2018 election Archives - Florida Politics

Karen Giorno is no friend to Donald Trump, critics say – and that reflects poorly on the candidates she’s backing

Since Donald Trump’s election in 2016, and even during his primary campaign, a new class of political consultants, experts and media whizzes have come out of the woodwork to claim their share of the victory.

The 2016 campaign was different, to be sure. Trump dispatched 16 other Republicans, including two of Florida’s favorite sons, to win his party’s nomination. And he did so without much of a budget and with only a few paid staffers until the general election was in sight.

In the nearly two years since Election Day 2016, Karen Giorno has pitched herself as instrumental to Trump’s electoral success as well as wins by other Republican presidents. Her affiliation with the Trump campaign has been used to give street cred to state-level candidates in Florida who lack traction with Trump’s voters.

The most recent to earn the honor are Toby Overdorf, who faces Sasha Dadan in the Republican primary for House District 83, and Belinda Keiser, who faces state Rep. Gayle Harrell in the Republican primary for Senate District 25.

In both endorsements, her bio sketch follows a similar track. The one appended to Overdorf’s endorsement, which bore the headline “Trump campaign leader Karen Giorno endorses Overdorf,” is as follows:

“Giorno has spent three decades as a political consultant and operative working with presidential candidates and campaigns, four American presidents, and the governor of Florida. She was the first female state director for the Trump Campaign. Following her leadership in President Trump’s historic Florida Primary win, she worked to secure delegates in eleven southern states for Delegate Operations and joined the National Team at Trump Tower, where she was in charge of National Voter and Women’s Engagement during the general election.”

It’s a good elevator speech-version of her background story, and according to many key members of Trump’s 2016 Florida campaign, that’s exactly what it is.

A story.

After Giorno endorsed Overdorf and Keiser, Annie Marie Delgado had had enough.

The former Palm Beach Gardens Councilwoman has known Trump personally for years and was behind his bid for the presidency on day one. In fact, she takes a bit of pride in being the only person who was with Trump’s Florida operation throughout the primary, general election and into his nascent 2020 re-election bid — she currently heads up Trump Team 2020 Florida, an official chartered organization of the Republican Party of Florida in Palm Beach County.

It was one thing when Giorno claimed to be a “campaign leader” during her failed run for national committeewoman, during which she claimed to have endorsements from Trump and Gov. Rick Scott but never produced them. Now that she’s expanded into offering endorsements in Republican primaries, Delgado said she and others are ready to speak out.

Delgado said she believed Giorno was a “pathological liar” that was “divisive and derisive” during her brief tenure on the frontlines of Trump’s Florida campaign, a job that she was removed from — “fired,” in Delgado’s words — in favor of veteran campaign operative Susie Wiles.

“I’m shocked, quite frankly, that this woman continues to portray herself as part of the Trump campaign, or as connected to Trump in any way whatsoever,” Delgado said.

Giorno was hired by Trump out of New Jersey in late October 2015 and subsequently sent down to Florida after a stern warning from then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who reportedly told Trump at the time, “If I were you, I would run as fast as you can away from that person.”

Regarding her three decades in political work, Delgado took a more diplomatic approach. “[2016] drew out… many people who were never involved in politics,” she said.

Still, Giorno landed in the Sunshine State ready to go to work for Trump.

She had worked in Florida before — she had a position in the early days of the Scott Administration, but after an episode at a Disney GOP fundraiser where she yelled at Republican Party of Florida staffers and donors before being told “to leave the room and not come back” put an end to that. The acrimonious split went down as a resignation.

Five years later, there was no evidence of an attitude adjustment, according to Anthony Stephens, a Leon County volunteer on the Trump 2016 campaign.

Stephens started putting in hours early on in the campaign, and says he never once saw Giorno in the capital, greater Big Bend or Panhandle areas, yet she aimed to micromanage operations from a distance by way of regular conference calls from New York.

When Hurricane Hermine tore through north Florida in September 2016, Stephens and other volunteers thought it would be a prime opportunity to reach out to voters by having Trump campaign RVs drive in and deliver relief supplies.

