2018 election Archives - Florida Politics
Jason Pizzo

Senate Democrats holding Tallahassee fundraisers Wednesday, Thursday

Those spending next week in Tallahassee can fill their calendar with a pair of fundraisers for Senate Democrats on Wednesday and Thursday.

The first event will benefit a political committee tied to soon-to-be state Sen. Jason Pizzo, who last month unseated incumbent Sen. Daphne Campbell from Miami-Dade’s Senate District 38 after a 54-46 percent victory in an open Democratic primary.

Pizzo, a former prosecutor, will hold the reception benefitting his Protecting Coastal Communities PAC from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Library of the Governors Club, located at 202 S Adams St. Those looking to attend can send an RSVP to Kay Cook via KCook@EdgeCommFL.com or 571-235-0318.

The second fundraiser will benefit the re-election campaign of Miami Sen. Annette Taddeo, who faces Republican challenger Marili Cancio in the Nov. 6 general election for Senate District 40.

Her event, billed as the “1st Annual Parrot Heat Frozen Concoction Celebration,” will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Florida Professional Firefighters headquarters, 343 W Madison St. Like Pizzo’s event, those planning to swing by can send a note or drop a line to Kay Cook.

Taddeo flipped SD 40 in a special election just under a year ago, but Cancio has been able to raise $273,700 between her campaign and political committee, Friends of Marili Cancio, and has about $260,500 of that cash in the bank.

Still, Taddeo has the fundraising advantage in the swing seat with a combined $478,275 banked between her campaign account and political committee, Fight Back Florida.

The invitations to both events are below.

Pizzo fundraiser 9.19.2018

Adam Shapiro Kickoff Event

David Shapiro’s son has long rap sheet and a history of racist comments

The adult son of David Shapiro, the Democratic nominee in Florida’s 16th congressional district, has made several overtly racist, sexist, and xenophobic comments on his social media accounts — including using the “n” word and expressing hatred for non-English speakers.

Since his father launched his campaign to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, 28-year-old Adam Shapiro has been on the front lines, with his involvement ranging from introducing his old man at the campaign’s Manatee County kickoff to blasting off campaign fundraising emails under his own name.

Florida Politics reached out to the Shapiro campaign to discuss Adam Shapiro’s involvement but did not receive a response.

Professionally, Adam works as an attorney in the firm his father co-founded, Shapiro Goldman Babboni Fernandez & Walsh. Though his specialties include numerous types of motor vehicle cases — everything from representing drunken driving victims to those injured in trucking accidents — he has a robust rap sheet of reckless rides.

His register of moving violations ranges from the mundane, such as not having his driver license or proof of insurance on hand during traffic stops, to the troubling. In 2012, Shapiro was cited for driving with an open container and in 2014 he crashed his car while fumbling with his cell phone, causing property damage and injury.

For someone who makes his living representing clients in court, the most recent time he ran afoul of the law is the most maladroit of them all: Just last year he was ticketed for driving on a suspended license and went as far as requesting a trial before wasting the officer’s and the court’s time by pulling a no-call-no-show at his own hearing.

A lawyer who can’t be trusted behind the wheel is one thing. Shapiro’s social media history, however, is simply sickening.

Among the veritable flotilla of Facebook faux pas are posts where he uses the term “wigger” — a malapropos portmanteau to describe white people who “act black” — as well as other words that require far less linguistic analysis. Take this 2010 post where he fittingly exhibits the caricatured behavior attributed to the derogatory word referenced above:

Adam Shapiro n-word

Adam, whose level of white privilege would seemingly register on a Geiger counter, would probably point out that he didn’t use a “hard R” in that post — a critical distinction for the truly unremorseful. For the few who would buy that, there’s also a post where he showcases an alarming insensitivity to sexual assault.

Adam Shapiro sexual assault

Having a blasé attitude toward rape was cringe worthy before it was beaten to death by tween video gamers. It was vicariously embarrassing when hack comedian Dane Cook resorted to it after failing to evolve from his best tight five a decade ago.

