2018 election – Florida Politics

Dana Young holding ‘super weekend’ canvassing events

State Sen. Dana Young is looking for supporters to turn out this weekend to help spread the word about her reelection campaign in Senate District 18.

To give the campaign a spark heading into the final three months before Election Day, the Tampa Republican has planned a “Super Weekend” of canvassing events in  the Hillsborough County district.

Canvassing drives Friday and Saturday will see volunteers check in with the campaign at 809 S. Albany Ave. in Tampa to grab their clipboards before fanning out to knock on doors. The Friday event will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., while the Saturday drive will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Those looking to pitch in on the effort can contact Nick Alvarez at 786-390-1736 for more information or to RSVP.

Young, elected in 2016, is facing a serious challenge this year from House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, who currently represents House District 62. SD 18 is the only district Florida Democrats are targeting for a flip that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and a recent poll shows the two Tampanians are neck-and-neck.

Last week, Young got a boost from three high-profile endorsements. On Monday she earned an endorsement from the Florida Realtors, followed by the Florida State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police on Tuesday and the Florida Medical Association on Wednesday.

The Florida FOP was the fifth police union to back Young, following the Florida Police Benevolent Association and the Tampa, West Central Florida and Suncoast chapters of the PBA.

Neither Cruz nor Young faces a challenger in the Aug. 28 primary. They will go head-to-head in the Nov. 6 general election.

The canvassing invitation is below.

Neil Combee touts Donald Trump connection in first TV ad

Auburndale Republican Neil Combee started hitting the airwaves in Florida’s 15th Congressional District with a new ad touting his presidential appointment and his support for Donald Trump’s border wall.

The 30-second ad features Combee, a former state Representative, on a ranch with his family and neighbors pitches him as the most conservative candidate in the race to succeed U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, who is not running for re-election in 2018.

“Growing up we studied hard, did our chores and learned the value of saving for a rainy day,” Combee says in the ad. “That’s how my parents raised me and that’s how we’re raising our boys.”

A narrator then takes over, describing the Polk County Republican as “the only candidate trusted and appointed by President Trump,” and “the only true conservative we can trust to fund President Trump’s wall,” as well as “the only candidate conservatives can trust to enact congressional term limits.”

Combee represented House District 39 before he resigned last year to accept a presidential appointment at the USDA.

He faces Dover state Rep. Ross Spano, Lakeland contractor Sean Harper, Brandon agribusinessman Danny Kushmer and Lakeland mental health practitioner Ed Shoemaker in the CD 15 Republican primary. Also running for the seat are Democrats Kristen CarlsonAndrew Learned and Ray Pena.

Of the five, Combee is the best-known candidate in the Polk County portion of the district, which is home to about 40 percent of CD 15 Republicans. Since entering the race, he has landed endorsements from more than a dozen current and former Polk County elected officials as well as a handful of backers from Hillsborough and Lake counties.

On the fundraising front, Combee brought in $128,515 during the second quarter and has about $86,000 in the bank. That puts him in third behind Carlson with $193,000 banked and Spano with $108,000 banked. Carlson and Spano both relied on loans to hit their totals, and Spano has taken on a significant amount of other campaign debt.

CD 15 voted plus-10 for Donald Trump two years ago and is rated “likely Republican” in 2018 by Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the prediction newsletter from University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato.

The primary election is Aug. 28. Combee’s ad is below.

Karen Skyers

Ruth’s List recommends Karen Skyers for HD 61

Ruth’s List Florida announced Thursday that it’s backing Tampa lawyer Karen Skyers in the four-way Democratic primary for House District 61, an open seat now held by Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw.

“Karen is an attorney, former assistant public defender, children rights advocate and champion of criminal justice reform. She has served District 61 as a former Legislative Aide to state Senator Arthenia Joyner, and she supports strengthening public schools, health care for all, and safe and affordable housing,” said Pamela Goodman, executive director of Ruth’s List Florida. “The Ruth’s List community — now tens of thousands of members strong — is excited to support her candidacy.”

