Dana Young Archives - Page 2 of 41 - Florida Politics

Marion Hammer files million-dollar lawsuit against alleged harassers

Veteran Florida-based National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer is seeking $1 million in damages, saying she was harassed and threatened by four men from across the country.

Hammer filed a lawsuit, including a motion for preliminary injunction, in federal court in Tallahassee on Friday. The case was first reported by the Tallahassee Democrat.

She described herself as “a 79-year-old grandmother and nationally renowned civil rights advocate who has spent the better part of her life protecting the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

Hammer is the “victim of cyberstalking, harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and intrusion upon seclusion under Florida statutory and common law,” her complaint says.

Her verified complaint says her troubles began after “the tragic shooting that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and continuing after the national debate over gun control took center stage.” A Feb. 14 mass shooting at the Parkland, Broward County high school left 14 students and three staff members dead.

She lobbied against the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act” eventually passed by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Rick Scott, billed as a “comprehensive approach to addressing issues (of) firearm and school safety, and community mental health resources.”

Hammer soon became “the target of a coordinated attack intended to humiliate, harass, and cause substantial emotional distress,” the complaint says.

“For example, Hammer received the same postcards from various individuals throughout the United States, often mailed from the same location,” it says. “In several instances, the content of the communications (including email and social media) Hammer received used the same specific terms and phrases, thus demonstrating direction and cooperation.”

The complaint includes a long list of vituperative messages she says she has received, most using epithets and foul language.

“Whenever she is in public she worries that the people who have been harassing her will confront her and that a confrontation could turn violent,” it adds. “… She adjusted her schedule and the places she eats with her family so that they are not predictable. Her entire family group does not go anywhere together any more.”

The named defendants “sought out Hammer’s e-mail address” and one sent her “graphic photos of gunshot victims, including an unidentified person in a hospital bed with gaping leg wounds, and a photo of President John F. Kennedy’s head after he was assassinated.”

Others consisted of “indirect and/or direct threats accompanied by humiliating and abusive personal attacks.”

Hammer said she’s not alone, mentioning Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi being recently “confronted and harassed by protestors” coming out of a theater in Tampa where she had watched a Mr. Rogers documentary, and state Sen. Dana Young, a Tampa Republican, being yelled at that she had “blood on her hands” and called a “killer” and “murderer.”

She seeks an court order forbidding further communication to her from the defendants, calling it “beyond all bounds of decency” and “odious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.”

“Harassment is not speech: It is wrongful conduct that may take the form of speech,” the complaint says. “Consequently, it can be enjoined without running afoul of the First Amendment.”

She’s represented by attorney Shane B. Vogt of Tampa.

Updated at 6:15 p.m. — The News Service of Florida reports a similar second lawsuit was filed later in the day by Hammer in Leon County Circuit Civil court against Brian Fitzgerald, identified as a 66-year-old resident of Miami-Dade County.

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FMA PAC prescribes another term for Dana Young

The political branch of the Florida Medical Association has endorsed Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young for re-election in Senate District 18.

“The FMA PAC is proud to endorse Senator Dana Young in her re-election bid in Senate District 18. Senator Young is a true friend of medicine and her leadership in both the House and Senate throughout her distinguished legislative career has proven her steadfast support of our issues,” said Dr. Mike Patete, president of FMA PAC.

The FMA endorsement is Young’s third big get of the week. On Monday, she landed the support of the Florida Realtors PAC, and on Tuesday she snagged her fifth police union endorsement, this time from the Florida State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police.

“Thank you to the Florida Medical Association for their endorsement and for their resolute guidance in enabling physicians to serve their communities and deliver compassionate patient care across the great state of Florida. I look forward to our continued partnership in improving patient care and controlling escalating costs for patients,” Young said in a press release.

Young is facing possibly the toughest re-election battle in the Senate this year. Her district is No. 1 on the Florida Democratic Party’s priority list and is the only one out of FDP’s six targets (now five with the exit of CarriePilon in SD 24) that went for Hillary Clinton two years ago.

Young is up against House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in November, and recent polls show the pair in a dead heatwith Cruz holding a slim edge.

In fundraising, however, Young is far outperforming her challenger.

She had $309,000 in hard money at last check-in. Her committee, Friends of Dana Young, which must file reports more frequently than her campaign, brought in another $77,000 in the last week of June and has $1.05 at the ready. That gives her a total stockpile of $1.36 million.

