2018 election Archives - Page 2 of 135 - Florida Politics
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.

Tracye Polson takes off gloves in new HD 15 ad

“What side is lobbyist Wyman Duggan on?”

That’s the question posed by the first television ad from Republican Duggan’s opponent in the House District 15 general election, Democrat Tracye Polson.

The 30-second spot contends that “Duggan worked to sell JEA, raising rates, costing the city millions every year” and “wants politicians to appoint our school board.”

The ad’s reference to Duggan working to sell JEA (lobbying for Emera, a Nova Scotia utility company that also owns TECO in Tampa) was rehearsed by a Republican opponent during the primary campaign last month. However, this is the first time the claim has been televised.

Polson, meanwhile, draws a contrast to that world of influence with her upbeat narration, noting she stands “with students, who deserve great public schools; with an elected school board, with law enforcement … and as a cancer survivor and health professional, with patients.”

“My opponent can stand with the other lobbyists. I’ll always stand with Florida’s families,” Polson says in close.

The Polson ad, on television in her Westside Jacksonville district, can be seen here.

In the race to succeed Jay Fant in HD 15, Polson had (as of Aug. 31) a cash advantage: $187.000 on hand, to just $7,000.

Expect the cavalry to come to Duggan’s rescue soon enough, as Republicans are increasingly cognizant that this seat — safe through 2016 — is now in play.

Fant faced no Democratic challenge in 2016, remarkable given that Democrats actually outnumber Republicans in the district.

Bilirakis TV ad

New CD 12 ad says Gus Bilirakis ‘is addressing the real issues’

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis has released a new ad that highlights his efforts to help service members and veterans during his time representing Florida’s 12 Congressional District.

The ad, titled “Fighting for Warriors,” features a veteran, Bryan A., speaking about the lawmaker’s efforts and features clips of Bilirakis, a Tarpon Springs Republican, walking alongside Bryan and shaking hands with a number of military veterans, young and old.

“I served in the Army for 14 years. I was both a print photojournalist and then a Green Beret. Now I run a nonprofit called the Veterans Alternative,” Bryan A. says in the ad. “These alternative treatment options are saving warriors’ lives. I’m thankful that we have Gus. He is addressing the real issues that we’re facing.”

“What he consistently fights for is making sure that warriors receive the care, warriors receive the benefits that they deserve for serving our nation. The guy is always going to be there for his warriors. Gus is an amazing guy,” he concludes.

Highlighted during the video are the “Promise Act” and the “Cover Act.” The Promise Act would have required the U.S. Department of Defense to update their guidelines regarding opioid therapy for chronic pain, while the Cover Act would set up a commission to examine the benefits of incorporating complementary, alternative therapies for veterans’ healthcare.

Bilirakis was first elected to Congress in 2006 and has easily defended his seat in past elections. In 2018, he faces Chris Hunter, a former FBI agent and federal prosecutor who cruised in the three-way CD 12 Democratic primary with nearly two-thirds of the vote.

Hunter has thrown several barbs at Bilirakis, but the district is rated “safe Republican” by most political handicappers, including University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato‘s “Crystal Ball.” The district voted plus-19 for Donald Trump two years ago.

Additionally, Bilirakis held a substantial fundraising lead at the start of the general election season. Through Aug. 8, Bilirakis had raised more than $1.4 million for his re-election bid and had about $638,000 on hand compared to $465,000 in total fundraising and $254,000 banked for Hunter.

CD 12 covers all of Pasco and parts of northern Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

Bilirakis’ ad is below.

Brandes TV ad

Jeff Brandes says he will hold politicians accountable in new SD 24 ad

St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes has released a new ad for his re-election campaign highlighting his roots in Senate District 24 and promising to hold “bureaucrats and politicians” accountable.

The 30-second ad features shots of Brandes walking with and talking to employees of a lumber yard and touts the values instilled in him when he worked for his family’s business.

