Charlie Crist Archives - Florida Politics

Leadership opportunities emerge for Democrat members of Florida’s congressional delegation

The congressional private power dancing has begun.

Where will U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Darren Soto, Ted Deutch, Charlie Crist, Alcee Hastings, Stephanie Murphy, and Florida’s other House Democrats wind up sitting now that their party is taking power?

Quietly, now and over the next few weeks, Florida’s Democratic representatives are declaring and testing their ambitions for the Democratic-controlled U.S. House. It’s already time to start seeking, angling for, and pursuing new committee assignments.

In the current GOP-controlled House, Florida Republicans haven’t exactly been power players. None chaired any full House committees, and only a handful were sprinkled into major committees such as Ways and Means, Rules, Budget, or Appropriations. And their moment has closed now.

That dearth of Florida power in Congress might not change too much with the Democrats because only one Florida representative is the ranking member on any of the 21 U.S. House Committees, and it’s not a powerful committee either.

But a handful of Florida Democrats are on powerful and high-profile committees, notably Wasserman Schultz on both the Appropriations and Budget committees, and Crist on the Financial Services Committee. Now they’ll have far more opportunity to press their wills.

Committee appointments won’t come until January — after the Democrats sort out who their House Speaker will be, whether that’s current Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi or some still-unidentified champion of the insurgency against her. Naturally, she’ll have her say. Officially, the appointments will be recommended by a Democratic Caucus steering committee and voted on by the full caucus.

So now’s the time members start making their interests known, lobbying each other, and cutting deals with Pelosi and others, often quietly. There is a bit of inner-state coordination, so that Florida’s delegation is trying to help shape opportunities for its members, to better the chances that Florida gets representation wherever is best for the state. Some of the moves are being discussed.

For example, Soto of Kissimmee, with deep environmental interests, reportedly is looking at the Energy and Commerce Committee; and Murphy of Winter Park, who has been outspoken about House reform, is being talked about as a possible candidate for the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

Only a handful are sure things or close to it.

Deutch of Boca Raton is ranking member of the House Ethics Committee. So the chair is his if he wants it.

Hastings of Miramar is the senior Democrat on the House Rules Committee, though technically he’s not the ranking member. If he wants, Hastings could put up a compelling case to chair that committee instead of ranking member James McGovern of Massachusetts.

Then there are subcommittees.

Deutch also is ranking member on the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs Committee; U.S. Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee is ranking member of the Small Business Committee’s Health and Technology Subcommittee; Murphy is ranking member of the Small Business Committee’s Contracting and Workforce Subcommittee; and Hastings is ranking member of the Rules Committee’s Legislative and Budget Process Subcommittee.

But those subcommittees are at high risk of being totally reorganized, discarded, replaced, or a least redefined. And the new appointments of members pick their chairs from among themselves. So ranking membership is no assurance to a promotion.

Not only is it a complex campaign to win the big seats, but it’s also sometimes a tough personal choice.

The Ways and Means Committee is an exclusive committee. So if Murphy were to get a seat there, that would mean she would have to give up her cherished seats on the Armed Services and Small Business committees. It’s a tough choice, but it’s a big step up.

The Energy and Commerce Committee also is an exclusive committee. So if Soto were to get that appointment, he would have to leave the Agriculture and Natural Resources committees he sits on now. It also means losing his seat on the Naural Resources’ Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs Subcommittee, which provides him oversight of the federal government’s role in Puerto Rico, a big deal back in Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

Among other current key committee assignments for Democrats, where they can expect at least to have power over legislation before them:

U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando, the city’s former police chief, already has natural fits on the House Judiciary and Homeland Security committees. She may be advised to build her natural power there.

Crist also is on the Financial Services Committee’s Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee, which could give him a ringside seat if that committee launches an investigation into the White House’s and President Donald Trump‘s potential involvements in the Russia elections meddling scandal.

Crist also is the only Democrat who is a member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, and its Space Subcommittee, key seats in addressing federal policy and financial support for Kennedy Space Center. There are three Florida Republicans on that committee, U.S. Reps. Neal Dunn of Panama City, Bill Posey of Rockledge and Dan Webster of Clermont, but probably not for long. So Florida’s delegation may be due for sending another Democrat to oversee space policy.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa is on the Energy and Commerce Committee, an exclusive and desirable committee.

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach is on the Foreign Affairs Committee, as well as the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has the potential to rain dollars back home.

Deutch also is on the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees, two plum assignments.

Wasserman Schultz of Weston is nowhere near a ranking member on either the Budget or Appropriations committees, but she has clout, especially with a close philosophical relationship with Pelosi. So she could expect to be a power on both of those boards.

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens is on the Education and Workforce Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, also two enviable seats.

Florida’s two new Democratic congresswomen, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala, will have to wait until all the returning Democrats finish their games of musical seats before they’ll be offered their committee assignments.

