2018 legislative races Archives - Page 4 of 42 - Florida Politics

Dana Young announces Oct. 2 fundraiser for SD 18 re-election bid

Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young is holding a fundraiser for her Senate District 18 re-election campaign on Oct. 2 in Tallahassee.

The event will run from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the BC Room of the Governors Club, 202 South Adams St. Those looking for more information or to RSVP can contact Kristin Lamb via Kristin@FLFStrategies.com or 850-339-5354.

Young was elected to Senate District 18 in 2016, but due to the shakeup caused by redistricting she and other state Senators in even-numbered districts must run for re-election after only two years.

She is facing a tough challenge from House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, who entered the race in mid-April. The most recent poll of the race shows Cruz with a slim advantage in the northwestern Hillsborough district, which covers much of Tampa.

SD 18 sits atop the Florida Democratic Party’s wish list this fall. Other than South Florida’s SD 36, where David Perez won the Democratic primary to challenge Republican Rep. Manny Diaz on Tuesday night, SD 18 is the only district Democrats are after that voted for Hillary Clinton two years ago.

Young has landed several endorsements, most recently from the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and she’s already started revving up her ground game with canvassing drives. But her biggest advantage this cycle is in the money race.

As of Aug. 23, Young had more than $455,000 banked in her campaign account at the last reporting checkpoint. Her political committee, Friends of Dana Young, has about $1.27 million at the ready.

By comparison, Cruz had $189,000 in hard money and another $330,000 in her political committee, Building the Bay PC, through the same date.

Late last month, Young challenged Cruz to two debates ahead of their general election showdown. After poking Young for being down in the polls, spokesperson Kevin Cate said the Cruz campaign would reach out to the debate organizers and that the campaign was “eager to debate expanding access to affordable care, more funding for schools, and common-sense gun reform.”

Election Day is Nov. 6. Young’s fundraiser invitation is below.

Young Fundraiser 10.2.2018

Email insights: Ruth’s List celebrates ‘historic’ primary election wins

A few hours after the polls closed in Tuesday’s primary election, Ruth’s List Florida sent out an email touting “historic victories” for women candidates it supported across the state.

Ruth’s List, co-founded by former CFO Alex Sink, works to elected pro-choice women in Florida. And while they didn’t score a victory in the top-billed race of the evening — the group supported Gwen Graham for Governor — more than two dozen Ruth’s List-backed candidates claimed victory last night.

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

The top win cited by the group was Nikki Fried’s dominant victory in the three-way Democratic primary for Agriculture Commissioner. Goodman said Fried, an attorney and medical marijuana advocate, can expect “heavy investments” in her general election battle against Republican nominee Matt Caldwell, who scored a 8-point win in the four-way GOP battle to succeed Adam Putnam.

“Florida needs her and knows it’s time to end 20 years of Republican rule,” Goodman said.

In the state Senate, Ruth’s List backed Gainesville physician Kayser Enneking for SD 8, a pivotal seat being targeted as part of Florida Democrats’ strategy to flip the state Senate, where Republicans hold a 23-16 majority.

Enneking scored an 18-point win despite a late-in-the-game “dark money” campaign that Ruth’s List said was designed to elect the weaker opponent, Olysha Magruder.

“Dirty tricks from the Republican play book are sadly part of politics in Florida.  Voters know it and won’t stand for it.  We look forward to picking up this long held Republican seat in the fall with a pro-choice health care expert,” Goodman stated.

In the state House, the group celebrated primary wins by women who moving on to general election battles in the fall. Victors getting a shout out: Dotie Joseph in HD 108, Joy Goff-Marcil in HD 30, Cindy Polo in HD 103 and Tracey Kagan in HD 29.

“Ruth’s List is thrilled tonight and tomorrow will get back at it.  Floridians are ready to fight for a clean environment, a fully funded public education system and the health care we all deserve.  These women candidates will be elected, with our efforts making significant contributions in the Fall and a new day will dawn in Florida” Goodman concluded.

A full list of Ruth’s List-backed candidates is available on the group’s website.

The general election is Nov. 6

Amanda Murphy holding Tampa fundraiser for SD 16 bid Thursday

Former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy is heading to Tampa Thursday night for a fundraising reception benefiting her run for Pasco and Pinellas-based Senate District 16.

The event will be held at Mise en Place, 442 W Kennedy Blvd. #110, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The invite lists a suggested minimum contribution of $100, though notes that any donation is welcome.

