2018 election – Florida Politics

Andrew Gillum, Philip Levine announce campaign team expansions

The gubernatorial campaigns of Democratic candidates Andrew Gillum and Philip Levine have announced expansions, with Phillip Jerez and Lindsay Pollard joining Gillum’s team, and Max Flugrath joining Levine’s.

On Thursday Gillum’s campaign announced that Jerez would become the campaign’s political director and Pollard, the deputy finance director. Also on Thursday, Levine’s campaign announced that Flugrath was coming on as communications director.

Jerez previously worked for U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Weston Democrat.

Pollard, co-founder of Diverse Strategy Group, is a finance consultant who had worked as a consultant for Gillum’s gubernatorial campaign, and had served the Miami-Dade Democratic Party and various campaigns, including Randy Perkins‘ and Annette Taddeo‘s congressional runs.

“We’re thrilled to announce Phillip Jerez as our political director and Lindsay Pollard as our deputy finance director. Both Phillip and Lindsay bring strong relationships across Florida to this race, and they’re both going to help make the difference in the August primary and November general election,” Gillum Campaign Director Brendan McPhillips stated in a news release from that campaign.

Before joining Levine’s campaign, Flugrath had been communications director for the Florida House Democratic Office until last week, and had previously served in state Sen. Rod Smith‘s campaign.

“As Florida Democrats continue to rally around Mayor Philip Levine’s energy and progressive vision, our team is growing to help ensure that we have the infrastructure to bring our message to voters throughout Florida,” Levine Campaign Manager Matthew Van Name stated in a release from that campaign. “We are thrilled to bring Max on board to implement a robust communications strategy that effectively connects the mayor’s vision and proven record of success with Floridians in each corner of our state.”

Mike Miller picks up Seminole County Chair John Horan’s backing in CD 7 race

Republican congressional candidate Mike Miller has earned the endorsement of Seminole County Commission Chairman John Horan, Miller’s campaign announced Thursday.

Miller, the state representative from Winter Park, is running for Congress in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, covering Seminole County and north-central Orange County.

He’s in a Republican primary battle with Scott Sturgill, Patrick Weingart, and Vennia Francois. For that battle, Horan’s endorsement should be a boost for Miller.

They all seek to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy in the November CD 7 election.

“I have worked with Mike on issues important to Seminole County residents and I am confident he is the best person to represent Seminole County in Congress. Mike’s conservative, smaller government philosophy was formed while working for U.S. Senator Connie Mack,” Horan stated in a news release issued by Miller’s campaign. “Those of us in Seminole County continue to believe in his mantra of less taxes, less government and more freedom. Mike will be a champion for us and I enthusiastically am throwing my support behind Mike Miller for Congress.”

“In working side by side with Commissioner Horan on important issues, I know how hard he works for the citizens of Seminole County. I want to ensure Seminole County residents have a voice for them in Washington, not just someone who sides with the Pelosi Democrats,” Miller stated.

Prominent trial attorneys rallying support for Gwen Graham

A group of Florida trial lawyers are throwing their support behind Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham and are encouraging their colleagues to do likewise, according to letter obtained by Florida Politics.

The letter details how many in the legal community were disappointed by major losses at the top of the ballot in past gubernatorial elections — but in 2018, they expect Democrats to have a shot at the Governor’s Mansion and see Graham as the best option in the four-person primary.

Among their reasons for selecting the Graham over her opponents was her 2014 victory over then-U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland in the old CD 2.

“All of us vividly remember the disappointments of 2010 and 2014. Republican waves rolled across the nation, giving Rick Scott just enough momentum to eke out narrow wins in his races for Florida Governor. But 2018 is different,” they wrote.

“In 2014, Gwen was one of only two Democratic challengers in the United States to defeat Republican incumbent members of the United States House of Representatives. She won a challenging North Florida district that also voted for Rick Scott. In fact, Gwen’s margin was 7 points greater than Obama in 2012 and 5 points better than Crist in 2014.”

The letter is signed by:

Wayne Hogan, a Jacksonville personal injury attorney who was on the legal “dream team” that sued Big Tobacco in the 1990s, ending in an historic $17 billion settlement for Florida.

Howard Coker, another Jacksonville trial lawyer and frequent member of the “Top 100 Florida Super Lawyers.”

Mike Maher, a medical malpractice specialist in Orlando, former President of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, and another member of the Big Tobacco lawsuit “dream team.”

John Romano, a Palm Beach County personal injury and product liability attorney.