Charlie Crist sails to easy victory over George Buck

Democrat Charlie Crist scored an easy victory over Republican George Buck in his reelection race for Congressional District 13 in St. Petersburg and parts of Pinellas County.

In a landslide, Crist grabbed 58 percent of the vote of the vote.

Crist’s race looked sealed from the get-go. He raked in well over $3 million to ward off a GOP challenger. Buck’s unimpressive fundraising haul came to about $30,000 and his campaign efforts were limited.

Crist was first elected to the district four years ago when he beat former GOP Congressman David Jolly. Crist’s victory came after the district’s boundaries were redrawn to include parts of downtown St. Pete and south St. Pete, a hub for Democrats.

The district changes shifted the district from leaning conservative to favoring Democrats.

Crist ran a tough campaign against Buck, a retired firefighter turned academic, despite is massive fundraising advantage.

His campaign slathered airwaves with positive messages about his freshman class accomplishments including work for veterans and consumers, as well as his open communication with constituents.

One of Crist’s ads featured the Democrat, who used to be a Republican Florida Governor, taking calls from constituents telling voters he works for them.

Crist focused a lot of his campaign efforts helping other Democrats in more competitive races. He toured the state rallying voters in various campaign stumps, town halls and get out the vote efforts.

Crist said those stops helped his own campaign while also pushing messages from other Democrats. He made several campaign appearances with Lt. Gov. nominee Chris King, and also campaigned heavily for Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw who and Agriculture Commissioner candidate Nikki Fried.

Crist plans to continue work in Congress supporting access to health care and fighting back conservative efforts to scale back on health care access for people with pre-existing conditions.

He’s also working with colleagues to identify mitigation and relief efforts to combat red tide, which is plaguing Crist’s district.

It’s not the party … it’s the after party! A rundown of where Florida candidates will be on election night

On Election Day, as polls close, the after-parties begin.

Candidates — along with nearly everyone else in America — will be glued to their screens Tuesday night for election results. In the end, win or lose, there will be a party.

Some will celebrate a hard-fought victory, while others will be a bit more somber, drowning their sorrows.

Want to party like a politician? Here’s a rundown of where candidates will be as the polls close.

If your favorite candidate isn’t listed, check the Party or venue websites for more information.

U.S. Senate

Gov. Rick Scott is hosting his election night party at 7 p.m., Naples. The address will be provided upon RSVP. Press credentials required; media access begins 3:30 p.m. Hotel rooms are available in the Scott for Florida room block; email for details. RSVP must be submitted by Friday, November 2, to press@scottforflorida.com.

Governor

The Ron DeSantis for Governor campaign election night party begins 6 p.m., Rosen Centre Executive Ballroom, 9840 International Dr., Orlando. The event is open to members of the media with credentials; press preset begins 4 p.m. Please apply for credentials here.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, wife R. Jai Gillum will join running mate and Orlando businessman Chris King and his wife Kristen will hold an election night celebration starting 7 p.m., Florida A&M University Lee Hall, 1601 South Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, Tallahassee. While it is a public event, those planning to attend should RSVP to secure a ticket. Tickets are required for entrance in the area. Parking will be limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Shuttle service will be available from Bragg Memorial Stadium to the election night celebration starting at 6 p.m. and ending at midnight. Attendees should prepare to go through an airport security-style entry — please do not bring large bags/backpacks, laptops, large camera equipment, signage or weapons. Additionally, there will be a “clear bag” policy in effect for the event. Clear bags must adhere to the dimensions of no larger than 12” x 6” x 12;” small non-clear shoulder bags or clutch purses must be no larger than 4.5” x 6.5.” All bags will be checked upon entrance to the event. The public entrance for this event will be on Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, south of Lee Hall and adjacent to the FAMU Student Union Building.

Reform Party gubernatorial candidate Darcy Richardson will be hosting a private event to monitor results in Jacksonville with campaign staff and family. The Reform Party of Florida is hosting its watch party at the Holiday Inn on 8310 Galbraith Road in Tampa.

Florida Cabinet

The Ashley Moody for Attorney General campaign party will be at the Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel, Costa Del Sol Ballroom, 4200 Jim Walter Blvd., Tampa. Doors open at 7 p.m. Media will be allowed access at 4:30 p.m. and must be set up by 6 p.m. Media contact is Christina Johnson. Contact her at Christina@On3PR.com.

Democratic candidate for Attorney General Sean Shaw will hold his general election night event at 6 p.m., LeMéridien Tampa, 601 N Florida Ave, Tampa. RSVP or get more details on Facebook.

State Sen. Jeremy Ring, who is running for Florida Chief Financial Officer, will join The Nikki Fried for Agriculture Commissioner campaign for an election night watch party at Good Spirits, 476 N Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. There will be parking available in the corresponding lot and garage as well as workspace set aside for the press. Doors open for guests at 7 p.m. and 4:20 p.m. for members of the press. RSVP to Max@NikkiFried.com.