“I’m Jeff Brandes. My grandfather started our family lumber business nearly 70 years ago. He taught me to work hard, to stand up for what’s right and to never give up,” Brandes says in the ad. “As a soldier, I worked to protect the America we love. As a businessman, I’ve created hundreds of jobs.”

“Today, I’m holding bureaucrats and politicians accountable so we can create better jobs, provide safe, 21st Century schools and protect families and seniors. And if the politicians don’t wake up, I’m taking ‘em to the woodshed,” he concludes.

The ad disclosure indicates the spot was paid for by the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, a PAC chaired by incoming Senate President Bill Galvano which supports GOP state Senate campaigns. Federal Communications Commission filings indicate FRSCC has placed several media buys supporting Brandes and other Senate Republicans in recent weeks.

The new ad follows another recent commercial paid for by Brandes’ campaign touting his role in shepherding the “Right to Try” law through the Legislature.

Brandes faces Democratic challenger Lindsay Cross in the general election. Cross was recruited by the Democratic Party in late July after Brandes’ previous challenger, trial lawyer Carrie Pilon, withdrew from the race for family reasons.

Through the end of August, Brandes had more than $900,000 on hand between his campaign account and political committee, Liberty Florida. Cross, meanwhile, has raised $58,600 for her campaign fund and had $54,120 on hand heading into September.

When Pilon was the presumed nominee, polling showed her within striking distance. The only public poll since Cross stepped in, however, showed Brandes with a 39-19 percent lead and 42 percent of voters undecided.

SD 24 covers most of southern Pinellas County except for the tip of the peninsula, which is included in neighboring SD 19. According to the most recent bookclosing report published by the Florida Division of Elections, Republicans hold a 4-point advantage in voter registrations within the district, which voted in favor of Barack Obama twice before going plus-7 for Donald Trump in 2016.

Brandes and Cross are the only two candidates running for the seat.

The ad is below.

Florida GOP says it raised $7.6M in two weeks

Republican Party of Florida Chair Blaise Ingoglia put out a statement Monday claiming the party has raised more than $7.6 million for the 17-day stretch ending Sept. 14.

“Since the Primary Election, the Republican Party of Florida has raised more than $7.6 million,” Ingoglia said.

“The financial strength of the party is a direct reflection of the enthusiasm for the strong bench of conservative candidates on the ballot. This significant total also symbolizes the growing momentum for Ron DeSantis as Florida’s next governor and his plan to keep our economy strong, invest in education and solve our water issues.”

The release, however, did not specify whether those funds came in through true fundraising or were pass-through contributions from other political committees.

It included a disclaimer stating that “specific amounts will be submitted in the next quarterly report due to the Florida Division of Elections on Nov. 2, 2018.” That reporting deadline comes just four days ahead of the Nov. 6 general election.

A search of the Florida Division of Elections’ expenditure data for accounts with stricter reporting requirements shows $1.15 million in contributions to RPOF from a handful of political committees, with about half that sum coming from DeSantis’ soft money account, Friends of Ron DeSantis.

Florida Prosperity Fund, a political committee tied to business group Associated Industries of Florida, chipped in $250,000 on Aug. 29, while Palm Harbor Rep. Chris Sprowls’ committee, Floridians For Economic Freedom, cut a $150,000 check and the Florida Phosphate Political Committee gave $125,000.

The fundraising announcement comes just a few weeks after RPOF announced $7.46 million in fundraising for the reporting period covering April 1 through Aug. 23. Heading into the primary election, the party executive committee had a little over $16 million in the bank.

By comparison, the Florida Democratic Party raised $7.33 million during the same reporting period and had $9.64 million banked on Aug. 23.

The RPOF funds are in addition to the major haul reported by the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, chaired by incoming Senate President Bill Galvano.

That committee posted $7.2 million in receipts in its April through August report while the Democratic equivalent, the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, brought in a little over $867,000.

Outside groups spent $1.2 million to help Darren Soto defeat Alan Grayson

Eight outside political committees and groups provided almost $1.2 million support to U.S. Rep. Darren Soto‘s defeat of his predecessor former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary for Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

Apparently highlighting the outside help for Soto was the George Sorosbacked Latino Victory Fund, which claimed on primary day that it had pumped more than $500,000 into media buys to support Soto on Spanish-language media.

