2018 election – Page 5 – Florida Politics

Rene Plasencia campaign fires back over data theft allegation

An allegation that a former Rene Plasencia campaign staffer downloaded private campaign data and took it with him to a GOP rival was turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Plasencia’s campaign manager said Tuesday.

But Acacia Baker also told Florida Politics that FDLE agents “acknowledged that information was obviously accessed, but without a signed confidentiality agreement or contract, there wasn’t more they could do.”

George Collins is challenging Plasencia, first elected in 2014, for the House District 50 seat in the upcoming Republican primary.

Added Baker: “I’m just not sure which is more shameful, the fact that George Collins used a college student to do his dirty work or the fact that the staffer didn’t see what he was doing as wrong.”

The latest round came after Zane C. Matter earlier Tuesday asked for an apology from Plasencia, who had accused him of swiping his campaign data.

Orlando Rising and sister site Florida Politics first reported the accusations last month.

Matter said he would have publicly addressed the allegations sooner, but because Plasencia had claimed he “was under potential criminal investigation by the Orange County Sheriff’s office, … I was advised by my counsel that it was best to make no public comment at the time.”

Plasencia had alleged that Matter, now serving as Collins’ campaign treasurer, used his access to Plasencia’s webElect political data account to download information after-hours onto a home computer. Matter then left Plasencia on June 1 and joined Collins.

“I brought no information to the Collins campaign,” Matter said. “I simply agreed with George on the issues more and decided to be on his campaign.”

Plasencia and Collins will face off in the Aug. 28 Republican primary for HD 50, covering eastern Orange County and northern Brevard County.

They met in the primary two years ago; Plasencia won. Collins filed for a rematch June 5, and later added Matter as his campaign treasurer. The winner will take on Democrat Pamela Joy Dirschka in the November general election.

Baker suggested an apology won’t be coming: “The Collins campaign is being dishonest. They can try to spin it, but the computer activity report doesn’t lie. They accessed proprietary information under false pretenses.”

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Background for this post taken from previously published reports by Orlando correspondent Scott Powers. Powers is on vacation this week.

Dana Young

Police union backs Dana Young for re-election

Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young announced Tuesday that she’d locked up the support of the Florida State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police in her campaign for a second term in Senate District 18.

“We believe in Senator Young and have voted her the 2018 Senator of The Year, there is no doubt that she will continue to serve her community and her constituents fairly, with a focus on safety and prosperity,” said FOP President Bobby Jenkins.

“The Fraternal Order of Police have worked hand and hand with Senator Young and have given her our continued faith in her dedication to her community and to the men and women of law enforcement.”

The Florida FOP joins the Florida Police Benevolent Association and the Tampa, West Central Florida and Suncoast chapters of the PBA to become the fifth police union to announce its support for Young, who is being challenged by House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in the fall.

“I sincerely thank the FOP for their endorsement and am grateful for their support of my campaign,” Young said. “Every day, our law enforcement puts their lives on the line to ensure Floridians remain safe – my appreciation for the work they do cannot be put into words.”

“As an advocate for our law enforcement, I have fought to protect our men and women in blue, and I look forward to the opportunity to continue to advocate for our Tampa and Florida law enforcement community,” said Senator Young.

SD 18 is a top target for Florida Democrats in 2018. It is the only Senate district on FDP’s priority list that voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election and Cruz is by far the best-known recruit the party has pulled to challenge a sitting Republican senator.

Recent polls of the race show the two lawmakers in a tight race, with a slight advantage for Cruz.

Where Young holds an unquestionable edge is the money race. As of June 22, the Tampa Republican had $309,000 banked for her campaign account. She also tacked on another $77,000 in the last week of June for her political committee, Friends of Dana Young, which now has $1.05 million on hand.

Cruz, meanwhile, has about $139,231 in hard money and another $256,583 in her political committee, Building the Bay PC, for an on-hand total of nearly $396,000.

They are the only two candidates in the race. The general election is Nov. 6.

Lauren Baer tops $1M banked for CD 18 campaign, Brian Mast nears $2M

Democratic candidate Lauren Baer has cleared seven figures in the bank for her campaign to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast in Florida’s 18th Congressional District.

Baer’s campaign said it will report more than $500,000 raised in its second-quarter campaign finance report and show more than $1 million in the bank, an increase of $300,000 over her reserves at the end of the first quarter.

