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It’s not the party … it’s the after party! A rundown of where Tampa Bay-area candidates will be on election night

Political candidates spend months rallying volunteers, knocking on doors, hobnobbing with voters at public events and, of course, raising cash. Come Election Night they’re ready, win or lose, to cut loose and either get to work or get back to their families.

Whether the champagne is flowing or supporters are drowning disappointing election results at a cash bar with an arm full of finger foods, just about everyone will be somewhere.

Supporters can nab a piece of the action — and an hors-d’oeuvre or two — right along with their favorite candidate this November 6. Here’s where to find them.

Governor/U.S. Senate/Cabinet

Reform Party gubernatorial candidate Darcy Richardson will be hosting a private event to monitor results in Jacksonville with campaign staff and family. The Reform Party of Florida is hosting its watch party at the Holiday Inn on 8310 Galbraith Road in Tampa.

North Pinellas County Democratic Club — Benedict Family Restaurant, 2676 Causeway Plaza, Dunedin

Hillsborough County Republican Party — Due Amici Restaurant, 1724 E. 7th Ave., Ybor City

Sarasota GOP — Hyatt Regency Sarasota, 1000 Blvd. Of The Arts, Sarasota, 5:30-9

CD 13

Charlie Crist — The Avenue, 330 1st Ave S, St. Pete, 7-10

CD 15

Ross Spano — Beef O’Brady’s in Brandon, 210 S Kings Ave, Brandon

Kristen CarlsonThe Lakeland Room, 130 S Massachusetts Ave, Lakeland

Please RSVP to Robert Walters at robert@kristencarlsonforcongress.com

SD 16

Ed Hooper — Island Way Grill, 20 Island Way in Clearwater, 6-9 

More information is on his campaign Facebook page.

Amanda Murphy — Campaign office, 34931 US-19 N, Palm Harbor

SD 18

Janet Cruz — Grillsmith Restaurant, 14303 N Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa, doors open at 7

Dana Young 

SD 22

SD 24

Lindsay Cross — The Getaway, 13090 Gandy Blvd N in St. Pete, 6-8 

More information is on her campaign Facebook page.

Jeff Brandes — 400 Beach Seafood and Tap House, 400 Beach Dr. NE in downtown St. Pete, 6-8 

More information is on his campaign Facebook page.

HD 57, 58 and 59

Debbie Katt, Phil Hornback and Adam Hattersley, 11135 Winthrop Market St., Riverview

HD 63

Fentrice Driskell

HD 66

Nick Diceglie — Salt Rock Grill, 19325 Gulf Blvd, Indian Shores, 6-8

More information is on his campaign Facebook page.

Alex Heeren — West Bay Tap House, 80 Clearwater Largo Rd S, in Largo, 6-9 

More information is on his campaign Facebook page.

HD 69

Jennifer Webb — Peninsula Inn Gulfport, 2937 Beach Blvd S, Gulfport

Ray Blacklidge — Gator’s Cafe 12754 Kingfish Dr., Treasure Island, 5:30-9

Hillsborough County Commission District 7

Kimberly Overman, The C House, 6005 N. Florida Avenue, Tampa

Todd Marks, Catch 23, 10103 Montague St, Tampa

Hillsborough County Commission District 5

Mariella Smith, The Attic Cafe, 500 E Kennedy Blvd, Suite 400, Downtown Tampa

Hillsborough County Referendum No. 2

All For Transportation — not hosting a party, press availability after election results at campaign headquarters, 610 S Boulevard, Tampa

Pinellas County Commission District 6

Kathleen Peters — Middlegrounds, 10925 Gulf Blvd, Treasure Island, 6-8 

Amy Kedron — Is not making her event public due to security concerns raised against Tampa Bay Times reporter Mark Puente.

Pasco County Commission District 2

Mike Moore — Florida Hospital Center Ice, 3173 Cypress Ridge Blvd, Wesley Chapel, 6-9:30

The polls close at 7 p.m. For campaigns without a time listing, events will be held as polls close.

