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Democrat Barbara Cady hoping HOA reform message is game-winner in HD 42

Can a single issue of the most local of impact become a game-winner for a Democrat trying to flip a district?

Democratic Florida House District 42 candidate Barbara Cady has been pounding turf since she entered the contest 16 months ago, mostly talking about home-owners association law reform. It’s a common interest in the sprawling development areas of HD 42, particularly for many residents of Poinciana, where there’s been long-running and highly contentious legal and public fights between homeowners and an umbrella group governing homeowners associations there.

“I do believe it is a critical issue in this race and my opponent apparently does too, because suddenly he’s put out a flier saying he’s sponsoring a bill to ‘reign in HOAs,’ which is very contrary to his behavior the last three years,” Cady said.

Her opponent is three-term Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa of Saint Cloud. He agreed that HOA reform is an issue in the district, but refuted Cady’s charge that he’s new to it with his latest campaign mailer, which cites legislation to “rein in out-of-control homeowners associations.” That, he said, is a reference to his 2013 bill, which passed to reform home-owners association laws. And, he said, he also filed bills in 2014, and ’15 seeking additional reforms, although they did not pass.

Yet La Rosa downplays how critical the issue might be to this election. He argued that HD 42 residents, like most others in Florida, are first and foremost interested in statewide issues of jobs, education and opportunities for their children. And he said he thinks the Poinciana HOA situation has gotten better in recent years because he has not heard any serious complaints for a while.

“At the end of the day, jobs and education are still number one,” La Rosa said.

“I would hate for my opponent or anyone to try to take this one issue and highlight it to say, ‘This is what I am running on,’ and ignore everything else,” he added.

Cady, of Kissimmee, is running on a broader slate of issues too, albeit from the Democratic platform that defines them as higher-paying jobs and public education.

But yes, for her, the overriding issue, the one she expects to make a difference, is whether homeowners respond to a candidate crusading to reform HOA laws, promising to provide relief and protection from what she says many residents complain are predatory HOAs. That’s an especially common and deep-rooted complaint in Poinciana, where the issue has been heated for decades, she said.

This is actually what Cady does for a living: she is a licensed HOA manager.

“This is why this issue is important for this election: it’s not just Poinciana. Miami has the same issues. The entire state of Florida is being run by corporate developers that have pretty much had free-rein for an exorbitant amount of time,” Cady said. “So my feeling is we need to put time limits on it [developer’s control over HOAs.] And we need to tighten the statutes to protect the homeowners. That’s the way it should be. Right now it seems like it is protecting developers.”

Founded in the 1970s, Poinciana stretches a good 15 miles through southwest Osceola and east Polk counties. It is becoming a heavily Hispanic community, populated by a large influx of Puerto Ricans. Population estimates run between 53,000 and 83,000, depending on how the unincorporated community is defined.

HD 42 sprawls across most of Osceola County [not including most of Kissimmee and Celebration], plus a good chunk of eastern Polk County, covering more than a thousand square miles. HD 42 represents four of Poinciana’s nine villages. The others are in House Districts 41 and 43.

Cady said she frequently hears horror stories of battles between residents and the Association of Poinciana Villages, the umbrella group over Pinciana’s nine village HOA’s. She said those stories focus on what residents say are unfair fees, fines, liens, and foreclosures, and of residents being shut out of HOA decision-making.

Similar allegations against the Association of Poinciana Villages and the developer, now AV Homes, are charged in a lawsuit filed in 2015 by Friends of Poinciana Villages, an organization formed to represent a group of frustrated homeowners. That suit also alleges fraud, election violations, and breach of a 1985 contract that the Friends organization argues required the company to relinquish control a long time ago. The company denied all the allegations in its responses, and also argued that the company and the homeowners association are wholly independent of each other, so that the company cannot be blamed if anyone thinks the HOA is not acting properly. The suit still is being litigated in Florida’s 10th Judicial Circuit, in Polk County.

Two Democratic lawmakers who represent all or parts of Poinciana, state Sen. Victor Torres and state Rep. John Cortes, who represents House District 43, also have been active in the issue. They both have introduced bills seeking HOA law reforms that would impact Poinciana. In particular, the bills would set up an arbitration process for disputes between homeowners and HOAs. But the bills died quick deaths. Cady pledged to join their effort.

“The issue that we have is the homeowners are very frustrated that they don’t have control,” Cady said.

