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Internal poll gives Kristen Carlson lead among CD 15 Dems

Lakeland attorney Kristen Carlson entered the Democratic primary for Florida’s 15th Congressional District only two days before the deadline, but a poll released by her staff shows her ahead of her two opponents, each of whom has been running for the spot for a year or more.

The poll’s frequency count shows Carlson ahead with 25 to 14 percent for Andrew Learned of Valrico, with 10 percent for Ray Pena of Lakeland. Six-percent said, “someone else” (at least two other candidates dropped out before qualifying). Forty-five percent were undecided.

The poll was conducted June 14 -17 by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, using 401 residents determined to be likely Democratic primary voters in CD 15. The margin of sampling error is near 5 percentage points. Live interviewers conducted the poll.

According to Source Watch, the Washington D.C.-based Greenberg Quinlan is a political research and campaign firm that works closely with the Democratic Party and has experience internationally, as well.

Researchers said that when voters learned of the three candidates after the initial question, Carlson’s numbers rose higher.

Carlson campaign manager, Conor Hurley, said the online biography posted by each candidate was read in its entirety before asking each voter for their preference a second time.

“I looked at the same things they put out and couldn’t figure out where that came from,” Learned said. “The campaign has barely started.”

EMILY’s List is endorsing Carlson. Her finances show a list of hefty donations from many regular donors.

Learned also has the support of several Democratic Party officials, including U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, who has helped him in fundraising. Former candidate Greg Williams of Lakeland left the race to publicly endorse and work for Learned.

The rush by Democrats is the pending retirement of CD 15 Republican incumbent Congressman Dennis Ross of Lakeland and their assessment that the district is winnable.

The Democratic winner of the Aug. 28 primary elections goes on to face the winner of the heavily crowded Republican primary, which has six candidates in the race.

Tampa transportation initiative gets $300K boost, collects 5K signatures

A grassroots effort backing a one-cent sales tax increase to fund Hillsborough County transportation filed a monster campaign finance report Friday.

The group, All for Transportation, reports receiving five contributions in its first week, and included among those were six-figure checks from Water Street Tampa developer and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik as well as businessman and philanthropist Frank Morsani. Both men chipped in $150,000.

The fundraising report came alongside the news that the group collected 10 percent of the required signatures they need to get the penny sales tax on the ballot.

“In less than 2 weeks, All for Transportation has turned in more than 5,000 petitions. That’s a testament to not only how bad the traffic congestion has become in the Tampa Bay region, but to how much support there is for finding a solution,” said All for Transportation spokesperson Tyler Hudson.

The group faces a July 27 deadline to gather the remaining 44,000 signatures it needs in order to make the ballot in November, and the $300,000 cash infusion has already helped out toward that goal — All for Transportation’s lone expenditure in the new report was a $50,000 payment to Revolution Field Strategies for petition gathering services.

As of June 22, it had $250,220 in the bank.

The push for a penny sales tax to fund transportation isn’t new. The Hillsborough County Commission voted against putting the “Go Hillsborough” initiative on the ballot two years ago. In 2010 voters rejected a similar tax proposal that would have allotted money for specific transportation projects, which is different from what’s being proposed by All for Transportation.

The initiative would send 45 percent of the funds raised to the Hillsborough Regional Transit Authority and split the rest up between county and municipal governments.

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Not Just A Body Of Water for 6.29.18 — A newsletter about Tampa Bay politics

The actions of two Bay-area men last week saved drivers from a potential financial headache.

WTSP investigative journalist Noah Pransky uncovered a system maintenance issue with Florida’s tolling system, or SunPass. The estimated time to complete the toll maintenance project took longer than expected, and Pransky pointed out that Floridians could not see older transactions dating back to the beginning of June.

That got St. Petersburg state Senator Jeff Brandes involved. Fearing that drivers, including tourists with rental cars, would be hit with an excessive amount of tolls to pay in a short period, Brandes spoke to FDOT “about their delays in getting toll system upgrades completed, as well as the lack of communication with account-holders,” according to WTSP.

Then late last Thursday, FDOT announced it would waive all late fees and penalties on tolls incurred during the maintenance period. Thus, a statewide issue was highlighted and solved in Tampa Bay during the legislative offseason.

