Adam Putnam Archives - Page 5 of 29 - Florida Politics

Bill Nelson wants probe into Florida’s use of driver records

Sen. Bill Nelson wants a federal investigation of how Florida uses the personal information of its 15 million licensed drivers.

The Florida Democrat wrote U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Friday asking her to probe whether the state is selling information for marketing purposes without the drivers’ consent in violation of federal law.

Nelson made the request after WTVT-TV reported that 75 companies are getting information in bulk from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and that the agency is not doing anything to ensure the information is used properly.

“In this new era, when identity thieves are causing real damage to millions of hardworking families, the fact that the state is making a profit by selling Floridians’ personal information on the open market is simply unconscionable,” Nelson’s letter says. “I ask that your agency investigate whether the State of Florida is fully adhering to the intent of the law, as any deviation could be severely harmful to the millions of people who trusted the state.”

The agency has collected $150 million in the last two fiscal years from companies requesting driving records. Its executive director, Terry Rhodes, said in a statement that the agency “does not sell driver or motor vehicle information” and that the driving records were handed over as required under federal laws and the state’s public records laws.

Beth Frady, a spokeswoman for Rhodes, added that the money collected from companies was based on fees that were set by the Florida Legislature.

Rhodes and her agency report to Gov. Rick Scott and the three elected members of the Florida Cabinet.

Scott’s office and Attorney General Pam Bondi did not comment on Nelson’s letter and instead referred all questions to the agency. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Friday in a statement that he has requested the agency to “provide me with a full update regarding this important consumer and personal privacy matter.”

WTVT reported that some of the companies obtaining driver records had no websites or storefronts, and were not registered to do business in Florida. One operates out of a condominium near Fort Lauderdale, but did not respond to the station’s requests for comment.

WTVT said it began investigating after noticing that Florida residents doing transactions with the agency would then receive direct marketing ads.

For the Governor? John Morgan says he has ‘much to think about’ before making decision

John Morgan isn’t closing the door on a 2018 gubernatorial bid.

Morgan said he has been overwhelmed by calls for him to run for governor in 2018, but said he needs “a lot of time to think about it” before going down that road.

“I greatly appreciate the outpouring of support and love this week,” he wrote in a lengthy post on Medium. “But I have much to think about and do before I jump into a decision of this magnitude.”

The push to draft Morgan, an Orlando trial attorney, to run for governor began earlier this week. In an email to United for Care supporters earlier this week, Ben Pollara, the campaign manager and a Miami-based political consultant, encouraged Floridians encourage Morgan to run.

“I don’t care whether he runs as a Democrat, Republican, Communist, or Klingon, I want John Morgan to be Florida’s next governor. I want John Morgan to be MY next governor,” said Pollara in the email. “Tell John: We need you in Tallahassee. We need a governor who is truly, For The People.”

Morgan said he has a “pretty clear vision of what Florida’s next governor should do,” and outlined a series of issues — including decriminalizing marijuana and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour — he’d like to see tackled. He also said he’d like to see the positions of lieutenant governor and agriculture commissioner abolished.

And Morgan said there’s no rush for him to jump in the race. While other candidates might need to announce their intentions early to raise money and build name recognition, Morgan is well-known throughout the state and would be able to “largely self-fund any campaign.”

“These campaigns begin too early and drag on too long,” he wrote. “I could start in 2018 with plenty of time to make my case to The People of Florida.”

The 2018 field is expected to be crowded. Rep. Gwen Graham, the daughter of former governor and Sen. Bob Graham, has expressed interest, and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is expected to throw his hat in the race.

Morgan was one of the main backers of Amendment 2, the medical marijuana amendment, pouring millions of dollars into the campaign. Floridians voted overwhelmingly in support of the amendment earlier this month.

“Passing Amendment 2 will be part of my life story. It was a singular moment for me. Hundreds of thousands will see relief. That is written,” he wrote. “The next chapter, I’m not sure of.”

gas pump fuel

Tampa man busted for black market fuel scheme

A Tampa man is in jail after his arrest on charges he bought gasoline with counterfeit credit cards, intending to resell it on the black market.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced the bust Wednesday, made by his Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement.

