2018 election – Page 3 – Florida Politics
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Candidates sign up for ‘Politics in Pinellas’

Another election cycle, another edition of Politics in Pinellas.

The event, hosted biennially by the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, is set to draw at least 10 candidates for offices ranging from Pinellas School Board to state Senator.

“Are they running for office for the first time or up for re-election? This is your opportunity to personally hear the view point and strategy of those seeking public office in Pinellas County,” the event listing says.

The 2018 edition of Politics in Pinellas will be held July 26 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the EpiCenter at St. Petersburg College, 13805 58th St. N., in Clearwater.

So far, 10 candidates have signed on to participate in the event.

School Board District 2 incumbent Terry Krassner and challenger Jeff Larsen will both attend, while Lisa Cane has not yet signed up. For School Board District 3, only challenger Nicole Carr has signed up. She faces incumbent Peggy O’Shea and former Democratic state Rep. Carl Zimmerman.

For Pinellas County Commission District 6, Republican state Rep. Kathleen Peters has confirmed. She faces fellow Republican state Rep. Larry Ahern, Republican businesswoman Barb Haselden and Democrat Amy Kedron in the race to succeed longtime Commissioner John Morroni, who died earlier this year at the age of 63.

Doneene Loar, who is running for 6th Circuit Judge, will also attend. She faces Donald McBath in the nonpartisan judicial election.

Candidates from two of the county’s seven state House districts will also be in attendance.

House District 64 Republican candidate Terry Power, who faces incumbent Rep. Jamie Grant in the Aug. 28 primary, will have a table. As will Pinellas GOP chair Nick DiCeglie, who is running to succeed Ahern in House District 66. He’ll be joined by Democratic foe Alex Heeren, though Seminole Republican Berny Jacques hasn’t put in an RSVP.

Also attending incumbent Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes of Senate District 24 and former Rep. Ed Hooper, the likely Republican nominee for Senate District 16.

Brandes had been facing a challenge from Democratic trial lawyer Carrie Pilon, though she announced two weeks ago that she was withdrawing from the race. The Florida Democratic Party is in the process of selecting her replacement.

Hooper is running against former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy, and recent polling shows the race is a dead heat with Hooper holding a slim advantage.

Politics in Pinellas is free and open to the public. Those who attend will be able to vote for their preferred candidates in a straw poll.

The event flyer is below.

Aakash Patel rolls out first ad for Hillsborough Commission bid

Republican Aakash Patel announced Tuesday that the first TV ad backing his Hillsborough County Commission campaign is already hitting the airwaves.

The 30-second spot, entitled “A Better Hillsborough,” features a half dozen Hillsborough residents saying what they are looking for out of the next commissioner to hold the countywide District 7 seat.

“My county commissioner should be a trusted conservative, who protects our values and has always fought for Hillsborough,” the residents say. “I don’t want a career politician. I want someone who will fix the term limit loophole, so they actually work. My commissioner should want what we want: Less traffic, more jobs and the best education for our children.”

The ad then turns over to Patel, who says that “together we can work toward a better Hillsborough County.”

In a press release announcing the ad, Patel thanked Terry Castro of Patriots 4 Trump, Marsha Craig of Tampa Republican Women Federated and Jake Hoffman of Tampa Bay Young Republicans for volunteering to appear in the campaign ad.

“I continue to be humbled by the outpouring of support for my campaign. I want to express my sincere gratitude to these Hillsborough Voters who have come out and publicly supported me. These are only a few of the ever-increasing number of supporters we are gaining as we move toward Election Day,” Patel said.

Patel, who runs a business consulting firm, is running against attorney Todd Marks in the Aug. 28 Republican primary. Also running are Democrats Ray Chiaramonte, Mark Nash, Kimberly Overman and Sky White as well as Green Party candidate Kim O’Connor.

Through July 6, Patel led the money race with more than $364,000 raised for his campaign and about $130,000 in the bank. He also had another $75,570 on hand in an affiliated political committee, Elevate Tampa.

The only other candidate to crack the six-figure mark in fundraising is Marks, who like Patel was a candidate for the District 1 seat held by Commissioner Sandra Murman before switching over to the District 7 seat held by retiring commissioner Al Higginbotham.

As of July 6, Marks had raised $108,768 in hard money and had $99,365 in the bank.

