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Jennifer Sullivan cedes ground in HD 31 money race

Mount Dora Republican Rep. Jennifer Sullivan has gone three months without raising a dime for her House District 31 re-election bid, allowing challenger Debra Kaplan to continue playing catchup.

April saw the Eustis Democrat bring in $2,430 – nearly double what she raised through the first three months of the year and her best fundraising report since filing for HD 31 in March 2017.

That haul came in across 33 contributions, most of them from small-dollar donors chipping in $100 or less. Tavaraes retiree Belita Grassel topped the monthly donor roll with a $500 check.

That total was offset by about $100 in spending, half of it for postage and the rest for petition signature verification, web hosting and credit card processing fees through fundraising platform ActBlue.

Kaplan finished April with just shy of $10,000 in total fundraising and $7,000 in the bank.

That total still puts her far behind Sullivan who, thanks to HD 31’s voter split, is nearly ensured a third term. Thanks to hitting the fundraising trail prior to the 2018 Legislative Session, the second-term lawmaker still has more than half of the $39,800 she’s raised in her campaign account.

After spending $2,350 in April, including $1,000 for consulting work from Gainesville-based Data Targeting Research, she had $21,121 in the bank.

HD 31 covers northeast Lake County and northwest Orange County and has a strong Republican base. GOP voters make up 44 percent of the electorate compared to a 31 percent share for Democrats, who haven’t fielded a candidate since the seat was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections.

Sullivan was elected to the seat without an Election Day challenger in 2014 after taking nearly 35 percent of the vote in a five-way Republican Primary. Her only opposition in 2016 came from unaffiliated candidate Robert Rightmyer, whom she beat 73-27. The seat voted 59-36 for Donald Trump.

Bob Cortes

Bob Cortes cracks $100K raised for HD 30 re-election

Altamonte Springs Republican Rep. Bob Cortes crossed $100,000 in total fundraising last month in his bid for a third term representing House District 30.

Cortes’ April campaign finance report shows $10,650 in new money and $2,775 in spending, bringing his to-date total to $105,325 with more than $85,000 banked.

The new report lists 16 contributions, half of which were for the campaign maximum of $1,000. Top donors included towing company Emerald Transportation and political committees tied to incoming House Speaker Jose Olvia, Palm Coast Republican Rep. Paul Renner and St. Petersburg Republican Rep. Chris Sprowls, who is set to take the gavel after the 2020 elections.

Topping the expenditure list was a $1,500 payment to Tallahassee-based Silver Productions for video work and nearly $1,000 to D&D Enterprises of Sanford for campaign promotional items.

Two Democratic challengers stand between Cortes and a third term: Clark Anderson and Maitland City Commissioner Joy Goff-Marcil.

Goff-Marcil, who filed in mid-February, saw her contributions halve compared to her first two months in the race, though she still holds a substantial lead over Anderson. She raised $3,748 in April and spent $4,350. Through three finance reports, she’s raised $18,638 and has $14,256 in the bank.

Anderson, the first-in Democrat, added $350 to his coffers through more than a dozen small-dollar donations. He spent $500 more than he brought in, however, causing him to dip into the candidate loans he used to jumpstart his campaign in January.

He’s brought in $13,875 since filing, including $10,000 in loans. He has $9,858 on hand.

HD 30 straddles the border of Seminole and Orange counties and includes the communities of Altamonte Springs, Casselberry, Eatonville, Fern Park, Forest City, Goldenrod, Lockhart and Maitland. About two-thirds of HD 30 voters live on the Seminole side.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district by about 3,000, though Cortes was able to kick out former Democratic Rep. Karen Castor Dentel with a 3-point win in 2014. He followed that up with a 7-point win over Democrat Ryan Neal Yadav in his 2016 re-election campaign.

Tracey Kagan

Tracey Kagan tops HD 29 Democratic field with first finance report

Tracey Kagan raised about $10,000 and put another $5,000 of her own cash on the line to take the top spot in the three-way Democratic Primary for HD 29.

The report, her first since entering the race, was good enough to beat incumbent Republican Rep. Scott Plakon’s $12,690 effort in April.

Outside of the loan and some “in-kind” contributions, the Longwood attorney brought in 64 donations. All but three of those came from donors chipping in $250 or less.