Giorno scoffed at the idea, leading Stephens to circumvent her by calling campaign HQ in New York, which gladly green-lit the proposal.

Several paid staffers hired by Giorno stuck around after she was ousted from the Florida job, Stephens said, but they just as often came off as saboteurs as they did actual Trump supporters — those staffers would often hoard promotional campaign materials despite numerous supporters looking for some yard flair or a T-shirt to wear at the height of the campaign season.

Reports of that kind of behavior were corroborated by more than a few people involved with the campaign in other regions of the state, with some going so far as to say they believed Giorno and an associate were selling campaign signs, shirts and hats on eBay and pocketing the proceeds.

Many staffers and volunteers were at least willing to corroborate that there was a warehouse in Volusia County stocked full of yard signs and other campaign merch that wasn’t being distributed unless people showed up and took it, most of the time over the flaccid protestations of Tony Ledbetter, chair of the Volusia County Republican Executive Committee.

All the way across the state in Sarasota, Kevin Sifferman also volunteered early and often for the Trump campaign due to his enthusiasm and support for the eventual president.

At one point there were talks of him being moved up to a paid position on the campaign, which would have been a boon, since he had recently been laid off from his gig at Concerned Veterans for America.

Despite there being an office with Giorno’s name on the door at the Sarasota campaign HQ, Sifferman said he never saw her use it, or even enter the building. In fact, the only time he can remember seeing Giorno in the Sarasota area was for a campaign rally.

While attending that rally, Giorno struck up a conversation with a high school student and within days the young woman — who had no campaign experience but was reportedly proficient in ballet — was in charge of the Sarasota office. The paid position never came for Sifferman.

“She makes a lot of promises, but I don’t think she’s for Trump. I don’t think she’s for Florida. She’s only in it for herself,” he said.

Anecdotal reports of her behavior during the 2016 campaign are odd to say the least, but just as dubious are her claims of working for past presidential campaigns and four past presidents.

Longtime Republican operative Derek Hankerson says her narrative is baloney.

In addition to his extensive work for gubernatorial and senatorial campaigns, Hankerson has worked on the campaign of every Republican presidential ticket since 1984, and his campaign bona fides led to him landing positions in the White House during the George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations.

During 2016, Hankerson served as the Trump campaign’s Northeast Florida regional director, and after the campaign’s victory, he was given a position on Trump’s transition team and was asked to volunteer at the inauguration — when Trump was sworn in, he was just 50 feet away.

Asked whether he’s ever seen Giorno in the trenches of a campaign, whether in 2016 or at some other point in his long political career, his response was clear.

“This person has stated that they worked for this campaign. I never saw them,” he said. “34 years — from Reagan ’84 to now — I never saw her. I’d never heard of this person until Trump decided to run, and she tried to run her Florida job out of New York.”

Hankerson, at times painfully, stuck to his personal code of “being a positive person.”

That was tested when he recalled a request that he made to Giorno. Upon Trump’s victory, he asked her — she was in New York at the time — to arrange for a thank you note to be sent to his mother.

“Every president and vice president since Reagan sent my mother a handwritten letter,” he said, adding that Giorno could have signed it herself and it would have been just as good.

But the request went unheeded, and Hankerson’s mother died shortly after.

When it comes to Giorno’s endorsements of Keiser and Overdorf, Delgado said they have about as much substance as Giorno’s resume.

None.

“Toby’s a good guy,” Delgado said, glancing at a recent text he sent her. “I just can’t believe he got sucked up with that woman.”

Editor’s note: FP reached out to Giorno, but was unable to lock down a response from her. 

Rebekah Bydlak maintains cash lead in HD 1 Republican primary

Gonzalez Republican Rebekah Bydlak has been the fundraising leader in the race for House District 1 for months, and newly filed campaign finance reports show she’s maintaining that lead in the twilight ahead of the primary race.

