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JW Marriott - Water Street Tampa

SPP breaks ground on Water Street Tampa development

The development company behind Water Street Tampa said Tuesday that construction is underway on the first of 10 buildings planned for the 55-acre district in Downtown Tampa.

The first project in the pipeline for Strategic Property Partners is a 26-story, 519-room JW Marriott Hotel that’s set to open in 2020. The JW Marriott brand is one of Marriott’s luxury focused labels.

The hotel is one of three Marriott hotels planned for SPP’s mixed-use neighborhood. The developer announced last week that Water Street Tampa would be getting one of Marriott’s top-tier “EDITION” hotels, while the existing Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina is set to get a full renovation.

“Through our partnership with Marriott, we’re thrilled to offer a one-of-a-kind hospitality experience to residents and visitors alike across these three very unique hotels, while also elevating the hospitality experience in Tampa Bay,” SPP CEO James Nozar said in a press release.

“Breaking ground on the JW Marriott Tampa is a momentous milestone for the broader neighborhood we are creating. Water Street Tampa aims to add a fresh new perspective to Tampa’s ongoing urban renaissance, offering a new destination for travelers and providing Tampa residents with an exciting new space to explore and enjoy every day.”

The three hotels are part of nearly 9 million square feet of planned development for Water Street Tampa, which is also set to bring the downtown area its first new condominiums in nearly a decade as well as the first office towers in a quarter century.

SPP said when construction in the district hits its peak in spring 2019, it’ll require the use of about 20 construction cranes and up to 2,800 workers daily.

The JW Marriott Tampa hotel is being designed by Nichols Brosch Wurst Wolfe & Associates, with interiors by Champalimaud Design. The hotel will be adjacent to the Tampa Convention Center and Amalie Arena, home to the Tampa Bay Lightning. SPP is a partnership between Lightning owner Jeff Vinic and Bill Gates’ investment arm, Cascade Investment.

“Tampa has become one of the most sought-after cities because of its high quality of life, affordability, and culture,” said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “Downtown Tampa has long been earmarked for development. The new JW Marriott Tampa and the Tampa EDITION will introduce an incredible hospitality offering with premium amenities to the city, complementing the transformational Water Street Tampa neighborhood and enhancing Tampa’s ongoing renaissance.”

Among the amenities touted for the new hotel are a full-service spa and fitness center, restaurant and retail space, and a rooftop lounge and terrace that will “boast sweeping 360-degree views of downtown Tampa and Hillsborough Bay, and will become the highest rooftop bar in Tampa Bay.”

Todd Marks

Todd Marks slams Aakash Patel for past donations to Democrats

Hillsborough County Commission District 1 candidate Todd Marks slammed Republican rival Aakash Patel Monday for his past donations to Democrats.

At issue is the Jan. 28 edition of LeaderCast Tampa, where Patel was interviewed on his decision run for the county commission job and his political philosophy.

During the interview Patel speaks on his business experience, his vision for the county and speaks favorably on many GOP priorities. However, Marks takes issue with one line near the halfway point of the 36-minute interview:

“A one-hundred-dollar donation for drinks and food on a Tuesday night at a nice hotel. I think it’s a great deal, but most importantly it’s an ability to network with other people that believe in the future of Hillsborough County,” Patel said in the interview. “Regardless of your party affiliation the one thing about me is, I’ve said publicly and privately is, I’m pro Hillsborough. I’m pro Tampa. I’m not a Republican or Democrat philosophy. I’ve given money to Democrats. I’ve supported Democrats.”

Marks said that willingness to reach across the aisle left him “stunned,” and made him feel Patel is rejecting voters with Republican values.

“I found Aakash’s statement hard to believe when I first heard it. In fact, I was stunned. Unfortunately, a long list of political donations made by Aakash to Democrats lends credibility to his own statement that he does not have a Republican philosophy,” Marks said in a press release.

“You deserve to have a county commissioner who you can trust that is a true Republican who will defend your principles and values. Not a commissioner who runs as a Republican, but claims publicly and privately that he doesn’t adhere to either philosophy.”

Later in the two-page attack, Marks tells readers “If I were you, I would be absolutely appalled that I had given money to a candidate who flagrantly disavows your Republican values like he has.”

The release then links to a form for those who have contributed to Patel can ask him to return their contribution.

“Aakash Patel claims that he is pro-Hillsborough, but by rejecting both the Republican and Democrat philosophies, he has demonstrated that he is only pro-Aakash,” Marks wrote.

The turn toward undercutting Patel’s fundraising hints toward the attack having little to do with Patel’s supposed lack of Republican purity – numerous conservative politicians have had no problem endorsing the 33-year-old businessman, including U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a stalwart Panhandle conservative.

