Tampa Bay Archives - Florida Politics

Yvonne Fry gets early endorsements from Plant City Commission

One day into her candidacy for Florida House District 58, Yvonne Fry received the endorsement of all five current Plant City Commissioners, including Mayor Rick Lott as well as another former member.

The longtime Hillsborough County activist is entering the race to succeed soon-to-retire state Rep. Dan Raulerson.

“I am proud to endorse Yvonne Fry as our next State Representative,” Lott said in a statement. “Yvonne is the personification of what Plant City is all about. Her involvement and leadership in causes and projects benefiting Plant City are extensive. The people of Plant City will be well-served in Tallahassee by Yvonne, and I urge them to join me in supporting her.”

Official endorsers from Fry’s hometown include Lott, Vice Mayor William Dodson; Commissioners Nate Kilton, Mary Mathis, Mike Sparkman and former Commissioner Billy Keel.

“Mayor Lott is a good friend and a terrific leader for Plant City,” Fry responded. “I am thrilled to have his support as well as that of the other esteemed members of our Plant City Commission. I thoroughly enjoy working with all of them on a daily basis to make our city better, and I look forward to continuing to work with them as State Representative.”

 A native Floridian, Fry grew up a farmer’s daughter in Plant City who emerged as one of Hillsborough County’s leading activists for women in leadership positions, as former chair of both the Hillsborough Commission on the Status of Women and the Florida Commission on the Status of Women.

“I’m ready to get started,” Fry told FloridaPolitics.com Wednesday. “I’m ready to give back to the community that’s given so much to me and my family.”

Yvonne Fry entering race for Dan Raulerson’s HD 58 seat

Longtime activist Yvonne Fry is entering the race to succeed soon-to-retire state Rep. Dan Raulerson.

Technically, all Fry can do right now is file to run in 2018 for House District 58.

However, Raulerson announced Tuesday he will resign from his seat effective Aug. 15. Once that happens, Governor Rick Scott will then call for a special election at which time Fry will enter that contest.

Fry told SPB on Wednesday that she is overnighting her candidacy paperwork today to the Division of Elections.

“I’m ready to get started,” Fry said. “I’m ready to give back to the community that’s given so much to me and my family.”

SPB reported earlier Wednesday that Lawrence McClure is also expected to join the race.

A native Floridian, Fry grew up a farmer’s daughter in Plant City who emerged as one of Hillsborough County’s leading activists for women in leadership positions, as former chair of both the Hillsborough Commission on the Status of Women and the Florida Commission on the Status of Women.

After a career in public relations and marketing, the University of Southern Mississippi graduate became an expert in the telecommunications and information technology industry. Nearly two decades ago, Fry launched the consulting firm Lines of Communication, serving clients in the public and private sectors.

Fry is also owner and self-described “chief Fry cook” at Fry Entertainment Inc., a group made up of several creative ventures: NRG, which develops young performers; Fresh Picked Talent, a boutique talent agency for film, tv, commercials and print, and Fryed Egg Productions, a media, branding and advocacy arm.

As for her wide-ranging civic engagement, Fry served on the advisory board of The Spring Tampa Bay – which provides services for thousands of abused adults and children — as well as the Junior League Community Advisory Board, Frameworks of Tampa Bay and the Plant City Board of Adjustment. She has also had roles at the Athena Society, as a VIP member of Working Women of Tampa Bay, and of the USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy.

“I’ve always been the kind of person who asks, ‘How can I help?’ ” Fry said.

Among Fry’s extensive list of awards and honors include the Plant City Chamber Chairman’s Award in 2014, as one of Florida International University’s Top 25 Women Entrepreneurs in Florida for 2011, and as one of the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida’s Women of Distinction in 2016. She is also on the board of the Plant City High School and Lincoln IB Elementary PTSA Boards.

“I’ve always been an overachiever,” she told the Tampa Bay Times in 2012.

When Gov. Scott calls for the special election, it will be under a tight deadline. With an earlier start for the 2018 Legislative Session – in January due to an election year — committee meetings will begin in September.

Democrat Andrew Learned staffs up ahead of Dennis Ross challenge

Andrew Learned, the 30-year-old Navy veteran from Bloomingdale seeking the Democratic nomination for Florida’s 15th Congressional District, announced Wednesday the addition of several new staff members.

However, the biggest news is that Learned signed on with Blue Ticket Consulting, the St. Petersburg based Democratic firm led by Tom Alte. Blue Ticket had been behind several successful Tampa Bay-area campaigns last year.

