April Freeman Archives - Florida Politics
greg steube

Greg Steube reloading campaign funds with Oct. 2 fundraiser in Sarasota

Sarasota state Sen. Greg Steube cruised through the Republican primary for Florida’s 17th Congressional District, but now it’s time to refill his war chest for the upcoming general election showdown with Cape Coral Democrat April Freeman.

To that end, Alan Jay Wildstein and Ashley Pierce are hosting a fundraising reception for the 40-year-old Republican’s congressional campaign in Sarasota next month.

The Oct. 2 reception will run from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., but it’ll take an RSVP to Kelly Dowd via Kelly@ElectGregSteube.com to get an address for the event. The invitation lists a suggested contribution of $1,000 to get in the door.

In the Aug. 28 primary election, Steube garnered more than 60 percent of the vote while Venice state Rep. Julio Gonzalez was the pick for 18 percent of Republican voters, putting him in third place behind lesser-known candidate Bill Akins, who received 19 percent of the vote.

Gonzalez blamed his resounding defeat on several oppo dumps by the Steube campaign, including unearthing some “Never Trump” comments made by Gonzalez during U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s doomed presidential campaign in 2016.

“My character was assassinated,” Gonzalez said. “It’s really sad that tonight deceit and lies prevailed in the political discourse.”

On the Democratic side, Freeman scored a 77-23 victory over Bill Pollard though she faces much steeper odds in the general election for CD 17, an expansive and solidly Republican seat where President Donald Trump defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton 62-35 two years ago.

When it comes to fundraising, Steube had raised more than $525,000 for his campaign account and had about $132,000 banked as of Aug. 8. Steube has also been the beneficiary of a load of spending by outside groups. In July, Club for Growth Action and Liberty and Leadership Fund said they had $627,000 banked to boost Steube’s congressional bid and that they had already put $400,000 of that cash behind broadcast and cable ads.

Freeman, meanwhile, had raised just $28,265 and had $4,283 left to spend through the same date.

CD 17 is open this year thanks to current GOP U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney’s decision to not seek re-election this year. The district sprawls across parts of Sarasota, Lee and Polk counties as well as the whole of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee counties.

Rooney has held the seat since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections. Freeman was also the Democratic nominee two years ago when Rooney won re-election with 62 percent of the vote.

Election Day is Nov. 6. The fundraiser invitation is below.

greg steube

Greg Steube wins Republican nomination by a landslide in CD17

State Sen. Greg Stuebe emerged victorious from a hard-fought Republican primary in Florida’s 17th Congressional District. With most precincts reporting, Steube had 62 percent of the vote compared to Charlotte County veteran Bill Akins‘s 19 percent and state Rep. Julio Gonzalez’s 18 percent.

Steube had been backed by conservative groups like the National Rifle Association and Club for Growth, which issued a congratulatory statement. “Club for Growth’s PACs were proud to play a role in Greg Steube’s victory tonight,” Club for Growth President David McIntosh said.

“As a state legislator, Greg was a staunch pro-growth conservative who wasn’t afraid of taking on both parties, and his courage and principle will serve him well in Washington. We fully expect Greg to be a leader in Congress in the fight for economic freedom.”

The Republican contest pitted against one another former allies who represented the Sarasota area in the Florida Legislature. For most of the election season, the race felt like a clash between Steube and Gonzalez, and Gonzalez raised far more money than Akins despite performing poorly in late-reporting, largely rural portions of the district.

Steube now heads for a general election battle with Democrat April Freeman, the 2016 Democratic nominee as well, who won a primary contest against opponent Bill Pollard Tuesday night with 77 percent of the vote.

But in a district where President Donald Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton by 27 percentage points, the Republican battle has been the high-stakes contest in the region.

The Republican contest became one of the more closely watched primaries in the state after U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney in March announced his retirement.

Steube, a Sarasota Republican elected to the state Senate in 2016, previously served six years in the Florida House. In that time, he developed a reputation as one of the strongest advocates for gun rights in Tallahassee, advocating for concealed carry permit holders to be allowed to bring weapons into gun-free businesses and even courthouses.

