David Jolly Archives - Page 2 of 66 - Florida Politics

Joe Henderson: Timing may never be right again for David Jolly

Because it’s best to never rule out anything in politics, I offer this qualifier: Perhaps the time will come again for David Jolly to make another run for public office.

Having said that, I honestly doubt it.

In a tweet late Tuesday night, Jolly said he won’t try to regain his seat in Congress by challenging U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist in November.

As he noted, “politics is about timing” and given what could be a Democrat tsunami in the November mid-terms, Jolly said he will dedicate his efforts toward being part of a primary challenge in 2020 to Donald Trump.

I like David Jolly and his maverick ways, but the political reality is that he is a man without a party right now. Even as a Congressman from Pinellas County, he angered Republican Party bosses by going rogue on “60 Minutes” with his disgust at how much of his day was spent fund-raising.

After losing his re-election bid in 2016 to Crist, Jolly has made bridge-burning a daily habit – not that he is wrong. He has become a national go-to quote when someone needs a Republican to rip Trump.

He shows up frequently on panels at MSNBC and doesn’t hold back at how he feels Trump is ruining the cause of conservatism and the country.

It makes for compelling theater, and Jolly does make a reasoned argument that the Trump presidency is a disaster and our political system is broken.

But speaking the truth can have consequences, and Jolly would surely face them if he ever tried to run for national office again. Democrats wouldn’t support him over one of their own, and Republicans would shun him like he had typhoid.

Maybe he could run for state office, but he likely still would face those same obstacles. Even if he were elected, he would likely be a pariah in his own party once he reported to work.

He could follow the Crist model and change parties, but that doesn’t seem to be his style. What Jolly seems to want is for the Republican Party to come to its senses and reject the kind of extremism that has been the Trump brand.

Good luck with that.

It likely will take a ballot-box slaughter in November and maybe one in 2020 as well for any sort of reasoned moderation to take hold in the GOP. By that time, Democrats could be back in control while Republicans search for a new identity that doesn’t scare the crap out of voters and our allies.

Where does that leave David Jolly?

For at least the time being, it leaves him right where he is – on the front line of visible opposition to his own party. It leaves him to fight an uphill battle to restore some conservative sanity to the GOP message.

And it leaves him as a politician without an election.

Like I said, we learned in 2016 that anything can happen in politics, so never say never. Right now though, Jolly will have to be content to call it like he sees it from the sidelines. He can only hope someone is paying attention.

Politics is about timing: David Jolly won’t run for elected office in 2018

David Jolly will remain a spectator, albeit an active one, in 2018.

The former U.S. Representative is not looking to return to elective politics this year, referring to a tight Pennsylvania 18th Congressional District special election Tuesday night in a district Donald Trump won by more than 20 points in 2016.

Making the announcement on Twitter, Jolly also suggested Trump should be “primaried in 2020.” He came to the decision with his wife, Laura.

Jolly said: “Politics is about timing. 4 years ago tonight I was elected in a district Obama won twice. Laura & I have considered another run, but watching PA, this is not the year to re-enter politics. Trump should be primaried in 2020. Our focus tonight is on being a part of that primary.”

Since the bitter presidential election, Jolly, an Indian Shores Republican, has been an outspoken critic of Trump.

David Jolly: Assault weapon license should be as hard to get as White House security clearance

David Jolly says he’s not sure that a ban on assault weapons is possible in Washington, but believes a solution that could happen immediately is to make them “functionally obsolete” for the average citizen.

“Make the requirements to get an assault weapon as hard as it is to get a security clearance in this White House,” the former Republican congressman quipped to laughs while addressing the Cafe Con Tampa crowd at the Oxford Exchange Friday morning.

“That would be a yearlong process,” he said, turning serious to say that it would allow authorities to get as much information about a person’s background as possible, including serious training and storage requirements that he thinks would only allow the most trained sportsman or woman to handle.

Like many Republicans, he also says that enforcing current laws on the books to a greater extent would also work, or as he says, “Enforce the gun laws as strictly as Donald Trump wants to enforce the immigration laws.”

