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David Shapiro puts pop quiz to voters in new ad

Get your pencils ready, class.

Democrat David Shapiro has dropped a new campaign ad as he continues his challenge to incumbent GOP U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan in Florida’s 16th Congressional District.

In the ad, titled “Quiz,” Shapiro uses a multiple-choice quiz to help highlight his goals should he make it to the halls of Congress.

“Washington politicians have failed the test when it comes to protecting Florida families,” says Shapiro to the camera, as an on-screen graphic gives Congress an F rating in their representation of Florida.

“People ask me, what will I do in Congress?

“A) Fight for access to quality, affordable health care,

“B) Stand up to plans that would put Social Security and Medicare at risk,

“Or C), work to fix the VA to make sure that veterans get the benefits they earned?

“The answer? D) All of the above.”

The ad is set to air on both broadcast and cable TV.

“David’s message of fighting for Florida Families is resonating across Florida’s 16th district,” said Shapiro campaign manager, Alex Vuskovic.

“People are ready for a leader who will fight for our seniors, for our veterans, and for a health care system that’s accessible and affordable for all Florida families. They’re done with Washington politicians who are interested in writing yacht-sized tax handouts for themselves while leaving Florida families to sink or swim.”

That latter remark from Vuskovic refers to Buchanan’s purchase of a yacht on the day the House passed their first draft of last year’s GOP tax bill.

Shapiro is hoping to take the fight to Buchanan in November’s general election, but he’ll first have to defeat legal author Jan Schneider in the Democratic primary later this month.

CD 16 is becoming a more winnable seat for Democrats, according to election watchers. Both the Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato now have the race “leaning Republican,” rather than “likely Republican.”

David Shapiro owns stock in three companies he publicly denounced in op-ed

David Shapiro, a Democratic candidate in Florida’s 16th Congressional District, issued some tough talk back in February when he took his Republican opponent to task in an op-ed for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

In that piece, Shapiro criticized incumbent CD 16 Rep. Vern Buchanan and fellow Republicans for their passage of last year’s tax bill. Shapiro called out three companies in particular for their failure to protect workers following the bill’s passage: Walmart, AT&T and Kimberly-Clark.

It turns out those criticisms don’t extend to Shapiro’s own stock purchases.

A financial disclosure report filed with the U.S. House of Representatives shows Shapiro bought between $1,001 and $15,000 of stock in each of those three companies.

That disclosure report was filed just eight days after Shapiro’s op-ed. In that article, he blasted all three companies for firing workers following the tax cut, despite promises by Walmart and AT&T to provide bonuses to their employees.

In his February op-ed, Shapiro blamed Buchanan and the Republicans for passing the tax bill in the first place. “As the House of Representatives’ name suggests, a member is supposed to ‘represent’ all of the people in one’s district, not just the wealthy donors and special interests who fund his campaigns,” wrote Shapiro.

Max Goodman, campaign manager for the Buchanan campaign, said Shapiro’s ownership of these stocks shows he’s not straight with voters.

“Sneaky Shapiro is at it again,” said Goodman.

“Publicly, he says he’ll fight corporate greed, but privately, he invests in the very corporations he criticizes. You just can’t trust a word Shapiro says.”

This isn’t the first time Buchanan has hit Shapiro over the latter’s investment portfolio. Buchanan previously called out Shapiro for investments in Halliburton, gun manufacturers, and pharmaceutical companies.

But the Shapiro campaign is pushing back over this repeated criticism.

“Congressman Buchanan has used his time in Washington to line his own pockets, so he assumes that’s what everyone does,” said Shapiro campaign manager Alex Vuskovic.

“Unlike Congressman Buchanan, who wrote himself a tax handout, and used his handout to buy a yacht, David doesn’t think big corporations need more government assistance: he thinks everyday working families do. That’s what he’ll fight for Florida families when he’s elected to serve this community, and it’s exactly why Congressman Buchanan is running scared.”

Shapiro is competing with legal author Jan Schneider for the Democratic nomination in CD 16. The winner of the Aug. 28 primary will take on Buchanan in the general election.

