2018 legislative races Archives - Florida Politics
Ruth's List

Ruth’s List Florida dubs run-of-the-mill results “historic victories”

Most Florida Democrats woke up consumed by what went wrong on Election Day. Another nil for five performance in statewide races, and a one for six performance in the state Senate, assuming current margins hold.

But Ruth’s List Florida was more than a little cheery with an email celebrating its “historic victories” on Tuesday.

Their reasoning, in their own words: “Of the 42 women endorsed this election cycle by Ruth’s List Florida, the only organization in the state that recruits, trains and supports progressive women in their runs for office, 28 won their races. Of the 28 victories, 19 were red-to-blue flipped seats.”

So, 28 out of 42, or two out of three, or, if preferred, a D minus.

There is that ubiquitous song about how “two out of three ain’t bad.” Historic, though? Meh.

Don’t tell Pamela Goodman that, though.

“Ruth’s List is thrilled with these results,” she said. “Floridians are clearly ready to fight for a clean environment, a fully funded public education system and the health care we all deserve. And our wins in the down ballot races show that we are building a strong bench for the future of Florida.”

The two state Senate winners: House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in SD 18 (maybe) and current Sen. Annette Taddeo in SD 40 (a push).

The state House winners: Incumbent Democratic Reps. Amy Mercado (73-17, yawn) and Margaret Good (getting warmer) and Delores Johnson (okay) and Dotie Joseph (92-8, yawn), who took over Democratic held seats.

The flippers: Geraldine Thompson, Joy Goff Marcil, Anna Eskamani, Fentrice Driskell, Jennifer Webb and Cindy Polo. Those six wins are indeed something to celebrate. Ruth’s List deserves a pat on the back for those.

“Ruth’s List has invested years recruiting and training Democratic pro-choice women to seek and serve in local office,” Goodman said. “Tonight, we helped to elect a record number of women up and down the ballot all across the state. We are building the bench of the next generation of leaders in Florida.”

But what about the L-O-S-E-R-S?

The org went two for five in the state Senate and 10 for 17 in the state House, and its doing some Russell Westbrook-level stats padding by counting wins on the Mt. Dora City Commission — no offence, Commissioner Elect Crissy Stile, you earned it.

And then there’s Democratic Ag Commissioner nominee Niki Fried, the first woman candidate the Democratic party has fielded in a statewide race since former CFO Alex Sink, a co-founder of Ruth’s List. They were all about celebrating her easy primary election win, and If the org had carried the first Democratic member of the Cabinet in 8 years across the finish line, that would be a “historic victory.”

There’s still a chance that could happen. Fried is headed toward a recount in the Cabinet contest between her and Republican Rep. Matt Caldwell, and as of Wednesday night only 8,139 votes (0.10 percent) separate them out of more than 8 million cast.

If she pulls it off, that would be the time to blast out the internal brag board.

HD 26, HD 89 recounts to decide final split in Florida House

Tuesday’s top-of-ticket results didn’t give Florida Democrats much reason to cheer, but incoming House Minority Leader Kionne McGhee says the party made decent inroads into the GOP’s intractable advantage in the state House.

The victories highlighted: Joy Goff-Marcil in HD 30, Geraldine Thompson in HD 44, Anna Eskamani in HD 47, Adam Hattersley in HD 59, Fentrice Driskell in HD 63, Jennifer Webb in HD 69, Delores Hogan Johnson in HD 84 and Cindy Polo in HD 103.

Eskamani, Hattersley, Webb, Johnson and Polo all won open seats previously controlled by the GOP, while Goff-Marcil reclaimed HD 30 from Republican Bob Cortes, Thompson knocked out Republican Robert “Bobby O” Olszewski just 13 months after he won the seat in a special election and Driskell cruised by Republican Shawn Harrison with a 6-point win.

“With nearly 10 new Democratic members in the Florida House of Representatives, this string of midterm victories, following this year’s special election wins, shows that voters are looking for leaders that reflect their values,” McGhee said. “This cycle, Florida House Democrats competed in 90 percent of Florida’s state House districts and made gains against the odds. I look forward to working alongside this new class of talented and diverse leaders in Tallahassee.”