FEC records of independent expenditures through Election Day do not show that much spending by Latino Victory Fund, but almost, and there may be spending yet to report.

The FEC records also show Latino Victory Fund also was not alone in spending to either support Soto or oppose Grayson, and perhaps not even the most generous toward Soto’s candidacy. FEC records show Latino Victory Fund spending $415,000 through the primary, while Progress Tomorrow Inc. spent $544,000.

There are no FEC records reporting any outside groups making any independent expenditures that supported Grayson or opposed Soto.

Grayson had set up what was to be his big political comeback this year after he unsuccessfully sought the Democratic primary nomination to run for the U.S. Senate in 2016, and lost his congressional seat to Soto by default. But that comeback required him to take out Soto, and Grayson crashed badly, in an election landslide.

The total for outside spending to support Soto or oppose Grayson was $1.18 million, potentially more than Soto might have spent through his own primary campaign fund, though the final numbers are not yet in for his official campaign’s account. Through August 8 his campaign had spent about $886,000. In that Aug. 8 report, the most recent available, Soto had just $251,000 left in the bank.

Grayson had spent $540,000 through Aug. 8.

Soto now faces Republican Wayne Liebnitzky, who has far less money available, only about $29,000 on Aug. 8, heading toward the Nov. 6 election.

For the Aug. 28 Democratic congressional primary outside spending, the FEC reports show:

Latino Victory Fund, described by the Center for Responsive Politics’ website OpenSecrets.org as a hybrid of a political action committee and a super political action committee, largely but not entirely funded by Soros, spent $415,184 on various kinds of advertising, from pushed text messaging to television.

Progress Tomorrow spent $272,000 on digital and mail advertising supporting Soto and another $272,000 on digital and mail advertising attacking Grayson.

The super PAC has a curious combination of resources, according to records made available through OpenSecrets.org. All of Progress Tomorrow’s money has been donated by two other PACs. The first is Forward Not Back, whose principal benefactors are New York businessmen Peter May and Nelson Peltz, who each have been big supporters of Democratic candidates, and New York businessman Louis Bacon, who has supported both Democrats and Republicans, including Rudy Giuliani. The other PAC is United Together, principally funded by News Corp. Chairman and Republican rainmaker Rupert Murdoch, and by Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, a big backer of Democrats.

United for Progress, a super PAC entirely funded by Soros, spent $123,000 on radio advertising to support Soto.

Alianza for Progress, a dark-money 501(c) committee that does not have to disclose its donors, reported $41,555 worth of door-to-door canvassing to support Soto.

Organize Now, the progressive 501(c) grassroots group put together by former organizers for Barack Obama, reported $35,062 worth of printing and canvassing efforts to support Soto.

Boricua Vota Inc., an Orlando-based group, reported spending $22,590 on billboards, radio advertising, and event expenses to support Soto.

The Humane Society Legislative Fund provided $1,386 worth of support through a list rental and a text message platform for Soto,

The Center for Popular Democracy Action, a dark-money 501(c), offered $1,411 worth of canvassing labor and transportation to support Soto.

Bill Galvano (Left) and Wilton Simpson (Right)

Top Senate Republicans raising cash for Tampa Bay candidates on Monday

State Senate President Bill Galvano, Majority Leader Wilton Simpson and Fort Myers Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto will be in Tampa next Friday to help four area Senate candidates boost their campaign accounts ahead of the November general election.

The Sept. 17 event will be held in the Snowy Egret Room on the second floor of the Grand Hyatt, 2900 Bayport Drive, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The invitation doesn’t list a suggested contribution for attendees, though it does ask that they send their RSVPs to Myost@FRSCC.org or call (813) 965-1043.

The reception will benefit the re-election efforts of incumbent Sens. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, Tom Lee of Thonotosassa and Dana Young of Tampa, while also providing a boost to former Republican Rep. Ed Hooper, who is the party’s nominee in the race for Pinellas- and Pasco-based Senate District 16.

