Adam Putnam Archives - Page 4 of 84 - Florida Politics

Public matching funds add up in state races

Nearly $3.5 million in public matching funds were distributed to seven candidates — including three gubernatorial candidates who drew a combined $2.6 million — when the first checks went out Friday.

The initial amounts indicate candidates may quickly top the state’s contributions to candidates in the 2014 election.

Four years ago, the state distributed $4.34 million in matching funds to six statewide candidates, including Attorney General Pam Bondi, former Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam during the primary and general elections.

The first matching fund checks issued in 2014, also distributed the final week of July, totaled $948,838.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist, who made an unsuccessful bid to return to the governor’s office in 2014, drew $2.58 million, the most of any candidate in that year’s election cycle.

This year, Putnam, who is running for governor, got $932,471 in Friday’s payments, while his Republican primary opponent, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, received $643,226, according to numbers posted by the Division of Elections.

Candidates are eligible to receive matches of individual contributions of $250 or less. No public money is dispensed until candidates for Cabinet positions reach $100,000 in such relatively small-dollar contributions received since last September. For gubernatorial candidates, the threshold is $150,000.

Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, the only Democratic gubernatorial candidate to qualify for the state public funding program, received $991,598.

Among attorney general candidates, former Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Ashley Moody, a Republican, got $283,748, and Democrat Sean Shaw, a state House member from Tampa, received $138,993.

Republican Frank White, who is battling Moody in the GOP primary for attorney general, has made an issue of her statements that she stands for reducing government waste while she has sought public matching funds.

Moody has countered that the public matching-dollar program was established to combat “self-funding” by inexperienced candidates.

White has put $2.77 million of his own money into the campaign, while the family-owned auto dealership Sansing Holdings, where he is general counsel and chief financial officer, has added $250,000 through the political committee United Conservatives.

State Sen. Denise Grimsley, a Republican from Sebring running for agriculture commissioner, received $225,696 in matching funds.

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, a Republican who has no primary opponent, picked up $268,668 in matching funds.

In 2014, Putnam, seeking re-election as agriculture commissioner, received $459,009 in matching dollars. In 2010, when first running for the office, Putnam drew $587,396 in matching funds.

In 2010, the state doled out a combined $6.1 million in matching funds.

Bill McCollum, a former state attorney general who sought the Republican nomination for governor in 2010, was the biggest user of the program. McCollum received $1.82 million before being knocked out in the primary.

Gov. Rick Scott, who topped McCollum in the 2010 primary, didn’t draw any matching funds in 2010 or 2014 as he used his own personal wealth in both campaigns.

Bondi received $328,016 in matching funds in 2014 and $432,619 in 2010.

Atwater used the program to receive $418,396 in 2014 and $744,250 in 2010.

Ron DeSantis camp calls latest Adam Putnam attacks ‘false claims’

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis pushed back against new ads from primary opponent Adam Putnam, suggesting the congressman supported welfare for undocumented immigrants.

“It’s a shame to see Adam Putnam abandoning his integrity,” said Dave Vasquez, a DeSantis spokesman. “He’s now basing his campaign around blatantly false claims meant to mislead voters.”

But Putnam officials say DeSantis won’t stand by his own congressional voting record.

“Since when do we let politicians deny their record?” says Putnam spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice. “His record in Congress is an indication of what he could do to our state.”

The mailer repeats a claim previously made by Putnam during a Fox News-televised debate that DeSantis favored giving “food stamps to illegal immigrants.”

That was based on the congressman’s vote against a farm bill that included worker requirements and assistance funding in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. That debate claim earned Putnam a “Pants on Fire” grade from Politifact.

Pushback to the new Putnam mailer comes days after an advertisement from Putnam’s Florida Grown political committee insinuated a sales tax supported by DeSantis would hit Florida’s economy.

Fact-checking outlets like PolitiFact note that ignores the fact a bill DeSantis supported in Congress, the Fair Tax Act, would have also eliminated the federal income tax.

At a Republican event in Sarasota on Saturday where both DeSantis and Putnam spoke to voters, Putnam from stage said, “Candidates from both sides want to raise our taxes.”

Putnam’s people stand by the claim “The new 23 percent national sales tax is not conservative,” Beatrice said, citing studies published in the National Review suggesting a sales tax hike would shift the tax burden on the middle class.

In fact, the Fair Tax Act primarily draws its support from ultra-conservative pundits like Neal Boortz, who tweeted disapproval with Putnam for characterizing the tax as a hike.

Of course, the DeSantis campaign claims the negative attacks come as a sign of desperation following an apparent shift in the primary.

Putnam has led the money race by millionsUntil recently, he has also led in most polls, but that changed after President Donald Trump formally endorsed DeSantis in the race. In July, poll after poll after poll has shown the congressman now leading the commissioner—sometimes by double-digit margins—in a dramatic turnaround weeks before the Aug. 28 primary.

DeSantis people note Putnam’s “fading in the polls” in a press release responding harshly to negative mailers.

“Completely underwater in every recent poll, Adam Putnam and his campaign have completely given up on providing any semblance of honesty to Florida voters,” the statement reads.

Rick Scott, Adam Putnam big winners at Clearwater Chamber straw poll

Gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, U.S. Senate hopeful Rick Scott and Attorney General contender Ashley Moody all came out on top in a straw poll conducted Friday by the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“Educating our members on candidates who support business issues and giving an opportunity for this type of interaction is a priority for our Chamber,” said Katie E. Cole, Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce chairwoman. “We appreciate the staff of the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections who facilitated the Straw Poll.”