While eight isn’t bad, eight is not “nearly 10.”

That estimation hinges on a pair of recounts going on in HD 26, the seat currently held by Democratic Rep. Patrick Henry and HD 89, the coastal Palm Beach County seat being vacated by term-limited GOP state Rep. Bill Hager. Republicans are up slightly in both contests.

Henry faced Republican challenger Elizabeth Fetterhoff in the general and with 61,038 ballots counted, she holds a 72-vote lead over the incumbent, a difference of just 0.12 percentage points.

Florida law triggers a recount if the result of a race is within 0.5 percentage points.

In HD 89, the two men vying to replace Hager, Republican accountant Mike Caruso and Ocean Ridge Democrat Jim Bonfiglio, were separated by 243 votes with 75,511 ballots counted. Percentage-wise, that split measures out to 0.32 percentage points, with Caruso leading 50.16 percent to Bonfiglio’s 49.84 percent.

Keith Perry

Keith Perry holds off Kayser Enneking to win second Senate term

Just like two years ago, the path for a Democratic flip or tie in the state Senate ran through Gainesville-based District 8.

With only a few votes left to be counted, SD 8 voters appear to have decided they’ll stay the course and re-elect Republican Sen. Keith Perry over his Democratic challenger, Kayser Enneking, keeping the purple North Central Florida district in GOP hands for a full four-year term.

With an unknown number of mail ballots still uncounted in Alachua County, Perry was leading Enneking 49.5 percent to 48.4 percent, a difference of 2,353 votes.

The 2018 battle for SD 8 started as a slow burn. Perry and Enneking dueled in the money race throughout the early goings and all indications pointed toward the pair facing off in the general election.

They did, of course, but not before a six-figure dark money campaign funded by GOP operatives boosted Enneking’s primary season opponent, Olysha Magruder.

Enneking’s campaign didn’t have a contingency plan for fighting off a TV and direct mail assault from their left flank and ended up dumping tens of thousands of campaign dollars into their own ad blitz ahead of the August nominating contest.

The primary was still an 18-point rout, but the gulf likely would have been wider and the costs likely would have been lower were it not for the intervention.

And there’s still the question of how many, if any, Magruder voters held off on voting for Enneking out of spite.

Perry, meanwhile, pulled ahead in fundraising and received hundreds of thousands worth of “in-kind” support from the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, incoming Senate President Bill Galvano’s well-stocked party affiliated committee.

If the primary put Enneking, a Gainesville physician, on crutches, it’s the late-June entry of Charles Goston that’ll go down as the “sweep the leg” moment.

Goston, crotchety and widely disliked, is a lifelong Democrat who until earlier this year was a member of the Gainesville City Commission. Now-Commissioner Gigi Simmons booted the septuagenarian out of office after a single term in an early May runoff election.

A month later, Goston filed for SD 8 as an unaffiliated candidate and remained unseen and unheard until late September. That’s when his campaign started sending out a bundle of mailers aimed at wooing his former, predominantly black constituents away from the Democratic nominee.

The strategy worked. Polls showed him siphoning away 6 percent of the vote, nearly all of it from Enneking.

On Election Day, those polls proved incorrect, but not by enough.

Had Goston’s 4,272 votes gone to the nominee of the political party he was once aligned with, it would be Enneking, not Perry, celebrating a victory tonight.

Instead, Perry earned his fifth electoral victory in as many tries.

All told, the three SD 8 candidates who made the general election ballot combined to spend nearly $3.6 million between their campaign accounts, political committees and the party support flowing in via “in-kind” contributions.

Perry’s effort accounted for about $1.8 million of that sum, followed by Enneking’s $1.64 million bid. Goston’s spiteful spoiler run cost $150,000.

With 2018 in the books, Democrats will have four years to think about what type of candidate can awaken the untapped Democratic plurality in the district.

Smith wasn’t able to do it, and Enneking wasn’t either, though she at least showed the party is headed in the right direction.