Included on the host committee are former CFO Alex Sink, former Education Commissioner and former USF President Betty Castor, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, former Congressman and 2006 Democratic nominee for Governor Jim Davis and former state Rep. Ed Narain, among others.

Supporters looking to attend the event can send an RSVP to note Shannon@AmandaMurphy.com or call 727-835-8517.

Murphy, a New Port Richey Democrat, served in the Florida House from 2013 through 2016, when she lost by just a handful of votes despite Donald Trump carrying her district decisively.

In 2018, she is running against former Republican Rep. Ed Hooper of Clearwater for SD 16, which covers northern Pinellas and southwestern Pasco counties.

Though she hasn’t put much of a dent in Hooper’s massive fundraising lead thus far, most polling of the matchup has shown a tight race with her on top despite big spending by Hooper’s campaign.

At the beginning of August, an SEA Polling & Strategic Design survey found Murphy up 2 points, 41-39 percent. That edge falls within the margin of error

As the poll noted at the time: “Amanda Murphy holds a two-point lead despite significant spending on Hooper’s behalf throughout July and early August. Two public polls conducted by St. Pete Polls showed Murphy leading or in a dead heat with Hooper which set off fire alarms in the Senate Majority office and likely led to Hooper’s midsummer panic spending.”

The head-to-head between Murphy and Hooper is Nov. 6.

Murphy’s invitation is below.

Amanda Murphy fundraiser invite

Florida Senate Republicans to raise cash at the U.S. Open

With a number of competitive races slated for the 2018 ballot, Florida Senate Republicans are planning a grand slam of a fundraiser at the U.S. Open in New York City next month.

According to an invitation sent out by the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, the main committee supporting GOP state Senate campaigns, donors who sign up will get to attend a “VIP Dinner” at Quality Italian the night before they catch day 4 of the hard court tennis tournament Wednesday, Aug. 29.

There’s no minimum donation listed on the invite, but it’s likely attendees will have to show FRSCC some serious love — which assuredly doesn’t mean “zero” in this case — in order to rub elbows at the multiday event.

If that isn’t enticing enough, the invitation says donors could also get a private tennis lesson with Nick Bollettieri, the hall of fame tennis coach who developed tennis legends Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Monica Seles and others. Don’t expect the octogenarian to make you run cross court, however.

Florida Democrats have their eyes on six Republican-held districts this fall: Gainesville-based SD 8, the Tampa Bay area’s SD 16, SD 18 and SD 24, Lakeland’s SD 22 and Miami’s SD 36.

Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano has headed up fundraising duties for FRSCC since last summer, and the committee’s three quarterly reports since he took over have been aces. Through March 31, he had helped reel in $7 million for the committee, including a record-breaking haul in the third quarter of 2017.

It’ll take even more cash, however, if Republicans want to pull off the vaunted double bagel — that means 6-0 for non-tennis folk.

The latest deadline for FRSCC report was Aug. 24, days before Tuesday’s primary election. Money brought during the NYC fundraiser will be reported included in the finance report due Nov. 2.

The invitation is below.

Kayser Enneking

Kayser Enneking trounces Olysha Magruder in SD 8 Democratic primary

The Democratic primary battle between Kayser Enneking and Olysha Magruder in Alachua County-based Senate District 8 went from a snooze fest to a thriller in the blink of an eye.

When all was said and done, Enneking walked away with an 18-point victory.

“I am thrilled and humbled by the support I have received from voters across the district and am grateful for the assistance I received from Ruth’s List,” she said. “It is clear that Floridians are ready for change after 2o years of Republican rule and I am eager to continue building our campaign for a positive outcome in November.”

The primary, however, was more costly than anticipated and there are lingering questions about how damaging this race was to the party’s chances for a flip in the fall.

Magruder entered the race in June 2017 and was running an earnest though largely ho-hum campaign, raising a few bucks here and there as she and her grassroots supporters reached out from their downtown Gainesville nexus spreading a Bernie Sanders-inspired progressive message.

Enneking entered the race a few months later after being recruited by Florida Democrats seeking a strong, credible contender to face off against incumbent Republican Sen. Keith Perry, who was elected by a comfortable 5 points in 2016 as Donald Trump scraped a victory by two tenths of a point.

Not long after entering, Enneking proved her campaign had legs.

