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Ed Hooper nabs Mike Fasano endorsement for SD 16

Ed Hooper, in his bid to return to Tallahassee, picked up a major endorsement Wednesday from Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano.

Fasano, a former Republican state lawmaker, has been a longtime political force in West Pasco County. Hooper, who served in the House from 2006 to 2014, is running in Senate District 16, covering parts of Pinellas and Pasco counties.

“I know Ed Hooper to be an honest and thoughtful person who cared about how laws effect the people he represents,” Fasano said in a statement. “Hooper has my full support and endorsement for State Senate.”

Hooper seeks to succeed Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala in SD 16. Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, is term-limited from the Senate and now running for Florida governor.

Born in North Carolina, Hooper moved to Clearwater in 1972 and studied fire science and emergency medicine at St. Petersburg College. After 24 years with the Clearwater Fire Department, Hooper was elected to the Clearwater City Council and later served eight years in the Florida House, before retiring in 2014 due to term-limits.

Hooper also brings an extensive civic involvement, including stints on Clearwater Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Pinellas, and the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee.

In endorsing Hooper, Fasano joins State Sens. Jack Latvala, Jeff Brandes and Dana Young, as well as Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco and former House Speaker Will Weatherford.

More anti-Yvonne Fry flyers hit Hillsborough mailboxes

Another wave of mailers went out in Hillsborough County blasting HD 58 Republican candidate Yvonne Fry for her alleged lack of conservative bona fides.

Both mailers were paid for by “Hillsborough County Conservatism Counts,” a political committee formed at the end of last month by Ash Mason, who worked as a legislative aide in the Florida House from 2006 to 2011 and is now the regional director in the southeast for the Christian Coalition Of America.

The same committee was behind some other anti-Fry flyers that hit Hillsborough mailboxes last week, just days after the committee was formed.

The committee’s first campaign finance report, detailing who is funding the group, won’t be available until after voters head to the polls to decide whether Fry or fellow Republican Lawrence McClure will be the GOP nominee in the special election to replace former Rep. Dan Raulerson.

The first of the two mailers slams Fry, a Plant City businesswoman, as being against gun rights and claims she outright told the Tampa Bay Times last month that “she doesn’t support our Second Amendment rights.”

The front of the mailer says she “joined the ranks of Obama, Clinton and Pelosi in declaring war on the Second Amendment,” while the backside brands Fry, who has picked up support from many Republican officials including the entire Plant City Commission, as a “liberal” who wants to “take away your God-given gun rights.”

The second mailer targets Fry’s support for the infrastructure sales tax in Hillsborough, which it dubbed “the largest tax hike in Hillsborough County history.”

“Liberal Yvonne Fry’s billion dollar tax hike benefits a few people in downtown Tampa at the expense of hard working families in Plant City, Temple Terrace and the rest of East Hillsborough County.”

That mailer also pulls quotes from the Tampa Bay Business Journal coverage of the sales tax. The Plant City Economic Development Coverage, which Fry had a seat on, supported the sales tax. Fry has publicly supported the tax as well, calling it an “investment” in the county’s infrastructure that would benefit Plant City even though rail isn’t slated to come to the city under the plan.

The second mailer is largely similar to one of a handful of other mailers sent out last week, one of which railed against her opposition to expanding the homestead exemption, a move Fry sees as a home rule issue that the state should leave be.

The winner of the primary between Fry and McClure will advance to a Dec. 19 general election against Democrat Jose Vasquez, Libertarian Brian Zemina and no-party candidate Ahmad Saadaldin. District demographics give the Republican nominee the best chance to win on Election Day.

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Jeremy Bailie wants to bring intense focus to Florida Legislature

Jeremy Bailie, one of three Republicans who filed to run for the Pinellas County-based House District 69 seat being vacated by Kathleen Peters, says in his job as an attorney, he’s driven to help small businesses.

He wants to bring that same intense focus to Tallahassee.

“I’m running because I feel very passionately about not just the little guy, but the small businesses that really make up our community that employ hundreds of thousands of people all over the state,” the 26-year-old barrister told FloridaPolitics.com Tuesday morning. “I want to be a part of the solutions in helping them achieve the same successes that my family and grandparents sought when they came to the states, and also be able to keep that opportunity alive for others.”

