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Scott Sturgill raises $211K in first quarter for CD 7 race

Republican congressional candidate Scott Sturgill is reporting that his campaign raised $211,489 in the first quarter 2018, pushing the total raised to over a half-million dollars in Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

Sturgill’s campaign pointed out Monday that in the quarter, it outraised all Republican primary opponents combined. He faces state Rep. Mike Miller, Vennia Francois, and Patrick Weingart.

With the first quarter take, Sturgill, a businessman from Sanford, now has raised $520,000 and finished March with about $366,000 in cash.

Miller, of Winter Park, has now raised a total of $326,000 and finished the first quarter with about $270,000. Francois, of Winter Park, entered her first campaign finance report, showing she raised $15,578 and spent $12,419 during the quarter. Weingart, of Altamonte Springs, has not filed any campaign finance reports.

They all aim to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, who has raised about $1.75 million and had about $1.2 million in the bank

“We’re racing toward the nomination and we’re not taking our foot off the gas,” Sturgill stated in a news release issued by his campaign. “We’ve established that we’re the only conservative option in the race and the only Republican candidate that can bring together the needed resources to win in November. I’m grateful for all of the support.”

Sturgill’s first quarter 2018 donations included another $50,000 he lent his campaign. He now has put $150,000 of his own money into the campaign.

CD 7 covers Seminole County and north-central Orange County, stretching through downtown Orlando and surrounding neighborhoods.

“I think the other candidates need to seriously reassess their options at this point” Sturgill campaign consultant Frank Torres stated in the release. “We’ve demonstrated we can keep pace with Stephanie, and Republicans in the 7th district deserve the candidate that has the best chance to win back the seat in November.”

Rob Panepinto banks $100K in Orange County mayor’s race

Winter Park businessman Rob Panepinto raised more than $100,000 in March for his run for the office of Orange County Mayor.

Panepinto’s March campaign finance filings show that he brought in $35,200 for his official campaign fund and another $65,000 for his independent political committee, Vision Orange County in March. As a result, his campaign now has raised $319,332 and finished March with just over $254,000 left in the bank.

Vision Orange County so far has raised $181,149 and entered April with about $90,000 in cash.

Meanwhile, Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke reported raising $11,955 for his Orange County mayoral run. That brings his campaign’s total haul to $274,766, and it entered April with about $268,000 left.

Both pale compared with Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, who reported last week that his official campaign had brought in $52,225 in March, while his independent committee Orange County Citizens for Smart Growth, brought in $185,500. Demings two committees entered April with a combined reserve of $726,000.

They all seek to succeed term-limited Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, who is running for Orange County School Board chair this year.

Stephanie Murphy

Stephanie Murphy clears $1M on hand for CD 7 re-election

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy said Friday that during the first three months of the year, her re-election campaign raised more than $400,000.

This first-quarter haul puts the Winter Park congresswoman’s campaign account past the $1 million mark in cash on hand as she seeks a second term in Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

“Supporters from across the political spectrum are investing in Stephanie Murphy’s campaign because they know she will keep delivering results for central Florida families and small businesses while holding Washington accountable,” said Christie Stephenson, Murphy’s campaign manager.

“Stephanie Murphy is recognized as one of the most effective and bipartisan legislators, and she will keep fighting every day for jobs, security, and equality.”

The announcement puts Murphy’s to-date fundraising total at about $1.75 million. The new report is not yet viewable on the Federal Elections Commission website, though through the end of 2017 Murphy had raised more than $1.3 million and had $973,000 in the bank.

Murphy is running against a handful of Republican challengers in 2018, including Scott Sturgill and state Rep. Mike Miller, who distanced themselves from fellow Republicans Patrick Weingart and Vennia Francois fundraising-wise.

Neither has previewed their Q1 totals, though Sturgill’s campaign had brought in about $309,000 and had $266,000 on hand through the end of 2017. Miller, by the same date, raised $221,000 and had $185,000 banked.

The pair released dueling endorsements over the past few months in the CD 7 primary race, which is one of only a couple of Florida congressional seats Republicans think they can flip in the fall.

Among them was a nod for Sturgill from former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, while Miller recently touted the backing of Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato‘s “Crystal Ball” currently lists CD 7 as “likely Democratic” in the fall.

A day cashing campaign checks helps Dennis Baxley swamp foe in SD 12 race

With a Democratic challenger now picking up a little momentum in his fundraising, Republican state Sen. Dennis Baxley spent a day last month cashing scores of $1,000 checks from political action committees for his re-election fund in Senate District 12.

