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David Smith brings $21K, including his $10K match, into his HD 28 campaign

Winter Springs Republican David Smith boosted his campaign for Florida House District 28 with more than $21,000 in January, including another $10,000 of his own money he used to match the first $10,000 in outside donations to his campaign during the month.

With the $21,187 the campaign drew in total during January, Smith’s campaign now has brought in more than $168,000 for the 2018 bid, including a total of $80,000 he now has lent to his campaign. He finished February with about $135,000 cash left in the bank.

His opponent, Democrat Lee Mangold of Casselberry, had his first significant month of campaign fundraising activity in January, bringing in $5,645. That included a $1,000 check Mangold contributed to his own campaign, plus $1,000 from the Seminole County Democratic Party. Mangold, an internet security consultant, also had previously lent money to his campaign, $10,000 to start it, and he entered February having raised a total of $21,977, with about $11,000 left in the bank.

The two seek to succeed Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur, who is running for the Florida Senate. HD 28 covers north and east Seminole County.

Smith said his goal for the month was $10,000 in outside contributions, which he exceeded, with 120 individual contributions. “To date we have built a fundraising base of support with more than 550 individual donors. Two hundred have donated multiple times,” he said in statement. “Our $28 for HD 28 fundraisers have been very successful too. The mayor of Winter Springs, Charles Lacey just hosted an event for me this past Tuesday. We are getting people involved in my campaign who have never contributed to a candidate or political party before. Our grassroots strategy is working.”

Political consultant, gadfly Doug Guetzloe dies at 63

Doug Guetzloe, a one-man tea party in Central Florida for decades before tea parties, and a political consultant and radio commentator who survived multiple controversies, and even a federal conviction and imprisonment on tax charges, to remain a potent voice against government spending, has died, according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel.

The newspaper reported that Guetzloe’s death, which occurred earlier this week, was confirmed by his family Thursday, and that the First Presbyterian Church of Orlando was making funeral arrangements.

Guetzloe, 63, of Orlando, often made himself the central figure in oppositions to big spending plans for local projects, from publicly financed arenas, to rail projects, to expressways. And over the course of the past 35 years he claimed several big victories as voters or boards rejected items he opposed.

Guetzloe also was embroiled in numerous controversies, including reports a decade ago, in The Sentinel and elsewhere, that he allegedly sold his opposition or support, or his endorsements, to whichever side would hire him as a political consultant. A lifelong Republican who was president of the Florida State University student government, he also battled with the Republican establishment. He was ousted from the Orange County Republican Party Executive Committee in 2009, which led to a legal fight. He then founded the TEA Party of Florida, and wound up in litigation with other tea party organizations.

He fell hard in 2012 when he was convicted of failing to file federal tax returns, and went to federal prison. Still, when he got out of prison after a few months, he resumed his business as a consultant and political commentator, both across the state and in Central Florida.

Throughout the course of his career, he and his Ax the Tax organization and other organizations and businesses he founded were the banes of local politicians and community leaders pushing civic projects or big spending with public monies. A big man with a deep baritone voice, Guetzloe could bring discomfort to city or county commissioners or other officials just by showing up at their meetings.

Jerry Demings, Rob Panepinto report January campaign money in Orange County mayoral race

With Bill Sublette out of the running now, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings and Winter Park Rob Panepinto continued their dual for campaign money in the Orange County mayoral race, with Demings reporting more than $43,000 in January donations, and Panepinto, almost $37,000.

Another major candidate, Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke, has not yet posted or announced his campaign finance reports for January, yet Demings and Panepinto already were were pulling well ahead of Clarke prior to the month, and now Demings’ campaign has raised more than $480,000, and Panepinto’s, more than $350,000. Sublette, the Orange County School Board chairman, had offered a strong third-run for mayoral race campaign money, but unexpectedly dropped out of the race last month.

Demings’ official campaign brought in $28,772 in January, according to the Orange County Supervisor of Elections website, while his independent political committee, Orange County Citizens for Smart Growth, received $15,000 in donations, according to the Florida Division of Elections website.

Panepinto’s campaign reports have not yet been posted on either website, but his campaign announced Thursday it had raised $26,680 in January, while his independent political committee, Vision Orange County, raised $10,250.

“I am overwhelmed by and tremendously grateful for the support we are receiving from across the County,” Panepinto stated in a news release issued by his campaign. “Momentum continues to build for our campaign because creating higher wage jobs, expanding affordable housing options, building a world class infrastructure, and continuing to help those most in need requires experience that is simply not found in politics or government today.”

To date, Demings’ campaign fund reported raising $354,550, and finished January with $315,202 in the bank, while Orange County Citizens For Smart Growth reported raising $126,600 so far, and has $125,040 left in the bank.

Panepinto’s campaign reported it has raised $246,815 to date, though it did not specify how much of that was left after expenses. His campaign also reported that his independent political committee Vision Orange County has raised $103,649 so far.


