Annette Taddeo Archives - Florida Politics

Former President Barack Obama endorses Andrew Gillum

Is there a bigger ‘get’? President Barack Obama announced Monday he’s supporting Andrew Gillum to become Florida’s first African-American Governor.

“Andrew is a proven fighter with the courage and determination to stand up for Florida families,” Obama said in a statement supporting the Tallahassee Mayor. “As Governor, Andrew will expand access to affordable health care, protect Floridians with pre-existing conditions, invest in education, protect the environment and build an economy that works for all.”

Obama, whose legacy is in part marked by the passage of the Affordable Care Act, commended Gillum’s stances on health care, saying, “Andrew believes that healthcare is a right, not a privilege, and he will make expanding Medicaid a priority on day one as governor.”

Responded Gillum: “As Governor, we’ll build on his legacy by making healthcare a right, not a privilege, investing in our children’s education, and protecting the environment for our future generation of Floridians.”

He also commended Gillum’s tenure as mayor of the state’s capital city.

The former President’s support was announced on Monday in his second wave of midterm election endorsements. Joining Gillum were running mate Chris King and U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, who also received on Monday the endorsement of Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. Rosselló also is expected to endorse Gillum later on Monday.

Other down-ballot candidates also received nods from Obama. According to the former president’s press office, he’s weighed in on 260 midterm races this cycle.

“The Democratic Party has always made the biggest difference in the lives of the American people when we lead with conviction, principle, and bold, new ideas,” Obama said in a statement announcing the endorsements. “Our incredible array of candidates up and down the ticket, all across the country, make up a movement of citizens who are younger, more diverse, more female than ever before.”

He added that he was “eager to continue making the case for why they deserve our votes this November.”

Also included in the endorsement wave: Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy and Democratic congressional hopefuls Nancy Soderberg, Stephanie MurphyChris Hunter,  Lauren Baer and Debbie MucarselPowell.

Soderberg, who faces Republican Michael Waltz in the race for Florida’s 6th Congressional District, said she was “excited” to have Obama backing her Congressional campaign.

“I am deeply honored to have earned the support of President Obama who has been an extraordinary testament to what we can achieve when we work together to live out our American values,” she said. “President Obama continues to inspire millions in this country and around the world with his vision of and work to build a more inclusive society that enables all of us to reach our full potential.”

In races for state Senate seats, Obama announced endorsements for Sen. Annette Taddeo, along with Senate candidates Kayser Enneking, Janet Cruz, Bob Doyel, Lindsay Cross and David Perez.

In the House, incumbents Margaret Good, Nick Duran and Javier Fernandez received 44’s backing. So too did candidates Anna Eskamani, Fentrice Driskell and Emma Collum.

To Florida House Victory, a the state legislative arm of the Florida Democratic Party, those endorsements signal that the down-ballot races are getting national attention.

“President Barack Obama’s endorsement of Florida House Victory candidates goes to show that the success of Democrats in the state House is a crucial part of moving Florida forward,” said Marisol Samayoa, spokesperson for Florida House Victory. “As a former state legislator himself, President Obama recognizes the role that legislatures can play as the first line of defense against Republican attacks on health care, public education, and the environment.”
Jason Pizzo

Senate Democrats holding Tallahassee fundraisers Wednesday, Thursday

Those spending next week in Tallahassee can fill their calendar with a pair of fundraisers for Senate Democrats on Wednesday and Thursday.

The first event will benefit a political committee tied to soon-to-be state Sen. Jason Pizzo, who last month unseated incumbent Sen. Daphne Campbell from Miami-Dade’s Senate District 38 after a 54-46 percent victory in an open Democratic primary.

Pizzo, a former prosecutor, will hold the reception benefitting his Protecting Coastal Communities PAC from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Library of the Governors Club, located at 202 S Adams St. Those looking to attend can send an RSVP to Kay Cook via KCook@EdgeCommFL.com or 571-235-0318.

The second fundraiser will benefit the re-election campaign of Miami Sen. Annette Taddeo, who faces Republican challenger Marili Cancio in the Nov. 6 general election for Senate District 40.

Her event, billed as the “1st Annual Parrot Heat Frozen Concoction Celebration,” will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Florida Professional Firefighters headquarters, 343 W Madison St. Like Pizzo’s event, those planning to swing by can send a note or drop a line to Kay Cook.

