David Jolly Archives - Page 2 of 63 - Florida Politics

If David Jolly runs again in 2018, would rank-and-file Republicans support him?

Unless you’ve been boycotting cable news, former Pinellas County GOP Congressman David Jolly has been a ubiquitous presence, thanks to his unflinching takedowns on Donald Trump, the titular head of the Republican Party.

“Donald Trump is done,” Jolly opined on “11th Hour with Brian Williams” last month after the Justice Department named Robert Mueller as the special counsel to oversee the investigation into ties between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.

While that independence from GOP orthodoxy makes the former lawmaker a desired quantity on MSNBC and CNN, the feelings among some rock-ribbed Republicans toward him aren’t nearly so warm and fuzzy.

That independence has led some observers to believe that Jolly is done for the time being for politics, but the former aide to longtime Congressman Bill Young said this week that the idea of running again in Florida’s 13th Congressional District is something that is “actively under consideration.”

Any decision won’t come until next January, however, when he says he’ll have a better idea on when can take the temperature of the “macro political environment.”

“But I’m also not convinced that Charlie (Crist) runs for re-election,” he says. “I think there’s a lot that can change between now and ’18 and so it’s still something under active consideration.”

Kevin Cate, a spokesperson for the Crist campaign, declined to comment.

Susan McGrath, the chair of the Pinellas County Democratic Executive Committee, often takes to her Facebook page to disparage Jolly after he appears on the cable networks criticizing the president.

“David Jolly is the consummate example of a politician that wants to portray himself as something he’s not in order to fool the voters of CD 13 so that he can try to win back his old seat,” she told FloridaPolitics.com in an email.

McGrath continued: “He had no issues with the Republican Party when he ran in a district that had a Republican advantage. He may try to run from the Republican Party and Donald Trump, but the fact is he lobbied for the privatization of Social Security, lobbied in support of offshore drilling, dismissed his vote to deny additional VA funding as ‘a procedural vote’ and for ‘bricks and mortar’ and sponsored legislation to defund Planned Parenthood and on and on. To present himself as moderate is simply not honest. His record speaks for itself.”

Jolly counters by pointing out he was for same-sex marriage and radical campaign finance reform well before CD 13 was reconfigured from a swing seat to a what is now a very Democratic-leaning district.

While the Pinellas Democratic chair is commenting on Jolly, her GOP counterpart is not.

Republican Executive Committee Chair Nick DiCeglie initially told FloridaPolitics.com he would answer the question of what Pinellas Republicans think of Jolly, but ultimately chose not to respond to further inquiries on the matter.

Another prominent Republican official in Pinellas would also not comment publicly on Jolly, but when promised anonymity, said he didn’t see a path for Jolly in the district.

“If your intention is to rally around the base, that’s not the way to do it,” the official said. “He must be trying to rally the independents, but I don’t know if there’s enough runway there for him to take off.”

“I appreciate his honesty and candor if he wants to have a career as a pundit or something,” he added. “But as far as trying to get people to rally behind you, that’s certainly not the way to go.”

Adding to the issue is while some Republicans feel personally ambivalent about Trump, they will still rally around the president when attacked by Democrats and (they say) the liberal media.

“In my observations, he alienated Trump Supporters and Second Amendment supporters before his failed election,” says Dan Tucker, a Pinellas County Republican State Committeeman.

“However, I like David as a person but what I understand from Republican Club members who are typically an older ‘die-hard conservative’ crowd, is that they feel he has lost it while some are openly hostile toward him and feel betrayed,” Tucker says. “I consider him a ‘Never Trumper’ and vying for Joe Scarborough’s job as a Progressive Republican.”

For George Hudak, a GOP political consultant from Palm Harbor who often works with Republicans in New York, the bigger question is will Democrats support a moderate Republican like Jolly over Crist.

“I think David is a truth speaker, he stands up for what he feels is right,” he says, referring to his fight against the National Republican Campaign Committee which resulted in that group opting not to help fund him in such a competitive election in 2016. “David has a lot of integrity; he and Laura are still loved by many Pinellas Republicans.”

Anthony Pedicini believes it doesn’t really matter who is the GOP candidate in CD 13.

“I do not think a Republican can beat Charlie Crist in the district as it is currently configured,” says the GOP political consultant.

Jolly lost to Crist in 2016 by 3.4 percentage points. That was without any financial help from the National Republican Campaign Committee, who essentially wrote him off after a dispute regarding the commitments made.

