2018 election – Page 2 – Florida Politics

Florida Democrats want Ron DeSantis to disclose Elliott Broidy connections

Florida Democrats want Northeast Florida U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis to come clean about the contact he had with former RNC deputy finance chair and major gubernatorial campaign backer Elliott Broidy relating to Qatar.

The Florida Democratic Party is pointing to a Monday report from The Associated Press about Broidy lobbying in favor of anti-Qatar policies in Washington in order to ingratiate himself with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and possibly nail down up to $1 billion in business deals.

“New reports have raised the chilling prospect that Ron DeSantis’ outspoken opposition to Qatar was part of a quid-pro-quo with one of his leading donors, Elliott Broidy. DeSantis should immediately disclose whether he had any conversations with Broidy about U.S. policy towards Qatar. Floridians deserve a governor who will stand up for them — not someone who is controlled by DC lobbyists and foreign governments,” said FDP spokesperson Kevin Donohoe.

FDP then openly questions whether DeSantis’ hardline stance on Qatar may have been due to direct lobbying from Broidy, who is also a member of DeSantis’ national finance team.

“AP reports that Broidy worked to influence at least one member of Congress: Congressman Ed Royce of California. But did Broidy also lobby Ron DeSantis?” the FDP email asks.

The party pointed to DeSantis’ statements on the Qatari government over the past six months, including his demand that the Treasury Department crack down on terrorist financiers in Qatar and signing on to a letter criticizing UN Ambassador Nikki Haley for not saying that Qatar funds Hamas.

The party also mentioned Broidy’s resignation from the RNC finance committee after a Wall Street Journal report indicated President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid $1.6 million to a Playboy model to keep her quiet about an affair with Broidy.

DeSantis is one of two major Republicans running for Governor in 2018. He faces Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the Republican Primary.

Bill Nelson’s Brevard County property valuation challenged

A Brevard County taxpayer is challenging U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson‘s appraisal of land he owns there, alleging it has been undervalued for years, costing the county “hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions” in under-taxation.

It’s not a new issue, and Nelson, in a brief conversation on Friday, dismissed the complaint as something that comes up from political opponents in every election, while he insisted the property’s appraisal is appropriate as the land’s use is for grazing cattle.

The complaint was filed last week by James Peter Fusscas of Malabar with the Brevard County Property Appraiser’s office. It charges that Nelson’s property has been far undervalued, with the office listing the land’s market value at $3,038,750, while assessing its value for tax purposes at only $210,630, when Nelson had once listed the property, and a smaller adjacent parcel, for sale for at nearly $10 million.

That was a reference to a listing from the Allen Morris Company, a real estate agent based in Maitland, which had sought $9.975 million for the 75.7 acres along the coastline and U.S. Highway 1 near Malabar. That listing covered two parcels owned by Nelson, the agricultural area and an adjacent parcel that is zoned for single-family houses but also vacant. The listing included the projection that the two parcels combined could bring $21.5 million if redeveloped for housing.

Fusscas inaccurately contended in his complaint that the property is for sale.

In an email, agent Henry Pineiro told Florida Politics: “This property is not currently for sale and has not been for sale for the last couple of years.”

Nelson’s campaign staff also confirmed that the property is not for sale.

Fusscas’s complaint also refers previous media reports on the land that noted that Nelson leases it at no cost, and also notes that his federal financial disclosures have reported no income from the property for at least the previous seven years.

Fusscas argues that Nelson’s property should not be getting a tax break, and adds, “even if Senator Nelson is somehow entitled to a green belt exemption, his tax burden has nevertheless been much lower than the exemption contemplates.”

Last year Nelson paid $3,687 in taxes on the larger property and $4,309 on the smaller parcel.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is challenging Nelson’s re-election campaign.

In a brief conversation Friday, Nelson said he has not seen the complaint but said that Republicans try to make an issue of the agricultural appraisal on his property and the taxes in every election cycle, and said this is no different.

“It is agriculture, cow pasture for 60 years,” Nelson said. “This comes up every election.”

Matt Willhite kicking off re-election campaign May 30

Wellington Democratic Rep. Matt Willhite is launching his House District 86 re-election campaign with a campaign fundraiser on May 30.

