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Julio Gonzalez takes early lead over Greg Steube in CD 17 money race

State Rep. Julio Gonzalez leads state Sen. Greg Steube in the race for Florida’s 17th Congressional District in the early going thanks to a sizable loan to his campaign account.

Gonzalez, a Sarasota Republican, brought in nearly $234,000 in contributions during the first few weeks of his campaign, with $150,000 of that money coming in through candidate loans. He had $230,000 on hand on March 31.

Steube, also a Sarasota Republican, raised $63,550 for his campaign, including a $15,000 loan. He finished the first quarter with about $56,000 in the bank.

Gonzalez and Steube both filed for the sprawling congressional district in March, shortly after Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney announced he would not seek re-election in 2018.

A few other candidates have filed for the race, though none raised close to Gonzalez or Steube in total fundraising or cash on hand.

Democrat William Pollard has raised about $7,000 through Q1, with about $6,000 on hand, while April Freeman, the 2016 Democratic nominee, had $19,500 in her account at the end of 2017. A third Republican, William Alan Akins, had about $500 in his account through the end of Q4.

CD 17 covers parts of Sarasota, Lee and Polk counties as well as the whole of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee.

The seat is a Republican stronghold that voted plus-27 for Donald Trump in 2016. Also in 2016, Rooney won re-election with nearly 62 percent of the vote, while Freeman received about 34 percent and unaffiliated candidate John Sawyer took 4 percent.

Pinellas Commissioner John Morroni to undergo medical treatment

Longtime Pinellas County Commissioner John Morroni announced Friday he will undergo series of treatments for a blood disorder known as Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).

The Treasure Island Republican will receive treatment at Tampa’s Moffitt Cancer Center, during which he will continue to receive weekly briefings from the County Administrator.

“As a 10-year cancer survivor, I am very confident in the excellent medical team at Moffitt,” Morroni said in a statement. “I appreciate the prayers of support and words of encouragement from my friends and constituents.”

According to the American Cancer Society, leukemias are treatable forms of cancer that start in cells that would normally develop into different types of blood cells. AML – also known as acute myelocytic leukemia – often develops from cells that would normally turn into white blood cells, while some cases of AML develop in other types of blood-forming cells. “Acute” means that leukemia could progress quickly if not caught and aggressively treated.

There are roughly 20,000 new cases of AML each year in the United States, with high (80 to 90 percent) remission rate if treated early.

The AML Morroni faces emerged as a secondary effect of treatment he underwent in 2016 for myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). According to the Tampa Bay Times Morroni underwent stem cell transplant treatment in 2017, a result of a secondary effect of chemotherapy treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Morroni served Pinellas County District 6 since 2000. He chaired the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners in 2005, 2012 and 2015. Before his tenure with the county, Morroni served eight years in the Florida House, from 1992 to 2000.

In March 2017, Morroni said he would not seek a fifth term on the Commission, ending a 25-year career in elective office.

Earlier this year, Morroni hosted the 23rd Annual Appreciation Dinner for Emergency Personnel, raising more than $80,000 to benefit Moffitt Cancer Center.

Nancy Pelosi headlining May 2 fundraiser in St. Pete

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will join U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist in St. Petersburg next month for a high-dollar fundraiser benefiting the campaign arm of Congressional Democrats.

“Right now, we’re on offense holding Donald Trump and congressional Republicans accountable for their reckless agenda. Across the country, Americans of all walks of life are standing up and saying no to the Republican vision,” the former House Speaker wrote in the invite.

“Countless supporters have stepped up to fight back. We have the momentum, and we need to do everything we can to take advantage of it. We will take back the House this year, but we need to make sure we have the resources to do it.”

The May 2 event will run from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the St. Petersburg home of Kathy and Joe Saunders.

More details are only available after an RSVP, but prospective attendees will need to get their checkbooks ready — the bottom-level donor will need to shell out $2,500 to make the DCCC’s “supporter” list.

The suggested donation levels only go up from there, topping out at $33,900 for a seat in the “Speaker’s Cabinet.”