Though not a card-carrying NRA member, Jolly did receive $9,600 in contributions from the gun rights organization in his special election against Democrat Alex Sink in 2014 and was the beneficiary of the group spending more than $100,000 against Sink in that same campaign.

He said the current background check process is relatively toothless, consisting of a criminal conviction check and little else. People’s mental health history, including counseling, is currently not part of such a check.

And with all that has been learned about Parkland confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz, Jolly said it should be.

Universal and comprehensive background checks should include every transaction involved with a gun, Jolly said, so if somebody wants to sell it to a family member, it should be done at the local sheriff’s department.

Jolly said he’s now “evolved” to the point where he believes such medical background history needs to be included in such a background check.

Joining the Indian Shores Republican in the discussion was former Treasure Coast Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy, who called guns like the AR-15 “weapons of war” designed to kill human beings, and said they need to go away.

Cruz used an AR-15 to kill 17 people last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week.

“If you need 50 rounds to kill a deer, you need a new sport. Bottom line,” he said.

Murphy said in the current climate in Washington (controlled by Republicans in both the House and Senate)  banning assault weapons isn’t a viable possibility, but says it should be the ultimate goal.

Eliminating bump stocks, addressing mental health and reinforcing school safety are “baby steps” that Murphy believes are possible to achieve now.

A joint appearance by two moderate former members of Congress (who collectively only spent six and a half years in Washington) was part of their traveling road show on ways to get Washington working better, a tour they are holding across the state and other parts of the country since the fall.

To their credit, Jolly and Murphy aren’t preaching to the crowd that they need to be as moderate politically as they are, but that it’s essential to find common ground to fix the problems that our political system is supposed to do but has been breaking down over the past few decades into increased partisan rancor.

Jolly attributes the beginning of the fissure was the mid-1990s when Newt Gingrich led the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives. However, he also insists that Democrats were poised to do the same thing if they were in charge (which they were for decades in the U.S. House before 1994).

“Newt Gingrich realized not only did we take control of the House of Representatives, we’re now going to demand that K Street give us all their money that they’ve been giving to Democrats,” he said, “and then we’re going to go around the country and set up these funds to push lobbyists money into the states, so we can take over our state legislatures, and start to redistrict, start to close primaries, and put a chokehold that ensures that Republicans have a structural advantage for the next couple of decades.”

“And that’s what they did.”

After losing a re-election bid after redistricting in Florida’s 13th Congressional District in 2016 to Charlie Crist, Jolly has become omnipresent on CNN and MSNBC as one of the most outspoken Republican critics to President Trump. Although he’s said as recently as a month ago that he was still considering a run for office in 2018, he all but admitted on Friday that’s increasingly unlikely.

“Not only am I candidate without a party, I’m a candidate without a donor base.”

He did add that he is already involved with efforts to help out a Republican primary presidential challenge to Trump in 2020, having recently met with Republicans in both Iowa and Washington D.C.

Murphy said the teenagers who were directly affected by the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School and have been protesting this week about gun violence give him great hope.

“It’s powerful for our country,” he said.

Murphy concluded: “To get involved, to knock on doors, to get out there to vote, or at least get others to vote. That’s a powerful thing. Politicians, by and large, will care more about that than the money, or anything else, if they see that as a sustaining movement, it can’t be one week, two weeks and done.

“This has to continue for months, and unfortunately probably years to be effective, but with the passion that I see, I am optimistic that this can be a generation that does lead to results.”

David Jolly, Patrick Murphy want change to political status quo

Frustration over the American political process has brought together strange bedfellows: two former Florida congressmen of competing parties.

David Jolly, a Republican, and Patrick Murphy, a Democrat, left office in 2017. They’ve since embarked on a tour, titled “Why Gridlock Rules Washington,” to share their less-than-ideal experiences in the nation’s capital.

And the duo doesn’t hold back. According to shared accounts from both Jolly and Murphy, their time in Congress was marred by partisan politics and an inability to get lawmakers to cooperate.

Jolly told listeners at a tour stop Tuesday night at Florida State University that he arrived in Washington with a plan to tackle problems — only to be encountered with a “reality” where bipartisanship, cooperation and compromise were seen as pitfalls for incumbents seeking reelection.

Like Jolly, Murphy said he came to Congress thinking he was going to “change the world.”

