2018 election Archives - Page 5 of 135 - Florida Politics

Poll: Governor’s race tied, voters support marijuana

A new poll from St. Pete Polls is finding Florida’s governor’s race in nearly a tie, with Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum just slightly ahead, and also finding that Florida voters lean toward supporting more legalization of marijuana and consider that issue in their position on the governor’s race.

The poll is part of an effort involving the St. Pete Polls, Empowering Wellness — the newly formed medical-marijuana advocacy group — and Florida Politics to examine marijuana policies and politcal leaders and candidates’ positions heading into Wellness Week, which will feature other looks at the issues.

First the governor’s election: The survey conducted Wednesday and Thursday of 2,240 likely Florida general election voters found Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor, with 47.6 percent support, and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee, with 47.3 percent.

Voters lean toward more full legalization, according to the poll: 49.3 percent said they support full legalaization of marijuana, while 42.3 percent said they oppose. That is not enough support to get a Florida Constitution amendment passed, which requires 60 percent approval, but may signal to lawmakers and state leaders that Florida’s populous is growing more supportive.

The support was fueled by both Democrats and independents: 62 percent of Democrats  and 54 percent of independent voters support full legalization, while just 34 percent of Republicans do so.

As for Florida’s existing medical cannabis law, approved by voters in 2016 but still not fully implemented, 73.8 percent of those surveyed said they support it, and 20.8 percent oppose.

For the governor’s race, 29.8 percent of those surveyed said they would be more likely to support a gubernatorial candidate who supported marijuana legalization; 25.1 percent said they would be less likely; and 45 percent said it would make no difference.

The poll was conducted through an automated phone call polling system. The results were then weighted to account for proportional differences between the respondents’ demographics and the demographics of the active general election voter population for the state of Florida. The weighting demographics used were: political party, race, age, gender and media market. The voters polled were chosen at random within the registered voter population within the state of Florida. Voters who said they were not planning to vote were excluded from the results below.

St. Pete Polls is saying the survey has a 2.1 percent margin of error.

Hillsborough transit tax referendum clears state audit

A referendum that would add a penny sales tax to fund transportation improvements in Hillsborough County has cleared a mandatory audit conducted by the state Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability.

Hillsborough County posted the results of the audit on their website Thursday, which were required to be completed and made available to the public by the end of the day on Thursday. Under a new state law, audits are required for a schools referendum and are backing up the citizen-led All for Transportation activist group. Analysts from the McConnell & Jones accounting firm spent four days in Tampa, reviewing reports and interviewing more than 10 school managers.

In the audit, OPPAGA gave good scores to Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority and the county “have sufficient policies and procedures in place” to address the requirements in state law and that the ability to “ensure the newly acquired surtax dollars are appropriately spent” on transportation projects.

Additionally, the audit noted that Hillsborough County administrators handled the half-cent Community Investment Tax well and that it’s “not unreasonable” to expect the same results with the transit tax. HART was also singled out for how its administered past grants, with auditors saying the transit authority “is prepared to take reasonable and timely actions to implement new services and projects.”

The report also noted that the department has 78 vacancies, “with limited effort to fill these positions primarily due to lack of funding,” and “due to the volume of vacancies in this department, the team is currently not performing preventative maintenance on a proactive basis, which is leading to increased deferred maintenance.”

If successful in November, the OPPAGA audit would only be the first of many as the referendum would require an independent audit each year and put in place an independent oversight committee to make sure funds are spent transparently and appropriately.

The sales tax referendum made the ballot in late July by taking advantage of the seldom-used citizen’s charter amendment process.

The initiative has been heavily supported by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, businessman and philanthropist Frank Morsani and Charles  Sykes of Sykes Enterprises, each of whom pitched in $150,000 to the political committee backing the referendum, All for Transportation, in order to jump-start the eleventh-hour petition drive.

The petition drive also required grassroots support from numerous volunteers to gather the required 49,000 petition signatures, which were delivered to the to the Supervisor of Elections office just ahead of the deadline.

Recent weeks have also seen business groups including the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and the Tampa Downtown Partnership endorse the referendum. All for Transportation has also started ramping up its efforts to get the word out to voters by opening up a Tampa office and educating volunteers on how they can help out.

If passed, the penny-per-dollar sales tax would be in effect for 30 years starting in 2019. It’s estimated that would bring in $280 million per year to fund transportation initiatives in the county.

The money raised by the sales tax would be split between HART, which would get 45 percent of the funds, and local governments in the county, which would divvy up the other 55 percent for road maintenance and projects tackling traffic congestion.