The performance also bests her $450,000 report for Q1 and makes for more than $1.5 million in campaign funds raised to-date.

“I’m in awe of the outpouring of support we have received since launching our campaign in September,” Baer said. “Thank you to everyone who has donated, knocked on doors, made phone calls, and registered voters. This campaign will always be about you and your interests, not special interests, and together we will be victorious in November.”

The former senior official in the Obama administration added that the new cash was raised without taking a dime from corporate PACs. She pledged to decline such contributions in February.

Baer faces former Navy JAG Pam Keith in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary for CD 18, which covers all of St. Lucie and Martin counties as well as northeastern Palm Beach County, including Tequesta, Jupiter, Palm Beach Gardens and part of West Palm Beach.

Keith has not yet announced her second-quarter fundraising numbers, though she had raised $358,500 through the end of March with $50,000 in the bank.

Mast, who is only nominally opposed in the Republican primary, also announced Tuesday that he’d hit a high watermark in the second-quarter with more than $1 million raised.

“Congressman Mast’s laser-like focus on the issues that matter most to our community — water quality, protecting Medicare, lower taxes and supporting veterans — are driving incredibly strong grassroots support. While other candidates have been forced to choose hyper-partisanship in pursuit of Nancy Pelosi’s support, Congressman Mast’s independence and leadership continue to deliver results for our community,” said campaign spokesman Brad Stewart.

The announcement indicated Mast had nearly $2 million in the bank at the end of June, a major increase from his $1.5 million on-hand tally at the end of the first quarter.

CD 18 is a top target for a “blue-wave” flip in the fall, with only CD 26 and CD 27 outranking it on Florida Democrat’s priority list.

Though the district voted plus-9 for Donald Trump in 2016, it was held by former Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy for two terms before he gave it up to run for U.S. Senate last cycle. University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato‘s “Crystal Ball” currently lists CD 18 as “likely Republican” in the fall.

Florida Realtors make endorsements in 87 legislative races

The political arm of the Florida Realtors rolled out endorsements Monday for nearly every state legislative election slated for the 2018 ballot.

“As Realtors, we pride ourselves on our long-standing efforts to defend private property rights, promote community prosperity and preserve a professional climate that ensures the economic growth of Florida,” said Ann DeFries, chair of Florida Realtors PAC Trustees. “Our continued success in these efforts requires legislators who share these beliefs and will work with our 180,000+ members to help Floridians and their communities thrive.”

Of the 142 Senate and House seats up for grabs this year — that includes special elections to replace Senate President Joe Negron and Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube27 were decided at the close of candidate qualifying deadline.

The Florida Realtors weighed in on 87 of the remaining set to go before voters in some form or fashion.

Four of those picks are virtually assured victory as their only challenge is coming from unaffiliated, third-party or write-in candidates. Those include HD 46 Democratic Rep. Bruce Antone, HD 38 Republican Rep. Danny Burgess, HD 17 Republican Rep. Cyndi Stevenson and HD 6 Republican Rep. Jay Trumbull.

Many of the other races feature an incumbent who’ll likely cruise toward re-election, such as District 2 Republican Sen. George Gainer and HD 39 Republican Rep. Josie Tomkow, though the trade association also weighed in on nearly every competitive race.

In the upper chamber, incumbent Republican Sen. Keith Perry of Gainesville got the nod in his bid for another term in Senate District 8, where he faces well-funded Democratic challenger Kayser Enneking.

In the Bay area’s premier battleground, Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young earned the Realtor’s support for re-election over House Minority Leader Janet Cruz. St. Pete Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes also earned an endorsement, though he’s looking set for re-election after his Democratic challenger, Carrie Pilon, bowed out of the race for family reasons.

Brandes will still face a challenger of the Florida Democratic Party’s choosing, but whoever picks up the baton isn’t likely to have the same local clout as Pilon.

In Senate District 22, a stretch goal for Democrats, the Florida Realtors endorsed Lakeland Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel over Democratic challengers Bob Doyel and former Rep. Ricardo Rangel. It was the same deal for Senate District 36, where Hialeah Republican Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. faces a pair of Democrats in his bid to ascend to the Senate.

In the Democratic contest for Senate District 38, Florida Realtors picked incumbent Sen. Daphne Campbell who is facing a tough challenge from Miami attorney Jason Pizzo, the second-place finisher in the 2016 Democratic primary.

