If there were a local proxy for the national GOP’s intraparty conflict, it would be Pinellas County Commission District 6.
This three-way race pitted Larry Ahern, a Trump Republican legislator from Seminole, against a St. Petersburg activist with Tea Party roots (Barbara Haselden) and a moderate Republican lawmaker, state Rep. Kathleen Peters of Treasure Island.
In the end, moderation won out: With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Peters has 48 percent of the vote; Ahern is in second place with 36 percent, while Haselden managed to get 16 percent.
The District 6 seat became open upon the passing of Commissioner John Morroni, a moderate Republican who held the seat since 2000.
Although she had yet to term out, Peters eschewed re-election to the House District 69 seat and voiced frustration over the legislature’s efforts to stifle local governments in their ability to pass local regulations on a variety of matters. She was an early and passionate supporter of investing in mental health and addiction and vowed to do so at the county level.
Polling suggested Peters was ahead of her opponents, and she won the recommendation of the Tampa Bay Times.
Ahern, meanwhile, is termed out of his seat.
Arguably the most conservative lawmaker in the Pinellas Legislative Delegation, Ahern was an early supporter of then-candidate Donald Trump. He has generally sided with ultraconservative House leadership, and as a Pinellas County Commission candidate has promised to lower taxes and promote limited government as well as public safety.
A first-time commission candidate, Haselden cited as one of her biggest accomplishments her role in fighting the Greenlight Pinellas initiative, which would have funded expanded transit in Pinellas County via a sales tax increase. A Tea Party activist since around the time President Barack Obama took office, she has also expressed a desire to limit the power of government and impose term limits on commissioners.
Newcomer Amy Kedron, a Democrat who did not face a primary challenge, will also be on the ballot for this seat in November.
Three Republicans competed in the primary to succeed exiting House Speaker Richard Corcoran in Pasco County’s House District 37, and with the election in the books, Land O’ Lakes businessman Ardian Zika earned the nomination.
With 35 of 36 precincts reporting, Zika led his closest opponent, Elle Rudisill, 57-26 percent. The third Republican vying for the seat, Ryan Patrick Boney, received about 17 percent of the vote.
Zika, who immigrated to the U.S. from Kosovo in the 1990s, held a consistent lead in fundraising and in endorsements throughout his campaign to replace Corcoran, who could not run again due to term limits.
Five days ahead of the primary, Zika had raised more than $227,000 for his campaign and had more than $85,000 left to spend.
Rudisill, also of Land O’ Lakes, wasn’t as successful on the fundraising front — her tally barely crossed the $15,000 mark — but she did gain some nods from area Republicans, including former Clearwater Rep. Ed Hooper, Pasco Clerk Paula O’Neill, former state Rep. Ken Littlefield and former Pasco Commissioner Henry Wilson.
Boney, an Odessa Republican, entered the race at the beginning of the year and didn’t field much of a campaign. The lone action from his campaign account was fronting the ballot fee by way of a candidate contribution.
With the nomination secured, Zika now moves on to the general election, where he’ll go head-to-head against Land O’ Lakes Democrat Tammy Garcia.
Garcia, a first-time candidate who works in medical insurance billing, has raised $12,381 since opening her campaign account in January with about $5,800 in the bank on Aug. 23. Finances aside, she faces an uphill battle given HD 37’s strong Republican lean.
While there are no state House results to point to — Corcoran never faced an Election Day challenger in his four campaigns — the district cemented itself as a Republican stronghold when Donald Trump carried the it by a 61-34 percent marginon Election Day 2016.
HD 37 covers the majority of inland Pasco County, including the communities of Land O’ Lakes, Odessa, Heritage Pines, Shady Hills, Meadow Oaks and Moon Lake.
State Rep. Mike Miller won a tough, three-way Republican primary Tuesday in Florida’s 7th Congressional District in convincing fashion for the right to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy in an election battle over a region that Republicans owned for decades but is now trending blue.
Miller, a two-term state representative from Winter Park, had much less difficulty than even his optimistic supporters might have hoped for in dispatching Sanford businessman Scott Sturgill and Vennia Francois of Orlando for the Republican nomination. Meanwhile, Murphy easily brushed aside a challenge from the left brought by progressive activist Chardo Richardson in the Democratic primary.
“It’s a validation of everything I’ve been talking about with constituents for a year and a half,” Miller said Tuesday night. “I’ve been talking about values, and the things I learned in the Florida House and learned from people like Sen. Connie Mack, who I worked with, and they are very important for the people of Central Florida.”
“I spoke from the heart and talked about the direction I see our country going in and it worked,” Miller added.
The seat, representing Seminole County and north and central Orange County, is one that national and state Republicans desperately wanted to win back after Murphy shocked many by flipping it from longtime Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. John Mica in the 2016 election. The Republican organizations have kept their distances during the contested Republican primary but can be expected to step in with millions of dollars to back Miller or oppose Murphy.
With early returns and most districts already reporting, Miller has built an insurmountable lead on Sturgill with Francois far back in both counties. Miller is taking 64 percent in his home county of Orange, and 49 percent in Seminole with Sturgill taking only 33 percent of early returns in his home county, Seminole and only 20 percent in Miller’s. Francois was picking up 15 percent of the Orange vote and 17 percent of the Seminole vote.
