Adam Putnam Archives - Page 5 of 91 - Florida Politics

Public financing before primaries hits $4.84 million

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis drew the largest amount of public matching funds last week, as the overall total going to statewide candidates before Tuesday’s primary elections neared $5 million.

DeSantis and three other gubernatorial candidates — Republican Adam Putnam and Democrats Andrew Gillum and Gwen Graham — have combined to receive nearly $3.73 million in public funding since late July.

Statewide candidates need to voluntary apply for matching funds, with several declining to do so. Under the program, the state matches contributions of $250 or less from individual donors.

Overall, the state has handed out $4.84 million so far for the 2018 elections. For the 2014 primary and general elections, Florida sent out $4.3 million to candidates using the program. In 2010, 10 candidates received $6.1 million from the program.

The program has long faced criticism, including from a couple of candidates in this year’s elections who call the distributions a waste of taxpayer dollars.

On Friday, the Florida Division of Elections sent $144,209 to six of the eight candidates who have qualified for matching funds, though the amounts last week were relatively small compared to earlier checks.

DeSantis, a Northeast Florida congressman, received $55,110, which raised his matching-fund total to $975,836.

Putnam, the state’s two-term Agriculture Commissioner who is going up against DeSantis in the Republican primary, didn’t receive any money last week. Putnam has drawn about $1.04 million from the program.

Graham, a former congresswoman who received a $33,922 check from the state on Friday, has received more than $1.2 million through the program.

Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor, got a check for $29,377 on Friday and has received $495,065 from the state.

In the race for attorney general, Democrat Sean Shaw, a state House member from Tampa, picked up a check for $8,818 from the state on Friday. Shaw has drawn $205,276 in matching funds.

A Leon County circuit judge Friday issued a ruling to decertify Democrat Ryan Torrens from the race for attorney general because of a qualifying-related issue. Torrens, who is appealing the ruling, did not draw any state matching funds Friday but has received $88,693 from the program.

On the Republican side of the race for attorney general, former Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Ashley Moody picked up $9,287 on Friday and has received $344,600 from the program.

State Sen. Denise Grimsley, a Sebring Republican who is the only candidate for Agriculture Commissioner involved in the program, picked up $6,565 on Friday and has received $264,885 from the state.

Republican Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who doesn’t have a primary opponent and will face Democrat Jeremy Ring in the November general election, received $1,130 in matching funds Friday. Patronis has received $297,095 from the state.

Denise Grimsley releases hype reel ahead of GOP primary for Ag. Commissioner

There’s one day left before Republicans decide which of four candidates will carry the GOP banner in the statewide race for Agriculture Commissioner, and Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley is out with a new video montage of her campaign looking to pump up her supporters.

The video, replete with chunky guitar riffs that would be just as appropriate for a pre-kickoff crowd pumper at The Swamp or Doak Campbell, opens with a clip of Gov. Rick Scott speaking about the longtime state lawmaker’s work ethic and knowledge of the Sunshine State.

“I want to thank Denise. We did get elected at a time when the state was in deep trouble and Denise is somebody that I’ve had the opportunity to work with. She’s somebody that works hard and she understands what’s going on in this state,” Scott says in the video.

The hype reel then skips to Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco, one of three dozen county sheriffs backing her campaign.

“Denise Grimsley isn’t a politician, she’s a warrior. And she’s got my vote,” Nocco says.

Grimsley then takes over in a mashup of footage from her first TV ad, where she commits to going after phone scammers, and the campaign video introducing her ahead of her widely praised candidate presentation during the Republican Party of Florida’s Sunshine Summit in late June.

“Where I’m from, we stand for the flag,” Grimsley says before a cut to the TV ad where she tears a flip phone in two.

“At first these fake phone calls were frustrating, now they’re infuriating,” she says. “I’m Denise Grimsley, and I’ll fight to stop these calls and put the crooks behind them behind bars.”

After an encore from Nocco, a narrator says, “The choice is clear: Republican Denise Grimsley for Commissioner of Agriculture.” The closing frames of the video remind voters that the polls open at 7 a.m. Tuesday and points viewers to a page on Grimsley’s campaign website where those who have yet to vote can look up their polling place.

A noteworthy disclaimer: Though Scott is featured singing Grimsley’s praises in the opening portion of the video, the Governor and U.S. Senate candidate has not officially endorsed her bid in the crowded Republican primary to replace term-limited Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

It’s nothing personal, said a Scott spokeswoman, it’s simply that the term-limited Governor “will not be endorsing her or any primary candidate during this race.”

Grimsley faces Lehigh Acres Rep. Matt Caldwell, retired U.S. Army Col. Mike McCalister and former Winter Haven Rep. Baxter Troutman in the Republican nominating contest.

What little recent polling exists is from the oft unreliable Gravis Marketing, which showed Caldwell, Grimsley and Troutman, a massive self-funder, all within a point of each other followed by McCalister with 13 percent support despite an almost nonexistent campaign.

The winner of Tuesday’s Republican primary will face one of three Democratic candidates: Nikki Fried, Jeff Porter or Roy David Walker.

Grimsley’s video is below.

The 25 moments that defined the 2018 primary for Florida Governor

Marco Rubio brought us to this.

The long slog to Tuesday’s primary election for Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates was the usual series of false starts, histrionics, re-inventions, pandering to bases, and — new this time — dealing with the shadow of Donald J. Trump.

But if one could pick a starting point for the trail that led us here, it would have to be the Republican Rubio’s June 2016 decision to end his quest for the presidency, and re-enter the U.S. Senate race.

That was the political big bang that set into motion the forces and decisions — starting with Ron DeSantis’ exit from that same Senate race — shaping Election 2018 for the person to succeed the two-term Rick Scott, 45th governor of the Sunshine State.

Before the big show starts tomorrow at 7 a.m. Eastern time, let’s revisit the key moments that went from a small singularity to the current universe we call “Florida politics”:

June 13, 2016: Rubio decides to re-enter U.S. Senate race

After a bruising fight for the GOP nomination for president, Rubio said he wouldn’t go back to trying to get reelected to his Senate seat. But of course, his senses kicked in, and he did, announcing that decision on June 22. That essentially squeezed out DeSantis, the congressman who very well could win the GOP gubernatorial contest. Rubio went on to crush Scott ally Carlos Beruff in the GOP primary and edge out Democrat Patrick Murphy in the general election. “Gee,” we know some of you thought at the time. “Wonder what DeSantis’ political future holds now?”

Dec. 22, 2016: Will Weatherford decides not to run

In late 2014, as both men were leaving their leadership roles, Senate President Don Gaetz told the Tampa Tribune that then-House Speaker Weatherford “is the future of Florida.” He said he expected “to host a fundraiser for Will Weatherford for Governor or U.S. Senator sometime in the next five years. He will be, if he wants to be, very significant on the Florida political landscape for the next 30 years.” “If he wants to be” turned out to be prescient. Weatherford, citing his family and Weatherford Partners, the venture capital group he created with his brothers, declines to run for Governor in 2018.