But the hits keep coming. There’s a diatribe where Shapiro expresses hatred for non-English speakers and another where it’s unclear whether his intent was to belittle the LGBTQ community or to broadcast an earnest proposition via an entirely inappropriate medium.

Adam Shapiro xenophobia

Adam Shapiro LGBTQ

Brush all those aside. That’s a tall order, to be sure, but there’s one scrawl by Adam Shapiro that when viewed without the distraction of his juvenile foibles could perhaps cause the most strife between him and his would-be Congressman father. And it’s only two words long.

Adam Shapiro F--- Sarasota

Gee, Adam. Tell us how you really feel.

After the publication of this story, David Shapiro put out a statement condemning his son’s past behavior and calling for Buchanan to debate him on the issues facing CD 16.

“As a parent, I’ve never accepted that kind of language in my home and I’m disappointed that Adam, in his youth, would make such offensive comments online. I know that those comments do not reflect the man he is today. But let me be clear, Vern Buchanan’s personal attacks on my family are disgusting. Vern has shown he will do absolutely anything to stay in power but this is a new low,” Shapiro said.

“He would rather capitalize on a serious matter that should remain between my kids, my wife and me, than to answer for his own lack of ethics and horrible voting record in Congress. Vern should debate me on the issues affecting our community instead of stooping to the shameful tactics he and his party are known for,” he concluded.

Gary Pruitt

Court records show Hillsborough Sheriff candidate Gary Pruitt is a deadbeat dad

Gary Pruitt’s career at the Tampa Police Department is his main selling point in his bid for Hillsborough County Sheriff, but a look over his personnel file and Hillsborough Circuit Court records shows a wanton disregard for the rules and, in some cases, the law.

Pruitt, who is running as a Democrat, says he’s “passionate about serving the citizens of this county” and has made the case that rank and file law enforcement officers are workhorses who go uncelebrated, even among their co-workers, despite getting the job done.

In his words, “those in the ranks sergeant and below do 90 percent or more of the service to the citizens but receive less than 10 percent of the respect from staff.”

But as the old saying goes, respect is a two-way street. And when Pruitt was a corporal at TPD, he showed little deference to the rules governing romantic relationships in the workplace.

According to internal affairs records from 2011, Pruitt flagrantly broke the rules regarding fraternization between officers — and he violated his supervisory responsibilities to do so with a woman, Kimberly O’Connor, who held a lower rank than he did.

“Corporal was having a close, personal relationship with a female on the squad that he also supervised,” the IA file reads. “This relationship had been going on for some time and was not disclosed to any other supervisors in the department nor was the relationship disclosed at all until it was blatantly obvious and after the corporal was questioned by his managers.”

The heart wants what the heart wants and there’s no stopping a couple intent on being together. That is, until the relationship produces a child. Once that happened, it appears as if Pruitt was more than happy to skip out on his paternal responsibilities.

According to a bundle of court documents filed between 2012 and 2015, Pruitt routinely shirked his fatherly duties — it took a court order to get him to submit to a paternity test, and he had no problem skipping out on paying $1,000 in pre-natal medical expenses before his daughter was even born, and was even dinged for using his TPD vehicle to show up to a civil mediation hearing.

Pruitt was just as dismissive about playing a part in his child’s development when the time came for swim lessons, and had no problem labeling O’Connor’s attempts to collect as bothersome.

At one point, Pruitt sent an email to the mother of his child with the subject line “*****YOU HAVE BEEN BLOCKED*****” and told her that “since you have ignored my repated (sic) requests to stop harassing me I have added you to my E-mail blocked list. Any future e-mails from you will be automatically deleted.”

If that seems harsh, he told O’Connor that he “absolutly (sic) hates communicating” with her and lobbed a further accusation that she was “having your cake and eating it too.” He added that “it would be cheaper” if he had his wife watch the child “instead of paying you all this money.”