There may not be another go around, however, as lawmakers will be approving new Senate maps ahead of the 2022 elections, the next cycle where SD 8 will be on the ballot.

SD 8 covers all of Alachua and Putnam counties as well as the northern half of Marion County. It is one of a handful of districts that became more favorable to Democrats after the Senate map was redrawn ahead of the 2016 elections.

Amanda Murphy Biden

Joe Biden gives Amanda Murphy his full support

Former Vice President Joe Biden announced his support for former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy in the hotly contested race for Senate District 16 just three days before Election Day.

The announcement came late Saturday afternoon, just as voting in Pinellas entered its final day. Murphy thanked the former VP and possible 2020 presidential candidate for his support on social media, saying “our campaign is proud to announce Vice President Biden’s full support as we make our final case to the voters in Senate District 16.”

Murphy faces former Clearwater Republican Rep. Ed Hooper in the race for the North Pinellas/West Pasco Senate seat formerly held by Jack Latvala.

SD 16 has a Republican lean, but polling has indicated the Hooper-Murphy contest will come down to the wire on Election Day. A mid-October survey by St. Pete Polls found Hooper with a 48-46 percent lead with 6 percent undecided.

Murphy showed an unprecedented ability to lull GOP voters in her three runs for Florida House. In a 2013 special election, she took over for exiting Republican Rep. Mike Fasano — with his blessing, no less — and won re-election to a full term the following year.

In 2016, she was booted from office by current Republican Rep. Amber Mariano in one of the closest state House races in recent history. Despite of Donald Trump winning the Pasco-based House seat in a 20-point landslide, the Murphy-Mariano contest came down to to just 691 votes, or 0.6 percent.

SD 16 covers northern Pinellas County and southwestern Pasco County, including Clearwater, Dunedin, Safety Harbor, Palm Harbor, New Port Richey and Oldsmar. Republicans make up about 38 percent of the district’s electorate, while Democrats make up about a third.

Young TV ad

Dana Young releases a pair of new ads for SD 18 re-election bid

With Election Day in sight, Republican Sen. Dana Young is letting some surrogates make the case for her re-election with a pair of new campaign ads rolling out in Tampa-based Senate District 18.

The ads, titled “Fix the Problem” and “Sacrifices,” focus on Young’s record of fighting for Florida children, with a special focus on her support for school safety reform.

Young’s non-vote on adding an assault rifle ban to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act has been an avenue of attack from her Democratic challenger, House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, but the second of those two ads flips the script on that narrative — it features a resounding endorsement from Andrew Pollack, the father of Meadow Pollack, who was killed during the February school shooting.

“We can make our schools safer and that’s exactly what Dana Young is doing,” Pollack says in the ad. “Dana Young voted for the most comprehensive and common-sense school safety reform in Florida history.

“Dana Young increased school safety funding, putting a police officer in every school, bolstered crisis training and expanded mental health services. Lives will be saved. I stand with Dana Young for Florida Senate,” he concluded.

The second ad features Young’s mother, Nancy Duden, extolling the virtues of her daughter and pushing back against other attacks from the Cruz camp, namely that Young’s support for charter schools — which are publicly funded but run by private education providers — is a negative.

“Dana Young is kind, compassionate, and she has a heck of a mom,” Duden says. “I’m Dana Young’s mom and I’m also a retired public school teacher. Dana knows the sacrifices teachers make, that’s why Janet Cruz’ attacks aren’t just false, they’re shameful. I know my Dana. I know her heart. She’s kind and compassionate and she fights for our kids.”

The Young-Cruz battle is among the most competitive state Senate races slated for the 2018 ballot.

Young won the seat 2016 with a plurality of the vote against a much weaker Democratic challenger in a four way race that saw third party candidates net 11 percent of the vote. SD 18 is also one of two targeted by Florida Democrats this cycle which voted for Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket two years ago.

In 2018, the contest is a head-to-head. Polls of the race have shown the two women swapping leads more often than an average NBA game, though neither candidate has built a lead outside-the-margins lead in a public poll — an early October measure from Democratic pollster PPP even failed to show Cruz with a statistically significant advantage.