The HD 42 election contest should be no cakewalk for anyone.

La Rosa has the advantages of incumbency, name recognition, and presumably popularity in a district he’s represented for six years. He’s also got a mountain of money, raising nearly $300,000 for his re-election, through the Oct. 19 reports. He has spent it generously, more than $225,000 to date, about half of that just in the past month. La Rosa has put up television, radio, and digital advertising, and sent out numerous mailers. Cady, by contrast, had raised about $58,000 and spent all but $5,000 of that through the most recent campaign finance reports, through Oct. 19. Her money has mostly gone toward digital advertising and mailers.

Cady has the advantage of the voter-base makeup. The district has been trending blue for a while in voter registration, and in the book-closing for the Nov. 6 election, Democrats have 37 percent of the electorate, Republicans just 31 percent.

“Here’s the issue I have with La Rosa: He is nowhere to be found, and people are very frustrated with that,” Cady charged. “When I ran against him in the beginning he didn’t take me seriously. And now that the numbers are looking a little more favorable for Democrats, he has stepped up his game, and he just put out this flier that says he has fought for legislation that would rein in HOAs, and that he is there for Poinciana, and he has been there for Poinciana.

“Those,” she alleged, “are just flat-out lies.”

La Rosa strongly disputes that. A key part of the issue, said La Rosa, whose background is in real estate, is that Poinciana’s HOA is probably one of the most complex in the state, maybe in the nation.

But he added, “The truth of the matter is, at the end of the day, HOAs are contractual relationships in which someone knowingly purchases, knows what the structure is, and has to sign the disclosures, and so forth.

“And when I talk to folks of what the problem is, I think 90 percent of the time it comes down to, OK, get involved, and vote in new board members,” La Rosa said.

South Daytona GOP office full of bullet holes Monday morning

Someone fired four bullets through the windows of a satellite office of the Volusia County Republican Party in South Daytona Beach, either late Sunday or early Monday morning, leaving a shattered window, bullet holes in the ceiling and walls, and whatever message the shooter thought he might be sending.

No one was injured.

The shots were fired after the office closed around 4 p.m. Sunday and before the first volunteers showed up at 9 a.m. Monday. So no one was inside and the shattered and pierced windows and bullet holes were discovered Monday morning, according to South Daytona Beach Police Capt. Mark Cheatham. A second window was damaged by a bullet hole, but not shattered.

Cheatham said four slugs were recovered and they are relatively small-caliber, suggesting a handgun, but said he could not speculate more until ballistics tests are run. There were no casings recovered.

He also said there are no witnesses and so far the department has not found any surveillance video to review what might have happened or see who did it.

The party office reopened Monday after police finished scouring the scene. The office is located in a small strip shopping center on South Nova Road. Other businesses are on either side, but they all were closed at the time too, Cheatham said.

In a video posted by the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Volusia County Republican Chairman Tony Ledbetter said, “I’m looking at some busted out window that some nice Democrat did. Republicans don’t have any beef about what we’re doing it’s the Democrats.”

Ledbetter also told the News-Journal that the party would repair the window and keep working.

Bob Cortes, Bobby Olszewski spend big among Orange County House candidates

Republican state Reps. Bob Cortes and Bobby Olszewski spent huge amounts on local television in the third week of October, fueling their broadcast campaigns that began last week to power their re-election bids for in their House Districts 30 and 44.

The latest campaign finance reports, running through Oct. 19 and posted by the Florida Division of Elections late last week and Monday, show several Orange County House candidates cutting loose their money to power mailers and TV ads during the last three weeks, signaling which races have incumbents worried and challengers hopeful.

Cortes topped all Orange County candidates’ in spending, as he launched commercials on English- and Spanish-language TV and radio to go along with mailers, by spending $171,000 in the week ending Oct. 19. He still has almost $55,000 left.

His Democratic challenger in HD 30, which covers a piece of north-central Orange County and a larger area of south-central Seminole County, Maitland City Councilwoman Joy Goff-Marcil, did some robust spending of her own, but the $14,855 she spent was dwarfed by Cortes’s expenditures, and bought her mailers, not broadcast advertising. She had about $7,000 left on Oct. 19.

Olszewski’s spending in the week ending Oct. 19, $73,000 in total, is more than his Democratic challenger, former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson of Orlando has been able to raise throughout her HD 44 campaign, thusfar. Olszewski, of Winter Garden, raised $7,200 during the week and has received $198,035 overall. Even with his big spending last week, he had $78,000 left in the latest report.

