One of the state’s powerful health care groups — the Florida Medical Association — is meeting this weekend in Central Florida, and the group is using the gathering to showcase several candidates it is backing in this year’s elections.
The FMA’s political action committee is hosting a Saturday luncheon where it will feature U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who is running for governor; former Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Ashley Moody, who is running for attorney general; and state Rep. Gayle Harrell, who is running for state Senate.
The doctors’ group raised eyebrows this week when it endorsed DeSantis, an endorsement that came after President Donald Trump held a rally in Tampa where he resoundingly called on the state’s voters to back DeSantis in the Aug. 28 Republican primary. This was the first statewide association to back DeSantis, who is locked in an increasingly bitter contest with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
The FMA called DeSantis a “true friend of medicine” and said he would represent physicians, but DeSantis has not discussed health care issues in any detail. DeSantis opposes former President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul but has not revealed positions on issues such as scope of practice, reimbursement rates or medical malpractice.
The FMA has been critical of Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act, even though the American Medical Association backed the law. So far, the overhaul has been more of an issue in the Democratic primary, where candidates have supported expanding Medicaid, a key component of the overhaul that the Republican-controlled Legislature rejected.
On the Medicaid managed care front, there have been lots of legal changes in the last week in challenges to the state Agency for Health Care Administration’s contracting decisions. Coral Care voluntarily dismissed a challenge. And specialty challenges filed by Our Children’s PSN, the South Florida Community Care Network, Magellan and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation have been consolidated and transferred to Administrative Law Judge John Newton for consideration. Arguments in those challenges have been delayed to a yet-to-be-announced date.
Best Care Assurance, a managed care plan that filed a protest at the 11th hour, is scheduled for a hearing. But that has been pushed back to Sept. 11 and Sept. 12. The health plan is challenging the agency’s decision to award Molina Healthcare a contract in Medicaid Region 8 in Southwest Florida. Best Care Assurance is arguing, among other things, that the law limits the number of contracts in Region 8. Including Molina, AHCA has awarded five contracts in the region. More here.
Speaking of Medicaid,here is a summary of the latest Medicaid enrollment figures released by the Social Services Estimating Conference this week. Conferees will get together to talk money on Monday.
Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.
Every July Fourth, Florida Supreme Court Justice RickyPolston reads a copy of the Declaration of Independence reprinted in the Tallahassee Democrat.
“I always sit in the morning with a cup of coffee and read back through that,” Polston told members of the Economic Club of Florida in Tallahassee this week. “I just enjoy doing that.”
The sharing of his holiday indulgence made sense. Polston, who served as chief justice 2012-14, followed it with a thoughtful explanation of the judiciary, including how the Supreme Court acts almost like a “board of directors.”
Appointed to the bench in 2008, Polston spoke of the court having to handle cases sparked by the Great Recession. The justices encountered nuanced issues related to foreclosures and delinquent properties that stumped even Polston, a former CPA who keeps his license current.
Legal minds across the state were tasked with confronting problems with “shadow inventory” — delinquent properties that had not yet been foreclosed, and “ghost towns,” abandoned properties that attracted undesired or criminal activity, Polston explained.
“This presented a great problem,” Polston said, but eventually led to the court clearing a backlog of hundreds of thousands of foreclosed property cases between 2013 and 2017.
A father of 10 children, six of whom are adopted, Polston said he was dealing with a grueling and lengthy adoption process when he was appointed to the court by Gov. CharlieCrist.
He recalled a reporter asking him if the issue would weigh on his decision-making at the bench. The answer? Yes.
He remembered telling the reporter, “Justice delayed, to me, is justice denied.”
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Drew Wilson, Danny McAuliffe, Jim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
‘Stand your ground’ under fire — Following the fatal shooting of Markeis McGlockton during a parking lot dispute in Pinellas County and a decision not to pursue charges because of the state’s “stand your ground” law, elected officials across the state are calling for the Legislature to reconsider the statute immediately. Democratic state Sen. DarrylRouson of St. Petersburg this week called for a Special Session of the Legislature to address the issue. He was later joined by Senate Democratic Leader OscarBraynon and House Democratic Leader-designate KionneMcGhee. Democratic candidates for office also have gone public with criticisms of the controversial law, promising to fix the issue should they be elected.
State agrees to early voting change — Secretary of State KenDetzner has decided to go along with a federal judge’s decision last week that struck the state’s practice of keeping early voting sites off college and university campuses. U.S. District Judge MarkWalker in his ruling had called the practice “facially discriminatory on account of age.” Detzner’s decision to comply, however, doesn’t automatically guarantee early voting sites will be available at college campuses for the 2018 midterms. The News Service of Florida reports that at least three counties’ supervisors of elections say they cannot open early voting sites before the Aug. 28 primary — and are unsure whether they’ll be in place by the Nov. 6 general election.