“Bringing Tom and his team on board with us is a huge win in helping continue to lead the Democratic effort to gather the resources we’ll need to flip what we know is the closest swing district in the Tampa Bay region,” Learned said in a statement.

Calling the CD 15 seat the “closest swing district” in the region’s congressional politics may not be that much of a stretch, but the fact remains that no Democrat has been remotely competitive there for years, certainly not since GOP incumbent Dennis Ross won the seat after it was vacated by Adam Putnam in 2010.

Alte had been working as campaign finance fundraising director for Greg Pilkington, another Democrat in the race.

The Learned campaign also announced Rosalind Moffett will serve as campaign manager; Tristan Pike is campaign coordinator; Ashley Motley will serve as creative and social media director.

Moffett worked on congressional campaigns in the district for Doug Tudor, a Democrat who lost to Putnam in 2008 and fellow Democrat Lori Edwards in 2010.

“I am excited to have so quickly grown our grassroots campaign to now be able to field the most talented and experienced campaign team in the region,” Learned said. “It is a testament to the energy and resolve to bring a new generation of leadership to Washington.”

Five Democrats are running for the chance to challenge Ross next year: Learned, Pilkington, Cameron Magnuson, Ray Pena and Greg Williams.

Report: Dan Raulerson resigning from Florida House in August

Dan Raulerson is resigning from the Florida House.

The Tampa Bay Times reported Tuesday that the Plant City Republican has announced he will resign his seat effective Aug. 15. The announcement, according to the report, comes about a month after he made public comments critical of House leadership.

Raulerson had back surgery, which kept him away from the Capitol this year, leading some members to speculate that he was planning to resign. But Raulerson dismissed the rumors, telling Florida Politics Capitol correspondent Jim Rosica in December it was “absolutely untrue.”

Raulerson, who was first elected to the Florida House in 2012, filed to run for re-election in February. State records show he has only raised $2,000 toward his re-election bid since filing to run.

Raulerson told the Tampa Bay Times that he changed his mind about running for re-election, saying he needed to focus on his health and his business.

Gov. Rick Scott will likely call a special election to replace Raulerson, but the timing could be tricky. The 2018 Legislative Session begins in January, and the first committee is scheduled for September.

Shawn Mathis Gilliam, a no-party affiliation candidate, is the only candidate who has filed to run for the House District 58 seat in 2018.

Rick Kriseman: ‘NRA-owned politicians’ should pay legal fees from ‘Docs. vs. Glocks’

While serving in the state Legislature, Rick Kriseman was so repelled by a 2011 bill that prohibited pediatricians from asking any questions about gun use or ownership unless it was relevant to their patients’ care or safety that he filed a bill to repeal it.

Though that proposal went nowhere in the GOP-led Legislature, critics of the bill — dubbed as “docs versus Glocks” — have received the last word on the issue, after a federal judge struck down the law last month.

Governor Rick Scott has now approved a deal to pay $1.1 million in legal fees to groups that successfully challenged the NRA-backed Florida law, and Kriseman says that money should come from the lawmakers who supported the law, not Florida taxpayers.

“The NRA-owned politicians in Tallahassee, not Florida taxpayers, should be forced to pay these legal fees,” Kriseman told FloridaPolitics.com Tuesday.

Kriseman served in the state Legislature representing St. Petersburg and other parts of Southern Pinellas County from 2006-2012. He opted not to run for re-election in 2012, and instead focused on the 2013 St. Petersburg mayoral contest, where he defeated incumbent Bill Foster. He is now running in a contested re-election battle this summer.

The Firearms Owners’ Privacy Act, as the bill was officially called, was enormously controversial from the time it was introduced during the 2011 legislative session in Tallahassee. Supporters said it was a reaction to a handful of highly publicized cases, including an incident in which a health professional privately asked children if their mother owned guns and an Ocala pediatrician who, in 2010, dropped a patient after she called his query about her gun ownership an invasion of privacy.

Shortly after it was passed in the Legislature, doctors challenged it in court.

“Each year, Florida children are harmed when they or other children gain access to firearms that have not been stored properly,” said the 2011 suit. The case, which became known as “Doc vs Glocks,” wound its way from the state to the federal court system over the course of six years.

In February, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta ruled that the matter was not one of the Second Amendment, which protects the right to bear arms, but the First. The court ruled in a 10 to 1 decision that the law infringed upon doctors’ freedom of speech.

At the time he filed his bill, Kriseman called his Republican colleagues who supported the bill in the legislature as being “hypocritical,” declaring such a law is antithetical to traditional conservative concerns about excessive government regulations and government involvement in health care.