Curiously, the Florida Realtors didn’t weigh in on Senate District 16, the Pinellas and Pasco-based battleground where former Clearwater Republican Rep. Ed Hooper and former New Port Richey Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy are in a tight race for a return trip to Tallahassee.

There was also no endorsement issued for the Treasure Coast’s Senate District 25, where Stuart Republican Rep. Gayle Harrell is facing a primary challenge from Belinda Keiser, who has already put down $700,000 of her own money in her quest to succeed Negron.

In the House, another 69 candidates received an endorsement.

Notable among those was an endorsement for Republican Rep. Shawn Harrison, who faces a challenge from Democratic attorney Fentrice Driskell in HD 63, a perennial swing seat. Also making the announcement was a long list of non-incumbents who face primary or Election Day challenges.

Those included Gonzalez Republican Rebekah Bydlak, who faces former Rep. Mike Hill in HD 1; Gulf Breeze Republican Alex Andrade, who faces Greg Merk in the HD 2 primary; Lake City Republican Marc Vann in the three-way primary to succeed Rep. Elizabeth Porter in HD 10; Winter Springs Republican David Smith, who faces Democrat Lee Mangold in HD 28; Merritt Island Republican Tyler Sirois in the three-way race for HD 51; Bartow Republican Melony Bell over Jeff Mann in HD 56; Belleair Bluffs Republican Nick DiCeglie over Berny Jacques in HD 66; St. Petersburg Republican Jeremy Bailie over Ray Blacklidge in the primary for HD 69; Bradenton Republican Will Robinson over Bradenton Democrat Tracy Pratt in HD 71; Sarasota Republican Tommy Gregory over Melissa Howard in HD 73; and Doral Republican Ana Maria Rodriguez over Democrats Javier Estevez and Ross Hancock in HD 105.

Every other candidate endorsed by the Florida Realtors was an incumbent, and most of them are safe for re-election. The full list is below.

— SD 2: Sen. George Gainer
— SD 4: Sen. Aaron Bean
— SD 8: Sen. Keith Perry
— SD 10: Sen. Wilton Simpson
— SD 12: Sen. Dennis Baxley
— SD 14: Sen. Dorothy Hukill
— SD 18: Sen. Dana Young
— SD 20: Sen. Tom Lee
— SD 22: Sen. Kelli Stargel
— SD 23: Rep. Joe Gruters
— SD 24: Sen. Jeff Brandes
— SD 26: Rep. Ben Albritton
— SD 28: Sen. Kathleen Passidomo
— SD 30: Sen. Bobby Powell
— SD 34: Sen. Gary Farmer Jr.
— SD 36: Rep. Manny Diaz Jr.
— SD 38: Sen. Daphne Campbell
— SD 40: Sen. Annette Taddeo
— HD 1: Rebekah Bydlak
— HD 2: Alex Andrade
— HD 3: Rep. Jayer Williamson
— HD 4: Rep. Mel Ponder
— HD 6: Rep. Jay Trumbull
— HD 10: Marc Vann
— HD 11: Rep. Cord Byrd
— HD 12: Rep. Clay Yarborough
— HD 16: Rep. Jason Fischer
— HD 17: Rep. Cyndi Stevenson
— HD 19: Rep. Bobby Payne
— HD 21: Rep. Chuck Clemons
— HD 22: Rep. Charlie Stone
— HD 23: Rep. Stan McClain
— HD 24: Rep. Paul Renner
— HD 25: Rep. Tom Leek
— HD 27: Rep. David Santiago
— HD 28: David Smith
— HD 29: Rep. Scott Plakon
— HD 30: Rep. Bob Cortes
— HD 31: Rep. Jennifer Sullivan
— HD 34: Rep. Ralph Massullo Jr.
— HD 35: Rep. Blaise Ingoglia
— HD 36: Rep. Amber Mariano
— HD 38: Rep. Danny Burgess
— HD 39: Rep. Josie Tomkow
— HD 40: Rep. Colleen Burton
— HD 42: Rep. Mike LaRosa
— HD 44: Rep. Robert “Bobby O” Olszewski
— HD 46: Rep. Bruce H. Antone
— HD 48: Rep. Amy Mercado
— HD 49: Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith
— HD 50: Rep. Rene “Coach P” Plasencia
— HD 51: Tyler Sirois
— HD 52: Rep. Thad Altman
— HD 53: Rep. Randy Fine
— HD 54: Rep. Erin Grall
— HD 55: Rep. Cary Pigman
— HD 56: Melony Bell
— HD 58: Rep. Lawrence McClure
— HD 60: Rep. Jackie Toledo
— HD 63: Rep. Shawn Harrison
— HD 64: Rep. James Grant
— HD 65: Rep. Chris Sprowls
— HD 66: Nick DiCeglie
— HD 67: Rep. Chris Latvala
— HD 69: Jeremy Bailie
— HD 70: Rep. Wengay “Newt” Newton
— HD 71: Will Robinson
— HD 73: Tommy Gregory
— HD 76: Rep. Ray Rodrigues
— HD 77: Rep. Dane Eagle
— HD 78: Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen
— HD 80: Rep. Byron Donalds
— HD 82: Rep. Mary Lynn Magar
— HD 85: Rep. Rick Roth
— HD 86: Rep. Matt Willhite
— HD 87: Rep. David Silvers
— HD 92: Rep. Patricia Hawkins-Williams
— HD 96: Rep. Kristin Jacobs
— HD 97: Rep. Jared Moskowitz
— HD 105: Ana Maria Rodriguez
— HD 106: Rep. Bob Rommel
— HD 108: Rep. Roy Hardemon
— HD 111: Rep. Bryan Avila
— HD 112: Rep. Nicholas Duran
— HD 114: Rep. Javier Fernandez
— HD 116: Rep. Danny Perez
— HD 120: Rep. Holly Raschein