Jose Rodriguez, 44, was charged with fraudulently purchasing the fuel and “filling unlawful fuel containers for transport and potential resale on the black market.”

Officers also charged Rodriguez with credit card forgery related to an arrest in March.

“Our law enforcement officers will continue to protect Floridians’ hard-earned money from individuals who try to cheat the system to make a quick buck,” Putnam said.

“Upon conducting inventory on Rodriguez’s vehicle, investigators recovered multiple illegal fuel transfer tanks and 18 counterfeit credit cards,” a news release said.

Rodriguez is in the Hillsborough County Jail on one count of unlawful conveyance of fuel, a third degree felony; one count of fraudulently obtaining fuel, a second degree felony; two counts of credit card forgery, a third degree felony; one count of possession of more than 15 but less than 49 counterfeit credit cards, a second degree felony; and driving while license suspended with knowledge, a second degree misdemeanor.

Compilation of Veterans Day messages from Florida’s elected officials and politicians

A compilation of Veterans Day messages from Florida’s elected officials and politicians:

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam:

In honor of Veterans Day, I want to tell you about a little-known program that’s honoring the sacrifices of our nation’s wounded veterans. It’s called Operation Outdoor Freedom.

Since 2011, we’ve invited more than 2,000 wounded veterans to enjoy hunting, fishing, and other recreational activities at no cost to them. It’s an opportunity for them to relax and rehabilitate in Florida’s great outdoors.

And it’s an opportunity for us to honor our nation’s bravest men and women. This is just one small way we can thank those who’ve sacrificed so much for our freedoms.

State Sen. Aaron Bean, via Twitter:

Today, we recognize all of our veterans for their sacrifices to our country. We are absolutely the land of the FREE because of the BRAVE.

State Sen. Anitere Flores, via Twitter:

Thank you to all the brave men and women who have selflessly served our country.

State Sen. Bill Galvano, via Twitter:

For those who fought and who continue to fight in the name of freedom, we thank you!

State Rep. Bill Hager:

Today marks the anniversary of Armistice Day, which commemorates the peace agreement signed at the end of fighting on the Western Front of World War I. In honor of those brave men and women, and those who followed in their footsteps, we take this day each year to celebrate and thank those who have served our country so that each of us can be free.

Today we are losing our veterans from World War II, who have been called our greatest generation, at a very rapid rate. Our Korean, Vietnam, and Middle East vets face scars and illnesses long after their service. Currently, many of our neighbors have sent off their loved ones, many in harm’s way, to various military outposts around the world.

It is important that each of us on this special day take a moment to say THANK YOU to our veterans and our current military personnel. Their families also deserve our recognition, support, and thanks as well for their sacrifice.

In our private and public remembrances, we cannot ever forget the veterans who served our nation, in particular those that made the ultimate sacrifice.

State Rep. Shawn Harrison:

harrisonState Rep. Kathleen Peters, via Twitter:

To those who have served, we are forever in your debt and America salutes you. Happy Veterans Day.

State Rep. Jack Raburn:


Need an escape? ‘Friends of Midtown Reader’ have books to survive the election

If this election has you stressed out, know this: You are not alone.

A survey by the American Psychological Association found 52 percent of American adults said the 2016 election is significant source of stress. With Election Day almost upon us, just about everyone is experiencing sky high anxiety.

Need an escape from the 24-hour news cycle and polls? A good book might be just the ticket. And Sally Bradshaw has a few up her sleeve.

Bradsahw opened Midtown Reader, her independent bookstore in Tallahassee, on Tuesday. While the shop is considered a general interest bookstore, Bradshaw has stocked the shelves with Florida authors and books about the Sunshine State

And what would a bookstore in the heart of the capital city be without a robust selection of political and historical books? The store opened just one week before Election Day, and Bradshaw made sure to have a display featuring books geared toward the election.