“We are committed to holding our vendor accountable and ensuring that our new system ultimately provides a premier customer service experience,” FDOT Secretary Mike Dew said in a prepared statement. “I share the frustrations with our customers over the rollout of CCSC and find it unacceptable.”

Write-ins lock Tampa Bay primaries

No write-in candidate has ever won elected office in the Sunshine State, but they have been effective in denying tens of thousands of voters from getting a say in who will represent them in the Florida Legislature.

Florida law allows all voters, no matter their political affiliation, to cast a ballot in a primary race if all candidates for the office are members of the same political party. That rule gets cast aside if a write-in candidate qualifies for the ballot. That’s the case in three state House races in the Tampa Bay region this year.

In HD 56, which covers parts of DeSoto, Hardee and Polk, only Republican primary voters will get a say in whether Melony Bell or Jeff Mann will succeed term-limited Rep. Ben Albritton. The same situation will play out in East Tampa’s HD 61, where four Democrats are vying to succeed Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw, as well as the three-way Democratic primary to replace term-limited Minority Leader Janet Cruz in West Tampa’s HD 62.

Combined, those three races will see more than 125,000 registered voters unable to cast a ballot in a primary race that will, in all but name, decide who represents them.

Sink backs Jack in HD 36

Former CFO Alex Sink endorsed fellow Democrat Linda Jack, who is challenging incumbent Republican Rep. Amber Mariano in House District 36.

“We need Linda fighting for us in Tallahassee,” Sink said. “She’s committed to full funding of our public education system, equality for all our friends and neighbors and common-sense reforms to reduce gun violence, making her an ideal candidate for State Representative. We can’t let this opportunity for new leadership slip by — that’s why I’m encouraging all my friends and supporters to join me and work to elect Linda Jack.”

HD 36 has a Republican advantage — Trump carried the seat by 21 points in the 2016 election — though Democrats have had some success there in the recent past. Before Mariano became the youngest person ever elected to the Florida House two years ago, HD 36 was held by Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy for three years.

Jack and Mariano are the only two candidates running for the seat in 2018.

Verghese endorses Zika in HD 37

House District 37 hopeful Ardian Zika announced the endorsement of former Florida Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Sam Verghese.

“I first met Ardian when I served as Florida’s Secretary of Elder Affairs,” Verghese said in a statement. “Time and time again, I have seen firsthand, Ardian’s strong advocacy for policies which help Florida families prosper. In addition, Ardian will work tirelessly to defend and protect our seniors. In this election, Ardian Zika has my unwavering support and I hope he can count on your support too!”

Zika responded: “Secretary Verghese worked tirelessly to protect Florida’s seniors. His commitment to helping Florida families prosper has been demonstrated over and over again.”

Republican Zika is running against Ryan Boney and Elle Rudisill in the primary. Democrats Tammy Garcia is also running for the seat currently held by termed-out House Speaker Corcoran.

Katt kicking off HD 57 campaign

Valrico Democrat Debbie Katt will officially launch her campaign for House District 57 this week with a Wednesday evening kickoff event at Joia Fabulous Pizza & Martini Bar, 10475 Gibsonton Dr., in Riverview.

Katt was the only Democrat to qualify for the ballot in the Hillsborough District currently held by Republican Rep. Jake Raburn. Raburn announced last week that he would not run for re-election despite having another two years of eligibility.

After that announcement, Republicans Sean McCoy and Mike Beltran filed and qualified for the race. Republicans have a 7-point lead in voter registrations within the district, and Raburn had no trouble holding the seat for three terms — he beat Democrat Bruce Barnett by 17 points to win his first term in 2012 and went unopposed in the 2014 and 2016 election cycles.

The seat also voted plus-12 for Donald Trump two years ago.

Bellanti raising money for HD 60

Tampa Democrat Debra Bellanti is holding a fundraiser this week for his bid to unseat Republican Rep. Jackie Toledo in House District 60.

Bellanti’s bash is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Pane Rustica, 3225 South MacDill Ave., in Tampa.

