2018 election – Page 5 – Florida Politics

Frank White puts another $1.25M of own money behind A.G. bid

Pensacola Republican Rep. Frank White has boosted his campaign for Attorney General with another $1.25 million in self-funding according to a source close to his campaign.

The cash infusion brings White’s cash on hand up to $3.3 million. That total includes $1.5 million he used to bolster his campaign shortly after it launched in October.

The move gives White a more than $1.7 million hard-money advantage over his leading rival in the Republican Primary, former circuit court judge Ashley Moody. She had $1.45 million in her campaign account heading into May. Jacksonville Rep. Jay Fant was in a distant third with $839,000 banked, including $750,000 in loans.

The two-to-one hard money advantage would certainly make an impact when “lowest unit rate” rules kick in 45 days out from the primary election. By making the call two months ahead of that phase of the race, however, White may be signaling that he plans to hit the airwaves hard without waiting for the discount, and possibly even before the qualifying period begins in mid-June.

Self-funding spends the same as money raised the hard way – Philip Levine has effectively bought a ticket to the top of the four-way Democratic Primary for governor by dumping millions of his own money into running ads. The same could be said for Gov. Rick Scott in his 2010 campaign.

White’s campaign has pushed out eight online videos already, including a half-dozen designed to drop into a 30-second TV slot.

If White were to take the Scott/Levine approach and push those or similar ads out to Florida voters, it could help him gain ground on Moody, who leads him in endorsements and true fundraising as well as name recognition.

Moody was the top pick and White was the bottom one in a too-early poll of the Republican Primary for AG. A more recent survey testing Republican candidates against likely Democratic nominee Sean Shaw didn’t even include White as an option.

Donors weren’t far behind for Levine or Scott once they got their names out, either, so White could also be treating the massive amount of self-funding as a strategy to spark interest from donors, who so far have been more keen on sending checks to Moody.

In April alone, Moody nearly tripled White in fundraising if the $50,000 check he received from his in-laws is excluded.

Audrey Gibson backs Daphne Campbell over Jason Pizzo in SD 38

Incoming Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson weighed in on the Democratic Primary in Senate District 38 Wednesday, announcing she would back incumbent Sen. Daphne Campbell in her race against insurgent challenger Jason Pizzo.

“Today I formally endorse the campaign of Sen. Daphne Campbell in her re-election bid for the state Senate. As a vocal and caring member, Sen. Campbell has worked tirelessly representing the people of Miami-Dade County with thoughtfulness and high standards. I have worked closely with Sen. Campbell and know that she will continue to be a strong voice for the residents of District 38,” Gibson said in a news release.

Gibson’s endorsement comes a little over three months before voters decide whether Campbell, who moved from the House to the Senate in 2016, gets another term in the northeastern Miami-Dade seat.

“I am honored to have the support of the Incoming Senate Democratic Leader, in my race for re-election. Leader Gibson has been a tremendous colleague during my time in the Senate, and I look forward to continuing our work together in Tallahassee,” Campbell said.

Pizzo, a Miami attorney, has had his name down to challenge Campbell since shortly after her election last cycle. He was the second-place finisher in the six-way primary for the seat two years ago, and around the start of the year he began campaigning in earnest with a message of “building bridges in what is Florida’s most diverse state Senate district.”

Since his operation got off the ground, he’s nearly matched Campbell in fundraising with $77,000 raised in three months to her $79,700 raised over 18 months. He’s also laid down $75,000 of his own money, giving his campaign a substantial lead in cash on hand — $78,200 to $32,500.

No other candidates are challenging Campbell, though a GOP or other party candidate jumping in the race would pose little threat to the eventual Democratic nominee. SD 38 is a blue stronghold that Campbell — and Hillary Clinton — won with 75 percent of the vote two years ago.

Sean Shaw endorsed by three state attorneys

Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw announced Wednesday that three state attorneys are backing his campaign for the Cabinet post.

The endorsements came in from Dave Aronberg of the 15th Circuit, Jack Campbell of the 2nd Circuit and Andrew Warren of the 13th Circuit. Each cited a different strong point in their statements backing the Tampa Democrat’s bid to replace termed-out Attorney General Pam Bondi.