Two months in, she had cracked the six-figure mark in fundraising and by the eve of the primary election one year later she had raised more than $525,000 between her campaign and political committee, Florida Knows Excellence.

Magruder, meanwhile, chugged along with dink-and-dunk reports that, no matter her sincerity, wouldn’t be enough to run an effective state House campaign, let alone a state Senate campaign for a district spanning all of Alachua and Putnam counties as well as half of Marion.

By closing time ahead of the primary, she had raised just $38,000. In recent memory, only Sen. Linda Stewart’s 2016 primary campaign proved successful with a similar budget and facing similar odds.

But Magruder is not Stewart just as the solidly purple SD 8 isn’t the solidly blue SD 13.

All signs were pointing toward much bigger blowout in the primary. Then the “dark money” campaign happened.

Between mid-August and the last few days ahead of the primary, at least eight direct mailers touting Magruder as a progressive rock star and bashing Enneking as an establishment puppet went out to SD 8 voters. There was also a nearly $25,000 TV buy and several text message blasts imploring recipients to vote for Magruder.

Eyebrows were raised almost immediately, with Enneking (it turns out rightly) predicting it was a Republican ploy and calling on Magruder to denounce the ads.

Magruder’s scrappy campaign put off addressing the issue for days, however, and when her response went out even she knew she had not gone far enough — she reportedly texted longtime supporters and advisers at 3 a.m. saying they wouldn’t be happy with her choice of words.

Almost nobody was.

Magruder said she was “shocked and saddened” that people would call on her to denounce the “truthful ads.” She even said the nonprofit that claimed credit for the ads was “a prominent civil rights organization.”

In reality, Liberation Ocala African American Council is a shady group headed up by Whitfield Jenkins, who has a long rap sheet. His past crimes include reportedly swiping more than $10,000 from a different nonprofit group he used to run and gambling it away.

In an interview with Florida Politics, Jenkins even claimed that paperwork that would have allowed his group to make the campaign expenditures legally had been filed on Aug. 7 but the approval had been held up.

When it turned out that Magruder had filed for a PAC that same day, exposing possible collusion between her and Jenkins, she refused to answer questions about her contact with him.

When the “dark money” was sourced to former Republican political operatives, she issued a conditional statement saying she denounced the ads and wanted an apology “if it is true.”

What is true: SD 8 is key to Florida Democrats hopes of flipping the state Senate in 2018, and with the unexpected withdrawal of one of the party’s recruited candidates in another competitive district, there’s no more room for error.

It’s also true that there is a gulf between the Democratic Party’s progressive and centrist wings, even if in 2018 it’s masked by enthusiasm and determination to break the Republican Party’s stranglehold on the state and federal governments.

Republicans recognized that divide, placed a wedge squarely between two Democratic women and provided the angrier of the two with a sledgehammer.

She swung it.

Whether the divide between the two camps can be mended in the coming weeks leading up to Election Day remains to be seen, and Magruder’s role in that effort could determine if her once-promising political future is merely bruised or completely broken.

Meanwhile, Perry’s campaign is well outfitted with more than $500,000 in the bank and the promise of loads of support from Senate Republicans, who are more than prepared for a proper defense. If that’s not enough, former Gainesville City Commissioner Charles Goston is running as an unaffiliated candidate, and would love nothing more than to play spoiler.

Alex Andrade, Chuck Brannan win GOP primaries for North Florida House seats

Gulf Breeze Republican Alex Andrade and Lake City Republican Marc Vann won their respective primary contests and are now primed to join the Florida House.

For Andrade, who defeated late-entry Greg Merk 60 percent to 40 percent, his ticket to Tallahassee has already been secured because there are no Democratic Party or third-party candidates waiting to challenge him in November.

In all, it took nearly $140,000 in fundraising for Andrade, a lawyer, to succeed Pensacola Rep. Frank White in House District 2, which covers parts of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.

White, Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayword, the Florida Realtors, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce all lined up behind Andrade, who is a member of the UF Student Affairs Hall of Fame.

Merk, for his part, raised little and showed less on the endorsement front.

Andrade’s election makes him the third Representative to hold the seat in as many election cycles. Former Rep. Mike Hill held HD 2 from 2013 through Election Day 2016, when White took over.