Bellanti and Toledo are the only candidates running for HD 60. The Hillsborough County-based seat voted narrowly for Trump in the 2016 race, while Toledo easily bested Democratic attorney David Singer on Election Day.

As of May 31, Toledo had raised more than $175,000 for her re-election bid and had $123,000 banked. Bellanti, who filed in January, has raised about $25,000 and has $4,500 in the bank.

Diamond re-elected without opposition

St. Petersburg Democratic Rep. Ben Diamond was re-elected without opposition last week after no other candidates filed to challenge his re-election bid in House District 68.

“I am so thankful to have the opportunity to continue my service in the Florida House! I just learned I was re-elected without opposition. I am blessed to keep doing the work I love with the support and love of my family and friends. Thank you for this privilege of serving you,” Diamond said on Twitter Friday evening.

Diamond, first elected in 2016, was one of 25 incumbent lawmakers re-elected without opposition after the noon Friday deadline to qualify for state races.

Seminole Firefighters back Jacques

The Seminole Professional Firefighters Association announced Monday that they were backing Republican attorney Berny Jacques in the race to replace term-limited Rep. Larry Ahern in House District 66.

“It is with immense pride that we announce our support for Berny Jacques for State Representative in the 2018 election. Mr. Jacques has expressed a love for District 66 that has our membership excited to stand behind his election campaign,” said association President Jeremy Newton.

The firefighter association joins retired Air Force Col. EJ Otero Seminole City Councilmember Roger Edelman, former Pinellas County School Board Member Glen Gilzean and Largo Commissioner and former police chief John Carroll, among others, in endorsing the Seminole attorney.

Jacques, the first-in candidate for the western Pinellas-based House seat, faces Belleair Bluffs businessman Nick DiCeglie in the Republican primary. Also running for the seat is Seminole Democrat Alex Heeren.

Patel reels in big-name backers

Tampa businessman Aakash Patel has never held elected office, but his campaign for the Hillsborough County Commission continues to rack up endorsements that even some seasoned pros would struggle to snag.

The latest string, all announced over the course of a week: Attorney General Pam Bondi, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and former state Rep. Trey Traviesa.

“I am happy to offer my support and endorsement to Aakash Patel as he makes his initial run for Hillsborough County Commission,” Bondi said. “I have known Aakash since he returned to Tampa after graduating from Florida State University. I know he will put forth every effort to apply his conservative beliefs and principles in all that he does.”

Patel, who runs business consulting firm Elevate, Inc., is one of 10 candidates running for the countywide District 7 seat currently held by retiring Commissioner Al Higginbotham. Patel has raised more than $450,000 for his 2018 run and had more than $270,000 in the bank May 31.

Cona hits $32K raised for School Board race

Tampa businessman Steve Cona is off to a fast start in the days since he launched his bid for the open District 1 seat on the Hillsborough School Board.

In his first campaign finance report, which will include transactions through June 22, sources close Cona’s campaign says he will report more than $32,000 raised. Assuming that money was raised and not loaned, that’s quite a tally for an 11-day stretch.

Cona was the first candidate to enter the School Board race, which opened up due to the resignation of Susan Valdes, now a candidate for House District 62. He faces retired county social services administrator Gil Machin and retired school district administrator William Person in the race.

Person ran for the District 1 seat two years ago and came within 267 votes of defeating Valdes.

Eggers, Gerard re-elected

Incumbent Pinellas County Commissioners Dave Eggers and Pat Gerard were re-elected Friday after no opponents qualified for the ballot ahead of the noon Friday deadline.

Gerard, a Democrat, was elected to the District 2 commission seat in 2014. At one point, she faced a challenge from Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell, but she ended her campaign in May so she could serve out the remainder of her term on the Clearwater City Council.

Eggers, a Republican, was also first elected in 2014. He never faced a challenger in 2018 bid for a second term as District 4’s commissioner.

Though District 2 and District 4 won’t be on the 2018 ballot, the District 6 seat will. In that race, Republicans Kathleen Peters, Larry Ahern and Barb Haselden, as well as Democrat Amy Kedron, have qualified for the ballot.

Teachers back Larsen for School Board

The Pinellas County Teachers Association is supporting Jeff Larsen in his run for Pinellas School Board.