Rather than curate the display herself, she reached out to her vast network of contacts and asked them to recommend a few books to help readers survive the 2016 election. What she got was a mix of serious and fun, and a few cocktail and cookbooks thrown in to be safe.

“Everyone was incredibly generous,” she said. “Books are something that seem to bring everyone together.”

Want to be in the know? Here’s a look at the books recommended by the “Friends of Midtown Reader:”

— “What it Takes,” by Richard Ben Cramer; recommended by Gloria Borger, CNN chief political analyst. Why she recommended it: “A reminder of days gone by …”

— “Tequila Mockingbird,” by Tim Federle; recommended by Brandi Brown, former director of scheduling and events for Jeb Bush for President. Why she recommended it: “Because we’re going to need cocktails….”

— “Presidential Command,” by Peter W. Rodman; recommended by Jeb Bush Jr.

— “Thirty Tomorrows: The Next Three Decades of Globalization, Demographics and How We will Live,” by Milton Ezrati; recommended by David Johnson, former executive director of the Republican Party of Florida. Why he recommended it:  “This guide to the future says the Fountain of Youth will be in India, China and Brazil. The Fountain of Geritol? Europe, Japan and North America.”

— “The Righteous Mind,” by Jonathan Haidt; recommended by Liz Joyner, executive director of The Village Square. Why she recommended it: “Turns out human nature + our increasingly siloed society combine predictably to create the mess we find ourselves in this election season. If we’re going to sleuth our way out, Jonathan Haidt’s  “The Righteous Mind: Why good people are divided  by religion and politics” is as good a road map as exists. Along the way, you might just find yourself liking “them” a little more than you thought you did.”

— “The Pioneer Woman Cooks,” by Ree Drummond; recommended by Neil Newhouse, partner at Public Opinion Strategies in Alexandria, Virginia: Why he recommended it: “Because we’re going to need comfort food…”

— “A Moveable Feast,” by Ernest Hemingway; recommended by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Why he recommended it: “This underrated classic is a man’s man guide to being the consummate ex-pat.  The semi-autobiography of Hemingway and his running buddies is a buffet of wine, women and song based in Paris…. It strikes me as the perfect book for all those who say, “if (insert Hillary/Donald) manages to win this thing, I’m leaving the country”. If you’re going to the effort, do it like Papa, Hadley, F. Scott, and Zelda did… “

— “Alexander Hamilton,” by Ron Chernow; recommended by Screven Watson, former executive director of the Florida Democratic Party. Why he recommended it: “To remind us that cut throat negative campaigning is nothing new…”

— “Abraham Lincoln,” by Lord Charnwood; recommended by Pete Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. Why he recommended it: “Published in 1916, this remains the best biography of America’s greatest President…..A statesman of the highest order, Lincoln dedicated his life to justice, embodied grace and helped reconcile a riven nation.  He personified the qualities we hope to find in a president.”

— “How to Move to Canada:  A Primer for Americans,” by Therese Loeb Kreuzer; recommended by Matt Williams, partner at Creative Direct, a national political direct mail firm in Richmond, Virginia. Why he recommended it: “Does this really need an explanation?”

And here’s a few more books Midtown Reader recommends:

— “100 Skills You’ll Need for the End of the World,” by Ana Maria Spagna and Brian Cronin

— “The Old Farmer’s Almanac Comfort Food,” by Ken Haedrich

— “The Essential New York Times Book of Cocktails,” by Steve Reddicliffe

— “The Foxfire Book:  Hog Dressing, Log Cabin Making, Mountain Crafts and Foods, Planting by the Signs, Snake Lore, Hunting Tales, Faith Healing,” by Eliot Wigginton

— “The Road to Character,” by David Brooks

— “Tweeter’s Composition Notebook: Think Before You Tweet,” by Potter Style

— “The Year of Voting Dangerously,” by Maureen Dowd


Gwen Graham says she’s poised to run a 67-county strategy for governor

Emphasizing her centrist political persona while addressing a packed restaurant in South Tampa Friday morning, Gwen Graham said her potential candidacy for governor of Florida in 2018 would be a “transcending of the politics” that currently exists today.