Jan. 20, 2017: Donald Trump is inaugurated

The president goes on to become the biggest force in this state’s GOP primary, bar none. His kingmaking ability, which had faltered in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race, works in shovelsful here, as we’ll see. 

April 13, 2017: Gwen Graham’s husband’s cancer goes into remission

Had Steve Hurm’s cancer not gone into remission, we would not now be talking about former Congresswoman Graham’s campaign for Governor. Indeed, Hurm’s fight against prostate cancer “was a factor in her decision on whether to run for governor,” WCTV later reported. “Graham … said her husband is one of her biggest supporters and did not want her to make the decision based on him.” But she did, and here we are. She entered the race May 2, becoming the first major-party woman candidate.

May 7, 2017: George Soros gets behind Andrew Gillum

Readers of conservative journal Human Events once voted billionaire financier Soros “the single most destructive leftist demagogue in the country.” Soros, who fled Nazi Germanyoccupied Hungary as a youth, also has been described by the Tampa Bay Times as a “liberal mega-donor and bogeyman to conservatives.” He gave $250,000 to Forward Florida, the Gillum-associated political committee, in April. He later went on to pump hundreds of thousands more to Gillum’s electoral benefit.

June 22, 2017: The FBI’s subpoena in a Tallahassee corruption investigation drops

Gillum, the city’s Mayor, never really recovers. “Federal authorities have demanded the city of Tallahassee produce volumes of records related to top local developers behind some of the biggest projects subsidized by the Community Redevelopment Agency,” the Tallahassee Democrat reports at the time. “Among those named in the subpoenas are Adam Corey, developer of the city-backed Edison restaurant in Cascades Park and a former campaign treasurer for Gillum.” It’s bad … but Gillum later says the FBI told him he’s not a target. Still, the association with Corey lingers, and other revelations continue, including a Costa Rica trip.

July 25, 2017: Adam Putnam’s “NRA sellout” tweet

Putnam went all-in for gun rights, saying guns should be allowed on college campuses and hinting it was time to look at once again allowing open carry in the state. After a Times columnist panned the speech with the headline, “Adam Putnam sells out to the NRA,” Putnam tweeted, “The liberal media recently called me a sellout to the NRA. I’m a proud #NRASellout!” As Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, he oversees concealed carry licensing. (That comes up later in the story.)

Oct. 10, 2017: Philip Levine sets up shop

The Miami Beach Mayor “hired a veteran fundraiser for his political committee, which he already stuffed with nearly $5 million since establishing it six months ago,” POLITICO reported. We learn that “veteran Democratic fundraiser Courtney Whitney” has joined his All About Florida political committee. Levine says he “intends to make an official decision on whether to join the crowded Democratic primary for Governor in 2018.” He, of course, gets in. 

Nov. 3, 2017: POLITICO Florida reports on Jack Latvala sexual misconduct allegations

This story was the beginning of the end for the Clearwater Republican, who had risen to Appropriations chairman after an unsuccessful run at the state Senate presidency. He later declared he would run for Governor. Then the website drops the bomb that “six women who work in Florida’s Capitol say … Latvala has inappropriately touched them without their consent or uttered demeaning remarks about their bodies.” It was “so disgusting, and I had to just stand there, over and over again when he would do this, squeezing me hard and grunting in my ear,” one woman said. Latvala eventually resigned, suspended his campaign and escaped prosecution after Tallahassee’s top prosecutor said he wouldn’t pursue him criminally

Nov. 24, 2017: Orlando businessman & lawyer John Morgan takes himself out of contention

Everyone had feared the native Kentuckian’s charisma, down-home appeal, and — perhaps most of all — his ability to self-fund. Then he tweeted, “While it’s amazing to be leading the polls for Governor without being a candidate I can’t muster the enthusiasm to run for the nomination.” Good thing, too, for the other Democrats: “His name recognition alone, built through years of TV ads throughout Florida, would have cost every other candidate tens of millions of dollars to achieve,” the Times explained. (And they’re right.)

Dec. 22, 2017: The first Trump tweet for DeSantis

“Congressman Ron DeSantis is a brilliant young leader, Yale and then Harvard Law, who would make a GREAT Governor of Florida. He loves our Country and is a true FIGHTER!” … Not quite a full endorsement, but that was simply yet to come.

Jan. 30, 2018: The 50th Graham workday, a hallmark of her campaign

Graham posts on Twitter: “On my 50th Graham Workday, I spoke with Dad (former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham) about the meaning of our family tradition and what he learned working 408 different jobs with Floridians across the state.” Graham herself spent that day “learning the ins and outs of a Florida microbrewery (at) the M.I.A. Beer Company in Doral.” This only helped burnish the Graham brand. 

Feb. 14, 2018: The Parkland shooting

A teenaged former student gunned down 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Broward County. The politics of gun control spiked yet again as a “student-led campaign organizes two mass walkouts from schools and country-wide demonstrations, (while) Trump and Mike Pence, the vice president, appear at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Dallas,” The Economist later reports. A “Rally to Tally” later sees nearly two dozen buses bringing parents, teachers, and students to the Capitol to demand action from lawmakers on the day a gun bill would be heard.

Feb. 14, 2018: Richard Corcoran, Gillum debate on immigration

The House Speaker, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, and Gillum squared off over the “tired, (the) poor, (the) huddled masses yearning to breathe free …” The debate “was sparked by Corcoran’s anti-sanctuary cities ad and House Bill 9, which is legislation Corcoran is pushing to eliminate sanctuary cities in Florida,” WTXL explained. The event was moderated by Troy Kinsey of BayNews 9 and Gary Fineout of the Associated Press.

April 18, 2018: The first Democratic gubernatorial candidates’ debate

It was a lackluster performance all around, with some on the stage “stumbling on basic questions regarding some aspects of state government,” the USA Today Network-Florida reported. Graham scored with her “Gwen and the men” line, but she and the others flunked when asked about their morning reading habits. Not one mentioned SUNBURN, POLITICO Playbook, the Tampa Bay Times — the largest circulation newspaper in the state — or any state-centric news source. The GOP soon smelled blood.

May 9, 2018: Corcoran drops out, endorses Putnam

Corcoran, who had been expected to enter the Governor’s race, instead got behind Putnam. Term-limited in the House, he framed his decision to stay off the ballot as sticking to his word. He told news media repeatedly that he would run for Governor or otherwise “go home.” “I’m proud to say that decision is, thoroughly, we’re going home,” Corcoran said, before getting in a dig at DeSantis: “He’s got a bulldog mouth, a chihuahua a —, and he doesn’t even know what the heck is going on in this state. Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, that’s the only thing he can say. At some point, you’ve got to come out and give people a Florida vision.”

June 4, 2018: Billionaire Jeff Greene enters race

The über-rich Palm Beach real estate investor, who had previously told the Post he was “underwhelmed by the Democratic field,” files to enter the race as a “D” himself. That’s after “Greene spent about $24 million of his own money on a losing 2010 U.S. Senate bid, getting 31 percent in a Democratic primary against former U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek.” The idea, insiders say, is that he won’t throw good money after bad: He’s in it to win it. 