Mike Miller announces CD 7 campaign finance team led by Todd Wilcox

Republican state Rep. Mike Miller has announced his campaign finance team for his run for Congress, to be led by businessman and former U.S. Senate candidate Todd Wilcox and to include former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, former Florida Senate President Toni Jennings and a large number of key Central Florida figures.

Miller, of Winter Park, aims to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park in Florida’s 7th Congressional District next November. First, though, he must get by a few other Republicans in the August primary, notably Sanford businessman Scott Sturgill who has, until now, shown an advantage on the money side.

That advantage could start to fall away, with Miller staffing his finance committee with the likes of former Walt Disney World President Dick Nunis; timeshare magnate David Siegel; two former Florida House Speakers, Steve Crisafulli and Dean Cannon; and a host of major players in Florida and Central Florida political fundraising and operations, lobbying, and Republican politics, including Oscar Anderson, Brian Ballard, Daryl Carter, Pat Christiansen, Earl Crittenden, Tre Evers, Charlie Gray, Micky Grindstaff, Phil Handy, Marcos Marchena, Harvey Massey, John Miklos, Rusty Roberts, and Rick Walsh.

CD 7 covers north-central Orange County and all of Seminole County.

Wilcox, president of Patriot Defense Group and a former Army Green Beret and CIA officer, went after Murphy in a news release issued by Miller’s campaign.

“As a former member of our military, I know we need members of Congress who will vote to fully fund and support our men and women in uniform,” Wilcox stated. “Playing games, like our current congresswoman is, supporting the Pelosi Democrats and perpetuating the Schumer Shutdown is irresponsible. I’m supporting Mike Miller because I am confident he will take the tough votes to protect Americans.”

Edmund Pezalla: PBMs – patient advocates for high quality, affordable prescription drugs

There is so much rancor and finger-pointing these days over prescription drug prices that consumers are often left to wonder: who is fighting on their behalf?

The answer: Pharmacy Benefit Managers, or PBMs.

Companies and public programs providing prescription drug coverage hire PBMs for their expertise, and ability to reduce drug costs by negotiating for rebates and discounts from big drug companies and drugstores. It would be too expensive and complicated for employers, or other payers, to match PBMs’ ability to reduce drug costs, while providing access.

Though drug makers continue to raise prices out of proportion to increases in value, PBMs are doing their job by keeping drug costs down. A recent report by QuintilesIMS Institute showed that discounts, rebates, and other price concessions on brand-name drugs reduced overall drug spending by an estimated 28 percent in 2016. The report also shows that net price growth – the price payers actually pay – for prescription drugs is likely to remain in the 0-3 percent range, largely because of the work of payers and PBMs.

Having been involved as a clinician representing insurers and PBMs for more than 25 years, I know firsthand the importance of leveraging savings while ensuring that patients have the medications they need.

Specialty pharmacies dispense complex medicines, many of which are infused intravenously, or injected. They also manage patient care to optimize outcomes, reduce medication errors, manage and prevent side effects, and promote more affordable alternatives. Most drugstores simply don’t have the expertise to dispense specialty medications to patients.

It is easy to see that PBMs reduce drug costs, but often overlooked is the clinical value that they provide payers and patients. PBMs and PBM-affiliated specialty pharmacies work in coordination with their clients to carefully evaluate new drugs, review existing drugs, and apply sophisticated drug assessments that promote the best use of complex medications, and the appropriate use of mainstay drugs.

Pharmacists, doctors and other professionals employed by PBMs review the medical evidence for every drug approved by the FDA, assist in managing drug-related side effects and provide support to create formularies so that patients stay on their drug regimens and out of the hospital. That, in turn, lowers costs for patients and the entire health care system.

These formularies often organize medications according to their therapeutic effects and create logical sequences for their use based on clinical effectiveness, place in therapy according to national guidelines, and safety. Generic and lower cost brand medications can be incentivized before more expensive medicines because they work well for the majority of patients and have lower copays.

As the health care sector moves toward payment for value rather than volume, PBMs are providing expertise in developing and executing on these types of outcomes-based contracts that are intended to ensure that our pharmaceutical dollars are spent on drugs that provide the best outcomes.

These agreements require a high level of sophistication about drug use patterns and patient outcomes, as well as the ability to monitor and improve patient compliance and measure relevant outcomes.

As the public debate continues to unfold on health care and lawmakers are even hungrier to hear from better-informed voters, PBMs are part of the solution that lowers drug costs and improves quality.


Edmund Pezalla, M.D., MPH is a leading innovator and consultant on payer strategy for pharmaceutical and device manufacturers. He works with a variety of policy and industry groups on cutting-edge coverage policy, innovations in value-based payments, and adaptive regulatory and market entry pathways. Pezalla is currently a Scholar-in-Residence at the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy in Washington.

