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Jerry Demings banks $189K in April for Orange County mayor’s race

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings kept the turbochargers firing on his Orange County mayoral campaign fundraising drive in April, bringing in more than $189,000 during the month in his campaign and political committee combined.

The April hauls pushed Demings’ mayoral campaign close to the $1 million mark in money raised and put big distance between him and his rivals entrepreneur Rob Panepinto and Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke. Going into May, Panepinto had raised just over $400,000, and Clarke just under $300,000.

Demings’ official campaign raised $126,262 in April and his independent political committee Orange County Citizens For Smart Growth brought in $62,749. That boosted his official campaign’s total raised to $568,355, and the fund ended April with $507,852 in the bank. Orange County Citizens for Smart Growth now has raised $403,349, and it finished April with $401,460 in the bank.

It’s the second consecutive dominant month for Demings’ fundraising activities, after he raised a combined $237,000 in March. That total was mostly boosted by a big haul of big checks by Orange County Citizens for Smart Growth, which accounted for $145,000 of that month’s combined revenue through just nine donations. This time the small checks going into his official campaign fund led the way.

Already Demings’ official campaign alone has raised more money than incumbent Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs did in her entire 2010 election campaign, and is approaching the $650,000 Jacobs raised in her re-election bid in 2014.

There still are four months before the August 28 non-partisan runoff election, and six months until the general election, should no one get a majority of votes in August.

Demings latest hauls include $15,000 and $10,000 checks from healthcare providers and a $10,000 check from a Dallas-based real estate developer into his political committee. His official campaign drew 363 donations in April, including 70 for the maximum $1,000 donation. Those included three from Realtors’ political action committees, two from Amscot Financial companies, and one from Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando.

Darren Soto announces 20 local endorsements in CD 9 race

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto‘s re-election campaign announced 20 endorsements from local elected officials in his battle with former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson for the Democratic primary in Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

The endorsements came from state Sen. Victor Torres; state Reps. John Cortes, Amy Mercado, Carlos Guillermo Smith and Kamia Brown; Kissimmee Mayor José Alvarez; Lake Wales Mayor Eugene Fultz; Osceola Sheriff Russell Gibson; Orange County Commissioner Emily Bonilla; Osceola County Commissioners Brandon Arrington and Cheryl Grieb; Orlando City Commissioner Sam Ings; Kissimmee City Commissioner Angela Eady; Haines City Commissioners Morris West and Horace West; Winter Haven City Commissioner Nat Birdsong; Lake Wales City Commissioners Curtis Gibson and Tonya Stewart; Osceola School Board Member Kelvin Soto; and Orange Soil and Water Conservation Board Chairman Eric Rollings.

Soto’s campaign noted that they join the previous endorsements by every Democratic member of Florida’s congressional delegation, announced earlier.

CD 9 covers Osceola County, south Orange County, and East Polk County.

“I have known Congressman Darren Soto since his first run for office during a special election for a House seat. As a matter of fact, my grandchildren were volunteers in that first campaign. We’ve worked together since, for our respective communities in central Florida. I have children and grandchildren living here. It is important to me to have good, honorable role models for them, like Congressman Darren Soto,” Torres stated in a news release from Soto’s campaign.

“No one has worked harder for union members, students, seniors and now all the climate evacuees that have blessed central Florida with their arrival than Congressman Darren Soto. As a retired police officer and former marine myself, l can tell you that Darren vehemently supports veterans and first responders. Darren lives and works in central Florida, and when he is not in Washington, DC fighting for us he is in his district standing with us!

“Darren gets it!”

Henry Parrish

Henry Parrish gaining ground on Tyler Sirois in HD 51 primary

Cocoa Mayor Henry Parrish’s April fundraising report shows him surging past Republican rival Tyler Sirois in the race to succeed termed-out House District 51 Rep. Tom Goodson.

Parrish showed $24,380 raised in his new report, including 11 checks for $1,000. The April haul pushed his campaign account well past the $50,000 mark in total fundraising, and thanks to his low burn rate he has $52,332 banked.

That makes for three five-figure months in a row and an on-hand total that puts him atop the Republican Primary field.

Sirois, the executive director of the State Attorney’s office in the 18th circuit, had been the cash on hand since the start of his campaign in April 2017. He reported $25,000 raised in his inaugural report, and while he’s hit five figures in a couple months since, his reports have been largely ho-hum.

He still holds the overall fundraising crown with $74,165 raised, but he ceded a lot of ground after posting just $3,175 raised in April. All but $60 of that cash went out the door as it was raised, with the bulk than half of paying for “refreshments” at restaurants in Rockledge and Merritt Island.

He started May with $45,515 in the bank.