Paraphrasing John Kasich, Jolly says he also gets the right to define Republicanism in the 21st-century: “In many ways, I’m fighting for the future of the GOP and fighting for our brand, if you will.”

“The clearest strategy for 2018, if my only interest was running for re-election, would be to keep my mouth shut,” Jolly says. “I mean every consultant on the left and right would tell you — keep your mouth shut, raise money, keep your head down, and then we’ll figure out how to deploy campaign resources three months out — so that is the strategy.”

“If I was just worried about strategy, but I’m not. I’m calling balls and strike, and see what the field looks like next year, but there’s a good chance I’ll be on the ballot, and I will not have the full support of Republicans, nor will I bring over progressive Democrats who disagree with me on policy, but I do think we can put together a majority of Republicans, independents and Democrats and hopefully do what I was trying to do last cycle, which was to truly change politics. “

With all that, Jolly still says he is a “long way” from making a decision.

 

David Jolly still appearing on Bill Maher’s show Friday; says Al Franken should too

David Jolly fully intends to appear on “Real Time with Bill Maher” Friday night, as do previously scheduled guests Ice Cube and Symone Sanders, the former national press secretary for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

This despite the controversy circling around the comedian, who used the N-word during his show last Friday night, prompting widespread condemnation and calls for HBO to oust him from the gig.

As it stands now, the only previously scheduled guest on the comic’s weekly program who won’t appear is U.S. Sen. Al Franken; Jolly says the Minnesota Democrat is making a mistake blowing off the program.

“Frankly, if Franken had such convictions, then the opportunity was for him to go on the show and to speak to it, not run away and hide from it,” says the former Republican congressman, whose unabashed criticism of President Donald Trump has made him a favorite this year for CNN and MSNBC bookers.

Scheduled to replace Franken is academic and author Michael Eric Dyson. In a statement issued over the weekend, Dyson, who is black, came to Maher’s defense after the comedian used what is perhaps the most toxic word in the English language.

“[Maher] has bravely, and relentlessly, pilloried racism, white privilege, and white indifference to the black plight,” Dyson wrote on Twitter. “In short, he has used his platform to highlight black faces, and amplify black voices, that might otherwise have never been given such a prominent perch to tell their truths.”

Maher subsequently issued an apology, and the next day HBO called the comment “completely inexcusable and tasteless” as well as “deeply offensive.”

The cable network also announced it removed the offensive phrase from “any subsequent airings of the show.”

In the wake of the controversy, some analysts think D.C. lawmakers — who have enjoyed getting a dose of Hollywood cool by appearing on the show — may now think twice about accepting an offer to appear. This year alone, ‘Real Time’ featured politicos like Elizabeth Warren, Darrell Issa and (now most notoriously) Nebraska Sen Ben Sasse, who took some incoming fire for failing to call Maher out for using a racial epithet in replying to Sasse’s invitation to come to Nebraska.

The Hollywood Reporter quoted one public relations professional Tuesday saying that while “commentators will still be interested in the platform, (but) elected officials will be less interested. They have more at stake — they’re associated with the language used on the program.”

Jolly dismisses the idea that if he were still in Congress he’d bow out, a la Franken.

“I’m open to just as much criticism now, just because I speak publicly to hard issues,” he says. “The safest place for a politician to be is silent, and to hide from controversy. That’s not just Franken, that’s the DNA of most politicians.”

Having said that, Jolly admits to having some “trepidation” about doing the show in a way that he didn’t a week ago.

“I did some soul-searching in the days following Friday night,” he adds, “but it wouldn’t be true to my character to shy away from controversy or hard issues.”

Jolly says he has “no idea” what might transpire differently Friday night than the usual formula for the hourlong live program.

“Nobody condones what he said. Certainly I don’t. I’m as curious as the rest of the country in seeing how he handles Friday night. I don’t have any advance knowledge.”

A number of black commentators have said Maher’s comment was offensive, but they don’t think he should be fired. Despite that, there have been many calls for HBO to can him, including one from NPR’s Eric Deggans.

As Deggans wrote earlier this week: “It’s evidence of a pattern — one that HBO now needs to decide whether it wants to continue to be associated with, especially for a channel where 22 percent of its viewership comes from black people.”

Vern Buchanan’s ‘Thin Blue Line’ Act passes House, toughens penalty on cop killers

Sarasota Republican Vern Buchanan‘s legislation to toughen penalties against cop killers has passed the House.

The “Thin Blue Line Act” would make the murder or attempted murder of a police officer, firefighter or other first responders an “aggravating” factor in death penalty determinations.