The chamber released the top two vote-getters, which indicate strong preference for the GOP slate of candidates.

For example, Putnam won the poll with 36 percent of the vote, but Republican primary opponent Ron DeSantis came in second place with 21 percent. Similarly, Agriculture Commissioner candidate Denise Grimsley won with 39 percent, followed by fellow Republican candidate Matt Caldwell with 22 percent.

But in other contests the top two felt more like a general election match-up. Scott took 52 percent of the vote, with incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson winning 44 percent.

U.S. House candidate George Buck, a Republican running in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, narrowly beat incumbent Democrat Charlie Crist in the straw poll.

In Florida’s 12th Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Gus Bilirakis took 64 percent of the vote, but Democrat Stephen Perenich came in second place with 23 percent of the vote, ahead of Democratic fundraising leader Chris Hunter.

Moody took 57 percent of the vote in the Attorney General contest, with Democrat Sean Shaw in a distant second with 22 percent.

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis came out ahead with 66 percent of the vote to Democratic challenger Jeremy Ring’s 34 percent.

In state Senate District 16, Republican Ed Hooper took 65 percent to Democrat Amanda Murphy’s 33 percent.

Jennifer Webb, a Democrat running for state House in District 69, was the only Democrat to beat a Republican, Jeremy Bailie, in the straw poll. In District 66, Republican Nick DiCeglie bested Democrat Alex Hereen.

State Reps. James Grant, Chris Sprowls, Chris Latvala and Wengay Newton all bested competitors.

Sarasota Republicans withhold straw poll results amid irregularities

Results from a straw poll conducted Saturday by the Republican Party of Sarasota County will not be released following accusations of ballot-stuffing.

A statement from the party puts some blame on left-wing activists who came to the event and disrupted a speech by Republican Gov. Rick Scott, a U.S. Senate candidate. But it also acknowledged accusations a supporter of gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis allegedly stuffed the ballot for her candidate.

The statement, released by Republican Party of Sarasota Vice Chairman Jack Brill, reads: “After the hugely successful rally, the problem was discovered that the disruptions by left-wing groups who snuck in, jumped on tables and tried to shout down Gov. Rick Scott, combined with accusations of ballot-stuffing, allowed the vote to be tainted and left the Party with no option but to not release results that it could not verify as accurate.”

DeSantis and primary opponent Adam Putnam both spoke Saturday at the Primary Election Grassroots Straw Poll. But several eyewitnesses said DeSantis supporter Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder grabbed a stack of ballots and passed them around to those sitting near to her.

She admitted as much to Florida Politics, but said neither she nor any of the people around her voted more than once. Rather, she blamed a procedure that required voters to get in a line and pick up their ballots along with a free slice of pie.

“Why ruin my body and get a piece of pie,” she said.

Of course, the straw poll included a number of races besides governor, including tight primary races.

Republican candidates for Congress in Florida’s 17th Congressional District, including Greg Steube, Julio Gonzalez and Bill Akins, all spoke at the event.

So did Tommy Gregory and Melissa Howard, the Republican candidates in state House District 73.

Two years ago, straw poll organizers for this event stamped individuals’ hands to ensure everybody only voted once, but saw many people come to vote and immediately leave. This year, the pie-and-ballot system was employed to keep people there to hear speeches.

The party statement today made clear the sanctity of the straw poll would be reassessed.

“The Party will institute stricter voting controls over the next straw poll, and have even more security in place, because unfortunately disruptions are now the primary tactic of the left and Democrats,” it reads.

Ron DeSantis supporters accused of ballot-stuffing at Sarasota straw poll

Accusations of ballot box stuffing will delay any release of results for a straw poll conducted by the Republican Party of Sarasota on Saturday.

“The results of the straw poll conducted during the rally are still being worked on,” reads an official press release from organizers. “The Republican Party of Sarasota Executive Committee will be meeting Sunday to ensure the integrity of the vote count before releasing the final results.”

Organizers of the Sarasota event confirmed a local backer of gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis obtained extra ballots and encouraged supporters to cast more than one vote.

Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder, a member of the Sarasota County Republican Executive Committee, admits she grabbed and handed out approximatley 15 ballots to people at sitting with or around her at the Sarasota event. But she says no one voted twice, and that any problem should be attributed to poor event organization.

“What happened was instead of giving people ballots, they didn’t do that. They were forcing people to get pies first,” Cuevas-Neunder said.

Cuevas-Neunder, also the founder and CEO of the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce of Florida and a former candidate for governor, says Spanish-speaking attendees of Sarasota’s straw poll were not properly informed of the process for getting a ballot.

When she learned she couldn’t get a ballot without standing in a long line for pies, Cuevas-Neunder says she went to the table and asked a volunteer to provide ballots for her and her friends.

Two years ago, organizers for the grassroots rally used a system where individuals had their hands stamped once they voted in the straw poll. That helped ensure every individual voted only once. But it also meant individuals could come to the event, vote and leave.

But Joe Gruters, chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota, said party leaders this year wanted to make sure people stayed at the rally for a longer time, especially with the bigger name candidates like DeSantis, Adam Putnam and U.S. Senate candidate Rick Scott slated to speak during the last hour of the event.