Over in House District 10, Chuck Brannan is all but assured to succeed term-limited Rep. Elizabeth Porter come November when he’ll face off against a Democratic nominee Ronald Williams and NPA challengers Merrillee Jipson and Fred Martin.

On Tuesday, he defeated his primary opponent Marc Vann 55 percent to 44 percent.

Vann, a small-business man, had raised more than $100,000 for his campaign, all of it from donors, while Brannan raised half that but made up some of the gap through a $25,000 candidate loan.

Brannan’s win comes despite Vann earning the support of Porter, the Florida Realtors, and the Florida Retail Federation.

Though Brannan faces three challengers on Election Day, HD 10 is a Republican stronghold where Donald Trump won with 72 percent of the vote two years ago.

The seat covers the whole of Baker, Columbia, Hamilton, and Suwannee counties as well as a small piece of northwestern Alachua County.

Susan Valdes leading in HD 62 Democratic primary

Hillsborough School Board member Susan Valdes appears to have overcome months of sloppy campaigning to eek out a win in the Democratic primary for Hillsborough County’s House District 62.

With 34 of 37 precincts reporting some outstanding mail votes, Valdes is leading Mike Alvarez, U.S. Marine Corps veteran by a few hundred votes with medical marijuana activist Chris Cano running a distant third.

Alvarez, who now works for Westfall Roofing, was the first-in candidate for the seat, which has been held for the past eight years by House Minority Leader Janet Cruz.

For the first year after Alvarez filed in May 2017, the primary was rather sleepy. That all changed when Valdes entered the race in the 11th hour — literally — ahead of the candidate qualifying deadline.

Her decision to give up her School Board seat, effective Election Day, turned Hillsborough races topsy-turvy. As a well-liked, albeit, controversial official who has been in office for more than a decade, Valdes was thought to be far out in front of the competition the moment her candidacy became official.

That perception quickly changed as her campaign made one unforced error after another.

First, there was the controversy surrounding her resign-to-run letter. Next, there was the semi-viral video of her dodging a question about whether she would accept campaign contributions from charter schools. That video spawned another troubling allegation — that her campaign threatened to pull strings and have the man who recorded it fired from his job at the State Attorney’s office.

After a brief respite, Valdes was back in the news, this time being admonished by U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor for a campaign mailer that insinuated the congresswoman had endorsed her in the state House race. Another mailer, this one paid for by a group connected to charter schools, led Cruz — a personal friend of Valdes for 20 years — to publicly rescind her endorsement.

Whether Alvarez would have gotten as much attention without Valdes’ repeated gaffes is an interesting ‘what if.’

The way it played out, however, saw the young first-time candidate reel in one major endorsement after another. First up was the Florida AFL-CIO, followed by the Florida Education Association, Castor, and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Despite weeks of what more closely resembled a Dumpster fire than a campaign, Valdes still had a few supporters in her corner, namely the Florida Realtors PAC, and county Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez as well as the editorial boards of the Tampa Bay Times and La Gaceta.

In the end, it seems that Valdes’ loyal supporters and her name recognition were enough to get her across the finish line in the primary. If her lead is cemented once all votes are counted, her ticket to Tallahassee is all but booked — she’ll be only nominally opposed by a write-in candidate in November.

Mike Hill

Mike Hill wins House comeback bid by a narrow margin

Former state Rep. Mike Hill defied the polls and a significant fundraising deficit to emerge victorious in the Republican primary for Escambia County’s House District 1 Tuesday.

Hill received 48 percent of the vote in the three-way primary, defeating rising GOP star Rebekah Bydlak by 3 points, while and Lisa Doss took the balance of the vote. He is now set to succeed term-limited Rep. Clay Ingram in November and return to the House after a two year absence.

The primary battle had been raging for nearly a year. Bydlak was the first-in candidate for the seat, filing her paperwork in August 2017, with Hill entering the race a month later.

Bydlak proved early that she had some fundraising prowess, and overall ran a much more public campaign than either of her competitors. In her first 30 days, she raised more than $60,000 and that success continued with healthy reports posted monthly as Hill struggled to pull in funds.

When it comes to endorsements, Bydlak again led. A few months out from primary election day Bydlak landed Ingram’s endorsement, and Republican pols had already turned out in force to help her raise campaign cash. Later on came the endorsements from major groups including the Florida Medical Association and the National Rifle Association.

Outside of a late endorsement from Attorney General Pam Bondi, and a mid-July nod from The National Federation of Independent Business, Hill collected few endorsements.