Thompson raised $6,851 last week and spent $4,211. Overally, she’s raised $54,000 and had about $17,000 left on Oct. 19.

In House District 47 Republican nominee Stockton Reeves and Democratic nominee Anna Eskamani have been going full-tilt, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars each over the past several weeks with both mailers and TV advertising. Both of their campaigns still are pulling in big dollars and have plenty left to spend for the open seat in north and central Orange County, including downtown Orlando.

Eskamani, of Orlando, whose campaign fund and independent committee People Power have collected $500,000, spent $23,984 last week. Her campaign and the People Power for Florida committee have spent more than $443,000 through Oct. 19. Reeves, of Winter Park, meanwhile, spent $37,217 last week, and has spent $153,217 overall. That does not include robust but still undisclosed support he has received from the Republican Party of Florida. The party has put its money behind several ORlando TV commecials and mailers attacking Eskamani and supporting Reeves in recent weeks.

In House District 50, in far eastern Orange County, Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia of Orlando spent $28,504 in the latest-reported week, and raiased $23,750. He’s now raised abou $248,000, most of that leading up to his Aug. 28 Republican primary victory, and has about $25,000 left. His opponent, Democrat Pam Dirschka of Titusville, has raised about $13,500 and spent about $9,200, leaving her with about $4,000 to campaign.

In three other Orange County contests, incumbents have plenty of money but haven’t seen the need to spend much of it yet, at least through Oct. 19.

In House District 31, covering northwest Orange County and much of north Lake County, Republican state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan of Mout Dora is sitting on most of the $111,645 she has raised to face a challenge from Democratic nominee Debra Kaplan of Eustis. Sullivan spent $1,539 last week and has dropped $43,499 overall. Kaplan has raised just $23,791, and has spent all but about $2,000 of that.

In House District 48, Democratic state Rep. Amy Mercado of Orlando spent a few thousand dollars here and there throughout the summer and early autumn, but not lately. She spent $103 last week, and has about $33,000 left. Her Republican challenger George Chandler finally has a little money, but not much for the district covering much of southeast Orange County. The Republican Party of Florida gave him $5,000 in the week of Oct. 19, lifting his campaign total to $8,200 in overall contributions. He’s spent about $2,690 of that, including $200 last week.

In House District 49, covering northeast Orange County, Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith spent $8,337 during the most recently-reported week and $67,156 to date. He also raised $12,931 during the week of Oct. 19, so he’s raisaed $165,810 overall and has about $97,000 left. His Republican opponent, Ben Griffin of Orlando, was initially staked $50,000 by the Republican Party of Florida, but he has neither added much to that nor spent much of it. Last week he spent $192. To date he’s raised $62,290 including the RPOF money, and still has about $45,000 of it left.

Republican ad seeks to tie Anna Eskamani to rage, declares ‘Let’s rise above’

The Republican Party of Florida is releasing a new television commercial attacks Democratic House District 47 nominee Anna Eskamani, seeking to tie her to anger and rage on the left, and Republican nominee Stockton Reeves as the candidate to help “Rise above the rage.”

The new 30-second spot, which technically is a three-for also supporting the re-election campaigns of state Reps. Mike La Rosa and Bobby Olszewski, recycles some stark, black-and-whiteimages from previous RPOF commercials of a radical-looking Eskamani, plus some stock footage of some generic rioting somewhere. New to this ad are images from last year’s protests against Publix Supermarkets, in which Eskamani participated.

The ad continues an ongoing campaign from Reeves and the Republican Party of Florida seeking to characterize Eskamani as a radical with a foul mouth.

Eskamani’s response Monday was to charge him and the campaign with “lies.”

“Stockton Reeves is a pathological liar. You can’t send more than 20 pieces of negative mail, air three dog-whistling attack ads, and then turn around and say that you’re ‘civil,’ she wrote in a written response. “Stockton’s entire campaign has been a juvenile rant devoid of substance, filled with lies, and fueled by fear. House District 47 deserves authentic and honest leadership, and after knocking on more than 35,000 doors as a campaign, we look forward to earning the love, trust, and support of voters this November 6th.”

HD 47 covers north and central ORange County, including downtown Orlando.