Agriculture Commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell will cast ballots with his family at 5:30 p.m., House of Worship Church of God, 940 Pondella Road, North Fort Myers.

U.S. House

CD 2 — Democrat Bob Rackleff will hold an election-night party, 7 p.m., Waterworks, 1133 Thomasville Road, Tallahassee.

CD 6 — The Nancy Soderberg campaign and state Rep. Patrick Henry invites voters, supporters, and volunteers for a watch party, 7 p.m., Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery, 1864 Victory Circle, Bldg K, Daytona Beach. Press contact: Wellesley Daniels (917) 751-4782 or wellesley@soderbergforcongress.com.

CD 9 — Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto will be at the Ramada Gateway Hotel Ballroom, 7470 Irlo Bronson Memorial HWY 192 in Kissimmee. Republican nominee Wayne Liebnitzky hasn’t announced an election night activity, possibly because Florida’s 9th is a Dem lock.

CD 12 — Republican U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis is hosting a results-watching party 7 p.m. at the St. Nicholas Community Center, 348 N. Pinellas Avenue, Tarpon Springs. For more details contact either Summer Robertson (727) 237-6811 or Towson Fraser (850) 443-1444.

CD 13

CD 15 — Democrat Kristen Carlson will hold her election night watch party at 7 p.m., The Lakeland Room, Historic Lake Mirror Tower Building, 130 S. Massachusetts Ave., Lakeland. RSVP to Robert Walters at robert@kristencarlsonforcongress.com for press credentials.

CD 18 — Democratic challenger Lauren Baer hosts a watch party with friends and supporters from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., Palm Beach Gardens Embassy Suites, 4350 PGA Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens. Those looking to attend can RSVP by using this link.

CD 19 — Democrat David Holden hosts a watch party with friends and supporters starting 6:30 p.m., Holiday Inn Fort Myers Airport at Town Center, 9931 Interstate Commerce Drive, Fort Myers. Venue information at hiftmyersairport.com. Open to media but limited to the public (due to space). Advanced notice appreciated. Contact David Silverberg at (239) 451-1253.

CD 25 — The Mary Barzee Flores for Congress election night party begins 7 p.m., The Bend, 6844 NW 169th St, Hialeah. The event is open to the public and press. Press are welcome to arrive after 6:30 p.m.; doors will open to the public at 7 p.m. Day-of, on-site contact for logistics will be Jade Tacka, (817) 880-5423 or jade@cmarfybarzeeflores.com. For all other media inquiries, contact Sam Miller at (703) 408-1447 or sam@marybarzeeflores.com.

CD 26 — The Carlos Curbelo campaign is inviting voters to an 8 p.m. watch party at his campaign headquarters, 12877 SW 42nd St, Miami. Contact joanna@carloscurbelo.com.

CD 26 — Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell will hold her party starting 7:30 p.m., Black Point Ocean Grill, 24775 SW 87th Ave., Cutler Bay.

CD 27 — Democrat Donna Shalala will hold her election night watch party beginning 7 p.m. at the Coral Gables Woman’s Club, 1001 E Ponce De Leon Blvd, Coral Gables.

State Senate

SD 18 — State Rep. Janet Cruz will hold her watch party 7 p.m., Grillsmith Restaurant, 14303 N Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa.

SD 24 — Lindsay Cross will be at The Getaway, 13090 Gandy Blvd N in St. Pete, 6 p.m. More information is on her campaign Facebook page.

State House

HD 1 — Vikki Garrett will join the Escambia Democratic Party for a watch party beginning 6 p.m., O’Charley’s 6233 N. Davis Hwy., Pensacola.

HD 11 — Nathcelly Rohrbaugh and AFL-CIO will be watching returns beginning 7 p.m., Chem Cell Club Inc., 2951 Riverside Dr., Fernandina Beach.

HD 11 — Nathcelly Rohrbaugh will be at 2951 Riverside Dr., Fernandina Beach.

HD 15 — Tracye Polson will be at Two Dudes Seafood Restaurant Riverside, 2665 Park St., Jacksonville (Corner of Park and King).

HD 28 — Lee Mangold will be with the Seminole County Democrats at an event starting 6 p.m., Miller’s Ale House, 477 East Altamonte Drive, Altamonte Springs.

HD 36 — State Rep. Amber Mariano’s watch party will be 7 p.m., Kickin Wingz, 8702 SR-52, Hudson.

HD 36 — Democrat David Perez will hold his party starting 7:30 p.m., La Carreta Restaurant, 5350 W 16th Ave., Hialeah. RSVP on Facebook.

HD 42 — Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa will be at Gator’s Dockside in Saint Cloud. Democratic nominee Barbara Cady will be at Soto’s party at the Ramada Gateway in Kissimmee.

HD 47, 48, 49, 50 — Anna Eskamani, state Rep. Amy Mercado, state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Pam Dirschka will watch returns starting 7 p.m., Embassy Suites by Hilton Orlando Downtown, 191 East Pine Street, Orlando.

