2018 election – Page 6 – Florida Politics

More sheriffs back Denise Grimsley for Ag Commissioner

Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley has added two more lawmen to her stable of supporters in the four-way Republican primary to succeed term-limited Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam

Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis and Sumter County Sheriff William Farmer were the new additions. They join 29 other county sheriffs in declaring their support for the 14-year state lawmaker.

“We know that Denise is prepared to make the tough calls on Day One in office and that she will do what it takes to hold criminals and fraudsters accountable with the help of Florida law enforcement,” Nienhuis said.  “Her passion for Florida and protecting its citizens is unparalleled and I stand behind her 100 percent.”

Farmer added, “Denise has been a consistent champion of law enforcement and I know that as Florida’s next Commissioner of Agriculture she will stand by us more than ever. I look forward to lending her my endorsement and spreading the word in the law enforcement community that Denise is the right candidate for the job.”

Grimsley said it was a “true privilige to say that more than 30 of Florida’s sheriffs have endorsed our campaign for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture.”

“Blue lives are sacred; and, as a cabinet member, I pledge to stand behind the honorable women and men in law enforcement that have dedicated their lives to upholding the rule of law and, in turn, keeping our families safe and secure,” she said.

Grimsley faces Lehigh Acres Rep. Matt Caldwell, retired U.S. Army Col. Mike McCalister and former Winter Haven Rep. Baxter Troutman in the Republican primary for the Cabinet position. Also running are Democrats Nikki Fried, Jeff Porter and David Walker.

Through June 29, Caldwell had about $1.2 million in the bank between his campaign and committee accounts, followed by Grimsley with about $975,000. Troutman leads the field with $1.45 million banked, though nearly all of his campaign cash has come in through self-funding.

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

Julio Gonzalez raises $225K for congressional bid

State Rep. Julio Gonzalez brought in another $225,000 last quarter for his campaign to succeed U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney in Florida’s 17th Congressional District.

“I am proud to have the support of so many Floridians,” Gonzalez said.  “We’ve built support throughout the district and earned the endorsements of conservative leaders who care about sending effective conservative leaders to Washington.”

The Venice Republican didn’t indicate whether the $225,000 raised includes any candidate loans.

During the first quarter of 2018 he lent the campaign $150,000, which accounted for the bulk of his $233,700 report. He had $229,900 on hand at the end of March.

Gonzalez faces Sarasota Sen. Greg Steube and Greg Akins in the Republican primary, neither of whom have announced their second quarter fundraising numbers.

At the end of the first quarter, Steube had raised $63,550 for his campaign during including $15,000 in loans. Akins, who filed in October, has raised $10,850 including $2,700 in loans.

Steube filed for CD 17 shortly after Rooney announced in late February that he would not run for re-election in 2018. Gonzalez followed shortly after the 2018 Legislative Session wrapped, making for two sitting state lawmakers in the race.

Also running for the seat are Democrats April Freeman and Bill Pollard, though they face long odds in the general election — CD 17 is rated “safe Republican” by Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the prediction newsletter from University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato. The district also voted plus-27 for Donald Trump two years ago.

CD 17 sprawls across parts of Sarasota, Lee and Polk counties as well as the whole of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee counties. Rooney has held the seat since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections.

Bob Rommel endorsed by Florida Retail Federation

State Rep. Bob Rommel has earned the support of the Florida Retail Federation in his bid for a second term representing Collier County’s House District 106.

“As an entrepreneur and business owner himself, Representative Rommel knows how important it is to reduce burdensome regulations and pass legislation making it easier for businesses to prosper,” said FRF President/CEO R. Scott Shalley. “Rommel has been focused on creating jobs and supporting Florida businesses and we know he’ll continue this focus during this next term in the Florida House.”

Rommel, a Naples Republican, co-owns three restaurants with his business partner, including Bistro 41 in Fort Myers and Bayfront Bistro in Fort Myers Beach.

Rommel was elected to the state House in 2016, replacing now-Sen. Kathleen Passidomo. His only true challenge last cycle came in the Republican primary, where he took 52 percent of the vote in a three-way race against Nick Ballo and Lavigne Ann Kirkpatrick. In the general election his only opposition came from a write-in candidate.

This year Rommel won’t face an opponent in August, but he will face one in November.

Challenging him for the coastal Collier seat is Democrat Sara McFadden, a small businesswoman who became politically active in the 2016 election cycle and elected as a state committeewoman and appointed as a vice chair for the state party in short order.

Through June 22, Rommel had raised more than $125,000 for his re-election bid and had $108,822 banked. McFadden has the edge with $110,867 in the bank, though her total includes $100,000 in candidate loans.