Mike Beltran inflated his NRA grade, scoresheet shows

Lithia Republican Mike Beltran has been touting an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association in his campaign to succeed exiting Rep. Jake Raburn in House District 57, but a look at the gradebook shows that’s a misrepresentation.

Contrary to communications from his campaign, including a mailer that went out to HD 57 voters, the NRA says it rates the 34-year-old attorney as an “AQ” candidate.

Yes, there’s an “A” in the title, and yes, an “AQ” is considered a positive rating by the pro-gun group. But an “A” and an “AQ” are not the same. Simply put, one is all talk while the other requires kind of action.

Per the NRA, an “AQ” rating means the following: “A pro-gun candidate whose rating is based solely on the candidate’s responses to the NRA-PVF Candidate Questionnaire and who does not have a voting record on Second Amendment issues.”

An “A” rating — one notch up on the scale — is described thusly: “Solidly pro-gun candidate. A candidate who has supported NRA positions on key votes in elective office or a candidate with a demonstrated record of support on Second Amendment issues.”

So, according to the NRA, Beltran scored well on their questionnaire, but there’s nothing in his background that would push him over the edge and land him a full-fledged “A.” It would be one thing if Beltran had the highest score in the race, but he doesn’t — businessman and U.S. Army veteran Sean McCoy, his opponent in the Republican primary, earned the real-deal “A.”

While both men scrambled to qualify for the race after Raburn’s surprise announcement that he would not seek re-election, it appears — assuming this misrepresentation is not intentional — Beltran’s camp hasn’t settled in enough to pay attention to the details.

Florida Politics reached out to the campaign for comment on the error but did not receive a response.

Beltran and McCoy are a few weeks out from their head-to-head primary showdown. The winner of that contest will almost assuredly succeed Raburn, however they’ll still be on the November ballot alongside Valrico Democrat Debbie Katt.

The most recent round of campaign finance reports shows McCoy, a West Point graduate, with $49,000 raised and $28,566 banked. While that gives him a near 2-to-1 lead in true fundraising, Beltran holds the overall cash lead thanks a $100,000 candidate loan he made shortly after filing. Katt, for her part, has raised $11,045 for her campaign and has $5,240 on hand.

HD 57 covers part of southeastern Hillsborough County and leans Republican.

The GOP has a 7-point lead in voter registrations within the district, and Raburn had no trouble holding the seat for three terms. In 2012, his only campaign where he faced a Democratic challenger, Raburn cruised to a 17-point victory.

Beltran’s mailer is below.

Beltran Mailer

Andrew Learned pitches ‘Medicare for All’ in first CD 15 ad

Valrico Democrat Andrew Learned is out with his first TV ad in the crowded race for Florida’s 15th Congressional District, saying he’ll fight for “Medicare for All” if elected to fill the open seat currently held by retiring U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross.

The 15-second spot, titled “Human Right,” features the Navy veteran shaking hands with his would-be constituents and throwing shade at U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as he vows to support the aforementioned health care solution championed by independent U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

The short script for the ad: “In Congress I’ll fight for ‘Medicare for All,’ because health care is a human right,” Learned says. “We need to protect our health care from Republican attacks. I’m Andrew Learned Democrat for Congress — it’s time for a new generation of leadership.”

In a press release announcing the new ad, Learned reached across the aisle with a personal anecdote as he said health care was the most important issue of the 2018 cycle and that “Medicare for All” was a solution people of all political persuasions could get behind.

“If anyone tells you this election is about anything other than health care, they haven’t been paying attention,” he said. “My mom is a lifelong Republican, but she has been a hospice nurse for decades and she supports Medicare for All. In the richest country in the world, no one should die because they can’t afford treatment. That’s why I am fighting for Medicare for All and a new generation of leadership — one that puts principles over politics and will fight for what is right.”

Proponents of “Medicare for All,” analogous to single-payer, would bring health care access to all Americans regardless of their income. A recent study from a Koch Brothers-funded conservative think tank found the proposal could save Americans up to $2 trillion over the next decade, however, the study’s principal author claimed that was a misrepresentation after Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, seized on that figure.