Cruz - FRSCC TV ad

New ad hits Janet Cruz over past property tax blunder

A new ad paid for by a committee charged with maintaining the Republican majority in the state Senate is hitting House Minority Leader and Senate District 18 candidate Janet Cruz for claiming homestead exemptions on multiple properties a decade ago.

The ad, titled “Lower Taxes,” notes that even though the Tampa Democrat, who is challenging incumbent Republican Sen. Dana Young, slipped up on paying all of her own property taxes, she voted against a 2017 bill to increase the homestead exemption for all Floridians.

“What do you call a career politician who wants you to pay higher taxes while she plays less? Janet Cruz,” the ad’s narrator says. “Janet Cruz voted against increasing your homestead exemption but was caught red-handed illegally claiming two exemptions for herself.

“Her second exemption? This multimillion dollar bayfront mansion,” the ad says while showing a picture of the property. “For five years, Cruz cheated on over $32,000 in taxes then voted to up yours. The Janet Cruz tax plan: You pay more. She pays less.”

The ad disclosure states it was paid for by the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, a political committee chaired by incoming Senate President Bill Galvano that supports Republican state Senate candidates.

Cruz indeed claimed multiple homestead exemptions from 2004 through 2008, leading the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser to place a $32,000 lien for back taxes on an Empedrado Street home she purchased in 1983. As noted in a 2010 Tampa Tribune article, Cruz had been living in a San Miguel Street home owned by her husband while her then 29-year-old son was living in the Empedrado home.

Florida law only allows property owners to claim homestead exemptions on their permanent residence or the permanent residence of a dependent. Currently, Floridians are exempt from paying taxes other than school district levies on up to $75,000 of the value of their home, depending on its assessed value.

That article also quotes an attorney for the property appraiser’s office as saying Cruz “brought it forward” rather than the appraiser’s office discovering the improper homestead exemption and added that the double exemption didn’t appear to be an intentional violation of state law. In another article, published in 2010, Cruz said she would pay the taxes rather than appeal the lien in court.

“I have always operated within what I thought was my obligation as a taxpayer. As soon as this was brought to my attention, I immediately contacted the Property Appraiser’s Office and went through the proper channels to remedy this situation,” she said in a 2010 statement. “I will certainly do what any responsible citizen would do and pay what I am obligated to pay.”

The ad comes as Cruz is set to release her first TV spot, which details her back story and her reasons for running for the northwestern Hillsborough Senate seat. Young released her first ad of the 2018 election cycle, which pitched her as a problem solver in a time of partisan fighting, in late July.

SD 18 is one of the Florida Democratic Party’s top targets for a flip in the fall and, as evidenced by FRSCC’s new ad, Florida Republicans are going to be aggressively defending the seat.

The district covers much of Tampa and has a close partisan split in voter registrations. SD 18 voted plus-6 for Hillary Clinton two years ago while at the same time electing Young with a plurality of the vote in a four-way race between her, Democratic nominee Bob Buesing and NPA candidates Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove.

Only Cruz and Young will be on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

GILLUM

Email insights: RGA says Andrew Gillum ‘too radical for Florida’

A Thursday email sent out by the Republican Governors Association slammed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum as “too radical for Florida” based on comments he made regarding recent violence in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

“In a recent podcast interview, Gillum ‘condemn[ed]’ Israel for ‘murder’ for acting in self-defense against Hamas terrorist operatives attempting to ‘breach into Israel’s borders,’ while throwing ‘rocks and Molotov cocktails,’” the RGA email said. “According to a senior Hamas official, the overwhelming majority of Palestinians killed were members of the terrorist group Hamas.”

The comments were related to a May protest that saw Israeli troops fire on about 35,000 Palestinians protesting the relocation of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, killing 60. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley lauded Israel’s “restraint” in responding to the protesters, though a number of world leaders expressed concern or outright condemned the Israeli government’s actions.

The RGA email also Orlando area businessman Chris King, who Gillum named as his running mate Thursday morning, over past comments he made that some have deemed to be anti-Semitic.

Those accusations of anti-Semitism relate to a quote attributed to King after he lost a contentious 1998 election to be Harvard’s Undergraduate Student Council president. The campus newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, had editorialized against King’s candidacy in part because he was well-known as an evangelical Christian.

“I was nailed to the cross,” King said at the time. “And most of the editorial staff that was so hard on me, the vast majority were Jewish.”

King told Florida Politics in June that he does not specifically recall making that statement but did not dispute it. He apologized for it and disavowed any anti-Semitic overtones as not of his beliefs.