The kickoff event will be held at Beauty and the Beeeef in the Wellington Mall, 10300 Forest Hill Blvd. #239, from 5:30 pm to 7 pm. Supporters looking to turn out for the first-term lawmaker can send an RSVP to Kay Cook via KalynnaCooke@gmail.com or call 571-235-0318.

No primary challengers have filed against Willhite in the Palm Beach County district, though he does face a challenge from Royal Palm Beach Republican Laurel Bennett, the 2016 nominee for the seat who filed for another run in mid-February.

As of April 30, Willhite had raised nearly $40,000 for his re-election bid and had about $32,500 banked, while Bennett has raised just $25. She has only filed her February report thus far and is facing some penalties from the Florida Division of Elections due to her tardiness in uploading her March and April reports.

Willhite was recently honored by the Associated Industries of Florida for his 100 percent voting record on their legislative priorities. He was the only Democrat listed in their report, which celebrated the voting records of 38 lawmakers.

HD 86 covers part of inland Palm Beach, including Loxahatchee Groves, Royal Palm Beach and Wellington. It is a Democratic stronghold – Willhite won his first term with a 15-point win over Bennett in 2016.

Willhite’s invitation is below.

5.30 Matt Willhite Kickoff

Joe Gruters kicking off SD 23 campaign next week

Republican Rep. Joe Gruters is kicking off his state Senate campaign with a May 31 fundraiser in Sarasota.

The reception will be held at the home of Alicia “AJ” Janson at Laurel Oak Country Club from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm. Those looking to attend can send in an RSVP for themselves and a guest online.

Gruters is running for the Senate District 23 seat currently held by Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube. The seat is one of a handful impacted by U.S. Sen. Tom Rooney’s announcement that he would retire in 2018.

SD 23 and SD 25, currently held by exiting Senate President Joe Negron, weren’t originally slated for the 2018 ballot, but will be decided with a pair of special elections held concurrently with the regularly scheduled election. The winners of those seats will have to run for re-election in 2020.

Gruters is currently the only Republican running for SD 23. He faces Democrat Faith Olivia Babis.

Through April 30, Gruters had raised $151,500 for his campaign account and $55,000 for his affiliated political committee, Friends of Joe Gruters. He has $147,400 on hand between the two accounts. Babis, who filed in mid-April, has $7,150 in her campaign account.

SD 23 covers all of Sarasota County and a piece of western Charlotte County. It has a heavy Republican advantage – Steube won the 2016 race over Democrat Frank Alcock by 17 points.

Gruters’ invitation is below.

Gruters fundraiser 5.31.2018

ashley moody

Ashley Moody adds trio of sheriff endorsements

Three more county sheriffs announced their support for Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody Tuesday, piling on to her insurmountable lead in law enforcement endorsements.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter and Jefferson County Sheriff Alfred Kenneth ‘Mac’ McNeill, Jr. joined the three-dozen Republican sheriffs who have already endorsed Moody, a former litigator, federal prosecutor and circuit court judge.

“As our next Attorney General, Ashley Moody will be a strong champion for keeping people safe. As a former federal prosecutor and judge, she’s put criminals behind bars while upholding the rule of law. That’s why I’m proud to endorse her candidacy and I encourage all of my friends here in Columbia County and throughout Florida to do the same,” Hunter said.

McNeill added, “Ashley Moody has the experience, knowledge, and drive to get the job done. She’s the tough conservative we need as our next Attorney General.”

Chronister said Moody, a Hillsborough native, “isn’t just the most qualified and best choice, she’s the only choice.”

Moody thanked the sheriffs for their support, adding that the 39 sheriffs who have lined up behind her statewide campaign make up more than 80 percent of Republican sheriffs in Florida. She also touted a recent primary endorsement she received from the Florida Police Benevolent Association alongside Tampa Rep. Sean Shaw, who is running in the Democratic Primary.

Half of the remaining Republican sheriffs – those in Escambia, Okaloosa, Putnam, Santa Rosa and St. Johns counties – have thrown their support behind Moody’s top rival in the primary race, Pensacola Rep. Frank White.

The third Republican in the race, Jacksonville Rep. Jay Fant, hasn’t landed any sheriff endorsements, instead touting support from his colleagues in the House and a long list of Republicans who worked as county chairs for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Moody currently leads the three-way race in fundraising with $2.19 million raised to date, though White leads in cash on hand due a substantial amount of self-funding by way of his wife and her family. He had $2 million banked as of April 30, and a source close to his campaign said he threw in another $1.25 million this month.