“I have heard from so many people who say ‘you’re exactly what the state of Florida needs,'” Graham said at the weekly “Cafe Con Tampa” lecture series at Hugo’s Restaurant in Hyde Park. “I will commit to running the type of gubernatorial campaign that will excite the state of Florida from one end to the other, and if I run … I will run a 67-county strategy.”

The Democratic U.S. representative from Tallahassee announced months ago she would strongly consider a run for the governor’s mansion in 2018, after redistricting the already Republican-leaning district would have made it a virtual impossibility for her to earn a second term in 2016. Her appearance Friday before dozens of mostly Democrats in the state’s third-largest city seemed to be an important one for Graham, who spoke with her mother, Adele, sitting next to her (to her surprise), while her father Bob Graham was speaking live on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on the television monitors above her for part of her speech.

For the uninitiated, Bob Graham is perhaps the single most-popular Democrat living in the state of Florida. The soon to be 80-year-old former Florida governor and U.S. senator is still extremely active, making media appearances this week across the nation on behalf of a new edition of his book, “America: The Owner’s Manual” (co-written with Chris Hand). His reputation and legacy have redounded onto his 53-year-old daughter, Gwen, who never ran for political office until two years ago. While looking up at her father on the television, Graham herself brought up the issue of running on her father’s coattails, and embraced the notion.

“You know what, y’all? Those are the best damn coattails in the whole wide world,” she said, as the crowd heartily cheered. She added she was “honored” to have her father as a role model growing up to see what a true public servant could be.

Graham’s short record in office shows she is a centrist. She boasted about how she overcame the odds against her in 2014 when she ran in one of the most conservative congressional districts of not only the state, she says, but the country, in defeating the Republican incumbent, Steve Southerland, 51 percent to 49 percent.

In that campaign, Graham vowed to oppose Nancy Pelosi for the party leadership’s top slot in the House, where she ended up after being elected in early 2015. She repeatedly emphasized in her 45-minute appearance how she would in fact, transcend politics-as-usual if she were to become the first Democrat elected governor in two decades.

“I think the state desperately needs someone who is willing to reach across to anyone for good ideas,” she stressed. “I don’t believe this is a Republican question, or a Democratic question or an independent question. It’s a question for Floridians. What do we want our next governor to focus on? How can we make the lives of Floridians better?”

That centrist persona doesn’t mean that she doesn’t understand politics, however. She’s been relentless over the past six weeks in pestering the Rick Scott administration and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection into making more information public about what the DEP knew and when did they knew it when it came to the massive sinkhole that opened up in late August at a Mosaic phosphate processing plant near the Hillsborough/Polk County line. It was originally reported as being 300 feet deep — but in fact, may be larger.

 Graham said she was “horrified” by what happened at Mosaic, calling it an environmental, human health and, ultimately, a “transparency catastrophe.”

On growth management issues, she said she would bring back the Department of Community Affairs, abolished by Scott during his first year in office. “We’re booming” she said of the state’s growth, adding developers and environmental advocates need not be at odds.

Like many Democrats in Florida, Graham is strongly opposed to the utility-backed solar power initiative known as Amendment 1 on this year’s ballot. She said the amendment as written is a “manipulation of the voters in Florida,” and “flat-out deception,” before adding that it’s up to the voters to read up on amendments that could end up in the state’s constitution.

Regarding economic development, Graham is in the Richard Corcoran camp when it comes to opposing economic incentives Gov. Scott prefers. “I think it’s about growing Florida from within, not bribing people to come in from without,” she said.

In responding to questions from the crowd, Graham said she supports the automatic restoration of voting rights for ex-felons, said if the opportunity ever comes around for money for high-speed rail from the feds that she would take it, and that she would take a “hard look” at the Tampa Bay Express project if neighborhood groups remain virulently opposed to it.

