Tampa Bay Archives - Page 6 of 196 - Florida Politics

Jeff Brandes holding Thursday fundraiser as Lindsay Cross struggles to raise cash

St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes is holding another fundraiser Thursday for his re-election bid in Senate District 24, where he holds a better than 20-to-1 cash lead over Democratic challenger Lindsay Cross.

Among the several dozen names listed on the host committee for the St. Petersburg reception are former St. Pete Mayors Rick Baker and Bill Foster, Pinellas County Commissioners Jay Beyrouti and Karen Seel, Pinellas Clerk of the Court Ken Burke, Tampa Sen. Dana Young, former House Speaker Will Weatherford, St. Petersburg City Councilman Ed Montanari and state Rep. Kathleen Peters, who won the Republican nomination for Pinellas County Commission District 6 last week.

Brandes’ event will be held in the Grand Ballroom of The Birchwood, 340 Beach Drive NE, starting at 5:30 p.m. Those looking for more information or to send in an RSVP can contact Rick Porter or Ivey Rooney via 407-849-1112 or Ivey@PoliticalCapitalFlorida.com.

SD 24 is among the seven state Senate seats Florida Democrats said they were targeting in the 2018 cycle, and early polling showed their initial recruit, trial lawyer Carrie Pilonwithin 5 points of Brandes among likely voters. Pilon’s campaign ended abruptly, however, due to unexpected health problems of a close family member.

Cross stepped in at the last minute and, while she was put in an unenviable position, she has been somewhat flat on the fundraising trail. As of Aug. 23, she had raised $48,725 for her campaign account and had about $44,250 in the bank.

She also failed to preserve the momentum built by Pilon’s campaign when it comes to the polls. The first measure of the race since she became the Democratic nominee showed Brandes with a 39-19 percent lead over Cross. With 42 percent of voters undecided, there’s room for growth for both candidates.

Brandes meanwhile, has raised about $820,000 for his campaign account, including $300,000 in self-funding, and had $531,370 on hand on Aug. 23. Should Cross start to catch up, Brandes has another $360,000 ready to deploy in his affiliated political committee, Liberty Florida.

SD 24 covers most of southern Pinellas except for the tip of the peninsula, which is included in neighboring SD 19. According to the most recent bookclosing report published by the Florida Division of Elections, Republicans hold a 4-point advantage in voter registrations within the district.

Despite the GOP advantage, SD 24 voted for Barack Obama twice before going plus-7 for Donald Trump in 2016.

The fundraiser invitation is below.

Brandes fundraiser 9.6.2018

Aakash Patel

Joe Henderson: Aakash Patel’s loss not surprising, but margin was

Aakash Patel is bright, energetic, and creative – traits that would be considered valuable at a place like the Hillsborough County Commission.

But when Patel, a Republican, ran to represent a countywide district on that board, he was trounced in the primary last week, losing to attorney Todd Marks by a 2-to-1 margin.

The margin, more than the outcome, seemed out of whack.

No disrespect intended to Marks, but out of 390 precincts, Patel won only 13 and tied two. In the eastern part of the county, which is notably conservative, Marks got 80 percent of the vote or higher in multiple precincts.

It was a bruising campaign – Patel was the subject of 13 negative mailers from Marks – but lots of campaigns are rough and don’t wind up with that kind of margin.

So, what happened?

Well, there is one possible explanation that is a little scary to think about.

Could Aakash Patel’s first name have been a problem for too many voters?

“There is some validity to that,” Republican consultant Mark Proctor said. “I hate to say that, but I’ve seen it happen a couple of times. It’s hard to believe we’re still dealing with that in 2018.”

Proctor helped run Dipa Shah’s 2014 campaign for the School Board. She is an attorney, highly intelligent, and was drubbed in that election by April Griffin.

Again, the margin surprised more than the outcome.

Shah was attacked by a negative mailer that played up her name and suggested she was a liberal Muslim. She is not. Shah is a registered Republican and Catholic.