Surprising no one, Murphy easily is dispatching Richardson, who brought a nationally-focused young progressives campaign to Central Florida but no money and very little organization to take on a well-funded, well-organized incumbent congresswoman backed by all mainstream Democrats.
But state and national Democrats, too, see this race as a priority. Democratic groups already are lining up to support Murphy and oppose Miller in big and expensive ways.
While Miller touted himself as a rock-solid conservative, Sturgill actually ran to his right, seeking to be the candidate most associated with President Donald Trump in the contest. But Seminole County, and to a greater degree the CD 7 portions of Orange County, have a more moderate view than even a few years ago when Mica, himself something of a moderate, owned the district.
President Donald Trump sent a reminder to the world Monday that Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis is his man in Florida’s Republican gubernatorial primary, tweeting that DeSantis has “my full and total Endorsement.”
“Congressman Ron DeSantis is a special person who has done an incredible job. He is running in Tuesdays Primary for Governor of Florida….Strong on Crime, Borders and wants Low Taxes. He will be a great Governor and has my full and total Endorsement!” Trump tweeted.
DeSantis faces Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, and Putnam was leading in virtually all polls until Trump made his endorsemen of DeSantis official in late June, and DeSantis has been leading comfortably in most polls ever since.
With loyalty toward and support for and from Trump being a major factor in all Republican races, Trump has been pouring it on for DeSantis. On Sunday, DeSantis began robocallsin which Trump was offering a similar full-thrated endorsement for DeSantis.
While President DonaldTrump on Monday hailed a tentative trade deal with Mexico, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Sen. BillNelson raised concerns about whether the deal would adequately protect Florida farmers.
Rubio and Nelson sent a joint letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer requesting that he work “diligently to ensure Florida’s agriculture community is fairly represented in the forthcoming trade deal” and pointing to past issues that have hurt the state’s farmers.
“Mexican growers have used every trick in the book to get around U.S. trade rules, much at the expense of Florida growers, who are uniquely impacted by such behavior,” the letter said. “As we have previously written, Florida is one of the few places in the U.S. that can produce warm-weather fruits and vegetables in the winter, forcing our growers to bear the brunt of Mexican trade abuses. Without just relief, Mexican producers will continue to drive our growers out of business and eventually take full control of the U.S. market during the winter. We must ensure that such an outcome does not occur.”
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump harshly criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. The tentative deal announced Monday with Mexico would revamp it.
“Once again, President Trump is delivering on this fundamental promise with a new trade deal with Mexico that replaces a prior failed deal forged by establishment Washington,” Trump campaign manager BradParscale said in a prepared statement. “American workers can rejoice as even more new jobs and economic benefits will surely follow this deal and build on the momentum of this historic Trump economic boom.”
But Rubio and Nelson suggested that the deal could face opposition in Congress if concerns about issues such as Florida farmers are not addressed.
A new robocall is going out to Florida Republicans with “an important message from President Donald Trump.”
Trump weighed on the Republican primary for Governor early, and in June redoubled his support for U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantisin his bid to topple the two-decade political career of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
In the new call, Trump again makes his case for the Ponte Vedra Republican.
The call, possibly overkill, comes after recent polls of the Republican primary showing the third-term Congressman swamping Polk County’s favorite son by more than 20 points.
After introducing himself, Trump says “my friend, Ron DeSantis, is running for Governor of the great state of Florida.”
“I love Florida. I fully endorse Ron in tomorrow’s election. Ron is a strong, solid conservative. He stood with me to build the wall, which is under construction right now, fight crime and cut taxes — all things that we’re getting done, and all with Ron’s help,” Trump says in the recording.
“Ron is an Iraq War veteran who, like me, loves our military and is giving our troops the support and equipment they need to defend us … ,” the president continues.
“Remember, tomorrow is Election Day. Please get to the polls tomorrow to join me in supporting my friend Ron DeSantis for Governor. He will be absolutely outstanding. Thank you,” Trump concludes.
Despite jabs from Putnam that DeSantis was running his campaign out of a TV studio in New York and digs on whether he understood the issues facing the Sunshine State, DeSantis was thrust far out front with Trump’s endorsement — which even saw the president stump for DeSantis with a Tampa campaign rally.
If DeSantis proves victorious on Tuesday, he’ll move on to the November general election, where he’ll be up against one of five Democrats vying to end the stranglehold the GOP has had on the Governor’s Mansion since Jeb Bush’s election in 1998.
If polling on the Democratic side of the race proves accurate, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham will take the nomination Tuesday night, though a resurgent Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine are still in the mix.
Former state Sen. Paula Dockery has made an endorsement for Congress, backing Brandon businessman Danny Kushmer in the Republican primary for Florida’s 15th Congressional District.
Dockery, a lawmaker-turned-syndicated columnist, said Kushmer was the strongest Republican in a five-candidate primary field.