The bill, approved by the House in a 271-143 vote, now goes to the Senate for a vote.

“America’s police officers and first responders are the first ones on-scene to help those in harm’s way,” Buchanan said. “These brave men and women and their families put it all on the line and deserve our unwavering support. Getting this bill signed into law will protect those who serve our communities and send a clear message: targeting or killing our first responders will not be tolerated.”

The bill was introduced in the last session of Congress by then-Rep. David Jolly of Pinellas County, who lost his bid for re-election last November.

There have been 50 line-of-duty deaths so far this year, a 39 percent spike from this time in 2016, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

That increase comes on top of last year’s jump in ambush-style killings of law enforcement officers, which spiked 167 percent compared to 2015, according to the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO).

More than a dozen state and national first responder organizations back Buchanan’s bill, including NAPO, National Fraternal Order of Police, Major Counties Sheriffs of America, American Federation of Government Employees and others.

The Thin Blue Line Act would be applicable whether the person is murdered on duty, because of the performance of their duty, or because of their status as a public official. It covers federal, state and local police officers, firefighters and first responders.

The only requirement is that the homicide involves federal jurisdiction, such as the interstate homicide of an officer, or an officer killed on federal land, or while serving as part of a joint task force.

Charlie Crist finds footing in Congress, raises record $717K in 1st quarter

Charlie Crist is reporting more than $717,000 raised in the first quarter of 2017, a record-breaking amount for any freshman lawmaker during the first months in office.

“I’m humbled by this historic outpouring of early support and honored that so many people are rallying behind the people of Pinellas County,” Crist said in a statement. “This is a part of the country that believes in bipartisanship and making sure Washington is accountable to the people. I’m doing everything I can to amplify that sentiment.”

Crist now has $672,083 cash-on-hand.

In his first few weeks in Washington, the St. Petersburg Democrat stumbled out of the gate, including missing a vote condemning a UN Security Council resolution aimed at Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

But he’s since found his footing, and won raves from his constituents after hosting a four-hour town hall meeting in St. Petersburg last month.

He’s also held a number of fundraisers in his short time in office.

But raising more than three-quarters of a million dollars in a non-election year is definitely an achievement for any congressional incumbent, much less one in just his first three months of his term in office.

In that respect, Crist is the antithesis of the man he vanquished in the Congressional District 13 race last fall, David Jolly.

Jolly was not known to enjoy fundraising and wasn’t considered very good at it. One of his signature pieces of legislation he proposed during his time in Congress was the STOP Act, which would have banned federal office holders (like Crist) from raising money in office.

While the bill received plenty of media attention, it went nowhere in the House of Representatives.

Here’s where sh*t stands in Tampa Bay politics — the ‘this place is the best’ edition

Besides, maybe, New York City or Washington, D.C., there really is no better place from which to write about politics than Tampa Bay.

One reason is that there are so many competitive congressional and legislative seats in the region. And what’s spent to win those seats is oftentimes as much as the amount spent to win other state’s U.S. Senate seats. These seats are competitive because Hillsborough and Pinellas remain “purple” seats in an era when more and more counties throughout the country move to becoming single-party geographic enclaves.

According to a must-read article from FiveThirtyEight.com which was highlighted by the Tampa Bay Times John Romano, “of the 50 counties that had the most voters at the polls in November, Pinellas had the closest election results in America. It was 48.6 percent for Trump and 47.5 for Clinton. That’s a 1.1 percent swing. Hillsborough County was 51.5 for Clinton and 44.7 for Trump, a 6.8 percent swing.”

It’s razor-thin margins like this that have made and will make Tampa Bay the center of the universe during the 2018 election cycle.

It’s also why a Democrat like Bob Buesing is considering a rematch against Dana Young, even though Republicans traditionally turn out at a better clip than they do during presidential election cycles.

It’s why there’s no battleground more interesting to write about than Tampa Bay. Here’s where sh*t stands.

Hillsborough County teacher Jessica Harrington, a self-described progressive Democrat, is exploring a run in 2018 against Tampa Republican James “Jamie” Grant in House District 64.

In an announcement Tuesday on WFLA News Radio 970, Harrington said she is turning her attention toward Tallahassee. As a member of the Florida Democratic Progressive Caucus, Harrington initially considered running for Congress against U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis in Florida’s 12th Congressional District.

Harrington changed her mind after a trip to Tallahassee to drop off letters to lawmakers on education funding.