He shared a quick anecdote that proved to him otherwise.

Murphy said an early initiative of his to eliminate several special projects in the budget didn’t get the bipartisan support that was promised. The would-be Republican sponsor’s reelection would’ve been negatively targeted by leadership who did not want to see bipartisan success in the chamber, Murphy said.

Murphy said Democratic leadership does the same thing in tit-for-tat fashion.

The talk went on with the lawmakers outlining the problems they believe are directly linked to, even responsible for, gridlock in D.C. Those problems include gerrymandering, closed primaries, an overemphasis on campaign finance and the mainstream media habit of rewarding polarizing politicians with airtime.

Jolly and Murphy outlined potential fixes for the issues, too. Nearly all involved far-reaching changes that would alter the status quo — but the two hinted that their proposed solutions are more practical given the current national political climate.

And they might be right. Jolly said the turnout on the college circuit has been great — especially given the subject material being discussed.

“It’s not like we’re talking about really salacious things,” Jolly said. “We’re talking about gerrymandering and open primaries — this isn’t ‘Fire and Fury.’”

At least one of the solutions discussed by Jolly and Murphy had some steam in the state earlier this year.

The Constitution Revision Commission was considering a proposal that would’ve opened the state’s primaries to all voters. It was later amended to provide for advancing the top two candidates, regardless of their party affiliations, to the general ballot.

However, a committee within the CRC killed the proposal unanimously earlier this month. Currently, voters can only vote for primary candidates within their respective registered parties.

Jolly spoke in depth about opening the state’s primary election system. He said he “journeyed politically” to his stance now.

“I’m willing to say let’s open up primaries to allow candidates to compete for broader constituencies,” Jolly said.

In an interview with Florida Politics, Jolly and Murphy also discussed their time together in Congress. Jolly said he’d work on bills with Murphy, but that collaboration often was stifled by party leadership.

Jolly said the lack of a DACA fix in Washington is a “good example” of how structural issues dominate policy in Congress. He said moderate lawmakers on both sides of the aisle cannot afford compromise on the issue if they intend to be reelected.

“The problem is if the two parties actually compromised on [DACA], at least in years past, they would all be primaried back home,” Jolly said.

Jolly and Murphy also were asked if they intend to run for office in the near future.

Murphy has said he won’t run for his old seat against incumbent Republican Brian Mast this year.

But on Tuesday Murphy added, “I’d be surprised if either one of us didn’t end up on the ballot at some point.” He said their interest in the state of Florida, as evidenced by the tour, could result in one of them running for office to represent the state again.

As for Jolly, who would for his old seat have to square off against incumbent Charlie Crist, “it’s going to go all the way to the filing deadline.”

Ken Hagan’s feud with reporter distracted from big Rays news

Ever since he suffered a perceived slight from WTSP-Channel 10 reporter Noah Pransky during the Go Hillsborough transportation effort, Ken Hagan has given the award-winning reporter the cold shoulder.

The Hillsborough County Commissioner has repeatedly said on camera that he will never respond directly to a question posed by the CBS-affiliated newsman.

Hagan’s news blackout was evident Friday afternoon in Ybor City, during one of the largest gathering of news media in recent times, where the commissioner kicked off a news conference announcing the Tampa Bay Rays desire to build a new stadium in Tampa.

Pransky asked Hagan, considering discussions about the Ybor City site had gone on for a year: “a lot of viewers are telling us their concerns that they haven’t heard a lot about the financing options that have been discussed behind the scenes. What you tell them?”

Hagan refused to answer the question.

Instead, he responded: “Noah, you’re well aware that due to your misleading reporting that I do not speak to you.”

After attempting a follow-up, Pransky was awkwardly told by public relations consultant Gina Morales that the questioning would move on with another reporter.

Once the news conference ended, Pransky and his cameraman tried to ask the same question to Hagan as he exited through the back door of the Tampa Baseball Museum, where the news conference was held.

The reporter was blocked by J.D. White, a former staffer for U.S. Rep. David Jolly who now works for public relations firm, Mercury LLC.

Watch what happened next:

Hagan is running for Hillsborough Commission District 2 seat this fall, where he is the prohibitive favorite.