HD 106 has a hefty Republican advantage. The most recent book closing report from the Florida Division of Elections shows Republicans make up 55 percent of the district’s voters compared to a 21 percent share for Democrats. The seat also voted plus-29 for Donald Trump two years ago.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Ross Spano

Ross Spano leads Republican field in CD 15, poll shows

Republican state Rep. Ross Spano has a double-digit lead in the race for Florida’s 15th Congressional District according to a fresh poll of primary voters in the tri-county district.

The St. Pete Polls survey found Spano with 31.6 percent support among CD 15 Republicans, 12 points ahead of former GOP Auburndale state Rep. Neil Combee.

The race is far from over, however, with “undecided” being the choice of 37.4 percent of voters seven weeks out from the Aug. 28 primary.

Still, the new poll is a shift from late May, when the same pollster found Spano, of Dover, with 29-23 percent over Combee. That lead fell within the margin of error. The new one does not.

Spano and Combee have been considered the leading candidates on the Republican side since the field settled in the wake of current U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross’ mid-April announcement that he wouldn’t seek another term. That preliminary status had a lot to do with the geographic makeup of CD 15.

About half of CD 15 Republicans live in northeastern Hillsborough County, and Spano represents much of that area in the state House.

Another 40 percent live in northern Polk County, which Combee represented for five years before resigning in November to accept a presidential appointment with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He is also a former Polk County Commissioner.

The remaining 10 percent of CD 15 Republicans live in southern Lake County.

Also running in the primary race are Lakeland contractor Sean Harper, Brandon agribusinessman Danny Kushmer and Lakeland mental health practitioner Ed Shoemaker in the primary race.

Shoemaker was the No. 3 candidate in the poll with 4.2 percent support, followed by Harper with 3 percent and Kushmer with 2.3 percent. Another 2.1 percent of Republican voters said they were supporting Curt Rogers, who did not qualify for the ballot.

Though he polled in last place, Kushmer has surged on the endorsement front this week, nabbing support from Bartow Commissioner James Clements and staunchly pro-life group Florida Right to Life. And he tacked on another endorsement, this time from Lake Wales Mayor Eugene Fultz, as the CD 15 poll was released.

“Danny, I have worked with you long enough to know that you are a man of integrity. I believe that you will represent the 15th District well. You have my support,” the Polk County pol said in a news release.

Whoever emerges from the Republican primary will go up against the winner of the Democratic primary contest between Kristen Carlson, Andrew Learned and Ray Pena. The district is rated “likely Republican” by Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the prediction newsletter from University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato.

Also included in the poll was a measure of how CD 15 Republicans view President Donald Trump, and a commanding 89.5 percent said they approved of the controversial commander-in-chief. Only 4.5 percent dissented, while 6 percent were on the fence.

The St. Pete Polls surveyed voters July 8 using an automated phone call polling system. Results were weighted to account for proportional differences between the respondents’ demographics and the demographics of the active Republican primary voter population in CD 15.

The poll had a sample size of 532 Republican voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

Philip Levine touts record on police reform in new ad

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is out with a new ad highlighting a key hire made during his four-year tenure as Miami Beach mayor.

The 30-second ad, titled “What a Leader Does,” is on former Lauretta Hill, who was appointed deputy chief of police at the Miami Beach Police Department in 2014. She has since moved on to become a police commissioner in Dallas.

“Four years ago, Philip Levine led the effort to reform the Miami Beach Police Department by putting citizens first,” Hill says in the ad. “I should know, because I was there, sworn in by Mayor Levine as the highest-ranking woman and African-American in department history.

“Together we fought racism, brought the community and police closer, and saw violent crime drop. He took a lot of heat from those who fought progress. But Philip? He’s never been afraid—to do the right thing.”

Though Hill was appointed to the Miami Beach job by Police Chief Dan Oates, the Levine campaign says the ad “underscores the actions taken by Mayor Levine and city leaders to reform the police department following several high-profile incidents of excessive force.”

Levine added that “Hill embodies the best that our country has to offer and it was my absolute honor to work alongside her in Miami Beach. It wasn’t easy, but together, we reformed a police department and made Miami Beach safer by working with our community.  It’s time we take the same approach statewide, partner with law enforcement and our communities to deliver real change and build a better, safer Florida.”

Levine is one of five major Democrats vying to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Scott. He faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene and Orlando-area businessman Chris King in the Aug. 28 primary election.

As of June 29, he led the Democratic field in money raised, though his total includes more than $11 million of self-funding.

The ad, viewable below, will start hitting airwaves Monday.

Jimmy Patronis triples Jeremy Ring in June fundraising for CFO race

Campaign finance reports covering most of last month show sitting Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis continuing to build his cash advantage over his challenger, former Democratic Sen. Jeremy Ring.