“I realized that no one really knows me … nationally,” Harrington told WFLA’s AM Tampa Bay. “But a lot of people know me locally.”

Harrington’s primary focus will be public schools, which he says are inadequately funded and overcrowded, something she blames on budget cuts in the early years of Gov. Scott. She is also “greatly offended” by the selection of Betsy DeVos as President Donald Trump’s secretary of education.

Something you rarely see in Pinellas politics is a genuinely competitive Republican primary for a state legislative seat. Even when there is a primary, it’s typically a David-and-Goliath situation, i.e. Jim Frishe vs. Jeff Brandes, where the eventual winner was never in doubt.

However, the scrum shaping up in House District 66, where Rep. Larry Ahern is term-limited from running again, is already developing into an elbows-out contest.

Former state prosecutor Berny Jacques jumped into the race first and has already earned an the endorsement of the young Republicans organization he recently led. Not soon afterwards Pinellas GOP chairman Nick DiCeglie made it clear he intends to run for the seat.

Now this internecine battle threatens to split the local party.

On one side, backing Jacques, is former U.S. Rep. David Jolly. On the other is, well, pretty much the rest of the establishment.

Well, except for the host of young lawyers who agreed to be on the host committee for Jacques’ kickoff party this Thursday.

Of particular note are the names of Jim Holton and Paul Jallo on the host committee. Those are two of the heaviest hitters in local fundraising circles.

Patrick Manteiga notes that Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White raised $55,750 from his re-election kickoff campaign event held last week at the Columbia Restaurant.

Rick Kriseman‘s re-election campaign will be managed by Jacob Smith, a South Florida native who began his political career as a volunteer for Barack Obama‘s first campaign in 2008. In 2012, he joined Obama’s re-election campaign in Southwest Florida.

Smith was the field director for Kriseman’s 2013 campaign.

Look for an announcement from the Kriseman camp soon.

Madeira Beach City Manager Shane Crawford and Treasure Island City Manager Reid Silverboard could be looking at pink slips after voters elected five new commissioners in their towns last week.

Crawford, whose city elected three new commissioners, said he believes he will be terminated, while Silverboard said he is ready to offer his resignation.

Candidates running against major redevelopment projects won big last week, leaving both men wondering if they will have a job in the near future.

“From what I’ve learned is they’re going to terminate my employment when they’re sworn in on April 11,” Crawford said. “I’m a little miffed. I gave a lot to the city.”

Silverboard said he was going to offer his resignation when commissioners take the oath Tuesday.

“I believe that the City Commission is ready for a change in the Administration of the City to lead the organization,” Silverboard said. “It will be in both of our best interest to reach a mutually agreeable severance agreement.”

Anthony Weiss, a backer of the “Stop Tall Buildings” group, said he thinks “it’s an appropriate time for to find other opportunities. I don’t think that if he voluntarily resigns that he’s entitled to a severance package.“

Despite her incumbency, interim Mayor Deborah Schechner didn’t fare too well in the St. Pete Beach municipal elections.

Just 35 percent of the 2,941 voters in St. Pete Beach’s municipal elections chose Scherer, while challenger Alan Johnson is the mayor-elect with 61 percent of the vote.

An additional 4 percent picked John-Michael Fleig.

Schechner was appointed interim mayor after the job became available June 30 when former Mayor Maria Lowe stepped down to accompany her husband to France after he was named deputy director of cemetery operations for the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Rick Kriseman taps Jacob Smith to lead re-election campaign

Jacob Smith will serve as campaign manager for St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s re-election campaign.

Smith worked in Democratic politics going back to his freshman year at the University of Florida in 2008 when he volunteered for Barack Obama‘s effort in Florida. He also worked on Obama’s 2012 campaign in Southwest Florida.

His most recent job was working as the Michigan organizing director for the Hillary Clinton campaign last year. He began working for the Clinton campaign in April of 2015 as a regional organizing director in New Hampshire, then moved on to Maine and Illinois. He later was selected as organizing director in Indiana and Northern California.

This isn’t Smith’s time working with Kriseman. He served as the field director for Kriseman’s successful 2013 campaign for mayor in St. Pete and then moved on to serve as the field director for Alex Sink’s bid for Florida’s 13th Congressional District seat against David Jolly in early 2014. He then went on to work as field director for Charlie Crist’s gubernatorial campaign in 2014.

“Being a part of the team that elected Mayor Kriseman was an incredible experience,” Smith said. “I’m honored that the mayor asked me to be a part of it again. The mayor has accomplished a lot over the last 3 years. We’re excited to talk about how far St. Petersburg has come under Mayor Kriseman’s leadership.”