Taddeo flipped SD 40 in a special election just under a year ago, but Cancio has been able to raise $273,700 between her campaign and political committee, Friends of Marili Cancio, and has about $260,500 of that cash in the bank.

Still, Taddeo has the fundraising advantage in the swing seat with a combined $478,275 banked between her campaign account and political committee, Fight Back Florida.

The invitations to both events are below.

Pizzo fundraiser 9.19.2018

RON DESANTIS

Democrats slam Ron DeSantis for opposition to Violence Against Women Act

A group of prominent Florida Democratic politicians, including one Congresswoman, one State Senator, and the former United Nations Ambassador running for DeSantis’ former seat in Congress, excoriated Republican Gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis Thursday for his opposition to the Violence Against Women Act.

U.S. Representative Lois Frankel, State Senator Annette Taddeo, and Ambassador Nancy Soderberg discussed DeSantis’ “unconscionable vote.”

The bill was first signed into law in 1994, and has required reauthorization since; it is due next to lapse at the end of the month. In a measure of the continued bipartisan support for the law, 46 House Republicans wrote a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan urging a timely reauthorization of the legislation.

However, DeSantis — who resigned from Congress this week — is not one of them. And for Democrats eager to paint DeSantis as a right-wing ideologue, the 24 year anniversary of the legislation offers an opportunity to remind voters of the stakes of the November election.

U.S. Rep. Frankel described DeSantis as “one of the most anti-woman and extreme members of the Congress” who “even went against members of his own party” in opposing the “bedrock of the federal government’s response” to domestic and sexual violence women face.

“One in four women in this country will be subject to domestic violence at some point in their lives,” Frankel noted, with 100,000 reported instances of domestic violence in Florida in 2016 — a “fraction” of how many incidents there actually are.

DeSantis’ opposition to this act is “deeply disturbing,” said Frankel.

State Sen. Taddeo noted that DeSantis’ vote against the bill was “radical and extreme,” even in a year where those terms are thrown around.

“Regardless of party, we’ve been able to say that victims need care and law enforcement needs tools,” Taddeo said, to fight this scourge.

“DeSantis’ 2013 vote against the act,” said Taddeo, “sends a message to women who have been abused: ‘I don’t stand with you’.”

Immigrant women and farm worker women, Taddeo said, are particularly affected.

“DeSantis’ no vote was an attack on women … but especially on immigrant women,” Taddeo said.

Soderberg was in the White House when the bill became law, and described DeSantis’ vote as “unconscionable,” yet of a piece with other votes against bills that would help women and victims of sexual assault.

Soderberg noted that DeSantis has an anemic 37 percent favorable rating in his former district (per a poll her campaign conducted), and that her opponent, Mike Waltz, is a “carbon copy” of DeSantis.

“As the country moves forward, candidates like DeSantis and Waltz are stuck in the past,” Soderberg said.

We reached out to the DeSantis campaign ahead of the call for comment, but response was not offered to the Democrats’ claims regarding his 2013 vote.

Ben Albritton sends backup to embattled GOP state Senators

Wauchula Republican state Rep. Ben Albritton is in good position to ascend to the state Senate in the fall and has started putting some of the cash he’s amassed in his affiliated political committee to the most vulnerable incumbent Republicans in the 40-member chamber.

Albritton’s committee, Advancing Florida Agriculture, has raised nearly $400,000 since he filed for Senate District 26, a Republican stronghold covering all of DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee counties as well as parts of Charlotte, Lee and Polk.

SD 26 is open due to Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley’s ultimately unsuccessful bid for the GOP nomination to succeed Adam Putnam as Agriculture Commissioner. Albritton’s only challenger in the SD 26 contest is Lake Wales Democrat Catherine Price, whom he has outraised eightfold in hard money alone.

With extra cash in the bank, Advancing Florida Agriculture sent $11,000 to SD 8 Sen. Keith Perry, who faces well-funded Democratic challenger Kayser Enneking in November; $11,000 to former Republican Rep. Ed Hooper, who is even with former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy in the polls despite his massive fundraising advantage in SD 16; $11,000 to Republican Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., who faces Democratic nominee David Perez in his bid to succeed term-limited Sen. Rene Garcia in South Florida’s SD 36; and $6,000 to SD 18 Sen. Dana Young, who is polling behind House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in spite of her threefold cash advantage.