Also running for the Brevard-based seat are Republican Thomas O’Neill, Democrat Michael Blake and unaffiliated candidate Shain Honkone, all of whom have been rather lifeless when it comes to fundraising – O’Neill tacked on $435 in April and has $5,400 banked, most of it loans; Blake added $800 and has $2,960, also mainly due to loans; and Blake filed a waiver in lieu of a finance report.

HD 51 covers part of northern Brevard, including Cape Canaveral, Cocoa, Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island, Rockledge and Sharpes. It’s a safe Republican seat that Goodson has had little trouble holding onto – he won his final term with a 60-40 drubbing of Democrat Mike Blake.

Anna Eskamani hits $250K raised for HD 47 bid

Orlando Democrat Anna Eskamani raised another $22,300 in April for her campaign to replace exiting Republican Rep. Mike Miller in House District 47.

Eskamani brought in $18,800 of that money through her campaign account and raised the other $3,500 through her committee, People Power for Florida, putting her just past the $250,000 mark in total fundraising.

Her campaign report showed more than 170 contributions, continuing her trend of adding dozens of small-dollar donations month-to-month. She also brought in four checks for $1,000, the maximum contribution for state legislative races.

April’s max donors were former Florida League of Women Voters head Pamela Goodman, the Harriett Lake Family Trust, Ironworkers Local Union #808 and Orlando speech pathologist Laura Smith. Equality Florida deputy director Michael Farmer came in just under the cap with a $950 contribution.

The campaign also showed about $8,500 in spending in the new report, including $2,861 to Orlando-based Print Meisters and $2,500 to pay for campaign staff.

The committee cash came in through two contributions, a $2,500 check from Tampa attorney Crystal Whitescarver and $1,000 from Maria Ruiz-Hayes. People Power for Florida’s lone April expenditure was a $1,500 payment to Tallahassee law firm Hollimon PA.

Eskamani went into May with nearly $187,000 banked – $162,290 in hard money and another $24,650 in her committee.

Eskamani is the only Democrat running for HD 47, which is being vacated by Winter Park Rep. Mike Miller, who is running in the Republican Primary for Florida 7th Congressional District.

Her closest competitor, Winter Park Republican Stockton Reeves, raised $2,275 last month. Since filing for the race in July he’s brought in $120,470, including $94,700 in candidate loans. He had $105,583 at the ready on April 30.

Reeves’ primary opponent, Mikaela Nix, had not filed her April finance report as of Thursday morning. Through March she had just short of $29,000 in the bank. That number could shoot up depending on how lucrative her recent fundraiser turned out to be.

Democrats have a slight edge in voter registrations in the Orange County swing seat. Democrat Linda Stewart, now a state Senator, held the seat before Miller knocked her out with a 4-point win in the 2014 cycle. He was re-elected by 5 points in 2016 when he faced Democrat Beth Tuura.

House defense bill advances with several provisions from Stephanie Murphy

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy announced Thursday that the National Defense Authorization Act has been advanced from the House Armed Services Committee with several key provisions she pushed, including transitional help for newly departing service members, authorization for the military modeling and simulation centers in Orlando, and money to fight opioid trafficking.

The Armed Services Committee, on which Murphy serves, approved the bill early Thursday morning. The full U.S. House of Representatives must now consider the bill.

“The United States has the most powerful military in the world, made up of brave Americans who risk their lives to defend liberty and protect this nation. As someone who used to work in the Pentagon, I know how important it is that our men and women in uniform have the resources they need to safely and effectively do their jobs,” Murphy stated in a news release issued by her office. “I’ve worked hard on the Armed Services Committee to ensure this bill supports our troops and veterans; combats emerging threats like cyber; and strengthens Orlando’s modeling, simulation, and training sector—all as part of a bipartisan effort to keep our country safe.”

Among the provisions she said she helped get into the bill:

– Key language from her House Resolution 4954, the “BATTLE of Servicemembers Act,” provides workshops for departing service members to attend to prepare them for transition to civilian life.

– Key language from her House Resolution 2056, the “Microloan Modernization Act of 2017,” helps more entrepreneurs obtain low-interest loans.

– Language authorizing that the modeling and simulation centers and the National Cyber Range complex in Orlando are critical to national security, and full funding for the cyber range and for the Army’s Persistent Cyber Training Environment program.

– Key language from her House Resolution 5126 to help Israel defend against missile attacks.

– $20 million to combat opioid trafficking, funding Murphy has sought for the past two years.

The Winter Park Democratic congresswoman faces Chardo Richardson in a Democratic primary challenge this year, with state Rep. Mike Miller, Scott Sturgill, and Vennia Francois battling in the Republican primary.

Alan Grayson gets backing of Blue America PAC in CD 9 Democratic race

Former Congressman Alan Grayson has garnered the backing of Blue America PAC in his challenge to U.S. Rep. Darren Soto in Florida’s 9th Congressional District Democratic primary battle.