Ray Rodrigues stance on medical marijuana angers Amendment 2 advocates

Because polling in 2016 showed less than half of all Floridians want to legalize marijuana outright, Ray Rodrigues believes he is doing the right thing by pushing regulations that ban people from smoking cannabis or using edible pot.

“Here’s what we know,” the Fort Myers House Republican told former Congressman David Jolly on AM 820 WWBA Thursday afternoon. “Amendment 2 passed with more than 70 percent of the vote. And for those of us who were polling this issue during the course of the campaign, support for medical marijuana was always over 70 percent.

“However,” Rodrigues added, “during those same polls, we would ask about recreational marijuana. The support for recreational marijuana was never anywhere near the passage rate. It was consistently under 50 percent. So what that told us was the people in Florida want to see patients have access to marijuana for medicinal reasons, but the support for recreational marijuana is not nearly at the same level of support.”

Not every public survey showed that, however. A Quinnipiac poll conducted between April 27 and May 8 of 2016 showed 56 percent supported recreational use; 41 percent opposed.

Rodrigues stunned medical marijuana advocates last week when he unveiled a bill (HB 1397) that included language stating that the medical use of cannabis did not include “possession, use, or administration of marijuana in a form for smoking or vaping or in the form of commercially produced food items made with marijuana or marijuana oils, except for vapable forms possessed, used, or administered by or for a qualified patient diagnosed with a terminal condition.”

Rodrigues is not an outlier when it comes to Florida lawmakers pushing medical marijuana regulations to ban smokable pot.

Of five bills on medical marijuana now floating in the Legislature this Session, three prohibit smoking (two others are sponsored by St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes and Miami Republican Frank Artiles).

Ben Pollara, the campaign manager for United for Care, says that the Legislature is acting like it’s trying to appease the 29 percent of Floridians who opposed Amendment 2, not the overwhelming majority who did.

“Do I think that’s what the people thought they were voting for? No,” Pollara says about a bill that would ban smokable marijuana. “Do I think that’s what the constitutional amendment says? No. I think the constitution allows — if not the smoking of marijuana — then the purchase and possession of smokable marijuana.”

Of the 24 states that have legalized medical marijuana, only two, New York and Pennsylvania, mandate that patients with a recommendation from a doctor cannot smoke marijuana. In Pennsylvania, edible forms of marijuana can’t be sold in dispensaries, but the law allows patients to produce those items at home.

Rodrigues also told WWBA about 2013 study conducted by Columbia University that found marijuana in a pill form provided longer relief than smoking (4.5 hours compared to 2.5 hours). “When you smoke, you’re using known carcinogens into your body, and reducing lung function,” he said. “So from a medical standpoint, the pill form is definitely medicine. It provides you the benefit of medicine. And the smoking of it is not medicine, it does not provide benefits, it often provides more harm than good.”

“When you smoke, you’re using known carcinogens into your body, and reducing lung function,” he said. “So from a medical standpoint, the pill form is definitely medicine. It provides you the benefit of medicine. And the smoking of it is not medicine, it does not provide benefits, it often provides more harm than good.”

Chris Cano, the executive director of the Central Florida Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (CFL NORML), says that for legislators to determine that smoking isn’t good for some patients is “big government at its worst.” Cano cites the example of Cathy Jordan, a Manatee County woman who has been smoking marijuana for years to control symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

“Cathy Jordan smokes two joints every morning, so that she can cough up the phlegm and fluids that she has due to her ALS,” he says. “So smoking works for her. When he says the science is wrong, he’s absolutely wrong. There’s certain benefits to smoking.”

Michael Minardi, the legal director of NORML of Florida, responded to Rodrigues by citing a 2012 Journal of the American Medical Association study that marijuana smokers performed better on tests of lung function compared to either nonsmokers or cigarette smokers.

Rodrigues acknowledged he has heard from Amendment 2 supporters, who aren’t happy with his bill.

“There were definitely people who believed that they were voting to smoke it because those people have contacted me since we had filed that bill and expressed that sentiment,” he said. “However, I do not believe that is the majority of the people. Clearly, the majority of the people believed they were voting for medical marijuana, and as long as they get the benefits from medical marijuana, the way that it is administered is irrelevant. And I would say that the science is on our side.”

In 2014, the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott signed into law the “Charlotte’s Web” bill, which legalized strains of marijuana high in cannabidiol, or CBD, but low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound that produces a high.