Learned’s ad comes a couple weeks after his chief opponent in the CD 15 Democratic primary, Kristen Carlson of Lakeland, started hitting the airwaves with a 30-second spot touting her role in exposing and stopping out-of-state orange juice manufacturers tampering of Florida products.

Learned and Carlson are running alongside Coast Guard veteran and former police officer Ray Pena to become the CD 15 Democratic nominee. Until recently, the seat was considered safely Republican, but the political handicappers at the Cook Political Report recently shifted their assessment from “Likely Republican” to “Lean Republican.”

CD 15 is split between Hillsborough and Polk counties, with about 10 percent of the district’s voters living in Lake County. The district voted plus-10 for Donald Trump two years ago.

The winner of the Democratic primary will face one of five Republican candidates seeking their party’s nomination for the post. The best known among them are former state Rep. Neil Combee and current state Rep. Ross Spano, who led the primary field by double digits in a recent poll.

Learned’s ad is below.

Amanda Murphy holds slim lead over Ed Hooper in new SD 16 poll

Former Republican Rep. Ed Hooper may hold a considerable lead in fundraising, but a new poll shows former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy with the advantage among Senate District 16 voters.

The new poll, conducted July 29 through Aug. 2 by SEA Polling & Strategic Design, found Murphy with 41 percent support among likely voters with Hooper coming in 2 points behind at 39 percent.

As with past polls of SD 16, the small difference between Murphy and Hooper falls within the poll’s margin of error.

As the polling memo notes: “Amanda Murphy holds a two-point lead despite significant spending on Hooper’s behalf throughout July and early August. Two public polls conducted by St. Pete Polls showed Murphy leading or in a dead-heat with Ed Hooper which set off fire alarms in the Senate Majority office and likely led to Hooper’s midsummer panic spending.”

Indeed, Hooper has spent a considerable amount of cash in the past several weeks, though he certainly has the campaign funds to do so.

As of July 27, his campaign and committee accounts have brought in nearly $660,000 and had $492,647 at the ready. Murphy, meanwhile, has raised $103,625 between her campaign and committee accounts, with a combined $86,763 on hand at the end of the reporting period.

Murphy is the lone Democratic candidate running for SD 16, while Hooper faces a light challenge from Palm Harbor restaurateur Leo Karruli in the Aug. 28 Republican primary.

SD 16 covers northern Pinellas and southwestern Pasco counties. The seat has a Republican edge — it voted plus-12 for Donald Trump in 2016 and was held by Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala until he resigned the seat in early January.

The SEA poll took responses from 350 registered voters living in SD 16. It was conducted by live operators, with 40 percent of the responses coming in from cellphones. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.23 percentage points.

Steve Cona

Carlos López-Cantera backs Steve Cona for Hillsborough School Board

Steve Cona’s campaign for a seat on the Hillsborough County School board got a boost Monday by way of an endorsement from Lt. Gov. Carlos López-Cantera.

“Steve’s passion for education and the students of Hillsborough County is known statewide, and I’m proud to endorse him for the school board, District 1 seat,” López-Cantera said. “I’ve been impressed with his work to popularize both college and career tracks for students through the creation of Build Tampa Bay, and look forward to seeing him bring his expertise and know-how to improve Hillsborough County Public Schools for the next generation.”

Cona, the president and CEO of the Associated Builders and Contractors Florida Gulf Coast Chapter, is also an executive officer at Build Tampa Bay, a foundation established to encourage high school students to explore careers in the construction industry.

“I’m humbled to receive an endorsement from one of Florida’s most esteemed leaders,” Cona said. “As a father of two kids, both in the public school system, I have seen the work that needs to be done in our school district. We can always do more to ensure our students go from learners to earners and look forward to working with leaders like the Lieutenant Governor to improve our local public schools.”

Though School Board races are nonpartisan, Cona is a Republican who once ran for Hillsborough County Commission. His two major endorsements so far, however, have shown an ability to draw support from both sides of the political spectrum — López-Cantera, a Republican, follows Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, a Democrat, in backing the businessman’s bid.

