.

Collins denied that Monday, and said that Plasencia and his voter-supporters are too liberal to be of any interest to him anyway.

Collins said he met Matter at the Orange County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner on May 18, and that said Matter told him that he had been working for Plasencia’s campaign, but had become disillusioned with Plasencia’s positions on issues. Collins added that Matter told him he would like to work with him to defeat Plasencia if he was going to run again.

The downloads occurred May 27-29, according to Plasencia. Matter resigned from Plasencia’s campaign on June 1.

Collins filed as a candidate to run against Plasencia on June 5, listing himself as treasurer. Matter officially became Collins’ campaign treasurer last Friday, according to paperwork filed with the Florida Division of Elections.

“I haven’t received any information that would benefit my campaign from Zane,” Collins said. “I have absolutely no interest in any of that because I’m sure that the people who will support me are more conservative than Rene. And so I think that Rene is very upset that he would lose his valuable intern to come over to my campaign. But unfortuantely, that’s the way it is.”

Pam Bondi endorses Mike Miller in CD 7 heading toward Republican primary

State Rep. Mike Miller has received the endorsement of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in his campaign for Congress in Florida’s 7th Congerssional District, providing a potentially potent voice to the district’s upcoming Republican primary.

“I am endorsing Mike Miller because I have served with him and know he will be an effective leader in Washington who will uphold the rule of law and keep fighting the battle against opioids,” Bondi stated in a news release issued by Miller’s campaign. “I am confident in Mike and know he will help President [Donald] Trump strengthen our borders, protect the tax cuts and fully eliminate Obamacare.”

Miller, of Winter Park, is battling with Sanford businessman Scott Sturgill and Vennia Francois for the August 28 Republican primary nomination. They all want a shot at Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park.

“I’ve worked with General Bondi for several years, particularly in trying to end the scourge of the opioid epidemic. General Bondi is a strong conservative that Floridians have come to respect and admire,” Miller stated in the release. “Knowing she recognizes our shared conservative principles and has confidence I will support the President’s agenda means a lot to me.”

CD 7 covers all of Seminole County and much of north and central Orange County, including downtown Orlando.

John Mina nabs FOP endorsements in sheriff’s race

Orlando Police Chief John Mina has recevied the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police lodge representing Orange County deputy sheriffs and also of the union’s Central Florida district for his campaign to be elected sheriff of Orange County.

The Fraternal Order of Police Lodges 93, 86, and 25, representing various units in Orange County; and Disrict 7, representing 10 counties, now have given their endorsements of Mina in his contest against retired Florida Highway Patrol Chief Joe Lopez and two other candidates. Lodge 93 announced its backing Friday morning.

Lopez had previously picked up the endorsement of the Central Florida Police Benevolent Association. But the FOP lodges have far more members throughout Central Florida. FOP Lodge 93 represents more than 1,0o0 deputies, corporals and sergeants in the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. Lodge 25 represents Orlando police. District 86 represents Orange County corrections workers.

District 7 comprises 24 FOP lodges including those in Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Brevard, and Voluisia counties.

“It is no coincidence that Chief Mina has earned the support of all of the mayors in Orange County,” FOP Lodge 93 President Jeff Stinson stated in a news release issued by his lodge. “For those of us in law enforcement, we all see the same qualities in Chief Mina: experience, leadership and a battle-tested candidate who can handle the demands of being the sheriff of Orange County.”

The release said that FOP LOdge 93 backed Mina after a town hall meeting in may attended by both Mina and Lopez, citing Mina’s  27-year career in law enforcement,  leadership skills, ability to handle crisis, and his strong working relationship with the Fraternal Order of Police.

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