For nearly four years, Pollara has worked to make medical marijuana legal in Florida. He says that the attitude of most members of the Legislature this entire time is to make it as “unappealing to nonmusical consumers as possible.”

“What gets lost in that is that sometimes what you need is to get high,” Pollara says. “You can’t extricate the medical benefit from the getting high part of it.”

While it doesn’t appear to be the sentiment in Tallahassee at this point, Pollara optimistically surmises that there’s still plenty of time for the Legislature to come up with a final product before Sine Die.

(WWBA does not yet have a link to the Rodrigues interview on their website yet. When they do, we will include the link).

 

Joe Gruters says he’s a long shot for CFO position, but appreciates the mention

Sarasota GOP Chair and state Rep. Joe Gruters said he is a “long-shot” to be Gov. Rick Scott‘s choice to succeed Jeff Atwater as Chief Financial Officer once Atwater leaves the office in May.

On Wednesday afternoon, Gruters appeared on Tampa Bay area radio station News Talk 820 WWBA with guest host David Jolly, who formerly represented Florida’s 13th Congressional District.Gruters had shown loyalty to Scott and President

Jolly said Gruters had shown loyalty to Scott and President Donald Trump when he backed both candidates when they were considered outliers within the GOP, and Scott would reward such loyalty by picking Gruters to succeed Atwater later this year, Jolly said.

“Well, Congressman, that’s so nice of you to say,” Gruters responded, as Jolly laughed.

“Even to be mentioned with some of these other names that are being popped up is an incredible honor,” Gruters continued. “I don’t know who it’s going to be. My guess is that I’m a long shot candidate, there’s other great candidates like (Jacksonville Mayor) Lenny Curry, Pat Neal, who’s a great friend of mine in Manatee County who would be a strong 2018 contender.

“But here’s the deal: you never know. Listen, I’m going to continue to fight for jobs and economic development no matter what the position I’m in, whether it’s state House or anything else.”

“Joe, you’re a winner in Florida politics,” replied Jolly, who was guest-hosting for Dan Maduri. “It wouldn’t surprise me if either now or in the future, we’re talking about Joe Gruters in a Cabinet position.”

Atwater announced he will leave the CFO position after the regular Legislative Session ends in May. Scott has given no indication about who he will select to replace him.

At neighborhood meeting, Charlie Crist dismisses question about personnel shake-up

It was supposed to be a simple community meeting.

However, Charlie Crist wound up addressing a controversial personnel decision inside his office, which added a bit of drama to the proceedings.

Appearing at a community forum in St. Petersburg’s Midtown area Saturday morning, Crist’s visit was advertised as a discussion about the Affordable Care Act, economic development and jobs, education, and voting rights.

Ray Tampa, a community activist and former NAACP chapter president, challenged Crist to elaborate on the somewhat mysterious departure last month of district director Vito Sheeley.

Sheeley, who was Crist’s campaign outreach director in his race against Republican David Jolly last fall and was serving as his district director, stunningly announced last month said that he was leaving the office to begin working for Jolly as a senior adviser. That’s the same David Jolly who is no longer a congressman after Crist defeated him in November.

Tampa told Crist and the small crowd at Saturday’s event that he been solicited by Sheeley for campaign strategy in last year’s congressional race, and that ultimately Sheeley and other Crist advisers working for the African-American vote had decided to make copies of an email Tampa wrote in praise Crist, printed it out and distributed it to approximately 25 different churches in Midtown.

“And then shortly thereafter, you’re elected, and then Vito was terminated,” Tampa said. “That was not good. That was horrible, to say the least.”

Tampa said that he didn’t have anything against Gershom Faulkner, who has replaced Sheeley in Crist’s office, but added that “Vito’s termination had an effect on a lot of us in the community. And we don’t know if we’ve gotten a good response as to why that occurred, and it could affect you later on.”

“He wasn’t terminated,” Crist crisply replied. “Any other questions?”

Tampa left the event shortly after that exchange, saying later he was unsatisfied with Crist’s response. “That was horrible. For me to call for a question and it’s ignored, that’s not good.”

The public may never know what truly transpired between Crist and Sheeley, which resulted in the staffer jettisoning the office.

After Sheeley had announced last month that he would begin working with Jolly, he issued a statement saying: “Many have and will continue to question my reason for leaving Congressman Crist. That is an answer that will remain between Charlie Crist and me.”