“This quote from when I was 20 years old is completely at odds with my beliefs. It was a hurtful and stupid comment and I apologize,” King said in June.

Additionally, the reporter who quoted King in the 1998 story, Jonathan Tilove, told Florida Politics he did not interpret the statement as anti-Semitic. Tilove, now a political reporter for the Austin American-Statesman, is Jewish.

Still, the RGA said those statements by Gillum and King make the duo “too radical for Florida.”

“Gillum’s condemnation of Israel and King’s past comments prove their campaign is one of the most radical in the nation and raises serious questions about the direction of their campaign,” the RGA email concluded.

Gillum and King are facing off against Republican nominee Ron DeSantis, who on Thursday named Miami state Rep. Jeanette Nuñez as his running mate. The general election is Nov. 6.

Republicans: This election is stark choice of capitalism versus radicalism

Led by blistering attacks from Gov. Rick Scott, Republican candidates kicked off their unity rally in Orlando Thursday morning declaring that this year’s election offers stark choices that boil down to capitalism versus socialism.

Scott, the nominee for U.S. Senate; gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis; the rest of Florida’s cabinet; and the rest of the Republican Party’s nominees for the cabinet took turns Friday attacking Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum and other Democrats as radical, bent on destroying Florida’s economy and the state.

“When I was in the private sector I recalled many times that it seemed like the two political parties didn’t have very different choices. That’s not the case here in Florida today,” Scott said. “This election offers voters the starkest choice possible for the direction and the future of our state and the country. The Democratic ticket of Bill Nelson and Andrew Gillum offering a very clear, a very liberal, a very radical and a very risky direction.”

“I am the capitalist candidate for Governor for the state of Florida,” DeSantis later declared.

The event oozed unity after primary battles that left some Republicans broken and broken-hearted. On Thursday, Attorney General nominee Ashley Moody, Agriculture Commissioner nominee Matt Caldwell, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, and Attorney General Pam Bondi all called for Republican voters to support GOP candidates.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and DeSantis shared a warm handshake and a call to “rally behind our values as Republicans.”

There were, however, a couple of key Republican leaders conspicuous by their absences. The first was Republican Party of Florida Chair Blaise Ingoglia, who continued his refusal to share a dais with Scott.

The other was President Donald Trump, who, in an hour of speeches, was mentioned only once, only in passing, and not by DeSantis, his pick in Florida, nor by Scott, who seeks to join him in Washington and had previously boasted of having a close relationship with him.

Scott and others planned to join Vice President Mike Pence at private events later on Thursday, but Pence was not scheduled to join the Florida Republican unity rally.

The theme was to build on the records of Scott, Bondi, Putnam, and Caldwell, pushing for lower taxes, deregulation, and tougher law enforcement, which was largely defined as enforcement of immigration laws. Much was made of Florida’s economy, job growth, lower taxes, and lower unemployment. Scott also defended his records on education and the environment, which have been sharply targeted by Democrats.

“I think the appropriate course of action is to see what has worked here, build off of that, and enjoy even more success,” DeSantis said. “My opponent, Andrew Gillum, would really want to stop that and reverse all the progress we’ve made.

“If you want to bring more investment to Florida, you probably don’t want to campaign on the biggest tax increase in Florida’s history,” DeSantis said.

From there, DeSantis and Scott charged Gillum with socialist ideas, particularly involving health care, and warnings that would strip private health care plans away from Floridians, bankrupt the state, and send Florida tax money to states like California and New York.

DeSantis also accused Gillum of “radicalism” in calling for the abolishment and replacement of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and in his statements regarding Israel. DeSantis called him anti-Israel for opposing the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, something DeSantis helped champion in Congress.

“I think he believes Jerusalem should be divided,” DeSantis charged. “He criticizes Israel, he said they were committing murder when they were defending themselves against Hamas terrorists who were overrunning the border on the Gaza Strip. That is not representative of Florida values. I’ve always stood by Israel. I will be the most pro-Israel governor in the country.”

Scott, too, attacked Gillum and explicitly charged him with preaching socialism. His attacks on his own opponent, Nelson, was more often by association with Gillum and the Democrats, though he did take a very personal shot at the incumbent U.S. Senator.

“If you grew up wealthy like Bill Nelson, it’s all theory, it’s just about numbers,” Scott said of people struggling to make ends meet. “I grew up poor.”

Stephanie Murphy ad touts immigrants’ shot at the American dream

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy is launching a pair of internet videos, one in Spanish, one in English, touting her personal story of an immigrant pursuing the American dream and saying she’s fighting for others to have the same fair shot.