Ruth’s List Florida is a Democratic Party-aligned group that supports female candidates for public office. It takes its name from Ruth Bryan Owen, the first woman elected to Congress from the South.

“I am grateful to the grassroots aid Ruth’s List Florida provides Democratic women in Florida. I am so proud to receive Ruth’s List’s endorsement,” Skyers said. “It not only signals their support of my candidacy but the support of a strong and powerful advocacy group committed to bringing about the change we need here in Florida — one woman at a time.”

Skyers is up against Dianne Hart, Norman Harris and Sharon Carter in the Democratic primary. The winner of that contest will be Shaw’s de facto replacement in the Tampa-based Democratic stronghold, though they will be nominally opposed by write-in candidate Valion Joyce in November.

Florida law allows all voters to participate in primary elections if all candidates are members of the same party, however Joyce’s entry into the race nullifies that rule. HD 61 is one of five state legislative districts this cycle that had its primary locked down by a write-in candidate.

As of July 6, Skyers led in overall receipts with more than $55,000 raised since she entered the race in April. She has  about $26,500 on hand including a $500 loan.

Hart, the first-in candidate, holds the advantage in cash on hand with $33,500 banked off of $25,000 in contributions and another $15,000 in candidate loans. She took Shaw to the wire in the 2016 Democratic Primary, losing out by just 101 votes.

Harris is in a distant third in the money race with $17,500 raised and $5,500 banked, followed by Carter with $5,120 raised — half of it loans — and $1,065 on hand.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

Chris King’s health care plan expands Medicaid, boosts telemedicine

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King on Thursday morning unveiled his full health care platform, which includes accepting Medicaid expansion, pushing insurers to compete more, and making it easier for doctors to provide telemedicine.

King also announced the start of a campaign tour to promote the plan. It kicks off  with several stops in St. Petersburg this afternoon including a 5 p.m. visit to the Warehouse Arts District. Events in Sarasota and Punta Gorda are planned for Friday and Saturday.

King’s health care plan, which he calls “Florida’s Promise,” starts with the standard of all Democrats’ platforms: accepting the federal offer of Medicaid expansion in Florida, which would provide coverage for low-income working Floridians who make too much money to qualify for standard Medicare but not enough money to qualify for ObamaCare subsidies. Estimates typically say 800,000 to 1 million people fall into the poverty gap. King says 400,000 individuals would qualify immediately.

Citing reports from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, King declares in his platform statement, “If we expand Medicaid, we can lower costs for people shopping in the Florida marketplaces, too. States that have expanded Medicaid have 7 percent lower marketplace premiums than states that do not.”

The marketplace is the area where the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare, provides policy options to people not receiving health care coverage elsewhere. In Florida that marketplace has been plagued by high costs and limited competition, with many counties having only one insurance company participating.

King notes that in those counties there typically still are three or four insurance companies providing policies through Medicare and Medicaid, and he vowed to use “carrots and sticks” to encourage them to also provide Affordable Care Act coverage there as well. He also said he would push to increase enrollments, including using public spaces to do so, with the anticipation that with more people participating more insurance companies would show interest, and costs would fall through competition.

“If we achieve universal participation from insurance companies, Floridians in the highest-cost counties could pay close to 40 percent less for insurance,” King stated, citing an analysis of marketplace plan premiums in Florida.

King cited the growth of telemedicine to provide basic health care between doctors and patients and said it has been hampered in Florida by licensing requirements.

“I will propose rational improvements to our state licensing laws. We will propose ways to take down barriers through the use of interstate licensing compacts, model rules and agreements, and legislation that promotes license portability, especially for providers in military families,” he stated.

He proposed using the state’s Cancer Drug Donation Program as a model for a new statewide program to provide donated unused prescription medicines to Florida’s neediest patients.