Lee, Brandes, Young, and Hooper are all running in seats being targeted by Florida Democrats in the fall, though Brandes is likely safe because the candidate initially recruited by the party, trial lawyer Carrie Pilonwithdrew because of the unexpected health problems of a close family member.

He now faces Lindsay Cross, and recent polls show that he has a 39-19 percent lead with 42 percent of voters undecided. He also has more than $890,000 on hand between his campaign and political committee, Liberty Florida, while Cross has managed to build only a $44,250 war chest since tagging in for Pilon at the end of July.

Young and Hooper face much tougher battles, however.

Young is up against House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in Senate District 18, and though she holds a strong fundraising advantage, polling has shown the two Tampanians neck and neck with Cruz holding a slim advantage.

To give Young a boost, the Galvano-chaired Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee recently stepped in with a new TV ad dogging Cruz for her past property tax blunders.

It’s the same situation in Senate District 16, where Hooper is up against former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy — despite a sixfold money advantage and hitting TV early on, Hooper trailed Murphy by two points in an early August poll of their general election showdown.

Lee’s Senate District 20 is the safest of the bunch. He won re-election without opposition two years ago, when the seat also voted plus-8 for President Donald Trump. Through the end of August, Lee had $122,500 in hard money while his opponent, Wesley Chapel Democrat Kathy Lewis, had virtually exhausted her $17,850 in campaign fundraising during her primary contest against Tampa Democrat Joy Gibson.

Election Day is Nov. 6. The fundraiser invitation is below.

FRSCC fundraiser invitation

Lauren Book TV ad

Lauren Book says ‘it’s time for equal rights’ in new Marsy’s Law ad

The committee backing Amendment 6, which would add a “crime victim bill of rights” to the Florida Constitution, released a new ad Friday featuring Plantation Democratic Sen. Lauren Book.

In the 30-second ad, Book describes the court system from her perspective as a sexual assault survivor and asks viewers to vote for the measure, also known as “Marsy’s Law.”

“I’m a survivor of childhood sexual assault from the time I was 10 until I was 16. Every. Single. Day,” Book says in the ad. “The court process was difficult and painful. It can completely destroy a victim. You’re not informed of court dates, denied the chance to tell your story, and the person that did this to you has stronger rights than you.

“The scales of justice in Florida are not balanced. It’s time for equal rights. Please, vote yes on Amendment 6,” she concludes.

The ad was paid for by Marsy’s Law for Florida, the main political committee backing the amendment. Recent filings posted on the Federal Communications Commission website show the committee has made multiple TV buys in Florida this week and the committee said the ad is part of its statewide advertising campaign.

Though it was implicit by her appearance in the ad, Marsy’s Law for Florida included an official endorsement from Book in its announcement.

“I am proud to support victims’ rights and that’s why I support Amendment 6/Marsy’s Law for Florida. As a survivor of sexual abuse, I know how difficult and painful the court process can be,” Book said. “Victims of crime want the opportunity to be present and for their voices to be heard, without revictimization. They want their rights to be the same as the person who harmed them. Most of all, victims of crime want to be treated with dignity and respect. We must pass Amendment 6/Marsy’s Law for Florida to provide protection for generations to come.”

Marsy’s Law takes its name from Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. After a successful push for measure bearing Nicholas’ name in her home state, victim rights advocates have expanded their push nationwide.

As of 2018, all but 15 states, including Florida, enumerate victims’ rights in their constitutions.

Among the provisions are requirements that crime victims be informed of their rights and the services available to them, an entitlement to updates on criminal proceedings, a right to know about meetings between the accused and state attorneys before plea deals agreed to, and the option to attend and speak during court proceedings.

The proposed constitutional amendment faced a legal challenge from critics who argued that its wording would be misleading to voters. But the Florida Supreme Court last week rejected the challenge, reversing an earlier court order that would have stricken the measure from the ballot.

In addition to Book, Marsy’s law has earned the support of numerous county court clerks, sheriffs, and state attorneys.