That twist does make sense, however, when Marks’ campaign finance reports are pitted against Patel’s.

The Tampa attorney had raised $77,125 for his campaign since filing in January, and had about $76,000 banked heading into April. Patel, meanwhile, has brought in more than $400,000 for his bid since filing in June, with $260,525 on hand heading into April.

The pair are running for the seat currently held by Republican Commissioner Sandra Murman, who is vacating her seat two years early to run in the six-way race for the countywide District 7 seat in 2018.

Also running is businesswoman Jen McDonald, who filed for the seat last week, replacing House Minority Leader Janet Cruz as the Democratic option in the race. McDonald has not yet filed a campaign finance report.

Chris Sprowls says Pinellas’ future is bright in new ad

Palm Harbor Republican Rep. Chris Sprowls said the people of Pinellas County’s best days are still in front of them in a video released by his campaign Tuesday.

“The United States. It is more than a place. This nation is an idea, an experiment, and an example for those whose destiny is freedom,” Sprowls says in the ad over a video montage that included a shot of North Korean defector Ji Seong-ho attending the 2018 State of the Union address.

“We don’t all look the same, we don’t all sound the same, we don’t all vote the same. But no matter how much we’re told that we’re coming apart, more and more each day, person to person, neighbor to neighbor, we’re coming together.”

Sprowls then thanked volunteers, teachers, police officers and “ordinary Floridians” for serving the northern Pinellas County community he represents in the Florida House.

“I say ‘thank you.’ Thank you for caring, thank you for serving, and thank you for showing us that the best days of our community, our state and our nation remain in front of us,” he said in the two-minute ad.

Sprowls is running for a third term in House District 65, which covers Tarpon Springs, Palm Harbor, Dunedin and part of Clearwater in northern Pinellas County.

The 34-year-old attorney is in line to succeed Miami Republican Rep. Jose Oliva as House Speaker following the 2020 elections. So far, only Democrat Alex Toth has filed to challenge him in the 2018 cycle.

Toth faces long odds in the safe Republican district. In addition to comfortably winning his past elections, Sprowls has a commanding lead in the money race.

Through March, he’d raised nearly $120,000 for his campaign account and had about $89,000 banked, with another $869,000 banked for his political committee, Floridians for Economic Freedom. Toth has $85.

Sprowls’ video is below.

Aakash Patel

Danny Burgess endorses Aakash Patel for Hillsborough Commission

Zephyrhills Republican Rep. Danny Burgess on Tuesday endorsed Tampa businessman Aakash Patel for the District 1 seat on the Hillsborough County Commission.

“I am honored to offer my support and endorsement to Aakash. He is a very successful businessman and I know he will take his strong drive and dedication to our community to the County Commission,” Burgess said in a press release.

“I am certain he will apply his conservative ideals and objectives to important issues in Hillsborough County and I look forward to working with him in that capacity.”

Patel is one of three candidates running for the seat currently held by Republican Commissioner Sandra Murman, who is vacating her seat two years early to run in the six-way race for the countywide District 7 seat in 2018.

“I am honored to have Representative Burgess support and endorse me in this County Commission race. I have known Danny for a long time and I truly respect the work he has done to bring conservative policies to all levels of government he has served,” Patel said.

“From Zephyrhills City Hall to the Florida State Capitol, I appreciate all that he does and I look forward to working with him on important conservative issues when I am elected to the County Commission.”

Burgess’ endorsement is the latest for Patel, who has piled on numerous nods from Republican elected officials in the Tampa Bay region, including Tarpon Springs U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, former House Speaker Will Weatherford and Sarasota state Rep. Joe Gruters.

Patel is the fundraising leader with more than $400,000 raised between his campaign and committee through the end of March. He had $260,525 banked heading into April.

Fellow Republican Todd Marks had raised $77,125 through the same date and had about $76,000 on hand. Businesswoman Jen McDonald filed for the seat last week, replacing House Minority Leader Janet Cruz as the Democratic option in the race. McDonald has not yet filed a campaign finance report.

It’s on: ​Dana Young​’s​ fundraiser for Senate re-election​ is Tuesday​

Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young is holding a campaign kickoff fundraiser Tuesday for her re-election to Senate District 18.

Young’s event is set for 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on April 24 at the Tampa Yacht & Country Club, 5320 Interbay Boulevard. Those looking to attend are encouraged to send an email to Kristin Lamb at Kristin@FLFSStrategies.com for more information or to RSVP.

The host committee for the event lists dozens of names, including several of Young’s colleagues in the Legislature. At the top of the invite are Senate President Designate Bill Galvano, Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, St. Pete Sen. Jeff Brandes and Thonotosassa Sen. Tom Lee. Republican Reps. Jamie GrantShawn HarrisonJake Raburn and Jackie Toledo will also be in attendance.