In each instance, Albritton sent $1,000 to the lawmaker’s campaign account with the balance heading to their affiliated political committees.

Though Sarasota Rep. Joe Gruters is likely to cruise in his bid for SD 23 and Ocala Sen. Dennis Baxley only faces nominal opposition in his re-election bid in SD 12, both Republicans picked up $3,500 in contributions to their campaign and committee accounts during the Aug. 25 through Aug. 31 reporting period.

Also on the ledger was an $11,000 transfer to Marili Cancio, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo in SD 40. Again, $1,000 of those funds headed to Cancio’s campaign account and another $10,000 went to her affiliated political committee.

In all, Advancing Florida Agriculture shelled out $57,000 in contributions to Republican state Senate candidates and finished August with nearly $138,000 left in the tank.

When it comes to his campaign account, Albritton had cleared more than $240,000 in total fundraising for his Senate bid as of Aug. 31, with about $149,000 banked. Price had raised $31,312 as of Aug. 23 with $5,155 on hand.

Andrew Gillum spends his Sunday at seven black churches

Andrew Gillum visited seven different black churches this Sunday, putting the political power of prayer to the test as the Aug. 28 Democratic primary draws near.

Traveling Miami-Dade County alongside state Sen. Annette Taddeo, Gillum made stops at St. Peter’s Missionary Baptist Church Baptist Church, The Bethel Church in Miami, Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church, Martin Memorial Church and Cathedral of Praise in Miami and at Second Baptist Church in Richmond Heights.

The Tallahassee mayor noted he was baptized at The Bethel Church, and his mother Frances Gillum sat in the pews today at Sweet Home Missionary Baptist.

“This is life coming full circle for me as we continue on this journey,” he wrote on Twitter.

Along the way, of course, Gillum and Taddeo posted pictures of themselves with community leaders including Apostle Carlos Malone, Rev. Robert Brooks, Pastor Kay Dawson, Rev. Anthony Reed and Pastor Theo Johnson.

After a day of congregating, Gillum also met with voters at a meet-and-greet in Overtown. He tossed a few good words in online for Taddeo, a Miami Democrat who last year won a special election in Senate District 40 and now is running for re-election.

Of course, the tour also showed perhaps the clearest path to the gubernatorial mansion for Gillum, who would become Florida’s first black governor if elected.

Black voters make up 29 percent of registered Democrats in Florida, retired University of South Florida professor Susan Macmanus told the Sun-Sentinel in June.

Additionally, of the nearly 4.8 million Democrats currently registered in Florida, almost 582,000 live in Miami-Dade County, helping make South Florida an important place to win over during a Democratic primary and a critical area to inspire high turnout for Democrats come November.

Since the Democratic primary for governor includes five major candidates—Gillum, Gwen Graham, Jeff Greene, Chris King and Philip Levine—winning over black voters could make a big difference in taking a plurality of Democrats on Aug. 28 to secure the party nomination.

Florida Realtors make endorsements in 87 legislative races

The political arm of the Florida Realtors rolled out endorsements Monday for nearly every state legislative election slated for the 2018 ballot.

“As Realtors, we pride ourselves on our long-standing efforts to defend private property rights, promote community prosperity and preserve a professional climate that ensures the economic growth of Florida,” said Ann DeFries, chair of Florida Realtors PAC Trustees. “Our continued success in these efforts requires legislators who share these beliefs and will work with our 180,000+ members to help Floridians and their communities thrive.”

Of the 142 Senate and House seats up for grabs this year — that includes special elections to replace Senate President Joe Negron and Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube27 were decided at the close of candidate qualifying deadline.

The Florida Realtors weighed in on 87 of the remaining set to go before voters in some form or fashion.

Four of those picks are virtually assured victory as their only challenge is coming from unaffiliated, third-party or write-in candidates. Those include HD 46 Democratic Rep. Bruce Antone, HD 38 Republican Rep. Danny Burgess, HD 17 Republican Rep. Cyndi Stevenson and HD 6 Republican Rep. Jay Trumbull.

Many of the other races feature an incumbent who’ll likely cruise toward re-election, such as District 2 Republican Sen. George Gainer and HD 39 Republican Rep. Josie Tomkow, though the trade association also weighed in on nearly every competitive race.