June 7, 2018: Patrick Murphy decides against running

Murphy gets behind Graham, “ending speculation he’d run on a bipartisan ticket with former Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly,” according to TCPalm. Murphy says “he hasn’t decided whether he’d accept a position as Graham’s running mate, if she offered him a shot at Lieutenant Governor. (He) said he (was) worried over mounting such a late campaign in an already crowded primary. ‘I was always, I guess, on hesitant footing to do this, and it was always going to take quite a bit to get me over that hump to do it.’ ” Nice timing: The next day, the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers’ union, endorses Graham.

June 8, 2018: The concealed weapons permitting scandal breaks

The Times’ Steve Contorno reports that “for more than a year, (Putnam’s gun-licensing division) failed to review national background checks on tens of thousands of applications for concealed weapons permits … The employee in charge of the background checks could not log into the system, the investigator learned.” Putnam later said applications were still run through two other databases: “When we became aware of the problem, we undertook the process of reviewing 365 names … and ultimately revoking 291 licenses.” Other stories continued to dribble out about problems at his Licensing Division over the summer, causing headaches for Putnam and staff.

June 22, 2018: Trump’s full-throated endorsement of DeSantis.

Tweet: “Congressman Ron DeSantis, a top student at Yale and Harvard Law School, is running for Governor of the Great State of Florida. Ron is strong on Borders, tough on Crime & big on Cutting Taxes — Loves our Military & our Vets. He will be a Great Governor & has my full Endorsement!” … Whoomp, there it is.

June 28, 2018: The Fox News debate

As the network described it, Putnam and DeSantis “sparred … over their support for President Trump … DeSantis championed his relationship with the president, and Putnam argued he’s more focused on local issues than his opponent … Putnam said in his opening remarks, ‘It’s different than a Washington, D.C., studio. Welcome to Florida, congressman.’ DeSantis played up Trump’s endorsement … ‘I am proud to have the endorsement of President Trump in this race.’ ”

June 29, 2018: Gillum gets ‘Next Gen’ support

Gillum gets to boast of the support of a second billionaire after Soros with Tom Steyer‘s NextGen America announcing its “investment” of $1 million into his bid for governor. Mo’ money, indeed. 

July 19, 2018: Tampa Bay-area “Stand Your Ground” case becomes an issue

The shooting death of Markeis McGlockton, 28, by Michael Drejka, 47, happens in a convenience store parking lot in Clearwater after the two men get in a confrontation over McGlockton’s girlfriend parking in a handicapped spot. The county sheriff initially declines to file charges, saying Drejka is protected by the state’s “Stand Your Ground” provision of self-defense law. Democrats seize on the shooting to say the state law “incentivizes” violence. Republicans back the law and use the incident to show how 2nd Amendment rights could be threatened.

July 31, 2018: Trump campaigns for DeSantis

The Times tops itself with this lede: “Declaring himself the most popular Republican in the history of America, President Donald Trump revved up thousands of fans Tuesday night at a rowdy Tampa Bay campaign rally to help gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis and, above all, celebrate Donald Trump … ‘(W)e need to elect Ron DeSantis … He’s going to be an incredible governor. I have no doubt, no doubt. I don’t do these endorsements easily.’ ”

Aug. 2, 2018: The final Democratic debate

Anyone hoping Florida’s five Democratic candidates for Governor would break new ground in the final debate left disappointed. On stage, each candidate mainly stuck to the standards, with only a couple of questions eliciting any form of surprise. The five contenders pulled more punches than in previous debates, with just a few recycled squabbles — mostly centering on Graham’s record as a moderate member of Congress. The political class hit their collective snooze button.

Aug. 23, 2018: Jeff Greene “goes dark”

Greene, after barreling into the race in early June and becoming omnipresent on TV through much of the summer, stepped out of the spotlight for the final push. The campaign essentially went dark publicly, with six days before the end of primary voting. He decides to focus on mobilizing his organization for get-out-the-vote efforts and to get paid staffers and volunteers to lead the way with more intimate messaging on his behalf, while pulling campaign ads and limiting public appearances, according to a campaign spokesman.

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Tallahassee correspondent Danny McAuliffe, Orlando correspondent Scott Powers, and Senior Editor Jim Rosica contributed to this post.

‘Your time is over’: Gwen Graham’s message to NRA’s Marion Hammer

According to the final poll of the Democratic race for Governor, Gwen Graham looks poised to be the nominee.

While a seven-point poll lead on election eve would normally be cause for celebration, Graham on Monday was considering Duval County’s desolation after a weekend bookended by high-profile mass shootings after a high-school football game Friday night and a Madden video game tournament Sunday afternoon.

For Graham, who has called throughout the campaign to turn “anguish” over mass shootings into “action” in the form of “common sense gun reform,” the events required a conversation with Jacksonville leaders looking for a way forward.

On a day when both Republican candidates, Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis, canceled Jacksonville events, Graham pushed forward, confident in the importance of her message, hammering the National Rifle Association (NRA), and predicting that the gun lobby’s time calling the shots in Tallahassee is over.

She addressed root causes of violence in the roundtable, noting that “breaking the cycle of poverty … hopelessness” is key, as well as noting the seeming randomness of the shootings at Jacksonville Landing.

“No more excuses, no more BS,” Graham said about Florida gun laws, including the sale of military-style assault weapons.

Graham’s visit to Jacksonville was scheduled before Sunday’s violence. She pilloried DeSantis and Putnam for canceling their Jacksonville appearances, saying that they “absolutely” should have come to town.

“Today is about another example of senseless gun violence in the state of Florida, and we need to address what we would be doing as Governor to provide safety and security in our communities,” Graham said.

“The fact that they were afraid to come and answer the questions says all that needs to be said,” Graham said.

“We all see what’s going on. Gun violence is all over the state, all over the country every single day,” Graham added, noting that the Landing incident is the 22nd mass shooting in Florida in 2018.

“The gun lobby is not going to have control over Tallahassee anymore,” Graham vowed.

Graham, as she is wont to say, went up against “the gun lobby” in 2014. Even after the NRA spent nearly $300,000 against her, she won her Congressional race.

“Gun violence is something we’ve had way too long. We’ve had a Legislature that has done whatever the NRA wanted. Marion Hammer,” Graham said, “standing in the middle between the citizens and the legislators, and guess who they listened to? Marion Hammer.”

“I have a word for Marion Hammer,” Graham vowed. “Your time as the one who’s controlling what we do in the state of Florida is over.”

Gwen Graham, Philip Levine, Jeff Greene, Chris King in Jacksonville following shooting

The shooting at the gamers’ tournament Sunday at Jacksonville Landing is being followed by four Democratic gubernatorial candidates — Gwen Graham, Philip Levine, Jeff Greene, and Chris King — heading to Jacksonville, in part to offer direct responses.