Democrat Ann Fuller enters HD 52 race

Democrat Ann Fuller, an executive at a Melbourne software company and a part-time pastor, has entered the race for Florida House District 52 in Brevard County.

Fuller, 49, of Melbourne, said Monday she entered the contest because she’s convinced the area is ready for Democratic leadership, and because it has lacked a Democratic candidate for several elections. She filed last Thursday to run against Republican incumbent state Rep. Thad Altman, who won unopposed in the November 2016 general election. Altman also has a Republican primary opponent, Matt Nye of Melbourne.

Fuller is a Unitarian Universalist Church minister, though generally no longer active except for occasionally performing a wedding or giving a guest sermon somewhere. Through that background, and through her work with the Space Coast United Soccer Club, she said she’s surprised herself, in her earliest campaign canvassing, upon learning how much name recognition she already has in the area

Fuller said she has been interested in politics since majoring in political science at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, and has worked on various campaigns. She decided to run in part after being inspired by the State of the Union rebuttal speech given last week by U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat. Fuller said she was struck by Kennedy’s rejection of false choices, particularly on the thought that there must be economic and political losers to go along with winners.

“The strongest, richest, greatest nation in the world shouldn’t leave anyone behind,” she said, quoting Kennedy’s speech.

She and her husband Jamie Fuller have two sons in high school and one at Florida State University.

Former Palm Bay City Council member Michele Paccione has signed on as her campaign manager, and Fuller said she hopes to name additional campaign staff soon.

Stephanie Murphy endorses Anna Eskamani in HD 47 race

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy has endorsed fellow Democrat Anna Eskamani in the Florida House District 47 race, Eskamani’s campaign announced Monday.

Eskamani, of Orlando, is the only Democrat in the race, facing two Republicans for the seat being vacated by Republican state Rep. Mike Miller, who is running against Murphy for Congress rather than seeking re-election. Still, it’s a so-far rare endorsement by the incumbent congresswoman whose Florida’s 7th Congressional District overlaps HD 47 in north central Orange County. And while Eskamani is running as an unabashed progressive, Murphy has been careful to navigate a more moderate path in Washington D.C.

“I am excited and proud to support Anna in her bid to serve the people of House District 47,” Murphy stated in a news release issued by Eskamani’s campaign. “I have seen Anna in action and she is a proven effective advocate. She is a strong and empathetic leader, who is fighting to ensure the safety and security of our community and to hold our state government accountable. This community deserves a State Representative who will always put people over politics, and that’s why I will do whatever it takes to make sure we elect Anna in 2018. I look forward to working alongside Anna when she becomes the next State House Representative for District 47.”

Eskamani, an executive with Planned Parenthood, faces Republicans Stockton Reeves, a Winter Park businessman, and Mikaela Nix, an Orlando lawyer, in the HD 47 contest.

“I am humbled to have the support of Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy. As a Member of Congress, Murphy understands what it takes to be an effective leader and policymaker,” Eskamani stated in the release. “She is ethics-driven and keeps a laser focus on the needs of Central Floridians, reaching across the aisle to work on issues like small business advancement and national security. I will do the same as your State House Representative, because Floridians deserve more than partisan gridlock and one political party in charge. Democracy is the competition of ideas, and we must work together if we hope to build a better state for all.”

Brevard Democratic official Sanjay Patel enters CD 8 race against Bill Posey

While it may be hard for many to imagine Florida’s Space Coast-based 8th Congressional District electing a Democrat, some people were saying the same thing about Democrats’ chances in many local elections in Brevard County until several won offices last November, adding dots of blue to a largely red landscape.

Stacey and Sanjay Patel had something to do with those local elections, as the 2017 chairman and state committeeman for the Brevard Democrats. Now, contending that a Democratic awakening is beginning in Brevard, Sanjay Patel, a son of India immigrants who became a business change management consultant, has filed to run for the U.S. Congress against CD 8 Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey.

Patel, 40, of Satellite Beach, filed in late January, the first challenger in this year for the district that includes Brevard, northern Indian River County, and far-eastern Orange County including Bithlo, Christmas and Wedgefield.

“I think we can win this thing,” Patel said.

That would be against long odds. Brevard County, the heart of the district, is 42 percent Republican by voter registration, and only 31 percent Democrat. There are no Democratic enclaves in northern Indian River nor far-eastern Orange counties that could overcome that.

Posey is a five-term incumbent who also was elected in the region to two terms in the Florida Senate and four in the Florida House. His congressional committee appointments include the House Space Subcommittee, where he has made himself a key voice for Kennedy Space Center, the Air Force, and the region’s growing private space industry. And he is a fiscal and social conservative, reflecting a constituency that voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

Posey has never raised tons of campaign money, but has never needed to; he’s won all four of his re-elections by more than 20 points. He entered 2018 with about $600,000 in his re-election campaign.