In the upper chamber, incumbent Republican Sen. Keith Perry of Gainesville got the nod in his bid for another term in Senate District 8, where he faces well-funded Democratic challenger Kayser Enneking.

In the Bay area’s premier battleground, Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young earned the Realtor’s support for re-election over House Minority Leader Janet Cruz. St. Pete Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes also earned an endorsement, though he’s looking set for re-election after his Democratic challenger, Carrie Pilon, bowed out of the race for family reasons.

Brandes will still face a challenger of the Florida Democratic Party’s choosing, but whoever picks up the baton isn’t likely to have the same local clout as Pilon.

In Senate District 22, a stretch goal for Democrats, the Florida Realtors endorsed Lakeland Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel over Democratic challengers Bob Doyel and former Rep. Ricardo Rangel. It was the same deal for Senate District 36, where Hialeah Republican Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. faces a pair of Democrats in his bid to ascend to the Senate.

In the Democratic contest for Senate District 38, Florida Realtors picked incumbent Sen. Daphne Campbell who is facing a tough challenge from Miami attorney Jason Pizzo, the second-place finisher in the 2016 Democratic primary.

Curiously, the Florida Realtors didn’t weigh in on Senate District 16, the Pinellas and Pasco-based battleground where former Clearwater Republican Rep. Ed Hooper and former New Port Richey Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy are in a tight race for a return trip to Tallahassee.

There was also no endorsement issued for the Treasure Coast’s Senate District 25, where Stuart Republican Rep. Gayle Harrell is facing a primary challenge from Belinda Keiser, who has already put down $700,000 of her own money in her quest to succeed Negron.

In the House, another 69 candidates received an endorsement.

Notable among those was an endorsement for Republican Rep. Shawn Harrison, who faces a challenge from Democratic attorney Fentrice Driskell in HD 63, a perennial swing seat. Also making the announcement was a long list of non-incumbents who face primary or Election Day challenges.

Those included Gonzalez Republican Rebekah Bydlak, who faces former Rep. Mike Hill in HD 1; Gulf Breeze Republican Alex Andrade, who faces Greg Merk in the HD 2 primary; Lake City Republican Marc Vann in the three-way primary to succeed Rep. Elizabeth Porter in HD 10; Winter Springs Republican David Smith, who faces Democrat Lee Mangold in HD 28; Merritt Island Republican Tyler Sirois in the three-way race for HD 51; Bartow Republican Melony Bell over Jeff Mann in HD 56; Belleair Bluffs Republican Nick DiCeglie over Berny Jacques in HD 66; St. Petersburg Republican Jeremy Bailie over Ray Blacklidge in the primary for HD 69; Bradenton Republican Will Robinson over Bradenton Democrat Tracy Pratt in HD 71; Sarasota Republican Tommy Gregory over Melissa Howard in HD 73; and Doral Republican Ana Maria Rodriguez over Democrats Javier Estevez and Ross Hancock in HD 105.

Every other candidate endorsed by the Florida Realtors was an incumbent, and most of them are safe for re-election. The full list is below.