Between Aug. 4 and Aug. 10, Bydlak added another $5,310 to her campaign account, bringing her overall fundraising total to $183,170 through one year on the campaign trail. That gives her a better than threefold fundraising advantage over her chief Republican primary opponent, former state Rep. Mike Hill, who raised just $350 for the week and has reeled in about $55,000 since entering the race in September 2017.

Bydlak’s haul included a quartet of $1,000 contributions, the maximum allowable for a state legislative race. Those donors included C.W. Roberts Contracting, insurance company Pacific Life, political committee Florida ACRE and car dealership group JM Family Enterprises.

Another 10 contributions, ranging from $25 to $500, rounded out the report.

Expenditures far outweighed contributions thanks to $15,000 in media buys through Virginia-based Multi Media Services to keep Bydlak’s ads on the airwaves, a $6,785 direct mail campaign through Gainesville-based Data Targeting and $5,738 in spending on media production with Tallahassee-based Evolution Media.

Her campaign account had about $69,000 on hand on Aug. 10.

Hill’s report included just two contributions, a $250 check from Cantonment insurance agent David Cagle and a $100 check from Orlando resident David Chong, who didn’t list his occupation.

The campaign also spent more than $12,000 for the week, with the bulk of that cash heading to Pensacola-based Evergreen Marketing Solutions for another couple rounds of direct mailers.

That spending nearly exhausted Hill’s campaign account, leaving him with about $1,400 in the bank at the end of the reporting period.

Also seeking the Republican nomination is Lisa Doss of Milton, who has yet to add any contributions since her first report, which saw her pitch in enough cash to cover the qualifying fee to make the ballot.

A recent poll of the three-way primary found Bydlak was the pick for 40 percent of likely Republican primary voters, putting her 6 points ahead of Hill. Doss came in a distant third with 6 percent support while 13 percent said they weren’t aware of the candidates and remainder said they were unsure which of the three they would vote for.

The winner of the Aug. 28 Republican primary will face either Vikki Garrett or Franscine Mathis, both Pensacola Democrats, in the Nov. 6 general election, though HD 1’s strong Republican lean virtually assures the Republican nominee will succeed term-limited Rep. Clay Ingram come Election Day.

HD 1 covers the bulk of Escambia County, including the communities of Century, Molino, Gonzalez, Ensley, Ferry Pass, Belleview and Brent. Ingram has held the seat since it was redrawn in 2012. Before that, he held the old HD 2.

Elections complaint filed against non-profit backing Olysha Magruder in SD 8

A Florida non-profit known as Liberation Ocala African American Council Inc. has been making a late push for Democratic Senate District 8 candidate Olysha Magruder, but its methods may be running afoul of state campaign finance laws.

The company, run by former Marion County NAACP president Whitfield Jenkins, has footed the bill for a number of direct mail campaigns supporting Magruder, a former school teacher and activist, and opposing her primary opponent, Kayser Enneking.

The mailers pitch Magruder with boilerplate language, such as claiming she’s “fighting for equality and progressive policy” and touting her as an “educator, mother and progressive leader.” Interestingly, one of the pro-Magruder ads touts the Ohio native as the “authentic progressive who is active in our community” despite Enneking being a Gainesville native — GHS diploma and all — who has been active in the community for decades longer.

The mailers also hit Enneking, a physician, for being “privileged” and unaware of the struggles “average citizens face,” with another attempting to paint their primary battle as “rigged” and portraying Enneking as a “puppet” of the Florida Democratic Party.

“The Democratic Party establishment has already spent over $107,000 on Kayser Enneking, paying for her staff and campaign headquarters. When the establishment rigs our primaries, the people lose,” the mailer reads.

That assertion has little basis in fact, as Enneking’s political committee, Florida Knows Excellence, has kicked in $50,000 in contributions to the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee to offset those payments, which were cycled back in as “in-kind” contributions, a common practice in state campaigns.

Most of the rest of the gap came through research and polling work, which would be of benefit to the eventual Democratic nominee regardless.

But despite the numerous factual errors in the mailers, there are many questions about whether they are legal and how they are being paid for.