Baxley, of Ocala, reported that in March his campaign brought in $47,250. All of it was recorded on March 30, and all of it came in big checks from political action committees, businesses, and lobbyists, including 44 checks for the maximum $1,000 and another six for $500 apiece.

That pushed Baxley’s re-election campaign up to $152,350 collected, with about $112,250 left in the bank going into April.

Meanwhile Democratic challenger Gary McKechnie had his first significant month of fundraising, but it was a modest collection compared with Baxley’s one-day haul. McKechnie, a motorcycle-riding travel writer from Mount Dora, reported raising $13,256 in 102 checks in March. That brought his campaign total to $21,638, with about $20,000 of that in the bank on April 1.

Senate District 12, which includes part of Lake County and a big swath of north-central Florida, was just about the only Central Florida Senate district where candidates had much campaign finance activity in March.

Democrat Bob Doyel was an exception. He reported bringing in $20,882, including a $7,000 check from himself, in his bid to unseat Republican state Sen. Kelli Stargel in Senate District 22, which includes parts of Lake and Polk counties. Doyel entered April having raised $64,881, and with $49,255 in the bank.

Stargel raised just $1,033 in March, but has raised $146,733 overall, and entered April with almost $104,000 left. New in the Democratic field for that seat, former state Rep. Ricardo Rangel of Auburndale reported raising $2,075, and spending $108.

In Senate District 14 on the Space Coast, Democratic challenger Melissa Martin of Cocoa reported raising $6,369, giving her campaign a total of $24,416 in contributions, and about $21,400 left in the bank. Republican state Sen. Dorothy Hukill of Port Orange didn’t raise any money in March. But her campaign already had raised $120,650, and entered April with about $84,000 left in the bank.

Looking ahead to the 2020 elections, Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur of Sanford didn’t raise any money for his bid to be elected in Senate District 9 in Seminole County, but he has a campaign that already had raised $237,454, and it entered April with $144,000 left in the bank. His Democratic opponent, Fred Ashby, has not really raised any money.

Also looking ahead to the 2020 elections, Democratic state Sens. Randolph Bracy of Orange County’s Senate District 11, Linda Stewart of Orange County’s Senate District 13, and Victor Torres of Orange and Osceola counties’ Senate District 15 didn’t have any campaign finance activity to speak of in March. None of them has more than $25,000 in their re-election accounts at this point, but none has an opponent yet either.

Henry Parrish has second big fundraising month in HD 51 race

The House District 51 open seat race in Brevard County is heating up as Cocoa Mayor Henry Parrish posted his second big month of fundraising since entering the race in February.

Parrish, a Republican, raised $12,012 in March, following up the $21,100 brought in during his debut month; he said it’s reflecting the revival the city of Cocoa is experiencing.

“I’m just getting started. I’m very lucky; I have a lot of supporters,” Parrish said.

With Parrish’s entry, the campaign of Republican Tyler Sirois is finding new energy, too. The $11,140 raised in March is his biggest monthly haul his campaign has brought in since its debut a year ago. Sirois now has raised about $71,000 and has about $55,000 in the bank, while Parrish’s campaign headed into April with about $32,500.

They’re striving to succeed term-limited Republican state Rep. Tom Goodson of Rockledge in the north coast Brevard County district.

Also in that contest, Republican Jeffrey Ramsey of Merritt Island had no campaign finance activity in March, and had raised about $15,000, with about $7,800 in the bank; Republican Thomas O’Neill of Rockledge had no campaign finance activity in March, and has raised $2,290, and had about $800 in the bank; Democrat Michael Blake of Cocoa raised $666 in March, giving him $766 total raised, and about $80 in the bank; and newcomer independent Shain Allen Honkonen has not yet filed any reports.

Parrish’s and Sirois’ March campaign contribution totals were among the largest among Florida House of Representatives’ campaigns in the Central Florida area, not including that of House District 47 Democrat Anna Eskamani of Orlando, who has made a habit of topping House in campaign contributions in the region in most months. Earlier this week, her campaign reported bringing in another $19,234 for March, pushing her total contributions over $203,000 and her cash holdings to $152,000.

Also in the HD 47 race, Republican Mikaela Nix of Orlando raised $8,037 and lent her campaign $2,500. That brings her total haul to about $31,500, leaving her with just under $29,000 in the bank by the start of April. Stockton Reeves of Winter Park brought in $2,950 and lent his campaign another $4,700. That gives him $118,000 raised, including $94,000 he put in, and about $105,000 left in the bank going into April.

HD 47 is likely to be an open seat in north-central Orange County as Republican state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park is running for Congress.