Proposed greyhound ban struck down — A circuit court judge this week struck down Amendment 13, a ballot proposal seeking to end dog racing, because the amendment title and summary were “clearly and conclusively defective.” The court decision is a small victory for the Florida Greyhound Association, which had sued to keep the amendment off the November ballot. The state, however, already has appealed the decision, asking the case be heard in the 1st District Court of Appeal. That freezes the status quo, meaning unless a higher court decides otherwise, voters will see and be able to vote for the amendment on the November ballot. Whether those votes count remains to be seen.
Economists predict changes in higher education — Economists with the state Revenue Estimating Conference released estimates for Bright Futures, a state-backed tuition scholarship program, this week that are largely in line with what the Legislature accounted for when expanding the program during the 2018 Session. The total appropriation for the program increased from a December estimate of $340.2 million for the 2018-19 fiscal year to $519.7 million, which matches what the Legislature appropriated for the changes, according to one member of the conference. The most significant changes came with the continuation of the Academic Scholars program funding of the technology fee and tuition differential as part of the 100 percent tuition scholarship and the Florida Medallion Scholars (FMS) program covering 75 percent of tuition and fees, as well FMS’ expansion into coverage of summer courses.
State estimates PECO growth dip — State economists this week predicted the funding source behind the Public Education Capital Outlay trust fund (PECO) would grow more slowly than expected over the next few years. PECO projects, used for constructing new state education facilities and maintaining, restoring and repairing existing facilities, are funded by gross receipts taxes. The Revenue Estimating Conference is reporting that actual gross receipts collections for the fiscal year 2017-2018 were almost $10 million lower than previously forecast. That estimated drop continues in the upcoming years, with FY 18-19 $15 million lower than initially anticipated; $27 million lower in FY 19-20; and $37 million lower in FY 20-21.
CORRECTION — In last week’s edition of ‘Take 5,’ we mischaracterized the results of an investigation into former Sen. JackLatvala by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. To be clear, the agency’s report said its investigation “did not develop an indication that Latvala exerted his influence as a Florida senator to assist Ms. (Laura) McLeod in any issues she presented as a lobbyist in exchange for a continuing sexual relationship.” We regret the error.
Back-to-school tax break begins
Florida’s annual back-to-school sales tax holiday begins Saturday and ends on Monday.
Florida Education Commissioner PamStewart and Department of Revenue Executive Director LeonBiegalski issued joint statements encouraging Floridians to take advantage of the chance to save on school supplies.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for families to save money while purchasing the supplies their students will need for school,” Stewart said. “The start of a new school year is always an exciting time for Florida students, and the back-to-school sales tax holiday makes it easier for parents and students to prepare for a successful year.”
“We are pleased to partner with the Department of Education to promote the Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday. This is a great time for families to gather the supplies needed for a successful school year,” added Biegalski.
According to Revenue, “qualifying items will be exempt from tax including certain school supplies selling for $15 or less per item, and clothing, footwear, and certain accessories selling for $60 or less per item.” More information is available on the agency’s website.
Anti-cancer kits heading to firefighters
Decontamination kits are on their way to Florida’s fire departments, in hopes they’ll reduce the risk firefighters face from carcinogens — cancer-causing substances — that they encounter on the job.
When many items catch fire, such as tires, the burning can produce cancer-causing compounds.
The first kits have already reached 48 fire departments. In all, 405 departments will benefit, said Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who also serves as state fire marshal.
The Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine is also contributing to the program.
“In 2016 alone cancer caused 70 percent of career firefighter line of duty deaths across the nation, and firefighters have a nearly 15 percent higher risk of dying from cancer,” Patronis said. “Cancer prevalence in firefighters is not up for debate, and we must make sure these heroes have the tools needed to stay healthy and safe.”
A $1 million grant is financing the program. The kits include 5-gallon buckets and heavy plastic bags, dish soap, duct tape, brushes, hoses, spray bottles, hoses and nozzles, and instruction materials.
Patronis pushes pool safety
Florida leads the nation in the number of children dying in pools and spas, at a rate that increased by 20 percent from 2016 to 2017. Now Chief Financial Officer Patronis has issued guidelines intended to reverse the trend.
“Over the past few months, I’ve met with firefighters across the state, listening to their top issues and concerns,” Patronis said. “One issue that continues to emerge is the concern of pool safety among residents and visitors to our state.
“As our population grows, and new families move to our state where pools are very common, we must keep raising awareness about the potential dangers.”
More than 90 percent of the pools in the state were built before Florida passed a law mandating safety standards for swimming pools, including barriers and pool covers. Some 80 percent of the deaths in 2017 involved children younger than 5.