Her top contributors were Orlando homemaker Jackie Pollack and family member Janice Kagan, both of whom gave $1,000. Iris Stockton of Altamonte Springs came in just behind them with a $900 check near the end of the month. Spending was light, with a $587 printing job making up the bulk of her outflow.

Kagan started May with $14,229 in the bank.

She faces Lake Mary attorney Darryl Block and Longwood attorney Patrick Brandt in the Democratic Primary. Block kept up his slow and steady fundraising with $1,175 in new money last month, while Brandt laid an egg for the fourth consecutive month.

Block, who recently qualified for the ballot, has now raised just over $10,000, including $4,500 in candidate loans, since he filed for the race in January. He has about $4,900 in the bank. Brandt has raised $3,787 for his bid, though all of that came in before New Year’s. He has $1,325 on hand.

Far ahead in the race is Plakon, who is currently in the second term of his second stint in the Florida House.

His April report included 33 contributions topped by eight $1,000 checks. Half of those came in from the Strang family – both Steven Strang and Joy Strang gave, as did their companies, Stange Properties and Charisma Media.

The report brings his total fundraising up to $74,040. He finished the month with $67,630. He has another $9,185 stashed away in his political committee, Floridians for Prosperity and Economic Liberty, though it hasn’t added any cash since October.

HD 29 covers part of western Seminole County, including Heathrow, Lake Mary, Longwood, Wekiwa Springs and part of Sanford. There are about 7,500 more registered Republican voters than Democrats within its borders.

The seat is not a total reach for Democrats, however. In 2012, Democrat Mike Clelland pulled off a shocker by defeating former Republican Rep. Chris Dorworth by fewer than 150 votes. Dorworth was in line to be House Speaker after the 2014 elections.

Plakon kicked out Clelland with a 13-point win in 2014. He went unopposed two years later when Donald Trump carried the seat by about 4 points.

David Smith maintains tenfold lead in HD 28 money race

Republican David Smith tacked on another $5,307 in contributions last month for his campaign to succeed termed-out Rep. Jason Brodeur in Seminole County-based House District 28.

Smith’s new report included dozens of small-dollar donations as well as one check for the campaign maximum of $1,000 from a company tied to New York City land developer Richard Birdoff.

Smith, who has so far loaned his campaign $85,000, also chipped in another $2,800 toward his House bid via “in-kind” contributions covering expenses such as catering, postage, office supplies and advertising.

Spending outpaced fundraising for the month, with a pair of payments to Election Management Solutions accounting for more than half of the campaign’s $8,500 in April expenditures. The campaign also spent about $3,500 on media consulting and online advertising from Supernova Digital Communications.

Since filing for HD 28 in February 2017, the Marine Corps veteran has amassed nearly $195,000 for his campaign, including the loans. He started May with about $146,000 banked. He’s also landed a long list of endorsements from area Republicans, including state Reps. Bob Cortes and Scott Plakon, who represent neighboring districts.

Also running for the seat is Democrat Lee Mangold, who added $1,746 and spent $487 in April. A $250 check from Winter Springs resident Matthew Hillman topped his donor sheet, which listed 42 contributions for the month.

Like Smith, Mangold’s report showed him picking up the tab for several campaign expenses, which went down as “in-kind” contributions for the Casselberry Democrat. His expenditures list included a $160 payment to the Democratic Progressive Caucus for a conference fee.

Mangold qualified for the race in early April and is set to be the first Democrat to appear on the Election Day ballot in HD 28 since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections. He also recently announced an endorsement from Orlando Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith.

As of April 30, Mangold had raised a total of $27,147, including $10,000 in loans, and had $14,417 in the bank.

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.

Brodeur was elected to the old HD 33 in 2010. He has only faced third-party candidates in his three re-election campaigns in HD 28, winning each with around two-thirds of the vote. The seat voted plus-4 for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

Light fundraising month for Orange County’s unopposed House incumbents

Contributions were sparse in April for five Central Florida lawmakers who are still unopposed in their re-election 2018 bids – Democratic Reps. Bruce Antone, Kamia Brown, John Cortes, Amy Mercado and Carlos Guillermo Smith.