Graham, the former U.S. Representative from Tallahassee, and King, the businessman from Winter Park, added additional events to their schedule Monday to specifically address gun violence and the shooting that left two dead and 11 injured. Greene, the businessman from Palm Beach, released a new schedule of events late Sunday that includes a Jacksonville stop. Monday morning, Levine’s campaign announced a stop at Jacksonville University.

Graham, the front-runner in many polls for Tuesday’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, announced she’ll be appearing for a “community conversation” at Uptown Kitchen, 1303 Main St., at 9:30 a.m. Monday.

She also has a previously scheduled Jacksonville event at the Mary Singleton Senior Center at 11 a.m. Monday.

Levine, the former Miami Beach Mayor who also is a front-runner in many other polls, announced a 10:45 a.m. stop at the JU Davis College of Business to meet with supporters, volunteers, and organizers.

King, running fifth and essentially out of prospects of winning but saying he is determined to continue pushing his messages, announced he’ll hold a news conference with North Florida gun violence activists and faith leaders outside Jacksonville City Hall at noon Monday.

Greene released a schedule of several newly announced public appearances around the state Monday and Tuesday, including an ice cream social at the Oceanway Community Center in Jacksonville at 12:30 p.m. Monday.

They and the other Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, as well as Republican U.S. Senate candidate Gov. Rick Scott, Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, Jacksonville-area leaders, and others all released statements Sunday.

Overkill? Ron DeSantis gets last-minute support via Donald Trump robocall

A new robocall is going out to Florida Republicans with “an important message from President Donald Trump.”

Trump weighed on the Republican primary for Governor early, and in June redoubled his support for U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in his bid to topple the two-decade political career of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

In the new call, Trump again makes his case for the Ponte Vedra Republican.

The call, possibly overkill, comes after recent polls of the Republican primary showing the third-term Congressman swamping Polk County’s favorite son by more than 20 points.

DeSantis

After introducing himself, Trump says “my friend, Ron DeSantis, is running for Governor of the great state of Florida.”

“I love Florida. I fully endorse Ron in tomorrow’s election. Ron is a strong, solid conservative. He stood with me to build the wall, which is under construction right now, fight crime and cut taxes — all things that we’re getting done, and all with Ron’s help,” Trump says in the recording.

“Ron is an Iraq War veteran who, like me, loves our military and is giving our troops the support and equipment they need to defend us … ,” the president continues.

“Remember, tomorrow is Election Day. Please get to the polls tomorrow to join me in supporting my friend Ron DeSantis for Governor. He will be absolutely outstanding. Thank you,” Trump concludes.

Since DeSantis officially announced his bid for Governor in January he has climbed in the polls despite running far behind Putnam in fundraising and campaign infrastructure.

Despite jabs from Putnam that DeSantis was running his campaign out of a TV studio in New York and digs on whether he understood the issues facing the Sunshine State, DeSantis was thrust far out front with Trump’s endorsement — which even saw the president stump for DeSantis with a Tampa campaign rally.

If DeSantis proves victorious on Tuesday, he’ll move on to the November general election, where he’ll be up against one of five Democrats vying to end the stranglehold the GOP has had on the Governor’s Mansion since Jeb Bush’s election in 1998.

If polling on the Democratic side of the race proves accurate, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham will take the nomination Tuesday night, though a resurgent Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine are still in the mix.

A recording of Trump’s call is below.

Here’s Gravis Marketing’s final poll of primaries for Florida governor

In a poll following a pretty consistent pattern through the past week, Gravis Marketing is finding that Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Democratic former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham appear headed for a Governor’s race showdown after Tuesday’s primaries.

DeSantis and Graham have topped several polls in the week heading into the last two days of voting, and Gravis is among them.

The Gravis Marketing poll, taken last Tuesday through Saturday, give DeSantis 39 percent, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam 27 percent, and Bob White and Bruce Nathan splitting another 10, with 23 percent still uncertain.

That poll was of 579 registered Republicans, and Gravis was citing a margin of error of 4.1 percent for Republican results.

In the same survey, Gravis also finds Graham with 26 percent of Democratic voter support; and the next three Democrats, Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum bunched, with 19, 18 and 16 percent respectively. Winter Park businessman Chris King trails the pack with 5 percent.

The only major difference in the most recent polls has been the order of Greene, Levine, and Gillum, and their relative strengths compared with each other.

The Gravis poll included 531 registered Democrats, with Gravis claiming a margin of error of 4.3 percent on Democrat results.

Gravis found a couple of other primary races bunched within the margins of error.

Former Circuit Judge Ashley Moody has an insignificant lead over state Rep. Frank White for the Republican Attorney General primary nomination. Moody drew 35 percent and White 32 percent, with 33 percent of those surveyed saying they were uncertain.

Former state Rep. Baxter Troutman, state Rep. Matt Caldwell, and state Sen. Denise Grimsley are even tighter in the Republican Florida Agriculture Commissioner primary. Troutman drew 19 percent, Caldwell 18, and Grimsley 17. Mike McAlister is not far behind with 13 percent.

Florida politicians react to the passing of John McCain

The family of U.S. Sen. John McCain, Arizona’s senior senator and the 2008 Republican nominee for president, announced his death after a lengthy battle with cancer.

Florida’s political leaders remembered the longtime Senate leader.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, elected in 2010, issued a statement mourning McCain.

“John McCain’s sacrifices to his country are immeasurable. With his passing today, America has lost more than a leader and more than a senator. We have lost a true American hero. As a colleague in the Senate and a friend, I drew personal inspiration from his leadership, intellect and moral courage. He set the standard for what we should expect from our soldiers and from our public servants of all levels. In this time of grief, I hope John’s family finds comfort in knowing that this extraordinary man touched countless lives, and his memory will continue to set the standard of leadership and moral resolve for future generations.”

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat elected to the Senate in 2000, called McCain a friend a hero.

“John McCain was my friend and one of my heroes. He devoted his life to duty, honor and country. He shall always be a role model for me.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is running against Nelson this year, noted McCain’s military service.

“John McCain was a true American hero. As a Navy man myself, I’ve always had immense respect for Senator McCain. A lot of folks talk tough, but he was the real deal. From one Navy family to another, we extend our sincerest gratitude for his strength and perseverance. John will always be a beacon of hope and perseverance for America. He was a true fighter and fought every day for this country. We will miss him dearly but take comfort in knowing his legacy will live on forever.”

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, whose brother George W. defeated McCain in the Republican presidential primary in 2000, praised McCain’s lifetime of service.

“John McCain’s courageous and selfless lifetime of service is a profile in American exceptionalism. Prayers this evening for the Senator, Cindy and the entire McCain family.”

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi sent prayers to McCain’s family.

“US Senator John McCain was a war hero, a public servant and a great American. Our country is better for his service. My heart breaks, and my prayers are with Cindy, Meghan and the entire McCain family.”

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican candidate for governor, celebrated all stages of McCain’s service. “America lost one of her bravest defenders today. In a cockpit, an enemy prison, or the Senate chamber, John McCain fought for our nation’s values and freedoms, and sacrificed much in the journey. May God welcome him home and give comfort to his family.”