As to when she will make an official decision about running for governor, Graham predicted it would be sooner rather than later, but will not be on Nov. 9, the day after the general election. That’s when Bob Graham turns 80, and she said she didn’t want any distractions on that day.

Though “Cafe Con Tampa” co-organizer Bill Carlson made it sound like the general election contest had already been decided when he said his group had hosted Graham and previously Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam (who addressed the same group a couple of months ago), there are plenty of both Republicans and Democrats in the state who aren’t ready to accept that conventional wisdom.

Other Republicans who could explore a run include the aforementioned Corcoran, former House Speaker Will Weatherford, and CFO Jeff Atwater. Other Democrats in the mix include state Sen. Jeremy Ring, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

Bob Buckhorn: Florida Republicans, ‘put your country first’ and vote for Hillary Clinton

Bob Buckhorn has a simple question for the four members of the Florida Cabinet regarding Donald Trump.

“Where ya hidin’?” the Tampa mayor asked Wednesday at a news conference held outside City Hall. He was referring to how some of Florida’s leading Republicans have cut a very low profile when it comes to discussing Trump in the aftermath of the lewd sexual comments the Manhattan real estate magnate made in a 2005 video leaked to The Washington Post last Friday.

“You’ve got to make a fundamental choice: Pam Bondi, Adam Putnam, Jeff Atwater, Gov. Scott — do you stand with Donald Trump or not?” the mayor asked provocatively. “If you don’t, then you need to stand up and say so. But if Donald Trump’s politics represent what you think is what the Republican Party stands for, then I’m sorry, that is not the Republican Party that this country has known. That is not the candidate deserves to be president of the United States.”

Buckhorn of course, is hardly an objective observer. Hizzoner is all in with Hillary Clinton in this campaign, to the extent that some have speculated he may be offered a job in her administration if she’s elected next month. Historically he hasn’t been a huge partisan in his time in office, which contributed to his winning more than 95 percent of his re-election vote in 2015. In fact, more than a few Democrats were unhappy the mayor pledged his neutrality when Scott was running for re-election against Charlie Crist in the 2014 gubernatorial election.

That was then, however.

The mayor is the father of two young daughters, and he said that it was a “painful moment” in his life to have to discuss the contents of Trump’s comments that went national last week. It should be noted Republicans made similar comments back in 1998, when the report by special prosecutor Ken Starr on Bill Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky was laid bare for the world to observe.

“Last week was the most embarrassing, shameful episode that I have ever seen in 25 years of doing politics,” Buckhorn said of the Trump tape. “It showed me in no uncertain terms that Donald Trump is absolutely temperamentally unfit to be the president of the United States, and I have no problem standing up here and saying that.”

He also called on “all of our Republicans friends” to realize it’s time to hop off the Trump train: “It is time to abandon ship. It’s time to put your country first, and put your party second, and come over and do the right thing for America in voting for Hillary Clinton.”

Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee Chair Deborah Tamargo was not impressed by Buckhorn’s comments.

“I didn’t think that the mayor was elected to be God and a moral judge. I thought he was elected to carry out the law,” she said, adding, “I don’t remember him running on a moral platform, and I don’t believe he’s a pastor, priest or rabbi. And I don’t think he’s in a position to make moral judgements. I think that’s a personal thing.”

Like many Republicans, Tamargo says she believes Clinton broke the law when she was found to have used a private email server when she served as secretary of state and sent out classified material. In July, FBI Director James Comey announced that despite evidence Clinton was “extremely careless” in her handling of classified emails on a private server, the bureau would not recommend to the Department of Justice that criminal charges be brought her.

“I’m really perplexed that he would be trying to extort people into not exercising their free will in voting and endorsing and supporting, and I’m rather shocked he would be supporting someone who has broken the law,” Tamargo said of Buckhorn’s comments.

The press conference, called by the Florida Democratic Party, was held to mark the decision earlier Wednesday by federal judge Mark E. Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida to extend voting registration in the state until Oct. 18 because of the impact of Hurricane Matthew.