Ft. Lauderdale attorney Jason B. Blank, who is not affiliated with Enneking’s campaign, filed a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission seeking clarification on whether non-profit corporations can advocate for or against individual candidates without following the reporting guidelines of a political committee.

According to the Florida Division of Elections, that’s a resounding “no.”

The legalese response: “Florida statutory law requires a business entity or corporation formed under Chapter 607 or Chapter 617, Florida Statutes, for purposes other than to support or oppose issues or candidates, which uses its business/corporate treasury funds to make independent expenditures in excess of $500 that support of oppose a candidate to register and report as a political committee,” Division of Elections director Gisela Wrote in response to the complaint.

As of Aug. 17, there was no committee going by the Liberation Ocala African American Council, nor was their a committee where Jenkins was listed as a chair, treasurer or registered agent.

Upon learning of the complaint, Enneking campaign manager Jake Flaherty said he thinks there’s some foul play involving Enneking and Magruder’s mutual opponent, incumbent Republican Sen. Keith Perry.

“It is clear that Keith Perry and the Republicans are terrified at the prospect of facing Dr. Kayser Enneking in the general election. Her message of increased access to healthcare, better public education, and protecting the environment is one that resonates with voters and is a stark contrast to Keith Perry’s voting record,” he said. “That’s exactly why we are seeing dark money used to fund opposition to her in this primary, and I would not be surprised if the Republicans are directly involved.”

Enneking holds a massive fundraising lead a little over a week out from the primary election and recently started running TV ads for her campaign. As of Aug. 10, she had raised nearly $500,000 and had more than $326,000 in the bank, compared to about $35,000 raised and $6,800 banked for Magruder.

The FEC complaint, complete with scans of the mailers, is below.

2018.08.17 FEC Complaint Packet by Andrew Wilson on Scribd

Bernie Sanders calls for ‘revolution’ in Florida led by Andrew Gillum

National icon of progressive Democratic politics U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders called for a political and economic revolution in Florida led by Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum as Governor, rousing a crowd Friday at the University of Central Florida.

“This state needs a political revolution,” Sanders declared. “You have a candidate in Andrew Gillum that is going to lead that revolution.

“It’s time we had a government in Washington and a government in Florida that represents all of the people, not just the 1 percent,” Sanders added.

Gillum, too, spoke of  “a progressive revolution, right here in the state of Florida.”

And then he and Sanders each laid out essentially the same progressive playbook: raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and calling for living wages, addressing climate change, committing to environmental protection, declaring health care as a right and seeking universal Medicare, equal rights, investing in education and increasing teachers’ pay, protecting women’s rights to abortion choice, pushing for campaign finance reform, demanding gun law reforms, making commitments to move from fossil fuels to renewable energy, seeking criminal justice reform, restoring rights for convicted felons who served their time, supporting immigration reform and acceptance of immigrants, and for Florida to not be, as Gillum called it, “a show-me-your-papers state.”

“We’re seeing ideas that just a few years ago seemed really radical and fringe, now those are the ideas that the American people overwhelmingly support,” Sanders professed in his 27-minute speech.

“Bernie Sanders has been fighting this progressive battle across this country for decades,” Gillum said in his 16-minute address.

And right back at you, Sanders offered, extolling Gillum as a Governor who can do that in Florida.

“What this is about is looking into your world and trying to figure out what’s going on in the lives of real people. That’s what it’s about,” Sanders. “And after that figure out where you go from here to improve the lives of people who are working. When I look at what is going on in America and what is going on in Florida, it is clear to me we need a revolution to transform what goes on economically, and what goes on politically.”

Most of Central Florida’s leading progressive Democrat revolutionaries joined Sanders and Gillum on stage: State Attorney Aramis Ayala, Orlando Commissioner Regina Hill, Orange County Commissioner Emily Bonilla, and state Reps. Kamia Brown and Carlos Guillermo Smith. The latter worked up the crowd as Gillum’s last warm-up speaker.

They and a crowd of mostly students, which Gillum’s campaign estimated at 1,000, packed the atrium foyer of UCF’s CFE Auditorium.