“I would encourage all of my Republican friends in FL Congressional District 15 to vote for Danny Kushmer,” Dockery said in a statement released by the Kushmer campaign.
Dockery served in the Florida House from 1996 through 2002 before moving to the Florida Senate, where she served for another decade.
Kushmer right now is in a five-way primary to succeed retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, who announced his retirement earlier this year.
Kushmer has served as the executive director of the Ruskin Chamber of Commerce and of the International Responsible Farming Council, boosting his bona fides with the business and agriculture community of the Central Florida district. He and his wife Cally own Florida’s Horizon.
“I am honored to have the support of Paula Dockery, she was a stable force in Tallahassee as a conservative and it is my honor for her to get behind my campaign for Congressional District 15,” he said.
While a Republican throughout her legislative career, Dockery has built up a reputation as a moderate voice and a frequent critic of President Donald Trump, cheering Robert Mueller’s investigations of Trump cohorts, and she’s asserted in the past feelings that the modern GOP deserted members in the middle of the spectrum like herself. Voter records as of May 2018 listed she was now registered as a Democrat.
But Kushmer in the press release announcing Dockery’s support stressed his support of key parts of the Trump agenda, including building a border wall and eliminating “Sanctuary Cities.” He also promoted his support of the Second Amendment and backed term limits for members of Congress.
The Congressional race has one of the most crowded fields in Florida right now, with Kushmer battling state Rep. Ross Spano, former state Rep. Neil Combee, construction company owner Sean Harper and conservative activist Ed Shoemaker.
A primary on Tuesday will determine the Republican nominee.
As President Donald Trump arguably faces increasing legal liability due to events surrounding several of his associates, Democrat David Richardson is repeating his calls for impeachment as he campaigns for Florida’s 27th Congressional District.
“We started talking about impeachment months ago and furthered the conversation on impeachment,” Richardson said.
“Voters who are worried are seeing my commercials.”
How those voters respond remains to be seen, though we will have an answer soon.
The CD 27 primary is this Tuesday, Aug. 28. Richardson is competing with former Knight Foundation Program Director Matt Haggman, former University of Miami academic adviser Michael A. Hepburn, Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, and former University of Miami President Donna Shalala for the nomination.
The work of the Constitution Revision Commission is under attack in the courts.
And that’s fair, according to BrechtHeuchan, who led the CRC’s drafting process.
“I’m not mad about the lawsuits,” he told us. “That’s what people do when they feel aggrieved.”
But a new effort spawned this week encouraging Floridians to opt for a blanket ‘no’ to the eight amendments set forth by the CRC isn’t as well received by the panel’s former Style and Drafting Committee chair.
“I’m struggling with charges that the ‘sky is falling’ — when it’s not falling,” Heuchan said in reference to Save My Constitution, which is also seeking to reform or even abolish the CRC in the near future.
It asserted that the panel wasn’t held accountable, and that it ‘logrolled’ amendments by bundling issues together.
While not held directly accountable to voters, he added, commissioners don’t have to fret about upsetting special interests or winning the next election. In a sense, members of the panel enjoyed a “free and liberated” niche.
On bundling, which has drawn hefty criticism, Heuchan pointed to precedence and pragmatism.
Proposals from two prior CRCs similarly lumped several issues together, he noted. In 1968, a completely new constitution went before voters in just three amendments.
Ballot fatigue is real, he added, and if the CRC opted not to bundle, voters would’ve had more than 20 amendments to review.
With lawsuits abounding, judges seem split on the practice.
A Tallahassee judge earlier this month rejected the idea that bundling is deceitful. But retired Supreme Court Justice HarryLeeAnstead challenged six of the eight CRC proposals on that issue alone.
One thing’s sure: Come November, the CRC’s actions — assuming they’re on the ballot — have to be “validated and embraced” by no less than 60 percent of voters, Heuchan said. Given that, he isn’t losing any sleep.
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Danny McAuliffe, Drew Wilson, Jim Rosica, MichaelMoline, A.G. Gancarski, and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
Judge rules against education amendment — Circuit Judge JohnCooper this week ordered Amendment 8 be removed from the ballot, opining that it “fails to inform voters of the chief purpose and effect of this proposal.” The ruling sided with a challenge brought by the League of Women Voters of Florida, alleging the education proposal is “misleading” because it did not inform voters of the impact it would have on charter schools. The provision at issue in the proposal’s ballot summary reads: “The amendment maintains a school board’s duties to public schools it establishes, but permits the state to operate, control, and supervise public schools not established by the school board.” The state quickly appealed the ruling, and the case passed through to the Supreme Court, which said it would hear the case soon.
FIU bridge dispute moves to feds — A federal judge will take over a case on whether the Miami Herald should have access to state records about a bridge that collapsed March 15 at Florida International University, killing six. A circuit judge sided with the Herald earlier this week and ordered the Florida Department of Transportation to release the records. But Senior U.S. District Judge WilliamStafford placed a stay on the ruling two days later after an attorney representing the National Transportation Safety Board moved the case to federal court. The NTSB is still conducting an investigation into the bridge collapse. FDOT cited federal law that prevented the state agency from releasing records related to NTSB’s investigation. The government is expected to file a motion Monday to quash the state ruling. Attorneys for the Herald will fight to have the case remanded back to state court.