Bob Kerrigan, a Pensacola personal injury attorney who also was on the tobacco case “dream team” and advised members of the state Senate during the 2000 presidential election lawsuit.

Curry Pajcic, a former prosecutor and now plaintiffs’ attorney in Jacksonville who was a finalist for U.S. Attorney, Middle District of Florida.

Rod Smith, a trial attorney and partner at Gainesville’s Avera & Smith who served as the 8th Judicial Circuit’s State Attorney  in 1993-2000.

Mike Haggard, a Coral Gables personal injury attorney who is “the only plaintiff’s personal injury attorney to secure three separate $100 million dollar verdicts on behalf of individual clients,” his website says.

Holt Harrell, a Jacksonville personal injury attorney “named a Rising Star by Super Lawyers each year since 2010,” his website says.

Don Hinkle, a Tallahassee personal injury lawyer, now pursuing a high-profile case against Gov. Rick Scott, alleging the multi-millionaire governor hasn’t properly disclosed his wealth under the state constitution’s “Sunshine Amendment.”

The attorneys also highlighted Graham’s platform on the courts, writing that she “strongly believes in the Florida constitutional mandate that ‘courts shall be open to every person for redress of any injury, and justice shall be administered without sale, denial or delay.”

“Gwen’s clear support for access to the courts is coupled with her determination to appoint the best possible judiciary as Governor. She supports efforts to remove politics from the judicial selection process by restoring balance to the appointment of Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) members.

“Gwen plans to appoint judges on their qualifications and willingness to decide cases on their merits, not because they align with some ideological agenda. She strongly believes the next governor, Democrat or Republican, has the constitutional right to appoint the next Supreme Court justices. And if Governor Scott attempts to exceed his authority and make those appointments, Gwen will take him to court in her first day in office.”

The letter then encourages fellow trial lawyers to pitch in to Grahams campaign or political committee “as soon as possible.”

Graham faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Orlando-area businessman Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine in the Democratic Primary.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis have declared on the Republican side, with House Speaker Richard Corcoran expected to enter the race in the coming weeks.

Earlier in the race, many prominent attorneys chipped in to Corcoran’s Watchdog PAC, but now that he lacks control over legislation that could impact the legal community, it’s yet to be seen if the trial attorneys will continue to support his political committee or if they’ll follow their historic approach and begin to line up behind Graham or another Democratic contender who is more in line with their agenda.

Here is a copy of the letter:

Trial attorneys support Gwen Graham by Peter Schorsch on Scribd

Rick Scott: Decision on U.S. Senate race to wait behind stack of bills

If Republican Gov. Rick Scott hears the clock ticking on his decision of whether to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, it will have to wait until after he gets through the stack of bills the Florida Legislature put on his desk.

At least that’s what he suggested Wednesday when asked, during a stop in Orlando, about his timetable.

“I just finished Session. I just finished the budget. I have a variety of bills to go through. I’ll make a decision after that. You know, most politicians can think about their next job. I’ve got to finish the job I’ve got here,” Scott said.

Nelson and various national Democratic and Republican committees have been preparing for a Nelson-Scott showdown. The National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee have been waging that battle for months. But as polls and special elections suggest a potential anti-President Donald Trump blue wave building on the horizon, Scott is making no overt commitments.

Meanwhile, as March wanes, anticipating a Scott run, no other credible Republican candidates have gone near the U.S. Senate race.

Nick DiCeglie fundraiser this Friday

Republican Nick DiCeglie is holding a fundraiser for his House District 66 campaign on March 23 in St. Petersburg.

The event is set to run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at The Mayor’s Mansion, 609 11th Ave. South. Those interested in attending can RSVP with Rick Porter at 407-849-1112 or Rick@PoliticalCapitalFlorida.com.

DiCeglie is running for the seat currently held by termed-out Rep. Larry Ahern. He faces St. Petersburg attorney Berny Jacques in the Republican Primary.

Through the end of February, the Belleair Bluffs businessman had raised more than $90,000 and had $72,000 of that money on hand in his campaign account.

Jacques, who entered the race six months ahead of DiCeglie, has raised a total of $138,545 and has a little over $100,000 in the bank.

Also running for the seat are Democrat Alex Hereen and Reform Party candidate Paul Anthony Bachmann. Hereen started March with about $5,600 in the bank, while Bachmann has raised $345 since filing in August.

HD 66 is a safe Republican district. It covers part of western Pinellas County, including Clearwater, Belleair, Indian Rocks Beach and Indian Shores.

The invitation to DiCeglie’s fundraiser is below.