Of the five, Brown posted the best report last month. She showed $5,485 in contributions, which brings her to-date fundraising total past the $20,000 mark as she goes for a second term in Orange County-based House District 45.

Topping her report were a trio of $1,000 checks from Disney and its subsidiaries. Spending hit $3,465 for the month and included a $2,500 payment to In Touch Strategies for consulting work.

She started May with about $15,000 in the bank.

Behind Brown were Mercado and Smith, who represent neighboring Orange County-based districts.

In HD 48, Mercado showed three contributions totaling $2,250 in her new report. Her top donors were the Florida Fire-PAC and the Orlando Professional Firefighters, both of which checked in at the $1,000 level. Spending outstripped income for the fourth month in a row, however, causing her to take a step back in cash on hand.

Her total fundraising now sits at $40,743 and she entered May with $12,700 in her campaign account.

In HD 49, Smith’s tally was $2,000 last month. Florida Fire-PAC chipped in half that money, making it Smith’s largest funding source for April as well. Also similar to Mercado, Smith spent more than he brought in last month, though it’s not yet a trend for his campaign.

At the top of his $5,925 expenditures was a $2,000 check to Silver Digital Media for videography services. He finished the month with $31,270 in his campaign account.

Antone and Cortes showed no new contributions or expenditures in their April reports.

Antone, currently in his third term representing HD 46, has raised $12,060 to date and has $9,422 on hand. Cortes, who’s wrapping up his second term in Osceola-based HD 43, has raised just shy of $25,000 so far and has $23,350 in the bank.

All five seats are Democratic strongholds. If none of the five districts draw a second entrant by the time the candidate qualifying period ends in mid-June, all five incumbents will be re-elected without opposition.

Darryl Block qualifies by petition for HD 29 race

Democratic Florida House candidate Darryl Block has qualified for the ballot in his quest to be elected in House District 29.

The Florida Secretary of State’s office notes that Block, a lawyer from Lake Mary, has delivered 1,101 valid petition signatures, one more than he needed to qualify.

He aims to take on Republican incumbent state Rep. Scott Plakon to represent north central Seminole County, and there are two other Democrats in the primary field, Tracey Kagan and Patrick Brandt, both lawyers from Longwood. Block is the first to qualify for the ballot.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about getting out there and connecting with voters,” Block stated in a statement posted on Facebook. “I’m confident that our grassroots organization will bring about the change Seminole County and Florida deserve.

Block, also a former social worker, entered the race in January. To date, his campaign has raised about $10,000, including $4,500 of his own money that he put in, and finished April with about half of that left in the bank. Plakon had more than $67,000 in the bank going into May. Kagan raised $15,000, including $5,000 of her own money in two weeks after filing to run last month, and had more than $14,000 of that left to start May. Brandt, who entered the race in September, stopped fundraising activities in January, though he has not filed to withdraw, and entered May with about $1,000 in his campaign account.

Planned Parenthood backs Darren Soto in CD 9 primary

Another major progressive politics organization, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, has given its endorsement to Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto over his predecessor Democratic former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson who is trying to challenge him from the progressive wing in this year’s primary.

Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the political action arm of Planned Parenthood, noted that Soto has long held the organization’s highest rating. In a press release issued by Soto’s re-election campaign, the fund called Soto, “a strong supporter of women’s health,” adding that it is confident he “will continue to be a dedicated advocate for Planned Parenthood health centers and the people they serve.”

Soto and Grayson square off August 28 in the Democratic primary for CD 9, which covers south Orange County, Osceola County, and east Polk County. The winner gets Republican St. Cloud businessman Wayne Liebnitzky in the general election.

Soto’s campaign contends that he has fought for reproductive rights for years, noting that he supported the opening of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Kissimmee, is a member of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, and, while in the Florida Senate, led the charge against a 24-hour waiting period law, helping get it declared unconstitutional. He also was outspoken in defending Planned Parenthood against Republican attacks.

Grayson was involved in many of those stances as well, and had received Planned Parenthood Action Fund endorsements in the past.

Seminole County tax collector to accept bitcoin

Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg today announced that starting next month, his office will begin accepting bitcoin and bitcoin cash for payment for various services including tax payments, making the Seminole office the first in the country to do so.