Lindsay Cross with Martin O’Malley, Chris King on Election Eve

Senate candidate Lindsay Cross was up before the sun Monday prepping for her final day of campaigning before Election Day. She started the day at her St. Petersburg home on the patio for a “coffee chat” with voters.

“If you have already cast your ballot, thank you,” Cross said, coffee mug in hand and cicadas chirping in the background. “If you haven’t yet, what are you waiting for?”

Cross’ Facebook video implored voters to support progressive ideals including gun reform, environmental protection, affordable healthcare and public education reform.

Later, Cross campaigned with Florida’s Democratic Lieutenant Governor nominee Chris King and former Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley.

In another video with the two, O’Malley tells Florida voters, “win back your state.”

“All of these elections are so close. We need all of you to get to the polls. As I said earlier today, get a whole bus load,” Cross said, standing between the two men. “Go and rent a van, bring all of your friends and family. Make sure you get to the polls. There is no excuse.”

Cross is running an uphill battle against incumbent Republican Jeff Brandes for the Pinellas Senate District 24 that includes parts of St. Pete.

“What I’ve told people all across the state of Florida, don’t just elect Andrew Gillum and Chris King, but send some great state senators to Tallahassee,” King said. “Lindsay represents that kind of choice for Tampa Bay and over here in St. Pete.”

Cross has a huge funding disadvantage against Brandes. He’s raised more than $1.5 million in his campaign to keep his district red. Cross has raised about $208,000.

Republicans nationwide are typically out-raising their Democratic challengers, but Cross’ disadvantage is even deeper because she entered the race late after former candidate Carrie Pilon bowed out of the race.

Still, Cross isn’t backing down despite being the underdog. She’s been campaigning full-time, seven days a week for weeks and is using social media as a cheap campaigning arm.

Her ads have run on platforms like Netflix, Hulu and Pandora that are less costly than traditional media buys. That strategy also targets younger voters who are more likely to consume media on streaming platforms than on cable television or radio.

Cross ended her video with O’Malley and King saying she was looking forward to popping the champagne Tuesday night at her election night party at the Getaway.  

Brandes and his supporters have fired back at her campaign platform, tying it to progressive all stars like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and, now, Gillum. Those efforts included, direct mail, television ads and a website called “Liberal Lindsay Cross.”

‘No Mo’ Play In FL’: Rapper Pastor Troy endorses Joe Wicker

Joe Wicker has a less famous version of Kanye West, minus the racist comments, backing him in his campaign against Democrat Adam Hattersley for Florida House District 59.

Georgia rapper Pastor Troy recorded a 30-second message supporting Wicker for the seat to replace incumbent Ross Spano.

Wicker grew up with the 40-year-old Troy in Atlanta and the two are friends.

Troy, whose real name is Micah LeVar Troy, is the frontman for the rap group D.S.G.B., which stands for Down South Georgia Boys. He also has several solo rap albums and has collaborated with bigger hip-hop stars including Lil John and Young Jeezy.

He also recorded a “beef album,” which is basically a rap battle, with Master P in the 90s.

“Hey yo, yo, this is your boy Pastor Troy. On Tuesday, November 6 it’s Election Day and we ready,” Troy says in the call. “I’m asking you to go vote for my boy, Joe Wicker. He ready and we ready.”

Like Kanye West, Troy is a black rapper who supports President Donald Trump and other conservatives.

Asked whether the nod from a popular rapper could help the conservative candidate tap into some of the minority vote, Wicker campaign manager Mike Norris said: “that’s the goal.”

But the campaign also hopes the call will drum up support from people in their mid-to-late 30s and early 40s who were in high school when Troy was most popular.

“Obviously you’ve got to be of a certain age to know who he is. His highest selling album was in 2002. It wasn’t minority specific. We figured it wasn’t something people would be expecting from a conservative candidate,” Norris said.