“In Andrew, you will have a Governor who understands that the future of this state and the future of our country is with the young people,” Sanders told them.

Gillum first must get through the Aug. 28 primary, where polls consistently have shown him trailing the leaders, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, by more than 10 points.

Friday’s rally was all about getting out the vote for Gillum. He and Sanders each took indirect shots at his Democratic rivals, who also include Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene and Winter Park businessman Chris King, though they did not call them out by name.

They both referred to the quartet of opponents as millionaires, compared with Gillum’s more humble economic status, and Sanders declared you should not have to be a millionaire to run for governor.

And Gillum heated up the crowd with his call for an unabashedly progressive Democrat to run for Governor, part of his standard pitch from the beginning.

“I believe we’re going to see a surge of progressive voters all across the state of Florida who are saying, ‘Enough is enough. We’re tired of Republican Lite. We want someone who fights for our values and our beliefs,'” he said.

Philip Levine launches new ad that looks beyond primary

Gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine, bouyed to the top of the Democratic heap in the latest poll, is launching a new TV commercial that appears aimed at showdowns with Republicans and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, rather than his Aug. 28 primary opponents.

The new 30-second spot “The Challenge,” launched Friday, appears more focused on Aug. 29 and beyond, pairing DeSantis and President Donald Trump as status quo for problems ranging from the environmental threats of offshore drilling to the rise of hate groups.

“If Trump and DeSantis win, nothing will change,” Levine says in the ad. “If we do, we take back our state.”

Nonetheless, Levine’s Campaign Senior Adviser Christian Ulvert characterized the commercial as a primary election appeal to Democratic voters. The latest poll put Levine up slightly on former U.S Rep. Gwen Graham, and up considerably on the others, with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum running third, businessman Jeff Greene fourth, and businessman Chris King fifth.

“2018 is a fight for the future of our state and as Florida Democrats come together to rise to the challenge, we need a candidate who has what it takes to win when so much is on the line,” Ulvert stated in a news release.

DeSantis is paired with Trump even though he, too, must win a primary, against Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, long the Republican frontrunner until Trump endorsed DeSantis. DeSantis has been leading almost all recent polls.

The ad does go through the roll of many of the basic Democratic issues in this primary season: “We cannot have drilling,” Levine insists. “Our schools need help. And so do our teachers,” he follows up. “If we don’t expand Medicaid, women and children will suffer,” he continues. “Florida needs stronger gun laws, and we have to stop the hatred that’s tearing us apart.

Then the montage of frightening images of such things as oil spills and hate groups gives way to video of DeSantis and Trump.

Adam Putnam launches new bus tour with faith in grassroots

An upbeat Adam Putnam started his latest tour of restaurants and backyard barbecues expressing confidence in Winter Park Friday that his 16 months of cultivating grassroots yet will pay off in the Aug. 28 Republican gubernorial primary against U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

“I’m pretty excited about a poll that came out right here in Orlando, a local TV station that essentially shows it a dead heat,” Putnam declared, referring to a poll done by Spectrum News 13 that shows. “The only poll that matters comes on election day, and as you can see from the grassroots energy all over the state, I feel very good.”

That poll had DeSantis up 40 to 38, with 16 percent still undecided. The gap was within the 5 point margin of error.

Putnam held one of his “Up & Adam” breakfast talks before a packed and enthusiastic house at the 4Rivers restaurant in Winter Park Friday morning. The event was not unlike countless he’s arranged and spoken at in Orlando and cities and small towns throughout Florida since launching his campaign in the spring of 2017. Yet this summer he watched DeSantis, who until June had campaigned largley through FOX News appearances, zoom past him in polls and start hosting large, raucious rallies after getting the endorsement of President Donald Trump.

Putnam, Florida’s agriculture commissioner, has tried hard to embrace Trump and work him into much of his own campaigning, but

For the past six weeks Putnam, Florida’s agriculture commissioner, has been playing catch-up against Trump’s candidate, DeSantis. Putnam has been trying hard to embrace Trump and work him into much of his own campaigning, while still characterizing the race as a “Washington-centric candidate” versus a “Florida-First candidate.”

