Tampa Bay – Florida Politics

Neil Combee touts Donald Trump connection in first TV ad

Auburndale Republican Neil Combee started hitting the airwaves in Florida’s 15th Congressional District with a new ad touting his presidential appointment and his support for Donald Trump’s border wall.

The 30-second ad features Combee, a former state Representative, on a ranch with his family and neighbors pitches him as the most conservative candidate in the race to succeed U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, who is not running for re-election in 2018.

“Growing up we studied hard, did our chores and learned the value of saving for a rainy day,” Combee says in the ad. “That’s how my parents raised me and that’s how we’re raising our boys.”

A narrator then takes over, describing the Polk County Republican as “the only candidate trusted and appointed by President Trump,” and “the only true conservative we can trust to fund President Trump’s wall,” as well as “the only candidate conservatives can trust to enact congressional term limits.”

Combee represented House District 39 before he resigned last year to accept a presidential appointment at the USDA.

He faces Dover state Rep. Ross Spano, Lakeland contractor Sean Harper, Brandon agribusinessman Danny Kushmer and Lakeland mental health practitioner Ed Shoemaker in the CD 15 Republican primary. Also running for the seat are Democrats Kristen CarlsonAndrew Learned and Ray Pena.

Of the five, Combee is the best-known candidate in the Polk County portion of the district, which is home to about 40 percent of CD 15 Republicans. Since entering the race, he has landed endorsements from more than a dozen current and former Polk County elected officials as well as a handful of backers from Hillsborough and Lake counties.

On the fundraising front, Combee brought in $128,515 during the second quarter and has about $86,000 in the bank. That puts him in third behind Carlson with $193,000 banked and Spano with $108,000 banked. Carlson and Spano both relied on loans to hit their totals, and Spano has taken on a significant amount of other campaign debt.

CD 15 voted plus-10 for Donald Trump two years ago and is rated “likely Republican” in 2018 by Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the prediction newsletter from University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato.

The primary election is Aug. 28. Combee’s ad is below.

Bill Carlson makes a splash in first finance report

It has been a month since Bill Carlson announced his bid for the District 4 seat on the Tampa City Council, and his first finance report puts him atop the three-person field.

Carlson, president of Tampa-based public relations firm Tucker Hall, raised $31,446 during his first 30 days in the race and ended the month with nearly $30,000 of that in the bank.

Notable names among the one dozen donors chipping in at the $1,000 level include District 3 City Councilwoman Yvonne Capin, as well as Tucker Hall founder Jeff Tucker and chair Tom Hall. In all, Carlson received 105 contributions averaging about $300 apiece.

Expenditures were light, which is not unexpected given the Council seat won’t be on the ballot until March 2019. Of the $1,527 in spending, $1,000 headed to Wendy Cartwright for a consulting contract and another $300 or so paid for printed materials and the balance covered credit card processing fees for Carlson’s contributions.

Carlson faces businessman Sal Guagliardo Jr. and workplace consultant David Loos in the District 4 race. The seat is open in 2019 because of current Councilman Harry Cohen’s decision to run for Tampa Mayor.

Guagliardo has been in the race since March and has raised just over $25,000, with $19,000 of that cash showing up in his inaugural report. He had $21,380 in the bank on June 30. Loos turned in his candidate paperwork on June 29 and didn’t report any contributions for the two days he was a candidate last month.

All seven council seats are up in 2019. District 6 Councilman Guido Maniscalco and District 7 Councilman Luis Viera are the only incumbents running for re-election.

If a candidate wins a majority of the vote for a municipal seat in the March 5 election, they will win the race outright. Otherwise, the top-two vote-getters will go head-to-head in an April 23 runoff election.

Karen Skyers

Ruth’s List recommends Karen Skyers for HD 61

Ruth’s List Florida announced Thursday that it’s backing Tampa lawyer Karen Skyers in the four-way Democratic primary for House District 61, an open seat now held by Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw.

“Karen is an attorney, former assistant public defender, children rights advocate and champion of criminal justice reform. She has served District 61 as a former Legislative Aide to state Senator Arthenia Joyner, and she supports strengthening public schools, health care for all, and safe and affordable housing,” said Pamela Goodman, executive director of Ruth’s List Florida. “The Ruth’s List community — now tens of thousands of members strong — is excited to support her candidacy.”

Ruth’s List Florida is a Democratic Party-aligned group that supports female candidates for public office. It takes its name from Ruth Bryan Owen, the first woman elected to Congress from the South.