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis remembered his interaction with McCain during the 2008 presidential campaign.

“Katie, Theo and I had the honor to meet Senator McCain during his 2008 campaign for President. My family appreciates his sacrifices for our country and pray for strength for the McCain Family.”

Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, a Democratic candidate for governor, spoke of the relationship between McCain and her father, former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham. “Dad and @SenJohnMcCain formed a friendship serving together because John McCain was one of the rare statesman who could place public service before partisanship. He was a warrior and maverick all the way to the end. May he rest in peace.”

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democratic candidate for governor, praised McCain’s character. “We’ve lost a truly courageous leader tonight. John McCain’s integrity and love for our country was boundless. He led with a passion and purpose that we all aspire to. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends this difficult evening.”

Chris King, another Democratic candidate, posted a classic photo of McCain being honored for his service by President Richard Nixon.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a Democratic candidate for governor, also remembered McCain. “His patriotism is beyond measure, his heroism beyond question, and his character is a role model for a life beautifully lived.”

Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw, a Democrat, also posted a picture of McCain with another president, former opponent Barack Obama.

Agriculture Commissioner candidate Baxter Troutman, a Republican, was among those mentioning McCain’s maverick reputation.

Chief Financial Officer candidate Jeremy Ring, a Democrat, called McCain a true patriot.

“So sad to hear of the passing of a true American Patriot and Hero . My prayers are with his family at this time as well as all the people he has touched throughout his eighty-one years. Senator McCain, THANK YOU for your service to the American people.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, who as Florida’s Republican governor campaigned for McCain for president, remembered the senator.

“Tonight our country lost a true American hero. Honored to have called Senator McCain a friend. May God bless his loved ones during this time of loss.”

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Democrat, echoed the thoughts. “America loses a true patriot in Senator John McCain. Honor him with independent thinking, love of country.”

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Republican, added his tribute to McCain. “John McCain was a true American patriot who sacrificed much for his country. He was a man of tremendous courage and will be missed.”

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, a Republican, released the following statement: “I am saddened at the passing of a true American hero, Senator John McCain. Senator McCain was a devoted family man, a passionate leader, and a dedicated public servant. He always put his country first, and as such he leaves behind an impressive legacy of service and sacrifice. The Bilirakis family was fortunate to call him a friend for many years. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. May his memory be eternal!”

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Democrat, also put out a statement: “”I was so incredibly saddened to hear the news of Senator John McCain’s passing. He was a classic Patriot and served our nation with honor and distinction. May his family find the peace that they need in this difficult time, and know that his legacy will forever endure. Throughout Senator McCain’s years of distinguished service, we all saw firsthand his integrity, humility, courage and grace. My thoughts and prayers are with his entire family. Senator McCain inspired a nation and will be dearly missed.”

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, shared a picture of herself with McCain and a message for his family. “An American hero passed away but his legacy will endure. A fighter through and through, was a patriot and a true American hero. Dexter and I were proud to know him.”

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Republican, said he felt honored to have served in Washington with McCain. “ was a true hero. Honored to have known him and served in Washington with him. Thinking of the McCain family and all who loved him tonight. Rest in peace Maverick.”

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford was among those celebrating McCain’s military contributions. “I am saddened by the passing of Senator John McCain and thank him for his service to our nation both in the Navy and in Congress. For decades, his dedication to his country, his family, and his principles have served as an example to us all.”

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a Democrat, said he was incredibly saddened to hear of McCain’s death. “He embodied true patriotism and was a man of unflinching integrity, who went above and beyond the call of duty in service to our country. This is a profound loss for our nation.”

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Democrat, recalled a diplomatic trip the two lawmakers took together to Vietnam. “Patriot. Hero. Public Servant. Maverick. Senator McCain will be missed by this nation. As a Vietnamese refugee, I will treasure the memory of visiting Vietnam with talking about our deep and mutual love for America. Rest In Peace, Senator. Your legacy lives on.”

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, a Democrat, simply thanked McCain for his candor. “Thank you for your service to our country, for your courage and for your candor!”

U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, a Republican, said McCain exemplified the best of the United States. “Sen. John McCain dedicated his entire life to serving our nation. As a Navy Veteran, a war hero, and later through his service in Congress, he exemplified the best this country has to offer as a statesman. My prayers are with the McCain family during this difficult time.

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican, issued a lengthy statement celebrating McCain’s life from the military to his Senate service. “Generations to come will benefit from his selfless dedication to duty and country.”

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Democrat, simply passed along her regrets at the news.

Florida Senate President Joe Negron celebrated McCain’s military record. “We are keeping the McCain family in our prayers as they grieve this incredible loss. Senator McCain was an American hero who served the cause of freedom throughout his entire life. He endured suffering most of us cannot imagine. We are so grateful for his service and sacrifice.”

State Rep. Jason Fischer also made note of McCain’s naval record. “Fair winds and following seas, shipmate. We have the watch.”

State Rep. Shevrin Jones demonstrated the bipartisan affection for the senator, saying McCain “was an example of what courage, strength, and civility in the process looked like. Today, let us honor him for showing the world that it can be done. To a true American legend and hero, Rest In Peace.”

Miami Beach City Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, a Democratic candidate for Congress in South Florida, released the following statement: “It is a sad day today for all Americans. I may not have always agreed with Sen. John McCain, but I always respected him. He was a true American hero who fought for what he believed in — both in war and in Washington — and was a true representative of his people, not special interests. He was a warrior, a statesman, a model for us all. His death Saturday can be mourned by both Republicans and Democrats because Sen. McCain wasn’t afraid to cross the aisle, or challenge his own party and its leaders, when he felt he had to. Twice, he refused to support GOP legislation to end the Affordable Healthcare Act. His example and his leadership will be missed.”

Jesse Phillips, Seminole County Republican state committeeman, mentioned McCain sometimes upset his base but always inspired respect. “Love him or hate him, the maverick embodied so much of what makes America great.”

Christian Whitfield, Jacksonville City Council candidate, honored McCain’s service record. “Elizabeth and I would like to send our condolences to the family and to our fellow and shipmate sleep in peace sir, we have the watch.”

Hawthorne Mayor Matt Surrency recalled a famous moment when McCain dismissed false theories about Obama even in the midst of the presidential race.

This story will be updated as more leaders release statements.

Joe Henderson: The “real” Adam Putnam shows up, but too late?

In the final days of his campaign for the Republican nomination for Governor, Adam Putnam has come across as the person a lot of people always thought he was.

It’s too bad he kept that person hidden for so long.

His ads now are low-key and sincere, a departure from the strident tone he set at the start and stayed with for far too long.

He is back to being the kind of person you’d like to have live next door: Friendly, smart, can dominate a room without being overbearing.

But, somewhere early in the campaign, that guy got put on the shelf. The reasoned, principled conservative was replaced by a shrill imposter who left people shaking their heads and wondering what happened to the man they knew.

Maybe Florida’s wacky primary system convinced Putnam he had to show that he, too, could be just as loud as the next guy to appeal to the hardcore Republican voters, those most likely to turn out for a primary election.