Though he seemingly counted every nickel he had to outlay to support his progeny, by 2015 he was woefully behind on his child support payments. According to court documents, he was more than 30 days delinquent on $4,000 in child support payments to O’Connor.

As it stands, Pruitt has dumped $10,000 into his campaign to replace Sheriff Chad Chronister, though it seems there may be a better use of his funds. After all, his daughter’s hopes and dreams are no less important than his own.

Rick Scott takes Puerto Rico praise, defends red tide efforts

If Puerto Rico didn’t get what it neaded after Hurricane Maria, that’s a learning experience for everyone and doesn’t reflect on all that Florida Gov. Rick Scott did, and if Florida is experiencing its worst red tides in decades, that doesn’t reflect all that Scott did either.

At a U.S. Senate campaign rally in the Puerto Rico sector of Orlando Tuesday, Scott defended his administration’s record for addressing the water management issues that lead to the Lake Okeechobee discharges, and his administration’s increased investments in efforts to study address  the  algae blooms. But he also  blamed nature for the red tides and said for now only easterly winds could fix them.

Scott also took praise for his administration’s efforts to help Puerto Rico from the commonwealth’s Lt. Gov. Luis Rivera Marín  and other supportive Puerto Ricans in Orlando, who said he helped make life easer for Puerto Ricans on the island and for those who evacuated to Florida.

“It was thanks to the leadership of Rick Scott, a friend, a friend of Puerto Rico,” Rivera Marín said.

And during a brief press availability Scott highlighted Florida’s efforts to help its neighbor, and allowed that if the hurricane response was not all it could be, it was a learning experience.  He declined to say much more in response to a question about the federal response to Puerto Rico’s difficult recovery. He also did not elaborate on the statements he made last week disagreeing with President Donald Trump. who had suggested all went well, and that death counts were exaggerated by his political opponents.

“What you do is you learn,” Scott said of the response to Hurricane Maria, which hit a year ago Thursday.

“I think all of us can do a better job of, one, getting services faster to Puerto Rico. We know it’s more difficult because it’s an island. We could pre-position things better,” Scott said. “Clearly the island has been struggling with a utility system that was already struggling…. But we have got to get services there faster. Hopefully, everybody has learned how to do that.

“As a U.S. Senator, I’ll do everything I can to help build their economy,” Scott added.

There was no mention during the brief rally of the red tides that plague Florida and led to Scott facing large protests in his home terrotory of southwest Florida earlier, except from a media question. And on that, too, Scott suggested his administration was doing all that could be expected and more, touting increases over time in environmental spending. He also took shots at his opponent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, whom he said was doing nothing in Washington.

But ultimately Scott blamed nature, and said that the only thing that could help now is easterly winds.

“It’s horrible. The red tide is horrible,” Scott said. “I think all of us hope the red tide would be gone. It’s naturally occuring. It’s part of the gulf. It’s been around. We’ve had records of it since the 1840s. We’ve done a lot. But it’s not gone, right?

“We need really good easterly winds right now,” he added.

As for the protesters who reportedly all but overwhelmed his stops in southwest Florida, Scott offered that they were exercizing their rights.

After the rally, at the Rigo Tile Gallery Orlando, there were just a dozen or so protesters of the state’s response to the red tides and algae blooms. The protesters actually may have caused less of a scene than a few heated exchanges that took place prior to the rally in the overwhelmed parking lot, as the campaign’s advance people tried to control the flow, with traffic gridlocking in the lot and backing up onto the busy Goldenrod Road.

Stephanie Murphy touts congressional pay-freeze, no-budget no-pay bills

A new television commercial being launched by Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy touts legislation she backed to tighten accountability in Congress by restricting pay and future lobbying careers.

“We have got to hold Congress accountable,” she declares.