The images of Eskamani come with text declaring such things as “Anna Eskamani screams at opponents”, “Anna Eskamani cursing at opponents”, and “Anna Eskamani stages die-in at local Publix.” Meanwhile, Reeves speaks over it all with a calm voice and positive messages, except for the messages’ implications toward Eskamani.

“We are better than anger. We are better than hate. We are better than the politics of division,” Stockton narrates as the negative images flow past.

Then the images switch positive ones of the city skyline, and of Reeves with his daughter, landmarks around town, and people happily working.

“Let’s leave anger in the past,” he says. “And I’m ready to work together for a better Orlando and a better Florida. On Election Day, together, let’s rise above the rage.”

Rene Plasencia rakes in $23K for re-election bid in HD 50

Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia spent raised more than $23,000 during the week ending Oct. 19 and spent even more than that on his re-election bid in Florida House District 50.

The week was the biggest yet in Plasencia’s campaign for either contributions or expenditures and easily swamped the campaign finance activity of his Democratic challenger Pam Dirschka of Titusville, who hasn’t raised or spent anywhere near that much money through her entire campaign.

During the latest week of campaign finance activity posted Monday morning by the Florida Division of Elections, Plasencia raised $23,750 and spent $26,504. That brought his campaign total to nearly $250,000 raised and nearly $225,000 spent, much of it during a hotly-contested Republican primary that Plasencia wound up winning easily on Aug. 28. He’s got just under $24,000 left, even with his big week of fundraising.

Plasencia, of Orlando, and Dirschka are battling for HD 50, which covers parts of east Orange and northwest Brevard counties.

She managed to raise only $169 during the week and reported spending only $12. To date, she’s raised $13,577, and spent $9,267, so she had about $4,000 left after Oct. 19.

Plasencia’s mid-October haul, less than three weeks out from Election Day, was buoyed by 19 maximum $1,000 checks from special interest groups, mostly in the health care industry. About $1,750 of his donations came from individuals.

The spending was almost all through Millennium Consulting, his general campaign consultant.

Next clash over ‘sharing’ business models — cars — being waged at Orlando airport

Yet again, a 21st-century business model is clashing with how business always has been done — creating a running battle at Orlando International Airport and other airports where authorities are trying to stop emerging car-sharing operations from acting, in the airports’ views, as unpermitted, unregulated rental-car companies.

Specifically, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority and Turo, a San Francisco-based company, are butting heads in what is now nearly a yearlong dispute.

Now the skirmish, perhaps an early battle in a potential full-out turf war for a huge, multibillion-dollar rental-car business sector in Florida, is drawing the attention of state lawmakers.

The context of the battle broadens to the potential rivalry of traditional rental-car companies versus operations such as Turo and Getaround, much as the business community and regulators have seen high-profile disputes in the past several years between traditional taxicab companies versus Uber and Lyft; and traditional hotel companies versus Airbnb and HomeAway.

GOAA has sent Turo a cease-and-desist letter. Turo says the airport doesn’t understand what is going on. The company has a couple of times asked the airport to consider negotiating a new business plan. The airport has rejected the idea saying Turo first must play by current rules. So GOAA has started citing Turo’s car owners for running illegal businesses on airport property.

“We’re not going to tolerate it,” said GOAA Board Chairman Frank Kruppenbacher. “It has become a real issue, and we’re probably going to move to the next step, which is litigation.”

“They sent us a cease-and-desist letter, and we responded with, ‘Surely you’re confused; that’s not what we do. That’s not how this works. But let’s talk about creating a permit,'” said Michelle Peacock, Turo’s vice president and head of government relations. “But that’s the part of this equation that keeps getting ignored by the airport, is that we’re saying, ‘we’re willing to work with you, just like you did with the ride-sharing businesses, to create a permit that makes sense.'”

A similar car-sharing dispute reportedly is beginning to boil at Tampa International Airport, and another may be quietly percolating at Miami International Airport. Nationally, regulatory, legal, and legislative battles between car-sharing and rental-car companies are being waged all over.

The battles have caught the attention of state Sen. Jeff Brandes, the St. Petersburg Republican who has been running a crusade for several years to persuade — or, if that fails, force — Florida regulators to make way for nontraditional business upstarts, even at the outrage of some of the pillars of Florida’s tourism economy: taxicab companies, hotels, and now rental-car companies.

“These are all disruptive technologies or disruptive business models that are challenging the traditional game, the traditional norms, of historically how people have done business,” Brandes said. “Florida has to be a leader in allowing new technologies to emerge. We can’t be Luddites. We have to be open to new technologies, especially in our largely taxpayer-funded platforms.”