Akins entered the race first, intending to challenge Rooney in the primary. Through the race, he delivered especially hard critiques of Steube, questioning his combat record and raising the fact Steube still does not live in the 17th.

Gonzalez, a Venice physician by trade who also holds a law degree, has served in the state House since 2010, where he has focused on health care policy as he bolstered his social conservative credentials. He admitted feeling bruised and uncertain if he had any political future after the difficult contest.

“My character was assassinated,” Gonzalez said. “It’s really sad that tonight deceit and lies prevailed in the political discourse.”

That’s not the only mud thrown in the race. Gonzalez criticized Steube for his Congressional lobbying work with Becker and Poliakoff, which represents Sarasota County as a client.

Meanwhile, Gonzalez saw details of a malpractice lawsuit turn into newspaper headlines. Steube also highlighted a cadre of “Never Trump” comments made by Gonzalez during U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s doomed presidential campaign in 2016.

Greg Steube

Greg Steube adds $126K, Julio Gonzalez $45K in CD 17 Republican primary

Sarasota state Sen. Greg Steube filed another six-figure fundraising report ahead of the primary election for Florida’s 17th Congressional District, bringing his to-date fundraising total past the $500,000 mark.

From the start of last month through Aug. 8, Steube’s campaign account received $126,636 in contributions, including $104,136 from individual donors and another $22,500 from political committees. Notable among those contributions were a pair of $2,000 checks from Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, one from his congressional campaign committee and another earmarked by him from the House Freedom Fund PAC.

The spending tally for the five-week reporting period came in at $ 306,694. Nearly half of that total — $148,223 — was spent on direct mail campaigns and postage through Political Ink, a Washington-based firm that creates mailers for Republican campaigns and causes.

Another $102,826 was spent on online advertising through Tallahassee-based Strategic Digital Services, with other major expenditures including a $22,000 payment for polling from Public Opinion Strategies, $5,000 for consulting from O’Donnell & Associates, $3,900 for video work, $2,000 for accounting work and a host of other charges covering credit card fees, campaign signage and website support.

Including a $15,000 loan to jumpstart his run, Steube has now raised $527,375 for his campaign and had $131,941 in the bank on Aug. 8. His campaign touted the fundraising numbers in a email sent out to supporters Thursday afternoon.

“I am pleased with not only the funds we have been able to raise, but with the wide-ranging sources of support behind this campaign,” said Steube. “The financial backing of the local community as well as the nation’s leading conservative organizations show that our conservative vision for Congress is resonating.”

The campaign also noted the massive amount of independent expenditures being made in support of his bid, citing the prior announcement of a six-figure ad buy from Club for Growth Action and the Liberty and Leadership Fund, which had raised $627,000 on Steube’s behalf through the end of June.

Steube is running against Venice state Rep. Julio Gonzalez and lesser-known candidate Greg Akins in the Republican primary for CD 17, which is open this cycle due to the retirement of Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney.

Gonzalez, for his part, brought in just shy of $45,000 in outside money during the five-week stretch while shelling out $278,145, including a repayment for $30,000 of the loans Gonzalez used to juice his campaign in Q1.

Most of Gonzalez’ other spending was funneled through San Diego-based ROE Strategic, which took in nearly $150,000 for a wide range of services, including accounting, consulting, direct mail, signage and other advertising. Washington-based FP1 Strategies was paid nearly $30,000 to make a campaign video, while Tallahassee-based Forward Strategies received $15,000 for “contract services.”

As of Aug. 8, Gonzalez’ overall fundraising total was $366,713, not including $120,000 in outstanding candidate loans, and he had $115,288 in the bank.

Steube has been on the offensive during the past several weeks of the campaign.

In mid-July, the Steube campaign painted Gonzalez as a “Never Trump” Republican by highlighting tweets he made about then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016 — Gonzalez supported U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in the presidential primary two years ago and has since earned his endorsement for Congress.

Another volley came earlier this week, when Team Steube lambasted Gonzalez over a campaign ad that insinuated he had the endorsement of Gov. Rick Scott, something Scott campaign manager Jackie Schultz plainly stated was not true.