“I am grateful to the grassroots aid Ruth’s List Florida provides Democratic women in Florida. I am so proud to receive Ruth’s List’s endorsement,” Skyers said. “It not only signals their support of my candidacy but the support of a strong and powerful advocacy group committed to bringing about the change we need here in Florida — one woman at a time.”

Skyers is up against Dianne Hart, Norman Harris and Sharon Carter in the Democratic primary. The winner of that contest will be Shaw’s de facto replacement in the Tampa-based Democratic stronghold, though they will be nominally opposed by write-in candidate Valion Joyce in November.

Florida law allows all voters to participate in primary elections if all candidates are members of the same party, however Joyce’s entry into the race nullifies that rule. HD 61 is one of five state legislative districts this cycle that had its primary locked down by a write-in candidate.

As of July 6, Skyers led in overall receipts with more than $55,000 raised since she entered the race in April. She has  about $26,500 on hand including a $500 loan.

Hart, the first-in candidate, holds the advantage in cash on hand with $33,500 banked off of $25,000 in contributions and another $15,000 in candidate loans. She took Shaw to the wire in the 2016 Democratic Primary, losing out by just 101 votes.

Harris is in a distant third in the money race with $17,500 raised and $5,500 banked, followed by Carter with $5,120 raised — half of it loans — and $1,065 on hand.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

Berny Jacques

Berny Jacques gets police backing in HD 66

Hot off the heels of a campaign ad touting his work as a prosecutor, Seminole Republican Berny Jacques announced that his Florida House bid has landed an endorsement from one of the state’s largest police unions.

“The Fraternal Order Of Police have endorsed Berny Jacques and feel that he is the best choice of candidate to serve the citizens of House District 66,” the Florida FOP said in a statement. “We believe that his dedication to serving his community will inspire others to lead Florida in the right direction and we look forward to working with him in Tallahassee.”

The Florida FOP joins another first-responder group, the Seminole Professional Firefighters, in endorsing Jacques’ bid to succeed term-limited Rep. Larry Ahern in the coastal Pinellas seat.

“As a former prosecutor who spent years protecting Pinellas families from crime, I am deeply honored to receive the endorsement of law enforcement. As State Representative, I will always make sure that these brave men and women are honored,” Jacques said.

The Seminole attorney is facing a primary challenge from Pinellas GOP chair and small businessman Nick DiCeglie, who has landed some police support of his own by way of an endorsement from the Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association.

The winner of their Aug. 28 head-to-head will go up against Democratic nominee Alex Heeren, a St. Petersburg school teacher, in the Nov. 6 general election.

As of July 6, Jacques led the money race with more than $200,000 raised and $140,692 banked compared to $122,256 raised and $65,555 banked for DiCeglie. Heeren is in a distant third in the money race with $26,176 in receipts and $9,367 at the ready.

HD 66 is a safe Republican seat that has been held by Ahern since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections. It also voted plus-14 for Donald Trump two years ago.

Florida Medical Association recommends Ed Hooper for SD 16

Former Clearwater Rep. Ed Hooper added another backer for his state Senate bid Wednesday, landing the support of the political arm of the Florida Medical Association.

“The FMA PAC is proud to endorse Ed Hooper for Senate District 16. During his time in the House, the FMA worked very closely with him and he was a stalwart on issues of importance to the medical community. We hope to continue that relationship into the Florida Senate,” said committee president Mike Patete.

Patete’s pratique comes a couple weeks after Hooper pulled in an endorsement from the Florida Retail Federation, which also cited his four terms of experience in the state House as well as his two decades as a firefighter when they backed him for the Pinellas and Pasco-based Senate seat.

“It is an honor to receive the support of the physicians and allied medical professionals. I rely on their advice on how we can make medical care more affordable and accessible to more people in our state. As a State Senator, I will work with them to make their jobs easier in promoting a better and healthier Florida,” Hooper said.

Hooper faces a light challenge from underfunded restauranteur Leo Karruli in the Aug. 28 Republican primary, with his true challenge being a head-to-head showdown with former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy in the Nov. 6 general election.

The two former lawmakers are neck-and-neck in the polls, though Hooper has recently flexed his fundraising advantage by hitting the airwaves with a pair of TV ads touting the backing of Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco.

His fundraising advantage was continuing to grow unabated as of July 6, when he cracked the $400,000 mark in hard money fundraising compared to $31,140 for Murphy.