— SD 2: Sen. George Gainer
— SD 4: Sen. Aaron Bean
— SD 8: Sen. Keith Perry
— SD 10: Sen. Wilton Simpson
— SD 12: Sen. Dennis Baxley
— SD 14: Sen. Dorothy Hukill
— SD 18: Sen. Dana Young
— SD 20: Sen. Tom Lee
— SD 22: Sen. Kelli Stargel
— SD 23: Rep. Joe Gruters
— SD 24: Sen. Jeff Brandes
— SD 26: Rep. Ben Albritton
— SD 28: Sen. Kathleen Passidomo
— SD 30: Sen. Bobby Powell
— SD 34: Sen. Gary Farmer Jr.
— SD 36: Rep. Manny Diaz Jr.
— SD 38: Sen. Daphne Campbell
— SD 40: Sen. Annette Taddeo
— HD 1: Rebekah Bydlak
— HD 2: Alex Andrade
— HD 3: Rep. Jayer Williamson
— HD 4: Rep. Mel Ponder
— HD 6: Rep. Jay Trumbull
— HD 10: Marc Vann
— HD 11: Rep. Cord Byrd
— HD 12: Rep. Clay Yarborough
— HD 16: Rep. Jason Fischer
— HD 17: Rep. Cyndi Stevenson
— HD 19: Rep. Bobby Payne
— HD 21: Rep. Chuck Clemons
— HD 22: Rep. Charlie Stone
— HD 23: Rep. Stan McClain
— HD 24: Rep. Paul Renner
— HD 25: Rep. Tom Leek
— HD 27: Rep. David Santiago
— HD 28: David Smith
— HD 29: Rep. Scott Plakon
— HD 30: Rep. Bob Cortes
— HD 31: Rep. Jennifer Sullivan
— HD 34: Rep. Ralph Massullo Jr.
— HD 35: Rep. Blaise Ingoglia
— HD 36: Rep. Amber Mariano
— HD 38: Rep. Danny Burgess
— HD 39: Rep. Josie Tomkow
— HD 40: Rep. Colleen Burton
— HD 42: Rep. Mike LaRosa
— HD 44: Rep. Robert “Bobby O” Olszewski
— HD 46: Rep. Bruce H. Antone
— HD 48: Rep. Amy Mercado
— HD 49: Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith
— HD 50: Rep. Rene “Coach P” Plasencia
— HD 51: Tyler Sirois
— HD 52: Rep. Thad Altman
— HD 53: Rep. Randy Fine
— HD 54: Rep. Erin Grall
— HD 55: Rep. Cary Pigman
— HD 56: Melony Bell
— HD 58: Rep. Lawrence McClure
— HD 60: Rep. Jackie Toledo
— HD 63: Rep. Shawn Harrison
— HD 64: Rep. James Grant
— HD 65: Rep. Chris Sprowls
— HD 66: Nick DiCeglie
— HD 67: Rep. Chris Latvala
— HD 69: Jeremy Bailie
— HD 70: Rep. Wengay “Newt” Newton
— HD 71: Will Robinson
— HD 73: Tommy Gregory
— HD 76: Rep. Ray Rodrigues
— HD 77: Rep. Dane Eagle
— HD 78: Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen
— HD 80: Rep. Byron Donalds
— HD 82: Rep. Mary Lynn Magar
— HD 85: Rep. Rick Roth
— HD 86: Rep. Matt Willhite
— HD 87: Rep. David Silvers
— HD 92: Rep. Patricia Hawkins-Williams
— HD 96: Rep. Kristin Jacobs
— HD 97: Rep. Jared Moskowitz
— HD 105: Ana Maria Rodriguez
— HD 106: Rep. Bob Rommel
— HD 108: Rep. Roy Hardemon
— HD 111: Rep. Bryan Avila
— HD 112: Rep. Nicholas Duran
— HD 114: Rep. Javier Fernandez
— HD 116: Rep. Danny Perez
— HD 120: Rep. Holly Raschein

Philip Levine

Philip Levine announces two Saturday campaign stops

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine has a couple of South Florida campaign appearances on his Saturday agenda.

The former Miami Beach mayor will be the keynote speaker at a luncheon hosted by the League of United Latin American Citizens as part of the group’s 2018 Florida State Convention.

The event is being held at the Miami Marriott Dadeland, 9090 S. Dadeland Blvd., and the Levine campaign said the keynote will begin at 12:15 p.m. According to the event website, Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo and newly elected Democratic Rep. Javier Fernandez will also be in attendance.

After the keynote, Levine will head over to Wilton Manors to “march with supporters and volunteers for tolerance and equality” as part of the Wilton Manors Stonewall Pride Parade and Festival. Levine is slated to arrive at 3:30 p.m.

Festival organizers list the parade start time as 5 p.m., though music and other entertainment will be in abundance along Wilton Drive earlier in the day. More information can be found on the event website.

Levine is one of five major Democrats running for governor in 2018. He faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene and Orlando-area entrepreneur Chris King.

The primary election will be held Aug. 28.

Latest on the legislative staffing merry-go-round

With a tip of the hat to LobbyTools, here are the latest movements – both on and off – of the legislative merry-go-round.

Off: Alexa Chappell is no longer staff director for the House Democratic Leader’s office.

Off: Bo Pittman is no longer program manager for the House Property Management Division.

Off: Whitney Langston is no longer an attorney for the House Health & Human Services Committee.