“Jeff’s experience as a father, husband, educator, coach, and Vice Mayor have prepared him to lead and give our children the best opportunity for a lifetime of success,” said PCTA President Mike Gandolfo.

Larsen responded: “Having the endorsement of our Pinellas teachers is truly humbling because I know how hard they work for our kids. I look forward to working with our teachers and our whole community to make that vision a reality.”

Larsen, a reading teacher at Gulf Middle School, served as Commissioner and Vice Mayor of Tarpon Springs for the last six years and volunteered his time on the Tarpon Springs Planning and Zoning Board before that. He faces two opponents in the countywide District 2 seat: Lisa Cane and Terry Krassner.

Fasano endorses Moore for Pasco Commission

Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore‘s re-election campaign announced the endorsement of Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano.

“Mike Moore has been an effective County Commissioner, standing up for the people of Pasco County,” Fasano said. “He’s supported our Sheriff, law enforcement professionals and first responders, by making sure they have the resources they need to keep us safe and secure. That’s why, this election, Mike Moore has my strong support to continue serving as our County Commissioner. I hope you’ll join me in supporting Mike Moore too!”

Moore said: “I am grateful for Mike Fasano’s endorsement, I am thankful for his servant leadership and his example of hard work and tireless commitment on behalf of Pasco residents.”

Democrat Kelly Smith is currently the only candidate challenging Moore in his re-election bid.

Steve Cona

Bob Buckhorn endorses Steve Cona for Hillsborough School Board

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is endorsing businessman Steve Cona for Hillsborough County School Board District 1 seat.

“I believe that Steve is the best candidate for School Board District 1,” Buckhorn said Thursday. “For years, he has dedicated himself to his community and helped strengthen Hillsborough County. Steve will continue to fight to ensure that our students get the best education possible to compete with other students across the country and provide them with the tools and resources for success after they graduate.”

The Hillsborough native was the first-in candidate for the race, putting in his paperwork the same day the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections announced it had accepted a resign-to-run letter from 14-year School Board member Susan Valdes, who is now a candidate for House District 62.

“I’m proud to have the support of Mayor Buckhorn,” Cona said. “As a longtime mayor of Tampa, he knows the challenges firsthand facing our school system. We’ve made strides over the years, but we can do more to make sure our students go from learners to earners. I am excited to fight for our students so that they have a solid pathway to success from kindergarten through graduation.”

The endorsement comes a couple days after Cona filed his first campaign finance report, showing he raised more than $32,000 over the first 11 days in the race.

Cona faces Gil Machin and William Person in the nonpartisan election.

Person, a retired school district administrator, moved his campaign over from the District 6 race. He sought 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.

The District 1 School Board seat special election will be on the 2018 ballot alongside the regularly scheduled elections for Districts 2, 4 and 6.

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.

JW Marriott - Water Street Tampa

Development firm sheds light on Water Street Tampa’s public spaces

The developer behind Water Street Tampa unveiled its plan for the project’s public spaces Thursday, saying that once complete the historic area “will be reborn as the heart and spine of the community.”

Strategic Property Partners has in the past touted the nearly 9 million square feet of indoor space in the $3 billion development, which will bring Downtown Tampa its first new condominiums and office towers in years, as well as luxurious amenities including a top-tier Marriott “EDITION” hotel.

But SPP, a partnership between Lightning owner Jeff Vinic and Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment, said its vision for the 50-acre waterfront district is based on around the “philosophy that thoughtfully-designed buildings are only as good as the spaces between them that people will experience every day.”

“The public spaces woven throughout the Water Street Tampa neighborhood are a key design focus for us. We have given a tremendous amount of thought to how these spaces will be experienced — how we will make it easy and inviting to walk throughout the broader neighborhood, how we will make it comfortable to dine outdoors year-round, and how to create spaces for our neighbors to engage with one another in the community,” said SPP CEO James Nozar.

“Because of this special emphasis, we designed the public spaces first, and the buildings second. Water Street Tampa has been specifically designed to offer people a variety of experiences and spaces meant to be enjoyed by anyone, from those who live and work in the neighborhood to those who are visiting or passing through.”