So instead, attendees were promised free slices of pie from Yoder’s Restaurant if they stayed at the rally. Ballots were handed out when individuals got a slice of pie.

“Some people,” Gruters said, “got more pie than others.”

Cuevas-Neunder, though, says she didn’t get seconds—or firsts. “I don’t eat sweets,” she said.

Officials with Putnam’s campaign told Florida Politics multiple eyewitnesses reported ballot-stuffing by DeSantis backers, forcing event organizers to huddle and discuss the integrity of results.

“The D.C. DeSantis camp displayed the worst of Washington today—willing to cheat and lie for political points,” said Putnam spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice. “We thank the event organizers for taking this issue seriously.”

Cuevas-Neunder did vote for DeSantis in the poll, she said, though she is not an official part of the campaign. She listed problems she had with Putnam’s treatment of Puerto Rican farmers after the hurricane and also holds him responsible for failing to protect the environment and coasts from Big Sugar interests.

Some organizers expressed frustration at a confusing end to an otherwise successful event.

“We’re thrilled to have had such an great turnout and see so much positive energy among the Republican base in our community,” said Jack Brill, vice chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota.

More than 1,200 attendees filled Robarts Arena in Sarasota to hear from 41 candidates, included all the major Republicans running for statewide office.

At the same event, left-wing protesters disrupted a speech by Scott.

Cuevos-Neunder said she should not be held responsible for questions about the straw poll’s integrity and blamed poor organization. “Everyone in there was voting DeSantis,” she said. “See if he wins by 15 votes. I didn’t give out more than 15.”

Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham

EMILY’s List puts Gwen Graham over $10M mark in total fundraising

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham posted a major haul in her new campaign finance reports thanks to a $400,000 cash infusion from EMILY’s List, a Democratic-leaning group that supports the campaigns of pro-choice women throughout the country.

That six-figure donation went to the former Congresswoman’s political committee, Gwen Graham for Florida, on July 17. In all, Graham’s new reports showed $732,700 in contributions for the reporting period covering July 14 through July 20 — $630,100 in committee cash with another $102,600 in hard money fundraising for her campaign account.

Other major donations in the committee report include a pair of $50,000 checks from Jacksonville law firm Pajcic & Pajcic and Wagmore Foundation President Gladys Cofrin, as well as a $25,000 contribution from Pensacola-based political committee Good Ideas for Government.

The campaign cash showed nearly 1,250 contributions with more than 1,100 of them coming in from small-dollar donors chipping in $100 or less.

The two accounts also spent nearly $1 million, with the bulk of that cash — $922,000 — paying for a media buy through Virginia-based Screen Strategies Media, likely in support of her new TV ad, titled “Lessons,” that her campaign announced earlier this month.

As of July 20, Graham has raised nearly $10.4 million between her two accounts and has $2.1 million in the bank.

The North Florida Democrat faces four opponents in the Aug. 28 primary race: Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Winter Park businessman Chris King. As of Friday afternoon, none of them had filed fresh campaign finance reports.

Levine leads the Democratic field in fundraising with more than $20 million raised between his campaign and political committee, All About Florida, though more than $12 million of that sum has come from his own checking account either through candidate loans or contributions.

Greene and King have provided significant boosts to their gubernatorial bids.

As of July 13, Greene was the source of all but $150 of his $10.6 million in campaign funds, while King had raised nearly $7 million between his two accounts, including $4.5 million in self-funding. Gillum, the last-place candidate fundraising wise, had raised $4.15 million with $1.5 million banked through the same date.

The most recent poll of the primary race, published by Florida Atlantic University earlier this week, showed Graham atop the five-person field with 20 percent support among the party faithful. Levine, the heretofore frontrunner, came in 4 points behind followed by Greene at 14 percent and King and Levine in single digits.

Whoever emerges from the Democratic primary will go up against the winner of the GOP contest between Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Budget breakdown

With a brow-raising $89.3 billion for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the state appropriated the largest budget in Florida history, a $4.36 billion increase from last year.

Those big numbers make Florida TaxWatch’s recently released Taxpayer’s Budget Guide all the more valuable.

Authored by the watchdog group’s vice president of research, Kurt Wenner, the interactive series takes a deep dive into the budget and additional appropriations that went into effect July 1, putting some key numbers into perspective.

Research VP Kurt Wenner of Florida TaxWatch gives a budget breakdown.

The Legislature passed an $88.7 billion General Appropriations Act, and $600 million attached to other bills rounded out the state’s spending. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act made up the bulk ($400 million) of the $600 million attached to bills this year. The higher education plan passed and signed into law covered nearly the rest of that tab with a $123.5 million price tag.

Taking up the largest portion of the budget is Health and Human Services spending at almost 42 percent, or $37.2 billion. Education is the next highest at around 29 percent, or roughly $25.8 billion.

More than $391 million was swept out of state trust funds this year, with the largest sweep ($182 million) coming out of the affordable housing trust funds.