Cruz has about $140,000 in hard money, much of it raised for her now-defunct Hillsborough County Commission bid, with another $256,000 in her political committee, Building the Bay PC, for an on-hand total of about $396,000.

The next round of campaign finance reports for state legislative races, covering June 23 through July 6, are due Friday.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Dana Young

Police union backs Dana Young for re-election

Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young announced Tuesday that she’d locked up the support of the Florida State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police in her campaign for a second term in Senate District 18.

“We believe in Senator Young and have voted her the 2018 Senator of The Year, there is no doubt that she will continue to serve her community and her constituents fairly, with a focus on safety and prosperity,” said FOP President Bobby Jenkins.

“The Fraternal Order of Police have worked hand and hand with Senator Young and have given her our continued faith in her dedication to her community and to the men and women of law enforcement.”

The Florida FOP joins the Florida Police Benevolent Association and the Tampa, West Central Florida and Suncoast chapters of the PBA to become the fifth police union to announce its support for Young, who is being challenged by House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in the fall.

“I sincerely thank the FOP for their endorsement and am grateful for their support of my campaign,” Young said. “Every day, our law enforcement puts their lives on the line to ensure Floridians remain safe – my appreciation for the work they do cannot be put into words.”

“As an advocate for our law enforcement, I have fought to protect our men and women in blue, and I look forward to the opportunity to continue to advocate for our Tampa and Florida law enforcement community,” said Senator Young.

SD 18 is a top target for Florida Democrats in 2018. It is the only Senate district on FDP’s priority list that voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election and Cruz is by far the best-known recruit the party has pulled to challenge a sitting Republican senator.

Recent polls of the race show the two lawmakers in a tight race, with a slight advantage for Cruz.

Where Young holds an unquestionable edge is the money race. As of June 22, the Tampa Republican had $309,000 banked for her campaign account. She also tacked on another $77,000 in the last week of June for her political committee, Friends of Dana Young, which now has $1.05 million on hand.

Cruz, meanwhile, has about $139,231 in hard money and another $256,583 in her political committee, Building the Bay PC, for an on-hand total of nearly $396,000.

They are the only two candidates in the race. The general election is Nov. 6.

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

Wilton Simpson puts another $500K into GOP Senate campaign arm

Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson gave his colleagues a helping hand last month by sending another $500,000 to the main committee supporting Republican state Senate campaigns.

Simpson, who is in line to become Senate President if Republicans maintain their majority in the chamber through the 2020 elections, sent that money to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee from his Jobs for Florida political committee.

The Trilby Senator has now pumped nearly $1.4 million into the FRSCC since he opened his political committee, including $835,000 in contributions during the current election cycle.

While Simpson is known as a prolific fundraiser — he’s raised $1.5 million through his committee this year — the funds transfer is more significant as a window into FRSCC’s finances.

There’s no reason to believe FRSCC has seen a drop off in fundraising.

Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano has been in charge raising money for the committee since last year, and through March 31 he had helped reel in $7 million for the committee, including a record-breaking haul in the third quarter of 2017.

But unlike candidates for office, who saw their schedule of finance reporting deadlines ratchet up after qualifying period for state races ended on June 22, party affiliated committees such as the FRSCC won’t file their next reports until Aug. 24. That leaves a months long gap in finances heading into an election that could shake up the balance of power in the Florida Senate.

Piecing together expenditure data from other political committees shows FRSCC has raised at least $1.5 million since April 1. Simpson’s contributions are by far the largest based on available data, however there are a handful of other donors who have hit the six-figure mark over the last three months.

Those include The Florida Chamber of Commerce, which has given $195,000 between its Florida Jobs and Florida Chamber of Commerce Alliance committees; Floridians for a Stronger Democracy, a political committee tied to the Associated Industries of Florida, which has given $190,000; the Florida Medical Association PAC has sent over $150,000; and Fleming Island Sen. Rob Bradley has chipped in $100,000 through his Working for Florida’s Families committee.

How much FRSCC has spent is even murkier. Republican Senate candidates have reported receiving $191,261 worth of “in-kind” support from the group since the start of April, including $85,000 apiece to the campaigns of Gainesville Sen. Keith Perry and Tampa Sen. Dana Young, who are the two most vulnerable Senate Republicans up for re-election in 2018.

janet cruz

Janet Cruz raises $61K, refunds $10K in June

House Minority Leader Janet Cruz brought in about $61,000 between her campaign and committee accounts during the first three weeks of June but had to refund nearly $10,000 in contributions she received before jumping into the Senate District 18 race.