SPP said three design tentpoles guiding the design phase for Water Street’s 13 acres of public spaces were revealing and improving connections between the new development and nearby neighborhoods such as Harbour Island and the Channel District; prioritizing pedestrian comfort by planning for extra-wide, shaded sidewalks and plenty of lighting while designing roadways with a pedestrian- and cyclist-first approach; and providing a diverse selection of public spaces, including wide open stretches of greenery, an assortment of outdoor seating, and plenty of outdoor cafes and retail kiosks.

Among the specifics, SPP is planning to plant more than 650 trees, including a double row of mature Live Oak trees to provide a canopy along a 45-foot-wide landscaped promenade on Water Street Tampa’s eastern side. And those glancing through the filtered light toward the rooftops will see lushly landscaped green roofs thanks to an innovative centralized cooling facility that will eliminate the need for large rooftop cooling towers.

Construction on the cooling facility is underway, and SPP said it’s already started sourcing the Live Oak trees to ensure they’ll be mature when the promenade portion of the development is complete in the fall of 2020.

To bring that vision to fruition, SPP and master planner Elkus Manfredi Architects have brought on Cambridge-based landscape architecture firm Reed Hilderbrand as the master landscape architect. But they won’t be handling the job alone — EDSANelson Byrd Woltz, Raymond Jungles, Madison Cox Associates, Coen + Partners, David Conner + Associates and OJB will bring a diversity of style to the many individual public spaces interspersed throughout the development.

“These design teams all bring a wealth of experience, varied perspectives and practical knowledge that will shape a comfortable and engaging public realm within Water Street Tampa,” Nozar said. “Our plan for Water Street Tampa builds on decades of insights into what makes city neighborhoods work, working within the context of a modern lifestyle in Tampa.”

Mike Alvarez

Teacher unions back Mike Alvarez for HD 62

The Florida Education Association and the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association are backing Democrat Mike Alvarez in the Democratic primary for House District 62.

“Hillsborough teachers stand with Mike,” said Rob Kriete, President of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association. “We’ve seen what happens when dysfunction, threats, and corruption infect our local government. Mike is an ethical leader who puts people first. The Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association, standing with our Central Labor Council, is proud to endorse his candidacy because a vote for Mike is a vote for better schools.”

HCTA represents approximately 16,000 teachers and 4,500 support personnel within Hillsborough County. FEA is the state’s largest teacher union, serving more than 140,000 education professionals. The two new union endorsements come one week after Alvarez got the nod from the Florida AFL-CIO, which represents more than 1 million union members, retirees, and their families.

The teacher union endorsements heading to the Alvarez campaign are especially notable given that 14-year School Board member Susan Valdes is also running for HD 62.

Valdes was recently recorded giving a Marco Rubio-esque response on whether she would accept campaign contributions from charter schools, saying that donors buy into her agenda but don’t influence it. Alvarez, by contrast, pledged last week to reject campaign contributions from out-of-area, for-profit education corporations.

“Teachers, families, and students are under attack in Tallahassee and locally. Republicans have public education in their crosshairs, but we won’t sit back and let them destroy our schools,” said Alvarez. “I’m proud to stand with the Florida Education Association and the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association, and I’m honored to have their support.

“Charter schools have bought Tallahassee Republicans, now they’ve even started buying so-called Democrats who will do and say anything to stay in power,” Alvarez added. “My priority is educating our children, not fattening the wallets of charter school executives.”

HD 62 is a Democratic stronghold covering part of Hillsborough County. It is currently held by term-limited House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, who is running for state Senate in the fall.

Alvarez filed for HD 62 in May 2017 and was joined by political activist Chris Cano on June 1, followed by Valdes on June 11. The district is one of five, including three in the Tampa Bay area, to have its primary election locked down by a write-in candidate.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

Tommy Gregory HD 73

Bill Furst endorses Tommy Gregory for HD 73

Republican Tommy Gregory announced Wednesday that Sarasota County Property Appraiser Bill Furst is endorsing his campaign to succeed Rep. Joe Gruters in House District 73.

“I’m proud to endorse Tommy Gregory,” said Furst. “There is no question in my mind that he has what it takes to serve us very well in Tallahassee. His leadership background and conservative principles make him very well qualified, and I look forward to working with him.”