Legislators clash with Scott’s school safety shift — Gov. RickScott is asking the Legislature to redirect to school districts $58 million of unused funding from a statewide school guardian program, but top legislators in both chambers disagree. After Scott submitted a request via the Department of Education to disperse the leftover money to school districts to help offset the costs of funding armed guardians or officers at every school, incoming House Speaker JoseOliva and Senate President-designate BillGalvano rejected the idea, The Associated Press reported. Before the doubtful remarks from the prospective chamber leaders, Scott said he was “confident” the Legislature would choose to disperse the money.
Early voting site ruling too late for some counties — Following Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker’s order that the state stop barring early voting sites on colleges, some supervisors of elections have said they won’t be able to launch campus locations ahead of the November election. Leon County Supervisor of Elections MarkEarley, for instance, announced that early sites will not be set up at the area’s three higher-Ed schools: Florida State University, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College. Likewise, Miami-Dade said it will not have early polls ready in time at Miami-Dade College and Florida International University. Meanwhile, Hillsborough, Alachua and Orange County will have early voting sites ready at the major universities in each county, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Ballots cast exceed 1.5 million — More than 1.5 million Floridians have cast ballots for Tuesday’s primary election, according to data published Friday morning by the Division of Elections. More than 1 million of those ballots were sent by mail, with Republicans returning 507,127 and Democrats casting 443,776. More than 400,000 Floridians went to the polls for early voting, with Republicans leading Democrats by more than 7,000 early voters. Nonparty affiliated voters make up about 160,000 of all ballots cast thus far. Early voting ends Saturday, although supervisors of elections have the option to offer an additional chance Sunday.
Scott adds money to battle red tide
The governor this week announced that an additional $3 million is on its way to communities on Florida’s Gulf Coast to help mitigate toxic red tide plaguing waterways.
The money is available through grants that were unlocked after Scott recently declared a state of emergency.
With the additional funding, the Department of Environmental Protection committed $750,000 to Manatee County, $190,000 to Collier County and nearly $100,000 to Sarasota County, according to Scott’s office.
“We will continue to do everything we can to support the communities and businesses impacted by red tide,” Scott said.
The Governor also highlighted coordinated efforts between the state’s tourism-marketing and jobs agencies to ensure local businesses don’t suffer economic losses as a result of this year’s red tide, which is being covered nationally.
Bondi: Close fentanyl ‘loophole’
Joining a bipartisan group of 51 other attorneys general, Attorney General PamBondi this week signed on to a letter pleading for congressional leadership to support the Stop Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues Act, or SOFA Act.
An analogue is a kind of “knockoff,” chemically similar to a drug such that it mimics its effects.
SOFA, according to Bondi’s office, “would eliminate the current loophole that keeps the federal controlled substance scheduling system ‘one step behind,’ by (using) catch-all language allowing the Drug Enforcement Administration to proactively schedule all newly-modified fentanyl analogues.”
Such substances are lethal when taken directly or in mixed doses. Attorneys general from every state in the union along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico signed onto the initiative, led by Wisconsin and Connecticut.
“There is little doubt that the nation’s ongoing battle against heroin and opiates is unlike any other public health emergency,” the letter reads. “It touches all corners of our society.
“States and localities are on the front line of this crisis and are a large part of winning the battle from both a law enforcement and public health perspective.”
The Week in Appointments
State Emergency Response Commission
Courtney Drummond, 49, of Havana, is a Chief Engineer for the Florida Department of Transportation. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning Aug. 20 and ending at the pleasure of the Governor. Steve McCoy, 43, of Tallahassee, is an Emergency Medical Services Administrator for the Department of Health. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning Aug. 20 and ending at the pleasure of the Governor. CourtneyBarker, 45, of Satellite Beach, is the City Manager. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending at the pleasure of the Governor. AmandaBowen, 32, of Tallahassee, is the Executive Director of the Manufacturers Association of Florida. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending at the pleasure of the Governor. Greg Blose II, 38, of Tallahassee, is the Board of Governors Program Director for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending at the pleasure of the Governor. BobBurleson, 69, of Tallahassee, is president of the Florida Transportation Builders’ Association. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending at the pleasure of the Governor.
Children’s Board of Hillsborough County
Scott reappointed MeganProulxDempsey and EdNarain. Dempsey, 42, of Tampa, is senior corporate counsel for TECO Services, Inc. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Tampa and her law degree from Stetson University. Dempsey is reappointed for a term ending Dec. 31, 2020. Narain, 41, of Tampa, is director of external affairs for AT&T. He is a former State Representative and serves on the Board of Trustees for Saint Leo University. Narain received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Saint Leo University and his law degree from Stetson University College of Law. He is reappointed for a term ending Dec. 31, 2020.
Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission
Scott made three reappointments and one appointment to the Commission. Chief Jeffrey Pearson, 49, of Satellite Beach, is the Chief of Police of the Satellite Beach Police Department. He is reappointed for a term ending Aug. 1, 2022. Sheriff TommyFord, 49, of Lynn Haven, is the sheriff of Bay County. He is reappointed for a term ending Aug. 1, 2022. WilliamHarriss, 67, of St. Augustine, is the former city manager of St. Augustine. He is reappointed for a term ending Aug. 1, 2021. Chief Cristian “Sean” Hemmingway, 50, of Cooper City, is the Police Chief of Bay Harbor Islands Police Department. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending Aug. 1, 2019.
DEP opens Franklin Co. boat ramp
The Indian Creek boat ramp is now open for public use, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced this week.
Stationed on Franklin County’s Indian Creek, the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees selected the ramp as a restoration project to help mend services injured or lost following the 2010 BP oil spill.
Engineering and construction costs that helped revitalize the existing ramp totaled approximately $629,000. New changes include a “deeper boat ramp, aluminum access gangway and floating dock, replacement of existing bulkhead with steel sheet piling and concrete cap, safety fencing, ADA parking space, and improved parking for vehicles and boat trailers,” according to DEP.
DEP Secretary NoahValenstein said those changes should “provide increased public access and recreational opportunities” for Franklin County boaters. The agency partnered with the county to complete the project.
“The department is always looking for opportunities to partner with local communities on projects to enhance the use and enjoyment of Florida’s coastal resources,” Valenstein said.
Irma losses mount
Insured losses from Hurricane Irma have surpassed $10.4 billion, according to new data released by the Office of Insurance Regulation.
Florida insurers have fielded 997,237 residential and commercial policy claims, 91.7 percent of which have been closed.
Miami-Dade County produced the largest number of claims, at 126,994. Next was Collier County, with 91,980; Broward, with 82,251; Lee, with 81,933; and Orange, with 75,495.
The office plans to ask insurance companies to report loss data again Oct. 15, and will decide at that point whether to close the books on the storm, which hit Florida on Sept. 10 last year.
Irma costs add up for Cat Fund
Hurricane Irma-related claims against the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund could hit $2.5 billion, according to the latest estimate.
That’s up from $2.4 billion the last time the fund projected its losses.
AnneBert, the fund’s chief operating officer, released the update during a telephone conference call. The fund provides ‘reinsurance’ to Florida’s residential property insurers. Reinsurance is basically insurance for insurers, also called stop-loss insurance.
“This estimate will get updated as we receive additional loss reports from our participating company,” Bert told the fund’s advisory council. “Companies are reporting as they should, and all that is going very well.”
Irma had produced more than $9.7 billion in residential and commercial property insurance claims as of June 12, according to the Office of Insurance Regulation. The office is expected to update that figure based on responses from a data call it issued to insurance companies Aug. 10.
Tampa Electric Company’s (TECO) monthly residential customer bills will be reduced because of the Public Service Commission’s approval this week of savings from the U.S. Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017.
What TECO would have paid in corporate income taxes will instead be used to reduce rates, offsetting an expected increase resulting from previously incurred storm restoration costs.
The utility’s annual revenue requirement will be reduced by $102.7 million, or 9 percent. Residential customers will see a savings of “$6.50 per 1,000 kilowatt-hours,” the PSC said.
“We want customers to benefit from the federal tax reductions,” Commissioner JulieBrown said in a statement. “Our action today is truly monumental in nature, and with our approval, we’re glad TECO customers will see lower electric bills.”
Tampa Electric serves about 750,000 customers in west Central Florida.
Lineworker Appreciation Day
Florida Lineworker Appreciation Day is Sunday, and the Public Service Commission (PSC) wants to celebrate “the great men and women who work hard every day to construct, operate, and maintain the electric system that keeps Florida running.”
“We count on electricity, so when the power goes out, we want it restored as quickly as possible,” PSC Chairman ArtGraham said in a statement. “Lineworkers are invaluable, working all hours of the day, often in hazardous conditions, to restore power and return lives to normal.”
When needed, they “selflessly leave their families to travel to other parts of the country to help restore power to homes and businesses struggling after a storm.”
Even on average days, lineworkers work with high voltage electric lines as they dangle high above the ground in harnesses. Collectively, lineworkers maintain the nation’s more than 5.5 million miles of local distribution lines.
Lawmakers created Lineworker Appreciation Day in 2012. Follow @floridapsc to find PSC Commissioners’ #ThankALineman tweets.
Lawmakers honored for ‘home rule’ support
In the perennial legislative war over local control, there were three standouts in 2018: Sen. DebbieMayfield, Rep. BobbyDuBose and Rep. MelPonder.
The Florida League of Cities honored each with ‘Defender of Home Rule’ awards for their actions to maintain control at the local level and fight against pre-emptive measures, which kick decision-making powers up to the state.
The League advocates for local control, or home rule, and reserves its Defender of Home Rule designations for legislators “who consistently voted and advocated on behalf of Florida’s cities and the right to local self-government.”
“I truly believe the government closest to the people should make the decisions that affect the quality of life in the community they represent,” said Sen. Mayfield, a Rockledge Republican, in accepting the honor.