This time it’s about the emerging car-sharing business and whether it represents the next-big-thing — or a loose operation devoid of regulatory oversight that consumers might expect and local governments might feel responsible to provide, and at the potential expense of the highly regulated, traditional rental-car companies.

Companies such as Turo and Getaround have created platforms where people who own cars can rent them directly to people who want cars. This works efficiently at airports, where millions of people are getting off airplanes and considering their options from there: taxi, Uber, bus, traditional rental cars, or cars from someone they met on the internet.

Companies like Turo and Getaround provide online marketing, communication, and a payment platform to assist anyone with a car pick someone up at the airport, drive off the airport property, get out of the car, hand over the keys, and then get paid by the day, or even the hour, until the car is returned. The companies provide insurance and other support, including roadside assistance.

“This isn’t a rental-car company. We don’t own those cars. They’re not in our control. They’re not managed by us. We don’t have parking lots of black asphalt with cars on them,” Peacock said. “We don’t have employees managing suites of cars. We’re a marketplace. We’re just like eBay. When you buy something on eBay, they don’t have a warehouse of goods. They are helping facilitate a transaction between a seller and a buyer.”

They’ve been doing that in Florida for about six years now. It started at the usual imperceptibly tiny scale and now is big enough that they’re clearly getting the attention of the airports. Peacock insisted, however, they’re not big enough to dent the profits of the traditional rental-car companies.

In Orlando, Peacock said, the airport has been running sting operations to catch its car-owner clients.

Turo says it has client car owners signed up in more than 5,500 cities worldwide and serving more than 500 airports. It says it has more than 350,000 vehicles listed, offering curbside pickup to customers who make connections with the vehicles’ owners over the Turo website. The company says in eight years of operation it has booked more than 6 million vehicle rental days.

Florida naturally is ground it does not want to lose, and Orlando is Turo’s 18th largest market, despite the current airport fight.

The airports have plenty on the line.

At Orlando International, deals with rental-car companies are tied up both in contracts and in long-standing, good-faith relationships, assuring the traditional rental-car companies direct access to the huge Orlando tourist market. That’s in exchange for fees and facility rentals for counters, signage, car inventory parking, delivery space, and other facilities. It’s a huge business, and it’s very lucrative for the airport. Car rental companies are paying Orlando International a projected $99 million in fees this year, the airport’s second-biggest source of revenue behind airlines’ fees, and not by much.

There also is, at least in Orlando, the issue of image. The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority aggressively pursues, promotes, and protects what it calls the “Orlando Experience,” demanding high levels of quality product, appearance, and customer service from its business partners. That’s easy to do with rental-car companies governed by detailed contracts, but perhaps an uncertain effort if it involves thousands of individuals renting out their cars through a website.

Also, a big issue in the legislative debates over Uber and Airbnb, with the potential to emerge in the car-sharing business, is the home rule argument. Cities, counties, and other local authorities argue for local regulation, contending that they know what’s best for their communities and that the Florida Constitution’s home rule provisions set that belief as the intent and spirit of Florida law. On the other hand, supporters of the new business models, such as Brandes, argue that Florida’s economy needs the flexibility to compete for 21st-century business, and local governments shouldn’t block opportunities out of loyalties to old ways of doing things.

Specific to the Orlando-Turo fight is the airport’s regulation of its property. GOAA has explicit rules for ground transportation operations and rules that forbid commercial businesses from operating in any way on airport property without a permit, including in a parking garage or at a passenger-pickup curb. Turo is in clear violation of both of those, airport officials have informed the company. Drivers of Turo-facilitated car rentals who have been caught have been slapped with at least a dozen citations.

Orlando has offered Turo the chance to apply for a permit to operate as a rental-car company.

Turo has declined, saying there’s no reason that it or its car “hosts” should face the kinds of fees and rules designed for rental-car companies, when they don’t need counters, signage, inventory parking lots, or anything else from the airport, except a couple minutes at the curb to pick someone up.

Peacock also charged that airports may be shortsighted, perhaps irresponsibly so, when they invest huge sums, as GOAA currently is doing, in expanding rental-car facilities without first seriously considering how emerging business models like car-sharing could impact the future.