Cruz raised just over $31,000 for her campaign account and another $30,000 for her political committee, Building the Bay PC, during the reporting period ending June 22. Those contributions were offset by about $2,500 in spending and a further $9,300 in refunded contributions.

Before Cruz filed for SD 18 in mid-April, she was a candidate for the District 1 seat on the Hillsborough County Commission. She raised nearly $66,000 for the campaign before quitting and moving about $63,000 in unspent funds to her Senate campaign.

Those refunds are due to a state campaign finance law that requires candidates to offer prorated refunds to their donors if they switch from one race to another. Since filing for SD 18, 13 donors have asked Cruz for their money back, a dozen of them in June.

Donors receiving a refund include AT&T Florida, Dean Cannon, Capital Insight, the Palm Beach Kennel Club, Pressman & Associates, Southern Strategy Group, and SSG lobbyists Seth McKeel and Laura Boehmer, many of whom have donated to Republican Sen. Dana Young, the incumbent Cruz is looking to unseat in the fall.

Cruz had raised $416,000 as of June 22, with just over $390,000 in the bank. Young, who has been raising money for her re-election bid since December 2016, has $1.28 million on hand between her campaign and political committee, Friends of Dana Young. She raised about $88,000 between June 1 and June 22.

A fresh poll shows Cruz and Young in a tight race, with Cruz holding a 44-43 percent advantage. That falls well within the poll’s margin of error.

Cruz and Young are the only two candidates in the race. The election is Nov. 6.

Dana Young

Florida Retailers back Dana Young for SD 18

On Monday, the Florida Retail Federation endorsed Republican Sen. Dana Young for a second term in Tampa-based Senate District 18.

“Senator Young has supported and sponsored legislation that has helped to modernize the retail industry in Florida,” said FRF President/CEO R. Scott Shalley. “We’re proud to support her campaign and look forward to working with her on additional ways to help Sunshine State retailers in her return to the Senate.”

The retail trade group also said Young “has worked tirelessly to pass legislation aimed at creating an exceptional business climate and a world-class quality of life for Floridians.”

This year, Young’s seat is a major target for Florida Democrats, who have recruited exiting House Minority Leader Janet Cruz to run against her. Neither Young nor Cruz faces a primary challenger in the 2018 race.

Of the half-dozen Senate districts Democrats are targeting this year, SD 18 is the only one to have voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

Young was elected to the Senate in 2016 after taking 48 percent of the vote compared to 41 percent for 2016 Democratic nominee and one-time 2018 candidate Bob Buesing. The remaining ballots were split between businessman Joe Redner and no-party candidate Sheldon Upthegrove.

A fresh poll shows Cruz and Young in a tight race, with Cruz holding a 44-43 percent advantage. That falls well within the poll’s margin of error.

Through June 22, Young led the money race with nearly $1.3 million on hand between her campaign and political committee, Friends of Dana Young. Through the same date, Cruz had about $390,000 on hand between her campaign and political committee, Building The Bay PC.

The election is Nov. 6.

Fresh polling: Jeff Brandes, Janet Cruz lead in battleground state Senate seats; Ed Hooper, Amanda Murphy deadlocked.

Poll numbers in two battleground state Senate seats have shifted significantly since last month, while a third race remains essentially deadlocked.

In SD 16, the seat previously held by Jack Latvala, Republican Ed Hooper and Democrat Amanda Murphy remain deadlocked, with Hooper at 45 percent and Murphy at 43 percent. The good news here for the GOP is that this race has shifted ever so slightly to Hooper.

At last check-in, Murphy led by less than a point. Murphy’s May lead and Hooper’s late June one fall well within St. Pete Polls’ margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Like the previous poll, one in eight voters in the northern Pinellas and southwest Pasco district remains undecided. The shift over the past month came from Republican and Democratic voters coalescing around their party’s candidate — Hooper received 72 percent support from Republicans and 15 percent support from Democrats; Murphy received 74 percent support from Democrats and 15 percent support from Republicans.

Unaffiliated and third-party voters, who make up 30 percent of the SD 16 electorate, went plus-7 for Murphy with 14 percent undecided. White voters also favored Hooper, 47-42 percent, while Murphy carried minority voters by a substantial margin, though non-white, non-Hispanic voters only make up about 15 percent of the SD 16 electorate according to the district’s demographic profile.