Republican David Smith of Winter Springs again led all Seminole County house candidates as he reported raising $11,494 in March for his run in House District 28 in northeast Seminole. Including $85,000 he has put into his own campaign, Smith has gathered about $189,000 and has about $149,000 left. Democrat Lee Mangold of Casselberry raised just $941 in March. With $10,000 he lent his campaign, he has raised $25,400 and ended March with about $13,200 left.

They’re eying for the seat being vacated by Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur of Sanford.

In another race heating up, Republican state Rep. Bobby Olszewski reported raising $6,000 in March, giving him $43,300 raised and about $35,500 in the bank. Democrat Eddy Dominguez of Orlando reported raising only $1,000, but he also reported receiving $11,000 in in-kind contributions, including staff time. He has reported more than $20,000 in such in-kind support in two months, though his campaign has raised only $3,525 overall, and finished March with only about $1,500 in the bank. Democrat Matthew Matin of Winter Garden reported raising $2,000 in donations. With $1,070 loaned to his campaign, Matin raised $12,200 and had about $9,600 left.

That southwest Orange County race is likely to change now with the entry this month of former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson of Orlando. She has not filed any campaign finance reports.

In three other Florida House of Representatives contests in Central Florida, Democratic challengers sent significant fundraising challenges toward their Republican incumbent opponents, who had been barred from fundraising during the first 11 days of the month due to the Legislative Session.

In the central Brevard County House District 52 race, Democrat Ann Fuller of Melbourne reported raising $8,157, her second $8,000 month since she entered the race in early February against Republican state Rep. Thad Altman of Indialantic. Fuller now has raised $16,677 and ended March with $15,582 in the bank, while Altman did not raise any money in March, and finished the month with a total raised of $25,050, and only $18,803 in the bank.

In the House District 30 race, covering south-central Seminole County and parts of north-central Orange County, Democratic Maitland City Commissioner Joy Goff-Marcil reported raising $7,340. In less than two months she has raised $14,890 and entered April with about $11,560 left. Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes raised $5,760 in March. Yet Cortes already had a comfortably-sizable campaign fund, and now has raised $94,675, with about $77,440 left in the bank. Democrat Clark Anderson of Winter Park reported raising $1,275. With the $10,000 he had previously lent his campaign, he finished March with $12,525 raised and $11,666 in the bank.

In east and south Osceola County’s House District 42, Democrat Barbara Cady of Kissimmee reported raising $5,380 in March. That gives her $26,754 so far, and $16,831 left heading into April. Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa of St. Cloud raised just $60 in March, though, like Cortes, he already had a hefty campaign fund. He has raised $112,467 overall and entered April with $61,282 in the bank.

In four other contested house races in Central Florida, Democratic challengers raised modest or small amounts of campaign money for campaign fund totals still under $10,000, while House District 29 Republican State Rep. Scott Plakon of Altamonte Springs; Republican House District 31 state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan of Mount Dora; Republican House District 50 state Rep. Rene Plasencia of Orlando; and Republican House District 53 state Rep. Randy Fine of Palm Bay also raised little money in March, most of them held comfortably-large campaign fund balances.

Raising little money in March were unopposed Democratic state Reps. John Cortes of Kissimmee in House District 43; Kamia Brown of Ocoee in House District 45; Bruce Antone of Orlando in House District 46; Amy Mercado of Orlando in House District 48; and Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando in House District 49. Each entered April with modest campaign funds of less than $50,000 apiece.

Teresa Jacobs files to run for Orange County School Board

Insisting she was a schools policy advocate before she became the growth control advocate that led her to become Orange County’s most powerful elected leader, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs filed paperwork Wednesday to run for the school board.

“I realize there are probably a lot of people who are going to say, ‘I didn’t expect that. School board chair. I wonder why,” Jacobs said.

“I knew that this group of friends would understand why,” she said of supporters gathered with her at the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office Wednesday, including a principal of own four now-grown children. “Because they know me the best, and they’ve known me the longest and they understand how incredibly passionate I am about our children, about the potential of our young people, and about how passionate I am about public education.”

On Wednesday, Jacobs filed for the Orange County School Board chair’s position, the county-wide post created a decade ago with the expectation that it would give more power and focus to the school district leadership. In doing so she enters a race that includes current School Board Member Nancy Robbinson who’s been amassing support including that of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

Jacobs lauded Orange County public schools’ progress over the past couple of decades, from a district that once had a 50 percent graduation rate to one that now boasts a 93.8 percent rate. She said the district has improved both in high achievement and in closing education gaps, which she called an extremely difficult combination. And she praised Orange County Superintendent Barbara Jenkins as “a great superintendent.”