That Florida First message, his campaign theme, mixed with Trump references throughout his 4Rivers stop. And he’s turning back to his grassroots appeal in the closing days, while staying on his basic points of pushing technical education, low taxes for small business growth, and intimate knoweldge of the state’s economy and local nuances.

“So we’re going to be bouncing all around Florida, up and down the I-4 corridor, up and down I-75 and I-95 and throughout the Panhandle. We’ll be making multiple stops a day, whether it’s at barbecue restaurants, coffee shops, businesses or people’s back yards,” he said.

“If you want to be governor of the third-largest state, if you want to manage a trillion-dollar economy, you better be willing to roll up your sleeves and be amongst the people,” he said. “Understand their concerns, listen to their challenges, and offer your own vision on how we’re going to make Florida a stronger, better place.”

Jason Pizzo primed to unseat Daphne Campbell, poll says

Miami Democratic Sen. Daphne Campbell may end up packing her bags and heading home, wherever home is, as former prosecutor Jason Pizzo takes her spot in Tallahassee.

According to a new survey from St. Pete Polls, conducted Aug. 16, Pizzo leads Campbell by 14 points among Senate District 38’s likely primary election voters, about a third of whom said they were undecided less than two weeks out from the Aug. 28 nominating contest.

Of the 42 percent of voters who said they’d already ticked a box and sent in their ballot, Pizzo led 42-32 percent with 26 percent saying they were “undecided.”

It’s unclear whether being “undecided” and having already voted means those electors left their ballot blank, picked both, drew a picture, filled it out with their eyes closed or are simply suffering from memory loss. No matter the reason, Pizzo looks to have a solid lead in the early vote.

Among those who plan to vote but haven’t yet, Pizzo’s lead balloons to 16 points, 38-22 percent, though undecideds also make up a higher share, with 40 percent saying they were still unsure.

Of note: The two-way primary for SD 38 is one of a handful of primaries statewide that’ll be open to all voters, regardless of party affiliation. Campbell and Pizzo, both Democrats, are the only candidates for the seat and the Florida Constitution allows non-party members to participate in primary races if they will decide the winner of an election.

To that end, Pizzo’s support crosses party lines. He leads 40-26 percent among Democrats, 43-23 percent among Republicans and 39-32 percent among unaffiliated and third-party voters.

Pizzo also demolishes Campbell among white voters, with more than half favoring him compared to just 19 percent for Campbell, and Hispanic voters, who prefer him by a 13-point margin.

Add to that his strong leads among women voters, who prefer him by a 12-point margin, and among men, who favor him over the incumbent 44-28 percent. The Miami Law School grad is can also celebrate what looks to be strong cross-generational support, with his campaign holding double digit leads among millennials, gen xers and boomers. The 70-and-up crowd were only slightly less enthusiastic, preferring him 36-27 percent.

Black voters were the only subset where Campbell was the pick, and it’s not clear yet if that’s a bright spot.

According to census data, SD 38’s voting age population is nearly one-third black, while non-black Hispanic voters make up a 37 percent share and white voters make up 27 percent.

Without enormous turnout, the 42 percent of undecided black voters would need to break strongly in her favor to bolster her current 35-24 lead or she’ll have to make up ground by cutting into Pizzo’s firm leads among white and Hispanic voters.

When it comes to voter outreach in the final stretch, Campbell’s campaign fund is nearly bone dry. As of Aug. 10, she had just $4,260 in the bank. Add on top recent scandals, including touting a false endorsement and calling the police on a Miami Herald reporter covering a public event, and her campaign looks like it’s in freefall rather than surging toward a hard-fought victory.

Pizzo, meanwhile, has juiced his campaign with $300,000 in loans and had nearly $50,000 banked on Aug. 10. In addition to having outspent Campbell by a nearly threefold margin, outside groups are pouring in more support to help him close the deal.

The St. Pete Polls survey took responses from 306 voters within the northern Miami-Dade district. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.6 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

Jeff Greene launches new political committee

Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene has pumped $22.45 million of his own cash into his gubernatorial campaign account, but recent filings with the Florida Division of Elections show he may start piling money into a political committee.