(Still photo courtesy of Kim DeFalco.)

First underwater veterans memorial coming to Pinellas County waters

Plans for a new veterans memorial near Clearwater were revealed Friday, but potential visitors will need an oxygen tank to get there.

Called “Circle of Heroes,” the memorial aims to be the nation’s first underwater dive memorial and will be situated roughly 10 miles off the Pinellas County shore. The site will be about 40-feet deep and is about a quarter mile from Veterans Reef, a popular dive site.

The memorial will feature 24 life-size concrete statues of servicemen and servicewomen from the United States Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy arranged in a 100-foot circle around a memorial featuring bronze emblems representing each military branch.

Pinellas County has pitched in $12,000 in seed money to grab the first four statues, and the total cost of the project is expected to clock in at $450,000. Former U.S. Rep. David Jolly’s nonprofit group Brighter Future Florida is spearheading the campaign to raise the rest of the money through private and corporate donations.

Jolly said the idea for the memorial came from his uncle, Heyward Mathews.

“Dr. Mathews is no stranger to the recreational diving community and certainly not to the community as whole, when it comes to the marine community,” Jolly said. “But, what you all don’t know is that this idea came from him – in large part because of his commitment to drawing divers from near and far to our area, for tourism reasons and also because of his love of diving. Dr. Mathews has spent countless hours on this project, building statues, researching how to best create this memorial and gaining community support.”

The memorial plan got praise from numerous local officials, including Pinellas County Board Chair Ken Welch, County Commissioner Janet Long, and Visit St. Pete/Clearwater CEO David Downing.

“I can’t imagine a better way to share the beauty of our coastal waters and support our troops than this unique, first of its kind memorial,” Welch said. “Circle of Heroes will be an iconic attraction for the region, highlighting the service and sacrifices of those who have fought to protect the freedoms we all enjoy.”

Long added that the memorial is “a win-win for our service members, veterans, our visitors and the local economy,” while Dowling said it would “not only enhance Florida’s reputation as a premier dive site, but it will undoubtedly grow dive-related tourism to the St. Pete Clearwater area.”

The announcement included a video of the proposed site:

Charlie Crist tops $2 million raised for re-election bid

Freshman Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist brought in about $486,000 during the final  three months of 2017, putting his re-election campaign past the $2 million mark for the year.

Crist’s year-end report isn’t viewable yet on the Federal Elections Commission website, though the Crist campaign said it started 2018 with about $1.76 million in the bank.

Through the end of September, Crist had raised about $1.67 million and had $1.43 million on hand, indicating that his campaign account grew by more than $325,000 after the fourth-quarter report. That puts the St. Petersburg congressman’s spending somewhere in the ballpark of $150,000 for the October through December reporting period.

Crist is the only candidate who has filed a finance report this cycle for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, though Republican George Buck recently announced he would run against the former Florida governor this cycle.

Crist likely isn’t quaking in his boots over the challenge.

There’s also a chance Crist would have to face former U.S. Rep. David Jolly on Election Day, though the odds of that happening took a blow after Jolly said he was expecting a Democratic tsunami at the polls in November.

Jolly did say, however, that “he’s still considering being on the ballot for Congress, and having conversations about some statewide possibilities that we might confront by filing deadline.”

That leaves Crist cruising along as the sole major candidate for the Democratic-leaning district with a campaign account well into the seven figures.

Pirates got me thinking: The Gasparilla parade and Florida politics

There’s one event for which this proud St. Petersburg native will always cross the bridge.

It’s Robert and Nancy Watkins‘ party, held in conjunction with the Children’s Gasparilla Extravaganza, an alcohol-free event celebrating the pirates’ return to Tampa Bay.

Gasparilla is an annual celebration that began in 1904. Held each year in late January or early February, it celebrates the legend of José Gaspar (Gasparilla), a mythical Spanish pirate who supposedly operated in Southwest Florida. There is the main parade one weekend and a night parade held the following week. But to kick it all off, there is the family-friendly children’s parade.

To those who may not know them — and very few people operating in Florida politics DON’T know them — Robert and Nancy may be two of the most essential players in the state’s political universe.