And he called for considering marijuana among other alternatives to opioids in treating patients, to address the opioid addition epidemic.

Since Parkland shooting, youth voter registration has soared

In 2018, youth could possibly rock the vote.

According to a new analysis of voter registration data from Target Smart, there has been a significant surge in 18- to 29-year-olds registering to vote in the months since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

Nationwide, the under-30 slice of the electorate has increased by more than 2 percentage points. Pennsylvania led the nation with young adult registrations jumping 16 percent and making up a whopping 61 percent of new voters — like Florida, the Keystone State is holding a gubernatorial and U.S. Senate election in the fall.

But young Floridians haven’t skipped out on registering to vote.

Target Smart found that new registrations for young millennials and older members of Generation Z have spiked by 8 percent after Parkland compared to the same length of time before the shooting. While that surge could be partially attributable to the shooting itself, there have been many voter registration efforts in its aftermath.

Activists groups NextGen America, Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence, and Everytown for Gun Safety announced less than a two weeks after MSD that they would spend a combined $1 million to boost youth registrations nationwide, with an emphasis on Florida and California. Parkland survivors launched their own voter registration effort shortly after the school year ended.

How many voters that 8 percent bump represents mathematically requires a deeper dive into the voter rolls, but according to a June report from the Sun Sentinel, at least 30,318 people age 18 to 21 — a fraction of the age range examined by Target Smart — registered to vote between Jan. 1 and April 30.

The number of new youth voters could be higher on the other end of the age range as well, since that data omits 17-year-olds who have pre-registered to vote.

Overall, the Florida Division of Elections says there were 228,327 new voter registrations between the beginning of the year and May 31. During the same stretch, 128,243 voters were removed from the rolls either due to loss of eligibility or inactivity. Still, a net increase of 100,000 voters through May is already much greater than in 2017, when the voter rolls shrank by nearly 12,000.

Whether these new voters end up exercising their franchise remains to be seen. The same could be said about their partisan lean since Democrats have shed a few voters this year while Republicans have seen a slight gain.

Party affiliation or no, Target Smart thinks guns will be an issue for young voters who show up at the polls. The group pointed to a recent poll out of Harvard University’s Institute of Politics that showed nearly two-thirds of voters under 30 favor common-sense gun reforms.

Matt Caldwell piles on 16 endorsements for Ag. Commish bid

Lehigh Acres Rep. Matt Caldwell let loose another torrent of endorsements for his Agriculture Commissioner bid Wednesday, this time from county constitutional officers in all corners of the state.

Backing him in the four-way Republican primary to succeed Adam Putnam are Monroe Sheriff Rick Ramsay, Lee Sherriff Mike Scott, former Pasco Sheriff Bob White, Walton Tax Collector Rhonda Skipper, former Duval Tax Collector Mike Corrigan, Lee Property Appraiser Ken Wilkinson, Lake Property Appraiser Carey Baker, Walton Clerk Alex Alford, Lee Clerk Linda Doggett, Duval Clerk Ronnie Fussell, former Flagler Clerk Gail Wadsworth, Hillsborough Commissioner Stacy White, Clay Commissioner Gavin Rollins, St. Johns Commissioners Henry Dean and Jeb Smith as well as Jax Councilman Matt Schellenberg.

“I’m proud to endorse Matt Caldwell because he will bring his brand of proven, conservative leadership to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. I ask that all Floridians join me in voting for Matt Caldwell,” Stacy White said in the announcement.

Caldwell has tended to release his endorsements in “waves” throughout his Cabinet bid. Past palettes of patrons have included the state House delegations from the Panhandle, Northeast Florida, Central Florida, Southwest Florida and South Florida. He also recently locked down the backing of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

“I’m thankful to have the support of these leaders in our bid to serve as Florida’s next Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services. I will continue to work hard to earn the trust and support of voters across the Sunshine State, who deserve a Commissioner that has the leadership and policy experience to lead in Tallahassee on day one,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell is running against Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley, retired U.S. Army Col. Mike McCalister and former Winter Haven Rep. Baxter Troutman in the Republican primary. Nikki FriedJeff Porter and David Walker are competing for the Democratic nomination.