It wasn’t enough to say he supported the Second Amendment and leave it at that, he had to shout that he was a “proud NRA sellout.”

Likeability was always a major strength for Putnam by people from both political parties. But for months, he routinely blathered on about the “liberal media” and came across as a divider, not someone interested in uniting.

He couldn’t just shrug and say he still supports the policies of Donald Trump even after the president endorsed Fox News darling Ron DeSantis.

He had to keep tilting at that windmill with ill-advised Twitter messages like the one where he welcomed the president to a recent rally in Tampa – only to have Trump refer to DeSantis that night as “a true leader, a proud veteran, my great friend, a tough, brilliant cookie.”

He looked desperate.

Now, DeSantis has a 23-point lead in the final St. Pete Polls survey, and Putnam is facing the possible end of his political career after Tuesday’s primary.

Yes, it’s legitimate to say it might not have made any difference what kind of campaign Putnam ran, given Trump’s support of DeSantis. Trump likes DeSantis because, as a member of the U.S. House, he was critical of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation of the president.

As Putnam learned, that’s all a lot of voters needed to hear.

The harder Putnam chased those voters, the farther away he seemed to be from the person that people thought they knew. Did that scare off undecided voters?

Maybe.

Add the outcry over donations his campaign received from Publix in the wake of the Parkland slaughter, followed by revelations that the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which Putnam currently leads, mishandled thousands of concealed weapons permit applications.

All the while, DeSantis was doing his best Aaron Burr impression from the musical “Hamilton”: Not saying much, smiling a lot, and riding that Trump endorsement to build what looks like an insurmountable lead for the nomination – potentially turning the general election into a statewide referendum on the president and his policies.

Trump does have strong support in many pockets of Florida. But in many ways, Adam Putnam is Florida.

He’s a small-town guy from Bartow.

He is a Gator.

He represented his district in Congress.

He knows how state government works.

And I really do think that if a miracle happens and he wins the primary, we would see a much different candidate in the general election.

I’ll bet on some level, many Democrats would concede that they are happy to take their chances against DeSantis because Putnam would have been formidable.

We’re getting a glimpse of that candidate now. He is working the room, so to speak – shaking every hand, making every person he meets feel like they’re important and he understands their needs and concerns. He is not surrendering; give him that much.

Did that candidate show up too late? Even if he had, would it have made a difference against the Tweeter-in-Chief?

Maybe not. But at least it would have been the real Adam Putnam.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Second-guessing the CRC

The work of the Constitution Revision Commission is under attack in the courts.

And that’s fair, according to Brecht Heuchan, who led the CRC’s drafting process.

“I’m not mad about the lawsuits,” he told us. “That’s what people do when they feel aggrieved.”

But a new effort spawned this week encouraging Floridians to opt for a blanket ‘no’ to the eight amendments set forth by the CRC isn’t as well received by the panel’s former Style and Drafting Committee chair.

“I’m struggling with charges that the ‘sky is falling’ — when it’s not falling,” Heuchan said in reference to Save My Constitution, which is also seeking to reform or even abolish the CRC in the near future.

A blanket ‘no’ to CRC amendments does not sit well with Commissioner Brecht Heuchan. (Image via the Orlando Sentinel)

It asserted that the panel wasn’t held accountable, and that it ‘logrolled’ amendments by bundling issues together.

While not held directly accountable to voters, he added, commissioners don’t have to fret about upsetting special interests or winning the next election. In a sense, members of the panel enjoyed a “free and liberated” niche.

On bundling, which has drawn hefty criticism, Heuchan pointed to precedence and pragmatism.

Proposals from two prior CRCs similarly lumped several issues together, he noted. In 1968, a completely new constitution went before voters in just three amendments.

Ballot fatigue is real, he added, and if the CRC opted not to bundle, voters would’ve had more than 20 amendments to review.

With lawsuits abounding, judges seem split on the practice.

A Tallahassee judge earlier this month rejected the idea that bundling is deceitful. But retired Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead challenged six of the eight CRC proposals on that issue alone.

One thing’s sure: Come November, the CRC’s actions — assuming they’re on the ballot — have to be “validated and embraced” by no less than 60 percent of voters, Heuchan said. Given that, he isn’t losing any sleep.

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

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

Take 5

Judge rules against education amendment — Circuit Judge John Cooper this week ordered Amendment 8 be removed from the ballot, opining that it “fails to inform voters of the chief purpose and effect of this proposal.” The ruling sided with a challenge brought by the League of Women Voters of Florida, alleging the education proposal is “misleading” because it did not inform voters of the impact it would have on charter schools. The provision at issue in the proposal’s ballot summary reads: “The amendment maintains a school board’s duties to public schools it establishes, but permits the state to operate, control, and supervise public schools not established by the school board.” The state quickly appealed the ruling, and the case passed through to the Supreme Court, which said it would hear the case soon.

FIU bridge dispute moves to feds — A federal judge will take over a case on whether the Miami Herald should have access to state records about a bridge that collapsed March 15 at Florida International University, killing six. A circuit judge sided with the Herald earlier this week and ordered the Florida Department of Transportation to release the records. But Senior U.S. District Judge William Stafford placed a stay on the ruling two days later after an attorney representing the National Transportation Safety Board moved the case to federal court. The NTSB is still conducting an investigation into the bridge collapse. FDOT cited federal law that prevented the state agency from releasing records related to NTSB’s investigation. The government is expected to file a motion Monday to quash the state ruling. Attorneys for the Herald will fight to have the case remanded back to state court.

Legislators clash with Scott’s school safety shift — Gov. Rick Scott is asking the Legislature to redirect to school districts $58 million of unused funding from a statewide school guardian program, but top legislators in both chambers disagree. After Scott submitted a request via the Department of Education to disperse the leftover money to school districts to help offset the costs of funding armed guardians or officers at every school, incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva and Senate President-designate Bill Galvano rejected the idea, The Associated Press reported. Before the doubtful remarks from the prospective chamber leaders, Scott said he was “confident” the Legislature would choose to disperse the money.

Early voting site ruling too late for some counties — Following Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker’s order that the state stop barring early voting sites on colleges, some supervisors of elections have said they won’t be able to launch campus locations ahead of the November election. Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley, for instance, announced that early sites will not be set up at the area’s three higher-Ed schools: Florida State University, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College. Likewise, Miami-Dade said it will not have early polls ready in time at Miami-Dade College and Florida International University. Meanwhile, Hillsborough, Alachua and Orange County will have early voting sites ready at the major universities in each county, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Ballots cast exceed 1.5 million — More than 1.5 million Floridians have cast ballots for Tuesday’s primary election, according to data published Friday morning by the Division of Elections. More than 1 million of those ballots were sent by mail, with Republicans returning 507,127 and Democrats casting 443,776. More than 400,000 Floridians went to the polls for early voting, with Republicans leading Democrats by more than 7,000 early voters. Nonparty affiliated voters make up about 160,000 of all ballots cast thus far. Early voting ends Saturday, although supervisors of elections have the option to offer an additional chance Sunday.