Bailie paternal grandparents emigrated from Northern Ireland to the U.S. to find a better life. An attorney with the St. Petersburg based law firm of Abbey, Adams, Byelick & Mueller, Bailie says he’s proud of the fact that along with representing large international companies, he’s also represented small, local firms on employment law, worker’s compensation and bargaining issues.

“I get to see how what happens in Tallahassee affects small businesses,” he remarks.

Bailie attended Northland International University, an evangelical Christian school in Dunbar, Wisconsin, before returning to his native Florida to get his law degree at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, where he currently resides.

He said he was surprised when Peters announced earlier this year that she would not run for reelection. In her statement announcing her decision to instead run for the Pinellas County Commission, the Pasadena Republican lambasted Tallahassee lawmakers for what she said was “an all-out assault on local government and home rule,” referring to a number of bills that legislators proposed that would take power away from local government in cities and counties in Florida.

When asked if he shared her sentiments, Bailie said on some issues yes, on others, not so much.

“There’s certainly a place in our legal framework in Florida, a place for city governments to have the people closest to the citizens — the voters — to have an opportunity to do with what they deal with on a day-to-day basis,” he said, before quickly pivoting to areas where he embraces uniformity, like within the criminal justice system.

“You can’t have somebody in Pensacola getting one sentence, and somebody in Ocala or Miami, (getting) a completely, radically different sentence,” he says.

Speaking a day after the world learned about a man in Las Vegas killing 58 people and wounded hundreds in the courtyard of a hotel, Bailie said the incident struck home for him, as a good friend of his was actually in Vegas celebrating his wedding anniversary at the Justin Aldean concert that tragically devolved into the largest mass shooting in American history.

When asked his stance on gun issues in Florida, he began by asserting that the U.S. Supreme Court had spoken “pretty clearly” that the Second Amendment means that every American has a personal, individual right to own weapons with reasonable regulations.

“We want to make sure that guns don’t fall into the hands of those who shouldn’t have it,” he says, adding that if a bill were proposed to do that, “I would absolutely have to take a look at the legislation.”

But when asked about support for controversial gun bills like open carry and/or campus carry that were proposed (but died) in the Legislature over the past couple of Sessions, Bailie backed off, saying that (specifically on the campus carry bill) he would need to study it further before offering an opinion.

“That’s certainly a bill that I would want to take a look at and see what kind of protections are built into it and what options I have to keep college campuses safe but also to allow students access to guns and to protect themselves …I know that there’s been a couple of incidents of sexual assault victims who testified wanting to have that ability to protect themselves.”

Bailie is also a “huge proponent” of charter schools in Florida, while concurrently showing appreciation to public school teachers.

“Parents should have opportunity to send their students to the best possible place for their kids to grow, to learn, and to give back into the community,” he says, adding that he qualified for Bright Futures and it aided him in paying for his associate degree at Pasco-Hernando County Community College.

When it comes to children’s education, Bailie says, “we want a fully funded public school system,” adding that “you can’t pay teachers enough.”

Raymond Blacklidge and Christopher Licatta III have also filed paperwork to run in the GOP primary for HD 69 next August. Blacklidge entered the race in June, and has raised more than $54,000 to date. No Democratic candidates have filed to run.

Last November, Peters defeated Democrat Jennifer Webb 57-43 percent.

Wilton Simpson latest Republican to back Ardian Zika in HD 37 race

Florida Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson is the latest Republican to endorse Ardian Zika in the Pasco County-area House District 37 race for 2018.

“Ardian Zika’s story is a modern-day story of the American Dream,” Simpson said Tuesday in a statement from the Zika campaign, referring to the Land O’ Lakes businessman’s background, which includes leaving war-torn Kosovo 20 years ago to come to the United States.

“He has since completed an education, spent a decade and a half in the banking industry in a variety of leadership positions and started his own business,” Simpson added. “He and his wife have five children and are active members of their church. Ardian Zika has the common-sense experience we need to represent us in our state capitol.”

“This election, Ardian Zika has my strong support to serve as our Florida House Representative from District 37.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran currently occupies the House District 37 seat, but the 37-year-old Zika is quickly becoming an establishment favorite to succeed Corcoran, who is term-limited next year.

Former House Speaker Will Weatherford has already contributed $1,000 to Zika’s campaign, as has Simpson, his wife and two connected companies. All told, Zika raised more than $100,000 since entering the race in August.

“Senator Simpson has been a role model and a positive example for me, both as a successful business owner and in how he serves our community and gives back,” said Zika. “I am honored and humbled to have Senator Simpson’s support and endorsement.”