Pastor Troy came up with his stage name as a throwback to his father, who was a pastor. It’s also a play on words for Castor Troy, the villainous character from the 1997 John Woo film Face Off.

Wicker is seeking the Democratic-leaning district covering Brandon, Riverview, Bloomingdale and Valrico.

“I think the reason why Republicans have carried it is because they’ve put a lot of resources and outworked their opponents,” Norris said. “We were both combat arms guys in the military. There’s not going to be anybody who is going to come into this race and outwork us.”

 

Josie Tomkow seeks re-election, despite never seeing a Session

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends.” — King Henry the Fifth, William Shakespeare.

On Tuesday, state Rep. Josie Tomkow is running for re-election to Florida House District 39.

Nevertheless, she has not yet sat in a Legislative Session.

Elected May 1 to replace state Rep. Neil Combee, who resigned Nov. 24, 2017, to accept a job with USDA in Gainesville, she missed the Session which ended by the time of her Republican primary win.

The general election was May 1, when she defeated Lakeland Democrat Ricky Shira with 60 percent of the vote.

Shira, a perennial candidate for the Democratic Party, said he always puts his name on the ballot when he can’t recruit a Democrat because he doesn’t want registered Democrats to be without anyone to vote for.

Although not funded or supported by the state Democratic Party, Shira and volunteers made a strong effort in campaigning for the May 1 special election, garnering 40 percent of the vote.

During the 2018 session of the Florida Legislature of January and February, the residents of District 39 had no elected representation in the Florida House. Tomkow opened a district office after her May election.

Shira did almost no campaigning for Tuesday’s general election, although he put his name on the ballot again when he could find no Democrat willing to run. His total campaign fund for this election consisted of a $3,000 loan to himself, of which most went to the filing fee.

Tomkow finished with $97,194 with another $5,667 of in-kind services. She had spent $48,401 before the final weekend of the current election.

Her freshman term in the Legislature, if (as expected) she is elected, will begin in her second term.

Voting trends suggest edge for Gus Bilirakis, but there’s a catch

Voter turnout so far in the Pinellas County portion of Congressional District 12 is very low. Only eight percent of registered voters have cast a ballot in precincts voting in the race between incumbent Republican Gus Bilirakis and his Democratic challenger Chris Hunter.

Election supervisors cannot release voter turnout by party in individual precincts or races until after polls close on election night, but an analysis of voting trends in both Pinellas and Pasco counties shows Bilirakis might have an edge in the race heading into Election Day. The district includes a small part of Hillsborough County, but only eight precincts are included. 

While early voting only accounts for one fifth of all ballots cast so far, the locations where people voted suggest a Republican edge. Two early voting locations are in or near Congressional District 12 including the Palm Harbor location and the Supervisor of Elections courthouse location in downtown Clearwater.

There, about 1,000 more Republicans cast a ballot than Democrats with 8,142 Republican ballots cast and 7,121 for Democrats.

In Pasco County where all voters have a say in the CD 12 race, 45 percent of all early votes were cast by Republicans compared to just 34 percent by Democrats with total voter turnout so far at 35 percent.

The county leans heavily Republican with 39 percent of the electorate verses 31 percent for Democrats.

Despite the possible advantage, there is still a huge question of whether or not no party affiliation and third party voters could tip the scales and push a red district to Democrats.

In Pinellas County, 29 percent of voters are either unaffiliated with a party or are registered with third parties. In Pasco County, that number is 21 percent. In both instances, that’s enough voters to negate a Republican advantage.

Democrats have been pushing hard to earn support from NPA voters and nationwide trends and polls show independents are leaning toward Democratic candidates.

There’s also the Trump effect. As voters head to the polls, many are rejecting Republican candidates based on their disenchantment with the Republican Party under the Donald Trump administration. Some Democrats may vote against their own party this election if their frustration with the Trump White House is deep enough.