HD 48 — GOP challenger George Chandler will join the Orange County Republican Executive Committee will be at the Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa, 9055 Turkey Lake Rd., in Orlando. Many of the Florida House candidates from Orange County will be there.

HD 57 — Mike Beltran and the Hillsborough County Republican Party are inviting friends and supporters to watch election returns at 6 p.m., Due Amici Restaurant, Amici a famiglia, 1724 E. 7th Ave., Ybor City.

HD 57, 58, 59 — Democrats Debbie Katt, Phil Hornback and Adam Hattersley will be watching returns starting 6:30 p.m., 11135 Winthrop Market St, Riverview.

HD 59 — Republican Joe Wicker, who is running for an open seat in Hillsborough County’s House District 59, will hold an election-night party, 6 p.m., El Rico Frappé Latino, 122 Pierce Christie Dr., Valrico.

HD 63, 61 — Democrats Fentrice Driskell and state Rep.-elect Dianne Hart will be celebrating starting 6:30 p.m. at the Vizcaya Restaurante & Tapas Bar, 10905 N Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa.

HD 66

HD 66 — Alex Heeren will be at the West Bay Tap House, 80 Clearwater Largo Rd S, 6 p.m. More information is on his campaign Facebook page.

HD 69 — Jennifer Webb will begin her party at 7 p.m., Peninsula Inn Gulfport, 2937 Beach Blvd. S. in Gulfport.

HD 69 — Ray Blacklidge — Gator’s Cafe, 12754 Kingfish Dr., Treasure Island, beginning 5:30 p.m. More information is on his campaign Facebook page.

HD 71 — Republican Will Robinson is hosting a campaign victory party, 6:30 p.m. The campaign will provide location upon RSVP with Allie at allie@robinsonforflorida.com. If you wish to stop by, include the names of all of those attending to ensure your name is on the guest list. Food and beverages will be provided.

HD 72 — State Rep. Margaret Good will be watching returns starting 7 p.m., Michael’s on East, 1212 S East Ave., Sarasota.

HD 73 — Democrat Liv Coleman in the Manatee Democratic Party will hold an event beginning 7 p.m., Manatee County Democratic Party, 435 Cortez Rd W, Bradenton.

HD 74 — Democrat Tony Mowry will join Englewood Indivisible for a watch party beginning 7:30 p.m., Stefano’s Family Restaurant, 401 S Indiana Ave., Englewood.

HD 78

HD 83 — Emma Collum holds her watch party at 7 p.m., 26 Degrees Brewing Company, 2600 E Atlantic Boulevard, Pompano Beach.

HD 84 — Democrat Delores Johnson will be watching returns starting 7 p.m. at the St. Lucie County Democratic DEC Office, 910 N. 25th Street, Fort Pierce.

HD 89 — Democrat Jim Bonfiglio is the host of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party election night watch party at 7 p.m., Embassy Suites, 1601 Belvedere Road, West Palm Beach.

HD 93 — Democrat Emma Collum will hold an election watch party starting 7 p.m., 26 Degree Brewing Company, 2600 E Atlantic Blvd, Pompano Beach.

HD 103 — Democrat Cindy Polo will join the NW Dade Democratic Club for a watch party starting 7 p.m., 5inco Indoor & Colombian Flavor, 8081 W 28th Ave., Hialeah.

HD 105 — Democrat Javier Estevez will hold an election night watch party at 7 p.m., 8502 SW 146th Court, Miami. RSVP on Facebook.

HD 113 — Democrat Michael Grieco will hold his election night watch event beginning 7 p.m., Hôtel Gaythering, 1409 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach. RSVP on Facebook.

HD 114 — Democrat Javier Fernandez is holding his event beginning 7 p.m., Pub 52, 5829 SW. 73rd St., South Miami. RSVP On Facebook.

HD 115 — Democrat Jeff Solomon will join state Sen. Annette Taddeo and Leader-Designate Kionne McGhee at an event hosted by the by Miami-Dade Democrats beginning 7 p.m., The Brick, American Kitchen & Bar, 8955 SW 72nd PL, South Miami.

HD 118 — State Rep. Robert Asencio will be holding his party starting 7 p.m., Isla del Encanto 2, 11236 SW 137th Ave., Miami.

HD 120 — Democrat Captain Steve Friedman will hold his election watch party starting 7 p.m., Angler House Marina, 80500 Overseas Hwy, Islamadora.

Down-ballot races

Pinellas County Commission District 6 — Amy Kedron is not making her event public, saying it was due to “security concerns” raised against Tampa Bay Times reporter Mark Puente.

Palm Beach County Commission — Robert Weinroth will be celebrating at 7:30 p.m., Delray Beach Marriott, 10 N Ocean Boulevard, Delray Beach.

Duval County Tax Collector — Mia Jones will be watching election returns at about 7 p.m., 645 Oak St, Jacksonville.

Candidates aren’t the only ones hosting election night parties.