Nick DiCeglie Fundraiser Invitation

Four candidates running for Julio Gonzalez’ House seat

Four candidates have filed for the state House seat being given up by Republican Rep. Julio Gonzalez so he can pursue the congressional seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney.

Republican Nicholas Trolli opened his campaign account ahead of Gonzalez’ announcement he would run for Florida’s 17th Congressional District, and since then another three candidates have entered the race.

The most recognizable by far is Republican James Buchanan, who was his party’s nominee in the recent special election for House District 72, which was ultimately won by Democratic Rep. Margaret Good.

HD 74 is the third district Buchanan, the son of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, has filed for – he initially sought HD 71 before switching over to the HD 72 special.

Trolli filed for the seat on Feb. 28 but reported no contributions for the final day of the month, putting him and Buchanan on even financial footing in the Republican Primary albeit with a three-week head start for Trolli.

Also running for the seat are a pair of Democrats. Yves Junior Chery opened a campaign account on March 15 and Timothy Fitzgerald followed five days later.

House District 74 covers southern Sarasota County, including Venice and Northport and has a hefty advantage for Republicans.

The district voted 60-37 in favor of President Donald Trump in the 2016 election. By comparison, neighboring HD 72 voted 50-46 for Trump.

Gonzalez ran a couple points ahead of Trump two years ago, beating Democrat Manny Lopez 63-37 on Election Day.

Personnel note: Fla. Dems promote Roosevelt Holmes, announce new hires

The Florida Democratic Party announced a slew of new hires and one promotion Tuesday as it gears up for the 2018 election cycle.

“I am extremely proud to announce some of our recent hires to the Florida Democratic Party. This is a passionate, diverse, talented, and experienced group of Democrats and we are grateful they have joined us to help turn Florida Blue in 2018,” said FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo.

“We know what Florida looks like after nearly 20 years of being under all Republican rule – an economy that does not work for all Floridians, a weakened public school system, rising health care costs while insurance companies get tax breaks, and leaders who are controlled by special interests. We have hired a staff who knows what is at stake in 2018 and this team is qualified and committed to electing Democrats up and down the ballot, to move Florida, forward!”

Topping the bulk announcement was the promotion of Roosevelt Holmes III, who will now serve as senior advisor to the Florida Democratic Party.

Holmes joined FDP as deputy political director in 2015, and was bumped up to political director last year. He also recently served as the party’s interim executive director.

Before joining FDP, Holmes worked on winning campaigns for several Democrats, including Barack Obama in 2008, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer in 2012. He also worked in Rep. Kathy Castor’s office, for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and Workforce, and served in the Government Affairs and Public Policy Department of the UNCF.

New hires in the announcement:

Clifton Addison will serve as a deputy political director. He joins FDP after serving as a Legislative Aide in the Florida Senate and as the African American Outreach Director of For Our Future PAC.

— Lauren Calmet will serve as a deputy political director. Lauren previously served as the Director of Community Affairs for the Florida Coalition for Children.

Kevin Donohoe will serve as a senior spokesperson, with a focus on the race for Florida governor. He previously worked to elect Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam in 2017.

Sebastian Kitchen will serve as a senior spokesperson, with a focus on the U.S. Senate race. He most recently directed communications for Alabama U.S. Sen. Doug Jones’ 2017 campaign.

Asriele Stubbs will serve as the community engagement director for South Florida.

Ella K. Coffee will serve as the community engagement director for West Central Florida.

Alexandria Ayala will serve as the community engagement director for Palm Beach and Treasure Coast

Lisa Peth will serve as the community engagement director for Northeast Florida.

Adrian Young will serve as the community engagement director for Tallahassee and Gainesville.

Keith Hardy will serve as the community engagement director for Northwest Florida.

Brandon Philipczyk will serve as COO.

Avery Russ will serve as a compliance assistant.

Nicole Torres will serve as a compliance specialist.

Alex Barbieri will serve as the data and analytics director.

Jeff Brandes expected to draw challenge from trial lawyer Carrie Pilon

St. Petersburg attorney Carrie Pilon is expected to challenge incumbent Republican Jeff Brandes in Senate District 24, according to planning documents obtained by Florida Politics.

Pilon, a St. Pete native, is a Stetson University law grad and also holds a bachelor’s and master’s in public administration from Florida State University. She runs an injury law firm with her husband, Chad Pilon.

According to a memo circulating among the Florida Democratic Party’s Senate Victory staff (which was inadvertently ((or was it?)) sent to a Florida Politics reporter), Pilon is set to announce her candidacy on April 2.