On and off: Sharon Nehring his replacing Alex Bickley as a legislative assistant for Lady Lake Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley. Nehring previously served as legislative assistant for Mount Dora Republican Rep. Jennifer Sullivan.

Off and on: Kasey Lewis is a legislative assistant for Boynton Beach Democratic Sen. Lori Berman. She was previously a legislative assistant for Wellington Democratic Rep. Matt Willhite.

Off: Laura McLeod is no longer legislative assistant to Plantation Democratic Sen. Lauren Book.

Off: Jay Ferrin is no longer legislative assistant for St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes.

Off: Nicholas Alvarez is no longer a legislative assistant to Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores.

Off: Jerome Maples is no longer district secretary for Jacksonville Democratic Sen. Audrey Gibson.

Off: Sarah Schwirian is no longer legislative assistant to Brandon Republican Sen. Tom Lee.

Off: Kayla Lott is no longer a legislative assistant to Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perry.

Off: Delano Allen is no longer legislative assistant for West Palm Beach Democratic Sen. Bobby Powell.

Off: Leila Wilson is no longer legislative assistant to St. Petersburg Democrat Sen. Darryl Rouson.

Off: Chad Davis is no longer a legislative assistant to Lakeland Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel.

Off: Erika Grohoski is no longer executive district secretary for Miami Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo.

Off and on: Paula Tonelli is replacing Matthew Floyd as a legislative assistant to Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young.

Off: Darryl Banks is no longer legislative assistant to Miami Democratic Rep. Nicholas Duran.

Off: Kathleen Larsen is no longer district secretary for Cape Coral Republican Rep. Dane Eagle.

On: Brett Nolan is the new district secretary for Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jason Fischer.

Off and on: Kimberly Simon moved from district secretary to legislative assistant, Joshua Aman is the new district secretary and Trent Phillips is no longer legislative assistant for Tampa Republican Rep. James Grant.

Off: Victoria Brill is no longer legislative assistant to Venice Republican Rep. Julio Gonzalez.

Off: Catherine Thomson is no longer district secretary for Stuart Republican Rep. Gayle Harrell.

On: Marina Braynon-Moore is district secretary for West Park Democratic Rep. Shevrin Jones.

Off: Robyn Bryant is no longer district secretary for Dover Republican Rep. Lawrence McClure.

Off and on: Sarah Goldman is replacing Ashley Overend as a legislative assistant for South Pasadena Republican Rep. Kathleen Peters. Goldman is now both LA and district secretary.

Off and on: Roger Castano became district secretary, Roberto Alvarez moved from district secretary to legislative assistant and Luis Callejas is no longer legislative assistant for Miami Beach Democratic Rep. David Richardson.

On: Krissy Kulavic is district secretary for Estero Republican Rep. Ray Rodrigues.

On: Jade Swaby became district secretary for Tampa Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw.

On: Ed Sol is returning as district secretary for Boca Raton Democratic Rep. Emily Slosberg. He earlier held the same position in 2017.

Off: Ian McConnell is no longer legislative assistant for Dover Republican Rep. Ross Spano.

On: Jessica Porter is the new district secretary for Palm Harbor Republican Rep. Chris Sprowls.

Off and on: Elizabeth Casimir is replacing Donntay Cooper as district secretary for Miami Gardens Democratic Rep. Barbara Watson.

Victor Torres leads effort demanding Spanish materials in Florida elections offices

Warning that Florida may be in violation of the Federal Voting Rights Act, state Sen. Victor Torres on Tuesday led a group of eight mostly-Hispanic Democratic lawmakers in urging Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner to respond to reports that some Florida counties are not providing Spanish-language elections materials.

Torres and the others wrote to Detzner Tuesday, following up on letters sent earlier this month by a coalition of social-justice, civil rights, and progressive-politics groups led by Demos and LatinoJustice/PRLDEF, to 13 Florida county supervisors of elections. Anticipating that the mass migration from Puerto Rico had spread statewide, those groups urged the supervisors to provide bilingual voting materials for their Puerto Rican residents and other Spanish speakers, as required by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“Florida is home to over 20 million individuals and more than 4 million of them are of Hispanic or Latino origin. Additionally, with the influx of evacuees from Puerto Rico, there are an additional 300,000 American citizens who are eligible to vote in this upcoming election cycle. Providing election information and ballots in Spanish-language are essential for some qualified electors to participate in the 2018 Florida elections process,” the letter from Torres and the other Florida lawmakers states.