“There is no more fundamental right than the right to vote,” said House District 61 Democrat Ed Narain, who joined Buckhorn at the press conference. “While people are trying to make this out into being a political issue, it’s far from political. It’s a fundamental constitutionally protected right that all citizens have the right to vote.”

The decision is considered a victory for the Florida Democratic Party. Last week, Gov. Scott told reporters he didn’t “intend to make changes,” saying “people have had time to register.”


Citrus production forecast remains in freefall

The federal government is forecasting a 14 percent decrease in Florida orange production next year and a drop in grapefruit of 11.5 percent.

The National Agriculture Statistics Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its report Wednesday.

In another sign of the citrus greening epidemic facing the industry, the service foresees yields of only 70 million boxes of oranges and 9.6 million boxes of grapefruit, the state’s signature fruits.

It was the first citrus crop forecast for the 2016-2017 season. 

“Although not unexpected, today’s forecast is disheartening and further proof of the trying times facing Florida’s citrus industry,” Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said in a press release.

“Production of our state’s signature crop is down 70 percent from 20 years ago, and the future of Florida citrus depends on a breakthrough in the fight against greening,” he said. “We must continue to support our growers and provide them with every tool available to combat greening.”

Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus, was more sanguine about the future of citrus.

“Today’s crop estimate, while a decline from last season, is a representation of the unrelenting dedication and hard work of Florida citrus growers,” Shepp said in a statement.

“In the face of significant challenges, (growers) continue to push forward with new plantings and advanced agricultural techniques that allow them to maintain the viability of their groves,” Shepp added. “Citrus greening is a disease unlike any we have ever faced, but the Florida citrus industry will prevail.”

State Rep. Ben Albritton, the Wauchula Republican who chairs the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee, also saw the glass as half-full.

The 70 million boxes of oranges “represents industry stability and now we have to have the fortitude to continue to reinvest and do so at unprecedented levels,” Albritton said.

Putnam has issued a “crisis declaration” seeking approval from the Environmental Protection Agency to let citrus growers “use certain antimicrobial treatments to combat greening,” his office said.

medical marijuana

Some Florida Republicans AWOL on talking about Amendment 2

Florida Republican leaders have been conspicuously quiet about where they stand on Amendment 2, the ballot initiative that would legalize medical marijuana.

“I think a lot of people are being quiet about it because they assume it’s going to pass and they don’t want to be on the wrong side,” incoming Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jack Latvala said last week about the relative scarcity of GOP leaders opposed to the measure.

After speaking with Latvala, reached out last week to four leading Republicans in Florida to determine where they stand on the issue, but five days later, only incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran responded to our entreaty.

“In 2014, the Florida House passed the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act that eventually became law,” Corcoran emailed Florida Politics. “The law created a strict regime for dispensing non-smoked low-THC cannabis to patients who had run out of traditional pain management options. I believe that Amendment 2 is both unnecessary and is merely a steppingstone in the full legalization playbook. The law in place strikes a balance between compassion and control and poses no danger to our kids and grandkids.”

In addition to Corcoran, this reporter also reached out to incoming Senate President Joe Negron, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

This is the second consecutive statewide election with the issue of medical marijuana on the ballot.

In 2014, the measure received over 57 percent support at the polls, short of the 60 percent required for a citizen’s led initiative to pass. Nearly every respected poll published this year shows the measure getting over the required threshold, though the polls were also favorable at this time two years ago.

Latvala took a beating on his Facebook page when he announced his opposition in September, but the Clearwater Republican said it actually demonstrated his political courage.

“To get involved in something’s that winning over 70 percent of the vote is not an easy thing to do,” he said. “It takes a little bit of courage to get involved in an issue where it looks like you’re losing.”

Many, if not most, Republicans opposed the measure in 2014, but some have come on board this year, including Tampa Bay area Republicans Jeff Brandes and Dana Young.

While some lawmakers like Corcoran says the law previously passed by the Legislature serves its purpose, critics note it also limits the growing and distribution of marijuana to just six nursery owners in the state.