Murphy, the first-term congresswoman from Winter Park, came to America with her family after fleeing communist Vietnam on a refugee boat, eventually settling in the United States. Her commercial briefly references that and then tells of her parents working hard cleaning offices so the family could have a better life.

She then pushes her work-across-the-aisle credentials in Congress, seeking to position herself as a moderate Democrat in Florida’s very purple 7th Congressional District, representing Seminole County and central Orange County. She faces Republican state Rep. Mike Miller in the Nov. 6 election.

The Murphy campaign stated in a news release that the 30-second ad, “Fair Shot,” is targeted to Hispanic voters and that it is part of a significant digital advertising investment for the campaign.

Murphy narrates both the English and Spanish versions.

“When you work hard, you deserve to get ahead,” she says in the English ad. “So I’m working with both parties to improve veterans care, invest in schools, and create good paying jobs. And I’m holding Washington accountable – because they work for the people.

“I’m Stephanie Murphy, and I’m fighting for your fair shot at the American dream,” she concludes.

Jeanette Nuñez’s anti-Trump comments are ‘non-issue,’ Ron DeSantis says

A running mate whose anti-Donald Trump comments surfaced after she was chosen by President Trump’s strong choice for Governor of Florida?

“That’s a non-issue,” U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis said of state Rep. Jeanette Nuñez Thursday.

DeSantis, who rode Trump’s endorsement from 10 points down in most polls to an easy Republican gubernatorial primary victory over Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, introduced Nuñez of Miami to run for lieutenant governor on his ticket. And then he dismissed any notion that she at least once was a fervent member of the #NeverTrump wing of the Republican Party.

In at least one 2016 tweet, Nuñez called Trump a con man and accused him of supporting the Ku Klux Klan.

Water over the bridge of past elections, and that’s what you say in primaries when you like the other guy, Nuñez and DeSantis said on Thursday.

“We’re talking about moving Florida forward. Elections are elections. It is what it is. It’s no secret that I was a strong Marco Rubio supporter, but that election is done and I’m looking forward to this election,” she said, referring to Florida’s junior U.S. Senator.

“To support Marco Rubio, a favorite son, a Cuban-American, a historic run, to me, if I was in her shoes, I probably would have been supporting Marco as well. So that’s a non-issue,” DeSantis said.

Of course, DeSantis had cut no slack for Putnam after he also had said negative things about Trump during the 2016 election cycle. Putnam also supported a favorite-son candidate from Florida in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, former Gov. Jeb Bush. Putnam tried hard to walk it back during the primary campaign, while DeSantis ripped him repeatedly for his anti-Trump remarks in 2016.

That’s different, DeSantis insisted Thursday.

“He was running saying, like, he was basically Trump’s guy. And I just thought it was more insincere,” he said. “Jeanette is standing by what she said. She’s just saying it’s a different contest.”

Group pushing Democrats in ‘flippable’ state districts

A national group backing Democrats in state districts that could go from red to blue is getting behind state Rep. Janet Cruz‘s run for the Florida Senate and Anna Eskamani and Fentrice Driskell in Florida House districts in Orlando and Tampa.

Flippable is pledging to target 100 state races across the country with the intention of reversing Republican control in those states before the next U.S. Census and the resulting congressional redistricting. On Thursday it announced Cruz, Eskamani, and Driskell among its latest endorsements.

Cruz is running in Senate District 18, based in Tampa, against Republican incumbent state Sen. Dana Young.

Eskamani is running for an open seat in House District 47 in Orlando, against Republican Stockton Reeves. The seat is currently held by Republican state Rep. Mike Miller.

Driskell is running in House District 63 in Tampa against Republican incumbent state Rep. Shawn Harrison.

They join a list of 18 other candidates in Florida the group has endorsed, including Kayser Enneking in Senate District 8, Bob Doyel in Senate District 22, David Perez in Senate District 36, Tracye Polson in House District 15, Tracey Kagan in House District 29, Geraldine Thompson in House District 44, Adam Hattersley in House District 59, Debra Bellanti in House District 60, Alex Heeren in House District 66, Jennifer Webb in House District 69, Margaret Good in House District 72, Jim Bonfiglio in House District 89, Emma Collum in House District 93, Cindy Polo in House District 103, Javier Estevez in House District 105, Jeffrey Solomon in House District 115, James Harden in House District 116, and Steve Friedman in House District 120.