The invite is below.

DCCC invite 5.2.2018

Not Just A Body Of Water — A newsletter about Tampa Bay politics — 4.13.18

Has the ol’ Ronda Storms magic lost its spark? Too soon to tell.

Three candidates have filed for central Hillsborough’s HD 59, which is opening up early due to Dover Republican Rep. Ross Spano’s Attorney General aspirations.

Republican Joe Wicker leads with just shy of $30,000. He has $27,500 banked, including $4,000 in candidate loans.

He faces Storms, a controversial former county commissioner and state senator, in the Republican primary. Storms took herself out of political retirement in March – she hasn’t held an elected office since 2012 – and showed $3,550 in her first report.

Democrat Adam Hattersley joined the fracas April 2 and, depending on his fundraising prowess, he’ll have a shot if the “blue wave” hits HD 59. The seat voted plus-1 for Trump in 2016, while Spano won re-election with 54 percent of the vote.

Toledo gears up for re-election

Republican Rep. Jackie Toledo hasn’t gotten her fundraising apparatus back online post-Legislative Session, but she socked away plenty of cash last year. After $2,750 raised and $16,500 spent in March, the Tampa Republican has $71,300 banked as she goes for a second term in the coastal Hillsborough district.

Shortly after New Year’s, Democrat Debra Roberts Bellanti filed paperwork to challenge Toledo. She’s brought in a bit of cash, too.

Her new report brings her to $18,412 in total fundraising, with $8,200 on hand

HD 61 candidates struggle to raise coin

Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw is vacating this Tampa-based district to run for Attorney General. Five Democrats have filed for the majority minority stronghold: Sharon Carter, Norman Andronicus Harris, Dianne Hart, Byron Keith and Karen Skyers. Hart took Shaw to the wire in the 2016 cycle, losing by 101 votes in the primary, but Skyers is the candidate to watch – the former public defender left her job at lobby firm Becker & Poliakoff in March and filed for the seat on April 3, so it’ll be another month before Hart’s front-runner status can be legitimately reevaluated.

As it stands, Hart leads with $20,000 raised and $17,300 on hand, including $15,000 in loans. Carter has $100 in her account, while Harris has $25 and Henry has $0.

Alvarez in driver’s seat to succeed Cruz

Two Democrats have opened campaign accounts to succeed termed-out House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in HD 62, a Democratic stronghold in inland Hillsborough. Michael Alvarez, a Marine veteran and party activist, leads the race with $37,600 raised and $29,800 on hand. His only income last month came via a $1,500 campaign loan, making for $21,648 in self-funding thus far.

Alvarez is running against Carlos Frontela, who showed $1,075 raised in his first month but has since refunded every dime. His only contribution is that stuck is a $200 loan, and he only has $80 of that in the bank.

Power continues to self-fund long-shot bid

Republican Rep. Jamie Grant didn’t have a lot of time for fundraising in his quest for a fifth term in the HD 64, which straddles the Hillsborough-Pinellas border. Grant added $600 and spent $5,600 last month, leaving him with $42K in the bank in what’s now a five-way race.

Grant’s primary challenger, Terry Power, is no fundraising all-star but he’s been willing to subsidize his campaign with plenty of his own cash – $70K so far after putting in another $5,000 in March.

Pinellas Tax Collector endorses DiCeglie for HD 66

Pinellas County Tax Collector Charles Thomas is backing Nick DiCeglie for HD 66. “More than ever, it’s vital that we vote our values,” Thomas said. “Nick deeply cares about our community and is committed to fight for our best interests.” Thomas served as Chief Deputy Tax Collector for 16 years before becoming Tax Collector in 2017. During that time, the office received the Governor’s Sterling Award in 2013 and the Governor’s Sterling Sustained Excellence Award in 2016.

Before that, Thomas was the program manager for Gordon-Darby, Inc., overseeing 11 emissions testing centers. He is past chair of the Pinellas Federal Credit Union, a board member of the Florida Sterling Council, and a member of the Government Finance Officers Association.