On July 31, Greene filed a “statement of solicitation” to use money raised by the Florida Defense Fund — currently nothing — to back his bid to be Governor.

Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida first reported news of Greene’s political committee.

Every other candidate running for Governor has an affiliated political committee, and for most, it’s the source of most of their capital. Political committees don’t impose contribution limits on donors like official campaign accounts, which in the case of statewide races limit donors to a maximum aggregate contribution of $3,000 for each election.

Thus far, all the cash Greene has put into his campaign has gone to his campaign account, and for good reason. Starting July 14, 45 days out from the primary election, all statewide candidates were eligible for “lowest unit rate” pricing on TV and radio advertising.

The catch? The money had to come from a campaign account, not a political committee. That’s not to say political committee dollars are useless; they can still cover things like media production costs, direct mail campaigns or, in the case of many candidates, cut massive checks to the state party, which will, in turn, provide the campaign with “in-kind” benefits such as staffing or polling.

And there’s nothing stopping them from paying for ads at full price, either.

That still doesn’t quite explain the mystery behind Greene’s political committee.

According to his financial disclosure, a required document for all candidates, he’s worth $3.3 billion, and while much of that wealth is tied up in LLCs that handle his many rental properties across the country, he does have a lot of liquidity — his personal bank accounts were stocked with $230.7 million on May 31.

It’s possible that he’s planning for some of his companies to start moving in cash rather than expending his personal funds, and it’s also possible that it’s being set up to deliver on Greene’s promise to fund down-ballot Democrats if he is elected as the gubernatorial nominee.

The committee’s statement of organization, though boilerplate, lends credence to that theory, as it lists its scope as including: “candidate and ballot issues, statewide, legislative, multidistrict, countywide and municipal elections.”

Either way, Greene is pumping millions into his bid with no signs of slowing down before the primary election is in the books. Current polls put him in contention for fourth place alongside Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum while former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is at the top with a slim lead over former Congresswoman Gwen Graham.

The primary election is Aug. 28. The next finance report for Florida Defense Fund is due Aug. 17.

Sean Shaw

Environmental group gives the green light to Sean Shaw’s AG bid

Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw added an endorsement Thursday from Florida Conservation Voters, a non-partisan environmental group that works to elect public officials who will protect Florida’s conservation lands.

“Sean Shaw has dedicated his professional career to standing up to powerful special interests on behalf of the people of Florida,” said FCV executive director Aliki Moncrief. “He understands the devastating impact climate change and sea level rise are already having on our economy and communities, and he won’t be shy about holding polluters accountable for undermining environmental protections.

“Florida Conservation Voters is proud to support Sean Shaw to be Florida’s next Attorney General,” she concluded.

Shaw, a Democrat, is currently in his first term representing Tampa-based House District 61 and previously worked as the state’s insurance consumer advocate under former CFO Alex Sink. He faces Odessa lawyer Ryan Torrens in the Democratic primary to succeed term-limited Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi.

“Fighting for our environment will be one of my top priorities as Attorney General. The algae blooms and red tide that we’re seeing on beaches all across this states aren’t just bad for our ecosystems, they’re bad for our economy,” Shaw said. “The rising sea levels and increasingly powerful hurricanes are a threat to this states very existence.

“We cannot sit idly by and allow corporations to destroy one of, if not the, most unique ecosystems in the world. Scientist agree climate change is real and I agree with science. As Attorney General, I will strictly enforce our environmental laws, prosecute corporate polluters and protect our lands, waters, and beaches,” he concluded.

Florida Conservation Voters joins a number of politicians and groups lining up behind Shaw in the primary battle, including the Police Benevolent Association, MoveOn.org, the National Association of Social Workers and eight Democratic members of Florida’s congressional delegation: U.S. Reps. Kathy CastorCharlie CristVal DemingsTed DeutchAlcee HastingsAl LawsonDarren Soto and Frederica Wilson.