The top tip was to closely supervise kids in pools: “In the time it takes to put in a load of laundry, a child can drown,” Patronis said. He also recommended motion alarms; teaching kids how to swim; and learning how to perform CPR, even if you aren’t a parent.
Fellow commissioners unanimously selected Guy W. Norris as chair for the 2018-19 term. Norris was appointed by Gov. RickScott in 2015 and reappointed in 2018. He is a resident of Lake City and a partner in Norris & Norris, P.A. KimRezanka was unanimously selected vice-chair. She too was appointed by Scott in 2015 and reappointed in 2018. A resident of Cocoa, Rezanka is an attorney with Cantwell & Goldman, P.A.
Holmes County Hospital Corporation
Gov. Scott reappointed LarryCook, 56, to serve a term ending Aug. 22, 2020. A resident of Bonifay, Cook is the owner of Son’s Tire, Inc.
Southeast Volusia Hospital District
Gov. Scott appointed Dr. JanMcGee to serve a term ending March 31, 2022. Succeeding HaroldSmothers, McGee also is the principal of Burns Science & Technology Charter School.
West Florida Regional Planning Council
Gov. Scott appointed Karen “Kasey” Cuchens to fill a vacant seat for a term ending at the pleasure of the Governor. A former member of the Freeport City Council, Cuchens, 58, is now the vice president of Choctawhatchee Bay Piling and Dock, Inc.
Commercialization of Florida Technology Board of Directors
Gov. Scott appointed Jim O’Connell for a term ending Nov. 3. O’Connell, 54, of Gainesville, is the assistant vice president of technology transfer at the University of Florida. Scott also reappointed ReneeFinley for a term ending Nov. 3. Finley, 51, of Jacksonville, is the founder and former president of innovation for GuideWell Mutual Holding Corporation.
State celebrates breastfeeding
The Florida Department of Health is joining partners across the state to recognize World Breastfeeding Week, which began Wednesday.
“We know that an infant’s first 1,000 days are a crucial time for ensuring the child grows up healthy and thriving, and breastfeeding can significantly improve health outcomes for both mothers and infants,” said Surgeon General and Health Secretary Dr. CelestePhilip. “Supporting mom and encouraging breastfeeding in the first days of baby’s life are essential steps.”
This year’s celebration theme emphasizes how the maternal practice is the “foundation of life,” according to the department. The agency claims that choosing to breastfeed helps to improve an infant’s overall health and can lead to lifelong positive effects for both parties. Mothers who breastfeed their children have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
In addition to health, there are economic benefits associated with breastfeeding. According to the department: “Breastfeeding is a low-cost way of feeding babies and can reduce costs to the health care system and employers by decreasing costs of hospitalizations, medications and reduced absenteeism.”
The health department says it is working actively to promote breastfeeding in the state and is asking Floridians to encourage their employers and communities to support the healthy practice.
State pushes back-to-school immunizations
With Florida students gearing up to return to school in the coming weeks, the Florida Department of Health is reminding parents to double-check their child’s immunization record to ensure they have the required vaccinations.
Surgeon General and Health Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip said “making sure your child is fully immunized not only protects them, but it also protects children who cannot receive immunizations for medical reasons.”
According to the Health department’s website, K-12 students should have at least four shots of Diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP) and Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV).
As well, the same students should have two doses of vaccines for Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and Hepatitis B (Hep B), one for Tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis (Tdap) and two doses of Varicella vaccine, with some exceptions. Ask your child’s pediatrician.
The health department provides a free centralized online registry that records immunization records for children. That database can be accessed here. According to DOH, the registry is endorsed by the Florida Academy of Family Physicians, Florida Association of Health Plans, Inc., Florida Medical Association, Florida Osteopathic Medical Association, and the Florida Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics.
FDLE renews accreditation
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has once again been recognized with an “Accreditation with Excellence Award” from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). It’s the eight consecutive award for FDLE.
“Over the past 50 years since our founding, FDLE has grown into one of the nation’s premier state law enforcement agencies, and our nearly three decades of national accreditation bears that out,” said FDLE Commissioner RickSwearingen.
“Florida’s citizens and criminal justice partners can trust that FDLE remains dedicated to providing the highest level of professional service, all while staying at the forefront of new trends and best practices for law enforcement professionals.”
After conducting an internal assessment, CALEA found FDLE to comply with 484 standards, completing what CALEA describes as the ‘Gold Standard Assessment.’
FDLE first received accreditation in 1990. Since then, “the department has undergone rigorous inspections which include on-site visits, employee interviews and an extensive review of policies, procedures and records.”
Florida Family Action ranks lawmakers
Florida Family Action, the legislative arm of the Florida Family Council, released its legislative scorecard this week, ranking state Senators and Representatives on votes recorded during the 2018 Legislative Session.