To date, Caldwell has found the most success on the fundraising trail with nearly $2.2 million raised and about $1.2 million banked between his campaign and political committee, Friends of Matt Caldwell. Troutman, however, has bolstered his bid with more than $3 million of self-funding and has more than $1.4 million on hand.

The primary election is Aug. 28. The general election is Nov. 6.

Frank White’s pro-life cred earns him Family Research Council backing

Another major pro-life group announced Wednesday that it was backing Pensacola state Rep. Frank White for Attorney General.

The new endorsement came in from the political arm of the staunchly-Christian-conservative Family Research Council, which takes hard-line stances against abortion and LGBTQ rights and in favor of increasing the role of Christianity in public life.

“During Rep. Frank White’s tenure in the Florida House of Representatives, he has stood boldly for life, family, and religious liberty. As a member of the Health and Human Services Committee, he sponsored a bill that requires H.H.S. to partner with organizations that support and promote childbirth. He also supported a bill that allows parents to challenge politicized public school curricula, a bill that provides pregnancy and wellness services to women in need, and a bill that bans dismemberment abortions,” said Jerry Boykin, the executive vice president of FRC Action PAC.

“FRC Action PAC is confident that Rep. Frank White will be a dedicated advocate for limited government, for individual liberties, and for strong family values. He is the leader that Florida needs, and we are pleased to offer our endorsement of his candidacy for election to Attorney General of Florida,” concluded Boykin.

FRC Action PAC joins Florida Right to Life, another stalwart anti-abortion group, in endorsing White, who has already made his pro-life views the subject of a TV ad.

White is one of two Republicans running to succeed term-limited Attorney General Pam Bondi in the fall. He faces former Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Ashley Moody, who has Bondi’s support, in the primary.

White is up seven points, 26 to 19, in the most recent public poll of the race and he holds a fundraising lead thanks to more than $2.7 million in self-funding. At last check-in, White had raised $3.95 million including self-funding and had $2.15 million banked, while Moody had raised $3 million and had $2.3 million banked.

The winner of the Republican contest will likely face Tampa Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw in November, who leads both Republicans in two recent polls.

Berny Jacques

Berny Jacques gets police backing in HD 66

Hot off the heels of a campaign ad touting his work as a prosecutor, Seminole Republican Berny Jacques announced that his Florida House bid has landed an endorsement from one of the state’s largest police unions.

“The Fraternal Order Of Police have endorsed Berny Jacques and feel that he is the best choice of candidate to serve the citizens of House District 66,” the Florida FOP said in a statement. “We believe that his dedication to serving his community will inspire others to lead Florida in the right direction and we look forward to working with him in Tallahassee.”

The Florida FOP joins another first-responder group, the Seminole Professional Firefighters, in endorsing Jacques’ bid to succeed term-limited Rep. Larry Ahern in the coastal Pinellas seat.

“As a former prosecutor who spent years protecting Pinellas families from crime, I am deeply honored to receive the endorsement of law enforcement. As State Representative, I will always make sure that these brave men and women are honored,” Jacques said.

The Seminole attorney is facing a primary challenge from Pinellas GOP chair and small businessman Nick DiCeglie, who has landed some police support of his own by way of an endorsement from the Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association.

The winner of their Aug. 28 head-to-head will go up against Democratic nominee Alex Heeren, a St. Petersburg school teacher, in the Nov. 6 general election.

As of July 6, Jacques led the money race with more than $200,000 raised and $140,692 banked compared to $122,256 raised and $65,555 banked for DiCeglie. Heeren is in a distant third in the money race with $26,176 in receipts and $9,367 at the ready.

HD 66 is a safe Republican seat that has been held by Ahern since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections. It also voted plus-14 for Donald Trump two years ago.