Including receipts from Hooper’s affiliated political committee, Friends of Ed Hooper, the Clearwater Republican has raised $600,000 in total and has $473,000 banked — $307,000 in hard money and another $166,000 in soft.

Murphy has two political committees, Working Towards Florida’s Future and Taxpayers for Responsible Government, which have raised $60,000 combined since she entered the race in mid-May. She has about $77,000 on hand between the three accounts.

Berny Jacques - TV ad

Berny Jacques tees up first TV ad for HD 66 bid

Just days after his Republican primary rival hit the airwaves, Berny Jacques is rolling out his own TV ad in the race to succeed term-limited state Rep. Larry Ahern in House District 66.

“For over a year now, our campaign has been talking directly with the voters of Pinellas, spreading our message of principled conservatism and our shared goals of holding government accountable,” Jacques said. “I am excited to release our first TV spot discussing these values; that of constitutional conservatism, support for President Donald Trump, and ensuring our nation’s laws are followed.”

The 30-second ad, titled “A Conservative We Can Trust,” indeed touches on most of the issues du jour for Republican primary voters set to the backdrop of Jacques speaking with Pinellas voters at a picnic table, working behind a desk and even holding a baby.

“As a former prosecutor, I know what it takes to keep us safe from criminals. Now, I want to protect Pinellas from politicians who are doing harm to our country,” Jacques says in the ad.

A narrator then takes the reins to tout the Seminole attorney’s conservative credentials.

“Constitutional Conservative Berny Jacques. He’s A rated by the NRA and supports Term limits. Berny Jacques is a former prosecutor who supports President Trump and will fight illegal immigration and ban sanctuary cities in Florida,” the ad says.

“Together let’s hold politicians accountable,” Jacques says in closing.

Jacques faces Belleair Bluffs businessman Nick DiCeglie in the Republican primary for HD 66, a coastal Pinellas seat that covers part of Clearwater as well as Belleair Bluffs, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores and Seminole.

Democratic candidate Alex Heeren, a schoolteacher, has already locked up his party’s nomination without opposition.

Through July 6, Jacques led the money race with more than $200,000 raised, including $123,680 in hard money and another $81,100 for his affiliated political committee, Protect Pinellas. He has $140,692 in the bank. DiCeglie is nearly even with Jacques in hard money fundraising with $122,256 raised, though with $65,555 in his campaign account, his war chest is less than half the size of his rival’s.

Heeren is a distant third in fundraising with $26,176 in receipts and $9,367 at the ready.

HD 66 has a Republican lean. Ahern has held the seat since it was redrawn in 2012, when he won re-election by 6 points. His next two re-election bids ended in double-digit wins, and Trump had similar success in 2016, when he carried the district 55-41.

The primary election is Aug. 28. The general election is Nov. 6.

Jacques’ ad is below.

Clearwater aerial photo

Candidates sign up for ‘Politics in Pinellas’

Another election cycle, another edition of Politics in Pinellas.

The event, hosted biennially by the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, is set to draw at least 10 candidates for offices ranging from Pinellas School Board to state Senator.

“Are they running for office for the first time or up for re-election? This is your opportunity to personally hear the view point and strategy of those seeking public office in Pinellas County,” the event listing says.

The 2018 edition of Politics in Pinellas will be held July 26 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the EpiCenter at St. Petersburg College, 13805 58th St. N., in Clearwater.

So far, 10 candidates have signed on to participate in the event.

School Board District 2 incumbent Terry Krassner and challenger Jeff Larsen will both attend, while Lisa Cane has not yet signed up. For School Board District 3, only challenger Nicole Carr has signed up. She faces incumbent Peggy O’Shea and former Democratic state Rep. Carl Zimmerman.

For Pinellas County Commission District 6, Republican state Rep. Kathleen Peters has confirmed. She faces fellow Republican state Rep. Larry Ahern, Republican businesswoman Barb Haselden and Democrat Amy Kedron in the race to succeed longtime Commissioner John Morroni, who died earlier this year at the age of 63.

Doneene Loar, who is running for 6th Circuit Judge, will also attend. She faces Donald McBath in the nonpartisan judicial election.

Candidates from two of the county’s seven state House districts will also be in attendance.

House District 64 Republican candidate Terry Power, who faces incumbent Rep. Jamie Grant in the Aug. 28 primary, will have a table. As will Pinellas GOP chair Nick DiCeglie, who is running to succeed Ahern in House District 66. He’ll be joined by Democratic foe Alex Heeren, though Seminole Republican Berny Jacques hasn’t put in an RSVP.

