2018 legislative races Archives - Page 7 of 42 - Florida Politics

Elections complaint filed against non-profit backing Olysha Magruder in SD 8

A Florida non-profit known as Liberation Ocala African American Council Inc. has been making a late push for Democratic Senate District 8 candidate Olysha Magruder, but its methods may be running afoul of state campaign finance laws.

The company, run by former Marion County NAACP president Whitfield Jenkins, has footed the bill for a number of direct mail campaigns supporting Magruder, a former school teacher and activist, and opposing her primary opponent, Kayser Enneking.

The mailers pitch Magruder with boilerplate language, such as claiming she’s “fighting for equality and progressive policy” and touting her as an “educator, mother and progressive leader.” Interestingly, one of the pro-Magruder ads touts the Ohio native as the “authentic progressive who is active in our community” despite Enneking being a Gainesville native — GHS diploma and all — who has been active in the community for decades longer.

The mailers also hit Enneking, a physician, for being “privileged” and unaware of the struggles “average citizens face,” with another attempting to paint their primary battle as “rigged” and portraying Enneking as a “puppet” of the Florida Democratic Party.

“The Democratic Party establishment has already spent over $107,000 on Kayser Enneking, paying for her staff and campaign headquarters. When the establishment rigs our primaries, the people lose,” the mailer reads.

That assertion has little basis in fact, as Enneking’s political committee, Florida Knows Excellence, has kicked in $50,000 in contributions to the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee to offset those payments, which were cycled back in as “in-kind” contributions, a common practice in state campaigns.

Most of the rest of the gap came through research and polling work, which would be of benefit to the eventual Democratic nominee regardless.

But despite the numerous factual errors in the mailers, there are many questions about whether they are legal and how they are being paid for.

Ft. Lauderdale attorney Jason B. Blank, who is not affiliated with Enneking’s campaign, filed a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission seeking clarification on whether non-profit corporations can advocate for or against individual candidates without following the reporting guidelines of a political committee.

According to the Florida Division of Elections, that’s a resounding “no.”

The legalese response: “Florida statutory law requires a business entity or corporation formed under Chapter 607 or Chapter 617, Florida Statutes, for purposes other than to support or oppose issues or candidates, which uses its business/corporate treasury funds to make independent expenditures in excess of $500 that support of oppose a candidate to register and report as a political committee,” Division of Elections director Gisela Wrote in response to the complaint.

As of Aug. 17, there was no committee going by the Liberation Ocala African American Council, nor was their a committee where Jenkins was listed as a chair, treasurer or registered agent.

Upon learning of the complaint, Enneking campaign manager Jake Flaherty said he thinks there’s some foul play involving Enneking and Magruder’s mutual opponent, incumbent Republican Sen. Keith Perry.

“It is clear that Keith Perry and the Republicans are terrified at the prospect of facing Dr. Kayser Enneking in the general election. Her message of increased access to healthcare, better public education, and protecting the environment is one that resonates with voters and is a stark contrast to Keith Perry’s voting record,” he said. “That’s exactly why we are seeing dark money used to fund opposition to her in this primary, and I would not be surprised if the Republicans are directly involved.”

Enneking holds a massive fundraising lead a little over a week out from the primary election and recently started running TV ads for her campaign. As of Aug. 10, she had raised nearly $500,000 and had more than $326,000 in the bank, compared to about $35,000 raised and $6,800 banked for Magruder.

The FEC complaint, complete with scans of the mailers, is below.

2018.08.17 FEC Complaint Packet by Andrew Wilson on Scribd

Jason Pizzo primed to unseat Daphne Campbell, poll says

Miami Democratic Sen. Daphne Campbell may end up packing her bags and heading home, wherever home is, as former prosecutor Jason Pizzo takes her spot in Tallahassee.

According to a new survey from St. Pete Polls, conducted Aug. 16, Pizzo leads Campbell by 14 points among Senate District 38’s likely primary election voters, about a third of whom said they were undecided less than two weeks out from the Aug. 28 nominating contest.