The hits kept coming, too, with the release of a new poll on Wednesday — commissioned by the pro-Steube Club for Growth Action — showing the Sarasota lawmaker with a 39-16 percent lead over Gonzalez in the primary race, with 5 percent going for Akins and 40 percent undecided.

Akins, Gonzalez and Steube will duke it out in the Aug. 28 primary election, with the winner moving on to face the winner of the Democratic primary between April Freeman and Bill Pollard.

CD 17 is a safe Republican seat that sprawls across parts of Sarasota, Lee and Polk counties as well as the whole of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee counties. Rooney has held the seat since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections. In 2016, with Freeman as the Democratic nominee, Rooney won re-election with 62 percent of the vote.

Greg Steube hits Julio Gonzalez for touting non-existent Rick Scott endorsement

Venice state Rep. Julio Gonzalez has been pushing an online ad backing up his campaign for Florida’s 17th Congressional District that features Gov. Rick Scott praising the Republican lawmaker and insinuating Gonzalez is his pick in the primary race to fill the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney.

According to an article by Brenden Farrington the Associated Press, the 30-second spot features the term-limited Governor making some effusive remarks about Gonzalez, and ends with an announcer saying Scott “stands with” Gonzalez, and asks voters to “Join Governor Scott in support of pro-Trump, tax-cutting conservative Dr. Julio Gonzalez.”

Short of a nod from President Donald Trump, the official backing of Scott would be the biggest coup a Republican congressional candidate could hope for. The problem: It’s not true.

Those clips were from a fundraiser benefitting Scott’s U.S. Senate campaign, and while Scott is likely appreciative of Gonzalez’ support in his quest to oust Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, he hasn’t weighed in on the Republican primary for CD 17.

If it weren’t clear enough by the lack of endorsement-style language, the bottom of that AP article puts to rest any lingering doubts: “Scott’s campaign manager, Jackie Schultz, said Scott hasn’t endorsed in the race.”

Gonzalez’ chief rival in the Republican primary for CD 17, Sarasota state Sen. Greg Steube, seized on the misrepresentation in a Tuesday campaign email hammering Gonzalez

“Julio Gonzalez, candidate for Congress, has been falsely touting the support of Governor Rick Scott in an effort to boost his failing campaign,” the email read, citing the AP report.

“Last week, Gonzalez sent an email to supporters calling on them to ‘Join Governor Rick Scott in supporting Dr. Julio Gonzalez.’ His campaign then released a short video with footage from a recent rally for Scott’s U.S. Senate campaign. As of August 13, the video is being promoted online by the Gonzalez campaign.”

Similar to the recent drama in the race for House District 62, Gonzalez may be violating state elections laws depending on the language and images he used. In the HD 62 case, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor chastised School Board member Susan Valdes for using her picture in a campaign mailer that insinuated the congresswoman had endorsed Valdes, and went even further by alleging the act was a violation of Chapter 106.143(4) of the Florida Statutes.

Team Steube is doing the same in regards to Gonzalez’ ad.

The statute reads as follows: “It is unlawful for any candidate or person on behalf of a candidate to represent that any person or organization supports such candidate, unless the person or organization so represented has given specific approval in writing to the candidate to make such representation.”

A violation of that rule can result in civil fees.

“This is the latest attempt to mislead the voters from a campaign that is desperately trying to revive itself,” said Alex Blair, Steube’s campaign manager. “First, they tried to dismiss Gonzalez’s Never Trump past, and now they are trying to mislead voters about Governor Scott’s support. I think the voters will see past the deceit and will support Greg Steube’s positive, pro-Trump, conservative vision for Congress.”

Gonzalez and Steube will be on the Aug. 28 primary ballot alongside little-known Republican Greg Akins. The winner of the GOP nomination will go up against the Democratic nominee — either April Freeman or Bill Pollard — in the Nov. 6 general election, though the Republican candidate will be the odds on favorite come Election Day.