Instead, Turo offered to help GOAA create a new business sector permit plan for car-sharing, with “commensurate fees to compensate the airport for the negligible impact Turo users may have at the terminal,” according to Peacock’s July 17 letter to GOAA.

GOAA has declined, charging that the company is, in fact, simply running a car-rental operation.

“You do not get to flaunt the rules simply because you do not think that they should apply to you,” stated an Aug. 9 letter from attorney Jessica Maugeri, of Marchena and Graham, GOAA’s legal counsel.

Brandes said the critical point for him is: What do visitors want?

“Ultimately, you have to give consumers what they want. What we’re seeing is consumers wanting more options,” he said. “In a state with 120 million tourists, we should focus on the desires of the tourists coming here. And what they want are options.”

Brandes said he has no current intention of pushing legislation, as has been done in the past several years during the ride-sharing and home-sharing business fights. But he left open the possibility.

“I think we have to give airports a wide berth to do the right thing,” Brandes said. “To the extent that we hear outlier stories as we did with Uber, then ultimately there is a responsibility to make sure there are opportunities for everybody to participate.”

MTV News contrasts Anna Eskamani and North Carolina young conservative

Florida House Democratic candidate Anna Eskamani is drawing another national glance with a news feature launching today on MTV News that compares and contrasts her views on guns with those of a young, conservative North Carolina lawmaker.

In House District 47, covering north and central Orange County, Eskamani is facing Republican businessman Stockton Reeves of Winter Park. While she has yet to win a public office, she has been featured several times by national media as a face and voice for young, progressive Democrats, or for young women entering politics, as she will be in another feature being produced by a national outlet, VICE News.

This time it’s MTV News, which could draw her attention among young voters in HD 47. In the four-minute, 30-second segment “Can these young candidates change gun policy in America?” now posted on MTV News’ Facebook page, Eskamani, 28, who’s running for the open seat in Florida House District 47, shares screen time with North Carolina state Rep. Cody Henson, a 26-year-old Republican.

“Pulse nightclub is in District 47, so you can’t not talk about gun issues,” Eskamani says, introducing herself.

The rest of the report is an unnarrated back-and-forth between her and Henson, who says “I personally do not believe banning any kind of firearm will make any kind of difference because people with mental health issues will find a way to hurt people.”

They both talk about encouraging both sides to talk and find common ground, but they both state positions that make it sound as if such common ground could be elusive, at least between the two of them.

Randy Fine pulls in $10K for final push in HD 53, leading all Brevard House candidates

Republican state Rep. Randy Fine picked up an additional $10,550 in campaign contributions in the week ending Oct. 19, easily the biggest haul of any Florida House candidate running in Brevard County.

Fine’s latest collections pushed his campaign total to more than $243,000, more than 11 times as much as his Democratic opponent, Phil Moore of West Melbourne, has been able to raise this year in the battle for House District 53.

With that, and with the $6,657 the Palm Bay Republican’s campaign spent last week, Fine headed into the final two and a half weeks with $78,000 left to spend defending his seat for south Brevard.

Fine’s contributions included seven maximum $1,000 checks, including from alcohol and farm interests and several individuals, according to the latest reports filed with the Florida Division of Elections.

In the week ending Oct. 19, Moore added $975, bringing his total to $21,634. He’s got just $2,300 or so for his final push.

Among other candidates in Brevard districts, Republican state Rep. Thad Altman of Indialantic raised $4,250 and spent nothing in his bid for re-election in House District 42, covering central Brevard. That gives him a little breathing room, not much, for a campaign that essentially spent all its money in a primary fight. He’s now raised $80,700 and has about $13,000 in the bank. His opponent, Democrat Seeta Begui of Melbourne raised just $150. Her campaign has about $5,000 in the bank for the final push.

In House District 51, for an open seat in northeast Brevard, Republican Tyler Sirois of Merritt Island raised $3,825 and Democrat Mike Blake of Cocoa raised $3,050. Sirois, whose campaign also spent much of its money in a primary, has raised about $137,000 and has about $27,000 left. Blake has raised about $18,000 and has $6,000 left.

For House District 50, covering east Orange County and a portion of northeast Brevard, Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia‘s latest reports have not yet been posted by the Florida Division of Elections. His Democratic opponent, Pam Dirschka‘s has, and she’s made no progress toward addressing the huge campaign finance advantage Plasencia has enjoyed all along. Dirschka raised just $169 during the week and just $313,577 for her campaign. She has about $4,000 left. Plasencia meanwhile had raised more than $224,000, and had more than $27,000 left on Oct. 12.