Through their South Tampa accounting firm moves tens (if not hundreds) of millions in political contributions and expenditures. Additionally, Nancy serves as treasurer for dozens of candidates and committees. Among her too-many-to-name Florida clients are several A-list members of Congress and the Florida Legislature.

As we have the past five years, my wife, daughter, and I gladly accepted an invitation to view the parade from the Watkins’ beautiful home. And while my daughter was there for the beads and the floats, I attended for the politics, as the party draws many of Tampa Bay’s leading politicos.

With Bloody Mary in hand most of the day, my conversations with those participating were not for attribution. Nevertheless, I was able to glean several insights into state and local politics.

But first, a quick note about two of the children at the parade.

The first is about Lizzy Brandes, the amazing seven-year-old recently adopted by Natalie and Jeff Brandes. I say “amazing” because that’s precisely what she is. She is so much more acclimated to American life than what you could believe can happen in such a short period.

And think about, Lizzy knows nothing about our traditions, like a parade idolizing a mythical pirate. Think about how that must look through her eyes. Yet there she was, catching beads with the best of them.

The second note is about Maverick Griffin, the surprise addition to Melanie and Mike Griffin‘s lives. He’s just as cool in person as his name would suggest and it’s just incredible to see Melanie and Mike, perhaps the city’s best known young professional couple, embrace parenthood with as much enthusiasm as they have the other aspects of their lives.

Now, on to politics.

First and foremost, the attitude of the decidedly Republican crowd was less celebratory than it was in 2017. Last year, the party took place at about the same time as Donald Trump‘s inauguration and so there were plenty of folks sporting red “Make American Great Again” hats. This year, however, with the parade taking place just hours after the federal government officially shut down, there were very few, if any, outspoken supporters of the president.

Speaking of which, it’s astonishing to think of the transition one guest has made since I last blogged about the Watkins’ Gasparilla party.

I’m referring, of course, to former U.S. Rep. David Jolly.

Two years ago, Jolly held a sizable lead over his rivals for the Republican nomination for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat. Today, he is among the most prominent critics of Trump. In fact, he may be THE most prominent Florida-based Trump critic.

It remains to be seen what Jolly will do in 2018 and beyond. I doubt he runs for office. And I know Jolly would like to book a full-time gig with a cable network. But can he make that happen?

Jolly also had an impressive set of comments about the #NeverTrump movement. He spoke about what will happen AFTER the fever breaks. And about how those Republicans who did not stand up to Trump may be judged. I agree with the former congressman that reckoning will come for the Paul Ryans of the world who not only did not stand up to Trump, but enabled him.

He’s not exactly a #NeverTrump’er, but he’s close enough: Will Weatherford was missing from the Watkins’ party, although his lovely wife, Courtney, stopped by.

I guess Will’s just too busy making money in the private sector to stop what he’s doing for a parade.

State Sens. Jeff Brandes and Dana Young both made appearances Saturday.

While Brandes has yet to draw a Democratic opponent, Young learned last week that Bob Buesing would run against her again in 2018.

In a way, Brandes and Young’s fates are intertwined. It’s like that Florida Democrats do not have the resources to fund a candidate against both Brandes and Young, so now that Buesing is in against Young, Brandes may be closer to being off-the-hook.

Yet the upside for Young is higher than it is for Brandes: if she can get past Buesing, she has a better-than-even-money chance to be the first female Senate president in decades. There’s no doubt Young faces a stiff challenge from Buesing, but I think the book on him is still the same as it was in 2016, no matter how much the political environment has changed. He’s a smart man and, by all accounts, a solid lawyer and valuable member of the community.

But is he a good politician?

Young, meanwhile, has beat back everything opponents have ever thrown at her. And if she could beat the late Stacey Frank in 2010, I wager she’ll be able to get by Buesing this year.

Hard at work on the campaign trail is political consultant Anthony Pedicini, who is always one of the first to arrive at the Watkins party. He also brings much of his extended, parade-loving family to the event. And they’re great.

Of course, Pedicini spent much of the day on the phone, working on the special election in House District 72. Pedicini and his partner, Tom Piccolo, are on a tear, winning one special election after another in 2017-2018. But there’s something afoot in HD 72, despite advantages Republicans hold in that seat.