The Orange County REC Victory party is at 7 p.m., Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa, 9055 Turkey Lake Rd., 7th Floor.

The United Teachers of Dade watch party begins 7:30 p.m., UTD Headquarters, 2200 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. RSVP Required.

New Florida Majority, a progressive coalition working to engage “marginalized and excluded constituencies,” will be hosting several watch parties throughout the state.

— New Florida Majority, Dream Defenders, FLIC Votes, and FANM in Action will hold a joint Amendment 4 watch party beginning 6 p.m., Little Haiti Cultural Center, 212 NE 59th Terrace, Miami.

— Also beginning 7 p.m., La Perla Escondida Restaurant, 717 N. Dixie Hwy., Palm Beach.

— Also beginning at 7 p.m., Austin’s Soul Food Restaurant, 4807 N. Main St., Jacksonville.

The Duval Democratic Party will be watching returns beginning 7 p.m., Cuba Libra Ultra Lounge, 2578 Atlantic Blvd., Jacksonville.

Duval County Republicans will be watching results at 7 p.m., Whisky Jax, 10915 Baymeadows Road, #135, Jacksonville.

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, the group behind Amendment 4, the proposal to restore voting rights to former felons who paid their debt to society, will be holding an election watch party at 6 p.m., DoubleTree at SeaWorld, 10100 International Drive, Orlando. RSVP with kimberly@safeandjust.

Act Now for Children’s Services is hosting its Children’s Trust election night watch party starts 5:30 p.m., 1310 Southwest 13th Street, Gainesville. Online registration is here.

Blue wave or not, Pinellas Democrats are fired up

Tampa Bay-area Democrats are pooling resources for get-out-the-vote efforts in St. Petersburg.

Congressman Charlie Crist joined candidates Lindsay Cross, Jennifer Webb and Sean Shaw at Webb’s House District 69 campaign headquarters in the Tyrone area to call voters who have not yet cast a ballot either on Election Day or during early voting.

“Do you have a plan to vote,” Cross, who is running for Florida Senate against incumbent Jeff Brandes, asked. “You do. Will you be voting Democrat?”

There was a pause, followed by a grin.

“Probably. Ok, we’ll take probably.”

Cross and the others chuckled as she hung up the phone.

About 20 volunteers crammed into the small office, cellphones in hand. Cross and Webb sat on the floor under a window — Cross’ shoes sat next to her in a clear indication of a race hard traveled.

Senate District 24 candidate Lindsay Cross phone banks on Election Day.

Everyone, including the candidates, had stacks of voter information. Most of the names on the list were Democrats, but some were no party affiliation or third party. All had not voted, but had an estimated probability of voting of at least 50 percent.

There were thousands upon thousands of names. Democrats need those voters to head to the polls on Election Day. As of 1 p.m., 4,000 more Republicans had cast a ballot than Democrats.

“That’s pretty normal,” said Pinellas County Democratic Party Chair Susan McGrath. “We’ll see a surge this evening when people start getting off work.”

Pinellas County Democratic volunteers phone bank on Election Day.

That optimism was universal.

“I feel really good,” Crist said.

He thinks Democrats will win back enough seats in Congress to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives. But he’s not sure if that will be by a landslide or a nudge.

“It’s just hard to say,” he said.

Crist’s seat is safe. He’s widely favored to defeat Republican George Buck for his Congressional District 13 seat. Cross, on the other hand, is facing a tough challenge against an incumbent who has outraised her by $1 million.

“I feel great,” Cross said, heading out the door to wave signs on the busy 66th Street near Tyrone Mall.

Outside, two teenagers saw the politicians coming and going, some carrying signs, all wearing campaign T-shirts. They asked some questions. A few minutes later they showed up with their dad.

“What time should I pick them up,” he asked.

His kids wanted to stay to phone bank.

Pinellas County election AM rush favored Republicans

Voter turnout in Pinellas County after the Election Day morning rush is favoring Republicans.

Democrats had a slight early turnout edge heading into Election Day, but Republicans stormed the polls a little hard than Democrats.

Total voter turnout as of 11:00 a.m. separated the two parties 134,000 to 131,000 with Republicans out performing at the polls so far 22,000 to 18,000.

Total voter turnout in the county is 51 percent — only 6 percent less than the entire election turnout in the 2014 midterm election.

Preliminary voting patterns show another potential kick to Democrats in their quest of a “blue wave.”

In 2014, 44 percent of no party affiliation voters and 56 percent of third party voters cast ballots. This year the two groups combined have turned out 38 percent of the vote, far lower than the overall county average.

Democrats were hoping for high turnout among independent voters who might vote blue as turmoil surrounds the Republican Party and President Donald Trump’s divisive White House.

Still progressives are fighting up until the last minute trying to turn out the vote. Pinellas County Democrats joined forces to cross campaign with Congressman Charlie Crist, Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw, Florida House District 69 candidate Jennifer Webb and Senate District 24 candidate Lindsay Cross.