“We are requesting that you respond to the allegations that some Supervisor of Elections offices may be in violation of the Federal Voting Rights Act by failing to provide required Spanish- language elections materials,” the letter continues. “We further request you outline any plans your office has to ensure that no qualified electors are discouraged from exercising their Constitutional rights to participate in the 2018 election due to a failure of the local Supervisor of Elections to provide this information.”

In addition to Torres, of Orlando, the April 17 letter to Detzner was signed by state Sens. Jose Javier Rodriguez of Miami, state Sen. Linda Stewart of Orlando, and state Sen. Annette Taddeo of Miami. State representatives Robert Asencio of Miami, John Cortes of Kissimmee, Amy Mercado of Orlando, and Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando all joined. Each a Democrat.

Torres cited the April 3 letter, declaring that “it raises concerns that currently 13 of Florida’s 67 Supervisors of Elections offices are failing to provide Spanish-speaking voters with election materials and voter registration information in their native language.”

Late Tuesday Detzner’s office said they were reviewing the letter, and released this statement from Detzner:

“It is of the utmost importance to Secretary Detzner and the Florida Department of State that all registered voters in Florida have the opportunity to exercise their right to vote without any barriers. Supervisors of Elections must comply with state and federal law and they are in the best position to determine the needs of their constituents to ensure compliance.”

The letters from Demos and LatinoJustice went to the supervisors of elections in Alachua, Brevard, Clay, Duval, Hernando, Highlands, Lake, Leon, Manatee, Marion, Pasco, Sarasota and St. Lucie counties.

“The Florida county supervisors of elections addressed should act immediately and comply with the Voting Rights Act before Florida’s August 28, 2018 federal primary election,” those groups stated in a press release.

Those letters also were signed by representatives of Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, Common Cause Florida, the League of Women Voters of Florida, VAMOS4PR, and nine other groups.

Texts reveal Gary Farmer still lobbying for trial bar

The headline above this story probably comes as no shock to those who follow the annual trial bar versus insurance industry drama and have witnessed Sen. Gary Farmer buzzing around committees. What’s surprising is how casually Farmer has been – messily even – doing the trial bar’s bidding.

Public records requested by Florida Politics legitimize what many have quietly whispered: Farmer should just go ahead register as a lobbyist for the trial bar.

His messages from Jan. 23, 2018, offer a glimpse into the inside baseball of the Florida Senate, and demonstrate that lawmakers so engrained in special interests actively interfere in the fate of Florida law.

For weeks prior to the Banking and Insurance Committee meeting, the trial bar had been trying to pressure the insurance industry into a PIP (Personal Injury Protection) compromise using the threat of killing an industry-promoted “Named Driver Exclusion” bill as a means of forcing the industry “to the table” on PIP repeal.

Trial lawyers are behind the attempt to repeal PIP, Florida’s Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law, replacing it with a lawsuit-based system and mandatory “bodily injury” insurance, which insurers say reduces consumer choices and will increase rates for Floridians.

The bill at issue, SB 518, would have essentially allowed families to keep their auto insurance policy even if one of the family members was a poor driver, because that driver could be excluded from coverage under the policy. While this is a common practice in other states, SB 518 provided an opportunity for the trial bar to interfere with its passage as a tool of coercion over the PIP issue, despite it not having any meaningful effect on the liability of drivers (the family member removed from the policy would get coverage elsewhere).

Farmer’s texts on Jan. 23

On that day, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee heard Named Driver Exclusion. And if you attended the meeting, Farmer, a former trial bar lobbyist who is not on the Committee, made no secret of texting and doing what appeared to be active lobbying of the committee members.

At 3:41 p.m., Farmer texted Senator Anitere Flores: “Beach [sic] & steube not here…Please TP named driver…Without them we need you as a no”

Named Driver Exclusion was voted down.

At 5:27 p.m., Farmer texts Flores: “You are the master, I bow down in aw & reverence!!…Thank you!! It’s hard for me not knowing the play.”

In this same time window, Farmer texted Senator Annette Taddeo, who had voted no, a quick, “Thank you!”

Bottom line: This is an unsurprising example of how special interest proxies exercise their influence. But maybe next time Farmer will register before he lobbies for the trial bar.

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