For several reasons, Democrats are excited about Margaret Good‘s chances in this seat. They’re raising serious money, although Republican James Buchanan is too. For some time, the fur has been flying in this race (no doubt part of what Pedicini was working Saturday), so keep this contest on your radar.

Finally, if there is one takeaway I want to impart about Saturday, it’s about how, um, interested Bob Buckhorn might be … could be … in the running for, um, Florida Governor … in 2018.

Hizzoner always comes to the Watkins party after working the parade route and, even more so than in years past; he was a man in full. Buckhorn knows what kind of job he’s done in Tampa and really, really would like to do the same for Florida.

I joked with him about how great it would be if he could give a speech years from now and say “Florida has its swagger back” just the way he was able to say the same thing about Tampa.

Lobbyist Ana Cruz and I spent thirty minutes practically begging Buckhorn to reconsider not running in 2018, primarily since John Morgan — who would’ve clogged the same lane Buckhorn would run in — has taken himself out of the running.

Buckhorn’s problem is that while he would almost certainly do well in a general election, he would struggle to escape the identity-based politics of the Democratic nomination. It probably won’t be the year for another middle-aged white guy — no matter how great his story — and Buckhorn’s story in Tampa is great. That is a damn shame. Because, in Buckhorn, you can literally see the same appeal Joe Biden has at the national level.

There is at least one upshot to Buckhorn not running in 2018. We’ll be able to see him swagger down Bayshore Boulevard one last time in 2019.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn greets a boy along the parade route of the 2018 Children’s Gasparilla Experience.

New crop of not-ready-for-primetimers launch congressional campaigns

There’s more than a few key races heating up among Florida’s congressional seats, but for every true competitor in a 2018 battleground district there are a dozen head-scratchers who’ve mounted hopeless House campaigns.

No, none of these candidates have sacrificed a goat as part of a pagan ritual, but it likely wouldn’t make their long-shot odds any worse if they had.

In Florida’s 3rd Congressional District, there’s Republican Judson Sapp who billed himself as a “New Republican” when he announced Friday he would challenge incumbent Ted Yoho for the Gainesville-based seat.

“He represents a bold, new path forward and a rebirth of the Republican Party as one that represents all people – not just special interests or the elites,” his campaign said in an email.

That bold new path?

He wants “to end bipartisan obstructionism and to bring integrity and accountability back to our government.”

So far, so good. How does he plan to do it?

“He plans to use his business experience to make deals…”

Next!

The race for Florida’s 7th Congressional District might actually be competitive this year.

In 2016, Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy scored a 3-point win over longtime Republican lawmaker John Mica, and the GOP is looking to win it back even if new district lines make that somewhat of an uphill battle.

Enter Vennia Francois, an Orlando Republican who announced last week she would run against state Rep. Mike Miller, businessman Scott Sturgil and a couple others in the Republican Primary for the seat.

She’s got some political experience, having worked for former Sens. Mel Martinez and George LeMieux, but man if her message isn’t a bit dusty.

“I believe in the American Dream because I have seen so many achieve it, both in my immediate family and all across Central Florida,” she said. “But there’s much more we need to do to ensure its legacy, especially for those still struggling in the wake of the Recession of 2008-2009, and I want to lead those efforts,” Francois said in her campaign’s opening message.

If Francois wants to lead the post-recession recovery, she might need to grab a time machine and head back a decade.

Moving on to her actual policy positions, she wants spearhead efforts to close tax loopholes and enact economic policies that help small businesses create even more jobs.

Oh my.

Actually, forget going back a decade. She needs to figure out who traveled to the future and stole her idea for the Republican tax plan.

Also in Central Florida, CD 10 Democratic Rep. Val Demings picked up a primary challenger this week in Wade Darius, a 36-year-old Haitian-born businessman.

Darius runs his own company, TD Homes Marketing, and claims to have helped more than 200 people get down-payment assistance for homes last year. Citing the district’s large immigrant population, the he  said his primary goal as a congressman would be helping reshape U.S. immigration policy.

Not a bad start.

Still, he managed to hamstring himself in record time by saying he wouldn’t take corporate campaign contributions and by bashing Demings’ record on police brutality. Maybe he should have asked Bob Poe how that one played out for him in 2016.