CD 17 is a safe Republican seat that sprawls across parts of Sarasota, Lee and Polk counties as well as the whole of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee counties. Rooney has held the seat since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections.

In 2016, Rooney won re-election over his Democratic challenger with 62 percent of the vote and Trump earned the same share of the vote at the top of the ticket.

Julio Gonzalez raises $225K for congressional bid

State Rep. Julio Gonzalez brought in another $225,000 last quarter for his campaign to succeed U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney in Florida’s 17th Congressional District.

“I am proud to have the support of so many Floridians,” Gonzalez said.  “We’ve built support throughout the district and earned the endorsements of conservative leaders who care about sending effective conservative leaders to Washington.”

The Venice Republican didn’t indicate whether the $225,000 raised includes any candidate loans.

During the first quarter of 2018 he lent the campaign $150,000, which accounted for the bulk of his $233,700 report. He had $229,900 on hand at the end of March.

Gonzalez faces Sarasota Sen. Greg Steube and Greg Akins in the Republican primary, neither of whom have announced their second quarter fundraising numbers.

At the end of the first quarter, Steube had raised $63,550 for his campaign during including $15,000 in loans. Akins, who filed in October, has raised $10,850 including $2,700 in loans.

Steube filed for CD 17 shortly after Rooney announced in late February that he would not run for re-election in 2018. Gonzalez followed shortly after the 2018 Legislative Session wrapped, making for two sitting state lawmakers in the race.

Also running for the seat are Democrats April Freeman and Bill Pollard, though they face long odds in the general election — CD 17 is rated “safe Republican” by Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the prediction newsletter from University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato. The district also voted plus-27 for Donald Trump two years ago.

CD 17 sprawls across parts of Sarasota, Lee and Polk counties as well as the whole of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee counties. Rooney has held the seat since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections.

Greg Steube - CD 17 Campaign Photo

Greg Steube raising money in Charlotte County next week

Republican state Sen. Greg Steube is making the trek from his Sarasota home to Charlotte County for a May 16 fundraiser benefitting his bid for Florida’s 17th Congressional District.

Steube’s event will be held at the Laishley Crab House, 150 Laishley Court, in Punta Gorda from 5:30 pm to 7 pm. Those looking to attend can email an RSVP to Kelly Dowd via Kelly@ElectGregSteube.com.

The host committee at the top of invitation lists county Sheriff Bill Prummell, county Clerk of the Court Roger Eaton and Charlotte County Commissioners Ken Doherty, Joe Tiseo and Bill Truex. Laishley Crab House proprietor Bruce Laishley, who also a Rick Scott appointee to the Florida Southwestern State College board, made the list as well.

Steube, currently in his first term in the state Senate, was the first Republican to announce his bid for CD 17 after current U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney became the third of four Florida Republican members of congress to announce he would retire in 2018.

Stuebe was joined by Sarasota state Rep. Julio Gonzalez after the 2018 Legislative Session.

Both lawmakers qualified for the ballot last week, as did Port Charlotte Republican Bill Akins, Cape Coral Democrat April Freeman and Avon Park Democrat Bill Pollard. CD 17 is a solid Republican district.

Akins filed for the seat well before Rooney announced his retirement, but the Republican Primary looks to be a two-person race between Gonzalez and Steube.

Through March 31, Gonzalez led the money race with nearly $234,000 in contributions during the first few weeks of his campaign compared to $63,550 for Steube. Gonzalez’ total includes $150,000 in candidate loans, which is 10 times more than what Steube plunked down to kickstart his campaign.

Where Steube leads is in endorsements.

When he declared, his announcement listed off dozens of backers, including Senate President Joe Negron, Senate President Designate Bill Galvano, Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, Naples Republican Sen. Kathleen Passidomo and Lakeland Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel.

Gonzalez has landed a couple major backers of his own, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. Akins, oddly enough, has been endorsed by Star Trek Enterprise actor Gary Graham. But Steube’s list covers all corners of the massive district, not just Sarasota, which is home to only about a quarter of CD 17 voters.

The fundraiser invitation is below.