Led by JohnStemberger, an Orlando attorney and longtime conservative activist, FFA lobbies the Legislature each year for policies that protect and defend life, marriage, family and religious liberty.
This year’s scorecard gave legislators a letter grade ranking (A-F) based on their votes of 10 issues identified by FFA. In the House, the average Democrat score is 34 percent, and the average Republican rating is 96 percent. In the Senate, the average Democrat score is 23 percent, and the average Republican is 82 percent.
Among some of the more widely known concerns of FFA during Session were bills that would have expanded religious liberty in schools, restricted abortions by banning ‘dismemberment abortions,’ and required the state Department of Health to expand its involvement in crisis pregnancy centers that encourage childbirth.
The FFA and its affiliated organizations have staunchly opposed the Competitive Workforce Act, which would expand civil rights protections to LGBTQ individuals. FFA, in an article attached to the scorecard, called the legislation “the worst bill in the world,” saying it would “punish Christians for exercising Free Speech Rights and the Free Exercise of Religion.”
League launches voter prep guide
Less than 100 days out from the 2018 elections, The League of Women Voters of Florida is out with a new website to help voters before they show up at the polls — or seal the envelope on that mail-in ballot.
BeReadyToVote.org is a one-stop where Floridians can get directed to the information they’re looking for, be it registration status or early voting dates, without having to navigate the maze-like structure of their home county’s supervisor of elections website.
The League’s website also includes a link to a nonpartisan voter guide on the candidates running for office. Those a bit cynical about the progressive organization’s ability to give info on Republicans running for office need not fret — the Vote411.org guide includes candidate responses to questions without editorial narrative.
The website also includes bullet points for the 13 amendments slated for the ballot with plain English summaries of what a vote for or against would entail, as well as a list of the political committees working for or against the measures.
While information on registering to vote is available on the site, first-time voters looking to tick a box in the Aug. 28 primary election have missed the boat if they aren’t already on the books. Eligible Floridians face an Oct. 9 registration deadline if they want to cast a ballot in November.
Anti-rail group grades candidates
Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida (CARE FL) is advising Floridians with similar interests on how to vote for Treasure Coast region candidates up and down the ballot in the upcoming election.
CARE FL is primarily concerned with All Aboard Florida and the Brightline trains. The high-speed rail operations travel through Treasure Coast communities. After sending a survey gauging candidates on their prospective, rail-related policy positions, CARE FL released a report card this week, doling out letter grades to each candidate.
“We are pleased so many incumbents and candidates are finally echoing the public safety concerns that have been expressed by so many members in our communities,” said BrentHanlon, chairman of the CARE FL Steering Committee.
“This is more than a regional issue, and there should be nothing more important than the safety of Florida’s residents, and visitors alike. We applaud the elected officials who have steadfastly stood with us — and for that, they are recognized in this report card as Champions.”
Topping the list as recognized ‘Champions’ are Congressmen BillPosey and BrianMast, along with state Reps. ErinGrall, GayleHarrell and MaryLynnMagar, Indian River County Commissioners Peter O’Bryan and Joseph Flescher, and Stuart City Commissioner Troy McDonald.
Harrell is running for state Senate District 25, and her opponents, BelindaKeiser and RobertLevy both received A grades. The only graded candidate for Governor, Democrat PhilipLevine, received an A rating.
“We believe these scores will help inform voters as they cast their ballots in the upcoming election,” said JaneFeinstein, a member of the CARE FL Steering Committee who serves as the chairman of the group’s survey initiative.
“For many residents in our region, a candidate’s position on high-speed rail is a deciding factor. We need to ensure that our elected officials know that keeping our communities safe is a top priority.”
Able Trust chips in
The Able Trust, an organization that helps students with disabilities prepare and enter the workforce, also is assisting organizations who support children who have been abused, neglected or assaulted.
This week, the organization presented the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center (ECCAC) with a $35,000 grant to help ECCAC carry out its mission of helping children in need.
“This grant will help the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center continue to provide its vital services,” said Dr. SusanneHomant, president and CEO of The Able Trust. “Making sure programs are available to help and protect children is of the utmost importance.”
ECCAC, serving children in Okaloosa and Walton counties, “assists children and their families from the investigation process through healing and restoring their childhood,” according to a news release announcing the grant.
In accepting the grant, the head of ECCAC cited the importance of groups like The Able Trust: “It is through acts of generosity and kindness that we are able to continue to care for and protect the children of our community exposed to child abuse,” said Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center board president, TammyPierce.
FSU launching Peace Corps prep
Florida State University is rolling out a new program this fall tailor-made to help prepare students to volunteer in the Peace Corps.
Dubbed the Peace Corps Prep program, the university will partner with the federal volunteer agency to “help undergraduate students (with) the skills they need to be a competitive applicant for those positions,” according to the university. Administered by FSU’s Learning Systems Institute, the program is currently accepting applications for fall.
The partnership enlists the College of Education to help students understand and navigate the application process for Corps prospects.
“FSU is delighted to extend its ongoing work with the Peace Corps through this program,” said HelenBoyle, associate professor of education and program coordinator. “It will be invaluable for undergraduates who are thinking about international careers in government, development or teaching abroad.”
Since 1961, FSU has produced 856 volunteers. Thirty-eight currently serve, according to the university. The Corps established the prep program in 2007, and more than 75 other institutions have formed similar partnerships. The university anticipates the effort will help increase its ranking among all other public universities.
Get growing with Leon County
Those looking to harvest their own vegetables this fall can jump-start their garden with a little help from Leon County.
The 2018 Fall Seed Library Launch is back again this year, and will take place 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday at the Woodville Branch Library, 8000 Old Woodville Road. The location offers lessons in seeding, composting, cooking, pollination and site selection as part of the one-time event.
As long as supplies last, library patrons across the county can check out three seed packets per card per month from any of the seven public library locations.
Among the seed varieties: Arugula, Di Cicco Broccoli, Danvers Carrots, Champion Collards, Tronchuda Kale, Flashy Lightning Lettuce, Mizuna Green Mustard Greens, Giant of Italy Parsley, Easter Egg Radishes and Long Standing Bloomsdale Spinach.
The seeds are made available through the Seed Library Program. Now in its third year, the initiative seeks “to promote noninvasive, heirloom vegetable seed planting in Leon County and to encourage residents to grow their own nutritious food,” according to county officials.
Tallahassee Senior Services ‘invigorates’
Tallahassee Senior Services’ Lifelong Learning Extravaganza (L3X) returns during September for its ninth year and “exemplifies lifelong learning at its finest, offering educational fare for everyone’s palette,” a news release said.
The month-long program provides adults (18 and older) with the opportunity to gain knowledge about art, music, culture, science, nature, history, literature, food, drink and more. More than 50 different activities are available, including lectures, tours and field trips from hands-on soap making to viewing stalagmites.
To preview some of the planned L3X activities, Tallahassee Senior Services is hosting launch parties, which are open to the public, on Monday, Aug. 6, 8:30-10 a.m. and Tuesday, Aug. 7, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Interested participants will be able to pick up a course catalog, meet instructors and sponsors and enjoy refreshments. While these launch parties provide a preview, they are not required for registration.
Members of the Tallahassee Senior Center Foundation will be able to register for L3X classes beginning Wednesday, Aug. 8. The general population can start registering on Monday, Aug. 13. To view the course catalog and register online, visit TallahasseeSeniorFoundation.org.
Registration is open until a class fills up. Early registration is encouraged; many classes fill quickly.
With less than a month before the primary vote in Florida, the major candidates for governor continue to make their case with party regulars. Where can you see them in action?
Democrat Philip Levine, former Miami Beach mayor, today will open his 14th campaign office up, this one in Palmetto Bay. A 1 p.m. opening for the South Dade Regional Office will also serve as a ramping up of a field operation targeting voters in key markets. The campaign will also hold canvass events through the day.
Republican Adam Putnam, Florida’s agriculture commissioner, will participate today in the Annual Wausau Possum Parade and Festival, which steps off at 10 a.m. at Wausau Town Hall, with a festival and auction afterward at the Possum Palace.
Democrat Jeff Greene, Palm Beach billionaire, continues his bus tour as it swings back south this weekend. The campaign rolls through Martin, Palm Beach and Broward counties today, and continues in Broward on Sunday as well.
This post will be updated with more information as campaigns announce appearances.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis brought in more than $1 million apiece between their campaigns and political committees last week, according to newly filed campaign finance reports.
Putnam, per usual, brought in the most. His haul included nearly $1 million in campaign funds and another $587,100 in soft money raised via his affiliated political committee, Florida Grown.
DeSantis, meanwhile, reeled in $726,837 in hard dollars with the balance of his $1.3 million haul coming in through his committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis.
The biggest benefactor for each candidate was the state of Florida by way of campaign matching funds. Putnam cashed his first check from the state, which rang in at $932,471, on July 27. DeSantis drew down his first payment, which measured in at $643,225, on the same day.
The state campaign matching funds program, open only to candidates for Governor and Cabinet positions, matches contributions of $250 or less from individuals who were state residents at the time of making the contribution. The first distribution of those funds is made 60 days before the primary election.
Though it topped the charts for both Republicans, taxpayer funds weren’t the only six-figure checks heading to the GOP rivals.
DeSantis, the preferred candidate of President Donald Trump, received $500,000 in committee cash from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam Adelson. Adelson, the CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, is currently the second most prolific political donor of the 2018 election cycle, having given more than $30 million to various Republican candidates across the country.
As of July 27, Putnam had raised $36.8 million for his gubernatorial campaign and had about $7.3 million in the bank between his two accounts. DeSantis, who joined the race after New Year’s, has now raised just shy of $15 million and has $4.2 million at the ready.
The pair are less than four weeks out from the Aug. 28 primary election that will decide which of the two will represent the Republican party on the November ballot. Recent polls of the nominating contest show DeSantis with a double-digit lead over Putnam, who had been the frontrunner prior to Trump wading into the primary battle.
Florida Grown, a political committee supporting Adam Putnam‘s run for Florida Governor, released a hard-hitting ad Friday spotlighting opponent Ron DeSantis‘ “betrayal” of Florida.
The charge: “Why did he sell Florida out? Because the real Ron DeSantis is part of the Washington swamp, working for one of the largest lobbying firms in America… taking a million dollars from Wall Street… and facing massive ethics violations. Hypocrisy. Betrayal. That’s D.C. DeSantis.”
The ad spotlights DeSantis’ support of the FairTax, a national sales tax proposal that would replace the Internal Revenue Service. As well, the spot spotlights DeSantis supporting cuts in Social Security and raising the retirement age, via votes in three successive years.
Putnam has hammered DeSantis for trying to cut entitlements and spending power of senior citizens, and this ad amplifies those attacks, in addition to highlighting a DeSantis vote to raise the debt ceiling during the Barack Obama presidency.
Raising the debt ceiling — the term for raising the amount of debt the U.S. Treasury can incur — is a routine occurrence that started creeping back into the headlines in Obama’s second term. DeSantis voted to increase the debt ceiling early in his first term, as did all but 33 of his Republican colleagues in the U.S. House.
That punch may be damaging in a normal Republican primary race, though the Putnam vs. DeSantis brawl is anything but normal. Since earning an explicit endorsement from President Donald Trump, DeSantis has surged into the lead in the primary race and it’s unclear whether even an association with Obama could repel Florida Republicans, most of whom are firmly aboard the Trump train.
Despite losing his frontrunner status, Putnam has the support of many monied donors and has maintained a massive fundraising advantage in the race — the most recent round of campaign finance reports put him at $36.8 million raised and $7.3 million banked compared to $15 million raised and has $4.2 million banked for DeSantis.
With that kind of cash, there could be another volley of attacks on the horizon.
Two gubernatorial candidates running behind in the polls heading toward the Aug. 28 primaries and in need of good news, Democrat Chris King and Republican Adam Putnam, tied for first in a straw poll taken at a political mixer hosted by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce Thursday night.
King, a hometown favorite as a Winter Park resident and local entrepreneur, and Putnam, Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner, both finished with 23.8 percent of the vote in the chamber’s straw poll on the governor’s race.
Putnam, long the front-runner in the Republican primary battle for governor, has dropped behind U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis by double digits in almost all polls taken in the past month. King has not been able to crack the top tier of Democrats running for governor, while facing Gwen Graham, Philip Levine, Jeff Greene, and Andre Gillum in their primary.
The chamber has not yet released full results showing the percentages for candidates who did not come out on top in their race polls.
Among other preferences, Gov. Rick Scott was the Winter Park chamber’s pick in the U.S. Senate race; state Rep. Mike Miller for Florida’s 7th Congressional District; and Ashley Moody, Jimmy Patronis and Matt Caldwell for Florida’s attorney general, chief financial officer, and agriculture commissioner, respectively.
All of them save King are Republicans. Typical of chamber polls, there was a significant Republican preference across the results, with Republican candidates picked as the choices in the overwhelming majority of races. Nonetheless, there were some Democrats who broke through as favorites.
The most notable was Democrat Anna Eskamani of Orlando, the chamber’s the pick for Florida’s House District 47. She awaits the Aug. 28 Republican primary victor of either Winter Park businessman Stockton Reeves VI or Orlando lawyer Mikaela Nix. They’re all shooting for the seat opening up by Miller’s congressional run.
Eskamani touted her selection in a news release Friday morning, declaring, “I had an incredible time at the Winter Park Chamber’s Political Mingle, and was a member of the Winter Park Chamber when I served as a senior director at Planned Parenthood, too. I care about our business community deeply, which is why the first platform our campaign ever rolled out was our 47 Means Business platform, where we not only share our vision for a diversified economy, but we highlight a small business in HD 47 each week. I believe it is possible to build an economy where business owners, managers, workers, and entrepreneurs can each achieve the American dream. It feels good knowing we’re not alone in that vision for Florida.”
In other races, the Winter Park chamber’s straw poll showed preferences for state Rep. Bob Cortes‘s reelection in Florida House District 30; Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings for Orange County Mayor; Orange County School Board members Christine Moore, Pete Crotty, Susan Makowski, and Orange County Commissioner Victoria Siplin for the Orange County Commissions’ District 2, 3, 4, and 6 seats, respectively; Orlando Police Chief John Mina for Orange County Sheriff; Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs for Orange County School Board Chair; Angie Gallo and former state Rep. Karen Castor Dentel for Orange County School Board Districts 1 and 6; and Soil and Water District Commissioner Daisy Morales and Derek Ryan for Orange County Soil and Water Conservation District seats 2 and 4.
As the gubernatorial campaign of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnammoves forward, the former Republican front-runner finds his operation in the awkward position of warring with prominent elements on the right.
Wednesday, Putnam’s camp spotlighted U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis garnering support from the Koch brothers.
Hours before President Donald Trump‘s rally supporting DeSantis’ campaign in Tampa, Trump blasted the “globalist” Kochs, saying he didn’t “need their money or bad ideas.”
The globalist Koch Brothers, who have become a total joke in real Republican circles, are against Strong Borders and Powerful Trade. I never sought their support because I don’t need their money or bad ideas. They love my Tax & Regulation Cuts, Judicial picks & more. I made…..
….them richer. Their network is highly overrated, I have beaten them at every turn. They want to protect their companies outside the U.S. from being taxed, I’m for America First & the American Worker – a puppet for no one. Two nice guys with bad ideas. Make America Great Again!
DeSantis, who worked hard for the Kochs’ backing even before getting into the governor’s race, has been endorsed and is benefiting from direct mail against Adam Putnam.
Putnam’s camp wondered: “Is DeSantis happy to accept millions from people against strengthening our borders and negotiating powerful trade deals?”
Contacted for comment, DeSantis’ campaign manager Brad Herold noted that “[u]nlike Amnesty Adam we’re in the stage of the campaign where people are joining it, not leaving it.”
That comment is a reference to reporting from multiple sources suggesting that enthusiasm is flagging among Putnam supporters, many of whom got in early, when Putnam was the prohibitive front-runner in polls.
At a private Orlando fundraiser on Monday for Putnam, 11 people were invited, only 6 showed up. https://t.co/ymyREwS1kr
It was only last week that Putnam went on the offense against DeSantis’ support of the Fair Tax, which would phase out the federal income tax structure and replace it with a simple excise tax on all purchases.
Though considered a regressive measure by some economists and analysts, even on the right, the attack was most notable for inviting active antagonism from Neal Boortz, the conservative talk radio host who has long championed the proposal.
Putnam seems to be evading Boortz, even after days of attempts at dialogue from the “talkmaster.”
I have contacted the Adam Putnam campaign in Fl. regarding the blatant falsehoods about the FairTax in a TV ad supporting him. Let’s see if they respond. @adamputnam@AdamPutnamNews
For roughly an hour Tuesday night, Donald Trump worked the crowd at the Florida State Fairgrounds, in his element in a state he won in 2016 and clearly wanting to call the shots in the 2018 elections.
A central question coming into the event was how much the President would say on behalf of U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and against his gubernatorial primary opponent, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
In what could be considered a birthday gift of sorts for Putnam, Trump did not mention the Commissioner by name.
Out of sight. Might as well have been out of mind; the primary seemingly decided (at least, in the crucible that is a Trump rally) four weeks before counting a single vote.
Early in the speech, Trump called DeSantis a “tough, brilliant cookie … who’s going to be your next governor” eliciting rousing applause as he allowed DeSantis to speak.
In turn, DeSantis extolled Trump — for the economy, standing by Israel, “strong Constitutionalists” on courts, and ending “the disastrous Iran deal.”
DeSantis also vowed to “appoint strict Constitutionalists” to Florida courts, and stop Common Core.
While Trump did not name Putnam, he did say “everybody needs to support Ron DeSantis” in the August primary.
Roughly ten minutes after the rally began, the President moved beyond Florida concerns, into familiar rhetorical riffs lasting nearly half an hour before reminding the crowd again to vote for DeSantis, then pivoting with a Trumpian double-edged statement notable after an elided transition.
“The lobbyists and special interests fighting against my administration, many of them globalists, care about what’s happening in other countries. I care what’s happening here.”
And then, toward the end, another endorsement.
“He’s going to be an incredible governor … I don’t do these endorsements easily,” Trump said, noting his support in the Georgia gubernatorial primary that led to a landslide victory for Brian Kemp, who was a “great guy.”
“I had to be here to formally endorse Ron,” Trump said, again omitting mention of Putnam. “You’ve gotta get out and vote.”
“When you elect Ron DeSantis as your governor,” Trump predicted, “the people of Florida” will beg DeSantis to come to him and complain of “too much winning.”
“The people of Florida are just downright tired of winning, they can’t stand it,” a hypothetical DeSantis said to a future Trump.