Patel’s ad is below.

Tom Steyer’s ‘NextGen Climate’ opens state-level political committee

A group connected to activist Tom Steyer has opened a state-level political committee, signaling that the San Francisco billionaire has more plans for the Sunshine State in 2018.

NextGen Climate Action Committee was added to the Florida Division of Elections political committee database on Tuesday. The national version of the climate change-focused group is one of many operating under Steyer’s “NextGen America” banner.

The committee listing for the Florida spinoff names Chris Fadeff as chairman. Fadeff serves as the chief financial officer and vice president of legal for NextGen America. He has worked for the advocacy group since 2013, the year it was founded.

The committee’s treasurer is Rita Copeland, who holds the same position at the national NextGen Climate Action Committee according to Federal Elections Commission records.

Both Fadeff and Copeland list their address as a Washington DC office belonging to international law firm Perkins Coie, which represents a number of corporate and political clients, including serving as counsel to Hillary Clinton during her 2016 presidential campaign.

Carly Cass, who serves as youth organizing director of NextGen Florida, is listed as the new committee’s registered agent. The Tampa-based operative is the committee’s only listed officer with a Florida address.

Florida Politics reached out to the contact number listed by the committee but did not receive a response.

Back in February, Following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, NextGen alongside two other anti-gun violence activist groups announced they’d spend $1 million to register eligible high schoolers to vote.

In March, Steyer said NextGen America would to spend as much as $3.5 million in the 2018 cycle to register, engage and turn out young voters across the state of Florida. The group also announced it aimed to defend Florida’s 7th Congressional District, held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, and flip Florida’s 18th Congressional District, held by Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast.

Last month, NextGen America announced it was backing Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the Democratic primary for Governor and that it would put $1 million behind his bid — $500,000 via a grant from Steyer to Gillum’s political committee, Forward Florida, with the other half coming from elsewhere.

That adds up to $5.5 million in commitments this cycle, and with the new political committee there could be more announcements on the way.

Kristen Carlson - CD 15

Kristen Carlson tops CD 15 field in Q2 fundraising while Ross Spano goes on spending spree

Florida’s 15th Congressional District is a safe Republican seat by nearly every metric, but that didn’t stop Lakeland Democrat Kristen Carlson from outraising the 10 other candidates vying to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross.

Carlson, a former prosecutor and former general counsel to the Florida Department of Citrus, raised just shy of $250,000 during the two months she was a candidate in the second quarter. According to her campaign, about $100,000 of that cash came in during her first two weeks in the race.

While her total includes $50,000 in candidate loans and about $25,000 in candidate contributions, her $174,158 in outside fundraising would still best the total haul of any of the five Republicans running for the seat — former Auburndale state Rep. Neil Combee, Sean Harper, Danny Kushmer, Ed Shoemaker and Dover state Rep. Ross Spano.

Carlson’s $56,000 in expenditures included a $17,580 direct mail campaign, $16,000 in payroll as well as the $10,440 qualifying fee. She finished Q2 with $192,731 in the bank, $84,500 ahead of Spano, the next-closest candidate.

Spano, who hails from the Hillsborough County portion of the tri-county district, brought in $112,068 in outside money and kicked in another $45,000 in loans for a grand total of $157,068.

The Dover Republican shelled out $50,500 during his first 10 weeks in the race, including $14,000 in email and digital marketing, $11,000 in consulting contracts, the qualifying fee, $6,405 in campaign signage and more than $1,200 in credit card processing fees.

But the spending didn’t stop there — Spano’s campaign also took on another $43,000 in debt from a half-dozen consulting shops. More than half that sum is owed to Brandon-based Momentum Strategy Group, which provided $24,685 worth of campaign management, printing, catering and advertising services, but consultants near and far have some invoices waiting for payment.

Dover-based LGM Consulting Group is owed $7,500 for email work; Texas-based Prevail Strategies is owed $4,700 for consulting work and travel expenses; Virginia-based KB Strategic Group is owed $2,000 for fundraising consulting; Tallahassee-based Strategic Government Consulting is owed $1,900 for survey work; Tallahassee-based Bulldog Strategy Group is owed $1,500 for communications consulting; and Plant City-based Fryed Egg Productions is owed $750 for media production.