That was the case for former Congressman David Jolly. Jolly not only left the Republican Party, he announced he voted for Andrew Gillum for governor despite opposing the progressive Democrat on many issues. That decision was based on Republican candidate Ron DeSantis’ alignment with Trump.

Bilirakis should have had an easy race against Hunter, but the vitriol in politics is motivating Democrats to wage intense battles against Republican incumbents.

Bilirakis is also contending with headlines against his campaign that are not only potentially hurting his support among voters, but increasing his opponent’s name recognition.

Bilirakis came under fire after falsely claiming credit for a bill that’s since been signed into law clamping down on opioids. Bilirakis called it “his bill” even though he had nothing to do with it. Worse, Bilirakis actually co-sponsored a 2016 bill making it easier for drug manufacturers to distribute opioids.

The combination of factors means Bilirakis is facing a potential upset in a district where he should have way more than an edge.

Young Cruz 3

Final poll of SD 18 offers hope to both Dana Young and Janet Cruz

House Minority Leader Janet Cruz is inches ahead of Republican state Sen. Dana Young in the battleground race for Tampa-based Senate District 18.

A new survey from St. Pete Polls found Cruz with a point-and-a-half lead over Young with 7 percent of likely voters still undecided, that lead falls well within the poll’s margin of error.

The source of Cruz’s lead stems from a 12-point advantage in the early vote, 54-42 percent — more than two-thirds of those polled said they had already cast their ballots. Young has more than a shred of hope, however, thanks to the voters who are waiting until Election Day favoring her by a wide margin: 53-32 percent.

Nearly one in six respondents who are waiting to cast their ballot said they were undecided. Which way those voters break in the waning hours of the contest could tip the outcome in either direction.

Cruz and Young each earn around three-quarters of their party’s base, with a fifth of GOP voters and the same number of Democrats defecting and voting for the opposing party’s nominee. Among independent voters, Cruz leads 50-41 percent with the remainder still on the fence.

Young has an edge among voters over 70 and those age 50 to 69, while Cruz takes the lead among Millennials and Gen Xers. White voters, who account for 59 percent of SD 18’s voting age population, are breaking prefer Young 52-44 percent.

Meanwhile, Cruz runs up the score among black voters, 73 percent of whom are looking for a change compared to 24 percent who want to stay the course. The tally is closer among Hispanic voters, though Cruz holds a 46-40 edge with 14 percent undecided. Black and Hispanic voters make up a combined 37 percent of the districts voting age population.

Young holds a 5-point edge over Cruz among women, which counters the national trend of female voters preferring Democratic candidates in the 2018 cycle. Male voters prefer Cruz 51-44 percent.

The Young-Cruz battle is among the most competitive state Senate races slated for the 2018 ballot.

Young won the seat 2016 with a plurality of the vote against a much weaker Democratic challenger in a four-way race that saw third-party candidates net 11 percent of the vote. SD 18 is also one of two districts Florida Democrats are targeting this cycle that went for Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket two years ago.

Young has dominated the money race, continuing her trend of being one of the most prodigious fundraisers in the Florida Legislature. The latest tally: $983K in hard money and millions in soft for Young versus $500K hard and a million soft for Cruz.

The St. Pete Polls survey was conducted via an automated phone call polling system on Nov. 3. It took responses from 641 voters and the two major parties accounted each accounted for 38 percent of the sample. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Want to learn about Hillsborough Soil & Water District candidates? This is the place!

One of the great Election Day conundrums voters face occurs when they reach the part of the ballot marked “Soil and Water Conservation District.”

There usually are a bunch of names there you’ve never heard of, and unless one of them happens to be a close friend or relative you probably don’t know anything about them. But the feedback we have received here at Florida Politics tells us that way more than a few voters want to make an informed choice.