“But I don’t think, when something like education is so important, that there ever is a time to rest on your laurels, at least not until every single child in every single classroom has the ability to reach their full potential,” she said.

“And I also recognize this world is a very, very different place than the one we grew up in,” she said, citing both the global economy and the threats of school violence.

Jacobs has served two terms as Orange County mayor and is leaving at the end of this year due to term limits. Prior to that, she had served two terms as a county commissioner.

She’s been mentioned as a possible candidate for a number of higher offices, including congressional seats and state-wide offices. In many ways school board chair is a lower office. As mayor she is both chief executive officer of a county with a $3 billion budget and 7,500 employees and chair of the legislative body. If she were to win election, she would be only chair of the school’s legislative body, with Jenkins serving as chief executive.

“Please give me four more years to see what I can do to make Orange County the best school district in the state” she said.

Jacobs described herself as someone who always was highly engaged with the schools her children attended, and with the school district, and who was herself inspired by teachers in her own public schools.

“Most people don’t know that before I knew any of the county commissioners I knew every single one of the school board members,” she said. “Most people don’t know I was appointed by the  superintendent to various committees to serve on his behalf. So this idea that schools and public education is new or foreign to me is far from the truth.”

Jacobs conceded she has few other credentials regarding education, except for interactions between county government and the school district. She dismissed her lack of formal education leadership background, saying that outgoing School Board Bill Sublette succeeded without such background.

“Here’s what I bring to the office… I’ve been able to convene different groups, the school board is a great example: working with the school board, with FDLE, with health care providers, to tackle the opioid addition. And we’ve moved the significantly on that,” she said.

“We’ve been leading in so many regards here in Orange County, and we do that because we collaborate,” she said.

Jacobs pledged to be a high-profile school board chair, publicly promoting and fighting for more support for public education from the Florida Legislature.

“I expect to raise the profile of Orange County public schools. That’s the one other thing I bring,” she said.

After criticizing the Florida Legislature for “providing peanuts” to support school hardening and other mandates, she said “I think we need a strong, loud voice in a leadership role.”

Anna Eskamani crosses $200K mark in HD 47

Orlando Democrat Anna Eskamani added $19,234 to her House District 47 campaign last month, putting her past the $200,000 mark in total fundraising.

“I have always said that I am the sum of those around me, and this campaign is no different. We have built a community of support that is fueled by every day Floridians from all walks of life,” Eskamani said in a press release.

“Teachers, retirees, students, veterans, physicians, nurses, executives, and business owners — to just name a few. All who give what they can, because they want a bold new vision for Tallahassee and a proven community leader who gets things done. I am honored to receive both their trust and investment.”

The March haul included more than 140 contributions, mostly from small-dollar donors within the district who chipped between $1 and $100 apiece.

The finance report also showed a half-dozen contributions for the campaign maximum of $1,000, three of which came from the family of Robert Yarmuth, the CEO of Sonny’s BBQ.

Spending measured in at about $6,000 and included $1,250 in payments for website maintenance as well as a handful of checks for paid campaign staff.

Eskamani has now raised $203,664 for her campaign since filing in July, with more than $152,000 on hand. She also has another $22,651 on hand in her political committee, People Power for Florida.

Eskamani is the only Democrat running for HD 47, which is being vacated by Winter Park Republican Rep. Mike Miller, who’s running for Congress.

Mikaela Nicole Nix and Stockton Reeves are competing in the Republican Primary to succeed Miller.

Reeves has $105,000 on hand, including $95,000 in loans. Nix, who has yet filed her March report, had about $20,500 in her campaign account on Feb. 28.

Teresa Jacobs, rumored for school board run, sets announcement

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs has called a press conference for Wednesday afternoon on her next political move amidst wide-spread speculation that she’s preparing a run for the county-wide chair of the Orange County School Board.

Jacobs is set to leave the mayor’s office due to term limits at the end of 2018 after eight years as the powerful, full-time chief executive of Orange County government. She has not publicly acknowledged interest in the school board chair’s position but has been considering options for nearly a year to stay in public office.

She has called a 2 p.m. press conference for the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office, a likely site to reveal her political ambitions.

Incumbent Orange County School Board Chair Bill Sublette is not seeking re-election. Ironically, Sublette first announced he would leave that post this year when he announced his candidacy to run for Jacobs’ position as Orange County mayor. But he withdrew his candidacy in February.

Already in the school board chair’s race are School Board Member Nancy Robbinson, teacher Robert Prater, and Orange Technical College Administrator Matthew Fitzpatrick.