Ropes & Gray, one of the law firms on the case that will receive legal fees, immediately announced it would donate $100,000 of its fee award to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, enabling the center to “expand its initiatives to protect children from the risks posed by guns,” the release said.

“Florida taxpayers just paid $1.1 million because of the gun industry’s unconstitutional, anti-truth agenda designed to increase gun sales at any cost — including children’s lives,” said Brady Center president Dan Gross in a statement.

“Physicians have a critical role to play in preventing these deaths by talking to patients about the true dangers of guns in the home, and we will not allow their voices to be silenced by the gun industry,” he added. “This award is a message to states to think twice before enacting or defending laws that put lives at risk just to boost the gun industry’s bottom line.”

Vern Buchanan tells Mitch McConnell to vote on hearing aid bill before August break

As the Senate is poised to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act and eventually come up with some sort of alternative on Tuesday, Congressman Vern Buchanan has a message for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — have a vote on legislation that would make hearing aids more affordable for Americans.

The Sarasota Republican is a co-sponsor of the “Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act,” a bipartisan bill that would drive down costs by allowing people with mild-to-moderate hearing loss to purchase aids without a doctor’s prescription. The legislation was included in the “FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017” which passed the House earlier this month.

“Let’s help reopen the world to seniors who struggle to hear everyday conversations with their family and friends,” Buchanan writes to McConnell. “Before the Senate adjourns for its summer recess, I urge you to pass bipartisan legislation that will make hearing aids more affordable for our nation’s seniors.”

Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren and Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley are the co-sponsors of the Senate version.

In 2016, 3.65 million hearing aids were sold in the United States. Since the average price of a hearing aid pair is $4,700, with some prices climbing as high as $8,000, according to the Huffington Post. Medicare has never paid for hearing aids; following Medicare’s lead, private insurance companies have almost always refused to pay for hearing aids as well. This means that typically the patient alone must cover the cost of a hearing aid.

Read Buchanan’s letter below:

Dear Majority Leader McConnell:

Before the Senate adjourns for its August recess, I urge you to approve House-passed legislation to make hearing aids more affordable for millions of Americans.

Nearly 50 million people have some degree of hearing loss — more than diabetes, cancer or vision impairment. The impact of hearing loss, particularly among seniors, can lead to isolation and other health problems including anxiety and depression.

Buying a hearing aid is a complex and costly process. In most cases, consumers can only buy hearing aids from audiologists or licensed hearing aid sellers after a formal medical evaluation. Because the aids are not covered by Medicare or most private insurance plans, out-of-pocket costs for a pair of hearing aids average $5,400.

The U.S. House recently passed legislation I co-sponsored to reduce the cost of hearing aids by allowing people with mild to moderate hearing loss to purchase devices without a doctor’s prescription. The Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act, which was included in the FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017, could lower the cost of a pair of hearing aids from several thousand dollars to only a few hundred dollars, according to The New York Times.

Moreover, in a study published earlier this month, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have found that hearing aids purchased over the counter perform essentially the same as prescription hearing aids.

Let’s help reopen the world to seniors and others who struggle to hear everyday conversations with their family and friends. Washington dysfunction must not get in the way of passing this life-improving proposal. I urge swift Senate approval of this important legislation.


Vern Buchanan

Member of Congress



Kathy Castor likes Democrats new ‘A Better Deal’ slogan, agenda

The Democratic Party unveiled its new economic plan Monday, which includes the tagline: “A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future.”

Despite some on Twitter mocking the slogan as sounding a little too much like a Papa John’s ad, Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor digs it.

Among the policy proposals include focusing on lowering prescription drug prices, reforming corporate merger policies, pushing for a $15 an hour living wage, and creating jobs for 10 million Americans.

“These are the things that I talk about all the time,” Castor said Monday at an occasion celebrating the 52nd anniversary of Medicare held in the West Tampa building housing her district office. “We need better wages in the Tampa Bay area. We are still below the median wage when you compare us to other communities across the country,” she said, adding: “We can’t rely on tourism and real estate any longer. We have to support small business entrepreneurs that are often the pathway to better-paying jobs.”

As has been well-documented, the Democratic Party has been severely dismantled in both national and statewide elections around the country since 2010. The party has lost more than 1,030 seats in state legislatures, governor’s mansions and Congress during the Obama presidency, according to the AP.

As far as rebranding the party is concerned, Castor said it was “natural” to renew and refresh the Democratic message every few years.

“I think it encapsulates very well a lot of the policies that we’ve been working on,” she said, citing the push to lift wages to supporting students to attend college without getting hit by loft student loans.

“We’ve been waiting for the president, who said we’re going to do infrastructure, but there’s been no conversation about that,” she lamented.