The national progressive organization dedicated to replacing “to replace the bipartisan Conservative Consensus in Congress with a strong and activated progressive movement,” endorsed Grayson while blasting the elections of “more Blue Dogs and New Dems from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party.”

Soto, who succeeded Grayson in 2016 after beating his wife Dena Grayson in the Democratic primary while Alan Grayson ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate, is a member of the New Democrats Coalition, but is not a member of the Blue Dog Democrats Coalition. He also has been pushing his own progressive Democratic chops, and has announced several endorsements by progressives and progressive groups, including the Congressional Progressive Caucus, of which he is a member.

Grayson was a leader of that caucus and is running as he always has, as an unabashed progressive Democrat.

The winner of the primary will face Republican businessman Wayne Liebnitzky in the general election. Soto beat Liebnitzky in 2016.

“I’m running for Congress because our progressive goals — justice, equality and peace — need a champion in Congress,” Grayson stated in a Blue America PAC statement issued by his campaign. “Think about it. Who can you think of, in the U.S. House of Representatives, whom you would call a champion for progress? On a good day, one or two or three of them. On a bad day, none.

“We need someone in Congress who actually knows how to get things done. And I passed 121 pieces of legislation — more than anyone else — even when the Republicans were in charge,” he added.

Blue America PAC blasted Soto, calling him, “a bump on a log New Dem who slithered out of the state legislature.”

Grayson, the PAC stated, is “better than your garden variety bump on a log congressmember — making people’s lives better, not just a career in self-service.”

Orange County re-adopts gun background checks, closes gunshot loophole

The Orange County on Tuesday approved an ordinance requiring three-day waiting periods for background checks of all firearms purchases, specifically targeting gunshots and flea markets.

The ordinance also aimed at lawmakers and other state officials who in 2011 passed a state law making local gun laws illegal, and Orange County officials are going forward with the belief that this one cannot be challenged by state officials.

The new ordinance is based on a 1998 amendment to the state constitution allowing counties to adopt gun background check waiting periods, and the commission adopted it somewhat in defiance of state officials who, under the 2011 law pre-empting local gun laws, have the power to fine, jail, remove from office and hold liable any local officials seeking to pass gun laws.

You can’t do that to us over this because we’re basing this on a state constitution provision, was the essential message Mayor Teresa Jacobs and the Orange County Board of Commissioners, by a 7-0 vote, declared yesterday.

The ordinance specifically addresses gun shows, flea markets and gun exhibits, indicating they took must comply with the background check and waiting period rules.

“They can’t pre-empt the constitution,” Jacobs said.

Some cities are suing the state over the 2011 law, but Orange County is not, at least not at this time.

“The first option was, should we sue? My second thought was, we are a county, and counties, unlike cities, have a constitutional provision that allows us to put this back in. Rather than suing, why don’t we just do it? We could sue, or we could do. I decided to bring to the board the option to do the maximum that we could do under this pre-emption law,” Jacobs said.

The approval Tuesday drew very little opposition. One speaker urged the board to consider setting up better, fairer systems for background checks before requiring them. Commissioner Betsy VanderLey picked up on that concern. She offered her yes vote if Jacobs would promise to revisit the background check system before she leaves office at the end of the year. Jacobs agreed, asking County Attorney Jeff Newton to offer a report in three months.

Commissioner Pete Clarke, who is running for mayor, described himself as a staunch defender of the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and a gun owner, but declared his support for this ordinance.

“I think this shows proper governance. If they want to throw me in jail and fine me $5,000, so be it,” Clarke said.

Several prominent Democrats, notably state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, Orange County Democratic Chairman Wes Hodge, and state house candidate Anna Eskamani, spoke in favor of the ordinance, though Smith and Hodge offered some criticism of Jacobs and the board for waiting until now, after the Feb. 14 mass murder in Parkland, rather than considering it earlier, in the aftermath of Orlando’s mass murder at Pulse two years ago.

In fact, the county had a background check ordinance on the books since 1988, and it was tied to the state constitution in 1998 after Florida voters overwhelmingly approved what became Article VIII, Section 5, allowing counties to have waiting periods on gun purchases. Yet in 2011, after the Florida Legislature approved the local gun ordinance preemption law, Jacobs led the Orange County Board of Commissioners in an effort to repeal the background check ordinance, among several other gun ordinances on the county books.

Rob Panepinto puts in $50K, raises $50K more in Orange County mayor’s race

Orange County mayoral candidate Rob Panepinto raised $100,250 toward his election run during April, his campaign announced Tuesday.