The dilemma: There just aren’t a lot of ways to find out why someone wants to be elected to this job that pays nothing but is important nonetheless.

So, I gave it a shot to do my civic duty and offer Hillsborough County voters some knowledge about the candidates who want their support. I emailed each candidate and asked three questions:

1)    Why are you running for this position?

2)    Do you have a background and/or heightened interest and experience in conservation that you would bring to the District?

3)    What do you see as the greatest priority of the District?

There are 11 candidates in three Hillsborough Soil and Water Districts. I received replies from five of them and am offering their comments here.

If other candidates want to reply before Election Day, we’ll update this post and let you know what they say.

DISTRICT 1:

JOSHUA CARRASCO: I am running for the Soil and Water Conservation District as a concerned citizen. The biggest challenge facing the District is lack of public awareness. If elected, I want to make Hillsborough County residents more aware of the vital work being done by the District.

My background includes seven years of broadcast journalism and four years of public relations experience. I want to engage more members of the community in the conservation efforts of the District through public relations campaigns. Many Hillsborough County residents are very interested in conservation but have no idea of the role the District plays in their community.

The only contact most residents have with the District is during an election when they play “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” with candidates. I want to effect change by educating residents on of the work being done by the Soil and Water Conservation District.

Education and Awareness are the two greatest priorities for the District. I think the District does a great job educating and assisting local farmers, youth organizations, and schools, but few people are aware of the activities of the District. If elected, my priority will be to find opportunities to raise awareness of District initiatives.

KATHY ECKDAHL: (no reply received)

MICHAEL HEGERTY:  I was born and raised in Hillsborough County, I have family in farming and I know a lot about our environment here locally. My plan is to pass a Tier System to keep a balance in Hillsborough County.

Subdivisions are the cancer of Florida, we must keep the balance of Agricultural and Environment. This will keep the food prices down and protect our water supply and native animals. The current zoning laws in Hillsborough County do none of this. They are easily changed and provide no future balance.

DAVID MAYNARD: I am glad to be running for a third consecutive four-year term as Supervisor One on the Hillsborough County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Most of our work falls into two areas: education and assistance to small farmers.

We provide competitions and other activities for students in cooperating schools, and the home-schooled, that require participants to learn information about our environment and agriculture. We organize land-judging contests, poster contests with designated subjects, speech contests, and school garden contests. We also promote the work of long-established youth agricultural groups such as Future Farmers of America and 4-H. We have in addition helped establish Community Gardens, which are educational for all the residents, throughout the county.

We help small farmers with our cost-sharing program as well as other incentive-based programs. In addition, we work collaboratively with State and Federal agriculture-related agencies, as well as organizations such as the Farm Bureau and Strawberry Growers’ Association.

What makes ours different from the other purely tax-supported entities is that we also fund-raise to support our many activities. We also receive donations for our work from individuals and businesses, small and large.

As you have written our positions are unpaid, but for me, it is rewarding nonetheless as I know we are providing an essential service for our county. Certainly, my superior experience is a superior asset but more important is my dedication. I know I am the best qualified to hold Seat One on the District. As for my three opponents, I can only say that no one has bothered to attend even one of the many candidate forums and other candidate events that have I have attended throughout Hillsborough County.

DISTRICT 3:

MICHAEL HEPBURN (no reply received)

FRANCISCO PIERRE-LOUIS 

I’m running for this position because I believe it is important for more young people to not just vote but to run for office. We all have a responsibility to be the change we want to see in the world and the best way to do that is to start here at the local level.
I may not have experience as a conservationist but I will do what’s best for my community. I have spent my almost my whole life helping others and taking care of our fragile ecosystem is the biggest responsibility that we have. As Soil and Water officials, part of the job description is just that. Being better stewards of nature and teaching others how to pay it forward so we can still have an earth to pass down to future generations.
The greatest priority for this district is accountability. For too long we have let corporations walk all over us. For example, corporations like Mosaic, have polluted our environment and has essentially brought our elections. If elected, I would make sure that companies that pollute our environment will not get special treatment.