Still, Young has plugged along in the money race, continuing her trend of being one of the most prodigious fundraisers in the Florida Legislature. The latest tally: $930K in hard money and millions in soft for Young vs. $420K hard and $970K soft for Cruz.

Election Day is Nov. 6. Young’s ads are below.

Jeff Solomon

Direct mail round-up: Jeffrey Solomon’s ‘record is downright scary’

A new mailer heading out to voters in Miami-Dade’s House District 115 is slamming Democratic candidate Jeffrey Solomon as a lobbyist running for office to line his own pockets.

The front of the Halloween-themed mailer says “Jeffrey ’sleazy’ Solomon’s record is downright scary, before continuing with a slate of festive barbs on the reverse.

“Jefferey Solomon’s record is truly scary,” the mailer continues. “Vampires. Werewolves. Things that go bump in the night. None of these is as frightening as Sleazy Jeffrey Solomon’s record.”

Specifically, the ad lambastes the Pinecrest Democrat for a number of state and federal liens filed against him “for refusing to pay his taxes” and for his work as a lobbyist. It’s the latter avenue that smacks Solomon with a double whammy — not only has the Democratic nominee said his lobbying work gives him “a tingle up and down the spine,” but he’s also pitched public office as a primo career booster.

“That is how you build your career — by getting it strengthened on the back of being in public office and the big goal at the back end of this, your value is just multiplied many fold,” the mailer quotes him as saying.

The mailer was paid for by the Tallahassee-based Main Street Leadership Council. Though it doesn’t mention him by name, the mailer is aimed at dinging Solomon to the benefit for HD 115 Republican nominee Vance Aloupis, an attorney who works as the CEO of The Children’s Movement of Florida.

Aloupis and Solomon are running to succeed term-limited Republican Rep. Michael Bileca in the South Florida seat.

Aloupis is one of the better fundraisers in the current crop of House candidates, having raised nearly $435,000 in hard money for his campaign with $59,000 banked on Oct. 19. Solomon, meanwhile, has raised just over $90,000 and has less than $20,000 left to spend.

Traditionally, HD 115 has been friendly to down-ballot Republicans, and many signs point to that trend continuing, though Democrats are holding out hope they can flip it out of the R column based on Hillary Clinton’s double-digit win in HD 115 two years ago as well as some internal polling showing Aloupis and Solomon in a dead heat.

Depsite the GOP losing the district in the top-of-ticket race last cycle, Bileca cruised into his fourth and final term in the district by defeating Solomon 54-46 on Election Day. Solomon also ran for the seat in 2012 but fell short by about 5 percentage points.

HD 115 covers part of inland Miami-Dade County, including the communities of Pinecrest, South Miami and Palmetto Bay. Bileca’s largest margin of victory was his 18-point thrashing of Democrat Kristopher Decossard in 2014, a wave year for Republicans.

The mailer is below.

Aloupis Solomon HD115 mailer p1 Aloupis Solomon HD115 mailer p2

Melissa Martin SD 14

Light fundraising week for SD 14 hopefuls

Republican Tommy Wright beat out Democrat Melissa “Mel” Martin in his inaugural campaign finance report, though neither candidate reeled in a large haul for the week ending Oct. 19.

Wright and Martin are competing for Senate District 14, which turned into an open seat following the death longtime Republican lawmaker Dorothy Hukill. Wright, a New Smyrna Beach businessman, was selected to replace Hukill as the GOP nominee earlier this month.

His first campaign finance report, covering his first five days as a candidate, showed $1,000 in contributions and $2,500 in candidate loans for a total of $3,500 in receipts. His lone contribution came from the Fire Safe Florida Political Committee.

Wright’s expenditure list was similarly short, with the $1,782 candidate qualifying fee listed as his sole expense. He had $1,718 in the bank on Oct. 19.

Martin’s report showed $1,122 raised across 18 contributions with the largest check weighing in at $500. The report also included $229 worth of “in-kind” support from Martin. The spending side of the finance report was similarly sparse, with just $775 heading out the door — $750 of that money went toward boosting campaign Facebook posts.