Young spent three terms in the Florida House before she was elected to SD 18 in 2016. She won her first term with about 48 percent of the vote in a four-way race against Democrat Bob Buesing, who received 41 percent of the vote, and no-party candidates Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove, who received 9.5 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

Buesing filed for the seat again ahead of the 2018 contest, but now it looks like Young’s main challenge will come from House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz, who filed for the seat Tuesday after weeks of speculation.

If Buesing were to back out, which he may, the Young v. Cruz head-to-head would be nearly guaranteed — Redner has said he’ll stay out of the contest this year and so far no other candidates have entered the race.

On the fundraising front, Young is the clear front-runner.

On Tuesday, her campaign announced that she had raised nearly $1.3 million for her re-election bid so far, with $950,000 in the bank. That sum includes $231,000 of hard money in her campaign account, with the rest in her supporting political committee, Friends of Dana Young.

Through the same date, Buesing had raised about $116,000 and had about $105,000 in the bank. Cruz had raised about $65,000 for a Hillsborough County Commission campaign before announcing she would run for SD 18.

The fundraiser invitation is below.

Dana Young Fundraiser 4.24.2018

Gus Bilirakis raising money in Palm Harbor on Monday

A fundraiser benefitting U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis’ re-election bid will be held Monday evening in Palm Harbor.

The April 23 event will run from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the home of Ann Ferrentino. Donors giving $1,000 or more can mingle in a cocktail reception during the 6 o’clock hour, while those donating $125 or more can join the event’s general reception starting at 7:00 pm.

Would-be attendees can RSVP by calling Erika Grace at 727-410-4077, or by sending a note to Erika@BilirakisforCongress.com.

Bilirakis is running for his seventh term representing Florida’s 12th Congressional District, which covers Pasco County and parts of Pinellas and Hillsborough.

Through the end of the first quarter the Tarpon Springs Republican has raised more than $1 million, putting him far ahead of his leading challenger, former federal prosecutor and FBI agent Chris Hunter.

Bilirakis also announced last week that his campaign had gathered enough petition signatures to qualify for the ballot.

CD 12 carries a heavy advantage for Republicans – it voted plus-19 for Donald Trump in the 2016 cycle and is currently listed as “safely Republican” by University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato‘s “Crystal Ball.”

The fundraiser invitation is below.

Bilirakis Invite 4.23.2018

Hillsborough GOP event to feature both Rick Scott, Colt handgun raffle

With the Republican Party of Hillsborough, $20,000 goes a long way.

First, it buys a spot at next month’s Lincoln Day Dinner, seated at a table with Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott is headlining the event — themed “Let Freedom Ring” — along with Attorney General Pam Bondi (as Master of Ceremonies) and U.S. Reps. Dennis Ross, Gus Bilirakis and Vern Buchanan.

Twenty large also gets “Platinum Sponsor” status, an exclusive mention at the dinner and six passes to the VIP reception, joining Scott and “visiting dignitaries.”

Despite the potential ethics violation of buying access to Scott — as a newly minted U.S. Senate candidate — those cutting the big checks also get a special prize: 20 chances to win a Colt 1911 A1 G.I. 45 ACP (valued at $949).

Friday is the last day of the event’s “early bird pricing.” It’s also the same day thousands of students across the country walked out of classrooms to protest for gun reform on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre.

And there is no small irony in an event that features Scott and a raffle of a handgun (particularly a Colt), considering the Florida Governor’s history of mingling guns and jobs, two issues that served as cornerstones of his political career.

In 2011, Scott pledged more than a million dollars to Colt Manufacturing to open an Osceola County plant to manufacture AR-15’s — similar to the weapon used by Nikolas Cruz to kill 17 students and teachers in February’s deadly Parkland high school shooting.

“Since Scott’s first year in office, the governor has sought to bring gun makers to Florida,” Florida Bulldog reporter Dan Christiansen wrote Feb. 20. “In 2011, for example, he promised $1.6 million in incentives to Colt Manufacturing Co. to open a plant and add 63 jobs in Osceola County to build AR-15 rifles, like the one police say was used in last week’s slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.”

With the Colt incentive deal in hand, Scott wanted show Florida was both open for business (especially the gun business) and welcoming to gun rights supporters — key factors in Florida’s much-derided reputation as the “Gunshine State.”

“‘As a supporter of new job creation and the Second Amendment, this announcement sends a clear message that Florida is both open for business and a defender of our right to bear arms,’ said Scott, adding that he was personally involved in bringing Colt to Florida,” the Bulldog piece noted.

Unfortunately for Scott, the boast was short-lived. The Colt deal later fell through because the gun manufacturer did not live up to the promised jobs.