Crist is pretty safe in his Congressional District 13 race, but Webb, Cross and Shaw are all running competitive races.

The campaigns are canvassing neighborhoods and looking for people who still have not voted. The message to many is simple: Vote like the election is up to you, because it is.

Mid-day turnout at the polls is typically low as voters spend their days working, but another surge is expected once people start getting off work. Candidates and their supporters are using the downtime to phone bank voters who still haven’t voted and walk as many neighborhoods as possible.

It’s not the party … it’s the after party! A rundown of where Tampa Bay-area candidates will be on election night

Political candidates spend months rallying volunteers, knocking on doors, hobnobbing with voters at public events and, of course, raising cash. Come Election Night they’re ready, win or lose, to cut loose and either get to work or get back to their families.

Whether the champagne is flowing or supporters are drowning disappointing election results at a cash bar with an arm full of finger foods, just about everyone will be somewhere.

Supporters can nab a piece of the action — and an hors-d’oeuvre or two — right along with their favorite candidate this November 6. Here’s where to find them.

Governor/U.S. Senate/Cabinet

Reform Party gubernatorial candidate Darcy Richardson will be hosting a private event to monitor results in Jacksonville with campaign staff and family. The Reform Party of Florida is hosting its watch party at the Holiday Inn on 8310 Galbraith Road in Tampa.

North Pinellas County Democratic Club — Benedict Family Restaurant, 2676 Causeway Plaza, Dunedin

Hillsborough County Republican Party — Due Amici Restaurant, 1724 E. 7th Ave., Ybor City

Sarasota GOP — Hyatt Regency Sarasota, 1000 Blvd. Of The Arts, Sarasota, 5:30-9

CD 13

Charlie Crist — The Avenue, 330 1st Ave S, St. Pete, 7-10

CD 15

Ross Spano — Beef O’Brady’s in Brandon, 210 S Kings Ave, Brandon

Kristen CarlsonThe Lakeland Room, 130 S Massachusetts Ave, Lakeland

Please RSVP to Robert Walters at robert@kristencarlsonforcongress.com

SD 16

Ed Hooper — Island Way Grill, 20 Island Way in Clearwater, 6-9 

More information is on his campaign Facebook page.

Amanda Murphy — Campaign office, 34931 US-19 N, Palm Harbor

SD 18

Janet Cruz — Grillsmith Restaurant, 14303 N Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa, doors open at 7

Dana Young 

SD 22

SD 24

Lindsay Cross — The Getaway, 13090 Gandy Blvd N in St. Pete, 6-8 

More information is on her campaign Facebook page.

Jeff Brandes — 400 Beach Seafood and Tap House, 400 Beach Dr. NE in downtown St. Pete, 6-8 

More information is on his campaign Facebook page.

HD 57, 58 and 59

Debbie Katt, Phil Hornback and Adam Hattersley, 11135 Winthrop Market St., Riverview

HD 63

Fentrice Driskell

HD 66

Nick Diceglie — Salt Rock Grill, 19325 Gulf Blvd, Indian Shores, 6-8

More information is on his campaign Facebook page.

Alex Heeren — West Bay Tap House, 80 Clearwater Largo Rd S, in Largo, 6-9 

More information is on his campaign Facebook page.

HD 69

Jennifer Webb — Peninsula Inn Gulfport, 2937 Beach Blvd S, Gulfport

Ray Blacklidge — Gator’s Cafe 12754 Kingfish Dr., Treasure Island, 5:30-9

Hillsborough County Commission District 7

Kimberly Overman, The C House, 6005 N. Florida Avenue, Tampa

Todd Marks, Catch 23, 10103 Montague St, Tampa

Hillsborough County Commission District 5

Mariella Smith, The Attic Cafe, 500 E Kennedy Blvd, Suite 400, Downtown Tampa

Hillsborough County Referendum No. 2

All For Transportation — not hosting a party, press availability after election results at campaign headquarters, 610 S Boulevard, Tampa

Pinellas County Commission District 6

Kathleen Peters — Middlegrounds, 10925 Gulf Blvd, Treasure Island, 6-8 

Amy Kedron — Is not making her event public due to security concerns raised against Tampa Bay Times reporter Mark Puente.

Pasco County Commission District 2

Mike Moore — Florida Hospital Center Ice, 3173 Cypress Ridge Blvd, Wesley Chapel, 6-9:30

The polls close at 7 p.m. For campaigns without a time listing, events will be held as polls close.

Amendment seeks to restore voting rights for 1.5M felons

More than 1.5 million adults in Florida are ineligible to vote because they have felony convictions. Voters rights’ groups are hoping that will change on Tuesday.

Known as the voting rights restoration initiative, constitutional Amendment 4 would fundamentally alter the way convicted felons participate in democracy.

If it passes, those with felony convictions will be able have voting rights restored automatically if they’ve completed their sentences, including parole and probation. It doesn’t apply to anyone convicted of murder or sexual assault. Supporters of the amendment say the current process to apply for restoration of those rights is prohibitively difficult and arbitrary.

