2018 election – Page 3 – Florida Politics

David Smith maintains tenfold lead in HD 28 money race

Republican David Smith tacked on another $5,307 in contributions last month for his campaign to succeed termed-out Rep. Jason Brodeur in Seminole County-based House District 28.

Smith’s new report included dozens of small-dollar donations as well as one check for the campaign maximum of $1,000 from a company tied to New York City land developer Richard Birdoff.

Smith, who has so far loaned his campaign $85,000, also chipped in another $2,800 toward his House bid via “in-kind” contributions covering expenses such as catering, postage, office supplies and advertising.

Spending outpaced fundraising for the month, with a pair of payments to Election Management Solutions accounting for more than half of the campaign’s $8,500 in April expenditures. The campaign also spent about $3,500 on media consulting and online advertising from Supernova Digital Communications.

Since filing for HD 28 in February 2017, the Marine Corps veteran has amassed nearly $195,000 for his campaign, including the loans. He started May with about $146,000 banked. He’s also landed a long list of endorsements from area Republicans, including state Reps. Bob Cortes and Scott Plakon, who represent neighboring districts.

Also running for the seat is Democrat Lee Mangold, who added $1,746 and spent $487 in April. A $250 check from Winter Springs resident Matthew Hillman topped his donor sheet, which listed 42 contributions for the month.

Like Smith, Mangold’s report showed him picking up the tab for several campaign expenses, which went down as “in-kind” contributions for the Casselberry Democrat. His expenditures list included a $160 payment to the Democratic Progressive Caucus for a conference fee.

Mangold qualified for the race in early April and is set to be the first Democrat to appear on the Election Day ballot in HD 28 since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections. He also recently announced an endorsement from Orlando Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith.

As of April 30, Mangold had raised a total of $27,147, including $10,000 in loans, and had $14,417 in the bank.

HD 28 covers part of northeastern Seminole County, including Sanford, Winter Springs, Casselberry and Oviedo. Republican voters make up nearly 40 percent of the electorate in the Central Florida district, compared to a 33 percent share for Democrats.

Brodeur was elected to the old HD 33 in 2010. He has only faced third-party candidates in his three re-election campaigns in HD 28, winning each with around two-thirds of the vote. The seat voted plus-4 for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

Light fundraising month for Orange County’s unopposed House incumbents

Contributions were sparse in April for five Central Florida lawmakers who are still unopposed in their re-election 2018 bids – Democratic Reps. Bruce Antone, Kamia Brown, John Cortes, Amy Mercado and Carlos Guillermo Smith.

Of the five, Brown posted the best report last month. She showed $5,485 in contributions, which brings her to-date fundraising total past the $20,000 mark as she goes for a second term in Orange County-based House District 45.

Topping her report were a trio of $1,000 checks from Disney and its subsidiaries. Spending hit $3,465 for the month and included a $2,500 payment to In Touch Strategies for consulting work.

She started May with about $15,000 in the bank.

Behind Brown were Mercado and Smith, who represent neighboring Orange County-based districts.

In HD 48, Mercado showed three contributions totaling $2,250 in her new report. Her top donors were the Florida Fire-PAC and the Orlando Professional Firefighters, both of which checked in at the $1,000 level. Spending outstripped income for the fourth month in a row, however, causing her to take a step back in cash on hand.

Her total fundraising now sits at $40,743 and she entered May with $12,700 in her campaign account.

In HD 49, Smith’s tally was $2,000 last month. Florida Fire-PAC chipped in half that money, making it Smith’s largest funding source for April as well. Also similar to Mercado, Smith spent more than he brought in last month, though it’s not yet a trend for his campaign.

At the top of his $5,925 expenditures was a $2,000 check to Silver Digital Media for videography services. He finished the month with $31,270 in his campaign account.

Antone and Cortes showed no new contributions or expenditures in their April reports.

Antone, currently in his third term representing HD 46, has raised $12,060 to date and has $9,422 on hand. Cortes, who’s wrapping up his second term in Osceola-based HD 43, has raised just shy of $25,000 so far and has $23,350 in the bank.

All five seats are Democratic strongholds. If none of the five districts draw a second entrant by the time the candidate qualifying period ends in mid-June, all five incumbents will be re-elected without opposition.

Bernie Fensterwald

Bernie goes bust, clears way for Amanda Murphy in SD 16 Dem. primary

Democrat Bernie Fensterwald announced Tuesday that he’s ending his campaign for Senate District 16.

“After consulting friends, family and supporters, I’ve decided to withdraw from the Senate district 16 race. I want to thank everyone who’s supported my campaign and I wish all Democrats success in the November elections,” he wrote in a post on the campaign’s Facebook page.

In a longer statement from the campaign, Fensterwald provided further detail on his campaign to date and his decision to step aside.