The Cocoa Democrat has raised $46,400 to-date, including $2,000 in candidate loans. She finished the reporting period with about $27,900 on hand.

SD 14 covers the southern half of Volusia County and the northern half of Brevard. It was one of the districts to see substantial changes after Florida courts approved new district maps at the end of 2015. Registered Republicans make up 39 percent of the electorate while registered Democrats make up 33 percent.

Mitt Romney carried SD 14 by 7 points in 2012, and in 2016 it voted plus-18 for Donald Trump. Hukill’s opponent two years ago was no-party candidate Richard Paul Dembinsky, whom she beat 68-32 on Election Day.

Despite the strong Republican lean, Florida Democrats circulated poll numbers prior to Hukill’s death showing Martin with a lead. That polling was faulty, however, due to Hukill and Martin’s party affiliations being swapped on the Change Research survey.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Jeff Solomon

Direct mail round-up: Jeffrey Solomon ‘wants to make it worse’

House District 115 Democratic candidate Jeffrey Solomon is another tax-and-spend liberal, a new mailer now hitting mailboxes suggests.

Specifically, it highlights Solomon’s desire to raise the gas tax to help combat traffic congestion in the Miami-Dade area.

“Traffic is terrible. Tolls cost way too much. Jeffrey Solomon wants to make it worse,” the front of the mailer says.

The reverse side of the mailer expands on Solomon’s gas tax plan, noting that the Pinecrest Democrat has complained that “we haven’t increased a gas tax in 20 years.”

“Unbelievable! We’re already taxed enough,” the mailer concludes.

The mailer was paid for by the Republican Party of Florida in support of Republican nominee Vance Aloupis, an attorney who works as the CEO of The Children’s Movement of Florida.

Aloupis and Solomon are running to succeed term-limited Republican Rep. Michael Bileca in the South Florida seat.

Traditionally, HD 115 has been friendly to down-ballot Republicans, though Democrats have expressed some hope they can flip the seat based on Hillary Clinton’s double-digit win in HD 115 two years ago.

Still, Bileca was able to secure an 8-point victory despite the inland strip of Miami-Dade County preferring Clinton over Donald Trump.

Aloupis is one of the better fundraisers in the current crop of House candidates, having raised nearly $435,000 in hard money for his campaign as of Oct. 19. The four-way primary election chipped away at that war chest, though he still has nearly $59,000 banked.

Aloupis has reeled in endorsements from the Florida Realtors, the Chief Executive Officers of Management Companies, the Florida Chamber of Commerce as well as a nod from Bileca.

Solomon, meanwhile, has raised just over $90,000 and has less than $20,000 left to spend.

HD 115 covers parts of Pinecrest, South Miami and Palmetto Bay. Bileca’s largest margin of victory was his 18-point thrashing of Democrat Kristopher Decossard in 2014, a wave year for Republicans.

Aloupis Solomon HD115 mailer p2


Florida Retailers recommend bundle of new state representatives

The Florida Retail Federation PAC, the political arm of the state’s retail trade organization, endorsed more than two dozen candidates seeking to earn their first terms in the state House next month.

The bulk of the 26 candidates getting FRF’s seal of approval are seeking open seats in the state House, but a handful of the recommendations went to would-be state Reps. looking to oust incumbents.

“The diversity of these candidates includes some with a direct connection to retail, small business owners, and those new to holding public office, but all are focused on making Florida the most business-friendly state in the nation,” said FRF president and CEO R. Scott Shalley. “Meeting each of these candidates in person has us excited about working with them as members of the Florida House in support of the state’s retail industry.”

Challengers getting the nod: DeLand Republican Elizabeth Fetterhoff, who is seeking the HD 26 seat held by Democratic Rep. Patrick Henry; Orlando Republican Ben Griffin, who is challenging progressive Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith in HD 49; former Republican Rep. Ray Pilon, who is attempting to win back his old seat from Democratic Rep. Margaret Good; Miami Republican Rosy Palomino, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Nick Duran in HD 105; and Miami Republican Anthony Rodriguez, who is looking to send Democratic Rep. Robert Asencio packing in HD 118.