Webb dominates in HD 69

HD 69 is another seat that’ll bid its incumbent adieu before term limits kick in, as Republican Rep. Kathleen Peters is foregoing re-election to run for Pinellas County Commission. The seat has a Republican lean, but its completive, and so is the Democrat looking to flip it. Jennifer Necole Webb led the field in March with $19,400 in new money. She has $83,000 on hand and is – as of last week – the only Democrat in the race. Republican Ray Blacklidge, the overall fundraising leader, tacked on $9,100 in March. He’s raised $135K thus far, with $78,600 in the bank.

Blacklidge’s primary opponent, Jeremy Bailie, raised just shy of $10,000 last month, bringing his total two bucks shy of $50K with $36,650 banked.

Money scarce in HD 70

Freshman Democratic Rep. Wengay Newton could be in for a tough re-election battle in HD 70, a Dem stronghold that includes parts of Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties. Newton, who faces two primary challengers, added $2,175 to his campaign account last month for a to-date fundraising total of $21,596. He has $15,362 on hand. Keisha Ann Bell took the No. 2 spot this month. She added $2,000 last month, her second in the race, and spent nearly all of that on marketing and advertising. Bell has about $4,000 in the bank.

The third candidate, Vito Sheely, brought in $1,050 for March, putting him on the cusp of the $10K mark in total fundraising. He’s been dumping money into consulting since he entered, leaving him with about $2,100 in the bank. 

Temple Terrace Chamber supports Rays move to Ybor

The Greater Temple Terrace Chamber of Commerce is the latest community group to support the Tampa Bay Rays staying in the Tampa Bay region. “Representing over 500 businesses in the community, the Greater Temple Terrace Chamber believes that the Tampa Bay Rays enhance the community and together, with other local professional sports teams, provide an economic engine to enhance our region,” said Chamber President and CEO Lee Bell.

“We believe the Ybor City site is the best possible location for a new state of the art ballpark. The new park will enhance an urban core allowing Tampa Bay to compete with other communities throughout the country as an ideal location for businesses and talent.”

Moore fundraises in Pasco County

An extensive list of local Republican leaders is helping Mike Moore in a fundraiser Wednesday, April 18, for his Pasco County Commission re-election bid. The host committee includes House Speaker Richard Corcoran, former Speaker Will Weatherford, state Sen. Wilton Simpson, state Reps. Danny Burgess and Amber Mariano, former Sen. John Legg, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco, Pasco Court Clerk Paula O’Neil and others.

Reception begins 6 p.m. at Buttermilk Provisions, 2653 Bruce B Downs Blvd., Suite 117 in Wesley Chapel. Suggested minimum contribution is $30 per person; RSVP at rsvp@votemikemoore.com. Moore faces Democrat Kelly Smith.

Pasco-Hernando College faculty votes to unionize

The Florida Public Employees Relations Commission said faculty at the school, in a 64-62 vote, decided to join the United Faculty of Florida, the higher-education union affiliated with the Florida Education Association. Caitlin Gille, an associate professor of natural science at the 12,000-student school, expects “many positive changes … We can now participate more effectively in shaping the policies that affect our work of facilitating student success.”

Pasco-Hernando is the third state college where the faculty has decided to unionize in the past two years. The union stands for faculty at 11 of the 28 state and community colleges and at all 12 state universities.

Clearwater tennis employee accused of stalking sues

Clearwater’s McMullen Tennis Complex employee Steve Talner developed a texting friendship with tennis player Danielle Armstrong in 2017. After Talner sent a list of questions, some risqué, Armstrong responded but asked Talner to end contact. Despite repeated requests, Talner continued to try to rekindle the friendship, leading Armstrong to file stalking complaints.

Talner resigned after a city investigation concluded he sexually harassed. Clearwater then banned Talner from all city recreational facilities for a year, later reduced to three months. Talner filed suit, claiming violation of free speech; his calls were “as a private citizen,” not a city employee. He seeks damages for wrongful termination and an overturn of the ban.