“My decision to run in 2018, and previously in 2016, was based principally upon my belief that we need to change the political culture in Florida, particularly the corrosive effect of almost unlimited campaign money. I strongly support the concept of the ‘citizen legislator’ and I was prepared to donate my salary as a legislator to charity to prove it,” Fensterwald said.

“Over much of this time, I heard rumors that certain anonymous, well-funded establishment Democrats sought an alternate candidate who they felt had a better chance of victory than I. Last Wednesday [May 9], those rumors became reality.

“After consulting with family, friends and supporters, I have concluded that I no longer have any discernible path to victory. The odds of prevailing in both a primary and in the general election are just too great. I am therefore announcing my decision to withdraw from the 2018 contest for Florida Senate, District 16.”

Fensterwald stopped short of offering his support to Murphy, the “alternate candidate” who entered the race on May 9, nor did he mention her name in the 360-word announcement. He did, however, say he wishes “only the best for all Florida Democrats in November.”

Fensterwald had been unopposed in the SD 16 Democratic Primary from the outset of his campaign in June 2017 until Murphy’s entry last week. In 2016, he challenged St. Petersburg Republican Rep. Chris Sprowls’ re-election bid in House District 65 but came up 30 points short on Election Day.

Through April, the Dunedin Democrat had raised about $18,000 and pumped another $47,000 of his own money into the campaign, including $3,000 in loans last month when rumors of Murphy’s entry had reached a fever pitch. He had about $28,500 in the bank on April 30.

His exit clears the way for Murphy to make the general election ballot. Her November opponent will almost certainly be Clearwater Republican Rep. Ed Hooper, though he does face nominal opposition in the Republican Primary.

Murphy was elected to Pasco County-based House District 36 in a 2013 special election and won re-election in 2014. She was about 700 votes short of winning re-election in 2016 despite her district voting overwhelmingly for Donald Trump at the top of the ticket.

SD 16, which covers northern Pinellas and southwestern Pasco, is also a Trump seat – he carried it by 12 points – but The Florida Democratic Party is betting that Murphy, who has a history of outperforming expectations in red-leaning seats, can turn it into a “swing seat.” There’s some logic backing that up.

In the 2008 presidential election, President Barack Obama won SD 16 by 2 points, and four years later the district voted only in favor of Republican nominee Mitt Romney by the same margin while simultaneously voting to re-elect U.S. Bill Nelson by about 15 points. The district also voted for former Gov. Charlie Crist by 4 points when he ran against Gov. Rick Scott’s as a Democrat in 2014.

New Rick Scott ad seeks to paint Bill Nelson as ‘party line’

A new television commercial being launched by Gov. Rick Scott‘s Republican U.S. Senate campaign features people complaining that incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson is a “party line voter.”

The 30-second spot features Orlando Republican Puerto Rico activist Dennis Freytes and others characterizing the senator as someone who does not vote independently in the U.S. Senate, and is perhaps somehow tied to the wishes of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

“Bill Nelson just votes the party line,” Freytes says in the commercial. “That’s what’s wrong with our broken Congress. Everybody is a party-line voter and Bill Nelson is one of those.”

Others in the commercial say Nelson “no longer thinks and acts” independently, and speculate “I think Nancy Pelosi is a huge influence on the Democratic Party and Bill Nelson,” and “I believe Bill Nelson is way too partisan, and it’s time for him to come home.”

Carlie Waibel, Nelson for Senate spokeswoman responded, “For eight years, Rick Scott ran a one-party rule state and now, he’s doing and saying anything to be part of the one-party rule in Washington. Bill Nelson has a long record of working across the aisle and has been recognized for it, including passing legislation to keep oil rigs off Florida’s coast, bringing back our space program and working to restore the Everglades.”

The commercial was first reported on this morning on by the Tampa Bay Times, which pointed out that Nelson has one of the more moderate voting histories in the Senate, and has famously teamed with Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio so closely and on so many occasions that Rubio’s backing of Scott has been called into question.

Quentin James - The Collective Super PAC

In the face of criticism, The Collective super PAC strikes back

The Collective super PAC has taken a lot of flak over its attacks on Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham and her supporters, and in a Tuesday op-ed its founder fired back.

Quentin James’ first order of business was to rebuff Graham’s claim that it was a “dark money” group by pointing out that all contributions it has received from its more than 6,000 individual donors can be viewed via the Federal Elections Commission website.

“We are not a shadow group conducting shady business. We are only seeking to educate Floridians on the truth about Graham,” he wrote.

And on the substance of those “truths” spread in Collective’s ad campaign – namely, that Graham was more in line with Republicans than Democrats during her one term in Congress – James is standing firm.

“Graham has proven us right: She is considering standing with a Republican in 2018. Politico reports that, ‘Graham is considering Republican David Jolly as a Florida gubernatorial running mate.’ It boggles the mind that she would even contemplate choosing a GOP running mate in the midst of a Democratic primary, but this is exactly what our advertisement points to — Graham is not the progressive she claims to be,” he wrote.