Meet April Freeman, Democrat running for Florida’s 17th Congressional District

More than 300 candidates are running for elected office in Florida, including Congress and 160 seats in the Florida House and Senate. And, try as we will, FloridaPolitics.com won’t be able to interview them all.

So we are asking every candidate, including incumbents, to complete a questionnaire we believe offers an interesting, albeit thumbnail, sketch of who they are and why they are running. If you are a candidate and would like to complete the questionnaire, email Peter@FloridaPolitics.com.

Today’s candidate spotlight features April Freeman, Democratic candidate for Florida’s 17th Congressional District, a vast area covering much of South-Central Florida from the eastern Tampa Bay region to the edge of Lake Okeechobee.

Here is April in her own words:

Significant other? Kids?

Husband: David; Children: Samantha and Ashley.

Education background? Professional background?

Education: Certified nursing assistant; Oakland University/University of Michigan/University of Pennsylvania; BA in Communications; The UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television; Yale University; Economics and Political Science; additional studies in Environmental Psychology, Environmental Science & Legal Studies; Graduate of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale, through Yale Law School in New Haven, Connecticut.

My professional background is as a business owner in film and television production. My business specializes in development, finance and brand licensing. You can see some of my work like “Hemingway and Gelhorn” on HBO.

What was your first job?

I was an employee for my parents’ catering and food service company.

In 25 words or less, why are you running for office?

As a community organizer during the 2012 election, I realized people don’t know they don’t have true representation. I will fight to put people first.

Did you speak with anybody in your political party before deciding on running? Receive any encouragement? From whom?

Members of the party, community, and organizations saw my passion and knowledge and helped encourage me to step up to the plate.

Who do you count on for advice?

My husband David, my parents, my friends and my work colleagues.

Who is your political consultant? Campaign manager?

Samuel Fisher.

Who was the first person to contribute to your campaign? Why did they donate?

My parents, husband, family, friends and a number of residents from Sanibel Island — because they believed in my vision and ability to work hard to achieve my goals.

Why do people mistrust elected officials and what are you going to do about it?

People haven’t been given a reason to trust many officials over the last few years. They see that politicians only cater to the powerful and elite. Politicians make promises and either sidestep them or out and out break them. To change that, I am going to meet with as many people as I can, not make promises I can’t keep, and try to govern with the mindset that all people, not just a few, deserve representation.

What are 3 issues that you’re running on? (You’re not allowed to say education or “improving the schools”)

— Water Quality and Our Environment: Here in Florida, it is long past Lake Okeechobee and its estuaries need cleanup and solutions. Time to send the water south, rebuild the dike and stop the pollution.

— Veterans Issues: It’s time we walk the walk on our veterans. I will introduce and sponsor legislation that mandates future appropriations for any military operations also include sufficient funding to care for the health and well-being of our returning servicemen and women.

— Social Security: Senior citizens need and deserve a raise. There hasn’t been a cost-of-living increase for Social Security beneficiaries in over 42 years. Time to change that and lift the cap.

What is a “disruptive” issue (i.e., ride-sharing) you are interested in?

Politics and money. I will support and sponsor legislative movement for a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizen’s United.

Are yard signs an important part of campaigning in your district?

I am more interested in meeting people face to face, attending forums and discussions, and transmitting my message on social media.

What’s the first thing you read each morning?

Local newspapers from throughout the district, and national news sources.

Where do you get your political news?

I keep C-SPAN on all the time, so I see things in real time. Besides that, local papers like the Herald Tribune, and for state/national, The New York Times, The Washington Post, POLITICO, The Hill, NPR, Florida Politics, USA Today (online, Twitter and Facebook on those sources).

Who do you think will be the next President of the United States?

Hillary Clinton, according to the current polling.

60 Minutes or House of Cards?

House of Cards, everyone needs some fun!

Social media presence? Twitter handle?

Yes, I’m active on Facebook; https://facebook.com/AprilFreemanforCongress.

Email Insights: April Freeman wants voters to know she’s hoping to unseat Tom Rooney, not Francis Rooney

April Freeman wants to make sure her supporters know exactly who she’s running against, a feat that may be a little bit more complicated than it sounds.