Dubose, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat and former city commissioner, cited his local government experience in accepting the award. “I understand the importance of Home Rule and will continue to fight for it,” Dubose said.
“I put great value on Home Rule,” Ponder, a Fort Walton Beach Republican and former city mayor, said. “I personally believe that every city and community has significance, and honoring that heritage is very important to me.”
Florida the ‘freest’ state
After free-market think tank CATO Institute ranked Florida the freest state in the union, the like-minded group Americans for Prosperity-Florida said it won’t rest on its laurels with the good news.
“We will continue advocating policies that will make Florida the best place to live, work and raise a family,” AFP-FL state director ChrisHudson said in a statement. “This study should serve as our collective challenge to preserve our freedom in Florida and push back on policy threats that might knock us off.”
The CATO rankings put the Sunshine State 1st in overall freedom, as well as 1st in fiscal policy, and economic freedom and 2nd in education policy.
AFP-FL said that the rankings could not have come without cooperation from state lawmakers who’ve championed and passed free-market policies.
“A special recognition goes out to Florida lawmakers that have put policy over politics, improving lives over the status quo, and for their commitment to preserving and expanding our freedoms in the Sunshine State,” Hudson said.
Florida 2030 drafts a path
Florida 2030, an ongoing three-year research project, released preliminary recommendations to improve the quality of life and places as Florida continues to grow.
Among the recommendations: Florida needs to add 1.7 million net new jobs by 2030; prepare its workforce to take advantage of global consumer demand; and adapt to shifting skills and accompanying training. That’s because Florida is experiencing “generational changes” and that the “nature of work in Florida is changing.”
“Florida 2030 provides a comprehensive look at what Florida needs to get right in order to become and remain a place marked by global competitiveness, prosperity and high-paying jobs, and vibrant and sustainable communities,” said TonyCarvajal, executive vice president of the Florida Chamber Foundation. “Florida’s future will face challenges, but it also means we have unique opportunities to succeed.”
The findings, while preliminary, will be expanded upon when the foundation releases its full report at the 2018 Future of Florida Forum, Sept. 26-27 in Orlando.
Hollywood Reporter: FSU film school among best
Those looking to break into the film industry should consider Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts, according to the entertainment industry’s media powerhouse, The Hollywood Reporter.
The Reporter recently put the school at No. 19 on its annual list of Top 25 Film Schools, noting the achievements of Oscar-winning director BarryJenkins, a 2003 graduate of the program, along with other successful alumni.
Jenkins snagged the Academy’s 2017 Best Picture Award for his drama, “Moonlight.”
“Measures of success like industry placement, award-winning student films and alumni accomplishments consistently demonstrate the excellence of our programs,” said RebBraddock, dean of the College of Motion Picture Arts. “It’s always rewarding to be recognized by outlets like The Hollywood Reporter and Variety for what we already know: Our faculty, students and alumni are outstanding.”
The film school pointed to its other recent successes: 97 percent of graduates find relevant work within a year of leaving. It’s also the only film school in the nation to completely fund student projects.
Sweetening the deal for students is a 5:1 student-faculty ratio, meaning student filmmakers are apt to find several one-on-one mentors.
“You really get the sense that the school is preparing you in every aspect for the industry,” said ZoeDeLeon, who earned a Master of Fine Arts in screenwriting and playwriting in 2018.
FSU’s housing for student entrepreneurs
Florida State will house a group of prospective entrepreneurs in a new living-learning community this fall.
Stationed at Deviney Hall, the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Learning Community is designed to expose students to available resources and information to help plan their time through FSU’s entrepreneur-focused curriculum.
The community is linked to FSU’s Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship, which recently opened a location downtown.
“We are thrilled to be able to have a pipeline,” said SusanFiorito, director of the Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship. “This is a wonderful opportunity for us to get students who are freshmen to think about their passion and to talk to other entrepreneurs about the variety of options that are available to them.”
The idea was welcomed by incoming students: The program had just 36 openings but received 127 applications.
Tallahassee Senior Center marks 40 years
Next week, Tallahassee Senior Services will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Tallahassee Senior Center, which is in the old Armory building at 1400 N. Monroe St.
To mark the occasion, there will be a program and open house Tuesday, Aug. 28, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. During this time, guests can glimpse the evolution of the Senior Center, fellowship with center participants and learn more about active aging opportunities.
“In our constantly changing community, one thing has remained the same since 1978 — the Tallahassee Senior Center continues to be a haven for Tallahassee’s active aging population,” City Commissioner GilZiffer said.
“Since opening, the Senior Center has welcomed countless adults through its doors, providing a place to connect and thrive. Celebrating 40 years is truly a testament to the value and worth that our Senior Services division brings to our community.”
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
Those of a certain age will recall the Semisonic earworm “Closing Time.”
It is also where we stand in primary season.
We already know what races we are tracking election night. In some, there is enough confidence in the results to have a sense of what the copy will say.
Sure, we’re open to surprises. But with polls and campaign finance reports and connections to most campaigns in the area, there just aren’t many shocks coming.
Another relevant line from the hit: “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”
On Aug. 29, the candidates and their operatives on the losing side will face decisions. Some ops will get hired elsewhere. Losing candidates will resolve how best to make their endorsements and figure out their next move, with dreams dashed — potentially forever, in some cases.
“So, gather up your jackets, and move it to the exits.”
Right now, on the campaign trail (outside of a TV studio), this sentiment also applies.
While there will be plenty of time for campaign autopsies, they will be forgotten quickly enough. Unity rallies will attempt to spackle over turf wars. And this November will look (more or less) like they always do in election years that promise turnover in the state Cabinet and — perhaps — a new U.S. Senator.
In the primary wars, it’s definitely closing time.
Lawson, ahead by more than 20 points in the only public poll of the race, endorsed by Brown’s local Florida Times-Union and Jacksonville state Rep. Tracie Davis in recent days, is also ahead in cash on hand as of Aug. 8 — the last date for which candidates have filed financial reports.
Lawson, who has raised just over $503,823, had $131,143 on hand. Brown, who has raised $388,649, had $84,361.
Lawson seems confident in his chances, posting to Facebook that “FiveThirtyEight’s ongoing forecast of 2018 House elections currently places me at a 99.9 percent chance of winning back the 5th District seat.”
Brown has touted endorsements from Jacksonville preachers: “more than 30 faith leaders representing a large swath of the local faith community.”
However, three of those preachers have walked back those endorsements, in an abundance of caution over the churches’ 501(C)(3) statuses.
In the Democratic race, former Ambassador Nancy Soderberg has — as of Aug. 8 — amassed what appears to be an insurmountable lead in cash on hand over her Democratic opponents, with $1,096,754 on hand ($1.707,296 raised).
Stephen Sevigny, a radiologist from Ormond Beach, had $353,534 on hand ($874,212 raised). Farther back still, John Upchurch, an Ormond Beach lawyer, had $131,332 on hand.
Soderberg also is stretching a significant lead in the only public poll of the race. The most recent St. Pete Polls survey released this weekend, shows her as the choice of 50 percent of those surveyed, 31 points up on Sevigny and 38 points over Upchurch.
Similar clarity, though of a somewhat less pronounced degree, can be found on the Republican side of the ledger, with St. Augustine Beach’s Mike Waltz with more cash on hand than his GOP challengers John Ward of Ponte Vedra Beach and former state Rep. Fred Costello of Ormond Beach.
Waltz had as of Aug. 8 $286,706 on hand of his $1,066,996 raised, well ahead of Ward ($76,887 on hand; $1,076,400 raised) and Costello ($7,962 on hand; $254,683 raised).
A survey from a week ago showed Waltz with 40 percent support, with Ward in second place at 21 percent and Costello at 16 percent.
CD 6 is a Republican-leaning seat, though it’s open because U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis is poised to become the Republican nominee for Governor.
‘Walk it like I talk it’
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, addressing a packed nightclub in Jacksonville Tuesday, may be surging at the right time.
His strategy has been to expand the voter universe; however, as he has noted, resources had previously precluded him from letting his target voters know who he is.
Gillum, when asked about the new polls swinging his way, noted that his campaign didn’t begin its “paid communication until two weeks ago.”
“We knew that because we couldn’t match the financial resources of the other campaigns, that we had to wait until the iron was really hot before we could strike and maximize our message. As voters are learning that we are a real option in this race,” Gillum said, “they’re choosing us.”
“I believe it’s going to be that momentum that will surge us through [to the nomination],” Gillum said.
Regarding the third-party groups backing him, Gillum noted that while he wasn’t deeply “familiar with what the outside groups are doing,” he hopes that “the $3.5 million investment will be directed toward the field.”
“That’s the best bang for the buck at this point, to get to voters and move those voters to the ballot box. If we do that,” Gillum said, “and they do that, we win.”
Curry favors Troutman
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry made another late-game endorsement in a statewide race Monday, backing Rep. Baxter Troutman for Agriculture Commissioner.
This endorsement indicates the value of relationships. Curry’s chief of staff Brian Hughes had been running the Troutman campaign before Hughes took a city job. Now, the operation is run by another Jacksonville op, Carlo Fassi.
The timing of the endorsement’s release seems less than coincidental, counterprogramming Sen. Marco Rubio campaigning Monday in Hialeah for Rep. Matt Caldwell, one of Troutman’s three opponents (whose campaign manager Brian Swensen had the same role in Curry’s 2015 campaign for Jacksonville Mayor).
Curry, per a statement from the Troutman campaign, is “happy to endorse Baxter Troutman … a farmer and rancher, a businessman who has created thousands of jobs, and … a genuine conservative.”
“Of all those seeking this job,” Curry emphasized, “Baxter is clearly the most qualified and ready to help keep Florida growing.”
In accepting the endorsement, Troutman noted Curry’s “proven record of problem-solving.”
“He’s demonstrated that executives can implement conservative policies, stand by their convictions, and get things done despite our current heated political climate,” Troutman remarked.
Campaign manager Fassi asserts that the Troutman campaign is poised to win, leading “outside the margin of error in every statewide poll conducted in this primary to succeed Adam Putnam.”