And as Wenner notes, while much of this year’s budget talks circled around the concept that it was “a tight budget year,” 517-member projects worth more than $560 million made the cut regardless.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Danny McAuliffe, Drew Wilson, Jim Rosica, Michael Moline and Peter Schorsch.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Take 5

Prosecutor will not charge Latvala — Former state Sen. Jack Latvala, a longtime Florida lawmaker who resigned from the chamber in December amid allegations of serial sexual harassment, will not be the subject of a criminal proceeding. State Attorney Jack Campbell announced this week that he would not seek charges against the Clearwater Republican. Campbell opted not to pursue the case after reviewing an investigation conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Campbell decided he couldn’t bring a case that he could prove by the stringent criminal legal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” and said he’d “take no further action.” Latvala told the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald, “I’m appreciative of serious law enforcement people who put political considerations aside to look at the law. They drew a conclusion based on the facts and the law, as opposed to the kangaroo court the Senate put forth.”

Department of Agriculture under audit — The state’s auditor general is conducting a review of operations at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The audit includes an examination of the agency’s concealed carry weapons permitting program, which has come under fire following media reports detailing lapses and top-down pressure to approve more permits. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s office, however, told The Associated Press the audit began before news broke of the agency’s trouble issuing concealed carry permits. Meanwhile, POLITICO Florida reported this week that two FDACS employees have received taxpayer-funded settlements for complaints regarding the permit-issuing program. In both cases, however, FDACS and Putnam have denied any wrongdoing.

Judge overturns early voting restriction — U.S. District Judge Mark Walker overturned the statewide practice of prohibiting early voting on college and university campuses. The injunction issued by Walker demands Gov. Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner allow all 67 counties to use the campuses as early voting facilities this fall. Calling the practice a “stark pattern of discrimination,” Walker wrote in his ruling, “It is unexplainable on grounds other than age because it bears so heavily on younger voters than on all other voters.” Scott’s office issued the following: “Gov. Scott is proud to have signed the largest expansion of early voting in the state’s history. We will review this ruling.” The lawsuit was originally filed by students and backed by the Andrew Goodman Foundation and the League of Women Voters of Florida.

SunPass controversy continues — More elected officials are directing their ire toward SunPass, an electronic toll system that stopped billing customers during a June upgrade. The upgrade, carried out by vendor Conduent State & Local Solutions, lasted weeks longer than anticipated and resulted in 170 million backlogged transactions, according to the Florida Department of Transportation. Democratic lawmakers, including incoming Minority Leader Kionne McGhee, dubbed the problem “tollgate” this week during a news conference in Miami. McGhee also called on Gov. Scott to suspend all transactions until the system upgrades are completed and spawn an independent audit of FDOT. The state already has suspended late fees and penalties on the backlogged transactions and has halted payments to Conduent.

Education lawsuit awaits Supreme Court decision — A legal battle over a 1998 constitutional amendment that in part provided for a “high quality” system of public schools is beginning to brew in the capital city. On Thursday, reports the News Service of Florida, six Republican appointees of the 1997 Constitution Revision Commission filed a brief in response to a legal challenge filed by 10 of their Democratic counterparts, who are suing the state for allegedly failing to meet the “high quality” threshold for education. The Leon County Circuit Court and 1st District Court of Appeal already have ruled against the plaintiffs. The Supreme Court announced in April it would hear the case, and the state last week filed a 72-page brief asking the high court to uphold prior decisions.

‘Military-Friendly Guide’ now online

Gov. Scott this week released the 2018 Florida Military-Friendly Guide, an annual guide created by the Florida Defense Support Task Force that offers a summary of “laws, programs and services benefiting military service members and their families.”

Rick Scott is proud of his Navy career, pushing Florida to be the most military-friendly state in America.

It also highlights Florida’s low tax and financial advantages, educational benefits, professional licensure opportunities and fee waivers for servicemen, women and their families stationed in Florida.

“As a proud Navy veteran, and the son of a World War II veteran, I want to make sure our military and their families have access to the services they need,” Scott said in a statement. “Florida is the most military and veteran-friendly state in the nation, and since I took office, we’ve invested hundreds of millions in funding for services and benefits for our military and veterans.

“Our Florida Military-Friendly Guide is another great resource for our military members to learn more about these great benefits and everything Florida has to offer to those who serve.”

Florida is home to more than 1.5 million veterans, 20 major military installations, and three unified commands. A digital copy of the 2018 Florida Military-Friendly Guide is available here.

Scott highlights more than 88K businesses spawned during tenure

The jobs-focused Governor shared an impressive statistic this week: 88,245 new businesses have opened in Florida since December 2010, just a month before Scott took office.

That complements the job growth legacy Scott sought to leave from the start; it is an indication that more and more businesses are choosing to open up shop in the Sunshine State.

Rick Scott touts a legacy of more than 88,000 Florida jobs created since Dec. 2010.

“When I took office, our economy was in freefall, taxes had skyrocketed and businesses across the state were forced to close their doors, causing unemployment to climb out of control,” Scott said. “Less than eight years later, Florida is not only back on track, but we are serving as the success and turnaround story for the entire nation to follow.”

Scott also discussed the 1.5 million new private-sector jobs his administration claims to have created, saying, “it is undeniable that our playbook of cutting taxes, eliminating burdensome regulations and building the country’s most business-friendly environment is working. I’m proud of our great businesses and we’ll never stop fighting to make sure Florida is the best place for families to succeed.”

Cissy Proctor, who oversees the Department of Economic Opportunity — often referred to as the ‘jobs agency’ — said, “We are excited that businesses are confident in our economy and choosing to make Florida their home. Our pro-business policies are supporting an environment where small, medium and large businesses can succeed and create opportunities for families across the state.”