But fundraising and endorsements only go so far.

Hill made a name for himself in Northwest Florida politics with his dominating win in the 2013 special election for House District 2, where he defeated five other Republicans to replace state Rep. Clay Ford, who died in office.

After an easy re-election in 2014, Hill made a run for Florida Senate in 2016 where he lost an expensive and bruising Republican primary battle against now-Sen. Doug Broxson by double digits.

Two years later, the results are the same for hill as that initial run for public office, where he wasn’t the flashiest candidate but managed to pound the pavement and get the job done.

Now that Hill has officially won the Republican nomination, he faces Vikki Garrett, who won the Democratic nomination over Franscine Mathis with 60 percent of the vote.

The general election will likely be less contested than the primary, however, as the HD 1 is one of the most safely Republican strongholds in the state.

HD 1 covers the bulk of Escambia County, including the communities of Century, Molino, Gonzalez, Ensley, Ferry Pass, Belleview, and Brent.

Senate President-designate Bill Galvano congratulates Ed Hooper on big SD16 win

Senate President-designate Bill Galvano is cheering Ed Hooper on his victory in Senate District 16, which consists of parts of Pasco and Pinellas counties.

Hooper, a former state legislator from Clearwater, handily defeated Palm Harbor restaurateur Leo Karruli in the Republican primary, 79 to 21 percent.

“I would like to extend my congratulations to Ed Hooper tonight for his victory in Senate District 16,” Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, said in a statement. “Ed is a proven, dedicated public servant and community leader, and the Florida Senate will welcome his commitment.”

Galvano continued: “In addition to being an advocate fighting for lower taxes and responsible spending, Ed is committed to stronger measures against criminals, ensuring Floridians have access to more affordable health care, encouraging the presence of law enforcement at schools to protect our students and protecting the financial security of seniors.”

Hooper next faces former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy, who currently enjoys a slight two-point advantage in a recent poll of SD 16 voters.

Anthony Sabatini, Cynthia Brown emerge from HD 32 primary election

Three Republicans and two Democrats competed Tuesday for their party’s nomination to succeed former state Rep. Larry Metz, who gave up Lake County’s House District 32 in March to accept a judicial appointment from Gov. Rick Scott.

HD 32 has a hefty Republican lean, and the GOP fielded Shannon Elswick, Anthony Sabatini, and Monica L. Wofford to take over for Metz, who had held the district since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 election cycle.

With all precincts reporting, Sabatini led the Republican field with 47 percent of the vote, followed by Elswick at 29 percent and Wofford at 24 percent.

Sabatini, a 29-year-old Eustis City Commissioner and commissioned officer in the Florida Army National Guard, lagged substantially in fundraising, though his name recognition led to an easy win in the three-way primary.

Elswick was the fundraising leader with $92,360 in outside cash and another $10,000 in candidate loans, while Wofford, a businesswoman and author who runs her own training and consulting firm, cleared $85,512 for her bid. In the end, that didn’t matter.

All three Republicans vying for the seat had the second-from-the-top rating from the National Rifle Association, an “AQ,” and an “A” rating from anti-abortion group Florida Right to Life backing up their conservative credentials, with Sabatini’s prior experience in elected office serving as a key advantage over his primary rivals.

Sabatini is now nearly certain to succeed Metz — HD 32 is a Republican stronghold that went plus-15 for President Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

Still, there will be an election on Nov. 6, and while a “blue wave” isn’t likely to overcome the seawall of HD 32, two Democrats competed for the chance to give Lake County’s voters an option in the general.

Cynthia Brown a Groveland rancher and the former president of the American Shipbuilding Association, ran on a “Lake County” first platform and it paid off. With all precincts reporting, she held a dominant 65-35 percent lead over her lone competitor, Sheryl Needle Cohn, a Clermont author and playwright who works as a special needs educator at Groveland Elementary School.

Unlike the Republican side, the better funded candidate took the prize in the Democratic primary, though the amounts in play were much lower. Brown collected $15,590 from donors and staked her campaign with a $32,000 candidate loan. Cohn, meanwhile, raised $3,535 including a small amount of self-funding.

With the title card set for November, what remains to be seen is whether HD 32 Republicans flex their 10,000-voter registration advantage on Election Day, or Democrats in the district over-perform to show support for their first state House candidate since HD 32 was created.

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