‘Raised right’: Rebekah Bydlak releases first TV ad in HD 1 race

Gonzalez Republican Rebekah Bydlak is rolling out her first TV ad in the race for Northwest Florida’s House District 1.

The 30-second spot will start hitting TV screens in the Escambia County district today. Titled “Fresh Conservative Choice,” the ad touts Bydlak’s conservative credentials as well as her status as an “outsider” candidate.

“Isn’t it time for a fresh conservative voice who will work with President [Donald] Trump in Florida? That’s Rebekah Bydlak, a conservative outsider, not a politician. Bydlak is 100 percent pro-life and is endorsed by the NRA for defending the 2nd Amendment,” the ad narrator states.

Bydlak then says, “I was born and raised right here in Escambia County, which means I was raised right. I’m a conservative wanting to make a difference, not a politician looking for my next job. Together, we can hold politicians accountable.”

The penultimate line in the ad could be taken as a jab at former Republican Rep. Mike Hill, who is looking to return to the state House after his failed bid for state Senate in 2016.

To-date, Bydlak has outcampaigned Hill in most metrics. She held a better than 5-to-1 cash advantage in the money race at the end of May, and through June 22 the gulf grew wider with $116,000 in the bank for Bydlak compared to $20,000 on hand for Hill.

She has also snagged the bulk of the endorsements in the race.

In addition to the NRA, Bydlak has been endorsed by the Florida Chamber, Associated Builders and Contractors, the Florida Medical Association, and the Florida Realtors. She’s also gotten the green light from current HD 1 Rep. Clay Ingram, who cannot run again due to term limits.

Also running in the primary is Milton Republican Lisa Doss, who entered on the eve of the June 22 qualifying deadline.

Whomever emerges from the Republican primary on Aug. 28 will be the presumptive winner, though they’ll still have to go up against either Vikki Garrett or Franscine Mathis, are competing for the Democratic nomination.

HD 1 covers the bulk of Escambia County, including the communities of Century, Molino, Gonzalez, Ensley, Ferry Pass, Belleview and Brent. Ingram has held the seat since it was redrawn in 2012. Before that, he held the old HD 2.

Bydlak’s ad is below.

Former Rene Plasencia campaign worker denies taking info to rival

A former campaign volunteer for Rene Plasencia is seeking an apology from the state representative after the Orlando Republican accused him of downloading campaign data and taking it with him to a GOP rival.

George Collins is challenging Plasencia, first elected in 2014, for the House District 50 seat.

“Although my counsel has advised me I have grounds for a defamation lawsuit, what I seek from Rene Plasencia is a public apology for the false claims made against me and the stress inflicted upon me and the campaign,” said Zane C. Matter in an email this week. He was on the Plasencia campaign before he moved to the Collins campaign.

Florida Politics first reported the accusations last month. Matter said he would have publicly addressed the allegations sooner, but because Plasencia had claimed he “was under potential criminal investigation by the Orange County Sheriff’s office, … I was advised by my counsel that it was best to make no public comment at the time.”