Cona faces Gil Machin and William Person in the race for District 1, which will be on the 2018 ballot due to current School Board member Susan Valdes opting to run for House District 62 rather than finish out her term.

Person, a retired school district administrator, moved his campaign over from the District 6 race. He ran for the District 1 seat two years ago and came within 267 votes of defeating Valdes. Machin, a retired county social services administrator, appears to be a first-time candidate.

Thus far, Cona is the best-funded of the three candidates with more than $61,000 in receipts and $52,573 in the bank on July 27. Person has the second-best tally, with nearly $46,000 raised and $13,598 in his account, followed by Machin with $13,750 raised and $10,246 at the ready.

District 1 covers northwestern Hillsborough, including part of Tampa and the communities of Egypt Lake, Keystone, Leto, Town ‘n’ Country and Westchase. The winner of the nonpartisan election will serve out the remainder of Valdes’ term, which runs through 2020.

‘Tide-to-table’ concept joins slate of restaurants coming to Sparkman Wharf

Downtown Tampa’s upcoming Sparkman Wharf development unveiled another restaurant Monday that’s sure to hit all the right notes with the crowd who capped off their weekend by celebrating National Oyster Day.

Boat Run Oyster Company, billed as a “tide-to-table concept,” has joined Foundation Coffee, Whatever Pops and Gallito on the slate of restaurants opening in the in-development dining garden along the Garrison Channel in downtown Tampa.

“Sparkman Wharf offered a unique opportunity to take part in the exciting redevelopment of Tampa’s downtown urban landscape. We are also thrilled to collaborate with SPP and work alongside such creative and talented restauranteurs,” said Ryan Conigliaro, co-founder of Boat Run Oyster Company.

The new restaurant, developed by local firm SaltBlock Hospitality, will feature a menu stocked with sustainably raised, diverse and delicious oysters from around the world, as well as locally-grown oysters from Cedar Key. For those who don’t feel like eating off the half shell, Boat Run Oyster Company plans to plate plenty of other Florida favorites, from shrimp rolls to stone crab.

The Sparkman Wharf development is currently being built by Tampa-based contractor EWI. The dining garden, biergarten, and recreational lawn are slated to open in October 2018.

Upon completion, Sparkman Wharf will feature 180,000 square feet of loft-style office space, with another 65,000 square feet of street-level retail and a one-acre park-like location. The development is a piece of the much-hyped Water Street Tampa project backed by Strategic Property Partners, a partnership between Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment, is behind the Sparkman Wharf development.

SPP recently revealed its plans for Water Street Tampa’s public spaces as well as some of the buildings that will anchor the 50-acre development, including a pair of top-tier Marriott hotels under the “EDITION” and “JW Marriott” labels. Construction is already underway on the latter, which is expected to open in 2020.

All told, the $3 billion development will feature nearly 9 million square feet of indoor space and will bring downtown Tampa its first new condominiums in nearly a decade as well as its first office towers in a quarter century.

Ray Blacklidge feels backlash to ‘Irish slaves’ meme

State House candidate Ray Blacklidge is taking heat from opponents for sharing a Facebook meme suggesting white slaves suffered more than black ones. But he says he just wanted to educate the public about slavery’s long reach.

Blacklidge, a Madeira Beach Republican, shared a post on March 26, 2017, from writer Jerome Palkowski containing a historical cartoon showing a woman “flogging her apprentice in the cellar.” The image accompanied a write-up alleging African slaves were expensive compared to Irish slaves and in turn treated much better in Colonial America.

When Blacklidge shared the image, he wrote “A sad American Truth…” with his post. He told Florida Politics he recalled sharing the illustration but believed at the time the message was about the evils of slavery, not an attempt to minimize the plight of black slaves.

“It’s unacceptable no matter who does it,” he said. “Unfortunately, civilization has had a long history of enslaving people. It should not be accepted in any way. That was not my intention. I was just showing it’s occurred to numerous civilizations and numerous groups.”