JOHN WATERMAN

I have been sitting on the sidelines for many years, watching as the people I believed in politics continuously either failed to follow up on words or policies they proclaimed during their campaigns or ignored wide swaths of the population entirely. I have also been trying to become more involved in my local government, becoming more aware of who people are that are making decisions for us every day.

Soil and Water Conservation District 3 was very simply the lowest barrier to entry position to run for, and additionally and perhaps most importantly deals with natural resources that require someone who will fight against the inconsideration and greed of corporations and those who subsist off of their campaign contributions. It is important to note, however, that the District is a non-regulatory body, meaning the power is still very much in the hands of those who would deny their responsibilities to the next generation of Floridians and specifically the children of Hillsborough County.

I do not have a technical background. I do however have experience in living through times in which soil and water are consistently abused. I know that the Everglades is dying because of the agricultural pursuits of Big Sugar and other corporate farming entities. I know that less rain in Florida leads to rationing water, that the water table will not continue to replenish itself if we do not make decisions to limit our use. That agricultural entities use fertilizers and pesticides that end up in our drinking water and endanger the lives of the wildlife around us. I know that one day I want my kids to live here and that I want other people’s kids to live here and enjoy that same quality of life that is currently available in Hillsborough County.

The greatest priority of the District to be to pressure our local politicians and businesses to make choices that guarantee continued water and soil quality for future generations.

Thank you and I want to point out that I fully support the ideas set forth by Mr. Pierre-Louis as well.

DISTRICT 5:

ANDREW BROOKS: I am running for the elected position because I was born in Tampa and raised in Odessa. The county has a special place in my heart because it is where I grew up. From playing in the county parks as an elementary school kid to this past weekend kayaking out in Cockroach Bay.

I am passionate about the outdoors and want to have a direct say and oversight in how we protect and promote the beauty we as residents and as neighbors have surrounding us. It is personal for me and will continue to win or lose to do everything I can to improve our county’s natural treasures.

My background in conservation comes from a “boatload” of statewide volunteer work. From beach cleanups to working on 1000-plus acre pine forest in Levy County. I have experience working alongside Florida Division of Forestry, US Department of Agriculture, Florida Fish and Wildlife (both biologists and law enforcement,) University of Florida Biology department, Ducks Unlimited, etc.

I worked with these entities on projects ranging from soil sampling, native wildlife management, prescribed fires, helping properties owners qualify for state and federal forestry grants, wetlands conservation and much more.

I believe the greatest priority in the department of soil and water conservation is to promote countywide education programs aimed at inspiring local youth to take notice of how lucky they are to grow up in a region with such diverse ecosystems and to hopefully instill a passion in them for caring for the environment. I specifically remember when I was at Claywell Elementary as a student and the department came in with corporate sponsors to teach about the water cycle and the Florida Aquifer. Little things like that really do make a lasting impression on students, enough so that I can still picture it today over 20 years later.

MATT GOZDOR: I grew up in the Detroit area in the 70’s and 80’s.  This was a time when environmental regulations were in their infancy. I remember playing with my friends in the summer and my lungs burning because of the air pollution. I also remember not being able to fish in Lake Erie because it was dead.

I am a natural problem-solver and wanted to be a part of the solution. So, I earned a BS in Environmental Science and an MS in Hydrology. I became a soil and water scientist (hydrogeologist) and work as an environmental consultant helping companies assess and clean up contaminated properties.

I want to use my education, experience, and knowledge gained over the last 20 years to serve Hillsborough County by helping to conserve our resources.

My education and work experience over the last 20 years are directly applicable to the position I seek.  It should also be noted that the Soil and Water Board has roughly a half-million-dollar budget annually.  In my position as an environmental consultant, I annually manage between a half million and a million dollars of work.