“The Legislature screwed up the opportunity in the medical marijuana law,” says Brandes. “What you’ve seen them do is create a situation where only a handful of families can get wealthy.”

The measure also is getting more buy-in from the editorial boards of some of the state’s biggest newspapers. In the past two days, three newspapers — the Florida Times-Union, the News Herald of Panama City, and the Ft. Myers News-Press — have all urged their readers to vote “yes” on the proposal. All three papers’ editorial boards had opposed Amendment 2 in 2014.

The Orlando Sentinel came out with an editorial opposing the measure, saying: “It’s the right policy, but the constitution is the wrong place to do it.”

What to make of House candidate Jackie Toledo?

jackie toledo 1Jackie Toledo, the oft-controversial Republican running for Florida House District 60, has a major fundraiser planned for Tuesday.

And while the invitation for the event is studded with dozens of local Republican heavyweights, I’m still not sure what to make of Toledo.

Is she, as I want to believe, the latest in a line of Hillsborough Republican female pols who were initially underestimated by their critics and the media (think Sandy Murman during her stint in the Florida House)?

Or is Toledo, as La Gaceta’s Patrick Manteiga will tell you, a Tampa Bay version of Michele Bachmann (I guess that would make Toledo the second coming of Ronda Storms)?

Toledo had a rocky entry into electoral politics, making a series of errors (forced and unforced) during her 2015 bid for the Tampa City Council.

During that campaign, the Tampa Bay Times reported her campaign was using an image photography experts said consisted of her photo superimposed on Mayor Bob Buckhorn‘s official portrait and that she used video shot without permission on a Florida Department of Transportation construction site in a campaign commercial.

Those miscues barely rose to the level of a misdemeanor, but when a political action committee that attacked her opponents appeared to have connections to her campaign consultant, Anthony Pedicini, the first-time candidate would not be given a second chance to make a first impression.

“The ugliness wasn’t just in the mail,” wrote Manteiga in March 2015. “The campaign was rotten in every aspect … You name it; it happened in this race.”

When Toledo announced she was running for House District 60, most of the state and local Republican establishment lined up behind her primary opponent, Rebecca Smith.

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced support for Smith in August, three days after she met with the two at a speech Putnam gave in South Tampa.

But, by almost all accounts of what happened in the HD 60 primary, Toledo feverishly outworked her opponent. Like the other pols mentioned above — Murman, Storms, etc. — Toledo put together a campaign team of dedicated volunteers, pounded on doors, and just out-hustled her opponent.

Toledo also has done her best to avoid talking to the local media, which her camp believes is predisposed against her. She skipped a Tiger Bay appearance. She does not respond to inquiries from this website’s reporters.

“Jackie is too busy being a mother, wife, volunteer, small-business owner, and community advocate to play … childish games,” Toledo spokesperson Ryan Wiggins told in September. “Her focus is on serving the people of District 60 and winning an election, not winning headlines in a political blog.”

Like I said, it’s unclear what to make of Toledo.

My impression is that she’s smart and sharp, but insular and slightly paranoid of outside political forces.

The best thing she probably has going for her campaign is that winning the HD 60 seat is a priority of Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran.

Corcoran, along with state Sens. Jeff Brandes and Jack Latvala, and Reps. Danny Burgess, James Grant, Chris Latvala, and Chris Sprowls, among others, are hosting a high-profile fundraiser supporting Toledo this Tuesday at the Columbia Café in Tampa.

The Democrats have recruited an excellent candidate in David Singer, although Singer can sometimes sound a tad aloof, as if he has better things to do than raise money for his campaign.

Singer has raised just over $115,000 through Sept. 16, spending more than $40,000, while Toledo has banked over $155,000 during the same period, not including a $25,000 loan, and spent nearly $167,000.

With Corcoran and the Florida GOP machine behind her — and Pedicini, who is on a hot streak, probably helping from afar (perhaps through an outside vehicle) — it’s likely Toledo will hold HD 60 for the Republicans.

I just don’t know what kind of lawmaker Toledo will make.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons