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Adam Putnam has now raised $22M for gubernatorial bid

Republican candidate for governor Adam Putnam has posted over $22.5 million in his quest to be the state’s next chief executive, according to a Monday morning email.

Putnam’s campaign and political committee, Florida Grown, now have raised a combined $22.55 million to date, spokeswoman Amanda Bevis said.

They’re left with $16.25 million in combined cash on hand at the end of December.

For December, they collected a total of more than $1.19 million: Roughly $94,000 by Putnam for Governor and $1.10 million by the Florida Grown PC.

There have been “8,043 contributors to the campaign to date, and 6,103 small-dollar contributors (less than $500 each) to the campaign to date,” Bevis said.

The required finance reports will be filed with the state Division of Elections this week, she added.

Putnam, now the state’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, is term-limited in that post this year. He declared his long-expected run for governor in May.

Chris King attracts $100K in campaign donations in December

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King raised just over $100,000 combined in December for his official election campaign and his independent political committee Rise and Lead, Florida, his campaign announced Friday.

With the December draw, King’s two committees reported raising $2.97 million total in 2017, and ended the year with $1.62 million cash on hand, his campaign reported.

King’s official campaign committee began December with $1.17 million left in the bank, and Rise and Lead with about $500,000. The latest numbers have not yet been posted.

“I’m encouraged by the response we’ve received in 2017, from across Florida, to a governor who has a fresh approach to politics and who can grow our economy so it works for everyone,” King stated in a news release from his campaign. “Now I’m excited to see all we’re able to accomplish in 2018.”

King, a Winter Park businessman, faces U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in seeking the Democratic primary nomination to run for governor. The leading Republican contenders are U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow.

Philip Levine planning another bus tour of Florida

Philip Levine is gassing up a bus again for another tour of Florida, this time as an official candidate for governor.

Levine, the Democratic former mayor of Miami Beach, announced Friday that he plans to take a bus campaign tour that will start in Orlando next Tuesday morning and end in Key Largo on the afternoon of Friday, Jan. 12.

His campaign is calling the tour “Live! from Florida’s Living Rooms” and promises he’ll be presenting his vision for Florida’s future  from inside host families’ living rooms, throughout Florida.

Levine plans to kick off the tour in Orlando Tuesday morning by watching Gov. Rick Scott’s “State of the State” address from a host family’s living room, and then providing a direct response, via Facebook Live.

“Tallahassee always tells us what they want us to hear. I’m going around this state to make sure they hear from us. From the living rooms of Florida, we will let Tallahassee know that climate change is real, the minimum wage is unlivable, that drilling off our shores is off-limits, and that taking away our right to home rule is out of the question,” Levine stated in a news release.

“This tour begins a conversation we’ve never had, about things we’ve never done, for people who’ve never been given a chance. We’ve heard from Tallahassee. Now, I’m going to make sure they hear from us,” he added.

Levine faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, and Winter Park businessman Chris King in seeking the Democratic primary nomination to run for governor. The leading Republicans are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, who just declared his candidacy Friday.

Last summer Levine took a bus tour of Florida as host of a SiriusXM satellite radio talk show. That was before he officially entered the governor’s race, though the tour had all the trappings of a campaign trip.

The exact locations of host families for each living room stop on the next b us tour still are being confirmed. His campaign plans his first stop, in Orlando, at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday morning, at a location to be announced.

Tuesday afternoon he’ll be in Gainesville. Wednesday morning he’ll be in Jacksonville; Wednesday afternoon, Tallahassee; and Wednesday evening, Pensacola. Thursday morning he’ll be in Tampa; and Thursday afternoon, Fort Myers. Friday morning, Jan. 12, he’ll start in West Palm Beach; Friday afternoon he’ll appear in Fort Lauderdale, and then in Key Largo.

10 big questions facing Florida politics heading into 2018

The holidays are over. Welcome to 2018. That means campaign season pretty much starts now. Fasten your seat belts because we guarantee a bumpy ride.

Let’s start with the Top 10 (for now) Florida Politics Big Campaign Questions™:

#1: When does Rick Scott take the plunge?

Or does he? As the USA Today Network-Florida’s James Call writes, “The pundits … say 2018 may not be a Republican year — even in a red state like Florida.” (See Democrat Doug Jones’ squeaker of a win over the GOP’s Roy Moore in Alabama.)

#2: What kind of fight does Bill Nelson have in him?

Don’t count out the old astronaut just yet. The state’s senior U.S. senator this past summer told reporters, when asked about a possible Scott challenge, “I know how to campaign … I’ll leave it at that.”

#3: How does Adam Putnam avoid becoming Jeb 2.0?

By running further to the right. (See his social media for clues.) Then again, that could backfire. (See Jones vs. Moore.)

#4: What tricks does Richard Corcoran have up his sleeve?

Money aside, the House Speaker needs to up his name ID. He’s already staking out a position as a populist, “protecting your tax dollars” candidate—should he run, of course.

#5: So … is Ron DeSantis for real?

He got a thumbs up from President Trump and announced a finance team. But is it enough these days to have a Trump endorsement? Or is that a liability? (Have we mentioned Jones vs. Moore?)

#6: Can Gwen Graham raise real money?

It ain’t enough to just be Bob Graham’s daughter. We wonder if her anti-establishment, people-person stance will get in the way of her ability to make major bank.

#7: Does Andrew Gillum stay in until the end?

Such youth, such promise. Then came the annoying FBI, with its investigating of possible local Tallahassee corruption. He’s been told he’s not a target, the mayor says. But the who’ll-get-indicted distraction is still a problem.

#8: Can Phil Levine connect with Democratic primary voters?

He’s rich and he’s white. And that could be his boon—or his bust.

#9: Can Chris King gain traction?

Seems like a nice guy, smart. Too bad for him nobody seems to know or care.

#10: Can Jose Oliva keep up the Republican Party’s winning streak in the state House?

Mary Ellen Klas has said Oliva himself has “made clear he will not moderate the small-government, no-tax, anti-corporate welfare policies Corcoran has pursued.” Now he must figure out how to translate that to continued electoral success.

What about the unknown unknowns? Email or tweet us your ideas to keep the conversation going. We’ll see you on the campaign trail(s), starting … NOW.

Matt Caldwell caps off 2017 with a six-figure December

Rep. Matt Caldwell announced Thursday that his December finance reports will show another six-figure fundraising month for his Agriculture Commissioner campaign, putting him at $1.56 million raised in 2017.

“We are working hard and our support continues to grow each and every day. We have traveled nearly 41,000 miles across this State since May 1 and, in every small town or big city we visit across the Sunshine State, supporters know how important it is to have a principled conservative serving as Commissioner of Agriculture and on the Florida cabinet,” Caldwell said.

The campaign said it brought in $42,201 for the month with another $59,500 raised through Caldwell’s political committee, Friends of Matt Caldwell, for a combined total of $101,701.

In December, the Lehigh Acres Republican has over $1.07 million on-hand between the two accounts, according to the campaign.

Caldwell is running against Sebring state Sen. Denise Grimsley and former Rep. Baxter Troutman in the Republican Primary to replace termed-out Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in 2018. Also running is David Walker, the lone Democrat in the race.

At the end of November, Troutman led the pack with nearly $2.5 million on hand in his campaign account and another $51,000 in a political committee. But nearly all of that sum came from his own fortune — Troutman has raised just $63,590 for his campaign account from donors since entering the race in June and his burn rate has been so low that his $2.5 million mic drop is starting to look like it was just for show.

Grimsley, meanwhile, had had $932,077 cash on hand between her campaign account and committee, Saving Florida’s Heartland.

While the raw numbers tentatively give Caldwell the second place spot in cash on hand, the fourth-term lawmaker looks to have built up some momentum heading into 2018.

Since Caldwell’s entry post-Session, he’s been the leading money-raiser in five reporting periods, and one of those two months was September when Caldwell suspended his fundraising efforts in the wake of Hurricane Irma. His Lee County-based HD 79 was among the hardest hit by the storm.

Governor’s office seeks $1,200 to respond to Gwen Graham’s Hollywood Hills query

Gov. Rick Scott‘s office wants $1,200 from Gwen Graham before it will deliver anything to respond to her public records request, contending that’s how much staff time cost to research her inquiry into whether he spoke with nursing home administrators during the September 2017 tragedy at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills.

The governor’s office sent an invoice for $1,200 to Graham after her campaign issued a press release Thursday alleging that Scott and his office had not responded to her September open records request. In that press release, Graham, a leading Democratic candidate aiming to succeed Scott as governor, demanded, “What is Rick Scott trying to hide?”

In September Graham had followed up on media reports that had suggested Scott may have had telephone contact with nursing home officials during the slow-motion tragedy that unfolded at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills.

During the several days of power outage following Hurricane Irma, 14 residents died from heat exposure. Several investigations of the tragedy have been launched, including a criminal investigation.

Graham filed a records request under Florida’s public records laws for communications between Scott and his staff and nursing home administrators, particularly focusing on cell phone activity, but also seeking records from state agencies involved.

Thursday morning, more than 90 days later, Graham and her campaign charged that Scott had not responded to her records request, and appeared to be stonewalling.

The response came hours later, in a letter dated Thursday contending that the executive office of the governor had spent about 100 staff hours researching what records might apply to Graham’s request, and for that she must pay $1,200 to reimburse taxpayers before anything might be delivered.

“Ms. Graham,” the Office of Open Government wrote, “Upon review of your records request for the item “Copies of phone records (not limited to, but including call logs, text messages, and voicemails) from the phone account Governor Rick Scott gave out to healthcare executives for hurricane emergency related issues,” it has been determined that a cost estimate of taxpayer dollars spent is required, pursuant to Chapter 119.07(4)(d). To produce Governor Rick Scott’s September and October 2017 personal phone logs, approximately 100 hours of staff resources have been expended. This has been due to the strenuous time and resources that were dedicated to determining the identification of each individual number on the phone logs, as well as then identifying each call as state related business. The hourly rate indicated on the cost estimate is that of the lowest hourly rate of an individual who assisted with this assignment. This cost estimate has been provided in order to recover the taxpayer dollars spent processing this request.

“Please find the cost estimate attached to this email. As always, please feel free to reach out with any questions,” the office advises her.

Graham, a former congresswoman from Tallahassee, is pushing open records and government transparency in her campaign seeking to succeed Scott as governor. Her campaign’s press release Thursday alleged that “Scott and the all-Republican Cabinet have paid more than $1 million to settle lawsuits stemming from public record violations. And, last month, Scott pulled the plug on Project Sunburst, an online database of the governor’s emails.”

She faces fellow Democrats Chris King of Winter Park, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

“Governor Rick Scott does not care about transparency. Throughout his administration he has shown a complete disrespect for the spirit and letter of the Sunshine Laws,” Graham stated in the news release. “Florida used to be proud of our transparency laws. Scott has made a mockery of them.”

Andrew Gillum reports raising $250K

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum‘s campaign is reporting that he raised a quarter million dollars in December between his official campaign and his independent committee, marking his first $200,000 month since early last spring.

Spokesman Geoff Burgan characterized December as a month of momentum. Gillum hadn’t seen much momentum since before his campaign team was shaken up over lack-luster fundraising last summer.

According to a news release, the official Gillum for Governor campaign raised $88,220 in December, which is not dramatically different from the past few months. Its last six-figure month was last April. But his independent political committee Forward Florida is reporting having raised $167,770 in December, which would be its first truly significant month of fundraising since it raised a half-million over a two-month period in March and April.

“Team Gillum ended 2017 raising more than a quarter-million dollars and building on the grassroots momentum we’re seeing in the polls,” Burgan stated in the release. “Our supporters believe passionately in the Mayor’s vision and plans for making healthcare affordable and accessible to all, raising working people’s wages, and leveling the playing field for everyday Floridians, and they showed it in a big way last month. We’re kicking off the new year with energy and optimism.”

Earlier Thursday rival Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine of Miami Beach reported raising $1 million in December between his official campaign and his unofficial All About Florida political committee. That apparently included more than $500,000 Levine donated to his own campaign.

No reports have been made of foreshadowed yet by fellow Democratic candidates Gwen Graham of Tallahassee or Chris King of Winter Park, or by Republican candidate Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Two other expected candidates, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, have not yet formally entered the race.

Rick Scott remains coy about 2018 U.S. Senate, governor races

New Year’s Eve found Gov. Rick Scott lunching with President Donald Trump.

Trump has all but anointed Scott to be the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate this year, and Republicans have obliged that path by clearing the field for the Governor.

In Jacksonville Tuesday, Scott faced now-familiar questions on this race … as well as his feelings about the Governor’s race, which sees Trump backing U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis to replace Scott as Governor.

Scott faced the questions, yet he didn’t come close to answering them.

Scott noted that in terms of the Governor’s race, he hasn’t endorsed yet — and gave no indications of preference.

Regarding a potential run for Senate. Scott noted that he has “390 days” in office, again punting on that question, even as reporters asked him straight up if he was running for Senate.

Most informed speculation has been that Scott won’t make his plans known either way regarding the Senate race until the end of the Legislative Session in March.

Clearly, he’s in no rush to make pronouncements on the GOP nominee to succeed him either.

Poll finds an independent John Morgan as spoiler, even contender, in Governor’s race

A new poll from Gravis Marketing finds that if Orlando lawyer John Morgan gets into the Florida Governor’s race as an independent candidate, he could spoil the chances of Democrats, and might present the strongest independent challenge in memory.

The poll finds that, in head-to-head matchups, leading Republican candidate Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam runs dead-even against either of the top Democratic candidates, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham or Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

Gravis Marketing, of Winter Springs, then introduced the third candidate, Morgan, who declared earlier this month he would not run for governor as a Democrat but left the door open, slightly, for an independent challenge. The poll found Morgan would take far more votes away from either of the top two Democrats and Putnam wins handily.

Yet the poll also shows that without campaigning, Morgan already appears as an independent with contender-caliber support against the two major parties’ candidates.

The Gravis poll finds that nine months out from the primaries, 18 percent of Democrats prefer Graham and 12 percent favor Gillum, while former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine gets 6 percent, Winter Park businessman Chris King receives 3, and noncandidate Jeff Greene, a South Florida businessman, 2 percent.

On the Republican side, Putnam draws 23 percent while U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, who has not announced his intentions to run, would get 12 percent. The only other major declared candidate, state Sen. Jack Latvala, who submitted his resignation from the Senate last week amid allegations and investigation of sexual misconduct, would get 3 percent.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who, like DeSantis, has made no move yet, would get 2 percent. Maverick Republican candidate Bob White drew 1 percent.

The poll also finds Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson leading Republican Gov. Rick Scott 44-39 in a potential contest for the U.S. Senate election next November.

The poll, conducted Dec. 19-24 of 5,778 registered voters across Florida, has a 1.3 percent margin of error, according to Gravis.

In head-to-head Republican-Democratic contests for the governor’s office, Putnam and Graham tie at 32 percent, while Putnam and Gillum tie at 31 percent.

With Morgan in the race, Putnam draws 27 percent, Graham 23, and Morgan 17. With Gillum representing the Democrats instead of Graham, Putnam draws 26 percent, Gillum 22; and Morgan 18.

In head-to-head matchups with Corcoran as the Republican, Graham leads 33 percent to 24 percent, while Gillum leads Corcoran 33 to 22 percent.

With Morgan in those races, Graham and Gillum still lead, but by only 3 or 4 points, while Morgan enters right behind, essentially creating tight three-way packs, 24 to 20 to 18 in the Graham question, and 23 to 20 to 19 in the Gillum scenario.

Gravis did not test DeSantis in head-to-head or three-way general election contests.

Ron DeSantis for Governor? ‘Stay tuned’, he tells Fox and Friends

Apparently, Ron DeSantis is still making way toward the Governor’s race, if a favorable interview on Fox and Friends Wednesday were any indication.

The Republican congressman was grinning from ear to ear, as the studio’s big screen showed a tweet from part-time Florida Man and full-time President Donald Trump: “Congressman Ron DeSantis is a brilliant young leader, Yale and then Harvard Law, who would make a GREAT Governor of Florida. He loves our Country and is a true FIGHTER!”

The hosts invited DeSantis to “break some news,” but he declined that offer — still smiling.

“I can tell you that when that tweet went out, the amount of buzzing on my phone from calls and texts, I thought the phone was malfunctioning, or there was something going on,” said DeSantis. “When he tweets, and he has 100 million people that are seeing that, it’s a really, really big deal, and I really appreciate the kind words from the President.”

“[Trump] loves Florida, and he’s been good for Florida, and I anticipate he’ll continue to do that,” DeSantis said, adding that he’ll “come back on [the show] in the new year and break some news then.”

When one of the hosts said that by promising to break the news, it was as if DeSantis were breaking news, the still-smiling congressman urged him to use his “deductive reasoning” skills.

A DeSantis run — with Trump’s imprimatur — is a game changer for current GOP front-runner Adam Putnam.

The Agriculture Commissioner, who has run a disciplined campaign up until now, will now necessarily have to distance himself from Trump.

Also, Gov. Rick Scott — who Trump encouraged to run for the Senate — will not be able to co-brand (in any meaningful way) with the man who served in his Cabinet for seven years.

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