Voters often aren’t into details, though.

April Schiff, President of Strategic Solutions of Tampa, helped run Patel’s campaign. I asked her the same question: Was Patel’s campaign doomed by his first name?

She answered cautiously.

“Unfortunately, it would appear that some prejudice prevailed,” she said.

Remember, at the start of the campaign season both Patel and Marks expected to be running in District 1, which stretches from the Town ‘n’ Country area in northwest Hillsborough through south Tampa and into the southern part of the county.

That changed when incumbent Sandra Murman changed her mind about running for the countywide seat and decided to stay in District 1. Patel and Marks changed gears and went to the countywide spot.

The conventional belief is that Patel would have been competitive in a single district, but winning a countywide seat was a much larger challenge.

Interestingly, Aakash Patel raised more money in this race and out-spent Marks, but it didn’t matter.

It’s sad to think people might not look any deeper at a candidate than their name, but the difference in vote totals suggests it was a factor in the margin of victory.

Marks may well make a fine County Commissioner if he beats Democrat Kimberly Overman in November, and none of this about him or the legitimacy of his victory.

Not at all.

It is curious, though, when we see outcomes like this.

It’s hard not to think the worst.

WellCare finishes $2.5B deal for Meridian plans

Tampa-based WellCare Health Plans has completed a $2.5 billion deal to buy health plans that will expand its business in the Midwest and a firm that is a pharmacy-benefit manager, WellCare said Tuesday.

In the acquisition, which was effective Saturday, WellCare purchased Meridian Health Plan of Michigan, Inc., Meridian Health Plan of Illinois, Inc., and MeridianRx, a pharmacy-benefit manager.

The deal was initially announced in May. WellCare is a major player in Florida’s Medicaid managed-care program.

“We are excited to complete our acquisition of Meridian,” WellCare CEO Ken Burdick said in a prepared statement. “This transaction grows and diversifies our Medicaid membership by nearly 40 percent, increases our Medicare Advantage presence in new markets, adds a proprietary PBM (pharmacy benefit manager) platform, and enhances WellCare’s integrated dual-eligible and marketplace capabilities, positioning us for further growth within government-sponsored programs.”

Tampa mayoral candidate Jane Castor launches neighborhood listening tour

Former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor is making her case to be the next mayor of Tampa one living room at a time.

Castor, one of nine candidates vying to succeed exiting Mayor Bob Buckhorn, held the first of several planned living room stops Thursday evening at a home in Seminole Heights.

“I have always said that Tampa’s greatest resource is our citizens, and I am doubling down on my commitment to include residents and all of our neighborhoods into our campaign by going to every neighborhood across the city to listen to what they think are the most pressing issues facing Tampa,” Castor said.

“As I create my platform, I want to know what our citizens’ vision for Tampa’s future is, because their voice is critical to everyone’s quality of life. This is an exciting time in Tampa’s history, and I’m even more excited to hear from our community about what the next chapter in our city’s story should look like,” she concluded.

The “Conversations with Castor” series currently has 20 planned stops on the docket with events coming to the following neighborhoods: Sulphur Springs, Forest Hills, University Square, Jackson Heights, Rainbow Heights, Lincoln Gardens, Carver City, Old West Tampa, Port Tampa, Ballast Point, MacDill, Virginia Park, Palma Ceia, Historic Hyde Park, Hunters Green, Arbor Green, Harbor Island, Davis Island, Grant Park, Highland Pines, Woodlawn Terrace, Live Oaks, North East Tampa, Wellswood, Plaza Terrace, Tampa Heights and Riverside Heights.

“When Jane was Chief of Police, it was always clear that she led by example and that there was a big heart beating underneath the badge,” said William Truett. “Sitting with Jane, and being able to tell her about our concerns, shows she truly cares about every neighborhood in Tampa, not just mine.”

Dates and times for all future stops on the the neighborhood listening tour can be found on Castor’s campaign Facebook page.