No matter, the President assured. The winning won’t stop.
At least in the GOP gubernatorial primary, there were no named losers.
Putnam went unmentioned, a cipher at the Fairgrounds where he sits on the board.
And the message with relevance in August was clear.
Ron DeSantis was Trump’s guy.
And Adam? Adam who?
Putnam, in a prepared statement, said he supports Trump and his agenda.
“But this is about being Florida’s governor. This is about leading a $1 trillion economy in the third largest state, and to do that you need to know Florida,” Putnam said. “I know Florida better than any of the other candidates running. I’m confident that there’s an awful lot of Trump-Putnam voters out there who want a governor who actually understands the challenges facing them and puts them first.”
The venue Tuesday was important because the Tampa Bay media market can potentially reach a quarter of the state’s voters and has the largest concentration of Republican voters, said SusanMacManus, a longtime political-science professor at the University of South Florida.
“It’s clear now that DeSantis is playing offense and Putnam is playing defense. We’ll have to see. Putnam probably still has a lot of loyalists who see polls that suggest he could be better against any of the Democratic nominees,” MacManus said.
Incoming Florida House Speaker JoseOliva, a Miami Lakes Republican who was one of the opening speakers at the Tampa rally, said he supported the president’s decision, noting the differing political agendas of the Republican and Democratic parties.
“At a time we’re engaging in this debate, the sidelines is no place for a leader,” said Oliva, who was one of the first major Tallahassee leaders to endorse DeSantis.
Democrats, of course, framed the event as a bipartisan split.
“Tonight’s rally was not surprisingly filled with divisive rhetoric and bluster — and completely ignored the real challenges facing Florida,” asserted Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.
But Buckhorn was missing the point.
It’s an August rally — all about the base.
Material from the News Service of Florida is used in this story with permission.
As President Donald Trump comes to Tampa on Tuesday to rally for Republican gubernatorial front-runner Ron DeSantis, Republican voters across Florida began receiving a mail piece which highlights the President’s endorsement of DeSantis.
On the other side of the mailer is a multi-pronged, heavily sourced attack on Adam Putnam‘s long record in public office.
The DeSantis-aligned political committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis, sent the piece, which will appear in mailboxes across the state just as statewide media coverage of the president’s Tampa visit on behalf of DeSantis’ campaign kicks up dramatically and vote-by-mail ballots finish being delivered statewide.
Sensing a winning hand, the pro-DeSantis mailer remains positive – free of the dark imagery and distorted photos that often mark political “hit mail.”
Instead, the piece simply compares the records and positions of DeSantis and Putnam on key Republican issues such as illegal immigration, fiscal responsibility, and education.
Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine whipped out his checkbook two weeks ago to loan another $2.62 million to his campaign for Governor.
The South Florida Democrat deposited that money, marked as a candidate loan, across two checks. His campaign account reeled in another $71,400 in outside cash to bring its to-date fundraising total past the $14 million mark.
Thanks to $2.66 million in campaign spending, that infusion was wiped out the week it landed. Nearly all of that money went toward media buys to keep Levine’s TV commercials on the air.
The campaign has rolled out two new 30-second spots in the past two weeks, the first telling the story of Tampa Bay campaign director Ella Coffee and the second calling out term-limited Gov. Rick Scott and other Republicans over the algal blooms wreaking havoc in South Florida waterways.
The former mayor’s political committee, All About Florida, tacked on another $186,000 in outside money during the weeklong reporting period, including a $100,000 check from California businessman Bobby Kotick, the CEO of video game company Activision Blizzard and a member of the Coca-Cola Company board.
Committee spending came in at more than $511,000 and included a $203,000 direct mail campaign via The Pivot Group, a $200,000 donation to the Florida Democratic Party and another $80,000 to MDW Communications for digital marketing.
All About Florida had about $479,000 in the bank on July 20. In all, Levine’s two accounts have raised $23.3 million combined, including nearly $15 million in contributions and loans from Levine’s personal fortune. The two accounts have a joint $638,000 on hand.
Levine faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene and Winter Park affordable housing developer Chris King in the Democratic primary for Governor.
Levine leads the pack in fundraising followed by Greene, who has put $13.6 million behind his campaign since entering the race at the beginning of June. Graham has raised nearly $10.4 million, while King has raised roughly $8 million between his two accounts, including $4 million in loans, and Gillum has raised about $4.5 million.
The most recent poll of the primary race puts Graham atop the five-way race with 27 percent support followed by Levine at 18 percent, Greene at 12 percent, Gillum at 10 percent and King at 7 percent.
The primary is Aug. 28. Whoever emerges from the Democratic primary will advance to the Nov. 6 general election, where they’ll face the winner of the two-way GOP primary between Ponte Vedra U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.