Fant is at the back of the pack with $839,000 banked, including $750,000 in loans.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

Greg Steube - CD 17 Campaign Photo

Veterans group picks Greg Steube for CD 17

Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube has earned the backing of veterans group With Honor in his bid to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney in Florida’s 17th Congressional District.

With Honor’s mission is to “help elect principled next-generation veterans to office who will work in a cross-partisan way to create a more effective and less polarized government.” Candidates endorsed by the group must make a three-point pledge to always speak the truth, always respect their colleagues and to defend the rights of all Americans – even if that means reaching across the aisle.

Steube is a former U.S. Army Captain who is a veteran of the Iraq War.

“I am honored to be supported by those who have served our country. Congress needs leaders who will fix the dysfunction and act on principle. I look forward to giving our veterans another voice in Congress and am thrilled to receive the backing of such a worthy organization,” he said.

Steube was elected to the Florida House in 2010 and moved up to the Florida Senate in 2016. He was the first major candidate to announce a run for CD 17 after Rooney’s said he would not seek re-election in the fall.

He started his campaign with dozens of backers, including Senate President Joe Negron, Senate President Designate Bill Galvano, Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, Naples Republican Sen. Kathleen Passidomo and Lakeland Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel.

Sarasota state Rep. Julio Gonzalez joined him in the Republican Primary shortly after the 2018 Legislative Session wrapped, while Port Charlotte Republican Bill Akins filed well before Rooney’s announcement.

All three will be on the Aug. 28 Republican Primary ballot.

Through March 31, Gonzalez led the money race with nearly $234,000 in contributions during the first few weeks of his campaign compared to $63,550 for Steube. Gonzalez’ total includes $150,000 in candidate loans, while Steube’s includes $15,000.

CD 17 sprawls across parts of Sarasota, Lee and Polk counties as well as the whole of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee counties. It is rated “safe Republican” by Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the prediction newsletter from University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato.

Michael Caruso holding Boynton Beach fundraiser tonight

Republican Michael Caruso is holding a fundraiser Tuesday night benefitting his campaign to replace term-limited Rep. Bill Hager in Palm Beach County-based House District 89.

The campaign kickoff event will be held at Museum 66, 2051 High Ridge Road, starting at 6 pm and will feature hors d’oeuvres, an open bar, live music, vintage pinball machines and rare classic cars. The invitation sets the suggested donation for attendees at $250 a person.

“I look forward to meeting each and every neighbor of House District 89 over the coming weeks and I hope that many of you can join us tonight. If you are able to attend the kickoff, kindly RSVP to meredith@theorourkegrp.com to show your support,” Caruso said in a campaign email.

Caruso, an accountant, faces Boca Raton attorney Matt Spritz in the Republican Primary. Also running for the seat are Democrats James Bonfiglio and Ryan Rossi as well as unaffiliated candidate Deborah Gibson.

Caruso and Spritz are neck-and-neck in the money race.

As of April 30, Caruso’s fundraising total stood at $166,800, including $110,000 in candidate loans, and he had more than $136,000 on hand. Spritz has raised $141,240 for his campaign account, including $40,000 in loans, and another $46,000 for his political committee, Invest in Florida. He has $148,500 on hand between the two accounts.

HD 89 covers a portion of Palm Beach County coast and leans Republican. Hager has held it since it was redrawn prior to the 2012 elections, winning that election by nearly five points. He was re-elected by the same margin in 2014 and won his final term without opposition in 2016.

Caruso’s invitation is below.

Next three House Speakers make 2018 ballot by petition

Now that Palm Coast Republican Rep. Paul Renner has hit his signature requirements, all three lawmakers in line to be House Speaker have qualified for the ballot by petition.

Petition requirements are pegged to 1 percent of the registered voters within a district, and in Renner’s case he needed 1,282 valid signatures to make the grade in House District 24 – one of the highest requirements of the 120 Florida House Districts.

Still, Florida Division of Elections records show that Renner, who’s set to be House Speaker for the 2023-24 Legislative Sessions, had no problem hitting the mark in his tri-county seat. He had 1,303 verified signatures as of May 21, nearly a month ahead of the start of the candidate qualifying period.