Tampa executive appointed to Enterprise Florida board

On Thursday, Gov. Scott named Gregory Celestan to the Enterprise Florida, Inc. board of directors. Celestan, 55, is the owner and chief executive officer of the Celestar Holdings Corporation, a privately held, veteran-owned defense contractor based in Tampa with a satellite office in Reston, Virginia. He served in the United States Army from 1984 until 2004.

Celestan succeeds Julius Davis for a term ending Sept. 30, 2020. The appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.

Gus Bilirakis adds $277K, makes CD 12 ballot by petition

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis’ re-election campaign announced Friday that it had collected enough signatures to make the ballot in Florida’s 12th Congressional District.

The campaign said it had brought in “well over” the 5,125 required signatures for the Pasco-based seat, allowing it to avoid paying a hefty fee to make the ballot.

“With everything going on in Washington, D.C. these days, it is extremely encouraging to receive such strong support from the people here at home,” Bilirakis said in a press release. “It shows that they know me and recognize that I’m not the stereotypical politician. Their support reflects an appreciation for how hard I am working to fight for the issues they care most about.”

Also included in the petition announcement was an update on the Tarpon Springs Republican’s fundraising efforts: More than 1,100 unique donors chipped in a combined $277,000 in Q1, and 95 percent of them lived in the Sunshine State.

“I am humbled by the financial support my campaign has received, despite the fact that raising money has never been my primary focus.  In fact, fundraising is the part of this process I like the least,” the sixth-term Congressman said.

“I’ve always trusted in the belief that, if I do a good job representing my constituents, coming home every chance I get to connect with them and work with them, the voters will continue to honor me with their support.”

Bilirakis had brought in $787,000 through the end of 2017, so the new report will put him past the $1 million mark in total fundraising. The campaign didn’t give an update on its on-hand total, though it had $370,000 on hand at the end of last year.

The Q1 total also edges out the $242,000 Q1 report previewed last week by former prosecutor and FBI agent Chris Hunter, the money leader among the four Democrats challenging Bilirakis in 2018.

CD 12 covers all of Pasco County and parts of northern Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. The seat 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.”

Jack Latvala ships $100K to son’s political committee

A political committee associated with state Rep. Chris Latvala received $100,000 in March from another committee linked to his father, former Sen. Jack Latvala, according to newly filed finance reports.

The Suncoast Better Government Committee, which says on its website that it is associated with the younger Latvala, received the contribution March 19 from the Florida Leadership Committee.

Chris Latvala is running for re-election this year in Pinellas County’s House District 67.

As of March 31, he had about $28,000 in cash on hand in his campaign account, while the Suncoast Better Government Committee had about $127,000 on hand, the reports show.

The Florida Leadership Committee has long been linked to Jack Latvala, who announced his resignation from the Senate in December after an investigation of sexual-harassment allegations.

The committee had about $3.6 million on hand as of March 31.

Charlie Crist has $2.1M on hand for CD 13 re-election

Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist announced Thursday that his re-election campaign will report bringing in $447,000 in contributions during the first three months of 2018.

Crist is currently in his first term representing Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

“It’s such an honor to serve the people of Pinellas County. I’m grateful for each and every contribution and volunteer helping us continue our work to expand access to affordable healthcare coverage, ban assault weapons, and protect our environment.”

The full report isn’t viewable via the Federal Elections Website yet, though Crist’s campaign said it will show the about $2.1 million cash on hand as of March 31. Crist had $1.76 million in the bank at the end of 2017. Given his fundraising total, the campaign spent about $100,000 for the quarter.

Crist is so far cruising toward re-election. Eight months out from Election Day, his only challenger is Republican George Buck, who looks like he’s not ready for primetime.

Former Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly, whom Crist defeated in 2016, announced last month that he wouldn’t run for the seat in 2018.

HD 71 Candidate Will Robinson with his family

Will Robinson holding April 23 fundraiser for House bid

Bradenton Republican Will Robinson is hosting an April 23 fundraiser for his campaign to replace termed out Rep. Jim Boyd in House District 71.