The third-term property appraiser is the several others who have already announced their support for Gregory, including former U.S. Sen. Connie Mack III, Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube, Sarasota Sheriff Tom Knight, Zephyrhills Rep. Danny Burgess, former state Sen. Lisa Carlton and Steve Vernon, the second-place finisher in the 2016 HD 73 Republican primary.

“It’s an honor to have Bill Furst’s support,” said Gregory. “He sets a high standard for leadership and service in our community, and I look forward to working with him to serve our fellow citizens.”

Gregory faces Melissa Howard in the Republican Primary race. Democrat Liv Coleman is also running for the seat, though the GOP nominee will have has the best odds to replace Gruters in the Republican stronghold.

As of May 31, Gregory led the money race with nearly $180,000 raised and $162,775 banked between his campaign and political committee, Friends Of Tommy Gregory. Howard started June with more than $130,000 at the ready, including $100,000 in loans she used to kick-start her campaign in April.

HD 73 covers parts of Sarasota and Manatee counties. It is open in 2018 due to current Gruters’ decision to run for the Senate seat currently held by Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube, who is running for Congress.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

Wengay "Newt" Newton

Wengay Newton hosting St. Pete town hall tonight

Democratic Rep. Wengay “Newt” Newton will host a town hall meeting later this month to field questions from his constituents in the Pinellas part of House District 70.

The June 28 event will be at the Enoch Davis Recreational Center in St. Petersburg, 1111 18th Ave. South, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. HD 70 residents looking for more information on the town hall can call up Newton’s district office at 727-892-2468.

The upcoming town hall continues Newton’s trend of being an accessible lawmaker — the former St. Petersburg City Council member has already held three such meetings since the 2018 Legislative Session wrapped in mid-March.

Though more than half of his constituents live in Pinellas County, he also represents slices of Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties. He met with the Sarasota crowd on April 19, followed by a May 10 stop in Palmetto and a May 31 town hall in Ruskin.

Newton was elected to the Florida House in 2016, succeeding now-Sen. Darryl Rouson. He took 62 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary before cruising past a Republican challenger with 76 percent of the vote on Election Day.

Despite those landslide wins two years ago, Newton faces some opposition in his quest for a second term.

Democrat Vito Sheeley filed to challenge Newton in July 2017 and Keisha Bell made it a three-way primary race when she entered at the beginning of February.

Newton has so far held them at bay in the money race, with total fundraising of about $33,000 and $23,000 on hand at the end of May. That puts him ahead of the combined totals for his two challengers in both metrics.

The town hall flyer is below.

Wengay Newton - 6.28.2018 town hall

Nicholas Trolli endorses James Buchanan in HD 74

James Buchanan picked up an endorsement Tuesday from a former rival in the race to replace Sarasota Republican Rep. Julio Gonzalez, who is leaving the state House to run for Florida’s 17th Congressional District.

Republican Nicholas Trolli opened a campaign account to run for House District 74 in February before U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney’s retirement announcement led HD 74 and other seats to open up. Trolli formally withdrew from the race on June 15, leaving Buchanan and North Port Vice Mayor Linda Yates as the only Republicans running for the seat.

“I have analyzed both Republican candidates for State House District 74,” Trolli said. “After much consideration, I am proud to support James Buchanan for State Representative and do hereby give my endorsement to James to represent South County in Tallahassee.”

“We need a person who understands business, someone who works well with others, influences decisions and encourages consensus. James Buchanan, in my opinion, is that person! I encourage each of you to join, in supporting James Buchanan in his bid for Florida State Representative. I will be helping him and working with him in his campaign, and I look forward to seeing you by our side.”

HD 74 is the third district Buchanan, the son of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, has filed for this cycle — he initially sought HD 71 before switching over to the HD 72 special. He lost that February special election by 7 points to now-Democratic Rep. Margaret Good.

HD 74’s Republican lean make another upset race unlikely, as the Sarasota County district has much larger Republican advantage than the purpling HD 72. Republican voters make up 44 percent of the district’s electorate compared to a and 27 percent share for Democrats.