Florida helps California battle blazes

The Florida Forest Service said this week it deployed 20 wildlands firefighters to help suppress the Ferguson fire in the Sierra National Forest in California. The 36,500-acre wildfire began July 13.

“Our wildland firefighters rise to the occasion time and again to assist wildfire suppression efforts not only in Florida but throughout the country,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who oversees the service. “I applaud their dedication to help the brave men and women out West keep our fellow Americans safe.”

Adam Putnam is sending 20 Florida firefighters West to battle California blazes.

This year, the Florida Forest Service has deployed 127 wildland firefighters across the country. In addition to the 20-person crew deployed to California, there are currently 47 other resources deployed to assist with wildfire suppression in Texas, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, California, Oregon and Wyoming.

“There are currently 140 wildfires burning throughout the western United States, and our firefighters are ready to support suppression efforts in any way we can to help protect California’s residents, homes and wildlife,” Forest Service Director and State Forester Jim Karels said.

Patronis touts record-breaking unclaimed returns to Floridians

More than $321 million is back in the hands of Florida residents and businesses, according to Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis.

That sum, tallied from Patronis’ July 2017 assumption of the office, is a record. It exceeds the previously held record by more than $8 million, according to Patronis. The Division of Unclaimed Property, overseen by the CFO, returned the money by processing more than 635,000 claims.

Jimmy Patronis sets records for returning unclaimed money to Floridians.

“Since taking office, we not only broke the yearly record, but also set a new monthly record during April,” Patronis said. “Florida has remained a national leader with our proactive efforts to return unclaimed property, and we will continue working to raise the bar even higher.”

Currently, roughly $2 billion remains unclaimed across more than 14 million accounts. Per the CFO’s office, “This unclaimed property comes from dormant accounts in financial institutions, insurance and utility companies, securities and trust holdings. In addition to money and securities, unclaimed property includes tangible property such as watches, jewelry, coins, currency, stamps, historical items and other miscellaneous articles from abandoned safe deposit boxes.”

Business owners and Floridians are encouraged to visit www.fltreasurehunt.gov to check for accounts that could be tied to them.

Instagram of the Week

The Week in Appointments

Florida State College at Jacksonville District Board of Trustees

Palmer Clarkson, 61, of Jacksonville, is the chief executive officer and president of Bridgestone HosePower. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of South Carolina. Clarkson succeeds Randy DeFoor and is appointed for a term beginning July 20 and ending May 31, 2022. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Greater Orlando Aviation Authority

Steven “Dean” Asher, 50, of Orlando, is the Vice President of Don Asher and Associates, LLC and Asher Maintenance Services, LLC. He received his bachelor’s degree from Mercer University. Asher is reappointed for a term ending April 16, 2020. Julian Fouche, 70, of Windermere, was the former Senior Vice President of Disney Destinations. He received his bachelor’s degree from Georgia Southwestern University and is a member of the Florida Council of Tourism Leaders. Fouche is reappointed for a term ending April 16, 2022. These appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.

District Medical Examiners

Dr. Riazul Imami, 84, of Port Charlotte, is the chief medical examiner of District 22. He is reappointed for a term ending July 1, 2020.

Lake Shore Hospital Authority

Joseph Brooks, 34, of Lake City, is the chief financial officer for Haven. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending July 20, 2022.

Union County Housing Authority

Vanzetta Thomas, 46, of Lake Butler, is a supervisor with the Tacachalee Center. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending August 7, 2020.

Jackson County Hospital District

Michael Nuccio, 55, of Marianna, is a physician assistant at Tallahassee Orthopedic Clinic at Marianna. He succeeds James Ward and is appointed for a term ending August 27, 2019. Chuck Hudson, 49, of Marianna, is a market executive for First Commerce Credit Union. He succeeds Dr. Bob Hoff and is appointed for a term ending July 19, 2022. Dr. Joe Gay, 69, of Marianna, is a general internist at Chipola Medical Associates, LLC. He is reappointed for a term ending June 23, 2021. Sarah Clemmons, 65, of Marianna, is the president of Chipola College. She is reappointed for a term ending June 23, 2020.

19th Circuit Court

Michael J. Linn, 39, of Port St. Lucie, is an Assistant State Attorney for the 19th Circuit. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of West Florida and his law degree from University of Florida College of Law. Linn fills the judicial vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Paul B. Kanarek.

5th District Court of Appeal

Judge Jamie R. Grosshans, 39, of Winter Garden, is a county judge for Orange County, and previously served as an Assistant State Attorney for the 9th Judicial Circuit. She received her bachelor’s degree from Thomas Edison State College and her law degree from the University of Mississippi School of Law. Grosshans fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge William D. Palmer. Judge John M. Harris, 51, of Mims, is a circuit judge for the 18th Judicial Circuit, and previously served as county judge for Brevard County Court. He received his bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma University and his law degree from Florida State University College of Law. Harris fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Thomas D. Sawaya.

Septic-to-sewer project gets $2.4M

The Department of Environmental Protection this week announced a partnership with the St. Johns River Water Management District, Indian River County and the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program to provide $2.4 million for the West Wabasso septic-to-sewer project.

Florida’s septic-to-sewer project will help improve the water quality of Indian River Lagoon, says DEP’s Drew Bartlett.

The project, which will work to improve water quality, includes the construction of a centralized gravity sewer system in the Whitfield subdivision and conversion of approximately 54 properties currently on septic to the new sewer system.