Also attending incumbent Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes of Senate District 24 and former Rep. Ed Hooper, the likely Republican nominee for Senate District 16.

Brandes had been facing a challenge from Democratic trial lawyer Carrie Pilon, though she announced two weeks ago that she was withdrawing from the race. The Florida Democratic Party is in the process of selecting her replacement.

Hooper is running against former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy, and recent polling shows the race is a dead heat with Hooper holding a slim advantage.

Politics in Pinellas is free and open to the public. Those who attend will be able to vote for their preferred candidates in a straw poll.

The event flyer is below.

Aakash Patel rolls out first ad for Hillsborough Commission bid

Republican Aakash Patel announced Tuesday that the first TV ad backing his Hillsborough County Commission campaign is already hitting the airwaves.

The 30-second spot, entitled “A Better Hillsborough,” features a half dozen Hillsborough residents saying what they are looking for out of the next commissioner to hold the countywide District 7 seat.

“My county commissioner should be a trusted conservative, who protects our values and has always fought for Hillsborough,” the residents say. “I don’t want a career politician. I want someone who will fix the term limit loophole, so they actually work. My commissioner should want what we want: Less traffic, more jobs and the best education for our children.”

The ad then turns over to Patel, who says that “together we can work toward a better Hillsborough County.”

In a press release announcing the ad, Patel thanked Terry Castro of Patriots 4 Trump, Marsha Craig of Tampa Republican Women Federated and Jake Hoffman of Tampa Bay Young Republicans for volunteering to appear in the campaign ad.

“I continue to be humbled by the outpouring of support for my campaign. I want to express my sincere gratitude to these Hillsborough Voters who have come out and publicly supported me. These are only a few of the ever-increasing number of supporters we are gaining as we move toward Election Day,” Patel said.

Patel, who runs a business consulting firm, is running against attorney Todd Marks in the Aug. 28 Republican primary. Also running are Democrats Ray Chiaramonte, Mark Nash, Kimberly Overman and Sky White as well as Green Party candidate Kim O’Connor.

Through July 6, Patel led the money race with more than $364,000 raised for his campaign and about $130,000 in the bank. He also had another $75,570 on hand in an affiliated political committee, Elevate Tampa.

The only other candidate to crack the six-figure mark in fundraising is Marks, who like Patel was a candidate for the District 1 seat held by Commissioner Sandra Murman before switching over to the District 7 seat held by retiring commissioner Al Higginbotham.

As of July 6, Marks had raised $108,768 in hard money and had $99,365 in the bank.

Patel’s ad is below.

Kristen Carlson - CD 15

Kristen Carlson tops CD 15 field in Q2 fundraising while Ross Spano goes on spending spree

Florida’s 15th Congressional District is a safe Republican seat by nearly every metric, but that didn’t stop Lakeland Democrat Kristen Carlson from outraising the 10 other candidates vying to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross.

Carlson, a former prosecutor and former general counsel to the Florida Department of Citrus, raised just shy of $250,000 during the two months she was a candidate in the second quarter. According to her campaign, about $100,000 of that cash came in during her first two weeks in the race.

While her total includes $50,000 in candidate loans and about $25,000 in candidate contributions, her $174,158 in outside fundraising would still best the total haul of any of the five Republicans running for the seat — former Auburndale state Rep. Neil Combee, Sean Harper, Danny Kushmer, Ed Shoemaker and Dover state Rep. Ross Spano.

Carlson’s $56,000 in expenditures included a $17,580 direct mail campaign, $16,000 in payroll as well as the $10,440 qualifying fee. She finished Q2 with $192,731 in the bank, $84,500 ahead of Spano, the next-closest candidate.

Spano, who hails from the Hillsborough County portion of the tri-county district, brought in $112,068 in outside money and kicked in another $45,000 in loans for a grand total of $157,068.

The Dover Republican shelled out $50,500 during his first 10 weeks in the race, including $14,000 in email and digital marketing, $11,000 in consulting contracts, the qualifying fee, $6,405 in campaign signage and more than $1,200 in credit card processing fees.

But the spending didn’t stop there — Spano’s campaign also took on another $43,000 in debt from a half-dozen consulting shops. More than half that sum is owed to Brandon-based Momentum Strategy Group, which provided $24,685 worth of campaign management, printing, catering and advertising services, but consultants near and far have some invoices waiting for payment.