Marsy’s Law was placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission and is slated to go before Florida voters during the Nov. 6 general election. Amendments need at least 60 percent support from voters to pass.

The ad is below.

Heather Fitzenhagen announces Fort Myers fundraiser

Republican state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen will hold a fundraiser benefitting her re-election campaign on Sept. 24 in Fort Myers.

The event will be held at Society restaurant in the Bell Tower Shops, 13499 Bell Tower Dr., from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Those looking to drop by can sent an RSVP to Brittney Metzger at BrittneyRMetzger@gmail.com.

“It’s because of supporters such as you that I have been able to continue serving the residents of District 78 over the last 6 years. Although I have accomplished a lot during this time, there’s still a lot of work left to do, and I am up for the challenge,” Fitzenhagen said in a campaign email.

Fitzenhagen has represented Lee County’s House District 78 since 2012, when she earned more than two thirds of the vote in both the Republican primary and the general election. She only faced a write-in challenger in 2014, and two years ago she was re-elected without opposition.

In 2018, she faces her first Democratic challenger in Parisima Taeb, a physician who runs a private clinic in Fort Myers.

Through the end of August, Fitzenhagen held a strong lead in fundraising with more than $240,000 raised and about $98,000 on hand. Taeb has raised $22,500, including a $10,000 loan, and has about $18,000 in her campaign account.

The fundraiser invitation is below.

Fitzenhagen fundraiser 9.24.2018

Koch-backed Freedom Partners endorses voting restoration amendment

The Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, chaired by Koch Industries VP Mark Holden, said Thursday that it was behind a 2018 ballot amendment that would restore voting rights to non-violent felons who have completed their sentences.

“We believe that when individuals have served their sentences and paid their debts as ordered by a judge, they should be eligible to vote,” Holden said in a press release. “In the Sunshine State, Floridians are permanently excluded from voting because of a prior felony conviction – one of only four states with a lifetime ban.

“If we want people returning to society to be productive, law-abiding citizens, we need to treat them like full-fledged citizens. We support the Florida Second Chances campaign, which would return the eligibility to vote to Floridians who have done their time and paid their debts in full. This will make our society safer, our system more just, and provide for real second chances for returning citizens,” he concluded.

In announcing its support, Freedom Partners said the measure was consistent with its mission of “protecting freedom and expanding opportunity for every American—no matter where they live, what they do or how much money they have.”

Amendment 4 was sponsored by Floridians for a Fair Democracy, and has since earned some tangible support from numerous groups. Second Chances Florida has released a series of ads promoting the amendment, and the Alliance for Safety and Justice (ASJ) in partnership with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC) have also stepped up a joint ad campaign.

Desmond Meade, the chair of Floridians for a Fair Democracy and a spokesperson for Second Chances Florida, was enthused to have the backing of the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce.

“We are grateful for the endorsement of the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce. There is a simple reason why this measure has strong, broad support across the ideological spectrum: because Americans believe that when a debt is paid, it’s paid,” Meade said.

“Amendment 4 restores a person’s eligibility to vote only after they have completed all terms of their sentence as ordered by a judge. It fixes a broken system for our family members, friends, and neighbors that have paid their debt in full and have earned the opportunity to participate in and give back to their communities,” he concluded.

If passed, the voting restoration amendment would automatically restore voting rights for all nonviolent felons who have served their sentences. There are an estimated 1.4 million Floridians who have a felony conviction and have completed all of the terms of their sentences, be it prison time, probation, parole or restitution.

Those convicted of murder or sexual offenses would be ineligible for restoration.

The current system requires felony offenders to wait up to 7 years before applying for restoration at which point their fate is decided with a vote by the Governor and Cabinet. There are thousands of applications waiting in the queue, according to the Florida Commission on Offender Review.

Amendment 4 will be on the Nov. 6 general election ballot and requires 60 percent support to pass. A poll released in May showed the voting restoration amendment had the support of 74 percent of Florida voters, with Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters each surpassing the 60 percent threshold.

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