“I’m endorsing Sean Shaw to be our next Attorney General because he has a proven track record as a fearless advocate for consumers and a financial watchdog for Florida taxpayers,” said Aronberg, also a former state Senator. “I’ve seen firsthand the devastating impact the opioid epidemic is inflicting on our communities, and I know that Sean Shaw will target those responsible for this epidemic and will help local prosecutors keep our streets safe.”

Campbell’s endorsement invoked Shaw’s “proven track record” of fighting to keep children safe.

“I’m supporting Sean Shaw because we need a partner in the Attorney General’s office to crack down on those who seek to harm our children in our communities and over the internet. I look forward to working with Sean on this invaluable mission,” he said.

Warren added, “Over the last two years, I’ve had the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with Sean Shaw on common sense criminal justice reforms that keep our communities safe and offer second chances to those who deserve them. Sean has my endorsement because I know he will bring that same mindset of results-oriented reform to the Attorney General’s office. Floridians deserve a truly independent watchdog committed to ensuring equal protection under the law, and they will have that when Sean Shaw is elected Attorney General.”

Shaw is currently in his first term as a state Representative and is the leading Democrat in the Attorney General race. Before elected office, he served as the state’s insurance consumer advocate under former CFO Alex Sink. The state attorney endorsements follow a recent endorsement from the Florida Police Benevolent Association.

“I am extremely grateful for the support of State Attorneys Aronberg, Campbell, and Warren as we seek to return the power of the Attorney General’s office back to the people of Florida, where it belongs,” Shaw said. “I look forward to working with these highly respected members of law enforcement as Attorney General to fight back against the opioid epidemic, keep our children safe, and institute smart criminal justice reforms to make ensure fairness and equity for all those who come into contact with the law.”

Shaw faces Ryan Torrens in the Democratic Primary. Running on the Republican side are former circuit court judge Ashley Moody and state Reps. Jay Fant and Frank White.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

Andrew Gillum releases poll showing him picking up ‘informed Democrats” votes

The campaign for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum is releasing results of an internal poll Wednesday that shows him tied with Gwen Graham and within striking distance of frontrunner Philip Levine – and leading among Democrats after the pollsters provided pitches for each candidate and asked again.

The poll finds what all others have been saying to date, that a majority of Democrats still don’t know the candidates, most haven’t made up their minds, and more than a few who have decided are waffling on their choices. Yet the campaign for the Tallahassee Mayor Gillum maintains that it also shows that people are beginning to make up their minds, and that he’s well positioned once voters are informed.

“This latest poll shows that with a little more than 100 days until primary day, Mayor Gillum is prepared to jump into the lead,” Geoff Burgan, Gillum’s campaign communications contended in a news release.

“As we continue educating voters about his background as the son of a bus driver and construction worker, and his bold, progressive agenda to invest more than $1 billion in our public schools and students, give teachers and support staff the raise they deserve, and make quality health care a constitutional right for all Floridians, Mayor Gillum is poised to win this wide-open primary,” Burgan added.

The on-line poll was conducted by Change Research of 1,107 likely Democratic primary voters in Florida between May 8-11 last week. Change Research applied its proprietary “Bias Correct” method to yelled a representative sample, according to the Gillum campaign.

The findings of all voters asked whom they would vote for gave Levine, the former Miami Beach mayor, 20 percent; Gillum and Graham, the former congresswoman from Tallahassee, 13 percent each; and Chris King, the Winter Park entrepreneur 3 percent. Fifty-two percent of the likely Democratic voters surveyed said they were undecided.

After receiving brief pitches and photographs of each candidate, provided by the pollsters, a second question on whom the respondents would vote for gave Gillum 35 percent, Graham 23 percent, Levine 20 percent, and King 10 percent, with 13 percent remaining unsure, the Gillum campaign reported.

Favorability ratings questions found that Levine, who’s been airing statewide television commercials since January, is the only candidate of whom a majority of Democratic voters have heard. Levine’s favorable ratings totaled 44 percent, including 16 percent finding him very favorable; while a total of 15 percent of those surveyed gave him unfavorable ratings, including 5 percent who found him very unfavorable. Another 41 percent don’t know him.