“Our government from Washington, D.C., to Tallahassee has become an embarrassment because too many politicians care more about special interests than the people they serve,” Eskamani stated in a news release issued by her campaign. “I am honored to be building a new vision for our state, one that prioritizes public education, builds a diversified economy, protects our environment, reduces gun violence, and ensures access to high-quality health care, regardless of pre-existing conditions.”

gruters

Joe Gruters holding Tallahassee fundraiser for SD 23 bid

Sarasota Republican Rep. Joe Gruters will be raising cash in Tallahassee later this month for his bid to succeed Greg Steube in Senate District 23.

The Sept. 18 reception will be held in the library of the Governors Club, 202 South Adams St., from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Those looking to attend can direct their RSVPs to Kristin Lamb via Kristin@FLFStrategies.com or 850-339-5354.

Gruters is the chair of the Sarasota County Republican Party and also served as co-chair Donald Trump’s Florida campaign. He was elected to House District 73 two years ago in a blowout win against Democratic nominee James Golden.

Before Gruters’ House re-election campaign got fully underway, there was a seismic shakeup in the Sarasota delegation caused by U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney’s announcement that he would not seek re-election in Florida’s 17th Congressional District.

Steube, just two years into his first term in the state Senate, and Venice Rep. Julio Gonzalez declared for the race and Steube ultimately won the Republican nomination with ease.

Still, that left SD 23 open and gave Gruters the opportunity to make the jump to the state Senate years earlier than he would otherwise. His only opponent in the Republican-leaning seat is Democratic nominee Faith Olivia Babis.

As of Aug. 23, Gruters had more than $115,000 in hard money in the bank with another $13,000 or so in his affiliated political committee, Friends of Joe Gruters PC. When Gruters files his next round of reports, he’ll show at least $3,500 in contributions thanks to state Rep. Ben Albritton helping out fellow Republican Senate candidates last month.

Babis, meanwhile, has only raised a little over $25,000 for her campaign and has about $5,000 in the bank. Her lax adherence to state campaign finance laws earlier on in the race led to the Florida Division of Elections levying some hefty fees against her, though they are currently being appealed by elections attorney Mark Herron.

SD 23 covers all of Sarasota County and a portion of coastal Charlotte County. Trump carried the district by 15 points two years ago as Steube defeated Democratic challenger Frank Alcock 59-41 percent.

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

Janet Cruz TV ad

Janet Cruz says she ‘understands the odds’ in first SD 18 ad

House Minority Leader Janet Cruz is introducing herself to Senate District 18 voters with a TV ad covering her background and her vision for the Tampa-based district if she’s elected over incumbent Republican Sen. Dana Young in the fall.

The 30-second ad, titled “Odds,” is shot in black and white and features the Tampa Democrat recounting the story of her humble upbringing before saying she’ll look out for everyday people if she moves up from the state House to the state Senate.

“When you’re the daughter of a single mother who worked in a factory, your odds of success aren’t high, and when you become a mom at 16 they get worse,” Cruz says in the ad. “I’m Janet Cruz, and odds didn’t define me — I did.

“I finished high school, graduated college, opened a successful healthcare business and now I’m running for state Senate because I understand the odds for all of us and I will always work to put them in our favor,” she says.

Her campaign said the ad is backed up by a six-figure media buy and will start airing on broadcast and cable next week.

FCC filings show media buys for Tampa’s ABC and NBC affiliates, which are scheduled to start running the ads on Sept. 10. Those filings indicate the advertisements were paid for by the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the Florida Democratic Party’s state Senate campaign arm.

Cruz expanded on her background in a press release announcing the ad buy, adding that she turned the challenging moments in her life into opportunities.

“I am running for state senate because too many families have the decks stacked against them because the powerful insiders and well-connected continue to deprive our schools of needed funding, deny access to quality healthcare and do little to protect our children from senseless gun violence,” Cruz said.

“While my opponent attacks, I am asking voters for their trust. I believe that no matter the challenge we face – if we stand together – the odds against us won’t define us in Tampa. We will,” she concluded.

SD 18 is one of the Florida Democratic Party’s top targets for a flip this fall and has a close partisan split — the northwestern Hillsborough district, which covers much of Tampa, voted plus-6 for Hillary Clinton two years ago while at the same time electing Young with a plurality of the vote.

Cruz’ ad will hit the airwaves about seven weeks after Young released her first ad of the 2018 election cycle, which pitched her as a problem solver in a time of partisan fighting.

Neither Cruz nor Young faced a challenger in the primary. Unlike two years ago, when four candidates made the Election Day ballot, the two women will be the only choices when voters mark their ballots for the Nov. 6 general election.

Cruz’ ad is below.

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