Gary Farmer

FMA PAC prescribes a second term for Gary Farmer

A political committee tied to the Florida Medical Association has endorsed state Sen. Gary Farmer over former state Rep. Jim Waldman in the Democratic primary for Senate District 34.

“The FMA PAC is honored to endorse Senator Farmer for re-election. We have worked closely with him on issues of importance to us and look forward to continuing that work to make Florida the best state to practice medicine for physicians and the patients we serve,” said committee president Mike Patete.

The endorsement is one of a handful the Fort Lauderdale attorney has received this cycle as he would have been re-elected without opposition if not for Waldman’s last-minute entry into the race.

“We are extremely grateful for the endorsement of Florida’s physician community — the Florida Medical Association — because we share the belief that every Floridian is entitled to high-quality medicine,” Farmer said.

Farmer was elected to the Florida Senate in 2016 after taking 43 percent of the vote in a three-way primary against former Rep. Gwyn Clarke-Reed and Waldman, who finished third with a smidge over 28 percent of the vote.

Waldman, a Coconut Creek attorney, has neither attracted donors nor anteed up in the weeks since he announced his candidacy by issuing a missive attacking Farmer for downvoting the controversial school safety package passed by lawmakers at the end of the 2018 Legislative Session.

As it stands, Farmer has more than $120,000 in hard money at the ready and another $470,000 in his political committee, Floridians for Ethics, Accountability and Responsibility. Waldman has less than $6,000 in the bank, nearly all of it loans.

SD 34 is a Democratic stronghold that covers coastal Broward County. No Republican qualified for the race, but due to a write-in candidate posting the ballot fee the otherwise open Aug. 28 primary election will be closed to voters who are not registered Democrats.

Jimmy Patronis cracks $4 million raised for CFO bid, says he’s not taking anything for granted

Another week, another milestone for CFO Jimmy Patronis fundraising operation.

The Panama City Republican tacked on another $220,000 in contributions for his campaign and Treasure Florida political committee in a week, pushing him past the $4 million mark in total fundraising. Those fundraising numbers — both the new ones and the overall tally — outshine Patronis’ top rival, former Margate Democratic Sen. Jeremy Ring, by leaps and bounds.

Ring, a former Yahoo! executive, raised just $3,029 for the June 30 through July 6 reporting period. Since entering the race in May 2017, he’s raised just over $1 million between his campaign and Florida Action Fund political committee.

His $440,000 on hand, which includes $150,000 in candidate loans, is dwarfed by Patronis’ $3.45 million war chest, and the incumbent’s campaign didn’t waste the opportunity to gloat, especially in the wake of what it sees as an unfair attack on Patronis for allegedly racist comments during a clemency hearing in June.

“While our opponent has been busy name-calling and attacking in an attempt to distract from us leaving him in the dust, the CFO has continued to circle the state each and every week, meeting with voters and working hard to raise more money,” campaign manager Paige Davis said in an email. “Team Jimmy is thrilled to celebrate today’s $4 million milestone, which gives us an impressive lead over our mudslinging opponent Jeremy Ring. We currently have EIGHT TIMES as much cash on hand compared to Ring!”

While Patronis is the best-capitalized Cabinet candidate — he’s outpacing seven-figure self-funders Frank White in the Attorney General race and Baxter Troutman in the Ag Commissioner contest — but Ring isn’t completely down and out.

The most recent poll of the statewide race showed Ring with a 5-point lead over Patronis among general election voters. A prior poll from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which has endorsed Patronis, showed the incumbent with a near double-digit lead, however, and the Patronis campaign on Wednesday pointed to a variety of local Chamber straw polls that favored him by a 3-to-1 margin.

But for all the ribbing, the Patronis campaign isn’t taking the challenge lightly.

“In light of all the recent success, we know this will continue to be an uphill battle and take nothing for granted,” Davis wrote.

The general election is Nov. 6.

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