Meanwhile, members of the House of Representatives are poised to vote Tuesday on a bill that punishes Russia for interfering in the U.S. election, as well as the 2014 annexation of Crimea and its ongoing military activity in eastern Ukraine.

The Senate passed its version, 97-2, earlier this year, but the House had dithered for months on bringing up the bill, reportedly because of resistance by President Donald Trump.

“There was no rational reason to delay or postpone it, and I was disheartened that there was pressure by the White House to stall it,” she said. “But the reports are now that even the president is likely to sign the Russians sanctions bill. This is important. This is a response to Russian meddling in our election and people are asking me about it. They’re asking me about health care, but they also want to know how is the U.S. going to respond to the Russian meddling, and this is one important step.”


Law enforcement lines up behind Ed Hooper for SD 16

Ed Hooper received two key law enforcement endorsements, as both the Florida Police Benevolent Association and Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association are supporting his bid for Florida Senate.

Hooper, a retired fire Lieutenant who served on the Clearwater City Council before spending eight years in the Florida House, is seeking to replace term-limited Republican Sen. Jack Latvala in Senate District 16.

“As a State Representative, Hooper was a go-to lawmaker that law enforcement could rely on,” said Florida PBA President Matt Puckett in a statement Monday. We proudly endorse Ed Hooper for the state Senate and look forward to continue working with him.”

“The Sun Coast PBA is proud to endorse Ed Hooper for Florida Senate District 16,” said George Lofton, Sun Coast PBA president. “As a fellow first responder and legislator, he has shown the proven leadership that is critically needed for our community. Ed has earned the respect and the trust of the men and women who wear a badge and risk their lives for their respective communities.”

“My proudest endorsements are having the men and women of public safety supporting my candidacy,” Hooper responded. “The work they do every day keeps us safe from harm.”

The PBA represents law enforcement employees at the municipal, county and state levels.

A native of North Carolina, Hooper moved to Clearwater in 1972 and attended St. Petersburg Junior College where he studied fire science and emergency medicine studies. Hooper retired from the Clearwater Fire Department after 24 years of service. He previously served on the Clearwater City Council and eight years in the Florida House before being term-limited in 2014.

Hooper, who currently spends his time as a consultant, has a long history of involvement in the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Pinellas, and the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee.

SD 16 includes northern Pinellas County and southwestern Pasco County.

Recently, Hooper received endorsements from state Sens. Latvala, Jeff Brandes and Dana Young, Sheriffs Bob Gualtieri of Pinellas County and Chris Nocco of Pasco County, as well as the entire Oldsmar City Council, and Florida Professional Firefighters.

Jesse Nevel protesting Paul Congemi ‘go back to Africa’ rant at rally Tuesday

Jesse Nevel

St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel is organizing a “major public event” this week in response to racially charged statements made by fellow candidate Paul Congemi.

During a recent mayoral debate, Congemi berated supporters of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement, telling them to “go back to Africa.” Nevel – the Uhuru-backed candidate – has responded by announcing he will hold a “St. Pete Rally for Racial Justice and Reparations” Tuesday in the city’s downtown Williams Park.

The event begins 6:30 p.m.

During a question at a mayoral forum about opportunities for youths, Congemi went on a bizarre rant leveled against Nevel: “You and your people, you talk about reparations … The reparations that you talk about, Mr. Nevel, your people already got your reparations … Your reparations came in the form of a man named Barack Obama.”

Congemi continued: “My advice to you, my advice to you, if you don’t like it here in America, planes leave every hour from Tampa airport. Go back to Africa, go back to Africa.”

Video of Congemi’s comments went viral with millions of views worldwide and was picked up by international media including The Washington Post, USA TODAY, Russia Today, Teen Vogue, BET, Essence magazine and others.

According to Nevel, Congemi’s tirade has “raised concern for local government and community leaders about the city’s reputation before the eyes of the world.”

“We want the world to see, Congemi does not speak for St. Petersburg,” Nevel said in a statement.

Nevel, whose campaign theme is “Unity Through Reparations,” is running on a platform that St. Petersburg’s $500 million budget has “ample room to redirect resources to economically uplift and develop the black community.” He also suggests using funds from the Penny for Pinellas infrastructure sales tax, as well as calling for a “reparations tax” on major corporations.

The committee to elect Eritha “Akile” Cainion for St. Petersburg City Council is co-sponsoring the event. Ebony magazine recently profiled Cainion, a 20-year-old black activist running in the crowded District 6 race.

Nevel has also invited incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and former two-term Mayor Rick Baker, who is also running for his old job, to speak at the rally.


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