The origins of the shared cartoon can be hard to nail down, but the message appeared in numerous internet memes around the time Blacklidge shared the picture. Often, white nationalist groups spread the information, according to a The New York Times article from March 2017.

Blacklidge is running in the Republican primary for state representative in House District 69 against Jeremy Bailie, himself a first-generation American and son of an Irish immigrant. Bailie, a St. Petersburg Republican, said regardless of Blacklidge’s intent, sharing the extremist message showed poor judgment.

“If he can’t make good decisions on Facebook he’s probably not going to make good decisions in Tallahassee,” Bailie said. “That type of vile and disgusting post has no place in America today.”

In addition to racist undertones, fact-checking organizations say the meme also contains inaccuracies. No Irish slaves existed in North America; there were indentured servants, most of whom willing entered into brutal worker situations and all of whom maintained legally recognized human rights. Black slaves before emancipation, by comparison, were deemed property.

The spread of “Irish slaves” myths prompted a group of Irish scholars in 2016 to dismiss such claims as “an exercise in racist ahistorical propaganda.”

The text accompanying the cartoon, which suggests Irish slaves cost 5 sterling while African slaves cost 50, appears to pull directly from articles about “The Forgotten ‘White’ Slaves” shared under numerous bylines online. Among the early sites sharing the statistics, according to Snopes, were the conspiracy-mongering InfoWars and the white nationalist Stormfront.

As for Palkowski, the source of the meme shared by Blacklidge, he no longer has a Facebook page viewable for the public but has written for a blog called “Christian Politics,” describes his own heritage as “white Catholic” and decries “politically correct, left-wing ideology.”

On his site, he once wrote “radical liberals” believe minorities deserve benefits and opportunities over white men because “all minorities were slaves to the wealthy landowners of the South.” “Well, to tell you the truth,” he wrote, “this isn’t exactly correct, but let’s pretend that it is.”

Blacklidge, a prolific sharer of memes on Facebook, said individuals should research history themselves; he acknowledged a proliferation today of disreputable sources online.

“We have so much more access to information that may not have been available in the past,” he said. “Unfortunately, there’s some fake news, so you have to take everything with a grain of salt.”

He said he’s always defended civil rights, and sent an email around Easter this year that touched on race.

“I have learned to understand that no one can ever know what it is like to be a person of a different race or religion, or to be another gender or age,” he wrote, “and that the only way to resolve the issues between us is to talk, to listen and to support each other.”

Al Sharpton on Markeis McGlockton killer: ‘Lock him up or give up your badge’

Thousands gathered in Clearwater on Sunday as Rev. Al Sharpton called on justice for Markeis McGlockton, a father shot down last month after a dispute over a parking space. To cheers, Sharpton called on law enforcement to arrest shooter Michael Drejka.

“Lock him up or give up your badge,” Sharpton said at the event Sunday.

Pinellas County Bob Gualtieri declined to arrest McGlockton, citing the “Stand Your Ground” provision of Florida’s self-defense statute.

Sharpton said that law disproportionately hurts black communities and called on its repeal. But he also questioned why Drejka, a white man, would be given the benefit of doubt when killing a black man.

“Why stop and listen to his story?” Sharpton said. “There ain’t a story. You killed an unarmed black man who was standing up for his family.”

Camera footage of the shooting with no sound shows McGlockton pushing Drejka to the ground, then backing away when Drejka pulls out a gun. Drejka then fatally shoots Drejka.

McGlockton’s girlfriend Britany Jacobs had parked in a handicap space, which started the conflict with Drejka. Jacobs’ and McGlockton’s children were in the car.

The decision not to arrest Drejka has drawn questions from the left and right. The NAACP called on the Department of Justice to review the case. The National Rifle Association, meanwhile, said the Stand Your Ground law is being misapplied to the case.

Sharpton said conservatives who call on black men to be more involved in raising families should be angry a father defending his family would be gunned down, and the family would then be told no crime was committed.