Scott adds money to battle red tide

The governor this week announced that an additional $3 million is on its way to communities on Florida’s Gulf Coast to help mitigate toxic red tide plaguing waterways.

The money is available through grants that were unlocked after Scott recently declared a state of emergency.

Gov. Rick Scott tours the Caloosahatchee River to see toxic blooms firsthand. (Image via WGCU)

With the additional funding, the Department of Environmental Protection committed $750,000 to Manatee County, $190,000 to Collier County and nearly $100,000 to Sarasota County, according to Scott’s office.

“We will continue to do everything we can to support the communities and businesses impacted by red tide,” Scott said.

The Governor also highlighted coordinated efforts between the state’s tourism-marketing and jobs agencies to ensure local businesses don’t suffer economic losses as a result of this year’s red tide, which is being covered nationally.

Bondi: Close fentanyl ‘loophole’

Joining a bipartisan group of 51 other attorneys general, Attorney General Pam Bondi this week signed on to a letter pleading for congressional leadership to support the Stop Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues Act, or SOFA Act.

An analogue is a kind of “knockoff,” chemically similar to a drug such that it mimics its effects.

Pam Bondi joins 51 other attorneys general to call for a close to the ‘fentanyl loophole.’

SOFA, according to Bondi’s office, “would eliminate the current loophole that keeps the federal controlled substance scheduling system ‘one step behind,’ by (using) catch-all language allowing the Drug Enforcement Administration to proactively schedule all newly-modified fentanyl analogues.”

Such substances are lethal when taken directly or in mixed doses. Attorneys general from every state in the union along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico signed onto the initiative, led by Wisconsin and Connecticut.

“There is little doubt that the nation’s ongoing battle against heroin and opiates is unlike any other public health emergency,” the letter reads. “It touches all corners of our society.

“States and localities are on the front line of this crisis and are a large part of winning the battle from both a law enforcement and public health perspective.”

The Week in Appointments

State Emergency Response Commission

Courtney Drummond, 49, of Havana, is a Chief Engineer for the Florida Department of Transportation. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning Aug. 20 and ending at the pleasure of the Governor. Steve McCoy, 43, of Tallahassee, is an Emergency Medical Services Administrator for the Department of Health. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning Aug. 20 and ending at the pleasure of the Governor. Courtney Barker, 45, of Satellite Beach, is the City Manager. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending at the pleasure of the Governor. Amanda Bowen, 32, of Tallahassee, is the Executive Director of the Manufacturers Association of Florida. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending at the pleasure of the Governor. Greg Blose II, 38, of Tallahassee, is the Board of Governors Program Director for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending at the pleasure of the Governor. Bob Burleson, 69, of Tallahassee, is president of the Florida Transportation Builders’ Association. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending at the pleasure of the Governor.

Children’s Board of Hillsborough County

Scott reappointed Megan Proulx Dempsey and Ed Narain. Dempsey, 42, of Tampa, is senior corporate counsel for TECO Services, Inc. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Tampa and her law degree from Stetson University. Dempsey is reappointed for a term ending Dec. 31, 2020. Narain, 41, of Tampa, is director of external affairs for AT&T. He is a former State Representative and serves on the Board of Trustees for Saint Leo University. Narain received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Saint Leo University and his law degree from Stetson University College of Law. He is reappointed for a term ending Dec. 31, 2020.

Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission

Scott made three reappointments and one appointment to the Commission. Chief Jeffrey Pearson, 49, of Satellite Beach, is the Chief of Police of the Satellite Beach Police Department. He is reappointed for a term ending Aug. 1, 2022. Sheriff Tommy Ford, 49, of Lynn Haven, is the sheriff of Bay County. He is reappointed for a term ending Aug. 1, 2022. William Harriss, 67, of St. Augustine, is the former city manager of St. Augustine. He is reappointed for a term ending Aug. 1, 2021. Chief Cristian “Sean” Hemmingway, 50, of Cooper City, is the Police Chief of Bay Harbor Islands Police Department. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending Aug. 1, 2019.

DEP opens Franklin Co. boat ramp

The Indian Creek boat ramp is now open for public use, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced this week.

Stationed on Franklin County’s Indian Creek, the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees selected the ramp as a restoration project to help mend services injured or lost following the 2010 BP oil spill.

The new Franklin County boat ramp.

Engineering and construction costs that helped revitalize the existing ramp totaled approximately $629,000. New changes include a “deeper boat ramp, aluminum access gangway and floating dock, replacement of existing bulkhead with steel sheet piling and concrete cap, safety fencing, ADA parking space, and improved parking for vehicles and boat trailers,” according to DEP.

DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein said those changes should “provide increased public access and recreational opportunities” for Franklin County boaters. The agency partnered with the county to complete the project.

“The department is always looking for opportunities to partner with local communities on projects to enhance the use and enjoyment of Florida’s coastal resources,” Valenstein said.

Irma losses mount

Insured losses from Hurricane Irma have surpassed $10.4 billion, according to new data released by the Office of Insurance Regulation.

Florida insurers have fielded 997,237 residential and commercial policy claims, 91.7 percent of which have been closed.

Miami-Dade County produced the largest number of claims, at 126,994. Next was Collier County, with 91,980; Broward, with 82,251; Lee, with 81,933; and Orange, with 75,495.

The office plans to ask insurance companies to report loss data again Oct. 15, and will decide at that point whether to close the books on the storm, which hit Florida on Sept. 10 last year.

Irma costs add up for Cat Fund

Hurricane Irma-related claims against the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund could hit $2.5 billion, according to the latest estimate.

That’s up from $2.4 billion the last time the fund projected its losses.

Anne Bert, the fund’s chief operating officer, released the update during a telephone conference call. The fund provides ‘reinsurance’ to Florida’s residential property insurers. Reinsurance is basically insurance for insurers, also called stop-loss insurance.

Hurricane Irma damages could now reach $2.5 billion for the CAT fund.

“This estimate will get updated as we receive additional loss reports from our participating company,” Bert told the fund’s advisory council. “Companies are reporting as they should, and all that is going very well.”

Irma had produced more than $9.7 billion in residential and commercial property insurance claims as of June 12, according to the Office of Insurance Regulation. The office is expected to update that figure based on responses from a data call it issued to insurance companies Aug. 10.

Instagram of the Week

PSC reduces TECO bills

Tampa Electric Company’s (TECO) monthly residential customer bills will be reduced because of the Public Service Commission’s approval this week of savings from the U.S. Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017.

What TECO would have paid in corporate income taxes will instead be used to reduce rates, offsetting an expected increase resulting from previously incurred storm restoration costs.

PSC Commissioner Julie Brown.

The utility’s annual revenue requirement will be reduced by $102.7 million, or 9 percent. Residential customers will see a savings of “$6.50 per 1,000 kilowatt-hours,” the PSC said.