Additionally, the Soil and Water Board is responsible for outreach to schools. As Vice Chair of another board, I was responsible for a charity BBQ that helped raise over $8,000 for college scholarships in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.

Reducing water use from the Floridan aquifer is the greatest priority of the District.  Tampa Bay Water’s Current supply is projected to meet the region’s water needs through 2028 even with expected population growth.

Anything that the Soil and Water Board can do to help farmers and private landowners to reduce consumptive use of Floridan aquifer water and either maintain or improve crop yield, etc. is a step in the right direction.

TRAVIS MEDLING (no reply received)

RAY YOUNG (no reply received)

Safe this election, Charlie Crist hits the trail for other Democrats

Democratic Congressman Charlie Crist is looking at an easy re-election Tuesday against a less than formidable challenge from Republican George Buck.

That’s likely why he’s spending his time campaigning with other Democrats throughout the state to help them get elected.

Crist started his Saturday in Tampa near Ybor City making the rounds with Chris King, the Lieutenant Governor nominee running with Democrat Andrew Gillum.

Then he made his way through several different canvassing kickoffs in Pinellas County to support local Democrats.

“President Obama put it better than anybody: This election is about the character of America,” Crist said.

“Do we want to be uniters or dividers; do we want to be hopeful or fearful? I hear from a lot of people that are very concerned about the tone in our country right now and the rhetoric and the violence that we’ve sadly witnessed.”

Crist says he’s fed up with modern political discourse, particularly from President Donald Trump, that emphasizes vitriol and potentially promotes violence rather than unity.

The man accused of sending pipe bombs to more than a dozen prominent Democratic officials and supporters — including former President Barack Obama, 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and top Democratic donor George Soros — lived in South Florida and drove a white van plastered in pro-Trump stickers and propaganda.

Crist also mentioned the anti-Semitic shooter in Pittsburgh that shot up a Jewish synagogue, claiming the lives of 11 congregants.

“I think it makes a difference,” Crist said of the recent incidents. “Any significant event that touches your heart makes a difference. It’s not about politics, it’s about our character.”

Obama made that point in a Friday appearance in Miami supporting Gillum for Governor and incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate.

In a nod to Crist’s predecessor, former U.S. Rep. David Jolly who left the Republican Party and said he voted for Gillum, Obama said the two probably don’t see eye-to-eye on political issues.

But Jolly recognized the rhetoric coming from the Trump White House and couldn’t support Ron DeSantis, who closely aligns with and supports Trump.

More significantly, DeSantis was endorsed by the president, which almost certainly clinched the Republican nomination for Governor this August over otherwise GOP heir apparent Adam Putnam, the state’s term-limited Agriculture Commissioner. 

In addition to Gillum and Nelson, Crist also is urging voters to support Democrats in Florida cabinet races. That includes Sean Shaw for Attorney General and Nikki Fried for Agriculture Commissioner.

Those races and legislative runs are important for Democrats because if Gillum is elected, he’ll need allies in the House, Senate and on the Cabinet to support his campaign priorities.

One of the most notable is Gillum’s plan to raise teacher pay to at least $50,000, and better fund Florida’s public schools and its students.

If he ever needs help in Congress, he’ll likely have Crist’s ear, too. In a hint at his popularity, Crist – who unseated the one-termer Jolly 52 percent-48 percent in 2016 — raised more than $2 million for his first re-election bid. The Republican Buck only brought in just under $30,000, as of the end of September.

In a telling note, Crist also recently sent an email supporting Jacky Rosen, the Democratic nominee for Senate in Nevada.

“This is an important election and Florida is at the epicenter of it all,” Crist said.

“We are the largest swing state. What we do Tuesday is going to send a message to the rest of the country.”

Amanda Murphy Biden

Joe Biden gives Amanda Murphy his full support

Former Vice President Joe Biden announced his support for former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy in the hotly contested race for Senate District 16 just three days before Election Day.