Jacobs’ background was in banking, and she rose to political significance in 2000 as an active presence in county issues as president of the Orange County Homeowners Association Alliance. She served two terms on the commission. In 2010, running largely on an ethics reform platform, she won election as mayor with 68 percent of the vote. In 2014 she won re-election without opposition.

After the Pulse nightclub massacre she and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer also became dual national symbols of the city’s and county’s unity and efforts toward healing and recovery.

Her big wins for the top elected position in one of Florida’s biggest counties, and the popular praise she received after Pulse have led to widespread speculation of her next political office. She has been frequently mentioned as a potential candidate for statewide office, notably of her prospects to run for chief financial officer or as a lieutenant governor running mate.

However, she also has clashed with much of Central Florida’s political and business establishment, particularly those in downtown Orlando, and particularly due to her conservative positions on how to spend the county’s very lucrative tourist development tax. In 2016 she was openly feuding with the region’s hotel and tourism community. However, she has recovered somewhat. In 2018 the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association named her public servant of the year.

Last week, with her potential candidacy looming, Dyer announced his endorsement of Robbinson in the school board chair’s race.

Darren Soto’s guns town hall draws criticism from Wayne Liebnitzky

A town hall to talk about guns that Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto set for Saturday in St. Cloud is drawing criticism from his Republican election opponent Wayne Liebnitzky because the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School girls’ softball team is also in town.

Liebnitzky called the town hall “a political stunt.”

Soto earlier this week announced he would hold a constituents’ town hall meeting on national gun safety at the St. Cloud Community Center at 1 p.m. Saturday. Responding to Liebnitzky’s criticism on Friday, Soto’s campaign said it was entirely coincidental that a team from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Parkland school that was the site of the horrific Feb. 14 massacre that took 17 lives, is playing in a tournament, against St. Cloud High School, not far away this weekend.

Soto, of Celebration, defeated Liebnitzky, of St. Cloud, in the 2016 election for Florida’s 9th Congressional District. The pair may be heading for a rematch this fall. Liebnitzky has a Republican primary rival, Sean Buchan of Winter Haven, while Soto remains unchallenged for the Democratic primary.

“We are deeply saddened when any horrific event occurs, but creating a political stunt to hijack law abiding citizen’s rights will not be viewed favorably,” Liebnitzky said.

He argued that Soto’s focus guns was wrong, and that school safety needs to be addressed through hardening the schools and convincing people to say something if they see something. “Allowing only criminals to possess guns does not and will not make any sense to me,” Liebnitzky said.

Soto’s notice for the meeting states that he has spoken with survivors from the Parkland shooting and young people at the March for Our Lives event in Lake Wales, and now “wants to hear from community members across Central Flordia about the sensible legislative action and access to mental health treatment needed to prevent further gun violence. Besides Soto, the town hall will feature Kristi King, legislative chair of the Central Florida Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America; and Patricia Brigham, steering committee chair of the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence.

In a response issued by his re-election campaign, Soto insisted the town hall, scheduled by his congressional office, is part of a nationwide effort this week, and has nothing to do with the fact that a Douglas High team was in town.

“There are town halls happening on gun safety nationwide this week. Congress must act, as I continue to hear from constituents around the 9th District. I am committed to listening to all of them and to taking action,” Soto said. “While this town hall was scheduled independently of any sports event, we certainly welcome the student-athletes of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and their supporters to the 9th District.”

Lee Mangold qualifies for HD 28 ballot

Democratic House District 28 candidate Lee Mangold has qualified for the ballot by submitting enough valid petition signatures, his campaign announced Friday.

Mangold was qualified for the ballot with 1,129 petition signatures validated in Seminole County Friday.

“Getting candidate petitions signed is a great way to engage with the community without making a big monetary ask,” Mangold stated in a news release. “We took our time with the petition process. Rather than rush through signatures, we used this opportunity to listen, to recruit volunteers, and to educate the public about our campaign; and it worked!”

Mangold, of Casselberry is facing Republican David Smith of Winter Springs, who qualified for the ballot by petition last September. The two aim to succeed outgoing state Rep. Jason Brodeur in the HD 28 covering north and east Seminole County.

The Mangold Campaign finished the petition process with roughly 200 volunteers supporting dozens of community events, marches, fundraisers, and house parties across the district, the release stated.

“The level of support has been astounding,” Mangold stated. “We certainly didn’t do this alone. We’ve had tremendous support from individuals and community groups in every corner of this District. Citizens across Seminole County are waking up to the reality that we need leadership in Tallahassee that works for the people, and they finally have a choice. We’re ready!”

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