Patronis brought in $167,500 during the past two reporting cycles, which cover June 1 through June 29. The Panama City Republican raised $92,100 of that money through his campaign account, with the balance coming in through his political committee, Treasure Florida.

Ring brought in $56,590 over the same stretch, including $26,590 in hard money and $30,000 in soft money raised through his political committee, Florida Action Fund.

Patronis’ campaign account received more than a dozen checks for $3,000 last month, the maximum contribution for statewide campaigns, while Treasure Florida’s biggest contribution in June was a $25,000 check from the United Association, a labor union for plumbers and pipefitters.

His two accounts spent a combined $61,000 for the month, with the single biggest check heading to the Florida Department of State to cover his qualifying fee.

Ring’s campaign account notched just three $3,000 checks, with the bulk of his funds coming in from small-dollar donors. Florida Action Fund’s largest contribution of the month came in from the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teacher union. They sent a $15,000 check on June 29.

Patronis has now reeled in $3.8 million for his 2018 campaign and had $3.28 million banked on June 29. Ring has raised $1.15 million for his bid, including money he raised for his committee prior to becoming a candidate, and has $472,000 in the bank. His total also includes $150,000 in candidate loans.

Though Patronis has a clear lead in fundraising, recent polls of the CFO race have been split.

A Public Policy Polling survey commissioned by Democratic consultant Christian Ulvert of EDGE Communications last month showed Ring with a 39-34 percent lead over Patronis. A separate poll released by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which has endorsed Patronis, found the incumbent with a 40-31 percent edge over Ring.

Ring and Patronis are the only two major party candidates running for CFO, though write-in candidate Richard Paul Dembinsky has also qualified for the race.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Wilton Simpson puts another $500K into GOP Senate campaign arm

Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson gave his colleagues a helping hand last month by sending another $500,000 to the main committee supporting Republican state Senate campaigns.

Simpson, who is in line to become Senate President if Republicans maintain their majority in the chamber through the 2020 elections, sent that money to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee from his Jobs for Florida political committee.

The Trilby Senator has now pumped nearly $1.4 million into the FRSCC since he opened his political committee, including $835,000 in contributions during the current election cycle.

While Simpson is known as a prolific fundraiser — he’s raised $1.5 million through his committee this year — the funds transfer is more significant as a window into FRSCC’s finances.

There’s no reason to believe FRSCC has seen a drop off in fundraising.

Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano has been in charge raising money for the committee since last year, and through March 31 he had helped reel in $7 million for the committee, including a record-breaking haul in the third quarter of 2017.

But unlike candidates for office, who saw their schedule of finance reporting deadlines ratchet up after qualifying period for state races ended on June 22, party affiliated committees such as the FRSCC won’t file their next reports until Aug. 24. That leaves a months long gap in finances heading into an election that could shake up the balance of power in the Florida Senate.

Piecing together expenditure data from other political committees shows FRSCC has raised at least $1.5 million since April 1. Simpson’s contributions are by far the largest based on available data, however there are a handful of other donors who have hit the six-figure mark over the last three months.

Those include The Florida Chamber of Commerce, which has given $195,000 between its Florida Jobs and Florida Chamber of Commerce Alliance committees; Floridians for a Stronger Democracy, a political committee tied to the Associated Industries of Florida, which has given $190,000; the Florida Medical Association PAC has sent over $150,000; and Fleming Island Sen. Rob Bradley has chipped in $100,000 through his Working for Florida’s Families committee.

How much FRSCC has spent is even murkier. Republican Senate candidates have reported receiving $191,261 worth of “in-kind” support from the group since the start of April, including $85,000 apiece to the campaigns of Gainesville Sen. Keith Perry and Tampa Sen. Dana Young, who are the two most vulnerable Senate Republicans up for re-election in 2018.

Danny Kushmer

Danny Kushmer adds endorsements for CD 15 bid

Republican Danny Kushmer picked up two endorsements on Friday for his bid to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross in Florida’s 15th Congressional District.

The first came in from Bartow Commissioner James Clements.

“When endorsing someone, you want a person you believe in and their ideas and their solutions align with yours. I’ve known Danny Kushmer for over 12 years now and I believe in his abilities to set Washington DC straight,” he said.

Clements’ joins fellow Bartow Commissioner Trish Pfeiffer in backing Kushmer. The Polk County support is a major coup for South Hillsborough resident as one of his chief opponents in the Republican primary is former Auburndale state Rep. Neil Combee, who locked up a lot of support in his home turf in the early goings of the race.

“I am honored by the outpouring of support for my campaign and truly humbled by the support of Commissioner Clements. I look forward to working in Congress to insure local government can do the work they need without duplicative and unnecessary interference from Washington. It is time for new ideas in Washington DC,” Kushmer said.