‘Bring It Home’: Nope, not Andrew Gillum, but Seminole Republicans

Bring It Home.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum has been riding that catch-phrase all year, drawn from stories about his grandmother and turned into a campaign theme for his vision for Florida. Gillum hopes it will be to him what Let’s Get to Work has been for outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

So it was a little odd, appearing, as it did Friday morning, on a Republican fundraiser announcement.

“Bring It Home Fundraiser,” the notice opened, as it appeared on Facebook.

Above it: the names Scott Plakon, Bob Cortes, and David Smith. Below it: state Sen. David Simmons.

The announcement, that the Republican Simmons was hosting an Oct. 30 fundraiser for the re-elections of Republicans Plakon and Cortes and election of Smith to the Florida House of Representatives for Seminole County’s Districts 29, 30, and 28, respectively.


Someone made a mistake.

Plakon laughed for about 20 seconds when informed that he had posted a fundraiser notice on Facebook that borrowed Gillum’s signature phrase.

“Scott uploaded the wrong version,” Cortes said. “That was an earlier draft that Scott had, that we did not approve. We were not going to use, obviously, Gillum’s tagline.”

The announcement was drafted by a consultant and sent to the trio of candidates. Plakon uploaded it to the internet, while the other two sent it back with nope-try-again directives. The new version came back later announcing it would be the “Last Push Fundraiser” for Plakon, Cortes, and Smith.

Later Friday morning Plakon swapped in the correct version in his internet posts.

“I can only speak for myself: I had no idea Andrew Gillum is doing that,” said Plakon, a little embarrassed but still laughing. “I’m busy running my own race.”

Gillum’s campaign did not respond to a Florida Politics inquiry about what it thought of Republicans, at least briefly, borrowing his signature phrase.

Plakon’s race is against Democrat Tracey Kagan in HD 29 covering much of central Seminole County. Cortes is running against Democratic Maitland City Councilwoman Joy Goff-Marcil in HD 30, covering much of south Seminole County, plus a chunk of north Orange County. Smith is running against Democrat Lee Mangold in HD 29, covering eastern Seminole County.

Orange County Republicans, Joe Lopez furious over Darryl Sheppard’s fake endorsement letter post

Orange County Republicans and independent Orange County Sheriff candidate Joe Lopez are outraged Friday morning over a fake endorsement letter that rogue Democratic Sheriff candidate Darryl Sheppard is shopping falsely claiming that the Republicans have endorsed Lopez.

“I am furious,” said Orange County Republican Chairman Charles Hart.

“Unbelieveable,” said Lopez, who is a registered Democrat running as an independent.

Sheppard is not commenting yet.

It’s not the first phony item Sheppard has posted in his rogue campaign. As the only Democrat who entered the primary, he won the party’s official nomination, but the Orange County Democratic Party wants nothing to do with him and has disavowed him.

It’s a difficult and critical issue in Orange County because Democratic voters dominate the voter registration; and many who know nothing about the race or the candidates might vote for Sheppard out of party loyalty. The party refused to include Sheppard on its candidates slate.

“Let me be 100 percent clear. DO NOT vote for the Democratic candidate for Orange County Sheriff. You are seeing the work of a CON ARTIST who has little to no regard for the laws a Sheriff is tasked to enforce,” Orange County Democratic Chair Wes Hodge recently declared in a Facebook post.

Republicans don’t care for him either.

“The Orange County Republican Party denounces this stunt. I and the Orange County Republican Party have not and do not endorse anyone in this race. On behalf of the Orange County Republican Party, I demand whoever posted this blatant lie take this lie down immediately or face legal repercussions,” Hart wrote as the party’s official response.

Lopez, a retired Florida Highway Patrol chief, and Orlando Police Chief John Mina are the serious candidates in the race. Both are former Repubicans who changed their status to Democrats last year, but they did so too late to get on the ballot in 2018 as Democrats. So both filed to run as independents.

Mina’s campaign has been trying to ignore Sheppard, who is running for sheriff without any professional law enforcement experience, not counting a lengthy arrest record.

Earlier Sheppard posted a fake tweet that depicted President Donald Trump praising both Mina and Lopez. Sheppard also has posted pictures of himself with prominent Democrats including U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Val Demings, who angrily disavowed him.  Sheppard also has posted dubious polling results on his Facebook page.

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