Jolly’s hiring of Sheeley immediately set off speculation that the Pinellas Republican was already gearing up to challenge Crist in 2018, but Jolly said earlier this week that he won’t make any decision on another candidacy for the seat until next year.

Crist was joined at what was described by officials the “1st quarterly Pinellas County African-American Leaders Conference” at the St. Petersburg College Midtown Center, where he was joined by Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, former state representative and city council member Frank Peterman, and Carlos Senior, the Senior Pastor at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church.

Although not an official town hall (which Crist said he intends to organize in the coming weeks), the format was similar in that there were a few people in the audience who wanted to speak with their representative about the Affordable Care Act.

In fact, the first two people (there were approximately 20 people in the room) challenged Crist to state his position on the ACA, saying that they couldn’t get a clear answer about where he stood on the GOP’s plan to repeal the landmark initiative from Barack Obama.

“I don’t want to replace it, I want to continue it … I’m not sure who you talked to in my office who told you I don’t have a position on it, but I stand strongly behind the Affordable Care Act,” Crist told Chelsea Baker, an audience member who said she had serious health issues.

Baker said she goes to bed every night “terrified” about the effort to repeal the law.

Crist elaborated that his GOP brethren in the House have undoubtedly learned through some of their own bruising town hall meetings this month that “they know that if they just take it away and that’s that, it’s over for them.”

“I think they’ve gotten that message and figured it out, and that’s why they haven’t done it yet,” he said about actually repealing the law.

Crist’s appearance came a day after news broke that he is divorcing his wife Carole after almost nine years of marriage, news that made Page Six of the NY Post Saturday.

What Adam Smith will be writing about next …

I apologize in advance for being so juvenile …

Last week, I camped out at Kahwa Coffee on Second Avenue South. I had just dropped off Ella at school and I wanted to get back to work right away. So I returned to the bustling coffee shop that once served as my “office” when Michelle and I lived downtown.

Kahwa South is a great spot to work from because it’s so full of energy. And you never know who will walk through its doors in search of a cup of joe. It’s where elected officials from South Pinellas tend to gather or meet with reporters from the Tampa Bay Times, which is headquartered just two blocks away.

Anytime I am at Kahwa, I notice a slew of Times reporters coming and going. I seem to always bump into Michael Van Sickler, with whom I get along much better in person than I do online. The business reporters make frequent appearances. I remember Daniel Ruth making a daily appearance, but I haven’t seen him during my most recent visits.

And, of course, now and then political editor Adam Smith will be there, more often than not meeting with a key local politician.

As much as I’ve come to both detest and resent Adam, he and I are still cordial when we bump into each other. Or at least we had been. For example, when Adam was walking along Adams Street en route to the Capitol in Tallahassee, and I was working at a table outside of the Governors Inn, he said something like, “Schorsch is here” or something like that, which, after giving it a second thought, was typical Adam-condensation because I’m in Tallahassee — you know, the center of Florida politics — more than Adam.

Like George Costanza muttering about the jerk store calling, I kept thinking about how I should have said something snarky back at Adam. See, in person, I’ve always tried to be respectful of Adam, especially when I see him with his wife, Catherine. All of our kids go to the same school and, well, you know how that goes.

No matter what I’ve written about him or what Adam has said to others about me (like how he tells producers he won’t appear on the same radio or TV shows as me), we’ve been big enough to acknowledge each other when we see each other in public.

Not anymore.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife ran into Adam meeting with former U.S. Rep. David JollyDespite Michelle being a loyal supporter of Charlie Crist, the Democrat who unseated him, David was as charming and gentlemanly as he’s always been to Michelle. He gave Michelle a big hug and they exchanged promises to get us all together for a drink in the near future.

Meanwhile, Adam couldn’t even stand up from the table to say hello to someone who had invited him to her wedding. As is typical, he was condescending, asking about why Michelle was at the Vinoy Club and so far from “Pinellas Park,” a reference to our home in the Bayou Club in Seminole!!! Never mind that we are probably at the Vinoy more often than Smith. But like his comment to me in Tallahassee, he was attempting to make Michelle feel like an outsider. He said a couple of other things, which I can’t remember how Michelle described, but the bottom line is, he was pretty much a d*ck.

So when Adam walked into Kahwa Coffee last week, I steeled myself and did not exchange the usual pleasantries. No more bullish*t, I said to myself.

Smith saw that I was working there, turned on his heels and walked back outside without ordering.

That’s when the gods smiled. Adam decided to sit at a table right in front of where I had parked our Chevy Suburban, a beast of an SUV which has an engine as loud as a jetliner.