About half that April income came in a $50,000 check Panepinto wrote to his campaign. With that check, and with 61 others from outside contributors, Panepinto was able to add $81,800 in April to his election campaign coffer, while he raised $18,450 in five checks for his independent political committee, Vision Orange County.

That brings Panepinto’s total fundraising to date to $405,866 for his official campaign and $200,099 for Vision Orange County, the campaign announced. Vision Orange County has spent $97,000 through the end of April, leaving it with just over $100,000 in the bank, according to the Florida Division of Elections, while the campaign had spent about $83,000, and had about $322,000 left, according to reports on file at the Orange County Supervisor of Elections.

Panepinto’s chief rivals for the Orange County mayor’s race are Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings and Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke.

Clarke’s campaign filed reports showing he raised $19,714 in April for his campaign. That gives his campaign $292,486 raised, including the $200,000 he donated himself. The campaign finished April with about $275,000 in the bank.

Demings’ April reports have not yet been posted nor announced by the campaign. They are due to the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office Thursday. At the end of March, his campaign and his independent committee Orange County Citizens for Smart Growth had a combined total of more than $725,000 in the bank.

Orange County to reconsider gun background checks yet again

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs may be heading toward a change of heart on background-check waiting periods for the purchase of guns in her county, and on Tuesday the rest of the Orange County Commission will consider a new ordinance to require such checks.

Jacobs has called for a public hearing on what will essentially be the proposed reinstatement of an ordinance the county repealed under her leadership in 2011. It’s a required three-day waiting period so that background checks can be made on people purchasing firearms in the county.

“In the wake of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and based on several discussions with County Attorney Jeffrey Newton before and after the shootings, I requested he draft an ordinance to reinstate the three-day waiting period,” Jacobs wrote in an April memo.

The reverse course takes into account that several cities have, since the Parkland shootings, approved gun ordinances and then sued the state, challenging pre-emptive legislation the Florida Legislature approved in 2011. That 2011 state law made local gun ordinances so illegal that local officials could be fined, thrown out of office, and sued for passing them.

It was in light of that 2011 local pre-emption law that Jacobs and the Orange County commission decided, in the fall of 2011, to repeal the county’s original firearms waiting-period ordinance, along with numerous other ordinances that had been on the county books relating to guns.

Yet the gun waiting period ordinance had stood aside as potentially different from all the others because the Florida Constitution had authorized it. It was approved in 1998, under then-Orange County Chair Linda Chapin, as an explicit response to the 1998 state constitutional amendment approved by voters that fall. That amendment became Article VIII Section 5 of the Florida Constitution, which allowed counties to impose waiting periods for all firearm purchases.

In a conversation earlier this year, Newton recalled that there had been uncertainty in 2011 about whether the 1998 waiting period ordinance could uphold a challenge, since it was based on a Florida Constitutional Amendment that explicitly authorized it. The potential penalties under the 2011 preemption law were severe enough – Newton called them “Draconian” – that the board was advised that its safest route was to just repeal it, “and that’s what the board ended up doing.”

Now the board gets a chance to reconsider whether it’s willing to stand up to potential litigation, in the post-Parkland and post-Pulse environment. The board will hold a public hearing sometime Tuesday afternoon, toward the end of the commission meeting that will convene at 2 p.m.

“Especially in our community, failure to do everything we can to prevent senseless and unnecessary gun violence like the tragedy at Pulse nightclub and recently at Parkland school is absolutely unacceptable,” Democratic state Sen. Linda Stewart, who pushed gun legislation at the state level, stated in a news release.

Chapin also has urged the board to readopt the ordinance.

The candidates to be the next mayor of Orange County are split. Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said last week he supports the ordinance and is confident the sheriff’s office will be able to enforce it. Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke, who will have a vote on the ordinance, indicated he probably could support it but wants to hear the full debate. Winter Park businessman Rob Panepinto dismissed the ordinance, saying the only way to address the issue most appropriately and effectively is at the state level.

Mike Miller gets Bob Dallari’s endorsement in CD 7 race

Republican congressional candidate state Rep. Mike Miller has received the endorsement of Seminole County Commissioner Bob Dallari in the contest for Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

Miller, of Winter Park, faces Sanford businessman Scott Sturgill and Vennia Francois of Winter Park in battling for the August 28 Republican primary to run for the seat. They each want to take on Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park.

Dallari is a past chair of the Seminole County Commission.

“Seminole County needs a strong leader in Congress to work to protect the recently passed tax cuts, rebuild our military and honor our commitment to our veterans, and that person is Mike Miller, Dallari stated in a news release issued Monday by Miller’s campaign. “For years those of us in Seminole County knew we could count on John Mica to listen to our issues and be a strong advocate of us and I believe Mike will follow in that tradition.”

Mica was the longtime congressman from Winter Park, who lost to Murphy in the 2016 election.

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