Greenberg hailed the bitcoin cryptocurrency paradigm as being transparent, fraud-resistant, accurate, efficient, and free of the kinds of third-party fees and risks of identity theft that come with credit or debit card payments. He said the decision for Seminole County to use it brings the tax collector’s office services “into the 21st century.”

An official at BitPay, the nation’s largest bitcoin transaction processing company, stated in a news release issued by Greenberg’s office that Seminole County will become the nation’s first government agency to accept bitcoin and bitcoin cash through their service.

“We live in a world where technology has made access to services on demand, with same-day delivery and the expectation of highly efficient customer service and we should expect the same from our government,” Greenberg stated in the news release. “The aim of my tenure in office is to make our customer experience faster, smarter, and more efficient, and to bring government services from the 18th century into the 21st century and one way is the addition of cryptocurrency to our payment options.”

Bitcoin was introduced worldwide in 2011 as a decentralized, international, digital currency, backed by blockchain programming code that public records transactions in chains of data and assures unique, verifiable possessions of bitcoin units. Bitcoin cash is a spinoff digital currency that works the same way.

The Seminole County Tax Collector’s Office will use BitPay, which charges a 1 percent processing fee, for bitcoin or bitcoin cash payments made for property taxes, driver’s license and ID card fees, tags and titles. BitPay will convert the currency to U.S. dollars within a business day for Seminole County. The service will begin in June.

“BitPay was started because we recognized the potential for blockchain to revolutionize the financial industry, making payments faster, more secure, and less expensive on a global scale,” Jeremie Beaudry, head of compliance at BitPay, stated in the news release. “With the Seminole County Tax Collector’s Office, we have engaged our first government agency to accept bitcoin and bitcoin cash by making it easy and seamless for them.”

Lee Mangold announces backing from Carlos Smith in HD 28 race

Orlando state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith is endorsing Democrat Lee Mangold in the contest for House District 28.

Mangold’s campaign announced the endorsement Monday morning.

At a recent Mangold fundraiser, Smith said: “The reason I decided I wanted to jump on to Lee’s team and very proudly say that I was supporting his race and his campaign is not only because he’s such a passionate advocate for the issues we care about, it wasn’t only because like me — and like many of you — he has a major problem with the Florida Legislature spending $67M on the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas School Safety Act to train and arm teachers and faculty in our public schools.

“I’m also supporting Lee because he has a very strong campaign, he has a community of support, I’m impressed even by the fact we have such a great community turnout here in the district he’s running in, but also I’m supporting Lee Mangold because I know that he can win!”

Mangold, who owns a cybersecurity company and teaches at the University of Central Florida, faces Winter Springs business consultant and retired Marine colonel Republican David Smith in the HD 28 race. Smith, of Casselberry, and Mangold each seek to succeed Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur in the district covering northeast Seminole County.

“Rep. [Carlos] Smith is someone I truly look up to in the legislature, ” Mangold stated in a news release. “He is a tireless fighter for true progressive values, such as supporting public education, supporting affordable and available health care for all, and a continual fight for equality.

“I’m truly honored to receive Carlos’ endorsement, and I look forward to serving alongside him in Tallahassee.”

Rick Scott headlining Seminole GOP’s Lincoln Day Dinner tonight

U.S. Senate candidate and current Gov. Rick Scott will be in Altamonte Springs Saturday evening for the Seminole County GOP’s Lincoln Day Dinner.

The annual fundraiser will be held at the Hilton Inn Orlando-Altamonte Springs, 350 Northlake Blvd, and kick off with a 5:00 pm with a VIP reception followed by the dinner at 6:00 pm.

Those looking to attend will need to snag a ticket from the Seminole GOP, which start at $150 for dinner-only admission or $300 for both the dinner and reception.

The Seminole event is one of a handful of Lincoln Day Dinners to feature Scott since he announced he would challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson early last month.

About a week after he entered the race, he headlined the Pinellas County Republican Party’s April 14 Lincoln Day Dinner. He’s also slated to speak to Hillsborough County Republicans at their annual fundraiser on May 19. He’s drawn some fire for that one, as the event will also feature a raffle with the top prize being a Colt 1911 handgun.

The invitation to the Seminole event is below.

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