Hooper holds a 5-point lead among men, while he and Murphy are tied among women. Voters aged 18 to 29 prefer Murphy by 4 points; the 30 to 49 years old bracket went for Hooper by 8 points; those aged 50 to 69 swung back toward Murphy, 45-43 percent; and voters over 70 went plus-6 for Hooper.

In SD 18, incumbent Republican Dana Young now trails Democrat Janet Cruz by a point after entering the candidate qualifying period with a nine-point lead. Of significance, since we last polled, Cruz clarified how her name will appear on the ballot, dropping her second last name, “Rifkin.”

The bounce back was expected for Cruz, who pulled just 62 percent support from Democratic voters in the May poll. The new results show an 8-point bump from her base, while Young saw her support among likely GOP voters dip from 75 percent to 72 percent.

Voters who are not a member of one of the major parties supported Cruz by a hefty 15-point margin. A month ago, those same voters gave Young a slim advantage. The poll also shows Young with a 2-point advantage among men, while Cruz holds a 3-point lead among women.

White voters still preferred Young, though the 46-43 percent split is a massive improvement for Cruz, who trailed by 15 points in the May poll. Cruz holds a near 50-point advantage among black voters, though she trails by 10 points among Hispanic voters, who make up 30 percent of SD 18’s electorate.

Cruz leads among younger voters 49-41 percent; Gen Xers favor Young 46-42 percent; the 50- to 69-year-old bracket went plus-4 for Cruz, 46-42 percent; and those 70 and up slightly favor Young, 43-41 percent.

Over in SD 24, incumbent Republican Jeff Brandes is still ahead of trial lawyer Carrie Pilon46 percent to 41 percent, which is down from the nine-point lead he held at the end of May, but still outside the margin of error.

Much like the poll SD 18, much of the change came from Pilon’s increased support among Democratic voters. She pulls 69 percent support from Democrats in the new poll, compared to 65 percent a month ago. Brandes, like Young, also saw a slight dip in GOP support.

The St. Pete Republican leads by 6 points among white voters, down from 12 points last month. He also saw his leads slip in three age groups, most notably among voters under 30, who prefer him 46-42 compared to the 59-26 margin he enjoyed in the previous poll. Voters aged 50 to 69 flipped from plus-2 Brandes to plus-3 Pilon, while older voters went from plus-22 Brandes to plus-6 Brandes.

His lead among 30- to 49-year-old voters, however, expanded to 52-35.

All three robopolls were conducted over this past weekend and only include responses from those voters who said they intend to vote in the November elections.

The races for Senate Districts 16, 18, and 24 will likely decide the course, if not control, of the Florida Senate as the Democrats have identified the three seats as a package of five to six they are targeting in the 2018 election cycle, the others being Gainesville-based SD 8, Lakeland-based SD 22 and Miami-Dade-based SD 36.

Republicans currently hold a 23-16 advantage in the Florida Senate, with SD 16 currently vacant.

Florida Democrats say ‘no GOP seat is safe’ in 2018

A record number Democratic candidates qualified for state races this week, and the Florida Democratic Party said now it’s time to prepare for the “Blue Wave.”

“From the Gubernatorial race, to State House and Senate, to county commissioners and mayors, we have the most qualified, committed, and exciting group of candidates we have ever seen,” said FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo.

“We have a record number of people who have stepped up to run, and what this shows us is that no GOP seat is safe. After nearly 20-years of all-Republican rule, Floridians are fed-up with economic policies that don’t benefit working families, they are tired of their children’s education being shortchanged, and they are tired of leaders who have failed to take action on everything from gun violence prevention to climate change.”

Rizzo also touted a record-breaking 82 Democratic women making the ballot for state legislative races.

“Women will be the difference in 2018, I do truly believe that. They are instrumental to the success of the Democratic Party, and they feel more empowered than ever to take their future into their own hands by running for office,” she said.

It’s too early to tell whether Democrats can crack the GOP’s hold on state government by flipping the Governor’s Mansion, or possibly even the state Senate, but now that the title cards are set it’s clear heretofore underdogs’ strategy is more reminiscent of Rocky than Glass Joe.

Republicans currently hold a 23-16 advantage in Florida Senate, with one vacancy. Democrats plan to take the chamber back has been clear for months — flip Tampa Bay and field fresh, credible challengers in Gainesville-based SD 8, Lakeland-based SD 22 and Miami-Dade-based SD 36. Win five, win the Senate.