All five major Democratic candidates for governor — Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Philip Levine, Chris King and Jeff Greene — stood behind Sharpton at the Sunday rally and spoke to the crowd. Sharpton thanked the candidates for putting campaign differences aside for the day. Greene and Gillum also appeared today on Sharpton’s MSNBC show.

“Tomorrow they will be attacked by some of the right-wingers,” Sharpton said. “But we don’t need a weak-kneed governor. If they can’t stand with you now, then we can’t stand with them on Election Day.”

After Sharpton gave $1,000 to a collection for McGlockton’s children, Levine, Green and Gillum also contributed $1,000 and King and Graham each chipped in $2,000. Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw also contributed $1,000.

Sharpton said at the event that probable cause existed to arrest Drejka, and it should be decided in court whether Stand Your Ground applies. He also called for a repeal of the law and said he wouldn’t want his own grandchildren living in this state while the statute remains on the books.

“We cannot have a law that functions on the imagination of paranoid folk,” he said.

He also called out President Donald Trump, who visited Tampa Bay last week to rally for Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob DeSantis but failed to address the controversial shooting 45 minutes away.

“Why not address the value of human life?” Sharpton said. “You want to know why we call you a racist? You talk like a racist and you walk like a racist.”

Sharpton regularly compared the shooting to the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Shooter George Zimmerman was acquitted by a jury in 2013 based on Stand Your Ground.

Martin’s parents also spoke at the rally Sunday. “I’m fighting for Trayvon as if he is still living,” said mother Sybrina Fulton.

The event was led by Benjamin Crump, the attorney for McGlockton’s family and previously for Martin’s parents. Sharpton compared Crump to the late Johnnie Cochran.

Sharpton noted that public pressure at least forced the state to take Zimmerman to trial, and he hoped this time it could lead to Drejka’s conviction.

Andrew Gillum, Jeff Greene call for Stand Your Ground repeal on MSNBC

Gubernatorial candidates Andre Gillum and Jeff Greene both called for a full repeal of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law during MSNBC interviews with Rev. Al Sharpton.

“The fact that you have an individual who becomes judge, juror and executioner all in there own minds under the protection of the law in the United States is a deep travesty of justice,” Gillum told Sharpton.

Both Democratic candidates appeared on Sharpton’s “Politics Nation” to discuss the law following the July shooting death of Markeis McGlockton, described on air by Sharpton as a “28-year-old black man shot by a white motorist after an argument at a gas station.”

Both Greene and Gillum saw parallels between the shooting and the 2012 death of Trayvon Martin.

“Florida can’t be this place where we have this white-on-black crime going on constantly,” Greene said. “Why haven’t we learned enough after Trayvon Martin?”

Martin’s killer George Zimmerman in 2013 was acquitted by a jury of murder charges based on the Stand Your Ground portion of Florida’s self-defense statutes.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri in July announced he would not arrest McGlockton’s shooter, Michael Drejka, based on the law, and would leave the decision on charges to the State Attorney’s Office.

Sharpton devoted time on the show to discuss the July death of in advance of a rally he’s attending today in Clearwater.


Gillum stressed the law creates an environment in Florida that puts black lives in particular at risk.

“As the father to two black boys, this is extremely personal to me,” he said. “I’ve watched too many of these tragedies take place and unfairly snuff out the lives of the people who we love.”

Greene on Sharpton’s show called for the law to be taken off the books. “This is legalized murder,” he said. “This doesn’t need to be changed. This law needs to repeal, and the day I get to Tallahassee, Reverend, I’m going to fight for criminal justice reform and ending this law immediately.”

Gillum noted he has long called for the law’s repeal and thanked Greene for joining him in that position. He repeated a call for Gov. Rick Scott to issue an executive order suspending the law for emergency review for 60 days.

“So long as there is confusion over this law, people’s lives are on the line,” Gillum said.

In the McGlockton death, groups like the National Rifle Association allege the Stand Your Ground law has been misapplied.

Greene, though, said the NRA shares responsibility for any application of the law, calling out the organization’s lead Florida lobbyist by name during the interview.

Marion Hammer and the NRA should be ashamed of themselves,” he said. “This is one more murder that should be on their hands.”

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