George Agovino, Elle Rudisell and Bill Gunter have also entered the Republican HD 37 primary.

St. Pete Polls survey: Rick Baker slightly leading Rick Kriseman

Alright poll trolls, get ready to pounce.

The latest survey from St. Pete Polls of the city’s mayoral race has Rick Baker slightly ahead of Rick Kriseman, although statistically-speaking, the race is a virtual tie.

Baker received 46.0 percent of those surveyed Monday night while Kriseman garnered 45.3 percent. Just under nine percent of voters are unsure about who they support.

Baker, a former mayor who remained popular years after leaving office, led Kriseman in every public poll conducted during the primary phase of the campaign. In fact, St. Pete Polls final pre-election survey had Baker beating Kriseman by seven points.

But Kriseman wound up beating Baker by 69 votes, with both candidates garnering about 48 percent of the ballots in the non-partisan race.

The dead heat, with neither candidate capturing more than 50 percent of the votes, has forced a Nov. 7 runoff.

After Kriseman’s surprising first-place finish, his supporters took to social media to savage St. Pete Polls, even though the firm’s tracking of the race was mostly accurate. Election results showed Baker winning the early voting period, but Kriseman taking Election Day. Because St. Pete Polls’ final survey was conducted a week before the election, it did not account for Kriseman’s last-minute surge.

This is the first public poll of the race conducted after the city, like the rest of Florida, was impacted by Hurricane Irma. Campaigning by both Kriseman and Baker had all but been suspended during the week before and after the devastating storm hit the state.

The poll has a sample size of 1,012 voters, with a 3.1 percent margin of error. St. Pete Polls’ Matt Florell notes in the methodology that the results of this poll were weighted to account for proportional differences between the respondents’ demographics and the demographics of those who voted in the primary.

This poll was not commissioned by Florida Politics.

Breaking down the numbers, it would appear Kriseman is now firmly in command of the black vote, leading that demographic 46 to 38 percent. For much of the primary, Kriseman trailed Baker among black voters. But the recent controversy about President Donald Trump’s remarks in response to a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia — and Baker’s refusal to say whether he had voted for Trump — have almost definitely hurt the Republican candidate.

Baker’s support from the black community also may be undercut by an endorsement former President Barack Obama gave to Kriseman the Friday before the election.

There’s an interesting phenomenon happening in the male/female numbers. Kriseman is leading Baker among men, while the former mayor is leading the incumbent among women. The leads are not huge — just four or five points in each case — but they defy traditional assumptions about men identifying with the more conservative candidate and women rallying to the Democratic-leadning candidate.

In advance of the 2018 elections, Democrats have targeted not only the St. Pete mayoral race but a key special election in Miami-Dade to replace former Sen. Frank Artiles, a Republican who was forced to resign in April after a profanity- and racially-tinged tirade at a private club near the Capitol.

Last week, Democrat Annette Taddeo defeated Republican Jose Felix Diaz for that Senate District 40 seat.

Content from the News Service of Florida was used in this post.

Vern Buchanan questions whether Congress should revoke NFL’s tax-exempt status

In the wake of nearly 200 NFL players deliberately refusing to stand during the “Star Spangled Banner” last weekend, conservatives are talking about hitting the league where it hurts — in its pocketbook.

Sarasota-area Republican Vern Buchanan has sent out a survey to supporters asking them whether the league’s tax-exempt status should be revoked “in response to players refusing to stand during the national anthem?” (As of Monday morning, nearly two-thirds said yes.)

The NFL did voluntarily remove the tax exempt status for the league office back in 2015. Buchanan spokesman Ryan Ploch notes that the NFL’s tax exemption continues to exist in permanent law — “the league simply volunteered to stop taking it.”

Panhandle Republican Matt Gaetz made headlines last week when he announced that he was taking over as lead sponsor of H.R. 296, the Pro Sports Act, which is legislation  that ends the tax-exempt status of professional sports leagues which still maintain that status.

“Right now, one of the special interest loopholes in our tax code allows the league offices of professional sports leagues to avoid paying taxes. That’s crazy,” Gaetz told MSNBC over the weekend. “That’s a special interest giveaway that the small businesses in my district certainly don’t have access to. And so I have introduced legislation to abolish the special tax exemption that the NFL enjoys and that all other professional sports leagues enjoy. I think that’s fairer for folks on Main Street and folks in the middle class.”