Freeman, a Cape Coral Democrat, is running in Florida’s 17th Congressional District. She’s hoping to unseat Republican Rep. Tom Rooney.

Easy enough to remember, right? Not this year.

For weeks, the Southwest Florida airwaves have been flooded with advertisements touting the accomplishments of Francis Rooney, a Republican running in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. He’s hoping to replace Rep. Curt Clawson in the U.S. House, and will face Republicans Chauncey Goss and Dan Bongino in August.

Freeman ran for Congress in 2014 in Florida’s 19th Congressional District, and it appears Southwest Florida voters aren’t quite sure which Rooney she’s running against.

“If you’re reading this email, you’ve heard over and over that I am running for Congress to replace Representative Rooney. After commercials throughout Southwest Florida, you might be asking yourself, which one? Are there one or two Rooneys? Are they clones? Were they switched at birth? Is this some type of joke? Or, how is she going to raise enough money to compete with this?,” she said in an email to supporters Thursday.

“Here’s your answer: Yes, there are two Rooney’s, no they are not clones, they were not switched at birth and we’ll get to the raising money part in a minute. To be clear, I’m running against Tom Rooney NOT Francis Rooney.”

Freeman initially planned to run again in the CD 19, but switched districts when a court-ordered redistricting gave her the opportunity to run in the neighboring 17th district.

“This year the 19th Congressional Election in SW Florida is another blood-bath reminiscent of the 2014 Big Spending Millionaires and Super PACs. This time Francis Rooney is spending $300 thousand a week on ad buys. But that’s NOT my problem, NOT anymore, because that’s NOT my Rooney,” she wrote. “Remember, I’m running in District 17 against a republican incumbent Tom Rooney, NOT in District 19 against mister money bags Francis Rooney.”

Freeman tells supporters that while Rep. Rooney isn’t self-funding his campaign, she still needs their fundraising help to “give the people in Florida’s new 17th Congressional District real representation in Congress.”

“Tom Rooney doesn’t think he needs to worry about me and that’s good, we want to catch him off guard,” she wrote. “With your support now, we can reach voters with our message before vote by mail ballots hit mailboxes in only 10 weeks.”


April Freeman calls on Barack Obama to designate Lake O a national monument

A Southwest Florida Democrat is calling on the federal government to designate Lake Okeechobee as a national monument.

April Freeman, a Cape Coral Democrat running for Congress, said Tuesday that President Barack Obama should designate the lake as a national monument through executive order. The action, she said, would expedite clean-up, and “ensure appropriations for needed repairs and water quality projects.”

“The federal government already owns and maintains the Herbert Hoover Dike that surrounds Lake Okeechobee, and the poisonous water being released from the lake through the Caloosahatchee River and killing the protected wetlands and wildlife of J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge,” she said in prepared remarks.

Freeman is running in Congressional District 17, in hopes of unseating incumbent Republican U.S, Rep. Tom Rooney. The newly drawn district covers all of part of nine counties, including Lee, Charlotte, Polk and Highlands counties.

“I have been an environmental activist for years and have closely been following the water release issues from Lake O for as long as I can remember,” she said.

Freeman started the petition Tuesday on the White House site We the People. The petition calls on the the president to proclaim the lake a national monument, and says that, in conjunction with a proposal by Rep. Curt Clawson, would solve the area’s water crisis.

“Immediate action should be taken to preserve human life, the ecosystem and economic losses that will continue,” the petition says.

In March, Clawson introduced the Everglades Land Acquisition Act. If approved, it would set aside $500 million for the Department of Interior to buy land in the Everglades Agriculture Area. That land would help move the water south.

At least 100,000 people need to sign the petition by May 5 before it will be considered. As on Tuesday evening, 12 people had signed the petition.

“Working together is the only way we are going to make a real difference,” she said.

Freeman is no stranger to congressional runs. In 2014, she ran against Clawson in Congressional District 19. That district includes most of Lee County and a portion of Collier County, and is considered a Republican stronghold.

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