“We want customers to benefit from the federal tax reductions,” Commissioner Julie Brown said in a statement. “Our action today is truly monumental in nature, and with our approval, we’re glad TECO customers will see lower electric bills.”

Tampa Electric serves about 750,000 customers in west Central Florida.

Lineworker Appreciation Day

Florida Lineworker Appreciation Day is Sunday, and the Public Service Commission (PSC) wants to celebrate “the great men and women who work hard every day to construct, operate, and maintain the electric system that keeps Florida running.”

On Sunday, Florida celebrates Lineworker Appreciation Day.

“We count on electricity, so when the power goes out, we want it restored as quickly as possible,” PSC Chairman Art Graham said in a statement. “Lineworkers are invaluable, working all hours of the day, often in hazardous conditions, to restore power and return lives to normal.”

When needed, they “selflessly leave their families to travel to other parts of the country to help restore power to homes and businesses struggling after a storm.”

Even on average days, lineworkers work with high voltage electric lines as they dangle high above the ground in harnesses. Collectively, lineworkers maintain the nation’s more than 5.5 million miles of local distribution lines.

Lawmakers created Lineworker Appreciation Day in 2012. Follow @floridapsc to find PSC Commissioners’ #ThankALineman tweets.

Lawmakers honored for ‘home rule’ support

In the perennial legislative war over local control, there were three standouts in 2018: Sen. Debbie Mayfield, Rep. Bobby DuBose and Rep. Mel Ponder.

The Florida League of Cities honored each with ‘Defender of Home Rule’ awards for their actions to maintain control at the local level and fight against pre-emptive measures, which kick decision-making powers up to the state.

Last weekend, the Florida League of Cities celebrated 50 years of Constitutional Home Rule at its 92nd Annual Conference in Hollywood.

The League advocates for local control, or home rule, and reserves its Defender of Home Rule designations for legislators “who consistently voted and advocated on behalf of Florida’s cities and the right to local self-government.”

“I truly believe the government closest to the people should make the decisions that affect the quality of life in the community they represent,” said Sen. Mayfield, a Rockledge Republican, in accepting the honor.

Dubose, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat and former city commissioner, cited his local government experience in accepting the award. “I understand the importance of Home Rule and will continue to fight for it,” Dubose said.

“I put great value on Home Rule,” Ponder, a Fort Walton Beach Republican and former city mayor, said. “I personally believe that every city and community has significance, and honoring that heritage is very important to me.”

Florida the ‘freest’ state

After free-market think tank CATO Institute ranked Florida the freest state in the union, the like-minded group Americans for Prosperity-Florida said it won’t rest on its laurels with the good news.

“We will continue advocating policies that will make Florida the best place to live, work and raise a family,” AFP-FL state director Chris Hudson said in a statement. “This study should serve as our collective challenge to preserve our freedom in Florida and push back on policy threats that might knock us off.”

 

The CATO rankings put the Sunshine State 1st in overall freedom, as well as 1st in fiscal policy, and economic freedom and 2nd in education policy.

AFP-FL said that the rankings could not have come without cooperation from state lawmakers who’ve championed and passed free-market policies.

“A special recognition goes out to Florida lawmakers that have put policy over politics, improving lives over the status quo, and for their commitment to preserving and expanding our freedoms in the Sunshine State,” Hudson said.

Florida 2030 drafts a path

Florida 2030, an ongoing three-year research project, released preliminary recommendations to improve the quality of life and places as Florida continues to grow.

Among the recommendations: Florida needs to add 1.7 million net new jobs by 2030; prepare its workforce to take advantage of global consumer demand; and adapt to shifting skills and accompanying training. That’s because Florida is experiencing “generational changes” and that the “nature of work in Florida is changing.”

To keep up with demand, Florida needs nearly 2 million new jobs by 2030.

“Florida 2030 provides a comprehensive look at what Florida needs to get right in order to become and remain a place marked by global competitiveness, prosperity and high-paying jobs, and vibrant and sustainable communities,” said Tony Carvajal, executive vice president of the Florida Chamber Foundation. “Florida’s future will face challenges, but it also means we have unique opportunities to succeed.”

The findings, while preliminary, will be expanded upon when the foundation releases its full report at the 2018 Future of Florida Forum, Sept. 26-27 in Orlando.

Hollywood Reporter: FSU film school among best

Those looking to break into the film industry should consider Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts, according to the entertainment industry’s media powerhouse, The Hollywood Reporter.

The Reporter recently put the school at No. 19 on its annual list of Top 25 Film Schools, noting the achievements of Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins, a 2003 graduate of the program, along with other successful alumni.

Jenkins snagged the Academy’s 2017 Best Picture Award for his drama, “Moonlight.”

FSU graduate Barry Jenkins, and his golden friend.

“Measures of success like industry placement, award-winning student films and alumni accomplishments consistently demonstrate the excellence of our programs,” said Reb Braddock, dean of the College of Motion Picture Arts. “It’s always rewarding to be recognized by outlets like The Hollywood Reporter and Variety for what we already know: Our faculty, students and alumni are outstanding.”

The film school pointed to its other recent successes: 97 percent of graduates find relevant work within a year of leaving. It’s also the only film school in the nation to completely fund student projects.

Sweetening the deal for students is a 5:1 student-faculty ratio, meaning student filmmakers are apt to find several one-on-one mentors.

“You really get the sense that the school is preparing you in every aspect for the industry,” said Zoe DeLeon, who earned a Master of Fine Arts in screenwriting and playwriting in 2018.

FSU’s housing for student entrepreneurs

Florida State will house a group of prospective entrepreneurs in a new living-learning community this fall.

Stationed at Deviney Hall, the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Learning Community is designed to expose students to available resources and information to help plan their time through FSU’s entrepreneur-focused curriculum.

Susan Fiorito, director of the Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship.

The community is linked to FSU’s Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship, which recently opened a location downtown.

“We are thrilled to be able to have a pipeline,” said Susan Fiorito, director of the Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship. “This is a wonderful opportunity for us to get students who are freshmen to think about their passion and to talk to other entrepreneurs about the variety of options that are available to them.”

The idea was welcomed by incoming students: The program had just 36 openings but received 127 applications.

Tallahassee Senior Center marks 40 years

Next week, Tallahassee Senior Services will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Tallahassee Senior Center, which is in the old Armory building at 1400 N. Monroe St.

To mark the occasion, there will be a program and open house Tuesday, Aug. 28, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. During this time, guests can glimpse the evolution of the Senior Center, fellowship with center participants and learn more about active aging opportunities.

City Commissioner Gil Ziffer is praising longtime commitment of the Tallahassee Senior Center.

“In our constantly changing community, one thing has remained the same since 1978 — the Tallahassee Senior Center continues to be a haven for Tallahassee’s active aging population,” City Commissioner Gil Ziffer said.

“Since opening, the Senior Center has welcomed countless adults through its doors, providing a place to connect and thrive. Celebrating 40 years is truly a testament to the value and worth that our Senior Services division brings to our community.”

For more information on the anniversary celebration, visit www.TallahasseeSeniorFoundation.org.

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