The answer: 57-17.

Then there’s Florida’s 13th Congressional District, where freshman Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist was running unopposed until Wednesday, when Republican George Buck declared for the seat.

“George Buck, is a father of two; a son who is a professional firefighter, and daughter-in law who is a nurse. His daughter is currently studying to be a middle school math teacher at USFSP. George is a Veteran (Four years active duty and Florida National Guard), Firefighter (Ret), Professor/Author.”

Thank you for your service, George, and don’t take this the wrong way, but you or somebody close to you needs to pick up a copy of When Words Collide. There’s an impressive resume somewhere under that punctuation soup, especially when looking past the ambiguity on whether the daughter and daughter-in-law are the same person,

Also, maybe take a long, hard look at whether CD 13 is the place to run. Even well-liked former U.S. Rep. David Jolly is having a hard time seeing a path to victory for a Republican in the Pinellas-based seat.

High-profile St. Pete Democrats now backing Vito Sheeley in contentious HD 70 primary

Wengay Newton received a rebuke Monday when several high-profile St. Petersburg Democrats announced their support of Vito Sheeley, the political operative challenging the incumbent in the overwhelmingly Democratic House District 70 this year.

In a joint statement, Pinellas County School Board Chair Rene Flowers, Pinellas County Commission Chair Ken Welch, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and City Council Chair Lisa Wheeler-Bowman said they were backing Sheeley’s bid to unseat Newton.

Sheeley is a former district aide to both U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor and Charlie Crist, and spent some time this year in an unusual alliance with former U.S. Rep. David Jolly, the Republican who Crist defeated last November.

Kriseman’s endorsement of Sheeley shouldn’t be a complete surprise. Newton alienated several Democratic activists in St. Pete last year after endorsing Republican Rick Baker over Kriseman in the hyper-intense mayoral contest.

“Vito’s track record speaks for itself,” Kriseman said in a statement. “I’ve known Vito for years, and know his heart and how hard he will work on behalf of the people of his District and this community. We need Vito’s leadership in District 70.”

 In the 2016 Democratic primary for HD 70, Kriseman endorsed Dan Fiorini, one of Newton’s opponents.

“I went to Kriseman for support in my House race. He told me to pound sand,” Newton said last year when asked about supporting Baker. But Newton insisted that backing Baker had nothing to do with that snub, saying that the former two-term mayor was the best man to lead St. Petersburg in the future.

“Rick Baker is my friend for over ten years. It’s a shame that in the areas of greatest need, they’re still talking about that here in 2017,” Newton said about the economic conditions in South St. Pete.

Welch, Wheeler-Bowman and Flowers were also strong Kriseman supporters in the 2017 mayoral race.

“Vito brings people together to listen to stakeholders, work as a team, solve problems and uplift our community — that’s something we desperately need in Tallahassee,” Welch said Monday. “I know that Vito will continue his service to our community and bring common sense solutions to the capital.

“The continued attacks aimed at diminishing our education system is besieged with unfunded mandates, and any sense of integrity has eroded daily, we need representation in line and in tune with the needs of District 70,” Flowers said. “For a strong leader aligned with our values and ideals, Vito Sheeley receives my endorsement as the next member of the House of Representatives, District 70.”

“Vito has the skills, the temperament, and the drive to represent our community successfully,” added Wheeler-Bowman, who was officially elected to chair the St. Pete City Council this year last week. “South St. Pete needs a strong voice who can go to Tallahassee, work constructively, and bring home results.”

“Simply put, Vito is the right person for the job.”

Newton held a campaign kickoff barbecue at Dell Holmes Park in South St. Pete on Saturday. He has raised $17,370 in the race. Sheeley has raised just $4,722, though his numbers for December have yet to be reported.

Sheeley said he was “humbled” by the support.

“They know me as an advocate who will always put my constituents above the broken politics we’ve had to endure for too long. I look forward to continuing that work representing District 70.”

Newton did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

St. Petersburg attorney and civic activist Keisha Bell announced last week that she would soon officially enter the HD 70 Democratic race.

HD 70 covers parts of Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties.

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