The 30-second commercial, “Accountable”, includes video of Murphy first teaching responsibility to her children, saying they can’t get their allowances if they don’t first do their chores. And then she draws a parallel with Congress, saying members must be held accountable for their jobs.

The commercial is launching today in the Orlando market and a 15-second version will be launched as a digital ad on the Internet.

Murphy faces Republican state Rep. Mike Miller in the Nov. 6 election for Florida’s 7th Congressional District covering Seminole County and central Orange County.

“We teach our kids to be responsible. It’s time we do that with Congress, too,” she says in the commercial. “It’s why I’m taking on politics as usual: to ban members of Congress from becoming lobbyists, ever; freeze congressional pay; and force them to do their jobs.”

Specifically, Murphy is referring to two bills that she sponsored or cosponsored. Both drew bipartisan cosponsors, but no hearings. House Resolution 5946, introduced last May, would set a lifetime ban on members of Congress becoming lobbyists and freeze congressional pay. House Resolution 1779, introduced in May 2017, would require that members of Congress not get their paychecks if they do not first approve a federal budget.

Murphy got behind the bills declaring that they would hold members of Congress accountable. The two bills had little chance of being approved, though, in part because, if there are enough members of Congress who are so reliant on their paychecks to make differences, those members also would be needed to vote in favor of the bills to restrict their paychecks. Murphy’s personal financial disclosures indicated she is not among those whose personal finances would be significantly affected by missed paychecks.

HR 1779, the “No Budget, No Pay Act”, picked up 24 cosponsors but never got a committee referral.

HR 5946, the “Foster Accountability, Integrity, Trust, and Honor in Congress Act [FAITH in Congress Act”] picked up two cosponsors and was referred to several congressional committees. But it stalled the same day it was referred, receiving no committee actions.

Kelli Stargel leads Bob Doyel by a touchdown in SD 22

Despite Democratic challenger Bob Doyel touting internal poll numbers showing him leading Republican state Sen. Kelli Stargel, the first public poll of the SD 22 general election shows Stargel with an outside-the-margin lead in her re-election bid.

A new St. Pete Polls survey, conducted Sunday, found Stargel up by 7 percentage points among registered voters who said they planned to vote in the general election. The 48-41 percent lead for Stargel comes about a month after Doyel, a retired circuit court judge, circulated an internal poll showing him with a 45-40 lead as well as decent name ID within the district.

Stargel received more than 80 percent support from registered Republicans and held a 45-39 percent lead among unaffiliated and third-party voters. Doyel’s support among SD 22 Democrats was less robust, with 71 percent backing him, 17 percent supporting Stargel and 12 percent undecided.

Stargel’s lead reached 20 points among white voters, who make up about two-thirds of SD 22’s voting age population. Doyel was far ahead among black and Hispanic voters. The sample size for those demographics, however, was small.

By age, Stargel holds 9-point edge among 18- to 29-year-olds and leads by 8 percentage points among the 50- to 69-year-old bracket. The race was tighter among Gen Xers and the over 70 crowd, the former of which preferred Stargel by a 44-40 percent margin and the latter of which broke toward her 46-41 percent.

Doyel trailed by double digits among men, though the race is much tighter among women, who only are only leaning toward Stargel by 2 points, 45-43 percent.

SD 22 covers southern Lake County and northern Polk County and has trended toward GOP candidates in the past despite registered Democrats outnumbering registered Republicans by a couple points.

Florida Democrats are hoping the ‘blue wave’ can put it and other Republican-held Senate seats in play come November, though like in most other FDP-targeted districts, there’s a large fundraising disparity between the GOP and Democratic nominees.

Doyel was challenged by former state Rep. Ricardo Rangel in the Aug. 28 primary and spent a large amount of cash ahead of the 66-34 percent rout. Heading into September, he had about $92,500 in hard money $31,350 in his political committee, Bring Back Democracy.