In all, Spano’s spending spree left him with $108,275 banked and $88,025 in debt at the end of the quarter.

Combee, the first-in Republican, bested Spano in outside fundraising with $128,515 raised without whipping out his own checkbook, and all but two of his 114 contributions came from within the Sunshine State and only $2,500 of his total came from political committees.

Spending measured in at $44,000 and included the qualifying fee, $10,000 in payroll, $6,768 in signage, $2,540 in software and voter data, $2,350 in advertising and $1,000 for a campaign website. The Combee campaign took on a bit of debt, but nowhere near the level of Spano — Strategic Image Management is owed about $5,700 for consulting work and campaign shirts.

Combee, who hails from the Polk County portion of CD 15, finished Q2 with $86,163 in the bank and $5,683 in debt.

The only other candidate to crack six figures for the quarter was Valrico Democrat Andrew Learned, who filed for CD 15 well before Ross’ retirement announcement.

Learned, a U.S. Navy veteran and businessman, tacked on $100,622 in the second quarter for a to-date fundraising total of $223,618. His total includes $2,000 in candidate contributions and $4,000 from political committees, with the rest of his campaign cash coming in from individual donors.

His campaign also reported nearly $74,000 in expenses for the quarter, the most of any candidate in the race. That outflow included $18,500 for fundraising and campaign coordination, the qualifying fee, $5,325 in consulting work and $2,000 in web or social media work.

Learned finished the quarter with $65,400 in the bank and $2,000 in debt. The remaining candidates trailed considerably behind the top-4 fundraisers.

Harper, a Lakeland businessman, raised $82,541 and had $43,314 in the bank on June 30, including $15,500 in loans. Kushmer, a Brandon businessman, reported $75,837 in fundraising and had $54,039 banked, including $52,000 in loans, heading into July. Shoemaker, also a Lakeland mental health practitioner, brought in $17,387 of outside money and finished Q2 with $3,035 on hand.

Ray Pena, the third Democrat in the race, has not yet posted his second-quarter report. At the end of Q1 he was $7,500 in the hole.

CD 15 is split between Hillsborough and Polk counties, with about 10 percent of the district’s voters living in Lake County. The district, which voted plus-10 for Donald Trump two years ago, is rated “likely Republican” by Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the prediction newsletter from University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato.

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

Rick Scott: ‘I disagree with the president’ on Vladimir Putin

In a campaign stop for his drive to become Florida’s next U.S. senator, Republican Gov. Rick Scott sought to put daylight between himself and President Donald Trump Tuesday, saying he disagreed with him on the positions he expressed Monday in Helsinki toward Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin.

Scott essentially dodged that question on Monday, condemning Putin but declining to address Trump’s political embrace of the dictator in Helsinki. For that, Scott’s Democratic opponent, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, charged that Scott was refusing to stand up to his “pal” in the White House.

On Tuesday, at an event at Restaurant Supply World in Orlando to announced the endorsement of the National Federation of Independent Businesses of Florida, Scott stood up to Trump, though not quite by name.

“I completely disagree. I disagree with the president,” Scott replied to a press question. “I think Putin, he’s not to be trusted. I’m very skeptical of him. I don’t think he’s a friend; he’s a foe.

“I think that there is clear evidence that he tried to meddle in our election,” Scott added.

“I’ve worked worked to try to make sure our Florida elections are fair. I want everybody to vote but I don’t want there to be any fraud,” he continued. “That’s why I’ve added counter-terrorism people at [the Florida] Secretary of State [Office]. We quickly tried to get the money out the federal government sent down to help our superviosors of elections. But I disagree with the president yesterday.”

This was Nelson’s statement on Monday after Scott condemned Putin but said nothing about Trump:

“Today, Donald Trump sided with Putin over the people of the United States. And, once again, Rick Scott has refused to stand up to his pal, Donald Trump – now on an issue that puts our national security at risk. Floridians need a senator who will stand up to Trump, especially when our democracy is under attack, and Rick Scott’s refusal is just another reminder that he’s only looking out for himself.”

ardian zika family

Two more police unions back Ardian Zika for HD 37

Land O’ Lakes Republican Ardian Zika announced Monday that two chapters of the Florida Police Benevolent Association have endorsed his bid to succeed House Speaker Richard Corcoran in Pasco County’s House District 37.