The other 21 endorsements went to candidates running against fellow fresh faces, and some of the races getting FRF’s attention are among the most hotly contested slated for the general election ballot.

In Orange County’s HD 47, the trade group recommended Winter Haven Republican Stockton Reeves over Anna Eskamani, one of the most promising Democratic state House recruits of the cycle. The pair are competing for the swing seat being vacated by Republican Rep. Mike Miller, who is running for Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

In South Florida, Florida Retailers are putting their weight behind Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca’s bid to keep HD 93 in GOP control. He faces a well-funded challenger in Democratic nominee Emma Collum. Additionally, the PAC is supporting Delray Beach accountant Mike Caruso, also a Republican, in HD 89. He faces Ocean Ridge Mayor Jim Bonfiglio.

The rest of the candidates earning a nod for the Nov. 6 general:

—HD 15: Republican Wyman Duggan

—HD 28: Republican David Smith

—HD 32: Republican Anthony Sabatini

—HD 33: Republican Brett Hage

—HD 37: Republican Adrian Zika

—HD 51: Republican Tyler Sirois

—HD 59: Republican Joe Wicker

—HD 61: Democrat Dianne Hart

—HD 66: Republican Nick DiCeglie

—HD 69: Republican Ray Blacklidge

—HD 71: Republican Will Robinson

—HD 73: Republican Tommy Gregory

—HD 79: Republican Spencer Roach

—HD 81: Democrat Tina Polsky

—HD83: Republican Toby Overdorf

—HD 103: Republican Frank Mingo

—HD 105: Republican Ana Maria Rodriguez

—HD 115: Republican Vance Aloupis


Anna Eskamani clears $500K raised for HD 47 flip

Orlando Democrat Anna Eskamani has hit another major milestone in her bid to flip the seat held by exiting Republican state Rep. Mike Miller blue.

The Planned Parenthood exec and first-generation American has long been the fundraising leader in Orange County’s House District 47, and through Oct. 19 she said she had gathered more than $500,000 in support of her candidacy.

Eskamani’s new reports haven’t been uploaded to the Florida Division of Elections website, though she said in a Tuesday press release that she’s now raised $426,891 in hard money and another $73,850 in soft money through her affiliated political committee People Power for Florida.

“Our campaign is fueled by everyday people — Democrats, Republicans, and those with no party affiliation — who are ready to redefine politics in Florida, and elect a first time candidate that is vocal, authentic, and effective,” Eskamani said.

“We offer a compelling vision for the future of our state, one that is grounded in our passion for public education, environmental protection, health care access, and gun safety. As a first time candidate with no personal wealth, I am thrilled to have raised $500,000 and will continue to do my part in creating community, building leaders, and facilitating meaningful change,” she concluded.

Though her campaign didn’t list how much of that cash is still in the bank, Eskamani’s financial reports covering Oct. 6 through Oct. 12 showed her with about $63,000 banked between the two accounts.

Her general election opponent, Winter Park Republican Stockton Reeves, had amassed $237,551 through the same date and had $84,371 banked on Oct. 12. Eskamani’s mention of personal wealth may have been a jab at Reeve’s comparatively lackluster fundraising prowess — 40 percent of his bankroll has come from his own checking account.

The HD 47 contest has taken a negative turn in recent weeks as Reeves and the Florida GOP have slammed Eskamani as “unfit for office” based on her using a handful of four-letter words during public appearances.

Those incidents weren’t enough to scare off former President Barack Obama and Orlando mega attorney John Morgan from joining the 70-plus local leaders and orgs already lined up behind her House campaign. She has also brushed off the criticisms by putting out her own ads painting the campaign tactic as a sign of fear among “political insiders.”

HD 47 covers north-central Orange County and is vacant due to Miller opting to challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 7th Congressional District rather than seek another term in the state House.

The seat has a slim Democratic advantage in voter registrations and it was held by now-Democratic Sen. Linda Stuart before Miller edged her out by four points in the 2014 cycle. He followed that up with a 6-point win over Democrat Beth Tuura in 2016, when the seat voted plus-11 for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

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