Also running in the mayoral election are Harry Cohen, Sam Brian Gibbons, Michael Anthony Hazard, LaVaughn R. King, Topher Morrison, David A. Straz, Jr., Mike Suarez and Ed Turanchik.

Castor is one of the better funded of the nine announced candidates with nearly $159,000 in hard money fundraising and another $225,000 raised for her affiliated political committee, Tampa Strong.

Castor has $345,500 on hand between the two accounts, putting her behind only Straz, who has provided his campaign with self-funded $1.55 million in self-funding thus far and has already started rolling out ads for his campaign.

There are six months to go before the mayoral election is held on March 5, 2019. The new mayor and councilmembers will take office on April 1, 2019.

janet cruz

Bob Buckhorn endorses Janet Cruz for state Senate

House Minority Leader Janet Cruz added an endorsement from Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn for her campaign to oust incumbent Republican Sen. Dana Young in northwestern Hillsborough’s Senate District 18.

“Janet is a proven leader, a fighter for working families, and a tireless advocate for public education,” Buckhorn said. “As a member of the Florida House, Rep. Cruz brought back $14 million to Hillsborough Community College, spearheaded Equal Pay for Equal Work legislation, and sponsored legislation that raised police and fire survivor benefits within the City of Tampa to 100 percent.

“As your next Senator, she will continue to fight for what’s right while being laser focused on what’s best for our district,” he said.

Buckhorn joins some of the state’s biggest unions in backing Cruz, who currently represents House District 62. Past endorsements have come in from the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teacher union, and the Florida AFL-CIO, which represents more than 1 million Florida workers.

“Mayor Buckhorn is a true visionary and I am honored to have his support,” Cruz said. “Under his leadership, Tampa is thriving. Corporations are choosing to relocate here, and the Riverwalk is flourishing with new businesses, while connecting Channelside to the Heights.

“From the Super Bowl to the NHL All Star Game to the Women’s Final Four, Tampa is now a national destination that we all get to enjoy. I look forward to continue working with him to make Tampa the best place in Florida to live, work, and play for everyone,” she concluded.

SD 18 sits atop the Florida Democratic Party’s wish list this fall. Other than South Florida’s SD 36, where David Perez won the Democratic primary to challenge Republican Rep. Manny Diaz, SD 18 is the only district Democrats are after that voted for Hillary Clinton two years ago.

As of Aug. 23, Young held a large lead in fundraising with more than $455,000 in hard money on hand and another $1.27 million at the ready in her affiliated political committee, Friends of Dana Young. By comparison, Cruz had $189,000 in hard money and another $330,000 in her political committee, Building the Bay PC.

Cruz and Young both went unopposed in last week’s primary elections. Unlike two years ago, when Young won a plurality of the vote against three challengers, Cruz and Young are the only candidates to make the ballot in 2018.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Internal poll shows David Shapiro within striking distance of Vern Buchanan

A new internal poll from the David Shapiro campaign shows him trailing, but within striking distance of, Vern Buchanan in the race for Florida’s 16th Congressional District.

Conducted by ALG Research, the survey showed Shapiro earning 44 percent support among likely voters to Buchanan’s 48 percent — just within the poll’s 4.9 percent margin of error.

The poll, which sampled 400 people, ran from Aug. 22 to Aug. 25 and utilized live telephone interviews.

Since this is an internal poll, it should be noted that they routinely offer numbers more biased toward the campaigns releasing them, and should be a factor when assessing its reliability.

Nevertheless, if this is even in the ballpark of truly gauging the race, it’s good news for Shapiro. Analysts tend to see this seat sticking in the Republican column.

But a four-point gap in the polls can easily be overcome by Election Day.

“Voters are turning on corrupt Congressman Vern Buchanan because they realize they deserve better than a Washington insider who uses his position in Congress to line his own pockets,” said Javier Hernandez, spokesperson for the Florida Democratic Party.