Plasencia had alleged that Matter, now serving as Collins’ campaign treasurer, used his access to Plasencia’s webElect political data account to download information after-hours onto a home computer. Matter then left Plasencia on June 1 and joined Collins.

Matter now says a Sheriff’s Office spokesman has told him “there is no criminal investigation.”

“I was given access to webElect as a ‘level 5,’ which did not allow me to see financials, nor have any type of administrative access — and I had no interest in that,” Matter told Florida Politics. “I was given phone numbers and yard sign lists, and access to review and initialize walk packets, as that is what level 5 access allows in webElect.

“I brought no information to the Collins campaign; I simply agreed with George on the issues more and decided to be on his campaign.”

The accusations from Plasencia and his team “were false and nothing more than a political stunt to discourage George from entering the race and qualifying,” Matter said. “George is a conservative who will fight for the issues that matter to the people in District 50.”

Plasencia and Collins will face off in the Aug. 28 Republican primary for HD 50, covering eastern Orange County and northern Brevard County.

They met in the primary two years ago; Plasencia won. Collins filed for a rematch June 5, and later added Matter as his campaign treasurer. The winner will take on Democrat Pamela Joy Dirschka in the November general election.

“… Plasencia sees our campaign as a threat to him,” Matter said. “We are building vast momentum and support.”

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Background for this post taken from previously published reports by Orlando correspondent Scott Powers. Powers is on vacation this week.

Florida Realtors announce their picks for statewide races: Adam Putnam, Ashley Moody, Jimmy Patronis, Denise Grimsley

The political arm of the state’s largest professional trade association, Florida Realtors, handed out endorsements Monday in the statewide races for Florida Governor and Cabinet.

“The health of Florida’s real estate industry and its economy go hand-in-hand,” said Bill Martin, CEO of Florida Realtors. “We need elected officials who understand this relationship and will work tirelessly to enact laws and policies that promote homeownership and protect the rights of homeowners throughout the state.”

Republicans currently have a monopoly on Florida’s four elected offices in the executive branch, and according to Florida Realtors’ endorsements they’d like it to stay that way.

Sitting CFO Jimmy Patronis, the only Republican running in that race, got the nod from Florida Realtors. He’s heading toward a Nov. 6 showdown with former Democratic Sen. Jeremy Ring.

The other statewide races feature competitive primaries.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is the trade association’s pick in the race for Governor. The realtor endorsement is the latest in a long line of endorsements for the Polk County pol, who has previously earned the support of 45 county sheriffs and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, among others.

His primary opponent is U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who has staked out the Trump lane — including an official endorsement — in the race to replace term-limited Gov. Rick Scott.

The contest to replace Putnam is the most crowded of the lot — Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley, Lehigh Acres Rep. Matt Caldwell, retired U.S. Army Col. Mike McCalister and former Winter Haven Rep. Baxter Troutman are vying for the GOP nom, with Caldwell, Grimsley and Troutman all having seven-figure war chests.

Of the four, Grimsley got the endorsement. It’s her third of the day, following her announcement that another two county sheriffs are backing her bid for Ag Commissioner.

For Attorney General, Florida Realtors PAC prefers former circuit court judge Ashley Moody. The Hillsborough native, who has locked up support from more than 40 county sheriffs and current AG Pam Bondi, is up against Pensacola state Rep. Frank White in the Aug. 28 primary.

Florida Realtors said it evaluated candidates on numerous factors, including their voting record on issues that are relevant to the real estate profession.

“Florida is a beacon of success in the nation, but we need dedicated elected officials rolling up their sleeves and working with organizations like ours to ensure that success continues,” said Carrie O’Rourke, vice president of public policy for Florida Realtors. “We believe these candidates will do just that and hope Florida voters agree in November.”

Joe Gruters’ opponent faces big fee for late finance report

Faith Olivia Babis is about to get hit with a bill she could have easily avoided.

The Sarasota Democrat, who is running in the special election for Senate District 23, was a week late in filing her most recent campaign finance report, and state law imposes hefty fees on candidates for being tardy.

Florida statute imposes a $50 penalty for the first three days after the deadline passes, then it ratchets up to $500. The penalty is capped at 25 percent of contributions or expenditures, whichever is greater.

In Babis’ case, she raised $3,482 and spent $5,855 during the first three weeks of June, so she’ll need to write a check for nearly $1,500 to cover those fees.