Gillum, whose been running digital ads on the internet, had total favorable ratings of 32 percent (with 14 percent very favorable) and total unfavorable ratings of 13 percent (including 4 percent very unfavorable.) Yet 55 percent said they had “never heard of him.”

Graham, who’s also been relying on internet advertising to date, had the the best favorable/unfavorable ratio, with 36 percent saying they hold favorable opinions (14 percent saying very favorable) of her, and only 11 percent having unfavorable (including 3 percent very unfavorable) opinions of her. Fifty-three percent said they never heard of her.

King, who is beginning statewide television commercials this week, came in with 21 percent favorable ratings (including 5 percent very favorable) and 14 percent unfavorable (including 4 percent very unfavorable.) Sixty-five percent of those polled said they never heard of him.

Sixty-two percent of the Democrats surveyed said the state was on the wrong track, with 13 percent saying it was on the right track.

When asked to rate President Donald Trump on a scale of 1-10, 84 percent of the Democratic voters surveyed gave him a “1.” Four percent gave him a “10.”

Teacher union touts Janet Cruz as ‘tireless champion’

The state’s largest teacher union announced Wednesday that it is backing House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in her bid to unseat Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young in Senate District 18.

“Rep. Janet Cruz has been a tireless champion for our educators, students, and parents,” said Florida Education Association President Joanne McCall. “While Republicans, including Senator Dana Young, voted to underfund public education, undercut teachers, and emphasize testing over teaching, teachers have always been able to count on Rep. Cruz.”

Cruz said she was “honored to receive this support from our educators.”

“Because of the failed leadership in Tallahassee, Hillsborough County schools are having to cut teachers, including bilingual classroom aides, and can’t even afford to repair air conditioning in certain schools — while brand new for-profit schools are being funded and built with tax dollars that should be going to our public schools,” Cruz said.

“It’s unacceptable. Tallahassee has to change. We need more teaching, less testing, higher teacher pay, and lawmakers who show up, just like educators and school staff do every single day without fail.”

The job cuts Cruz referenced are detailed in a Tampa Bay Times article on Hillsborough County Schools’ $38.2 million budget shortfall for next school year, which caused the district to cut 800 jobs, including 220 elementary school teachers, 116 custodial workers and 106 bilingual classroom aides.

Cruz launched her SD 18 campaign on April 10. Fellow Democrat Bob Buesing, the 2016 nominee in SD 18, exited the race and announced encouraged his supporters to back Cruz. The move left Cruz as Young’s lone challenger for the Hillsborough-based district.

Through three weeks in the race, Cruz’ campaign and an affiliated committee reported raising $146,600 – more than Buesing did in three months. Including money she had raised prior to entering, she has $267,200 on hand.

That gives her a jumpstart in catching up to Young, though she is far from matching the Tampa Republican’s overall totals of $1.45 million raised and $1.1 million on hand.

SD 18 is atop the list of districts Florida Democrats think they can flip in 2018. It is the only one of their main targets – which also include SD 8, SD 16 and SD 24 – that voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election cycle, and Cruz is by far the most experienced candidate Democrats have recruited to run in one of those battlegrounds.

Young was elected to the Senate in 2016 after taking 48 percent of the vote compared to 41 percent for Buesing. Nearly 10 percent of the remaining ballots were cast for businessman Joe Redner while no-party candidate Sheldon Upthegrove received 1 percent support. Early in his 2018 campaign, Buesing pointed to Young’s victory via a plurality as evidence that the seat was ripe for a flip in 2018.

Neil Combee heralds second wave of Polk endorsements

Auburndale Republican Neil Combee announced another half-dozen endorsements for his campaign to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross in Florida’s 15th Congressional District, all of them from Polk County.

The nods came from former lawmaker J.D. Alexander, who served in the Florida House and Senate from 1998 to 2012, former State Attorney Jerry Hill, former Polk County Commissioner and former mayor of Auburndale Jack Myers, former Polk County Commissioner Jerry Carter, former Lakeland City Commissioner Don Gifford and former Polk County Commissioner and current member of the Southwest Florida Water Management District Paul Senft.