“It’s no mystery why Buchanan has been dodging his constituents lately: he is afraid to answer for his ethics problems and the fact he wrote a tax law to help the special interests bankrolling his political career and luxury lifestyle.”

Hernandez is referring there to the fact that Buchanan purchased a yacht on the same day House Republicans passed the first version of their tax cuts bill last year. It was later reported that Buchanan received a loan for that purchase from a company who was also lobbying in support of the tax bill.

Buchanan’s camp denied anything improper occurred regarding the yacht’s financing.

The Buchanan campaign also remains skeptical of Shapiro’s new poll, doubting it is an accurate reflection of the race.

“Obviously it’s a bogus push poll,” dismissed Buchanan campaign manager Max Goodman.

“If Shapiro could barely beat a no-show candidate in the Democrat primary after outspending her 50-to-1, he sure isn’t within striking distance of Vern. The fact that he would release a phony poll after such a poor showing shows just how demoralized and panicked he is.”

On Tuesday, Shapiro defeated Jan Schneider by just over 9 percentage points despite heavily outspending her during the primary. Then again, Buchanan did spend big on anti-Shapiro ads throughout the primary, which may have held down his numbers among Democrats who are likely to come back to him during the general.

While there’s no clear evidence the poll was outright “bogus,” a four-point margin doesn’t quite line up with the shape of the race right now, according to other data.

A FiveThirtyEight analysis of the race shows Buchanan with an expected margin of victory of just under 10 points, per available data. That would give him just under a 90 percent chance of winning the race, their model shows.

Phil Hornback

Phil Hornback raising campaign cash for HD 58 run Thursday

Ruskin Democrat Phil Hornback is holding a fundraising reception Thursday evening to kickstart his campaign for Hillsborough County’s House District 58.

The event will run from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Keel & Curley Winery, 5210 Thonotosassa Rd., in Plant City. The suggested contribution $25, and attendees can expect some entertainment from The Hummingbirds.

Though Hornback filed for HD 58 back in May, he hasn’t made much headway on the fundraising trail. It seems that could change in the near future, however, given some of the names on his fundraiser’s host committee — former CFO Alex Sink, Democratic Attorney General nominee Sean Shaw, state Sen. Daryl Rouson and Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp are among the many names on the invite.

Supporters looking more information on the event or to RSVP can send a message to campaign manager Jason Marlow via jasonsmarlow21@gmail.com or call 561-459-9368.

Hornback is a former middle school science teacher, football coach and real estate broker. Prior to entering the race for the northeastern Hillsborough County district, he was a candidate for Florida’s 15th Congressional District.

HD 58 is currently held by Republican Rep. Lawrence McClure, who won the seat in a special election late last year. Prior to McClure, the seat was held by former Republican Rep. Dan Raulerson who resigned the office due to health issues.

As of Aug. 23, Hornback had raised about $7,000 for his campaign and kicked in another $6,000 in candidate loans though he had little cash on hand. McClure, meanwhile, has raised close to $52,000 with $36,600 in the bank.

HD 58 includes Plant City, Temple Terrace, Dover, Mango, Seffner, Thonotosassa, and parts of Tampa and East Lake-Orient Park. The seat has a Republican advantage — it voted plus-10 for Donald Trump two years ago.

The fundraiser invitation is below.

Hornback fundraiser 8.30.2018

Dana Young announces Oct. 2 fundraiser for SD 18 re-election bid

Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young is holding a fundraiser for her Senate District 18 re-election campaign on Oct. 2 in Tallahassee.

The event will run from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the BC Room of the Governors Club, 202 South Adams St. Those looking for more information or to RSVP can contact Kristin Lamb via Kristin@FLFStrategies.com or 850-339-5354.

Young was elected to Senate District 18 in 2016, but due to the shakeup caused by redistricting she and other state Senators in even-numbered districts must run for re-election after only two years.

She is facing a tough challenge from House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, who entered the race in mid-April. The most recent poll of the race shows Cruz with a slim advantage in the northwestern Hillsborough district, which covers much of Tampa.