“The West Central Florida Political Benevolent Association and the Tampa Police Benevolent Association is proud to inform you of our endorsement for your candidacy for State House Representative, District 37,” West Central Florida PBA president Nick Marolda and Tampa PBA president Abe Carmack said in a joint statement.

The two PBA chapters join the Pasco County branch of the Fraternal Order of Police in backing Zika, a businessman who immigrated to the U.S. from Kosovo in the 1990s. He has also been endorsed Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco, who announced his support alongside Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano in May.

“I am honored to have the endorsement of the women and men of law enforcement, who put their lives on the line each and every day, for us,” said Ardian Zika. “Our community respects, values and trusts these law enforcement professionals and I am humbled to have earned their confidence and support. No one will fight harder for law enforcement, first responders and their families in our state capitol.”

Zika faces Ryan Patrick Boney and Elle Rudisill in the Republican Primary, while Tammy Garcia has already locked up the Democratic nomination.

As of July 6, Zika held a massive lead in the money race with more than $195,000 raised and nearly $168,000 in the bank. No other candidate has cracked the $15,000 mark in total fundraising.

HD 37 covers the majority of inland Pasco County, including the communities of Land O’ Lakes, Odessa, Heritage Pines, Shady Hills, Meadow Oaks and Moon Lake. It is a safe Republican seat.

Dana Young lands firefighter support in SD 18

Two firefighter unions announced Monday that they were backing Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young in her re-election bid for Senate District 18.

The Florida Professional Firefighters and Tampa Firefighters Local 754 are the latest first responder groups to endorse Young, who had previously earned the support of several other first responder groups, including five police unions.

“The 25,000 men and women of the Florida Professional Firefighters and Paramedics are proud to endorse Senator Dana Young for re-election,” said Rocco Salvatori, vice president of the Florida Professional Firefighters. “She stands up for Firefighters in the Florida Senate, and we proudly stand with her.”

“We as representatives of Tampa Firefighters, Local 754, take great pleasure in endorsing your candidacy for 2018 Florida State Senate, District 18,” said Tampa Firefighters President Stephen Suarez and secretary Ken Huff in a joint statement.

In accepting the endorsements, Young said, “Floridians around the state and in our Tampa community depend on Florida’s first responders to be the first on the scene when there is an emergency, and as a lawmaker, it is my duty to ensure we have their back as well.

“During my time in the Florida Legislature, I have supported measures to benefit the men and women who are committed to the safety and protection of our state, and I am proud to have earned the support of both the Florida Professional Firefighters and Paramedics and the Tampa Firefighters, Local 754.”

Young is up against House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in November, and recent polls show the pair in a dead heat with Cruz holding a slim edge.

In fundraising, however, Young is far outperforming her challenger.

Young currently holds a better than 3-to-1 lead in cash on hand, with more than $315,000 of hard money in the bank and another $1.05 million on hand in her political committee, Friends of Dana Young, as of July 6. Through the same date, Cruz had $400,472 between her campaign account and political committee, Building the Bay PC.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Florida Retailers back Mel Ponder for re-election

The Florida Retail Federation announced Friday that it was backing Destin Republican Rep. Mel Ponder’s re-election bid in Okaloosa County’s House District 4.

“Representative Ponder is a successful small business owner and fought on behalf of the thousands of other small business owners throughout Florida during his first term in the House,” said FRF President/CEO R. Scott Shalley. “His efforts to protect Floridians and fellow small business owners by supporting pro-business legislation are issues we look forward to him continuing to work on in his return to the Florida House.”

Ponder runs a business that trains local business leaders and individuals, as well as ministers and others of faith to make a difference in their communities. He also works as a real estate agent.

The FRF endorsement comes the same week that Ponder made the Florida Realtor’s list of lawmakers it’s backing in the 2018 cycle.

Ponder is currently in his first term representing HD 4, which covers all but the northern reaches of Okaloosa County. He faces Valparaiso Democrat Rebecca Koelzer in the Nov. 6 general election.

As of July 6, Ponder was far ahead in fundraising, with more than $105,000 raised and nearly $65,000 in the bank for his re-election campaign. Koelzer, who filed in just ahead of the qualifying deadline, has raised $70 and kicked in another $2,000 via candidate loans.