In the 2016 cycle, HD 74 voted 60-37 in favor of President Donald Trump. By comparison, HD 71 voted plus-11 Trump, and HD 72 only voted plus-4 Trump.

As of May 31, Buchanan had raised $39,510 for his campaign with all but two of his donors sending in max checks. He also recently opened up a political committee that will allow him to pile on more money as he heads toward a Republican primary showdown with Yates, who has raised just $4,200.

Also running for the seat is Venice Democrat Tony Mowry, who avoided a primary challenge after Yves Junior Chery failed to qualify for the ballot.

He’s pitched himself as a “stronger” Democrat than those who have run for HD 74 in the past, and that’s proved true so far. After less than two months in the race, he had amassed nearly $25,000 for his campaign and had $18,500 in the bank — that’s three times more than the 2016 Democratic nominee, Manny Lopez, raised during his 10 months as a candidate.

Susan Valdes campaign threatens man for posting video

A Tampa man says a campaign consultant working with School Board member Susan Valdes, now a candidate for House District 62, threatened to get him fired and booted out of the Democratic Party for posting a video of Valdes on Facebook.

The 5-minute video, recorded during a Saturday meeting of the Hillsborough Hispanic Democratic Caucus, is of Valdes’ response to a question of whether she would accept or reject campaign funding from the National Rifle Association, charter schools, the sugar industry or real estate development companies.

As of Monday afternoon, the video has been viewed more than 9,000 times.

In it, Valdes eventually says she will not accept funding from the NRA, but firmly declined to make the same pledge when it comes to “the other folks.”

“When people donate to me, let me make it clear, it’s because they believe in what I’m doing, not that I’m going to support what they want me to support. That’s not the way Susan Valdes rolls — has ever rolled. Ever,” she says in the video.

After a few minutes talking about her past votes on charter schools as a School Board member, she returns to the question at hand.

“As you all know, to win an election, it takes contributions and it takes hard work. This, right here,” she says, motioning to herself, “is good government.”

After a couple more asides, she says that when the interest groups such as charter schools about donate to her, “that’s what they’re buying.”

The campaign of Democratic primary rival Mike Alvarez seized on those comments in a Monday news release and alleged that Valdes’ campaign has since threatened and intimidated Justin Diaz, the man who recorded and posted the video.

“Everything about this is extremely concerning,” said Alvarez, who serves as secretary for the Hillsborough Hispanic Democratic Caucus. “She starts by saying that selling out our public schools is ‘good government.’ I couldn’t disagree more.

“Then she says out-of-area for-profit schools bankroll her campaign because ‘that’s what they’re buying.’ On that point, I think we’re all in agreement.”

The news release then claims Diaz, an attorney working for the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s office, has “received multiple calls from the Valdes campaign first asking, then demanding that he delete the video. Those calls culminated in a threat from the campaign.”

“It’s just completely unacceptable,” Alvarez said. “Board Member Valdes has gotten away with her bullying, her threats, and her insider deals for 14 years. That ends this August.”

Diaz corroborated that story during an interview with Florida Politics, saying that Valdes and campaign consultant Victor DiMaio approached him separately during the caucus event to ask him to delete the video.

“Susan was very polite about it. Vic was less polite, but he didn’t threaten me,” Diaz said.

Diaz, who said he is not involved with the Alvarez campaign, disregarded Valdes’ and DiMaio’s request and posted the video to Facebook group Indivisible Action Tampa Bay, saying he thought Valdes’ answer was something her potential constituents needed to hear.

That’s when the threats started.

Upon realizing the video had been posted online, DiMaio called Diaz twice on Saturday night asking him to delete the post. DiMaio, the vice president of the Hillsborough Hispanic Democratic Caucus, then threatened to call Diaz’ superiors at the State Attorney’s office and have him fired if the video was not removed.

He also said he would to file a complaint aimed at getting him kicked out of the Democratic Party for “speaking ill of a party member.”

Diaz said he then told DiMaio that if he received any more threatening calls that he would call the police to report him for harassment. He said he has not been contacted by DiMaio or anyone else connected with the Valdes campaign since then.

Florida Politics attempted to contact DiMaio but received no response.

The video is below.

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