“I have known Neil Combee for many years now, and there is no one else who’s as passionate about serving others, agriculture, small business owners, or preserving our constitutional rights. He will always stand up for what’s right in Washington, and won’t forget those of us back here at home. I’m proud to endorse Neil for Congress,” Alexander said.

All the endorsements touted Combee’s conservative principles, from gun rights and job creation to secure borders and respect for the rule of law. Carter’s endorsement focused on Combee as a person, rather than his record as a politician.

“There aren’t many people out there today that are like Neil. His integrity, grit, spirit, and passion alone will make him a great congressman, however the most outstanding trait of Neil Combee is his heart for service. I’ve known Neil for 40 years now, and Washington needs more people like Neil, and I am proud to support Neil for Congress,” he said.

Wednesday’s announcement makes for a dozen Polk County endorsements so far. Last week, he announced the first half-dozen: Republican state Reps. Ben AlbrittonMike LaRosa and Josie Tomkow, former Republican Rep. John Wood, Auburndale Mayor Tim Pospichal and Polk City Mayor Joe LaCascia.

“I am blown away from the support that this campaign is getting, and I am honored that these folks think so highly of me that they would put their name behind this run for Congress. I am excited to have them on Team Combee,” Combee said.

CD 15 is split between Hillsborough and Polk counties, with about 10 percent of the district’s voters living in Lake County. Of the dozen candidates running for the seat this year, Combee is the most well-known in Polk County. He held the District 39 seat in the Florida House from November 2012 until November 2017, when he resigned to accept a presidential appointment at the USDA. He is also a former Polk County Commissioner.

Combee faces Dover state Rep. Ross SpanoSean HarperDanny KushmerCurt Rogers and Ed Shoemaker in the Republican Primary. Also running for the seat are Democrats Kristen CarlsonAndrew Learned and Ray Pena as well as three write-in candidates. CD 15 is rated “likely Republican” by Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the prediction newsletter from University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato.

Spano, who lives in the Hillsborough portion of the district, is likely Combee’s most prepared opponent in the primary race. He moved his campaign over from the Attorney General race shortly after Ross’ retirement announcement.

Since then, he and Combee have released dueling press releases touting their support from area officials and announcing campaign events. Spano announced earlier this week that he’d picked up another dozen endorsements, including a pair from Combee’s Polk County turf.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

Jennifer Sullivan cedes ground in HD 31 money race

Mount Dora Republican Rep. Jennifer Sullivan has gone three months without raising a dime for her House District 31 re-election bid, allowing challenger Debra Kaplan to continue playing catchup.

April saw the Eustis Democrat bring in $2,430 – nearly double what she raised through the first three months of the year and her best fundraising report since filing for HD 31 in March 2017.

That haul came in across 33 contributions, most of them from small-dollar donors chipping in $100 or less. Tavaraes retiree Belita Grassel topped the monthly donor roll with a $500 check.

That total was offset by about $100 in spending, half of it for postage and the rest for petition signature verification, web hosting and credit card processing fees through fundraising platform ActBlue.

Kaplan finished April with just shy of $10,000 in total fundraising and $7,000 in the bank.

That total still puts her far behind Sullivan who, thanks to HD 31’s voter split, is nearly ensured a third term. Thanks to hitting the fundraising trail prior to the 2018 Legislative Session, the second-term lawmaker still has more than half of the $39,800 she’s raised in her campaign account.

After spending $2,350 in April, including $1,000 for consulting work from Gainesville-based Data Targeting Research, she had $21,121 in the bank.

HD 31 covers northeast Lake County and northwest Orange County and has a strong Republican base. GOP voters make up 44 percent of the electorate compared to a 31 percent share for Democrats, who haven’t fielded a candidate since the seat was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections.

Sullivan was elected to the seat without an Election Day challenger in 2014 after taking nearly 35 percent of the vote in a five-way Republican Primary. Her only opposition in 2016 came from unaffiliated candidate Robert Rightmyer, whom she beat 73-27. The seat voted 59-36 for Donald Trump.

Bob Cortes

Bob Cortes cracks $100K raised for HD 30 re-election

Altamonte Springs Republican Rep. Bob Cortes crossed $100,000 in total fundraising last month in his bid for a third term representing House District 30.