Said Drew Bartlett, DEP’s deputy secretary for ecosystems restoration: “The Indian River Lagoon is one of Florida’s most iconic natural treasures and projects like this help us improve water quality in this ecosystem and protect Florida’s environment.”

Nutrients, specifically nitrogen and phosphorous, are naturally present in the water, but too much can harm water quality. Excess nutrients can come from insufficient treatment at wastewater treatment facilities, stormwater runoff, densely clustered septic systems and fertilizer use.

Septic systems can contribute to nitrogen pollution of surface waters, especially in areas in Florida with highly permeable (sandy) soils, like the Indian River Lagoon basin. This makes addressing septic tanks an important component in water quality restoration.

Sheriffs association brings in new board

The Florida Sheriffs Association, one of the largest law enforcement associations in the country, announced this week its new leadership team for the 2018-2019 year.

Topping the list is Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter, who will be responsible for presiding over the association.

Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter will now lead the Florida Sheriffs Association.

Hunter is a Columbia County native with 24 years of dedicated law enforcement service. He’s been elected to sheriff three consecutive times.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to fill the role as President,” Hunter said. “I am honored to serve in this position and make the association and our community proud.”

Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson, the outgoing FSA president, is optimistic of his successor.

“The Florida Sheriffs Association could not have a more appropriate leader taking charge,” said Adkinson. “Sheriff Hunter will represent the association, his county, his state, his country and fellow sheriffs well. I am honored to pass the reigns onto and help transition him into the position.”

Other changes include: Vice President Sheriff Bob Gualtieri of Pinellas, Secretary Sheriff Bobby Schultz of Gilchrist; Treasurer Sheriff Tom Knight of Sarasota; Chair Sheriff Bobby McCallum of Levy; and Vice-Chair Sheriff Al Nienhuis of Hernando. Adkinson will serve as Immediate Past President.

$3M algae-targeting grant launched

The state Department of Environmental Protection launched a $3 million grant program this week to help local governments clean up waterways affected by increasingly problematic algal blooms.

News of the grant follows Gov. Scott’s issuing an executive order earlier in June that declared the algae crisis a state emergency.

Goop: Florida is offering $3 million in grants to help clean up algae blooms.

“As our state once again faces harmful algal blooms from federal water releases, we continue to take a multifaceted approach to protect families and ensure Florida’s pristine environment and natural treasures are protected,” Scott said in announcing the grant.

The funding will help affected communities clean up algae in marinas, boat ramps and other public access areas. According to Scott’s office, “Funding from this grant program can be used for services including containment, removal, cleanup, elimination, transportation and disposal of harmful algal blooms in key areas identified by Florida’s local counties.”

DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein said his agency is committed to partnering with local governments to help mitigate the toxic blooms. “We encourage local counties to work with DEP to take advantage of this grant program and to help us move forward with these longer-term solutions,” he added.

Health Dep’t promotes Hep testing

The Florida Department of Health recognizes today (July 28) as World Hepatitis Day.

“Every year, this day is set aside to raise awareness about the global burden of viral hepatitis and promote influential prevention strategies,” the department said in a news release.

Dr. Celeste Philip helps mark July 28 as World Hepatitis Day.

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, which processes nutrients, filters the blood and fights infections.

“If left undetected, viral hepatitis can cause serious health consequences or even death, but a large portion of people living with hepatitis B and C are unaware of their status,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip. “I encourage everyone to be sure of their status by knowing their risk factors for contracting viral hepatitis and getting tested.”

For more information about hepatitis vaccine and testing availability, contact your local health department through the county health department locator, or refer to the department’s Florida Hepatitis Resource Guide.

You can also learn the ABCs of hepatitis from the Centers for Disease Control and Health Protection (CDC) or take an online risk assessment.

Amberjack, triggerfish fishing starts Aug. 1

The recreational harvest of greater amberjack and gray triggerfish will reopen in Gulf state and federal waters Aug. 1, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission said in a news release.

Florida’s Amberjack season starts August 1.

The amberjack season will remain open through Oct. 31 in state waters. The triggerfish season will remain open through Dec. 31 in state waters.

For greater amberjack in the Gulf, the minimum size limit is 34 inches fork length and the daily bag limit is one fish per person. For gray triggerfish in the Gulf, the minimum size limit is 15 inches fork length and the daily bag limit is one fish per person.

To learn more about regulations for these species, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing” and “Recreational Regulations.”

Call for Volunteer Generation Fund proposals

Volunteer Florida’s Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) grant funding enables nonprofits to recruit and retain skills-based volunteers, using their education and experience to serve Florida students, families and communities.

Volunteer Florida will distribute $360,000; each grantee will receive $15,000. Proposals must be submitted before 5 p.m. (Eastern time) Tuesday, Aug. 7.

— Click here to listen to a recording of the 2018-2019 VGF Technical Assistance Call.

— Click here to view the slides from the 2018-2019 VGF Technical Assistance Call.

— Click here to view the 2018-2019 VGF FAQs.

— For more information, including the Request for Proposal, click here.

Volunteer Florida is Florida’s lead agency for volunteerism and national service, administering more than $32 million in federal, state and local funding to deliver high-impact national service and volunteer programs in Florida.

It promotes and encourages volunteerism to meet critical needs across the state. The organization also serves as Florida’s lead agency for volunteers and donations before, during and after disasters.

FSU summer commencements set

Florida State University will host two summer commencement ceremonies featuring FSU trustee Jorge Gonzalez, president and CEO of The St. Joe Company.

Trustee Jorge Gonzalez will host not one, but two FSU Summer commencement ceremonies.

Gonzalez, who has led the real estate operating and development company since 2015, will deliver the keynote address at the Friday evening and Saturday morning ceremonies at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center.

Florida State will award degrees to 2,454 students this summer, including 1,639 bachelor’s degrees, 613 master’s and specialist’s degrees and 202 doctorates. About 1,500 students are expected to participate in the two ceremonies.

The events will take place Friday, Aug. 3, at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, Aug. 4, at 9 a.m.

The civic center is at 505 W. Pensacola St. in Tallahassee.

If you can’t make it, the ceremonies will be live-streamed at learningforlife.fsu.edu/fsu-graduation/.

Etiquette class coming to Tallahassee

The National League of Junior Cotillions (NLJC), a program of “etiquette, character education and social dance training for middle school students,” says it is re-establishing its program in Leon County.

“We will be selecting a director for a local chapter who will receive complete training and an exclusive territory for expansion,” said Charles Winters, the league’s president. “This program is making a positive impact on students across the nation and we are delighted to know that more young people in this area will have the opportunity for this vital training.”

Tallahassee middle schoolers get a little class.

The purpose of the program is to “give students instruction and practice in the courtesies that make life more pleasant for them and those around them,” a news release said.

“Students actively learn courtesies through a creative method employing role playing, skits and games. Standard ballroom and line dancing is taught using nationally approved top 40 music.

“Character instruction is also provided regarding the following: honor, respect, ethics, sportsmanship, acknowledgments of gifts, behavior at cultural and civic events, correspondence, interaction in groups, introductions, paying and receiving compliments, receiving lines, table manners, instructional dinners, electronic etiquette, cellphone courtesy, and many other areas of social conduct.”

The organization currently has directors operating hundreds of chapters in 30 states. To apply or nominate someone for Leon County director, call (800) 633-7947, visit www.nljc.com, or email.

TPD, homeless man story goes viral

An act of kindness in the capital city took the internet by storm this week, and the fallout of positivity has even involved U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

The story starts with Tallahassee police officer Tony Carlson, who noticed a homeless man attempting to shave outside of a nearby Circle K gas station.

A true hero: Tallahassee police officer Tony Carlson helps a homeless man with a shave.

The man, who has only identified himself as Phil, did not have a mirror and told Carlson he needed to shave to get a job at a local McDonalds. Carlson then shaved Phil’s beard for him on location.

A video capturing the touching moment quickly went viral, with media publications like Fox News, CBS and MSNBC republishing the snippet.

On Facebook, Carlson said he contacted Rubio’s Tallahassee office to help Phil get his Social Security card. Rubio’s local staff was willing and able to get the ball rolling.

“Phil was in my Tallahassee office today to fill out paperwork so we can help get his ID and Social Security cards for employment,” Rubio tweeted this week. “ … We’re rooting for you, Phil!”

Capitol Directions

Senate and gubernatorial candidates rally votes around Florida

Mail-in ballots started arriving in mailboxes in Florida and candidates for governor and senator have started hitting the trail rallying votes. Where can you spot hopefuls for the highest offices in the Sunshine State this weekend?

Democrat Jeff Greene, a Palm Beach billionaire, today launches his “Fighting For Florida” statewide bus tour in his bid for governor. “This tour is as much about listening to voters as it is about them hearing from me,” he says. “I look forward to continuing the conversations we’ve started in communities across the state as we fight for a better future for Florida.” He’ll also be giving away backpacks for the back-to-school season.

Saturday, Greene starts in Palm Beach County and will end up in Orange County, where he will campaign Sunday as well.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, in his re-election effort, today will kick off a “100 Days to Election Day Weekend of Action” in Casselberry, rallying volunteers along with U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy at a Nelson’s Neighbor’s canvassing event in Seminole County. Then the Democratic senator on Saturday evening will speak at Orange County Democrats’ Kennedy King Gala in Orlando at 7 p.m. at the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace.

Republican candidates for governor, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, will attend the Republican Party of Sarasota County’s Primary Election Grassroots Straw Poll at Robarts Arena in Sarasota. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Gov. Rick Scott, who is challenging Nelson this year for his Senate seat, will also attend the event.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine, a former Miami Beach Mayor, will spend his afternoon and evening in the Orlando area, first meeting with the 32BJ, a local union chapter of the SEUI FL representing workers at Orlando International Airport. He’s appropriately meeting curbside at Terminal B around 2:15 p.m. Then he also heads to the Buena Vista Palace Hilton for the Orange County Democratic Gala at 8:15 p.m.

Democrat Chris King’s gubernatorial campaign will hold a canvassing event in Orlando from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, on Sunday will attend a town hall on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, organized by the Upper Pinellas County Ministerial Alliance following to death of Markeis McGlockton. Clearwater Police Chief Daniel Slaughter and NAACP Clearwater/Upper Pinellas Branch President Marva McWhite will also attend the 4 p.m. event at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Clearwater.

Darcy Richardson, the Reform Party nominee for governor, will be in Williston today for an AARP-sponsored event, “The Engaged Electorate Forum,” at noon. Following that, he heads to a candidate forum held by the Dunnellon Chamber of Commerce and the American Legion.

This post will be updated with information from campaigns as it becomes available.

American Conservative Union endorses Ron DeSantis

One of the nation’s biggest and most influential conservative advocacy groups is endorsing Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis for Florida Governor.

American Conservative Union Chair Matt Schlapp announced the ACU’s support at a rally Friday in Solivita, the massive senior community south of Kissimmee, the DeSantis campaign reported.

In the endorsement, Schlapp praised DeSantis’ conservative record, military background and leadership in Congress.

“Ron DeSantis is a conservative warrior with a proven record of leadership,” Schlapp said in a statement. “He’s served our nation in Iraq, fought for conservative principles in Congress and I know he’ll be a great governor for Florida.”

The American Conservative Union is best known for its annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

DeSantis faces Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the Aug. 28 Republican gubernatorial primary.

The winner faces the Democratic primary victor, either Andrew Gillum, Chris King, Philip Levine, Gwen Graham or Jeff Greene.

Rick Scott, Adam Putnam, Nikki Fried on top in Orlando Hispanic chamber straw poll

Republican Gov. Rick Scott, Republican Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, were the top choices for the U.S. Senate, and the governor’s office  in a straw poll conducted Thursday night at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando that also offered some surprise choices, such as Democrat Nikki Fried for agriculture commissioner.

The straw poll of more than 300 participants of a hobnob showed a strong Republican lean as is typical of most chambers of commerce, and offered preferences to several Republican presumed underdogs, including picks of state Rep. Mike Miller over U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, Ben Griffin over state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith in House District 49, and Scotland Calhoun over state Rep. Amy Mercado in House District 48.

Yet the poll also offered some surprises that should send warning signals to Republican operatives: Fried was the top choice for state agriculture commissioner. Democrat Barbara Cady thrashed incumbent state Rep. Mike La Rosa in the House District 42 straw poll. And Democrats Sanjay Patel and Debra Kaplan drew impressive support in polls involving U.S. Rep. Bill Posey in Florida’s 8th Congressional District and state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan in Florida House District 31, respectively.

In the U.S. Senate race, Scott attracted 57.5 percent of the straw poll votes, with Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson taking 39.5 percent, and Scott’s primary opponent Roque De La Fuente getting 3.4 percent.

In the governor’s race, Putnam drew 31.2 percent, easily tops among the 16 candidates. Fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis finished second with 18.6 percent, while Gwen Graham topped Democrats with 16.4 percent, followed by Philip Levine with 10.7 percent.

In the non-partisan Orange County mayor’s race, Winter Park businessman Rob Panepinto came out on top, drawing 37 percent, Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke got 33.6 percent, and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, 29.4 percent.

That race was a significant victory for Panepinto because the trio of mayoral candidates took part in a debate at the Hispanic chamber this spring. Panepinto also got the endorsement of the Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in June.

Regarding other major contests, Republican Ashley Moody was the straw poll’s top choice for attorney general, drawing 39.5 percent; Republican state Rep. Frank White picked up 22.2 percent; Democrat Ryan Torrens, 19.7 percent; and Democratic state Rep. Sean Shaw 18.7 percent. Republican Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis topped Democratic former state Sen. Jeremy Ring, 57.8-42.3 for the chief financiel officer’s position.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto was favored in a plurality for re-election in Florida’s 9th Congressional District, picking up 47.9 percent, while Republican Wayne Liebnitzky drew 36.7 percent and former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson got 13.3 percent. Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings topped her Democratic primary opponent Wade Darius 71.2 percent to 28.8 percent.

Republican David Smith and Republican state Reps. Scott Plakon, Bob Cortes, Bobby Olszewski, and Rene Plasencia each easily topped their opponents in the House Districts 28, 29, 30, 44, and 50 contests, respectively.

Then there were the eye-raising results:

– Miller topped Murphy 44.7 percent to 38.9 percent in CD 7, while Republican Scott Sturgill drew just 8.7 percent; Republican Vennia Francois, 5.8 percent; and Democrat Chardo Richardson, 1.9 percent.

– Fried, who made a splash with her pro-marijuana platform, came out on top of the commissioner of agriculture race with 27.8 percent, while Republican state Rep. Matt Caldwell finished second with 27.1 percent and Republican state Sen. Denise Grimsely took 17.7 percent. Two other Republicans and two other Democrats claimed between 5 and 9 percent each.

– Cady was the only Democrat favored by the chambers’ hobnob attendees in any Central Florida state House of Representatives race, even including those featuring incumbent Democrats seeking re-elections, Smith and Mercado. And Cady swamped La Rosa in Osceola County’s House District 42: 66.7 percent to 33.3 percent. Democrat Kaplan also impressed, providing a close showing in House District 31 covering northeast Lake County and part of west Orange County. Sullivan topped her 54.5 percent to 45.5 percent.

– Republican Mikaela Nix was the Hispanic chamber’s favorite in Florida House District 47 in Orange County, edging out Democrat Anna Eskamani 42.6 percent to 40.4 percent, with Republican Stockton Reeves VI drawing 17.1 percent.

– Calhoun topped Mercado 51.2 percent to 48.8 percent, while Griffin topped Smith 52.3 percent to 47.7 percent.

– Posey edged out Patel 53.4 to 46.6 in Florida’s 8th Congressional District, which covers Brevard County, north Indian River County, and part of west Orange County,

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