The bill was previously sponsored by now-retired Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz. 

In a memo from the Spring of 2015, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the discussion about the league’s tax-exempt status was a “distraction,” and said the league office would give it up. CNN reported the league saved about $10 million with its tax-exempt status, as estimated by Citizens For Tax Justice.

While the NFL remains tax-free, the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that removing such nonprofit status for all sports leagues would increase federal revenues by $109 million over ten years.

Dozens protest NFL players anthem-kneeling before Bucs vs. Giants game

Angry at the NFL players who refused to stand during the national anthem, about fifty people protested at a rally Sunday just blocks from Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, where the New York Giants faced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers .

“My attitude is, if my flag offends you, then I’ll help you pack,” said Jim Heckman. “You need to leave America if you can’t stand the flag.” Read more

Four candidates qualify for HD 72 special election

The card is set for the special election in House District 72, and four candidates have qualified in the race to replace former Rep. Alex Miller, who left the House Sept. 1.

Republican James Buchanan, Libertarian Alison Foxall and Democrats Margaret Good and Ruta Jouniari made the cut before the noon deadline on Friday.

The primary election for the race is set for Dec. 5, and the winner of the Good v. Jouniari contest will move on to the Feb. 13 general election with Buchanan, the son of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, and Foxall.

A couple weeks ago it didn’t look like the primary date would be used, but Journiari ended up qualifying despite flubbing on her paperwork and using a personal check to pay the qualifying fee.

The GOP almost had its own primary as well, but Republican Alexandra Coe, who entered the race last week, failed to qualify according to the Florida Division of Elections.

Buchanan has earned the backing of a long list of Republican lawmakers in past few weeks, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, and likely would have fared well in a primary battle had Coe forced one.

He also had the advantage of already having a campaign set up for HD 71 before Miller made the surprise announcement she was leaving the Legislature. When Buchanan filed less than an hour later, he brought a six-figure campaign account with him.

HD 72 has a solid Republican lean, and even if Buchanan didn’t have political pedigree or campaign cash, he would still have been the odds-on favorite for the northern Sarasota County seat.

Democrats ran their best possible candidate for the seat last year, Ed James III, and despite being one of the top fundraisers in the cycle he lost 58-41 on Election Day.

Statistics from last year show HD 72 has about 52,000 Republican voters compared to about 35,000 Democrats and another 30,000 with no party affiliation. Miller’s landslide victory last year came alongside a 5-point win for President Donald Trump in the district.

In new ad, Fla. Dems continue effort to tie Rick Baker to Donald Trump

If the special election this week in state Senate District 40 proved anything, it’s that Donald Trump has become political poison for Republican candidates.

It’s not surprising then that the Florida Democratic Party (FDP) is doubling down on its effort to link Rick Baker to the president as St. Petersburg’s mayoral race enters the final stretch.

The FDP is out with a new ad that slams Baker and Trump for “refusing to act on climate change,” while highlighting Mayor Rick Kriseman‘s leadership on the issue.

“Florida can’t afford climate change deniers like Rick Baker and Donald Trump.,” said Florida Democratic Party spokesperson Johanna Cervone. “Politicians like Rick Baker will keep their heads in the sand on climate change if it means more campaign cash.”

St. Petersburg’s mayoral race is officially non-partisan, but the battle of the two Ricks has been a decidedly partisan affair.

Last month’s primary election resulted in a virtual tie, even though Kriseman trailed Baker — a former mayor who remained immensely popular — in money and polls throughout the campaign. Both candidates received about 48 percent of the vote, forcing a November runoff because neither topped 50 percent.

Democratic and Republican strategists blamed Baker‘s slide on Trump.

Baker‘s campaign tried to link Kriseman to a variety of divisive local issues, including a kerfuffle over the replacement of an iconic waterfront pier, a massive sewage link and a pricey new police station.

While those topics may have resonated for many voters, Democratic and Republican political consultants maintained that what likely hurt Baker the most was the Kriseman team’s success in tying Baker to Trump.

Strategists cautioned against overstating the broader significance of Kriseman’s comeback.

“But it should be a warning sign. It should be an alert signal. It should cause Republicans to ask themselves, how could a guy who was so beloved in this community (Baker) not be able to turn that on again,” Republican strategist Rick Wilson said.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this post.


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