HD 4 is a safe Republican seat. Ponder’s only opponent in 2016 was write-in candidate Christopher Eugene Schwantz, who holds the distinction of being the only candidate to compete against the Republican nominee in the district since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections.

The seat also voted plus-44 for President Donald Trump two years ago.

Stephen Sevigny

Stephen Sevigny adds $350K, union endorsement in CD 6

Ormond Beach Democrat Stephen Sevigny said this week that his campaign for Florida’s 6th Congressional District reeled in another $350,000 during the second quarter.

Sevigny’s haul bests his first-quarter fundraising numbers by $100,000 and brings him to around $600,000 in total fundraising since he entered the race in midway through Q1.

The campaign didn’t say whether the Q2 report includes any candidate contributions — the Q1 report was bolstered by $50,000 in loans from Sevigny — but it did say that it had more than $350,000 banked at the end of June. That indicates campaign spending measured in at around $225,000 between April 1 and June 30.

Sevigny, a physician, took to twitter to celebrate the fundraising success as well as a recent endorsement his campaign picked up from a local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

IBEW 756 said its membership voted to endorse Sevigny for the First Coast congressional seat after hearing from all three Democratic contenders — Sevigny, former U.S. Ambassador Nancy Soderberg and John Upchurch — at the labor union’s monthly meeting.

“Steve earned our support with his passion for healthcare, education, and our community. Working families need a friend in Congress they can rely on to put people before profits, and Steve Sevigny is that person,” said Dan Hunt, IBEW 756’s business manager.

Sevigny’s fundraising puts him firmly in the No. 2 spot, fundraising wise, in the race for the Democratic nomination.

Soderberg, who has been in the race since July 2017, announced this week that she had nearly $1 million in the bank at the end of the second quarter. Her campaign has raised close to $1.5 million so far. Upchurch had raised about $258,000, including $40,000 in candidate loans, at the end of June. He has about $172,000 on hand.

CD 6 is a Republican-leaning seat, though the odds of it flipping went up significantly after current U.S Rep. Ron DeSantis announced he would seek the Republican nomination for Governor rather than run for re-election.

Three Republicans are vying to succeed DeSantis: Former state Rep. Fred Costello, Fox News personality Michael Waltz and businessman John Ward.

Waltz broke the $1 million mark with his Q2 report. He’s put $400,000 of his money down so far, and has about $617,000 in the bank. Costello tacked on $43,000 in contributions and $100,000 in loans in his Q2 report, which showed him with $51,000 banked on June 30.

The only report still outstanding is Ward’s. Ward, who has the capacity and willingness to self-fund, had raised over $900,000 with over $700,000 on hand, back at the end of March. His total includes $555,000 in candidate loans.

CD 6 covers a stretch of Florida’s east coast, including southern St. Johns County, northeastern Lake County and the whole of Flagler and Volusia counties.

Jeff Brandes holding ‘Super Saturday’ canvassing event

Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes is gearing up for his re-election bid with a “Super Saturday” canvassing event in St. Petersburg-based Senate District 24.

“Come show your support for Jeff Brandes! Join us on July 14 at 9:00 a.m. at Crisp Park in St. Petersburg for coffee and donuts. Help Senator Brandes spread his message by knocking on voters doors in nearby neighborhoods. Then at 12:30 p.m. we’ll meet at Green Bench Brewery for lunch and drinks,” the event listing says.

Crisp Park is located at the intersection of 37th Avenue NE and Poplar Street NE in St. Petersburg; Green Bench Brewery is located at 1133 Baum Ave. North. Those looking to attend can sign up to volunteer on the Facebook event listing.

Brandes, a lifelong resident of St. Pete, is running for his final term in the Florida Senate. He was first elected in 2012 and was a member of the Florida House for the two years prior.

Democratic trial lawyer Carrie Pilon was slated to be his opponent in the Nov. 6 general election, though she recently withdrew from the race, citing serious and unexpected health problems of a close family member.

With Pilon’s exit, the Florida Democratic Party must now recruit another nominee to pick up the baton for the last four months of the 2018 cycle — a tough task only made tougher by Brandes’ prolific fundraising.

SD 24 covers most of southern Pinellas County. The GOP has a 4-point advantage in voter registrations within the district, which voted in favor of Barack Obama twice before being carried by Donald Trump in 2016.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

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