Patel said he is determined to raise $100,000 in the first quarter to establish his campaign. And while he has no staff yet, except a treasurer, he said he’s building a team now and hopes to announce some of his campaign advisors and members soon.

Yet his first strategy may involve the grassroots seeds he and Stacey Patel already have planted, in what he said was an effort to rebuild the Democratic Party in Brevard County last year. They quit their work and have worked full-time – more than full-time, he said – running the party in the past year, and developing new volunteer networks.

“It’s going to be about boots on the ground and motivating folks to get out to the polls,” he said. “I want to do a lot of door-knocking. If we get out and turn out the vote, we’ve got a shot.”

Patel was a delegate for Bernie Sanders at the 2016 Democratic convention. He said he will be building his campaign positions as he talks with CD 8 voters. Still, his initial platform starts firmly with his belief in progressive Democratic values, much aligned with Sanders’ calls for social, economic, and environmental justice.

Patel’s political beliefs began through family matters. His parents immigrated from India to Los Angeles and overstayed visas, but were awarded amnesty and citizenships in the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan. They worked at low-wage jobs and sent Patel and his three siblings through college, he said, cementing his beliefs in immigrants and the American Dream.

“For me, what I’m watching unfold currently on the national stage is we have got to fix our immigration system, and I will work to reform that system to make sure it protects Americans, but even more importantly [to protect] what it means to be an American,” Patel said.

One of his brothers recently died of cancer, and watching him go through that, Patel became committed to also addressing the nation’s health care system.

As a Brevard County resident, he’s also watched with concern as Florida’s environmental issues emerged in recent years leading to serious degradation of the Indian River Lagoon and other waterways.

“Do we want to protect our land and our air and our water, and is that an important thing to you? I think we can craft policy around that. My ideals are Democratic ideals. That’s really where I’m going to be focusing my campaign,” Patel said. “It’s about social economic and environmental justice.”

Scott Sturgill pulling away from Mike Miller in Republican money chase in CD 7

Sanford businessman Scott Sturgill raised $102,561 in the fourth quarter of 2017, outperforming rival Republican candidate state Rep. Mike Miller in the money chase for the Republican primary race for Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

Sturgill’s quarterly haul brought his total fundraising total to $308,956, which includes $100,250 of his own money. His campaign finished the year with about $265,674 in the bank.

Miller, the two-term state representative from Winter Park, reported raising $64,434 in the last three months of 2017, bringing his total for the campaign to $220,831. That left his campaign with $184,792 heading into the new year.

They’re both chasing Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, who brought in $351,015 in the fourth quarter, including a transfer of $25,000 from another committee, bringing her total haul to $1.36 million, and letting her campaign start the 2018 year with $973,0416 in the bank.

In the third quarter of 2017, the first one in which Sturgill and Miller had any significant campaign activity, Sturgill jumped to an early money lead in the Republican primary race because of the big donation he made to his own campaign. Not including his $100,000 loan, Sturgill had raised a respectable $106,145 in donations during that first round, while Miller raised $156,365, all in donations.

Now, Sturgill appears to have found some momentum that Miller did not in the fourth quarter, as Sturgill again brought in six-figures in donations, while Miller’s campaign fundraising fell significantly from his start.

The district covers north-central Orange County and Seminole County. Murphy surprised much of the political establishment when she flipped it in 2016 after Republican U.S. Rep. John Mica had held it for 24 years, demonstrating the district’s changing status from what had been solidly Republican red to purple.

There are two other candidates in the race. Orange County lawyer Chardo Richardson of Orlando is challenging Murphy from the left in the Democratic primary. He raised $10,275 in the fourth quarter, bringing his total haul for the year to $22,031. He had $8,700 left at year’s end.

Republican Vennia Francois of Orlando entered the race last month and has not yet filed any reports.

Bill Posey raises $84K in fourth quarter for CD 8 re-election bid

Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey reported that he raised $84,660 in the fourth quarter of 2017 leading his re-election campaign in Florida’s 8th Congressional District to finish the year with $598,821 in the bank.

Posey, a five-term incumbent from Rockledge, has no competition who reported any campaign finance activity, though technically there are two Democrats who filed for the office. Neither Sanjay Patel, state committeeman for Brevard County Democrats, nor Dr. Dena Grayson, a previous congressional candidate in neighboring Florida’s 9th Congressional District, has filed anything other than candidacy paperwork, according to the Federal Election Commission. Grayson filed hers early in 2017 as she and her husband, former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, reserved the possibilities of running this year.

Posey’s end-of-the-year report indicated his campaign raised $325,000 and spent $279,000 during 2017, to finish with $598,821. In the fourth quarter he spent about $54,000.

CD 8 covers Brevard County, part of far-eastern Orange County, and part of northern Indian River County.

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