“Instead of launching baseless attacks on our organization, Graham and her allies should inform Floridians why she stood against President Obama 52 percent of the time, why she trashed Obamacare, why she voted with the big banks, why she voted to approve the Keystone XL pipeline — twice — and why she’s considering a Republican running mate?”

So, what’s up with all the outrage directed at the Collective? Graham has called them out, and has gotten Jacksonville Democrats, Ruth’s List and three former Florida Democratic Party chairs, among others, to shame The Collective and call on Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum to publicly denounce the group, which is backing him in the four-way primary for governor.

James said that’s a double standard – “an all-too-familiar reality” for groups that support black candidates.

“Some would have you to believe Graham is a victim in this situation and that she deserves support because of her biography, her family’s political legacy or her ability to be bipartisan,” he wrote.

“But I’d ask you to remember that Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is the son of a bus driver and a construction worker who’s the first in his family to graduate from college. As a progressive leader he’s stood up to and beat the NRA. He has a plan to fix teacher pay and build and economy that works for all Floridians, and he won’t compromise our values to appeal to those who put profit over our collective wellbeing. Most important, Gillum knows math.”

His final point digs at Graham’s ability to inspire Democratic voters to turnout in the fall, saying his group doesn’t a Democrat with Graham’s background fits that mold.

“There is a lot at stake, and Florida Democrats must nominate someone who will inspire the base to vote in November. I believe Gillum is that choice, and The Collective Super PAC will unapologetically use every tool at its disposal to help him win the Democratic nomination and be elected governor in November,” he concluded.

Chris King to launch tour on criminal justice reform, including plan to legalize marijuana

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King is launching a speech tour Tuesday focusing on his ideas for criminal justice reform, including the legalization of marijuana.

According to sources inside King’s campaign, he will unveil a six-point plan that includes “Reducing Mass Incarceration, Legalizing Marijuana, Restoration of Voting Rights, Ending Private Prisons, Ending the Death Penalty, and Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline.”

King, the Winter Park entrepreneur, will kick it off Tuesday at a noon roundtable at the Enoch Davis Recreation Center in St. Petersburg where he plans to lay out his criminal justice reform platform. He’ll be joined by state Rep. Sean Shaw, the Tampa Democrat running for state Attorney General.

That will be followed by additional stops Tuesday in Dunedin and St. Petersburg, Wednesday in Melbourne, Thursday in Seminole County,  and Saturday in The Villages and Miami.

King had previously said he was not prepared to back the full legalization of marijuana, but his campaign told POLITICO Florida on Tuesday that “King believes the time has come to legalize marijuana for recreational use and tax it.”

Perhaps without irony, King is dubbing the tour “Turning the Tide.” His campaign has left him languishing in deep fourth-place in public opinion polls among Democratic candidates for governor, not much above the polls margins of errors, while he and his campaign have talked about having time to turn things around before the August 28 primary. He’s facing former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the Democrats’ race.

Doreen Caudell ends Pinellas Commission campaign

Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell is dropping out of the race for the countywide District 2 seat on the Pinellas County Commission.

Caudell, a Republican, told the Tampa Bay Times Monday that she will serve out the remainder of her term on the Clearwater City Council, which runs through 2020.

“I feel compelled to dedicate my full time and attention to continuing to passionately represent Clearwater and its citizens” she said.

Caudell’s exit leaves incumbent Commissioner Pat Gerard unopposed in her quest for a second term, though another candidate could still file for the seat up until the end of the qualifying period, which runs from noon on June 18 through noon on June 22.

Gerard finished April with more than $120,000 raised for her re-election campaign and $95,870 on hand. Caudell leaves the race after raising $76,322 for her campaign since filing in June 2017. She has $48,645 on hand in her campaign account.

The District 2 seat is one of three county commission races that will be on the November ballot along with District 4 and District 6.

Republican Commissioner Dave Eggers is currently unopposed in the District 4 race, while Treasure Island Republican Rep. Kathleen Peters is so far leading the four-way race in District 6, currently held by four-term Republican Commissioner John Morroni.

Districts 1, 3, 5 and 7 will be on the 2020 ballot.

Ross Spano

Ross Spano lands a dozen endorsements for CD 15 campaign

Dover state Rep. Ross Spano announced Monday that he’s earned the support of 12 more current and former officials within Florida’s 15th Congressional District.

The Hillsborough Republican shored up support from in his home county with endorsements from Valrico Rep. Jake Raburn, former Plant City Rep. Rich Glorioso, Hillsborough Tax Collector Doug Belden Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham, former State Attorney Mark Ober, Plant City Mayor Rick Lott, Plant City Commissioner Bill Dodson, former Plant City Mayor Randy Larson and former Plant City Commissioner Billy Keel.