Recent weeks have seen the primary race turn negative, with Shaw filing a lawsuit to get Torrens kicked off the ballot over what Shaw believes was an “illegal campaign contribution.” Torrens said the finance report “mistake” was really a loan and has since sued Shaw for libel, saying Shaw injured his “reputation in the legal profession and as a candidate for public office.”

As it stands, Shaw has vastly outraised his primary foe with more than $1.15 million in receipts for his campaign and political committee, Sean Shaw for Florida, and about $677,000 on hand as of Aug. 3. Torrens, meanwhile, has raised nearly $140,000 including loans and has less than $5,000 in the bank.

The winner of the Aug. 28 primary election will move on to the general election, where he’ll face the winner of the GOP contest between Pensacola state Rep. Frank White and former circuit court judge Ashley Moody.

Both Republicans have posted much higher fundraising tallies than their Democratic counterparts, with Moody having raised $3.86 million with $1.43 million banked on Aug. 3 and White raising $4.64 million — $2.77 million of it self-funding — with $1.18 million at the ready at last check-in.

HD 47 primary gets uglier as Stockton Reeves mailer notes Mikaela Nix youthful arrest

House of Representatives candidate Stockton Reeves VI has put out a mailer declaring that his Republican primary opponent Mikaela Nix had been arrested as a young woman and charging that she has been hiding her past.

Nix and Reeves are locked in an increasingly ugly Aug. 28 Republican primary battle seeking to succeed outgoing Republican state Rep. Mike Miller in Florida House District 47. Several mailers in the past couple of weeks have ramped up attacks.

This time, Reeves’ mailer is not only drawing outrage from its target, Nix, but also from the Democrat awaiting the winner of their Aug. 28 Republican primary. Anna Eskamani declared, “I’m speechless,” in a text to Florida Politics, before tweeting, “This is a really ugly attack and a clear reflection of how low GOP candidates will go to win.”

The district covers north and central Orange County, including downtown Orlando.

Reeves, of Winter Park, said that he has been the target of negative mailers, too, sent by the third-party political action committee Floridians for Fiscal Responsibility, which is run by Nix’s campaign consultant, John Dowless. They have questioned holes in his financial disclosures and implied the possibility of illegal loans and pointed out an ethics complaint sustained against him in 1994. He says he’s just responding in kind.

Nix countered Monday that he started the mud-slinging, with his mailer declaring that she had been a Democrat and that she rarely voted in primaries. Her campaign is responding, she said.

[Reeves previously responded that he is filing an addendum to his financial disclosure to clarify and the 1994 complaint was the result of a mistake. Nix previously responded that she changed parties in college when she learned more about what they stand for.]

“She’s coming at me with all guns ablazing, and this is part of the record,” Reeves said.

“If someone is slinging mud at me… I am slinging back,” she said.

Reeves’ new mailer declares, “Mikaela Nix A record of breaking the law” and “Tallahassee doesn’t need lawbreakers trying to be lawmakers. Mikaela Nix’s judgment is too dangerous for Florida.”

Reeves contends he is setting the record straight about Nix, whom he insists has never been straight with voters about who she is.

“Between this, the primary elections, the switched parties, don’t play like something you’re not,” he said.

Nix said she has acknowledged the arrest.

The mailer cites an arrest of Nix when she 18, for petty theft in Miami-Dade County. The charge was dropped, and the original arrest record expunged. Nix said she was out with college friends, and there was peer pressure, and, it’s a common story.

“Of course it was disclosed,” said Nix, now a lawyer. “This is not something I am hiding behind. This is something that happened to me when I was 19 years old, a knucklehead.”

Nix argued that if the arrest record is expunged, that’s legally as if it never happened. Reeves counters: not so.

She then counter-charged that he was once arrested for an open container violation in Alachua County in 2003.

Reeves at first said he had never been arrested. But when confronted with details, he acknowledged it, saying he didn’t consider it an arrest. He said he was stopped for carrying a beer bottle while leaving a University of Florida stadium parking lot and was cited with a notice to appear, but was not physically arrested.

 

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