The Sarasota reception will be held from 5:30 pm to 7 pm at The Francis, 1289 N. Palm Ave., and those looking to attend can send their RSVPs through the campaign’s event page.

The host committee includes several prominent local Republicans, including Boyd, Sarasota Sheriff Tom Knight, Manatee Sherriff Ricky Wells, Sarasota County Commissioners Mike Moran and Paul Caragiulo, former Senate President John McKay, and former state Sens. Lisa Carlton and Pat Neal.

Robinson is currently the only Republican running for HD 71. James Buchanan was in the race until he opted to run in the HD 72 special election. He is now running for HD 74, which is being vacated by Rep. Julio Gonzalez.

Tracy Pratt is also running solo for the Democratic nomination. She filed shortly before Randy Cooper exited the race endorsed her campaign.

Robinson is far in the lead, moneywise.

Through the end of March, he’s raised $268,300 including $90,000 in loans to his campaign. Heading into April, he had $223,515 on hand. His March report included $3,825 in new money.

Pratt, who filed March 27, showed $1,500 in contributions during the last four days of the month and has all of that in the bank.

HD 71 covers coastal Manatee County and a small strip of the northern Sarasota County coast.

Republicans have an 11,000-person advantage in voter registrations, and Boyd has had little trouble holding the seat. He took 56 percent of the vote against Democrat Adam Tebrugge in 2012 and went unopposed in the 2014 and 2016 cycles.

President Donald Trump carried the district by 11 points in 2016.

The fundraiser invite is below.

Kathleen Peters

Kathleen Peters sets fundraiser for Pinellas Commission bid

Republican state Rep. Kathleen Peters is holding a fundraiser for her Pinellas County Commission campaign in Treasure Island next week.

The event will be held at The Club at Treasure Island, 400 Treasure Island Causeway, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on April 17. Attendees can RSVP by sending a note to mparker@edwardsgp.com or by calling 727-851-9500.

Headlining the host committee are businessman Bill Edwards and former U.S. Ambassador to Italy Mel Sembler. The list also includes Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Sixth Judicial Circuit Public Defender Bob Dillinger and a slew of municipal elected officials.

Peters announced last year that she would run for the District 6 seat rather than a fourth term in the House, citing an “assault on home rule” from Tallahassee.

She faces fellow Republicans Barb Haselden and state Rep. Larry Ahern in the race for the open seat currently held by John Morroni.

Through the end of February, Peters had raised more than $85,000 for her campaign and had $65,000 in the bank – more than her two opponents combined.

The invite is below.

Kathleen Peters Fundraiser - 4.17.2018

Danny Burgess announces May 2 campaign kickoff

Republican Rep. Danny Burgess will get his House District 38 re-election campaign rolling next month with a fundraiser in Zephyrhills.

The event will be held May 2 at Sunrise Eatery, 5963 Gall Blvd., from 6 pm to 8 pm. Those looking to attend or seeking more information can check out the Facebook event for the fundraiser.

The invite sent out by the campaign included dozens of state and local Republican elected officials.

At the top of the host committee were House Speaker Richard Corcoran, House Speaker Designate Jose Oliva, St. Petersburg Rep. Chris Sprowls and Palm Coast Rep. Paul Renner.

Further down on the extensive list were Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, former House Speaker Will Weatherford, Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano, Sherriff Chris Nocco, Pasco Commissioners Mike Moore and Mike Wells and Rep. Amber Mariano.

So far, no major-party candidates are challenging Burgess, a Zephyrhills attorney and U.S. Army veteran, as he goes for a third term, though unaffiliated candidate John Hayes has opened a campaign account.

Through March, Burgess had raised more than $111,000 for his re-election campaign and had more than $52,000 on hand. Hayes, who filed in November, has raised $4,000 and has about $550 in the bank.

HD 38 is a safe Republican seat. Burgess won the district in 2014, beating out Democrat Beverly Ledbetter with 60 percent of the vote to succeed Weatherford in the Pasco-based district. In 2016, he won re-election without opposition.

The fundraiser invite is below.

Danny Burgess Fundraiser Invite 5.2.

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