On the Tampa Bay front, Democrats have recruited House Minority Leader Janet Cruz to challenge Republican Sen. Dana Young in SD 18; former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy to take on former Republican Rep. Ed Hooper in SD 16, and trial attorney Carrie Pilon to challenge St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes in SD 24. None of those races will be easy, but the 2018 crop of candidates is certainly more competitive than in 2016.

In SD 8, the party likes its odds with Kayser Enneking, and she’s done her part by pulling in a respectable amount of cash for her campaign. Incumbent Republican Sen. Keith Perry still leads her in fundraising, but not by near the margin found in the Tampa races.

The fundraising gap and Republican lean is more significant in SD 22, where former circuit court judge Bob Doyel is challenging Lakeland Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel. He’s a much more formidable opponent however than the 2016 Democratic nominee, Debra Wright, who to her credit still came within 7 points despite being outspent 20-to-1.

Time will tell on David Perez’ bid against Republican Rep. Manny Diaz in SD 36. Diaz is a popular and very well-funded, and Perez has only been in the race for a couple of weeks.

While the Senate roadmap is known, Florida Democrats have been less direct about their overall strategy to chip away at the GOP’s sizable majority in the House.

Republicans currently have a stranglehold on the chamber, which is split 76-41 with three vacancies. Two of those empty seats are Republican locks, and the third was a gimme for Democrats — congrats to Boynton Beach Democrat Joseph Casello, who was elected to HD 90 without opposition Friday.

At 42 seats, the party is still a dozen from the number that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and in 2018 the strategy in the lower chamber reflects a familiar adage: “You must be present to win.”

To that end, Democrats are fielding a candidate in over 100 districts, a marked increase from the 63 Democrats who took a shot in 2016. And it’s not all quantity over quality — a cursory glance the 95 House races that weren’t decided Friday jogs the memory on some of the strong candidates running under the Democratic Party banner.

In Orlando’s HD 47, Anna Eskamani has strong odds to flip the seat vacated by Republican Rep. Mike Miller. In Broward-based HD 93, Emma Collum has a genuine chance to succeed term-limited Republican Rep. George Moraitis. And in perennial target HD 63, Fentrice Driskell is raising cash and landing endorsements as she aims to unseat Tampa Republican Rep. Shawn Harrison.

Even in some districts previously thought of as moonshots, some real-deal candidates have shown up and gotten to work. In Sarasota’s HD 74, for instance, Tony Mowry is confident he can hand James Buchanan his second defeat of the year in a traditionally Republican seat. Tracye Polson is matching her GOP opponents in fundraising in her bid to flip HD 15, the seat vacated by Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jay Fant.

janet cruz

Florida AFL-CIO backs Janet Cruz for SD 18

Representing more than 500 labor unions and 1 million Florida workers, the Florida AFL-CIO announced Thursday it’s backing House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in her bid to unseat incumbent Republican Dana Young in Senate District 18.

“We need a fighter for workers in Tallahassee — to lower health care costs, raise wages, and make sure the hardworking people of Florida are respected, safe, and prospering,” said Florida AFL-CIO President Mike Williams. “Leader Cruz is our champion because she’s lived it — having been a single working mom trying to keep the lights on, food on the table, and to get ahead for herself and her children.”

The nod comes a few weeks after the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teacher union, endorsed Cruz in the battleground race for the Tampa-based seat.

“I’m honored to stand with the working people of the Florida AFL-CIO,” Cruz said. “I will fight every day to make sure workers have a voice in Tallahassee — a voice that speaks louder than special interests making health care less affordable, our schools less safe and less funded, and wages less than they should be. Together, we are going to flip this seat and put workers first.”

Cruz and Young are currently the only candidates running for SD 18. Florida Democrats see the contest, as well as the races for SD 8, SD 16 and SD 24, as key to their chances of forcing a tie in the state Senate. Republicans currently hold a seven-seat advantage in the chamber, with one vacancy.

SD 18 is the only one of those four Senate battlegrounds that voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. Young was first elected to the seat in 2016 with about 48 percent of the vote.

Cruz has been a member of the Florida House since 2010. After initially filing for a Hillsborough County Commission seat, she announced in mid-April that she would challenge Young in fall. Shortly after that announcement, 2016 Democratic nominee Bob Buesing exited the race to clear the way for Cruz in the primary.

Through the end of May, Young had a massive lead in the fundraising race with more than $1.2 million in the bank compared to Cruz’ on hand tally of about $341,000.

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