The announcement came late Saturday afternoon, just as voting in Pinellas entered its final day. Murphy thanked the former VP and possible 2020 presidential candidate for his support on social media, saying “our campaign is proud to announce Vice President Biden’s full support as we make our final case to the voters in Senate District 16.”

Murphy faces former Clearwater Republican Rep. Ed Hooper in the race for the North Pinellas/West Pasco Senate seat formerly held by Jack Latvala.

SD 16 has a Republican lean, but polling has indicated the Hooper-Murphy contest will come down to the wire on Election Day. A mid-October survey by St. Pete Polls found Hooper with a 48-46 percent lead with 6 percent undecided.

Murphy showed an unprecedented ability to lull GOP voters in her three runs for Florida House. In a 2013 special election, she took over for exiting Republican Rep. Mike Fasano — with his blessing, no less — and won re-election to a full term the following year.

In 2016, she was booted from office by current Republican Rep. Amber Mariano in one of the closest state House races in recent history. Despite of Donald Trump winning the Pasco-based House seat in a 20-point landslide, the Murphy-Mariano contest came down to to just 691 votes, or 0.6 percent.

SD 16 covers northern Pinellas County and southwestern Pasco County, including Clearwater, Dunedin, Safety Harbor, Palm Harbor, New Port Richey and Oldsmar. Republicans make up about 38 percent of the district’s electorate, while Democrats make up about a third.

Young TV ad

Dana Young releases a pair of new ads for SD 18 re-election bid

With Election Day in sight, Republican Sen. Dana Young is letting some surrogates make the case for her re-election with a pair of new campaign ads rolling out in Tampa-based Senate District 18.

The ads, titled “Fix the Problem” and “Sacrifices,” focus on Young’s record of fighting for Florida children, with a special focus on her support for school safety reform.

Young’s non-vote on adding an assault rifle ban to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act has been an avenue of attack from her Democratic challenger, House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, but the second of those two ads flips the script on that narrative — it features a resounding endorsement from Andrew Pollack, the father of Meadow Pollack, who was killed during the February school shooting.

“We can make our schools safer and that’s exactly what Dana Young is doing,” Pollack says in the ad. “Dana Young voted for the most comprehensive and common-sense school safety reform in Florida history.

“Dana Young increased school safety funding, putting a police officer in every school, bolstered crisis training and expanded mental health services. Lives will be saved. I stand with Dana Young for Florida Senate,” he concluded.

The second ad features Young’s mother, Nancy Duden, extolling the virtues of her daughter and pushing back against other attacks from the Cruz camp, namely that Young’s support for charter schools — which are publicly funded but run by private education providers — is a negative.

“Dana Young is kind, compassionate, and she has a heck of a mom,” Duden says. “I’m Dana Young’s mom and I’m also a retired public school teacher. Dana knows the sacrifices teachers make, that’s why Janet Cruz’ attacks aren’t just false, they’re shameful. I know my Dana. I know her heart. She’s kind and compassionate and she fights for our kids.”

The Young-Cruz battle is among the most competitive state Senate races slated for the 2018 ballot.

Young won the seat 2016 with a plurality of the vote against a much weaker Democratic challenger in a four way race that saw third party candidates net 11 percent of the vote. SD 18 is also one of two targeted by Florida Democrats this cycle which voted for Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket two years ago.

In 2018, the contest is a head-to-head. Polls of the race have shown the two women swapping leads more often than an average NBA game, though neither candidate has built a lead outside-the-margins lead in a public poll — an early October measure from Democratic pollster PPP even failed to show Cruz with a statistically significant advantage.

Still, Young has plugged along in the money race, continuing her trend of being one of the most prodigious fundraisers in the Florida Legislature. The latest tally: $930K in hard money and millions in soft for Young vs. $420K hard and $970K soft for Cruz.

Election Day is Nov. 6. Young’s ads are below.

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