The first-term Republican faces Democrat Adam Morley in the fall. While Morley also passed the signature threshold on May 21, Renner likely isn’t quaking in his boots – HD 24 is a Republican stronghold, and Renner’s campaign and committee accounts are stocked with cash.

Hialeah Republican Rep. Jose Oliva, set to take over for House Speaker Richard Corcoran after the Nov. 6 election, passed his signature requirement during the 2018 Legislative Session.

HD 110 requires just 735 signatures to make the ballot, putting it at the opposite end of the spectrum compared to Renner’s seat. As of Feb. 9, the cigar company CEO had hit that total with 98 autographs to spare.

His challenger, Democrat Duysevi Miyar, hasn’t submitted any signatures since filing last month. When she challenged Republican Rep. Bryan Avila in neighboring HD 111 last cycle, she opted to pay the qualifying fee rather than collecting the signatures.

Oliva’s successor, Palm Harbor Republican Rep. Chris Sprowls also recently hit the signature tally for House District 65 and celebrated the accomplishment in a post to his campaign’s Facebook page.

“There are few things in politics as humbling as having your neighbors and constituents lend their signature to allow you to put your name on the ballot. I can’t say thank you enough to everyone who helped us reach this important goal and to the volunteers who also helped us collect hundreds of petitions from across our district,” he wrote.

He also faces one Democratic challenger as he goes for his third term in northern Pinellas County district. Alex Toth filed for the seat in February but has made little headway in fundraising and had not racked up any verified petition signatures as of Tuesday.

Randy Fine draws a second challenger in HD 53

Palm Bay Republican Rep. Randy Fine has drawn another Democratic challenger as he goes for a second term in Brevard County-based House District 53.

FiorD’Aliza Frias, also of Palm Bay, filed for the seat on Friday, joining West Melbourne Democrat Phil Moore in the primary race.

Fine had raised more than $120,000 and had nearly $100,000 in the bank for his re-election campaign as of April 30, with another $41,000 on hand for his political committee, Foundation for our Children’s Future.

Moore, who filed in January, had raised 10,339 trough the same date and had about $7,000 banked.

HD 53 covers southern Brevard County, including the communities of Grant-Valkaria, June Park, Malabar, Micco, Palm Bay and West Melbourne.

Though Republican voters only outnumber Democratic ones by a slim margin, the seat tilts heavily toward the GOP. Fine was elected to the House in 2016, winning with about 57 percent of the vote over Democrat David Kearns.

Prior to his election, the seat was held by former Republican Rep. John Tobia. He won his 2012 re-election campaign over Democrat John Paul Alvarez by 5 points and in 2014 he took 56 percent of the vote in a three-way race against Kearns and Democrat Santa Isabel Wright.

Denise Grimsley

Four more lawmen back Denise Grimsley for Ag Commissioner

Another four county sheriffs have lined up behind Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley’s bid to take over for termed-out Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Joining the 10 sheriffs who have already announced their support for Grimsley are Clay Sheriff Darryl Daniels, Gulf Sheriff Mike Harrison, Levy Sheriff Bobby McCallum and Vollusia Sheriff Mike Chitwood.

“I am honored to gain the endorsement of these four highly respected sheriffs, who have dedicated themselves and their careers to protecting and serving their communities,” Grimsley said. “I look forward to continuing to meet with the law enforcement community on the campaign trail and earning their significant support.

“With consumer protection at the forefront of what the Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services does, I will work closely with law enforcement to eliminate threats from fraudsters and scammers, including defending Floridians from skimmers at gas stations to ending predatory robocalls. I’ve spent my time on the campaign trail talking to Florida’s sheriffs about these important issues, so I will be ready on Day One to protect Florida consumers from threats.”

Grimsley, a nurse by trade, built her agribusiness credentials running her family’s citrus and cattle operations. She was elected to the Senate in 2012 after four terms in the House and served as the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee during the 2018 Legislative Session.

She faces Lehigh Acres Rep. Matt Caldwell, retired U.S. Army Col. Mike McCalister and former Winter Haven Rep. Baxter Troutman in the Republican Primary for the statewide post.

As of April 30, she and Caldwell were neck-and-neck in the money race, each with about $1.9 million in total fundraising. Caldwell leads Grimsley in cash on hand by about $100,000. Troutman campaign account is technically the flushest, though that’s only thanks to $3 million in self-funding. McCallister has raised just $2 so far.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

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