Cortes’ April campaign finance report shows $10,650 in new money and $2,775 in spending, bringing his to-date total to $105,325 with more than $85,000 banked.

The new report lists 16 contributions, half of which were for the campaign maximum of $1,000. Top donors included towing company Emerald Transportation and political committees tied to incoming House Speaker Jose Olvia, Palm Coast Republican Rep. Paul Renner and St. Petersburg Republican Rep. Chris Sprowls, who is set to take the gavel after the 2020 elections.

Topping the expenditure list was a $1,500 payment to Tallahassee-based Silver Productions for video work and nearly $1,000 to D&D Enterprises of Sanford for campaign promotional items.

Two Democratic challengers stand between Cortes and a third term: Clark Anderson and Maitland City Commissioner Joy Goff-Marcil.

Goff-Marcil, who filed in mid-February, saw her contributions halve compared to her first two months in the race, though she still holds a substantial lead over Anderson. She raised $3,748 in April and spent $4,350. Through three finance reports, she’s raised $18,638 and has $14,256 in the bank.

Anderson, the first-in Democrat, added $350 to his coffers through more than a dozen small-dollar donations. He spent $500 more than he brought in, however, causing him to dip into the candidate loans he used to jumpstart his campaign in January.

He’s brought in $13,875 since filing, including $10,000 in loans. He has $9,858 on hand.

HD 30 straddles the border of Seminole and Orange counties and includes the communities of Altamonte Springs, Casselberry, Eatonville, Fern Park, Forest City, Goldenrod, Lockhart and Maitland. About two-thirds of HD 30 voters live on the Seminole side.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district by about 3,000, though Cortes was able to kick out former Democratic Rep. Karen Castor Dentel with a 3-point win in 2014. He followed that up with a 7-point win over Democrat Ryan Neal Yadav in his 2016 re-election campaign.

Tracey Kagan

Tracey Kagan tops HD 29 Democratic field with first finance report

Tracey Kagan raised about $10,000 and put another $5,000 of her own cash on the line to take the top spot in the three-way Democratic Primary for HD 29.

The report, her first since entering the race, was good enough to beat incumbent Republican Rep. Scott Plakon’s $12,690 effort in April.

Outside of the loan and some “in-kind” contributions, the Longwood attorney brought in 64 donations. All but three of those came from donors chipping in $250 or less.

Her top contributors were Orlando homemaker Jackie Pollack and family member Janice Kagan, both of whom gave $1,000. Iris Stockton of Altamonte Springs came in just behind them with a $900 check near the end of the month. Spending was light, with a $587 printing job making up the bulk of her outflow.

Kagan started May with $14,229 in the bank.

She faces Lake Mary attorney Darryl Block and Longwood attorney Patrick Brandt in the Democratic Primary. Block kept up his slow and steady fundraising with $1,175 in new money last month, while Brandt laid an egg for the fourth consecutive month.

Block, who recently qualified for the ballot, has now raised just over $10,000, including $4,500 in candidate loans, since he filed for the race in January. He has about $4,900 in the bank. Brandt has raised $3,787 for his bid, though all of that came in before New Year’s. He has $1,325 on hand.

Far ahead in the race is Plakon, who is currently in the second term of his second stint in the Florida House.

His April report included 33 contributions topped by eight $1,000 checks. Half of those came in from the Strang family – both Steven Strang and Joy Strang gave, as did their companies, Stange Properties and Charisma Media.

The report brings his total fundraising up to $74,040. He finished the month with $67,630. He has another $9,185 stashed away in his political committee, Floridians for Prosperity and Economic Liberty, though it hasn’t added any cash since October.

HD 29 covers part of western Seminole County, including Heathrow, Lake Mary, Longwood, Wekiwa Springs and part of Sanford. There are about 7,500 more registered Republican voters than Democrats within its borders.

The seat is not a total reach for Democrats, however. In 2012, Democrat Mike Clelland pulled off a shocker by defeating former Republican Rep. Chris Dorworth by fewer than 150 votes. Dorworth was in line to be House Speaker after the 2014 elections.

Plakon kicked out Clelland with a 13-point win in 2014. He went unopposed two years later when Donald Trump carried the seat by about 4 points.

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.

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