An engine, as it happens, that can be turned on by remote, just as the panic alarm can, of course, be set off by remote.

Yes, I had some fun with that remote.

Adam did not stay at Kahwa long.

Like I said, I apologize for being so juvenile.

If it weren’t the petty bulls*t I’ve described above that had pissed me off about Adam, it certainly would be the work product of Lazy Adam.

See, I can tell you right now what Adam Smith will be writing about in a few weeks. That’s because, lately, there’s a simple calculus involved with what Smith writes about.

I’ll write about something before anyone else will. The subject matter will percolate. And then Lazy Adam will add his two cents as if he’s the first to arrive at the issue.

To wit:

I opined that “Bob Buckhorn is on the clock” on January 3 and that if he wants to run for governor, the “opening is now” on January 22.

Along comes Lazy Adam six weeks later, writing that if Buckhorn wants to run for governor, “(t)he clock is ticking fast.” Smith even framed his story like I did mine, ticking off the status of Buckhorn’s possible opponents.

Here’s another example.

On January 6, I push out 750 words about how St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman could hand former Mayor Rick Baker a major victory by scheduling a referendum on the future of the Rowdies soccer club in May, just months before Baker has to decide if he will run against Kriseman in the fall. It’s local politics at its most granular. It’s what you’d expect from a website called “SaintPetersBlog.”

Guess what Lazy Adam wrote about six weeks later? That’s right, Kriseman, Baker, and the timing of the Rowdies referendum.

“Before the mayor’s race kicks into gear, however, city residents will head to the polls May 2 to decide whether to approve a long-term lease and big expansion of Al Lang Stadium. It would be privately funded through businessman Bill Edwards, who owns the Rowdies soccer team, which he wants to turn into a Major League Soccer franchise. And here’s where things could get awkward. Baker is president of the Edwards Group and one of Edwards’ top advisers. Edwards has the support of Kriseman and City Hall in the MLS quest, but can’t afford for relations to sour amid a brewing political rivalry between Baker and Kriseman.”

Listen, I get it that what I write is not earth-shattering. I’m not the only one to think that Bob Buckhorn needs to fish or cut bait. I’m not the only one to think it could get awkward down at City Hall because of the Rowdies referendum. But I was the first political columnist to put those ideas into print (or at least online).

Lazy Adam will tell you he doesn’t read my stuff and that I am crazy to think my work influences him.

He’s probably telling the truth about the first part, but let me give you a perfect example of how full of sh*t he is about the second part.

A week ago, Florida Politics’ Scott Powers wrote a story about how Winter Park developer Chris King is contemplating a run for Florida governor in 2018. This was based on information I shared with Scott, who will tell you that eight days ago he had never heard of King. But a source of mine told me about King while standing in my kitchen two weekends ago.

I know a scoop when I hear one. I Googled King, and there was nothing out there about him running for governor. If there was, I missed it. But he is the real deal, so much so that my source told me that other 2018 contenders were asking them about what King was up to.

So I tasked Powers with finding out more and writing about it, which he did and that’s why when you Google, the first news entry about King running in 2018 is our story.

Less than a week after we published this story, Lazy Adam blogged an entry about how “another serious contender emerges in 2018.”

Right, he “emerged” because of a story that veteran reporter Scott Powers wrote. That was the emerging.

At first, Smith’s blog entry did not include any attribution to Powers’ reporting. But after I went on a tweet storm (in which I even called out Smith’s editor, Amy Hollyfield), the Times had a “Hat tip to Scott Powers” added to the end of Smith’s blog post. Of course, that attribution does not show up in print, so readers of the newspaper think Lazy Adam is All-Knowing Adam whose political radar can detect even the slightest movement of a possible candidate.

Here I’ve written 1,500+ words about slights and sore feelings and mere coincidences, and I get that all of this is pretty juvenile (there’s that word again).

My issue with Adam truly is not personal. What’s remarkable is that despite all of his and the Times’ attempts to marginalize my work, I am in a better position now than I was seven years ago. So much so that you have to wonder why they did it in the first place.

No, my issue is that Adam Smith is the political editor of the state’s largest newspaper. He should be setting the agenda for the rest of the political reporters in the state.

Instead, in most cases, he’s a month and a half late.

Last week, I wrote a think piece about how decisions by Jeff Atwater and Francis Rooney impact Jack Latvala’s 2018 ambitions. Had I not written this screed, no doubt Lazy Adam would have written something along the same lines in March.

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