Dover-based LGM Consulting Group is owed $7,500 for email work; Texas-based Prevail Strategies is owed $4,700 for consulting work and travel expenses; Virginia-based KB Strategic Group is owed $2,000 for fundraising consulting; Tallahassee-based Strategic Government Consulting is owed $1,900 for survey work; Tallahassee-based Bulldog Strategy Group is owed $1,500 for communications consulting; and Plant City-based Fryed Egg Productions is owed $750 for media production.

In all, Spano’s spending spree left him with $108,275 banked and $88,025 in debt at the end of the quarter.

Combee, the first-in Republican, bested Spano in outside fundraising with $128,515 raised without whipping out his own checkbook, and all but two of his 114 contributions came from within the Sunshine State and only $2,500 of his total came from political committees.

Spending measured in at $44,000 and included the qualifying fee, $10,000 in payroll, $6,768 in signage, $2,540 in software and voter data, $2,350 in advertising and $1,000 for a campaign website. The Combee campaign took on a bit of debt, but nowhere near the level of Spano — Strategic Image Management is owed about $5,700 for consulting work and campaign shirts.

Combee, who hails from the Polk County portion of CD 15, finished Q2 with $86,163 in the bank and $5,683 in debt.

The only other candidate to crack six figures for the quarter was Valrico Democrat Andrew Learned, who filed for CD 15 well before Ross’ retirement announcement.

Learned, a U.S. Navy veteran and businessman, tacked on $100,622 in the second quarter for a to-date fundraising total of $223,618. His total includes $2,000 in candidate contributions and $4,000 from political committees, with the rest of his campaign cash coming in from individual donors.

His campaign also reported nearly $74,000 in expenses for the quarter, the most of any candidate in the race. That outflow included $18,500 for fundraising and campaign coordination, the qualifying fee, $5,325 in consulting work and $2,000 in web or social media work.

Learned finished the quarter with $65,400 in the bank and $2,000 in debt. The remaining candidates trailed considerably behind the top-4 fundraisers.

Harper, a Lakeland businessman, raised $82,541 and had $43,314 in the bank on June 30, including $15,500 in loans. Kushmer, a Brandon businessman, reported $75,837 in fundraising and had $54,039 banked, including $52,000 in loans, heading into July. Shoemaker, also a Lakeland mental health practitioner, brought in $17,387 of outside money and finished Q2 with $3,035 on hand.

Ray Pena, the third Democrat in the race, has not yet posted his second-quarter report. At the end of Q1 he was $7,500 in the hole.

CD 15 is split between Hillsborough and Polk counties, with about 10 percent of the district’s voters living in Lake County. The district, which voted plus-10 for Donald Trump two years ago, is rated “likely Republican” by Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the prediction newsletter from University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato.

The primary election is Aug. 28. The general election is Nov. 6.

ardian zika family

Two more police unions back Ardian Zika for HD 37

Land O’ Lakes Republican Ardian Zika announced Monday that two chapters of the Florida Police Benevolent Association have endorsed his bid to succeed House Speaker Richard Corcoran in Pasco County’s House District 37.

“The West Central Florida Political Benevolent Association and the Tampa Police Benevolent Association is proud to inform you of our endorsement for your candidacy for State House Representative, District 37,” West Central Florida PBA president Nick Marolda and Tampa PBA president Abe Carmack said in a joint statement.

The two PBA chapters join the Pasco County branch of the Fraternal Order of Police in backing Zika, a businessman who immigrated to the U.S. from Kosovo in the 1990s. He has also been endorsed Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco, who announced his support alongside Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano in May.

“I am honored to have the endorsement of the women and men of law enforcement, who put their lives on the line each and every day, for us,” said Ardian Zika. “Our community respects, values and trusts these law enforcement professionals and I am humbled to have earned their confidence and support. No one will fight harder for law enforcement, first responders and their families in our state capitol.”

Zika faces Ryan Patrick Boney and Elle Rudisill in the Republican Primary, while Tammy Garcia has already locked up the Democratic nomination.

As of July 6, Zika held a massive lead in the money race with more than $195,000 raised and nearly $168,000 in the bank. No other candidate has cracked the $15,000 mark in total fundraising.

HD 37 covers the majority of inland Pasco County, including the communities of Land O’ Lakes, Odessa, Heritage Pines, Shady Hills, Meadow Oaks and Moon Lake. It is a safe Republican seat.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons