David Jolly – Page 3 – Florida Politics

Not Just A Body Of Water — 1.7.18

Tampa Bay is more than a body of water — so much more.

To start, an admission: I really missed writing about Tampa Bay, particularly its politics.

With all that is going on in the region surrounding my beloved St. Petersburg, it was tough to resist being drawn back into the fray.

And in the post-Rick Baker/Jack Latvala era, our political landscape here has changed.

Will those changes prove to be for the better? Only time will tell.

Either way, to rectify this absence is Not Just A Body Of Water — a new weekly newsletter focusing exclusively on Tampa Bay, its politics and players.

As a new venture, “Body of Water” presents no small challenge; we must get back up to speed, reconnect with the region, learn some fresh faces. The long-term goal is to provide you, our loyal fan base, an exclusive, subscription-only service by summer 2018.

So, among the features in “Body of Water” are big-picture analysis, interviews, and highlights in the notable work of others. There will be data, photos and interviews with the personalities helping to keep our community dynamic.

Above all, we will focus on the people and issues that make Tampa Bay — more than a humble body of water — one of hottest spots in Florida politics and beyond.

— BOB BUCKHORN’S LAST YEAR —

Term-limited Tampa Mayor Buckhorn, facing a last full calendar year in office, has been busy securing his agenda priorities — and his legacy.

While the city’s municipal elections won’t be until April 2019, Buckhorn — or at least his reputation — will be front and center throughout 2018, as voters experience what could be a contentious campaign to choose his successor.

“I have no intention of being a lame duck,” Buckhorn told Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal. “I am not going to let up on one iota of the job I came to do.”

Among Buckhorn’s most visible accomplishments include the demolition, and upcoming revitalization, of the North Boulevard Homes public housing development, to make way for a $200 million mixed-use project on the Hillsborough River waterfront.

Buckhorn also intends to collaborate further with Tampa Bay Lightning owner and Strategic Property Partners co-partner Jeff Vinik on the high-profile $3 billion Water Street Tampa project, which seeks to transform the city’s Channelside neighborhood.

Hizzonor has also been quick to promote both himself and his performance, as shown in a recent email to Tampa residents, mostly touting a recent poll giving Buckhorn high marks:

— “Buckhorn does his own poll on transit, Donald Trump and Puerto Rico and … Bob Buckhorn” via Richard Danielson of the Tampa Bay Times

— “New survey shows Tampa voters really like Buckhorn, police” via Florida Politics

— “Transit is a top priority for Tampa residents, Buckhorn survey shows” via Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal

— “Hero: Tampa firefighter works full shift, arrives home to rescue neighbor from burning house” via WFLA

In addition to polishing his legacy, Buckhorn will spend 2018 sizing up what will soon be a growing field to vie for the mayor’s office. As of yet, no one has filed, but several names are being floated: former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor, City Councilmembers Harry Cohen and Mike Suarez, and civic activist David Straz.

Bob Buckhorn joins WWE superstar Titus O’Neil and other community partners for the 8th Annual Joy of Giving to give out more than 10,000 gifts for the holiday season.

— PIC OF THE WEEK —

On the steps of St. Petersburg City Hall, Rick Kriseman is sworn in Tuesday, Jan. 2, for his second term as mayor. Photo credit: Kim DeFalco

— THE ‘BURG IS SPRAWLING —

The sky really isn’t much of a limit for developers in St. Petersburg.

“Construction cranes in every direction,” writes the Tampa Bay Times’ Susan Taylor Martin. “High-rises where single-story buildings once stood.”

“This isn’t your father’s St. Petersburg.”

Estimated construction costs in the 130-year old town have reached $500 million, and there are 17 major projects underway. Five of those projects will add 1,500 rental units in St. Petersburg — complementing the 1,340 finished in the last three years.

The Beach Drive condos in the area have fared well, perhaps serving as a successful case study for investors. But the significant investments also mirror that of what’s going on in the city across the bay. The success of the Fusion 1560 complex also isn’t making investors shy away, writes Morgan.

Still, questions remain about whether St. Petersburg’s identity is enough to support major real estate ventures.

Ahead of demand?: Darron Kattan, managing director of Tampa’s Franklin Street brokerage, acknowledged there could be difficulty filling hundreds of new apartments immediately. St. Petersburg’s Avanti Apartments — one of the five underway — already is offering a free month’s rent.

But there’s optimism: “Downtown St. Pete is so dynamic that in the long run, it will support thousands more units,” Kattan said. “There’s been a fundamental kind of shift of people wanting to live in the core that we have not seen since the ‘60s.”

And the longtime residents don’t seem to mind: Former City Councilman Herbert Polson, who’s lived in St. Petersburg since 1959, “likes what he sees happening in downtown and the rest of St. Petersburg.”

— RICK KRISEMAN REJECTS LOCAL PIER RESTAURANT CONCEPT BY RICK BAKER SUPPORTER —

Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille was selected to be the restaurant four the newly rebuilt St. Petersburg Pier, with a spot in what is currently the city’s Pelican parking lot.

As first reported by Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal, Mayor Kriseman chose the Florida chain over a local concept by Steve Westphal, a St. Pete restaurateur — and a donor and supporter of Baker, who lost to Kriseman in his campaign for mayor.

Westphal owns the Hangar Restaurant & Flight Lounge at Albert Whitted Airport, Cafe Gala at the Dali Museum and the Annex at 400 Beach.

Doc Ford’s, named after a character in a series of novels from Florida-based author Randy Wayne White, has locations in Sanibel Island, Captiva Island and Fort Myers Beach. White is a partner in the restaurant chain.

“Doc Ford’s has already established a reputation as a highly successful destination restaurant. The restaurant’s name and Florida theme, based on the novels by New York Times best-selling author Randy Wayne White, will appeal to both residents and visitors,” Kriseman wrote in a January memo announcing the choice.

The project, as well as the renovated Pier, is scheduled to open next year.

— ST. PETE CHAMBER SCHEDULES TALLY TRIP, ANNUAL MTG. —

St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce will be making its annual Tallahassee trip Jan. 30-31, to meet with legislative leaders and advocate for its city and members.

To register, visit stpete.com/Tallahassee.

Members of the chamber Public Policy Committee can use the promotion code “PP17” to save 10 percent on registration. This discount is available through Jan. 12.

In a celebration of accomplishments in 2017, the Chamber will also hold its annual meeting to honor community leaders and discuss the future of the Chamber and the community.

Scheduled Wednesday, Feb. 7, at 6 p.m. in St. Petersburg’s Mahaffey Theater, the event will name the Chamber’s Member of the Year as well as pass the gavel from the outgoing Board of Governors Chair to the incoming Chair.

Event sponsors include Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, Duke Energy, St. Anthony’s Hospital and the Tampa International/Hillsborough County Aviation Authority.

Chamber members received two free tickets, with more information and sponsorship opportunities at stpete.com/annualmeeting.

>>>As of November, Matt Lettelleir, has joined the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce as Advocacy Manager. The former director of communications for the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee will now oversee tracking city, county and state legislation on behalf of Chamber members.

— PINELLAS POLS RUE JACK LATVALA’S ABSENCE —

While former Sen. Latvala faces a possible criminal investigation after his abrupt resignation, some prominent Pinellas County lawmakers are withholding judgment on the Clearwater Republican.

“I’m old enough and wise enough and I’ve been around long enough to know that you can say anything about anybody,” says Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long, a Democrat. “But the last time I checked this is still the United States and you’re still supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.”

Long’s stance was similar that taken by Latvala and his legal team when he was initially accused by six women of inappropriate touching or uttering demeaning remarks about their bodies, as reported by POLITICO Florida in early November.

But Latvala gave up the fight only hours after a second blockbuster report on his misconduct went public Dec. 20 — the most explosive claim centering on allegations of a quid pro quo of legislative support for sexual intimacy with an unnamed lobbyist — now under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Among the fallout felt throughout Pinellas:

— Former Pinellas County Congressman David Jolly was “shocked” to read the report from retired Judge Ronald V. Swanson, named Special Master for the Senate, who referred his sexual harassment report to law enforcement for criminal investigation. “This isn’t the Jack Latvala that we know … I think that Jack made the right decision, and now it’s a matter for him personally and his family.”

— In resigning, “the Senator did the right thing,” says Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee Chair Nick DiCeglie. “It was a very difficult situation for him. It was a very difficult situation for his family. And I think ultimately he did the right thing there.”

— “I was certainly surprised, like everybody” reading the Swanson report, says Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. “I had no idea.”

— “He’s a character, no question. He can be a bully and he’s a tough, tough guy when it comes to getting stuff done, but it’s a tough, tough atmosphere,” says Long, who has known Latvala for more than 40 years. He always treated her with dignity and respect, Long adds, and was proud that she was never on the receiving end of what she labels his “hissy fits.”

— “Not only Clearwater, not only Pinellas, but really the Tampa Bay area is going to not have the chairman of the Senate Appropriations committee, so we are all going to have to work a little harder, and our delegation is going to have to work a little bit harder, and I’m confident that they will,” says Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos.

— NEW LAWMAKER READY FOR RE-ELECTION RUN —

Less than three weeks after winning a special election in a Hillsborough County House district, Republican Lawrence McClure is planning a re-election bid this fall.

McClure, who defeated three other candidates Dec. 19 to replace former Rep. Dan Raulerson opened a campaign account Friday for the November election, according to the state Division of Elections website.

Unaffiliated candidate Shawn Gilliam of Plant City also has opened an account for the District 58 race.

— POST-SESSION FUNDRAISING FRENZY BEGINS IN TAMPA — 

Nothing says post-Session in Florida like a good, old-fashioned fundraising frenzy.

And with the balance of the Senate in play, especially with an expected “wave election,” raising big money for campaigns is more essential than ever.

On Tuesday, March 27, just after the end of the annual 60-day legislative work session, a group of first-term Republican state lawmakers from across Florida is holding a joint fundraiser in Tampa to support their re-election efforts.

Listed on the invite are Sens. Dennis Baxley of Ocala, Doug Broxson of Pensacola, Panama City’s George Gainer, Travis Hutson of Palm Coast, Melbourne’s Debbie Mayfield, Kathleen Passidomo of Naples, Gainesville’s Keith Perry, Sarasota’s Greg Steube and Dana Young of Tampa.

The event begins 5 p.m. at the Tampa Yacht and Country Club, 5320 Interbay Blvd. in Tampa.

— FORMER RICK SCOTT OFFICIAL IN LINE FOR PINELLAS-PASCO JUDGESHIP —

Mary Thomas, a former top attorney at the Department of Elder Affairs under Gov. Scott, is under consideration for a Pinellas-Pasco circuit judgeship.

Thomas, who was a onetime candidate for North Florida’s 2nd Congressional District, is a finalist on the list of 11 names for the 6th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC), sent to Scott in November to fill two vacancies created by the retirements of Mark I. Shames and John A. Schaefer.

After years living in Tallahassee, Thomas, a former state government lawyer under then-Gov. Charlie Crist, relocated to Pinellas County. In 2016, she lost the GOP primary to Panama City urological surgeon Neal Dunn, who later went on to win the now GOP-leaning district.

“Mary came aboard with me right after I got elected back in 2010 and worked in my general counsel office, and to give her bragging rights, everything she touched, it worked,” Scott said at a Club for Growth event in 2016, as reported by POLITICO. “So, thank you for helping her, and hopefully she has a big win.”

“If Gov. Rick Scott selects Thomas, she will oversee cases like divorces, child support issues and adoptions,” The Tampa Bay Times writes.

— PINELLAS CO. MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS ON THE WAY —

A handful of municipal offices throughout Pinellas County are up for election March 13, including mayors of the cities of Belleair, Indian Rocks Beach, Kenneth City, Treasure Island and Pinellas Park.

Also, up for grabs are council seats in Belleair Beach, Clearwater, Gulfport, Indian Rocks Beach, Kenneth City, Madeira Beach, Redington Beach, Safety Harbor, South Pasadena and Treasure Island.

— “Qualifying period begins for St. Pete Beach City Commission

— “Four candidates qualify for South Pasadena City Commission election

— “Patrick Soranno goes uncontested for Indian Shores mayor

— “St. Pete Beach commissioners re-elected without opposition

— “Indian Rocks Beach voters set to pick new mayor, commissioners in 2018

— “Qualifying period begins for Treasure Island commission seats

— “Six candidates qualify for Belleair Beach City Council race

— “Qualifying period begins for three Safety Harbor commission seats

— “Six qualify for three seats in Treasure Island election

— “Realtor group endorses David Allbritton for Clearwater City Council

— PINELLAS PARK NAMES NEW FIRE CHIEF —

Pinellas Park Fire Chief Guy Keirn is retiring after last three years as chief. Deputy Chief Brett Schlatterer will be Keirn’s replacement.

Keirn’s last day is Jan. 22.

In his retirement letter, Keirn, a 33-year veteran of the fire department, said he wants to spend more time with family and his 1-year-old grandson.

Keirn said while having dinner recently, he and his wife, Susie, began discussing retirement, where he said: “It’s time.” He added that working for the Pinellas Park Fire Department was the “best decision I made in my life.”

— GRAND MARSHAL —

It is that time of year again for the Gulf Coast — Gasparilla.

Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla named former Tampa Bay Lightning Center Vincent Lecavalier as Grand Marshal of the 2018 Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest and Gasparilla Parade of the Pirates.

This year, Pirate Fest will be Saturday, January 27. EventFest Inc. produces the annual celebration; Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino — Tampa serves as title sponsor.

“Tampa Bay is a special place with great traditions, and the Lightning and Gasparilla are two of them. I look forward to representing both with pride in the parade,” Lecavalier, an NHL All-Star, said in a statement.

Gasparilla is Tampa’s historic community celebration of the apocryphal legend of pirate José Gaspar, featuring a series of events (for both adults and kids) that include the Gasparilla Invasion, Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, the Gasparilla Distance Classic, a film festival, and the Parade of the Pirates, which has been presented by Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla since 1904.

Gasparilla’s 2015 centennial was the third largest parade in the United States, with more than 300,000 people — over a million people attending at least one of the various events — generating nearly $23 million for Tampa’s economy.

Events also include the Pirate Fest Street Festival, presented by Budweiser with live entertainment in downtown Tampa both before and after the parade.

Details are at GasparillaPirateFest.com, which is regularly updated; reserved Gasparilla Invasion Brunch and Gasparilla Parade tickets are available at GasparillaTreasures.com, or by calling (813) 251-8844.

— NEW BOSS —

Diane Bailey Morton is starting the new year as executive director of the St. Petersburg Warehouse Arts District by launching a new membership drive. Local business executive and community advocate Lorna Taylor is pledging a $10,000 match if the Warehouse Arts District Association can add 200 new members during the drive.

For more information, a schedule of Arts District events for January, to donate or become a continuing member, visit warehouseartsdistrictstpete.com/Membership.

— EAT HEALTHY —

A healthy lifestyle can start early, according to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.

But it starts with family support — a perfect household New Year’s Resolution.

Per All Children’s, “Families that eat right, get plenty of physical activity, limit screen time and have good sleep habits are more likely to raise children with a normal body weight.”

The hospital recommends the following each day: nine hours of sleep, five servings of fruit and vegetables, no more than two hours in front of a screen, and an hour of physical activity.

Oh, and stop the sweetened drinks, too. That means no soda, sweet tea, lemonade, sports drinks, or even juice.

Need some help?: First Steps: Fit4AllKids is a free six-week program available for families with overweight children in the community. It’s offered year-round in St. Pete for children ages seven-plus.

Don’t forget about the flu: The Bay area already is seeing an increase in patients with the flu virus, according to All Children’s, and over a dozen pediatric deaths have occurred from the flu nationwide. The hospital recommends getting a flu shot (it’s not too late) and routinely washing hands to avoid the virus.

Dance against cancer: Dance Marathon is a nationwide movement that raises funds for Children’s Miracle Network through a multi-hour long “dance marathon.” It’s coming to Braden River High School on Jan. 20.

David Jolly, pondering political run, admits progressives’ energy is ‘massive’

David Jolly says that if the physical boundaries in Florida’s 13th Congressional District in Pinellas County were the same as they were when he won the seat twice back in 2014, he’d already be running against Charlie Crist this November.

The reality is that it’s the same Democratic-leaning seat that he ended up losing to Crist in 2016 by a 52 percent-48 percent margin.

That fact, as well as what he predicts could be a Democratic tsunami at the polls this fall, has effectively quelled his entry into the contest, though he insists he hasn’t completely closed the door on running for political office later this year.

“I am still considering being on the ballot for Congress, and having conversations about some statewide possibilities that we might confront by filing deadline,” the Indian Shores Republican said this week.

A frequent political analyst on cable news, Jolly says that before he were to commit himself to a campaign, he needs to ask and answer the question that he says every Republican should be asking in 2018: Is this a year to be a Republican on the ballot?

“The energy on the left is massive,” he says, pointing specifically to the results in Virginia’s state legislature last November as an indicator of the pent-up momentum among Democrats nationally.

In that election, Democrats flipped 16 Republicans seats in the Virginia House of Delegates, nearly seizing control of that chamber (Republicans maintained control this week only after their candidate’s name was picked out of a bowl to break a tie with a Democrat). The last time Democrats had taken more than five seats in that body was in 1975, a year after Richard Nixon resigned from office because of the Watergate scandal.

Virginia’s house races shows that the amount of energy on the left “is remarkable,” Jolly says.

“People on the left cannot wait to get to November,” he adds. “I don’t think the right has that enthusiasm.”

Congressional District 13 was one of eight congressional districts that the Florida Supreme Court ruled in 2015 needed to be redrawn by the Legislature to comply with the Fair Districts constitutional amendment, passed in 2010, that prohibited lawmakers from intentionally drawing districts that favored incumbents or political parties.

That resulted in CD 13 moving from being a rare swing district with a slight GOP advantage to becoming a large Democratic-leaning seat.

That initially led Jolly to opt out of a run for re-election to instead run for what was an open U.S. Senate seat. That changed once incumbent Marco Rubio decided to run again for the seat, compelling Jolly to attempt to win the seat that he originally said after redistricting was one that no Republican could possibly win.

The Cook Political Report last month listed the CD-13 set as as being “likely Democratic” in 2018.

Larry Sabato ‘Crystal Ball’ moves Charlie Crist seat to ‘likely Democratic’

With the way U.S. congressional districts are apportioned, any representative who wins their seat by less than five points is considered to be in a swing-seat district.

That makes them potentially vulnerable in a re-election bid.

Other (sometimes unforeseen) variables also determine the political landscape in an electoral cycle, such as a “wave” election that can result in dozens of seats switching parties.

For example, wave elections took place in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2014.

In 2016, Charlie Crist defeated David Jolly by 3.8 points. And while that makes the former Florida governor potentially vulnerable to a 2018 challenge, that is growing less likely by the day.

In the latest Sabato Crystal Ball (the prediction newsletter named after University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato), managing editor Kyle Kondik now moves Crist’s 13th Congressional District from “leans Democratic” to “likely Democratic.”

“Both Crist and (New Jersey Democrat Josh) Gottheimer represent ‘swingy’ districts, but these freshmen members are also raising boatloads of cash and benefit from the environment,” Kondik writes. “Crist does not have a viable challenger at the moment.”

Jolly has previously said that he would declare whether he would run again for his former seat in January, but the odds look less likely that will occur. Never a prolific fundraiser, there is still considerable doubt whether the National Republican Congressional Campaign (NRCC) would come to Jolly’s financial aid next year.

The NRCC opted not to help out Jolly when he truly needed it in his 2016 bid to maintain the seat against Crist, still indignant over the Pinellas Republican outing the organization for placing an emphasis on the need for members of Congress to fundraise every single day.

The district was also substantially redistricted in 2015, making it much more Democratic in voter registration, as well as much harder for any Republican to win.

Add to the fact that Crist had more than $1.4 million cash on hand, and it does seem a safe bet to move the St. Petersburg Democrat into the “likely Democratic” category.

Other Sabato predictions include Republican Mario Diaz-Balart moving from “likely Republican” to “safe Republican” in District 25; Republican Brian Mast in District 18 staying “likely Republican”; Carlos Curbelo‘s District 26 seat being a “tossup” against an eventual Democratic nominee and Florida’s 27th Congressional seat — vacated after 30 years by Republican Illeana Ros-Lehtinen — leaning Democratic.

David Jolly, Patrick Murphy to meet again at USF St. Pete

Former Florida Congressmen David Jolly and Patrick Murphy resume their fall college speaking tour in St. Petersburg.

The tour — called “Why Gridlock Rules Washington” — continues Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. on the 2nd floor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg Student Center. It will be televised live in the Tampa Bay area and Orlando markets.

Over the past couple of months, Jolly and Murphy have been holding public discussions about the state of chaos in Washington D.C., and what can be done to fix politics.

The one-hour event will be broadcast on Bay News 9 in Tampa Bay and Bay News 13 in Orlando, and will be moderated by Bay News 9 anchor Holly Gregory.

The two former lawmakers appeared on the USF Tampa campus last month, where Jolly repeated his comments from a year ago that part of the job as a member of Congress is to spend 20-30 hours a week raising money, and only 10 hours a week doing their actual jobs.

“I truly was taken aback by the fact that consumes every single minute,” the Pinellas Republican said. “If any member tells you that they spend more time on policy than fundraising, they’re lying.”

Attendees are asked to arrive at the ballroom on the 2nd floor of the University Student Center by 6:45 p.m. on December 5th. Those interested in attending must RSVP through Eventbrite.

Charlie Crist

Nat’l Republicans take another whack at Charlie Crist over tax reform bill

Like most House Democrats, St. Petersburg Congressman Charlie Crist voted against the GOP tax reform bill that passed last Thursday.

The House’s tax overhaul reduces the number of individual tax brackets, cuts the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent and curbs other tax breaks and deductions.

The plan, in total, would lower taxes on all income groups on average in 2019, but the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that some Americans would eventually see tax increases.

Democrats are depicting the bill as a tax cut for wealthy Americans and corporations, with middle-class families footing the bill — an issue they say they’ll be happy to run against Republicans next year.

The National Republican Congressional Committee thinks the public will side with Republicans, and they’re targeting 25 Democrats who they believe are in vulnerable districts in new 15-second digital ads that are running on Facebook.

Crist defeated Republican David Jolly by 3.8 points in 2016. Jolly says he’ll decide by January if he’ll challenge Crist again in 2018.

A new digital ad that began airing Friday depicts the former Florida governor as out of touch with his voters.

A similar ad is being run against Orlando area Democrat Stephanie Murphy.

“If anyone is looking for Stephanie Murphy or Charlie Crist — they were last seen bowing to their party bosses instead of providing essential tax relief for the people who need it most: the middle-class,” said NRCC spokesperson Maddie Anderson. “It’s a shame Stephanie Murphy and Charlie Crist couldn’t be a part of historic tax reform simply because of their unwavering allegiance to Nancy Pelosi.”

Bedlam at Rick Kriseman election watch party; bitterness at Rick Baker’s

Unlike the August 29 primary, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman went into the general election as the favorite against former Mayor Rick Baker.

But margins were slim.

Much to the consternation of Baker (and his supporters), early returns of the evening — which included early vote/vote-by-mail — gave Kriseman an advantage of two percentage points, a margin he never relinquished during the next hour, ultimately taking 51.6 percent, versus Baker’s 48.3.

“We can now move forward. We can now finish what we started, and fully attain our vision of being a city of opportunity where the sun shines on all,” Kriseman said to kick off his victory speech at Nova 535 in St. Petersburg.

Among chants of “four more years,” Kriseman said the city was now ready to lead the nation on a host of issues: climate change, clean energy, inclusivity and campaign finance reform.

“We are already seen as a leader,” he said. “But we can do so much more.”

Kriseman was magnanimous, hoping that after the bitter campaign he could work with Baker in “putting St. Pete first.”

In contrast, Baker refused to acknowledge Kriseman at all in his brief concession speech to supporters at 400 Beach Seafood and Tap House.

“St. Petersburg is still an incredible place,” Baker said, encouraging supporters to continue making St. Pete a “seamless city.”

“For every child and every neighborhood, no matter where they live,” he added, “has an opportunity to live in safety, to be able to dream big dreams, to be able to get a great education and to be able to achieve the American dream.”

It was a well-heeled crowd of Baker supporters, with some muted criticism of the former mayor’s campaign, as well as some grumbling that there was too much time spent on the city’s south side and not enough in it’s western and northern parts.

And, of course, there was the Donald J. Trump factor.

From Day One, Baker accused Kriseman of partisanship, which Team Kriseman did (early and often), driving home the idea that the popular former two-term mayor was on the same team as Trump, despite Baker never saying anything about the president.

“You want races to be decided based on the qualifications of the candidates, but you can’t take politics out of politics,” admitted former Congressman David Jolly, introducing Baker’s two children to the audience after results started rolling in.

“Rick Baker did a wonderful job as mayor, but he’s been presented with the headwinds that most Republican candidates today are presented with, which is how do you handle what Donald Trump with this Republican Party?” Jolly asked rhetorically. “It’s not fair for Rick Baker, but it’s reality in today’s politics.”

“St. Petersburg is a very Democratic town and so he just tightened up the partisan politics to his advantage, which I can’t blame him for,” conceded former Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee Chair Paul Bedinghaus. “He played the party card, the Trump card.”

While Kriseman called for the city to come together, not all Baker fans were there emotionally, just yet.

“You don’t change leopard spots,” sniffed former Councilman Bill Dudley.

“This is just gonna give him a boost to continue to do what he’ doing, which is a real shame,” lamented former City Councilwoman Leslie Curran, a Kriseman supporter in 2013 who flipped to Baker during this election cycle.

“He bought his way out of jail time with a settlement with the consent order, but you can’t settle on everything,” she said, referring to the City Council’s approving a consent order with the Fish and Wildlife Commission and Pasco-Pinellas State Attorney Bernie McCabe to evade criminal penalties. The board agreeing to spend $326 million to improve the city’s sewage system, which discharged up to 200 million gallons of partially treated wastewater into local waterways from 2015 and 2016.

Some analysts considered Kriseman a dead man walking in early August, after an internal poll by the Florida Democratic Party showed the incumbent, a Democrat, down by double digits, 44 -33 percent.

That prompted some to start pushing the panic button, but Kriseman and close supporters weren’t swayed.

The next day, Pinellas County School Board Member (and fierce Kriseman ally) Rene Flowers told a group of supporters about to knock on doors that it was “time for the gloves to come off.”

“Quite frankly, we’ve attempted to run a campaign that is based on civility,” Flowers told the group at Kriseman’s southside headquarters. “We’ve attempted to run a campaign that is based on facts, and we will continue to do so, but we truly see that’s not what the opposition is doing, so it’s time for the gloves to come off.”

Less than three weeks later was the primary, where supposedly the only suspense would be if Baker could get the 50-percent-plus-one needed to end the election outright.

Instead, Kriseman stunned the Tampa Bay-area (and anyone else paying attention to the race) by capturing 70 more votes than Baker. And despite some extremely rough press and negative campaign ads by Baker, he never looked back.

Also paying attention were national Democrats.

DNC Chair Tom Perez exclaimed Tuesday night: “Today is a good day for St. Petersburg. I want to congratulate Mayor Kriseman on his re-election, and I want to recognize the incredible work of the Florida Democratic Party and countless grassroots organizers who helped lead Rick to victory … I’m confident that Mayor Kriseman will continue to move his city forward and give residents of St. Pete the leadership they deserve. The DNC was proud to invest in this re-election race, and we will continue fighting to elect mayors like Rick who will expand opportunity and build an economy that works for all.”

(Photo Credit: Kim DeFalco).

 

Though decrying gridlock, David Jolly would like to see Democrats stop Donald Trump

Republican former U.S. Rep. David Jolly doubled down Tuesday evening on his expressed wish that Democrats win the 2018 mid-term elections as a check on President Donald Trump, saying he hoped that so that “we may be safer as a nation.”

Jolly appeared Wednesday evening at the University of Central Florida in Orlando with Democratic former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy on their college-campus tour to talk about their concerns about how hyper-partisanship has caused gridlock, and forced both parties to kowtow to extremes within their ranks.

Yet Jolly, the St. Petersburg politician who served two terms and then chose to run an eventually-aborted campaign for the U.S. Senate Republican nomination last year instead of for re-election, expressed great frustration Monday night on MSNBC with his party’s unwillingness to stand up to Trump.

After the UCF forum Tuesday evening, he repeated that contention and his desire to see Democrats take over the U.S. House of Representatives for the last two years of Trump’s term. He told FloridaPolitics.com that he views Trump as unsteady and a national security concern, and is worried that his party cannot check him.

“I’ve struggled with it as we continue to hear stories around the national security implications around the president’s irascibility and volatility,” Jolly said. “Certainly we know some of the Constitutional issues that have been raised from ethics to Russia. We also know that he is an unsteady hand as commander in chief.

“And we’ve seen Republicans largely unwilling to stand up to him,” Jolly continued. “Listen, I’m a Republican, who hopes we see a Republican Congress pass Republican policies. But it may be for the greater good that there is a stronger check on Capitol Hill on this president than the Republicans are currently providing. So if it meant Democrats take control of the House for two years, and the president not being in office come January 2021, then we may be safer as a nation in my opinion.

“This may be bigger than the party,” Jolly concluded.

The matter did not come up during the 75-minute forum, in which Murphy and Jolly expressed their concerns about how gerrymandering had created too many safe seats, and how the party leadership in Congress was valuing power over any bipartisan relationships, discouraging members in any contested seats from building relationships with those across the aisle.

Murphy said gerrymandering was the biggest single problem. Yet he also decried the closed-primary system in Florida and other states that use it, noting that voter turnout in a primary average is 15 percent. That 15 percent, he argued, likely represents the most extreme wing of the party; and becomes the deciding force in any district predetermined to be a safe seat for one party or the other. And he contended 90 percent of seats are so predetermined.

“So imagine you’re a member of Congress. Imagine your a candidate. Are you going to appeal to that 85 percent [who don’t vote in the primary] or that 15 percent? Murphy said. “You’re going to tailor a message to them. You’re going to make sure they see ads.And you’re going to get to office. And then you’re going to say the same thing, even if it’s against your own self interest.

“We both know friends on both sides of the aisle that are standing for things they don’t truly believe in,” Murphy said.

Both Murphy and Jolly talked about how leaderships punish members who work across the aisle. Murphy said it starts from the very first week a freshman member of Congress arrives, and is segregated from freshmen from the other party, and then is told to not get chummy with those in the other party, because the goal is to see them defeated in the next election. Murphy and Jolly said both sides do it, threatening to not provide re-election money, or threatening to take away valuable committee seats.

“We can’t can’t take human nature out of this,” Jolly said. “It requires a certain amount of political courage to step forward to say I’m going to be one of those people who decide to change it.”

David Jolly says nation might be ‘better off’ if Democrats take back Congress in 2018

Amid growing concerns over President Donald Trump‘s temperament, David Jolly suggested (on national television, no less) that the country might be “safer” if Democrats took control of the House in 2018.

“I will be honest with you, Lawrence; I, personally, as a Republican in the past few weeks, have wondered if the Republic’s safer if Democrats take over the House in 2018,” the former Republican congressman from Pinellas County told Lawrence O’Donnell Monday on MSNBC’s “The Last Word.”

“This is a president that needs a greater check on his powers than Republicans in Congress have offered,” Jolly added.

Clearly surprised by the comment, McDonnell asked Jolly to repeat what he just said. Did he really just hear a Republican say that — for the safety of the country — we’d be better off with the Democrats in control next year?

“There is no discernible Republican ideological agenda that is worth fighting for right now,” Jolly replied. “But we do know that we have a president who very well might put this nation at risk and this Republican Congress has done nothing to check his power. The Democrats could, and we might be better off as a republic, if they take the House in 2018.”

To regain the House of Representatives, Democrats would need to flip 24 seats next year.

Jolly also insisted he’s still thinking of running as a Republican against Democrat Charlie Crist in a rematch of the 2016 race in Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

But after comments like this, will Pinellas Republicans rally behind him?

Watch below:

Charlie Crist

Charlie Crist adds $353K during Q3 to re-election fund

Democrat Charlie Crist raised $353,473 during the third quarter of 2017, giving him more than $1.4 million cash on hand for his re-election campaign.

While still impressive, the pace is slowing down for one of Florida’s most prodigious fundraisers. The former governor raised a whopping $720,000 during the first quarter of the year, and followed up with more than $550,000 in the second quarter.

With more than a year before the 2018 midterm elections, Crist has yet to face an announced challenger in 2018.

Republican David Jolly could be that challenger.

Jolly has said that he will announce early next year if he will run again against Crist, who defeated him 52 to 48 percent last November.

David Jolly, Patrick Murphy discuss fixing Washington — it was (sort of) interesting

One could reasonably approach the David Jolly-Patrick Murphy roadshow hitting Tampa Thursday night with a healthy dose of cynicism.

Here are two former politicians decrying problems of Washington D.C. when, if things had turned the way they hoped they would, both would have been ensconced in the belly of the beast they were now criticizing.

Nevertheless, the two former members of Congress, for the most part, kept it pretty engaging during the hourlong conversation at the University of South Florida Marshall Center, facilitated by USF professor Susan McManus and Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith.

Each man spent the first 15 minutes of the Oval Theater event giving their own prescriptions of what they find wrong with politics today.

Unlike the 34-year-old Murphy, who had been first elected to Congress at the tender of age of 29 after defeating Tea Party Republican Allen West in 2012, Jolly was already an insider, having worked for years as both a lobbyist and an aide to longtime Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Young.

After winning a special election in March 2014, Jolly said he was stunned to discover how much fundraising was expected of new members, since it wasn’t something he ever saw Young doing. Jolly then described a slide he had seen from a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee presentation to incoming lawmakers (he suspected the National Republican Congressional Campaign had one as well) suggesting candidates spend 20-30 hours a week raising money, and only 10 hours a week doing their jobs.

“I truly was taken aback by the fact that consumes every single minute,” the Pinellas Republican said. “If any member tells you that they spend more time on policy than fundraising, they’re lying.”

Another thing that surprised Jolly: The lack of understanding of policy among members of Congress, without naming names.

“It’s remarkable how many people don’t understand the Constitutional implications, the subject matter implications, or even care to learn,” he said, noting they just rely on senior staff help.

Murphy, a Treasure Coast Democrat who lost a bid to defeat Marco Rubio, concurred. He said that while he still believes in term limits, serious policy issues remain (as one, he referred to the Dodd-Frank financial regulation), which take time to learn.

Both men offered some details of what happens behind the scene, especially as freshmen lawmakers.

Murphy discussed how he interviewed several people to learn how to run a campaign, ultimately hiring one as a consultant. He said he was “shocked” to learn the expense (over $10,000 a month). Murphy hired a consultant, a campaign manager, and then a fundraising team.

Jolly was also told he needed a pollster, which he thought absurd since Young served in Congress for more than 40 years without one. But his general consultant told him that a pollster was necessary to learn what constituents care about.

“We need a poll so we know your Republican voters are going to be participating — what is most important to them, so when we determine how to spend money on mailers and commercials, we’re on message with it,” Jolly explained.

Jolly supports open primaries and “jungle primaries” in places like Louisiana and California, where the top two finishers of a race advance to a general election, not the top Republican and Democrat.

He said what he found sad — going across party lines to show independence wouldn’t be rewarded by voters — referring to how he came out for same-sex marriage in 2014 a few months after his election. Jolly said his consultant told him that it was lose-lose; he had just lost Republican votes and wasn’t about to gain any Democratic ones.

“Aren’t you winning independents?” Smith asked.

Jolly replied that he thought that after “multiple” elections one could build up a constituency of independent voters, but in early races, “you’re not bringing people over.”

Both men spoke up in support of lobbyists, saying that in many cases they’re the most informed participants on a public policy issue. (Did we mention that Jolly was previously a lobbyist?)

A frequently overlooked aspect of a member of Congress’ job is constituent services. Both men related poignant stories of helping individuals, which left them both humbled and feeling fortunate they can actually help somebody.

While much of Murphy’s message seemed to be that the system encourages extremes of both parties and drown out centrists, Jolly’s approach was more realistic. He said it was fine to be progressive or conservative, but the lesson politicians learn is that by compromising on some issues is how public policy advances.

“It’s OK to be far to the left or far to the right,” Jolly said, “but the challenge and the breakdown right now is that those two communities are not working together.”

Responding to audience questions, Jolly and Murphy agreed that the Netflix show “House of Cards” was fairly realistic.

When asked if it was possible to win without political action committees, Jolly said a prevalence of third-party groups means candidates have to raise less money on their own. Murphy said “very unlikely.”

To the same question, Murphy answered “very unlikely.”

In the audience of several hundred were mostly students, many holding slices of free pizza offered as an incentive to attend. Other students admitted they were only there to get extra credit from professors.

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