Through the same date, Stargel had just shy of $240,000 in her campaign account with another $215,250 banked in her affiliated political committee, Limited Govt for a Stronger Florida.

In the 2016 cycle, Stargel scored a 7-point win over underfunded and overmatched Democrat Debra Wright. President Donald Trump also carried the district by nearly the same margin.

The St. Pete Polls survey was conducted by an automated phone call polling system on Sept. 16. It received responses from 569 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

Ed Hooper takes slim lead in SD 16 comeback bid

Former Republican Rep. Ed Hooper has taken back the lead from former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy in the race to fill Pasco and Pinellas county-based Senate District 16.

According to a new poll conducted over the weekend, Hooper is the pick for 47 percent of SD 16 voters with Murphy coming in just behind him with 45 percent support. Only 8 percent of those polled said they were still unsure which of the two candidates they would pick to replace former Clearwater Sen. Jack Latvala.

The St. Pete Polls survey comes six weeks after a poll from SEA Polling & Strategic Design showed Murphy on top, 41-39 percent. All public polls of the race released thus far have reflected a tight race between the two former lawmakers, with the early July measure from St. Pete Polls also showing Hooper with a 2-point lead, 45-43 percent.

SD 16 is one of the more Republican-friendly Senate districts being targeted by Florida Democrats in the fall, though Murphy has in the past shown an ability to woo GOP voters. She represented House District 36 from 2013 through 2016, when she lost to now-Rep. Amber Mariano.

That race came down to just a handful of votes despite President Donald Trump winning the Pasco-based House seat in a 20-point landslide.

Murphy is peeling off about a fifth of Republican voters in the new poll. But Hooper has seen a slight bump in support from Democratic voters compared to a few months ago. He was the favored candidate for about 17 percent of registered Democrats in the survey.

By race, Hooper holds a 4-point edge among white voters. The poll included only a few black and Hispanic voters, though it indicates a lead for Murphy among those demographics. Hooper also leads among men, 51-44 percent, while Murphy holds a 46-43 percent lead among women.

By age, Murphy leads 47-44 percent among Millennials and 53-40 percent among 50- to 69-year-olds. Hooper has a 10-point edge among Gen Xers and runs up the score among voters over 70, with 54 percent preferring him compared to a 34 percent share for Murphy.

The St. Pete Polls survey was conducted Sept. 16 via an automated phone call polling system. It received responses from 1,040 who said they planned to vote in the general election. The top-line result has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

Hooper has been in the race since early 2016 and has raked in $490,000 in hard money and another $250,000 through his political committee, Friends of Ed Hooper. Heading into September, he had a combined war chest of $515,700.

Murphy, who entered the race in early May, has raised $73,655 in campaign dollars. Two political committee’s chaired by the former lawmaker — Working Towards Florida’s Future and Taxpayers for Responsible Government — have also collected a combined $130,000 since May. Recent finance reports show she has $101,750 banked between the three accounts.

SD 16 covers northern Pinellas County and southwestern Pasco County, including Clearwater, Dunedin, Safety Harbor, Palm Harbor, New Port Richey and Oldsmar. Republicans make up about 38 percent of the district’s electorate, while Democrats make up about a third. Two years ago, President Donald Trump carried the district by 12 points.

Dana Young has 3-point lead over Janet Cruz in SD 18 battleground

The first general election season poll of the Senate District 18 battle brought some good news for incumbent state Sen. Dana Young.

The St. Pete Polls survey shows the Tampa Republican with a 3-point lead, 45-42 percent, over House Minority Leader Janet Cruz. The remaining 13 percent of voters are undecided.

The poll shows an improvement for Young over St. Pete Polls’ prior survey of the race, conducted in July. That measure showed Cruz with a 1-point lead over Young, 44-43 percent, with the same level of undecided voters.

In the three months since that poll, Cruz’ share of her Democratic base has slipped from 70 percent to 64 percent, with about half of those voters now sitting on the fence and the remainder declaring they will support Young in November.

Also of note is a tightening of the race among no- and third-party voters. In July, Cruz held a 15 percentage point lead among independent voters. That lead has been cut in half, as Young’s share among that crowd has increased from 34 percent to 40 percent.

Broken down by race, Young leads Cruz 49-41 percent among white voters, who make up 59 percent of the electorate according to the most recently available demographic information. Hispanic voters, who make up 28 percent of the district, prefer Young 43-41 percent. Cruz holds a 2-to-1 lead among black voters, though that represents a decline from her 67-18 percent lead three months ago.

By age, Cruz leads 49-41 percent among Millennials while Young holds a lead with Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation, all of whom make up a much larger share of SD 18’s electorate.

The St. Pete Polls survey was conducted on Sept. 16 by an automated phone call polling system. It received responses from 988 registered voters who indicated they planned to vote in the general election. Registered Democrats and registered Republicans each made up 38 percent of the sample. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

SD 18 is one of the Florida Democratic Party’s top targets for a flip in the fall and, as evidenced by the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee’s recent spending on an attack ad targeting Cruz, the state GOP is aggressively defending the swing seat.

The district covers much of Tampa and has a close partisan split in voter registrations. SD 18 voted plus-6 for Hillary Clinton two years ago while at the same time electing Young with a plurality of the vote in a four-way race between her, Democratic nominee Bob Buesing and NPA candidates Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove.

The 2018 ballot will not be as crowded, with Cruz and Young being the only names printed on the ballot. Neither candidate faced a challenger in the August primary elections, leaving both candidates with substantial war chests for the general.

Young, however, has a near-threefold fundraising lead and shows no sign of slowing down.

At the end of August, Young had about $460,000 in hard money with another $1.38 million banked in her affiliated political committee, Friends of Dana Young. Cruz, meanwhile, has raised $680,000 between her campaign account and political committee, Building The Bay PC, but has spent nearly $450,000 of that cash in recent weeks, most of it on advertising, leaving her with just $15,000 in hard money and $150,000 in committee cash at the end of August.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Pre-existing health conditions at issue in new Nancy Soderberg TV ads

Nancy Soderberg, the Democratic nominee to fill Ron DeSantis‘ open seat in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, rolled out two new TV spots Tuesday morning spotlighting health care differences between her and her opponent.

The first one, “Hung Up,” deals with difficulties in getting health insurance. In it, Soderberg mentions her accomplishments when she served as Alternate Representative to the United Nations under President Bill Clinton, with the rank of Ambassador.

“I helped start the conversation to bring peace to Northern Ireland, and I was one of the first to say ‘let’s get bin Laden,’ but when I called insurance companies looking for health coverage, they hung up on me because I have a pre-existing condition,” Soderberg said in the spot.

Those closely following Soderberg’s race with Republican nominee Mike Waltz will note that health coverage for pre-existing conditions has been a general election talking point for her. Her first ad, released last month, also highlighted her struggle to get health coverage as a diabetic.

“Everyone here in Florida deserves health insurance we can afford. That’s why I’m running for Congress,” Soderberg says.

The second spot, “Unavailable,” sets up a contrast with Waltz, beginning with a depiction of a constituent call to Waltz’s headquarters.

“Can you please tell me why Mike Waltz’s health care plan kicks 70,000 people off health insurance and raises health care costs for everyone else,” says one caller.

A second caller shreds Waltz for trying to “gut protections for pre-existing conditions.”

Eventually, callers are routed to an answering machine.

Soderberg, who has raised over $2 million in this race, has the resources to deploy thanks to her primary being much less costly than the three-way GOP race, which left Waltz with only $286K banked on Aug. 8. And she clearly sees room to move independent voters on the real differences in health care plans between Waltz and her.

Keith Perry - FRSCC Ad

Keith Perry under fire for Facebook ads on Gainesville utility

Gainesville voters will decide in November whether to change the governance of their municipal utility and Sen. Keith Perry, a Gainesville Republican, has been using advertising – some say deceptively – in a push to get the measure passed.

The utility, Gainesville Regional Utilities, is currently under the control of the Gainesville City Commission, but the referendum would transfer its governance to a new panel.

That would include five members, appointed by the City Commission, who could serve up to three four-year terms.

The measure has been panned by city commissioners, as well as the area’s only Democratic member of the Legislature, Alachua  state Rep. Clovis Watson.

Despite the opposition, Perry has made posts on social media claiming that Gainesville City Commissioners Harvey Ward and Adrian Hayes-Santos had joined him in backing the referendum.

Each post included a video ad paid for by the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, the well-stocked GOP affiliated committee chaired by incoming Senate President Bill Galvano that’s charged with supporting Republican state Senate candidates.

“It’s over 90 degrees out, but GRU is turning up the heat,” a narrator says in the ad. “Soaring residential rates. Highest commercial rates. Over $700 million wasted on a disastrous biomass plant. 18,000 can’t pay their bills. The city commission’s solution? Raise rates again.”

Perry then takes over, asking, “How much more cash will GRU burn? Choosing between air conditioning and groceries? That’s nonsense. We need more common sense. We need to hold the city accountable.”

While no commissioner is singled out by name in the video, Perry did name Ward and Hayes-Santos in the text accompanying a pair of posts including FRSCC-sponsored video. Both posts have been viewed 5,000-10,000 times each.

“Enough is enough, the City Commission recently approved a GRU rate increase. Commissioner Harvey Ward and Keith Perry are fighting back. Like and share if you think GRU and the City Commission needs more accountability,” Perry wrote in a Sept. 14 post.

That drew the ire of Ward, who published his own post shortly after the Facebook ad went live saying, “Either Sen. Keith Perry’s campaign team doesn’t clear things with him before they run them OR he is lying.”

“He’s running a campaign spot now that implies I support this foolishness he’s been trying to perpetrate on the people of Gainesville with GRU for years,” Ward continued. “Let’s be clear: I do not support that referendum or Sen. Perry’s re-election campaign.”

Ward later posted a screenshot of a message he sent to Perry’s official Senate email account.

“In a recent campaign ad (attached) you/your campaign imply that Ward and I are working together on your GRU referendum. You know this is not the case. Every Gainesville City Commissioner opposes this referendum, including me,” he wrote in a Saturday email. “Please take the ad down as you know it to be untrue.”

As of Tuesday morning, both ads were listed as “active” according to Facebook’s ad archive.

Ward also posted links to the donation page for the campaign against the referendum, “No GRU Authority,” as well as a donate link for Perry’s Democratic challenger in his re-election bid for Senate District 8, Gainesville physician Kayser Enneking.

The GRU referendum was put on the ballot after a 2017 bill (HB 759) by Newberry Republican Rep. Chuck Clemons was cleared by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott.

Perry shepherded that bill’s Senate companion, and had sponsored similar bills in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 Legislative Sessions, when he was a member of the House.

Perry is one of several incumbent Republican state senators facing a serious challenge in the fall, however his campaign and committee accounts are flush with about $525,000 banked between them, with an additional $425,000 worth of “in-kind” support, mostly from FRSCC.

Enneking, meanwhile, has about $234,000 left to spend between her campaign and committee accounts after a costly Democratic primary. She has also received about $145,000 worth of “in-kind” support, mostly from the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.

SD 8 covers all of Alachua and Putnam counties as well as the northern half of Marion County. It is one of a handful of districts that became more favorable to Democrats after the Senate map was redrawn ahead of the 2016 elections.

Despite Democrats holding an 8-point lead in voter registrations in the redrawn district, Perry scored a comfortable victory over two years ago as the seat was narrowly carried by President Donald Trump. Both SD 8 and the GRU question will be on the November ballot.

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