The Hillsborough GOP Lincoln Day dinner is May 19 at TPepin’s Hospitality Centre in Tampa, beginning promptly at 6 p.m.

According to the invite, the event starts with a reception and silent auction of “significant local and historical items of interest” — which presumably includes the Colt giveaway. Dinner begins at 7 p.m.

Police union backs Ed Hooper for Senate

Clearwater Republican Ed Hooper announced Friday that the Florida Fraternal Order of Police District 3 Lodges have endorsed his campaign for state Senate.

“Ed Hooper has shown his support for first responders. Now the members of the Fraternal Order of Police, District 3 lodges are glad to support him in his bid for the State Senate,” said John E. Sheffield, the director of FOP District 3.

Hooper is a former first responder – he spent 24 years working for the Clearwater Fire Department before he was elected to the Florida House in 2006.

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

That’s high praise considering the other names who’ve lined up behind the former lawmaker’s 2018 campaign, such as Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and former House Speaker Will Weatherford.

Hooper faces Palm Harbor restauranteur Leo Karruli in the Republican Primary for Senate District 16, which is currently vacant due to the resignation of former Republican Sen. Jack Latvala. Also running is Dunedin Democrat Bernie Fensterwald.

Through the end of March, Hooper led the money race with nearly $250,000 on hand in his campaign account and another $95,000 on hand in his political committee, Friends of Ed Hooper.

Fensterwald, through the same date, has brought in nearly $60,000 for his campaign and has about $27,000 on hand. His total includes $44,000 in loans. Karruli, who filed in late Februday, has raised $100 in outside money and has loaned his campaign about $4,000. He has $656 in the bank.

SD 16 encompasses Clearwater, Dunedin, Safety Harbor, Palm Harbor, New Port Richey and Oldsmar. The seat has a heavy Republican lean – it voted plus-12 for Donald Trump in 2016.

Jemele Hill - Photo via The Associated Press

ESPN’s Jemele Hill to headline League of Women Voters luncheon

ESPN’s Jemele Hill will be in St. Petersburg Saturday to give a talk and field questions at a League of Women Voters event.

The chief correspondent and senior columnist for ESPN’s The Undefeated will offer her thoughts on the role that celebrity brings to public service and how she has used her platform for that purpose.

The League’s release said Hill will also talk “sports, race, gender, politics and making democracy work.”

“It’s important to reinforce that having a voice in our democracy is a basic right guaranteed to all citizens, regardless of income, race, gender, or profession. I’m thrilled to exchange and share ideas with the thought leaders and activists in St. Pete, who have led the way in having these important conversations about inclusive voices” Hill said in a press release.

Also listed on the event agenda for the “Annual Luncheon and Community Conversation” are the organizers for the St. Pete area March for our Lives, student-athletes from Pinellas County schools and thought leaders from the University of South Florida, the University of Tampa and St. Pete College.

The event will run from noon to 1:30 pm in the ballroom of the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, 11 Central Ave. Tickets are $15 and will be available at the door.

The luncheon follows the St. Pete League’s annual business meeting.

The luncheon flyer is below.

LWV invitation

Amber Mariano

Amber Mariano holding golf tournament fundraiser in June

Freshman Rep. Amber Mariano is holding a golf tournament in support of her House District 36 re-election campaign in Wesley Chapel on June 9.

The event will be held at the Saddlebrook Resort & Spa, 5700 Saddlebrook Way. Registration is set to begin at 11:30 am on the day of, with a shotgun start scheduled for 1 pm. The entry fee for the tournament is $500.

Those looking for information on accommodations or those ready to dust off their clubs in support of the Hudson Republican can send a not to the campaign via Alexa@AmberMariano.com.

Mariano currently faces Democrat Linda Jack in her re-election campaign. Holiday Republican Joseph Molnar filed for the seat last month, but backed out shortly after, sparing Mariano from a primary campaign for the Pasco-based seat.

Since filing for re-election, Mariano has raised $83,132 for her campaign and had $52,319 on hand at the end of March. Jack, a veterinarian, had raised nearly $30,000 through the same date and has $16,416 in the bank. Her total includes $1,500 in loans.

The District has a Republican advantage – President Donald Trump carried the seat by 21 points in the 2016 election – though Democrats have had some success there in the recent past.

Before Mariano became the youngest person ever elected to the Florida House two years ago, HD 36 was held by Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy for three years.

The 2016 election came down to just 691 votes, and was considered an upset to some despite the district voting overwhelmingly for Trump.

Prior to Murphy the seat was held by Republican Mike Fasano, who is now Pasco’s Tax Collector.

The tournament invite is below.

Amber Mariano Fundraiser 6.9.2018

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