When the announcement drops, Ruth’s List, St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard are on the short list for fundraising support and early endorsements.

The treasurer job will likely come down to Shelby Green or Laura Haggard.

Brian Doheny, a former FDP regional organizing director and alum of the Kriseman re-election campaign, is also expected to be an integral member of the Pilon campaign.

He’s penciled in to switch over from Matt Haggman’s campaign for Florida’s 27th Congressional District, where he serves as finance director, on April 7.

When Pilon enters, she’ll be the only candidate running against Brandes, who has held the SD 24 seat since it was redrawn in 2012. His 2018 bid is his last election before he runs into term limits.

FDP involvement in the SD 24 race indicates Democrats’ optimism the “blue wave” will make formerly non-competitive seats contestable – Brandes’ last major challenger was USF St. Pete Professor Judithanne McLauchlan, who ran in 2014 for the pre-redistricting SD 22.

She was considered a strong candidate in the 2014 cycle but fell far short in fundraising – bringing in $307,000 to Brandes’ $815,000 – and lost 58-42 on Election Day.

Brandes didn’t face a Democrat in the 2016 re-election campaign, which was brought about after Florida courts redrew the district maps. Depsite the lack of competition, SD 24 is considered competitive on paper.

GOP voters make up 37 percent of the Pinellas district’s electorate, compared to 33 percent for Democrats with the remainder registered as third- or no-party voters.

SD 24 would have gone for Barack Obama by about a point in 2012 and 2.5 points in 2008, though the seat went plus-7 for Donald Trump in 2016.

Brandes has raised $240,000 for his re-election bid and heading into March he had about $124,000 in the bank.

Maggie’s List kicks off 2018 cycle with March 27 fundraiser

Maggie’s List, a federal PAC that works to elect and support fiscally conservative women in Congress and the U.S. Senate, is holding its first fundraiser of the 2018 cycle on March 27 in Tampa.

The event will be held at the home Brandy Puls from noon to 2 p.m. and a number of Republican elected officials are slated to attend, including Attorney General Pam Bondi, state Sen. Dana Young, state Rep. Kathleen Peters and state Rep. Jackie Toledo.

Also on the docket as “special guests” are U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis and Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody, who was endorsed by Maggie’s List in December.

The event invite lists three contribution tiers. Donors who pitch in $1,000 can get a spot on the host committee, while the individual tier measures in at $250 and the young professional level is listed at $100.

To join the Host Committee or RSVP drop a line to Margarida Sepda via 813-944-8964 extension 308, or send an email to msepa@lsimi.com.

Currently on the host committee are Beth Basham, Kelly O’Brien, Karen Pittman, RSA Consulting Group CEO Ron Pierce, and Nancy and Robert Watkins.

The event hosts are listed as Leslie Saunders, Wendy Pepe, former Florida Secretary of State Sandra Mortham, former chairwoman of the Republican Party of Florida and the Indian River County tax collector Carole Jean Jordan and On 3 Public Relations President Christina Johnson.

The event invitation is below:

Maggie's List invitation

Ron DeSantis’ campaign touts poll showing him on top

The Republican gubernatorial campaign for U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis is touting new poll results from Gravis Marketing Tuesday morning that show he has taken the lead.

The same poll also is being cited by the Democratic gubernatorial campaign of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum as it shows him moving up into second place on the Democrats’ side.

Both party races are tight and the vast majority of likely voters are still undecided, according to the poll.

“What’s clear from every poll we’ve seen since the president endorsed Ron DeSantis for governor, is that Ron is trending up and Adam Putnam is trending down,” DeSantis’ Campaign Press Secretary David Vasquez said in a news release issued by the campaign. “It’s clear Florida conservatives want a proven leader who has the support of the President and not a career politician who’s beholden to special interests.”

The survey was conducted from Feb. 26 through March 19 of a random selection of 2,212 likely voters across Florida. Gravis is reporting a margin of error of 2.1 percent.

The poll put DeSantis in the lead on the Republican side with 19 percent, followed by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Putnam at 17 percent and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who has not entered the Governor’s race but is expected to, at just 3 percent. Sixty percent of Republican voters said they were uncertain whom they would vote for.

On the Democratic side, the poll put former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine atop the Democratic field with 13 percent support, followed by Gillum with 11 percent, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee with 9 percent, and Winter Park businessman Chris King with just 2 percent. Another 64 percent of Democratic voters were uncertain whom to vote for.

DeSantis’ camp notes that Gravis Marketing Managing Partner Doug Kaplan said that on the GOP side “DeSantis has gained in each poll.”

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