Of the 42 percent of voters who said they’d already ticked a box and sent in their ballot, Pizzo led 42-32 percent with 26 percent saying they were “undecided.”

It’s unclear whether being “undecided” and having already voted means those electors left their ballot blank, picked both, drew a picture, filled it out with their eyes closed or are simply suffering from memory loss. No matter the reason, Pizzo looks to have a solid lead in the early vote.

Among those who plan to vote but haven’t yet, Pizzo’s lead balloons to 16 points, 38-22 percent, though undecideds also make up a higher share, with 40 percent saying they were still unsure.

Of note: The two-way primary for SD 38 is one of a handful of primaries statewide that’ll be open to all voters, regardless of party affiliation. Campbell and Pizzo, both Democrats, are the only candidates for the seat and the Florida Constitution allows non-party members to participate in primary races if they will decide the winner of an election.

To that end, Pizzo’s support crosses party lines. He leads 40-26 percent among Democrats, 43-23 percent among Republicans and 39-32 percent among unaffiliated and third-party voters.

Pizzo also demolishes Campbell among white voters, with more than half favoring him compared to just 19 percent for Campbell, and Hispanic voters, who prefer him by a 13-point margin.

Add to that his strong leads among women voters, who prefer him by a 12-point margin, and among men, who favor him over the incumbent 44-28 percent. The Miami Law School grad is can also celebrate what looks to be strong cross-generational support, with his campaign holding double digit leads among millennials, gen xers and boomers. The 70-and-up crowd were only slightly less enthusiastic, preferring him 36-27 percent.

Black voters were the only subset where Campbell was the pick, and it’s not clear yet if that’s a bright spot.

According to census data, SD 38’s voting age population is nearly one-third black, while non-black Hispanic voters make up a 37 percent share and white voters make up 27 percent.

Without enormous turnout, the 42 percent of undecided black voters would need to break strongly in her favor to bolster her current 35-24 lead or she’ll have to make up ground by cutting into Pizzo’s firm leads among white and Hispanic voters.

When it comes to voter outreach in the final stretch, Campbell’s campaign fund is nearly bone dry. As of Aug. 10, she had just $4,260 in the bank. Add on top recent scandals, including touting a false endorsement and calling the police on a Miami Herald reporter covering a public event, and her campaign looks like it’s in freefall rather than surging toward a hard-fought victory.

Pizzo, meanwhile, has juiced his campaign with $300,000 in loans and had nearly $50,000 banked on Aug. 10. In addition to having outspent Campbell by a nearly threefold margin, outside groups are pouring in more support to help him close the deal.

The St. Pete Polls survey took responses from 306 voters within the northern Miami-Dade district. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.6 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

Ray Blacklidge up 25 points over Jeremy Bailie in HD 69 GOP primary

Madeira Beach lawyer Ray Blacklidge holds a better than 2-to-1 lead over St. Petersburg lawyer Jeremy Bailie according to a new poll of the two-way Republican primary for Pinellas County’s House District 69.

The St. Pete Polls survey found 48 percent of likely Republican primary voters were backing Blacklidge, while Bailie came in behind “undecided” with 23 percent support. The poll was conducted Aug. 13, just a few days after Bailie made negative headlines for swiping hand tags placed by Blacklidge canvassers.

Bailie has since apologized for the incident, which went semi-viral after a video recorded by a Blacklidge volunteer was posted to Facebook and YouTube.

The survey also found that 39 percent of Republicans had already cast their ballot in the primary race, and among that subset Blacklidge’s lead expanded to 35 points with 13 percent saying they were undecided. For the 61 percent of voters who’ve yet to cast their ballot but plan to vote, the spread is 42-21 in favor of Blacklidge with 37 percent unsure.

Blacklidge’s lead carries across both genders and among young voters, boomers, and seniors. The lone bright spot for Bailie came from 30- to 49-year-old Republicans, who favored him 36-27 with the balance undecided.

The pair are competing to fill the southern Pinellas County seat being vacated by Republican state Rep. Kathleen Peters, who is leaving the House after three terms to run for the District 6 seat on the Pinellas County Commission.

To date, Blacklidge has posted the better fundraising reports in the Republican primary, with more than $200,000 raised between his campaign and political committee, Friends of Ray Blacklidge. Including about $34,500 in self-funding, Blacklidge had more than $78,000 in the bank on Aug. 3.

Bailie, through the same date, had raised more than $76,000, including $6,125 in candidate contributions, and had a little over left $32,000 in his campaign account.

HD 69 covers part of southern Pinellas County including coastal communities from Redington Shores southward as well as a piece of mainland Pinellas. The district has a slim Republican advantage.

The winner of the Republican nomination will go up against Democratic nominee Jennifer Webb, who holds the overall cash lead with $160,000 raised and about $114,000 in the bank.

Webb was also the Democratic nominee in the 2016 cycle but lost to Peters by 13 points on Election Day. Peters, a former Mayor and Commissioner in South Pasadena, ran several points ahead of Donald Trump, who won the district by 3 points.

The automated phone poll took responses from 303 registered Republicans who said they planned to vote in the Aug. 28 primary election. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.6 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

Dana Young endorsed by Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

A pro-business group that represents the interests of more than 604,000 Hispanic-owned businesses in the Sunshine State said Wednesday that it’s backing Republican Sen. Dana Young’s re-election bid in Tampa-based Senate District 18.

“Senator Dana Young has the full endorsement of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and its statewide membership,” said Julio Fuentes, founder and president of FSHCC. “Senator Young’s leadership has benefited not just her constituents in her Tampa district, but Floridians across the state.

“Our chamber is very selective when it comes to endorsing candidates for office, but in Senator Young’s case, we were impressed with how she represented a diversity of interests and diversity of people,” Fuentes continued. “Dana Young has our support for re-election to the Florida Senate. We look forward to working with her on behalf of thousands of Hispanic business owners across the state.”

The Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is indeed selective in backing candidates, with the only other recent endorsement from the group heading to Rob Panepinto, a candidate for Orange County Mayor.

“To receive the backing of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and all of its members, is a true honor and I am extremely thankful to receive their overwhelming endorsement,” Young said. “Representing Senate District 18 in the Florida Senate, I have always taken into consideration all interests of our diverse community, and this is something that I will continue to do if re-elected to serve our area.

“I look forward to continuing to work with the FSHCC and the thousands of Hispanic business owners they represent to make sure their voices are heard and represented in Florida’s Capitol,” she concluded.

SD 18 covers northwestern Hillsborough County, including much of Tampa. According to the 2010 demographic profile of the district, about 30 percent of the district’s residents identify as Hispanic.

Young was elected to the seat in 2016, taking 48 percent of the vote in a four-way race against Democrat Bob Buesing and unaffiliated candidates Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove. In 2018, she faces a lone challenger: House Minority Leader Janet Cruz.

A poll released last month showed Young and Cruz in a tight race, with Cruz holding an inside the margin of error lead over the incumbent.

When it comes to fundraising, however, Young has gone gangbusters.

As of Aug. 3, she had more than $334,000 in hard money in the bank, with another $1.18 million at the ready in her affiliated political committee, Friends of Dana Young. Cruz, through the same date, had raised $169,500 in hard money and $273,200 in her committee, Building the Bay PC.

Neither Cruz nor Young face a primary opponent. The pair will go head-to-head in the Nov. 6 general election.

Mike Alvarez rolls out new digital ads in HD 62 primary

Tampa Democrat Mike Alvarez has launched a new digital ad campaign that contrasts his record against that of his chief rival in the Democratic primary for House District 62, School Board member Susan Valdes.

Sample ads provided by the campaign say that “District 62 has a choice,” with the one half of the ad featuring a full-color shot Alvarez and a caption saying he “hired people from our own neighborhoods,” and the opposite half featuring a red-tinted picture of Valdes and a caption saying she “fired people to protect her political career.”

The Alvarez campaign said the Valdes portion of the ad relates to a lawsuit filed by a former Hillsborough Schools employee who said she was fired after refusing to go along with an effort by Valdes’ to get one of her friends a district job. The Alvarez campaign also highlighted Valdes’ role in closing the school district’s construction department to avoid questions on shoddy work performed by campaign donors she steered contracts to.

Alvarez, by contrast, says he’s spent the past several years building up and making hires for Westfall Roofing, where he works as the director of operations.

“When I’m walking our neighborhoods and talking with voters, they want to know what I stand for and how that compares to my opponent,” said Alvarez, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. “This is another way we can inform voters about our records so they can make their own choice about who represents our Democratic values.

“We’re making sure that voters know that I’m the real Democrat in the race,” he continued.

The Democratic primary for the Tampa-based seat has been contentious, not to mention odd, since Valdes entered the race shortly before the end of the candidate qualifying period.

Her paperwork to run for the seat, was of questionable legitimacy and emails show she pulled strings to have it accepted by the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections office. Rather than address questions surrounding her candidacy, she went on the attack, accusing Alvarez of mudslinging.

Weeks later, her campaign was again embroiled in scandal after a video surfaced of her dodging a question about whether she would accept campaign contributions from charter schools. In the wake of that video going semi-viral, the Valdes campaign threatened to pull strings and have the man who recorded it fired from his job at the State Attorney’s office.

Again, Valdes’ response to the allegations only raised further questions, as she claimed the man who made the threats — a consultant that had sent out official communications for her campaign — was not affiliated with her and was merely “a supporter who is incredibly passionate.”

And two weeks ago, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor weighed in on the race by endorsing Alvarez and offering a scathing rebuke of Valdes, whom she accused of breaking the law and misleading voters by falsely claiming to have the Congresswoman’s endorsement.

She ended her endorsement by undercutting Valdes credentials on the School Board, saying that “if you support public schools, if you share our Democratic values, and if you want honesty from your elected officials, vote for Mike Alvarez.”

Alvarez and Valdes are running alongside Chris Cano in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary for HD 62, currently held by House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, who is running for state Senate and has endorsed Valdes as her successor.

The district is one of five state legislative seats, including three in the Tampa Bay area, to have its primary election locked down by a write-in candidate.

One of Alvarez’ ads is below.

Retailers recommend George Gainer for re-election

The political arm of the Florida Retail Federation said Wednesday that it’s backing Panama City Republican Sen. George Gainer in his bid for a second term in Senate District 2.

“Senator Gainer’s knowledge of what it takes to run a small business as well as his support for retailers during his time in the Senate are just two reasons we’ve chosen to endorse his campaign,” said FRF president and CEO R. Scott Shalley. “We look forward to him continuing to work in support of Florida’s business community and the retail industry in his return to the Florida Senate.”

In making the endorsement, the retail trade association highlighted Gainer’s past political experience, including his two stints as a Bay County commissioner, most recently from 2002 through 2016.

The FRF nod comes after Gainer’s re-election bid had already picked up an endorsement from the Florida Realtors PAC, the political arm of the state’s largest professional trade association.

Gainer was first elected to the state Senate in 2016, where he faced no opposition in his quest to succeed former Senate President Don Gaetz, thanks to then state-Rep. Matt Gaetz opting to run for Congress rather than state Senate.

This time around, Gainer faces Fort Walton Beach Democrat Mary Jeanne “Gigi” Gibson in the general election.

SD 2 covers all of Bay, Holmes, Jackson, Walton and Washington counties as well as the bulk of Okaloosa County and has a heavy Republican lean. The most recent bookclosing report published by the Florida Division of Elections shows registered Republicans make up more than 54 percent of the SD 2 electorate compared to 25 percent share for Democrats.

Gainer is also well-positioned in the money race, with more than $155,000 in hard money in his campaign account and another $50,000 waiting in his affiliated political committee, Northwest Florida Resource Fund. Gibson, meanwhile, has cobbled together $5,580, including $3,000 in loans, and has $3,383 banked.

Nick DiCeglie

New poll: Nick DiCeglie trouncing Berny Jacques in HD 66

Two weeks out from the House District 66 primary election and Belleair Bluffs businessman Nick DiCeglie holds an outside-the-margins lead over his Republican primary opponent, Seminole attorney Berny Jacques.

The new survey out of St. Pete Polls found and DiCeglie, also the chair of the Republican Party of Pinellas County, with 44-30 percent lead over Jacques, the first-in candidate in the race to replace term-limited Rep. Larry Ahern.

Of course, mail ballots have already gone out to many voters in the coastal Pinellas district, and quite a few of those polled, 42 percent, say they’ve already sent theirs in. Among that crowd, DiCeglie’s lead inches up to 51-34, with the balance undecided.

The remaining 58 percent of voters — those who plan to vote but haven’t done so yet — still favor DiCeglie, though by a tighter margin. DiCeglie was the pick of 39 percent of the yet-to-vote crowd, compared to a 29 percent share for Jacques, who came a few points behind “undecided” at 32 percent.

The DiCeglie v. Jacques primary has been one of the most contentious contests that managed to steer clear of turning nasty.

Both men hit the airwaves with TV ads touting their experience, without dinging their rival.

DiCeglie, the owner of waste management company Solar Sanitation, said he was ready to “clean things up in Tallahassee” in his TV spot. Jacques, a former prosecutor, touted his record of putting criminals behind bars in his ad.

Both men have also raised well into the six-figures for their campaigns.

DiCeglie has raised more than $140,000 from donors and chipped in $30,000 of his own money, with about $41,000 left over as of Aug. 3. Jacques has raised more than $127,000 in hard dollars and another $81,100 through his affiliated political committee, Protect Pinellas. He had more than $58,000 banked on Aug. 3.

The winner of the Aug. 28 Republican primary will go up against schoolteacher Alex Heeren, who locked up the Democratic nomination without opposition.

HD 66 is a coastal Pinellas seat that covers part of Clearwater and numerous other communities, including Belleair Bluffs, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores and Seminole.

The district has a Republican lean — Ahern has held the seat since it was redrawn in 2012, when he won re-election by 6 points. His next two re-election bids ended in double-digit wins, and President Donald Trump had similar success in 2016, when he carried the district 55-41.

The automated phone poll was conducted Aug. 13 and took responses from 347 registered Republicans who indicated they planned to vote in the primary election for HD 66. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.3 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

Chip LaMarca

Chip LaMarca says his numbers poke holes in Democrats’ HD 93 poll

Florida House Democrats released some polls last week that built up hype for some of their down-ballot candidates, but according to one Republican running for state House, those numbers are off.

The campaign of Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca hit the House Victory polls for being based on an online tally compiled by a company that’s only been around for a year. It’s end result: Democratic contender Emma Collum with a 2-point lead over LaMarca, a Republican, in House District 93.

Polls from inside the LaMarca campaign tell a much different story.

A live dial poll of 300 respondents conducted by Voter Opinions and sponsored by a pro-LaMarca political committee showed LaMarca with a 6-point lead over Collum.

More recently, another live dial poll of commissioned by the Republican Party of Florida and conducted by McLaughlin & Associates showed LaMarca’s lead expanding to 9 points over Collum. That measure, conducted from July 21 through July 23, also took 300 responses and.

From the first poll to the second, there was also some troubling news for the generic ballot — it fell from plus-6 in favor of the Democrats in April to just plus-2 in favor of Team Blue by late July. These polls weren’t loaded for the GOP, the campaign says, as each used a turnout model to account for potentially higher Democrat turnout.

With those results in his pocket, LaMarca says he’s is no stranger to competitive elections, having won his Broward County Commission seat twice, even though Democrats have a 9-point advantage in voter registrations.

When it comes to November, LaMarca’s campaign is working hard, both at the grassroots efforts and on the fundraising trail — As of Aug. 3, he’s cracked $300,000 in hard money fundraising.

And his support is broad-based and diverse, with endorsements from business organizations such as NFIB and AIF, labor organizations, the Florida Realtors, and statewide and local firefighters and police organizations.

House Democrats may be salivating over HD 93, but Chip LaMarca says he, not Collum, is the frontrunner.

Poll gives Robert Doyel a 5-point lead over Kelli Stargel in battleground SD 22

Retired Circuit Judge Robert Doyel has the largest competitive edge of any of the six Republican-held Senate seats specifically targeted by the Florida Democratic Party, according to a recent internal survey.

The Winter Haven Democrat is running for Senate District 22, which covers northern Polk County and southern Lake County and is currently held by Lakeland Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel.

The Florida Democratic Party’s internal poll numbers show Doyel has a higher name recognition in his district than any other Democratic Senate candidate in a targeted race at 54 percent — that means higher than House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, higher than former state Rep. Amanda Murphy and higher than Gainesville physician Kayser Enneking, who started hitting TV last week.

The internal survey also shows Doyel with a 5 percent advantage over Stargel, 45-40 percent, giving him the heretofore biggest lead among the six contested races. The only recent public poll showing one of the six targeted candidates with a lead came in SD 18 early last month, where Cruz held a 1-point lead over Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young, 44-43 percent.

The random sample poll was conducted July 23-26 and took responses from 402 likely voters from all parties and results were statistically adjusted to mirror the demographics of the district.

Unlike Stargel, Doyel has to get past a primary challenger in two weeks, however, the poll didn’t give a window on his chances in that contest.

Doyel faces former state Rep. Ricardo Rangel, who represented Osceola County from 2012 through 2014. His campaign headquarters is listed as Auburndale which, unlike his former stomping grounds, is within SD 22. Still, he has been a no-show from many forums and campaign events.

In addition to District 22, the state party is targeting Gainesville-based SD 8, Pinellas and Pasco-based SD 16, Tampa-based SD 18, St. Petersburg-based SD 24 and Hialeah-based SD 36. In each instance, party officials have determined that the seats are winnable by a Democrat, though only SD 18 and SD 36 were carried by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

Party officials added that the bright polling for Doyel may help him boost his fundraising numbers over the next few weeks as large institutional donors have their doubts assuaged and begin to see his potential for success in November.

As of Aug. 3, Stargel had about $425,000 banked between her campaign account and an affiliated political committee, Limited Govt for a Stronger Florida. Doyel, meanwhile, has raised $125,215 in campaign funds and has $73,212 at the ready, followed by Rangel with $6,145 raised and pennies in the bank.

Dana Young

Dana Young announces Aug. 22 fundraiser for SD 18 re-election bid

Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young is holding a fundraiser for her re-election campaign next week alongside former House Speaker Will Weatherford, his brother and former FSU quarterback Drew Weatherford and attorney Ron Christaldi.

The Aug. 22 event will run from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at 1601 S. MacDill Ave. in Tampa. Those looking to attend can direct their RSVPs to 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 the party wasn’t able to recruit their first pick to challenge Republican Rep. Manny Diaz, 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 Professional Firefighters, and she’s started revving up her ground game with canvassing drives. But her biggest advantage this cycle is in the money race.

As of Aug. 3, Young had more than $334,000 banked in her campaign account at the last reporting checkpoint. Her political committee, Friends of Dana Young, has nearly $1.18 million at the ready.

By comparison, Cruz had $169,500 in hard money and another $273,200 in her political committee, Building the Bay PC, as of July 20.

Neither Cruz nor Young faces a primary opponent. The pair will go head-to-head in the Nov. 6 general election.

The fundraiser invitation is below.

 

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