SD 18 sits atop the Florida Democratic Party’s wish list this fall. Other than South Florida’s SD 36, where David Perez won the Democratic primary to challenge Republican Rep. Manny Diaz on Tuesday night, SD 18 is the only district Democrats are after that voted for Hillary Clinton two years ago.

Young has landed several endorsements, most recently from the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and she’s already started revving up her ground game with canvassing drives. But her biggest advantage this cycle is in the money race.

As of Aug. 23, Young had more than $455,000 banked in her campaign account at the last reporting checkpoint. Her political committee, Friends of Dana Young, has about $1.27 million at the ready.

By comparison, Cruz had $189,000 in hard money and another $330,000 in her political committee, Building the Bay PC, through the same date.

Late last month, Young challenged Cruz to two debates ahead of their general election showdown. After poking Young for being down in the polls, spokesperson Kevin Cate said the Cruz campaign would reach out to the debate organizers and that the campaign was “eager to debate expanding access to affordable care, more funding for schools, and common-sense gun reform.”

Election Day is Nov. 6. Young’s fundraiser invitation is below.

Young Fundraiser 10.2.2018

All for Transportation opening office, kicking off volunteer efforts tonight

The committee backing a one-cent sales tax to fund transportation initiatives in Hillsborough County is opening a Tampa office and holding an orientation meeting for volunteers Wednesday night as it begins to push for a November win in earnest.

The All for Transportation office, located at 504 E Tyler St., will host prospective volunteers and inform them on how they can help the campaign during the 6 p.m. “Office Grand Opening and Volunteer Kickoff Meeting.”

The group said there’s parking on site, and for those traveling on two wheels instead of four, there’s a bike rack at Portico Café one block away. Volunteers busing in can use any route stopping at the Marion Transit Center, which will get them within two blocks of the office.

In an email announcing the event, All for Transportation encouraged supporters to “bring along friends, family, or co-workers—all are welcome!”

The referendum would add a penny-per-dollar sales tax in Hillsborough County for 30 years starting in 2019. It’s estimated that would bring in $280 million per year to fund transportation initiatives in the county.

The money raised by the sales tax would be split between Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART), which would get 45 percent of the funds, and local governments in the county, which would divvy up the other 55 percent for road maintenance and projects tackling traffic congestion.

All for Transportation launched a frantic push early last month to make the November ballot via the seldom-used citizen’s charter amendment process and in a matter of weeks the group had collected the more than 49,000 signatures required to successfully make the November ballot.

The initiative has been heavily supported by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik as well as businessman and philanthropist Frank Morsani, both of whom pitched in $150,000 to jump-start the eleventh-hour petition drive.

Multiple business groups have shown up with other major contributions over the past month, bringing the total amount raised by the committee to more than $750,000, but it took a large portion of that cash to collect the signatures. All for Transportation had about $73,000 in the bank on Aug. 23.

Last week, the referendum earned endorsements from the Tampa Downtown Partnership and the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, which joined their community partner, the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce, in backing the measure after a unanimous vote by its board.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Voters around state say yes to local school tax increases

Voters in several parts of Florida approved tax hikes for local school programs and teacher raises, which could be encouraging news to backers of a proposed half-cent sales tax increase in November for Hillsborough County public schools.

By a 13-point margin, Lake County voters approved a property tax increase of .75 mills to help pay for additional school security, the Daily Commercial reports. A similar tax referendum in Clay County was approved by 53 percent of voters, according to WJXT.

The Sun-Sentinel reported that Broward County voters passed a property tax increase to give teachers a 6 percent raise. The money also will help pay for school security officers and student mental health care.

WLRN reported that Monroe County voters by a 60-40 margin gave a resounding thumbs-up tax to pay for security measures, while the Panama City News reported that Bay County voters extended a local sales tax for security and construction projects.

The Orlando Sentinel said 83 percent of voters approved an extension of a special property tax to help pay for teacher raises and school arts programs.

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