Also announcing support for Kushmer was Florida Right to Life, a staunchly pro-life conservative group that opposes any abortion, regardless of circumstance. In an email, the group said Kushmer earned its “A” rating and that they recommended a vote for him in the five-way Republican primary.

“Being someone that was adopted, I have always held strong to the belief that all life is precious and should be protected. While others may feel we should have a choice in life or death, I do not. My birth mother, whoever and wherever she may be chose life, and my parents chose me,” Kushmer said.

Kushmer faces Combee, Sean Harper, Ed Shoemaker, and Dover state Rep. Ross Spano in the Republican primary. None of the Republicans who made the ballot have filed a quarterly finance report, since they all entered the race until after Ross announced his retirement in mid-April.

Also running for the seat are Democrats Kristen CarlsonAndrew Learned and Ray Pena as well as three write-in candidates.

CD 15 is split between Hillsborough and Polk counties, with about 10 percent of the district’s voters living in Lake County. The district 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.

Jeff Greene, Philip Levine continue self-funding spree

Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene pumped another $3.5 million into his gubernatorial campaign last week, and fellow South Florida Democrat Philip Levine threw another $1.1 million into his, according to newly filed campaign finance reports.

Greene has now put $7.1 million of his own cash into his campaign. The late-entry into the race has yet to show any outside fundraising, though he has stated that is by design.

In an interview with Florida Politics last month, the one-time U.S. Senate candidate said he may open his campaign up to small-dollar donors down the line so supporters can have some skin in the game.

Along with the seven-figure check came seven figures worth of expenses.

A $2.77 million ad buy through Fortune Media of Redondo Beach, California, accounted for the bulk of the $3.63 million spent by the campaign between June 22 and June 29. Also on the ledger was a $740,000 payment to Street Smartz Consulting and about a dozen smaller expenses, mainly for consulting.

The campaign also received a $350,000 refund from New York City-based MV Digital Group. That company had received $537,000 from Greene during the first three weeks of June to manage and develop his social media presence.

The campaign had $730,000 in the bank at the end of the reporting period. White that’s the least of any major gubernatorial candidate, Greene has committed to spending “whatever it takes” on his statewide bid and is sure to show another several million of self-funding in his next weekly report.

Levine, the former mayor of Miami Beach, raised $162,000 in addition to kicking in another $1.1 million of his own money. He has loaned his campaign $8.4 million thus far and has put another $2.8 million into his affiliated political committee, All About Florida.

The campaign account received $57,000 of the outside money raised last week. A handful of max checks topped the sheet, while more than 150 donors checked in with contributions of $100 or less.

All About Florida raised the other $105,000, with half of that cash coming in from a political committee chaired by Christian Ulvert, a senior adviser to the Levine campaign.

Levine’s campaign and committee also spent a combined $1.62 million last week, including a $1.2 million TV buy and a $350,000 contribution to the Florida Democratic Party.

The two accounts combined to $1.1 million on hand on June 29.

Greene and Levine are two of the five major Democrats running for Governor, the others being Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham and Orlando-area businessman Chris King.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

Matt Gaetz endorsed by Florida Right to Life

Florida Right to Life, a conservative group that advocates for state and federal legislation to end abortion, has endorsed U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz’ re-election bid in Florida’s 1st Congressional District.

“The endorsement indicates that you are the best pro-life candidate in the race and is a recommendation that our members and supporters vote for you,” Florida Right to Life said in a statement. The group opposes all abortion, even in cases of rape or incest.

Gaetz’ campaign heralded the group as “a leading voice in the fight to limit abortion on demand in Florida” and highlighted a pair anti-abortion bills put forward by the Panhandle Republican during his first term in Washington. One would have outlawed abortions if a fetus can feel pain, while the other would have made permanent the current rule blocking federal funding for abortions.

“The continued support of the pro-life community is truly an honor. I believe each life in the womb has worth and dignity, and I will continue fighting for the sanctity of human life in the halls of Congress and all across Northwest Florida. I vow to keep working tirelessly for the most defenseless in our society,” Gaetz said.

Florida Right to Life’s endorsement comes one day after Gaetz earned the backing of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, an affiliate of the Humane Society that advocates for animal protection laws at the state and federal levels.

Gaetz faces Chris Dosev and John Mills in the Aug. 28 Republican primary.

Dosev was the third-place finisher in the crowded 2016 Republican primary for CD 1. He and Mills had less than $20,000 combined at the end of the first quarter while Gaetz had raised about $600,000 for his campaign and had $385,000 on hand.

Phil Ehr and Jennifer Zimmerman are competing for the Democratic nomination, though they pose little threat in the deep-red district — Gaetz defeated 2016 Democratic nominee Steven Specht by 39 points, and President Donald Trump carried CD 1 by the same margin.

CD 1 covers all of Escambia, Holmes, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties.

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