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Linda Stewart walks over Mike Clelland’s bankroll to win primary in SD 13

Former state Rep. Mike Clelland’s sizable campaign bankroll proved no match for former state Rep. Linda Stewart‘s indomitable ground game in east Orange County, as Stewart captured the Senate District 11 Democratic primary.

“I walked myself so silly, I bet you we covered 6,000 doors,” Stewart said Tuesday night. “I know we called through 10,000 phone calls, twice. And all mine was behind the scenes. I don’t have all those big commercials on TV. But we went directly, directly, into the voters’ households.”

That’s been Stewart’s patented campaign plan in past elections, as she’s twice won Orange County commission races and a state representative race, though she has lost some elections too, including the 2014 race to keep her House seat.

Stewart drew 43 percent of the vote Tuesday night, with Clelland — whose campaign and independent political action committee combined to raise about $700,000 and spent much of it on television — drew 34 percent. Former Orange County School Board Member Rick Roach drew 23 percent.

That puts Stewart into a match with Republican nominee Dean Asher for a Senate seat the Democrats are targeting to flip this year. The seat had long been a safe Republican hold, and is currently occupied by retiring Senate President Andy Gardiner. But redistricting has given Democrats a sizable advantage.

Asher, a Realtor, also has a formidable campaign war chest, which he has barely opened, awaiting the general election.

Stewart, always optimistic, insisted she is not worried, and said she’ll continue campaigning on the issues that she’s always used, including environmental protection, women’s rights, and health care.

“Seven hundred fifty thousand dollars? If you think that bothers me, it doesn’t,” Stewart said.

Actually, Asher’s most recent totals are closer to $550,000. Still, Stewart raised just $30,000 going into the primary.

“I got my own plan,” she said.

Aramis Ayala unseats Jeff Ashton to win JC9 state attorney

Aramis Ayala stunned incumbent State Attorney Jeff Ashton Tuesday night in the Democratic primary to all but win election to the post in Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit, covering Orange and Osceola counties.

Ayala pummeled Ashton 57 percent to 43 percent in a race in which just a month ago she still was a relative unknown former assistant state attorney trying to unseat the nationally famous prosecutor.

That was before Democratic super PAC financier George Soros got involved, bankrolling a million-dollar independent advertising campaign to slam Ashton and offer Ayala as an answer.

Using several political action committees with the name “Safety & Justice,” Soros has set about to get black candidates elected all over the country. His “Florida Safety & Justice” PAC pushed Ayala and accused Ashton of discrimination in the way he ran prosecutions, something Ashton vehemently denied.

She must still win the general election but the only opponent left is a write-in candidate, William Voss, who qualified for the ballot because he, too, wanted Ashton out of office. Even if he does not withdraw, he will be only a road-bump in Ayala’s eventually victory.

That victory makes Ayala the first African-American ever elected to a state attorney office in the history of Florida. It’s a matter she has expressed pride about but not really pushed in her campaign.

Her campaign advocated instead for a reorganization of the State Attorney’s Office in Orlando to pay more attention to crimes such as domestic violence, and to bridge communication gaps between prosecutors and the broader Central Florida community.

She said she had never had any contact with Soros.

Ashton gained national fame five years ago as the prosecutor of Casey Anthony, an assignment that led to a movie depicting him and helped lead to his election in 2012. He was bitter about Tuesday’s defeat, blaming it what he called a false campaign by the New York billionaire who’d never met either candidate.

“The voters decided today that the price of the state attorney’s race is $1.4 million in lies. I’m deeply disappointed in this result but I stand by the good work of my office and the folks who work here,” Ashton said.

Ironically, Ashton could have expected a bitter campaign fight, but not about the issue of discrimination, which no one else has ever publicly leveled. Instead, he must have been preparing for Ayala to bring up an embarrassing episode in 2015 when his name appeared on the leaked list of people who had applied for membership to the Ashley Madison dating site for married men. Ashton publicly apologized then, saying he had never actually used the site to meet anyone and had entered it only out of curiosity.

Ayala had mentioned the incident when she first announced her candidacy last winter and said she intended to push integrity as one of her issues. But she never actually campaigned about it, and “Florida Safety & Justice” never mentioned it either.

Henry Lim calls Elizabeth Tuura mailer ‘false’ in gun charge claim

Democratic House District 47 candidate Henry Lim is crying foul over a mailer primary opponent Beth Tuura sent out this weekend declaring that Lim was arrested on a gun charge.

Lim was arrested Nov. 5, 2015, when security found a loaded handgun in his bag while he attempted to enter a federal building in Miami, but he was never formally charged.

The arrest occurred because Miami police alleged he had committed an offense under a gun charge. But the state attorney never filed a formal charge and the case went away in December. Lim once had a concealed weapons permit, but it had expired at that time. He has since reapplied for such a permit.

Lim faces Tuura and Clint Curtis in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. The winner would face Republican incumbent state Rep. Mike Miller of Orlando in the November election.

“In reality, Lim has never been charged with a crime in his life. He has no criminal record,” read a statement from Lim’s campaign. “The mailer appears timed to frighten and mislead voters just before Election Day on Tuesday.

“Tuura’s mailer is based on a November 2015 incident at a Miami immigration services building, where Lim was stopped with a handgun in his briefcase,” the statement continues. “Contrary to the mailer’s claim, no charges were filed and Lim was able to apply for a renewal of his concealed carry permit.”

Tuura’s mailer also includes the words “HENRY LIM brought a loaded gun into a federal building,” which Lim has never denied. It also notes that the safety was off and a bullet was in the chamber, which was noted in the arrest report.

“We stated the fact about Henry Lim’s gun arrest,” Tuura replied. “It’s important that the voters of House District 47 know Henry Lim’s record as a careless gun owner.”

Bob Poe rolls another $100K loan into his campaign

Heading into the final weekend before the primary, Democratic congressional candidate Bob Poe lent his campaign another $100,000 Friday, bringing his personal investment to just over $2 million in his bid for election in Florida’s 10th Congressional District.

Poe vowed from the start to fund much of his campaign and so far the self-made millionaire entrepreneur has bankrolled virtually all of it.

Poe has raised $188,000 in private contributions. Through the Aug. 10 pre-primary period, he reported spending $1.9 million, mostly on TV advertising, but also through a commitment to pay all his campaign staff at least $15 an hour, as a signal of his belief in raising the minimum wage.

On Aug. 10 he had about $101,000 left, not including the $100,000 loan he made to his campaign last Friday.

Poe’s in a tough battle for the Democratic nomination with front-runner Val Demings, a former Orlando police chief with just about the full backing of the national Democratic Party. Also in the race is state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, who has been elected five times in the region, and lawyer Fatima Rita Fahmy.

Demings’ campaign contributions topped the $1 million mark this month, with $27,600 that has poured in since Aug. 10 and about $11,000 she had lent her own campaign earlier this year. She reported on that date that she had $165,000 left.

Thompson’s campaign contributions reached $119,000 by Aug. 10 and she has not filed any updates since. With $66,000 in personal loans she made to her campaign last year and $144,000 in spending, Thompson had about $40,000 left on Aug. 10.

Fahmy reported $31,000 in contributions and just $2,400 in spending, leaving her with about $28,000 left on Aug. 10.

Republican Thuy Lowe awaits the winner. She has raised and spent $49,000 so far and had virtually no money left on Aug. 10.

Victor Torres with big late push in SD 15 Democratic primary

Democratic state Rep. Victor Torres is putting some last-minute light between him and Kissimmee businessman Bob Healy in last-month advertising for the Florida Senate District 15 primary.

Torres, who has always had a commanding war chest compared with Healy, dropped $33,000 on advertising in the first couple weeks of August and still had $87,000 more cash left than Healy on Aug. 12, the last date for which campaign finance reports are posted in the race.

Torres, a retired police officer and bus driver, raised $23,000 for his campaign in the first 12 days of August, compared with $12,000 for Healy, the funeral director. That leaves Torres with $156,000 raised and $126,000 left. Healy has raised $36,000 and lent $20,000 to his campaign, leaving him with $39,000.

Republican nominee Peter Vivaldi awaits the winner of Tuesday’s primary.

Randolph Bracy with big late push in SD 11 Democratic primary

Democratic state Rep. Randolph Bracy ramped up his campaign spending, dropping $23,000 in the first two weeks of August in the push for a Tuesday primary win in Florida’s Senate District 11.

Bracy, of Oakland, has far more money than his three opponents and spent far more in the weeks heading toward the primary.

Yet environmental activist Chuck O’Neal of Apopka lent his campaign another $5,000 in early August and was sitting on more money Aug. 12 for a late push. And former state Sen. Gary Siplin of Orlando had the biggest fundraising push in early August, putting him into position for a big last-week spree as well.

In the most recent campaign finance reports available for the race, Bracy had raised $143,000, including $23,000 in the first two weeks of August, leaving him with $71,000 at Aug. 12. O’Neal, who has lent his campaign $67,500, raised almost nothing in early August but had $94,000 cash-on-hand by Aug. 12. Siplin’s big first two weeks of August left him with $39,000 in the bank. And former state Rep. Bob Sindler of Orlando, also a former Orange County commissioner, raised $5,700 in August and on Aug. 25 had $21,000 for any late push.

There are no Republicans running in the district, which covers west Orange County.

Dena Grayson adds $35K loan for CD 9 campaign

Democratic congressional candidate Dena Grayson lent her campaign another $35,000 in the past week as she prepares for the final weekend of the tough primary in Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

Grayson, a Windermere biomedical researcher, increased her personal investment into her campaign to $150,000 just this summer. The result has been that she heads into the primary home stretch with perhaps $182,000 to spend.

Federal campaign finance reports show she still trails two primary opponents, state Sen. Darren Soto of Orlando and Orlando activist Susannah Randolph, in total money raised, but Soto has spent so much of his that Grayson is well ahead of him and not far behind Randolph in cash still available for the last push.

Through Thursday, Soto had raised $768,o0o for his campaign. He had spent at least $685,000, a number only covering expenditures through Aug. 10. That leaves him with as much as $83,000.

Randolph had raised $729,000 through Thursday. She had spent just $508,000 through Aug. 10, meaning she has as much as $221,000 to spend.

Including her personal loans, Grayson raised $579,000 for her campaign through Thursday, and had spent $397,000 through Aug. 10, so she could have $182,000 left to spend.

The fourth Democrat in the race, Kissimmee businesswoman Valleri Crabtree, has never focused much on fundraising. Like Grayson, she has contributed personally to her own account, a total of $39,000, including $20,000 this summer. With that, she reported $64,000 in contributions and $63,000 in expenses through Aug. 10. She did not need to file additional reports through Thursday.

The Republican primary opponents, St. Cloud businessman Wayne Liebnitzky and Kissimmee Commissioner Wanda Rentas, are fundraising on a whole different scale.

Liebnitzky has lent his campaign $13,000, including $4,000 this month. That gives him $22,000 in total contributions and about $20,000 in expenses so far, with $1,750 in the bank, at Aug. 10.

Rentas raised about $18,000 and spent about $16,000, with about $2,000 in the bank.

The Soto-Randolph-Grayson money chase has become increasingly attractive to political action committees.

About half the $35,700 Soto raised last week came from a variety of PACs, ranging from the American Osteopathic Information Association to Friends of Israel.

Randolph gathered $13,900 in PAC money herself last week, with donations coming from two unions, the Feminist Majority PAC, and the League of Conservation Voters.

Grayson, who holds a doctor of medicine degree though she is not a practicing doctor, continues to draw donations from medical groups. They provided $4,500 last week. GUTS PAC — set up by her husband, the Democratic incumbent, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson — added another $2,300 to her campaign last week.

Linda Sanchez and Darren Soto to caravana Kissimmee in CD 9

California Democratic U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez will be campaigning with state Rep. Darren Soto in a caravana event in Kissimmee Sunday for his bid to win Tuesday’s primary in Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

Sanchez, who represents part of Los Angeles, currently serves as chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and is running for vice-chair of the House Democratic Caucus.

She will be with Soto as they parade throughout the Buena Ventura Lakes region, the heart of Kissimmee’s Puerto Rican community. The caravana, a popular political event in Puerto Rico, will focus on get-out-the-vote efforts.

Soto’s in a tough battle for the Democratic nomination with Dena Grayson, Susannah Randolph and Valleri Crabtree. The winner would face the Republican primary winner, either Wayne Liebnitzky or Wanda Rentas.

“It is time for a Hispanic member of Congress from Central Florida. Minority voters need to make their voices heard this August by electing Darren Soto for Congress,” Sanchez stated in a news release issued by Soto’s campaign. “Once elected, Soto will be the first Puerto Rican member of Congress from Florida. That’s historic!”

The caravana will begin at the Lugo Ranch at 3 p.m., and end around 5 p.m. at the Robert Guevara Community Center.

Ricardo Rangel gets HD 43 backing of Brandon Arrington

Osceola County Commissioner Brandon Arrington has thrown his endorsement to former state Rep. Ricardo Rangel in his effort to win back his seat in Kissimmee-based House District 43.

Arrington’s district covers much of HD 43, including Poinciana.

“Ricardo Rangel, a U.S. Army veteran, is the best choice for the Florida House of Representatives, District 43,” Arrington stated in a news release issued by Rangel’s campaign. “Floridians need a leader in Tallahassee that will work for our communities’ healthcare, our children’s education, and stand up for working families. I look forward to working with Ricardo Rangel to continue to improve the quality of life for all the residents of Osceola County.”

In Tuesday’s Democratic primary, Rangel faces state Rep. John Cortes, who beat Rangel in the 2014 Democratic primary. Also in the race is Sara Shaw. There is a write-in candidate, so the primary will be open only to Democratic voters, and the winner will be all-but-assured of election in November.

Rangel also has won the endorsement of Osceola County Commission Chairwoman Viviana Janer.

“I am honored to have Commissioner Arrington’s endorsement,” Rangel stated in the release. “I look forward to working with him and Commissioner Janer to help our community in Osceola County.”

Central Florida hoteliers back Ricardo Rangel in HD 43

The Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association has endorsed former state Rep. Ricardo Rangel in his quest to return to his seat in the Kissimmee-based House District 43.

Rangel, a Kissimmee Democrat, is challenging current incumbent state Rep. John Cortes in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary. Cortes beat Rangel in a primary two years ago. Democrat Sara Shaw also is in the race.

“The Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association is looking forward to having the leadership of Ricardo Rangel back in Tallahassee. His continued partnership with Central Florida’s hospitality industry will be a great benefit to our community,” Kevin Craig, public policy director for CFHLA, stated in a news release issued by Rangel’s campaign.

The hotel association represents one of Central Florida’s biggest employers, with tens of thousands of workers, many of them living in HD 43.

The winner of the Aug. 30 Democratic primary is assured election in November. There is a write-in candidate who will be on the November ballot. That makes the primary open only to Democratic voters.

“I am honored to have CFHLA’s endorsement. With tourism being Osceola County’s No. 1 industry, I look forward to working with them to ensure hospitality, tourism and the jobs it creates continues to thrive.” Rangel stated.

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