The ballot measure needs 60 percent of the vote to pass. At the beginning of 2018, Floridians for a Fair Democracy collected more than 799,000 certified petition signatures, or about 33,000 more than the group needed to get the measure on the ballot.

Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, a Washington nonprofit that advocates sentencing reform, says Florida is “ground zero” for disenfranchised felons.

Of the 6.1 million disenfranchised felons in the U.S., about 1.7 million live in Florida — the most of any state, Mauer said. Only 12 states disenfranchise people for a felony conviction after they’ve served their sentence, he said.

“The numbers in Florida really dwarf any other state,” Mauer said.

The Florida ballot proposal has been championed by celebrities — singer John Legend held a community event in Orlando in October to highlight the issue. And it’s been the subject of several national news pieces.

Currently, felons in Florida can only regain voting ability if they apply to the state Office of Executive Clemency. The felon’s case is heard by the governor and his Cabinet, and sometimes, the person seeking restoration will go before the board and explain their situation, and how they have repented or been rehabilitated. Florida’s governor has a unilateral veto on the applications.

Shortly after taking office in 2007, then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist persuaded two of the state’s three Cabinet members to approve rules that would allow the parole commission to restore voting rights for nonviolent felons without a hearing. Within a year, more than 100,000 ex-felons were granted voting rights.

But Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet ended automatic restoration of voting rights as one of Scott’s first acts upon taking office in 2011.

Siottis Jackson, 30, of Jacksonville, is director of the North Florida chapter of Second Chances, a nonprofit group supporting Amendment 4. He’s been a political activist for years. In 2015, he was convicted of a felony fraud charge, meaning that he asks people to vote, but can’t vote himself.

“I work for candidates and I can’t vote for them,” he said. “I live in a community where a lot of people are affected by this.”

Jackson said that when people lose their right to vote, “they begin to lose their hope and their engagement in our democracy.”

“If there’s a streetlight out, they don’t complain. They feel their voice isn’t going to be heard. It reduces their interest in community pride. They say, ‘I don’t get involved, because I don’t have the right to vote.’”

Adding more than a million people to the state’s voter rolls could have broad implications in a state where elections are often won by a razor-thin margin. In 2016, President Donald Trump won Florida with less than 50 percent of the vote, defeating Hillary Clinton 49 percent to 47.8 percent, or 112,911 votes.

Separately, Florida’s process of restoring voting rights to felons is winding its way through an appeals court case. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled the state’s system is unconstitutional because it is arbitrary and open to having applications approved or rejected for political reasons. He ordered the state to revamp its system, but Scott’s administration appealed. The appellate court put Walker’s order on hold while it considers the case.

A spokesman for Scott has said that judges should interpret the law, not create it, and that the governor will “never stop fighting for victims of crime and their families.”

Marco Rubio, Lara Trump hitting trail for Ron DeSantis

Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio will spend Monday urging voters to support GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis at events across the state.

Lara Trump, President Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law, also will join the Republican leaders at multiple stops.

Rubio, a former state House Speaker, burst onto the national scene in 2010 with his first run for U.S. Senate, when he rallied conservatives and pushed then-Gov. Charlie Crist out of the Republican primary. Rubio went on to win the Senate seat and re-election in 2016.

Rubio starts the day rallying alongside DeSantis at Bobcat of Jacksonville at 8:30 a.m.

When Rubio won re-election in 2016, he took Duval County by nearly 60,000 votes over Democrat Patrick Murphy.  Republicans hope the second-term U.S. Senator will get voters as excited about the gubernatorial ticket this year.

Rubio and DeSantis then head to Freedom Pharmacy in Orlando to meet with supporters at 11 a.m..

The Republican officials then jet down to Vero Beach, where they will connect with Lara Trump and boost up voters at The Patio Seafood Tavern at 1:30 p.m.

Attendees of “Make America Great Again” rallies will know Lara Trump from video spots played throughout the events. She married Eric Trump, the president’s third oldest child, in 2014 at Mar-A-Lago. From 2012 through 2016, she worked as a story coordinator and producer on Inside Edition.

Lara Trump also joins Rubio and DeSantis at a Pinellas County rally at Quarter Steak & Lube in Clearwater at 4 p.m.

DeSantis and Rubio continue on to one more stop in Fort Walton, at AJ’s Oyster Shanty, at 7 p.m.

The relationship between Rubio and the Trump clan, of course, has been fraught with ups and downs.

Rubio also ran for President in 2016 against Trump in the primary, but dropped out of the race after Trump defeated Rubio here, in his home state of Florida.

After Trump won the White House, Rubio has been a conservative supporter on some issues and a critic on others, particularly regarding foreign relations.

But he and the Trump campaign both want to see the Governor’s Mansion — after eight years of term-limited GOP Gov. Rick Scott — keep a Republican occupant.