Spano also landed endorsements from Polk County Commissioners George Lindsey and John Hall. Polk is home to a large chunk of CD 15’s Republican voters and Spano has been attempting to make inroads into the county to pull voters away from his main Republican Primary challenger, former Auburndale state Rep. Neil Combee.

“Ross is a principled Conservative, a strong family man and is fully committed to representing the entirety of District 15… and most importantly, to me, Polk County,” Hall said. “I know, without a doubt that he will be a strong representative of District 15 while in Washington, not a representative of Washington while in District 15. He is a man of his word and we can count on him to be a leader for our community.”

The endorsements come after Spano held a string of campaign kickoff events over the weekend, including stops in Brandon, Lakeland and Plant City. Past endorsements for Spano include Winter Haven Republican Rep. Sam Killebrew.

Spano is one of a dozen candidates, including six Republicans, to qualify for the ballot in CD 15, which is opening up due to the retirement of current U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross. He switched from the Attorney General race to the CD 15 race in mid-April.

He faces Combee, Sean Harper, Danny Kushmer, Curt Rogers and Ed Shoemaker in the Republican Primary. Also running are Democrats Kristen Carlson, Andrew Learned and Ray Pena as well as three write-in candidates.

Combee and Spano are the presumed frontrunners for seat, which covers Lake County, northwestern Polk County and northeastern Hillsborough County.

CD 15 is a safe Republican seat.

Matt Spritz touts two more endorsements for HD 89 campaign

Boca Raton attorney Matt Spritz announced a pair of endorsements Monday for his campaign to take over for termed-out Republican Rep. Bill Hager in House District 89.

The nods came in from the two immediate past chairs of the Palm Beach County Republican Party, Sid Dinerstein and Anita Mitchell.

“It is my great pleasure to endorse Matt Spritz for State Representative. He has the knowledge, energy and values necessary to effectively represent our community in Tallahassee,” Mitchell said.

“I’m pleased to offer Matt my full support in his campaign for House District 89. He’s a high energy, principled leader that will always put our community before politics,” added Dinerstein.

Spritz, who faces Michael Caruso in the Republican Primary, said he was “honored” to receive the endorsements, saying Dinerstein and Mitchell “care deeply about the future of our community, our state, and our country. I’m thrilled to have them on our team.”

Past endorsements for Spritz have come in from several current Florida House members, as well as former state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff and former U.S. Senator George LeMieux.

HD 89 covers a portion of Palm Beach County coast and has been held by Hager since it was redrawn prior to the 2012 elections. The winner of the Republican Primary will be his most likely successor in 2018.

Through April, Spritz led the money race with $115,000 on hand in his campaign account, including $40,000 in loans, as well as $33,000 in the bank for his committee, Invest in Florida. Caruso isn’t far behind. He has $136,000 in his campaign account, including $110,000 in loans.

Also running for the seat are Democrats James Bonfiglio and Ryan Rossi as well as unaffiliated candidate Deborah Gibson.

Sean Shaw

Sean Shaw clears $300K on hand for Attorney General bid

Tampa Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw followed up his $211,000 March fundraising effort with another six-figure haul in April, bringing his total fundraising for the Cabinet race past the $400,000 mark.

Shaw’s April reports show $131,551 raised between his campaign and political committee, Sean Shaw for Florida. Combined with the $71,275 he raised when he was running for re-election to the Florida House, his 2018 cycle fundraising total is now $414,348.

Most of the April haul came in through Shaw’s campaign account, which took in 145 contributions last month. The majority of those donors checked in at or below the $250 mark, but the campaign did snag 13 checks for $3,000, the maximum contribution for statewide campaigns.

The committee brought in a half-dozen checks – TECO Energy and law firms Swope Rodante and Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath were in a three-way tie for the top spot on the donor list, each chipping in $10,000 for the month.

The two accounts spent a combined $60,350 for the month, including $45,000 contributions from the committee account to the Florida Democratic Party. Barring that, the top outlay was a $4,150 check to MDW Communications for work on the campaign website.

Heading into May, Shaw had more than $275,000 on hand in his campaign account and nearly $40,000 in his committee account for a combined total of $316,205 at the ready.

The first-term lawmaker is running against Ryan Torrens in the Democratic Primary, though after a year in the race he’s only just managed to hit the six-figure mark in total fundraising. He entered May with $4,342 on hand.

Shaw’s total is still far short of the three Republicans running to take over for exiting AG Pam Bondi.

Pensacola Rep. Frank White currently leads the money race overall with more than $2 million on hand, though most of his money came in through candidate contributions. Former circuit court judge Ashley Moody leads in actual fundraising and has $1.75 million on hand, while Jacksonville Rep. Jay Fant has $839,000 banked, including $750,000 in loans.

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

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