Her campaign account, while meager for a Senate race, could more than cover it. That’s not the law, however. She has to pay that fine out of her own pocket — and she’s not exactly flush with cash.

According to the financial disclosure paperwork she filed last month, Babis is worth negative $53,000 and her income is listed as $13,148 per year. If she has any savings she could tap into, she didn’t report them. That only means the fee, due in 20 days, will sting that much harder.

There is an appeal process, but in general candidates must be able to prove that “unusual circumstances” contributed to the untimely report.

The violation is certainly an unfortunate lesson for Babis, but it’s an equally bad look for the Florida Democratic Party, which has apparently not stepped in to shepherd their nominee in how to run a campaign by the books. For the party that says “no GOP seat is safe” this year, this certainly doesn’t amp up enthusiasm.

Of course, Babis doesn’t stand much of a chance come Nov. 6. She’s running against Sarasota Republican Rep. Joe Gruters in a district Donald Trump won by 15 percent two years ago.

Tina Polsky

Florida Medical Association endorses Tina Polsky for HD 81

Boca Raton Democrat Tina Polsky added another major backer Monday in her campaign to succeed exiting state Rep. Joe Abruzzo in Palm Beach County’s House District 81.

The new endorsement came in from a political committee tied to the Florida Medical Association, a professional association that represents more than 22,000 medical and osteopathic physicians in the Sunshine State.

“The FMA PAC is honored to endorse Tina Polsky for House District 81. Her work with the elderly of Florida speaks volumes and the FMA looks forward to working with her on health care issues impacting our seniors and members of the community,” said Dr. Mike Patete, president of FMA PAC.

Polsky is a certified mediator that specializes in resolving family conflicts related to issues affecting seniors. She is also active in the senior care community and has volunteered for numerous charitable groups related to senior issues, such as the Alzheimer’s Association.

“I am so proud to be endorsed by the Florida Medical Association and the Palm Beach Medical Society. I am looking forward to working with the doctors who are on the front line to improve access to health care for all Floridians,” said Polsky.

The FMA PAC endorsement comes two weeks after Polsky announced that she’d locked up support from a swath of unions, including Palm Beach-Treasure Coast AFL-CIO, the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association , the Florida Education Association and the Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association.

She has also gotten the nod from Abruzzo, who announced during the 2018 Legislative Session that he would not seek a second term in his return trip to the House.

Polsky is running against fellow Democrat Mindy Koch. All voters, regardless of party affiliation, will be able to participate Aug. 28 Democratic primary since no other candidates qualified for the ballot.

As of June 22, Polsky held a solid lead in the money race with $56,326 raised and another $26,000 in candidate loans. She has $59,281 in the bank. Kock has raised just shy of $11,000 and has about $5,000 on hand.

HD 81 covers a portion of Palm Beach County including the communities of Belle Glade, Pahokee and Parkland.

Tommy Gregory and family

Tommy Gregory releases first ad for HD 73 campaign

Republican attorney Tommy Gregory is rolling out his first TV ad in the race for Sarasota-based House District 73.

The 30-second ad features Gregory’s wife, Erica, outlining his conservative credentials and explaining why she was on board when her husband floated the idea of seeking public office.

“When Tommy asked me if he should run for public office, I was confident the answer was yes. Because of the challenges facing our country. Illegal immigration. Liberals attacking the President and our Constitution,” Erica Gregory says in the ad.

“Tommy is a true conservative. And he has served as a veteran, a prosecutor, and a father. Protecting America and fighting for us. Florida needs Tommy Gregory.”

Gregory echoed many of his wife’s talking points in a press release announcing the TV ad.

“Our state and nation face significant challenges,” said Gregory. “I’m proud to be running as a true conservative because I believe conservative principles offer the best solutions to those challenges. Erica does a great job making the issues in this race crystal clear in this spot, and I’m excited to continue getting our message out to the voters of District 73.”

Gregory faces Melissa Howard in the Republican Primary for HD 73. Democrat Liv Coleman is also running for the seat, though the GOP nominee will have the best odds to replace Gruters in the Republican stronghold.

As of June 22, Gregory had $159,585 in the bank between his campaign and committee, including $25,000 in candidate contributions. Howard had $129,040 across her two accounts on the same date.

HD 73 covers parts of Sarasota and Manatee counties. It is open in 2018 due to current Gruters’ decision to run for the Senate seat currently held by Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube, who is running for Congress.

Gregory’s ad is below.

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