Safe this election, Charlie Crist hits the trail for other Democrats

Democratic Congressman Charlie Crist is looking at an easy re-election Tuesday against a less than formidable challenge from Republican George Buck.

That’s likely why he’s spending his time campaigning with other Democrats throughout the state to help them get elected.

Crist started his Saturday in Tampa near Ybor City making the rounds with Chris King, the Lieutenant Governor nominee running with Democrat Andrew Gillum.

Then he made his way through several different canvassing kickoffs in Pinellas County to support local Democrats.

“President Obama put it better than anybody: This election is about the character of America,” Crist said.

“Do we want to be uniters or dividers; do we want to be hopeful or fearful? I hear from a lot of people that are very concerned about the tone in our country right now and the rhetoric and the violence that we’ve sadly witnessed.”

Crist says he’s fed up with modern political discourse, particularly from President Donald Trump, that emphasizes vitriol and potentially promotes violence rather than unity.

The man accused of sending pipe bombs to more than a dozen prominent Democratic officials and supporters — including former President Barack Obama, 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and top Democratic donor George Soros — lived in South Florida and drove a white van plastered in pro-Trump stickers and propaganda.

Crist also mentioned the anti-Semitic shooter in Pittsburgh that shot up a Jewish synagogue, claiming the lives of 11 congregants.

“I think it makes a difference,” Crist said of the recent incidents. “Any significant event that touches your heart makes a difference. It’s not about politics, it’s about our character.”

Obama made that point in a Friday appearance in Miami supporting Gillum for Governor and incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate.

In a nod to Crist’s predecessor, former U.S. Rep. David Jolly who left the Republican Party and said he voted for Gillum, Obama said the two probably don’t see eye-to-eye on political issues.

But Jolly recognized the rhetoric coming from the Trump White House and couldn’t support Ron DeSantis, who closely aligns with and supports Trump.

More significantly, DeSantis was endorsed by the president, which almost certainly clinched the Republican nomination for Governor this August over otherwise GOP heir apparent Adam Putnam, the state’s term-limited Agriculture Commissioner. 

In addition to Gillum and Nelson, Crist also is urging voters to support Democrats in Florida cabinet races. That includes Sean Shaw for Attorney General and Nikki Fried for Agriculture Commissioner.

Those races and legislative runs are important for Democrats because if Gillum is elected, he’ll need allies in the House, Senate and on the Cabinet to support his campaign priorities.

One of the most notable is Gillum’s plan to raise teacher pay to at least $50,000, and better fund Florida’s public schools and its students.

If he ever needs help in Congress, he’ll likely have Crist’s ear, too. In a hint at his popularity, Crist – who unseated the one-termer Jolly 52 percent-48 percent in 2016 — raised more than $2 million for his first re-election bid. The Republican Buck only brought in just under $30,000, as of the end of September.

In a telling note, Crist also recently sent an email supporting Jacky Rosen, the Democratic nominee for Senate in Nevada.

“This is an important election and Florida is at the epicenter of it all,” Crist said.

“We are the largest swing state. What we do Tuesday is going to send a message to the rest of the country.”

The Last Weekend: Where will candidates scramble for votes in final stretch?

One more weekend.

The 2018 mid-terms come to a close in a matter of days, leaving candidates scrambling for votes. Here’s where candidates should be this weekend, though importantly, a tragedy in Tallahassee could change any number of political plans.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis will campaign in Lakeland alongside U.S. Agriculture Secretary and former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue. The Republican leaders plan to host a get-out-the-vote rally at Rocking H Ranch at 12:30 p.m.

And Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott, Florida’s governor, and DeSantis head to Pensacola this evening for the second “Make America Great Again” rally in a week alongside President Donald Trump. This event will take place at the Pensacola International Airport, where doors open at 3:30 p.m. and the rally expects to get going at 6:30 p.m. Both Republican Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody and Agriculture Commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell say they intend to be at the rally as well.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, meanwhile, also had a busy Saturday planned. Gillum is scheduled to host his own GOTV rally at the University of Central Florida alongside former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, former presidential senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and politically conscious rapper Common. The CFE Arena event is slated to kick off at 11 a.m.

Chris King, the Democratic Lieutenant Governor candidate, will headline a get-out-the-vote rally with Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Democratic Governors Association chairman, announced he would campaign today at Gillum’s field office in Miami at 9 a.m. and at an Aventura canvassing at 2:30 p.m.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Gillum will share a stage with legendary Florida musician Jimmy Buffett at the Meyer Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach at 2 p.m. Nelson touted a long-time friendship with the “Manatee Man” and Margaritaville founder, and this week Nelson gave the headline of a press release to Buffett over President Barack Obama, who campaigned with Nelson and Gillum on Friday.

Through the weekend, expect a final Souls To The Polls event come Sunday. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist will speak at one such event being held by the Pinellas County Urban League from noon to 5 p.m. at Demen’s Landing Park.

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