“Our internals have had Baxter anywhere from 6-10 points ahead of our nearest competitor,” Fassi adds, “while industry polls have shown the race even less competitive.”
Outside help for Wright in HD 14
The Democratic race in House District 14 between incumbent Rep. Kim Daniels and Duval County School Board chair Paula Wright continues to get more interesting as the primary approaches.
Wright, whose campaign account fundraising has been lackluster ($25,085 raised through Aug. 10; just over $12,000 on hand) is enjoying a television ad buy from the New Direction Now political committee.
The spot hits positive, autobiographical themes, including addressing former teacher Wright’s commitment to education.
Through Aug. 10, the committee has been seeded with $27,000. Of that sum, $15,000 comes from the Florida Education Association.
It’s telling that the FEA has funded a positive spot for Wright, as Daniels’ attempts at educational policy improvements in her two years in Tallahassee have been idiosyncratic and seemingly unaligned with the agendas of most public-school advocates.
One Daniels’ bill passed in the 2017 session: House Bill 303, the “Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act,” would ban school districts “from discriminating against students, parents, and school personnel on basis of religious viewpoints or expression,” and would require a school district “to adopt limited public forum policy and deliver a disclaimer at school events.”
A 2018 Daniels’ bill, which also passed, likewise blurred the boundaries between the pulpit and pupils, requiring all schools to display the state motto, “In God We Trust,” in a “conspicuous place.”
Daniels, who has benefited from contributions from Gary Chartrand and Charter Schools USA, seems to have an agenda at odds with traditional education interests.
No runaway winner in tax collector tangle
A week out from the primary election in the four-way race for Duval County Tax Collector, campaign finance reports reveal a surprisingly competitive money race.
The three Republicans in the race — Jacksonville City Councilman Doyle Carter, state Rep. Lake Ray, and former property appraiser Jim Overton — all had roughly $60,000 cash on hand as of Aug. 21.
Carter, who raised $2,050 in the week leading up to Aug. 10, has just under $60,000 on hand of the $81,550 he has raised.
Ray, who has been the most aggressive candidate in the race, including attacking Overton for mistakes made as property appraiser, currently has the least money of the three: just over $55,000 on hand of the $155,375 he raised.
Ray raised $1,400 in the week leading up to Aug. 10, including donations from Carter’s City Council colleague Danny Becton. His spending has been eye-popping: almost $100,000 doled out ahead of the Aug. 28 election.
Overton, meanwhile, has just under $60,000 on hand also, after a $1,575 week leading up to Aug. 10.
Three Republicans headed into a blanket primary with Democrat Mia Jones likely only have one ticket to the November general election between them.
Jones lags behind the trio, with roughly $30,000 on hand, but because she’s the only Democrat on the ballot, she stands a strong chance of getting the most votes next week.
Too late to expand early voting?
On Monday, a group of Jacksonville Democrats made their push to expand early voting sites to local colleges and universities.
The goal: to get early voting sites at the University of North Florida and, perhaps, other colleges.
However, logistical roadblocks remain.
Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan told local media that “criteria of selection of an early voting site involves more than just that it is available. Public access, adequate parking for our staff and voters, facility security, ADA compliance, proximity to other early voting sites and of course do we have the money budgeted for an additional location.”
Hogan noted that he and University of North Florida have been working to find a way forward on an early voting site, but the logistics mentioned have proved to be prohibitive.
Edward Waters and Jacksonville University are also under consideration, but “time is very limited” given the scope of the election.
“The Russians are in our database,” Hogan added. “All we know is what the Senators have told us and they can’t give us real information.”
The primary election, Hogan added, won’t be over until Sept. 10 or 11, when results are certified. On Oct. 7, the final list of early voting sites has to be submitted to the Secretary of State office.
Sen. Aaron Bean adds Chesten N. Goodman — Goodman will be Bean’s new district legislative assistant, responsible for handling legislative policy matters. Goodman previously worked for Rep. JayFant as his legislative assistant after graduating from Florida State University. He is currently completing his final semester of graduate studies at Florida State to get a graduate degree in American Politics and Policy. “Chesten’s prior legislative experience in the Florida House made him the obvious choice for filling the vacancy in our office,” said Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican. He represents Senate District 4, which includes parts of Nassau and Duval counties.
Taylor’s charge: The special election in District 12 was not publicly announced in a publication of record, one that saw the only qualified candidate, Republican Randy White, win without opposition.
Jacksonville General Counsel Jason Gabriel framed the decision to throw the case out as a victory for the consolidated government.
“In summary, the plaintiff, David Taylor, sought to invalidate the special election because he claims he was not provided notice of the qualifying period established by the City Council. In misapplying state statute, Mr. Taylor argued that the Supervisor of Elections was required to publish notice of the election in the newspaper because there is a requirement for such notice to occur in special elections called by the Governor and Florida Secretary of State,” Gabriel asserted Tuesday.
“The complete dismissal of Mr. Taylor’s complaint is significant because the Court reviewed the requirements necessary to set a local special election for Council vacancies and acknowledged all of our arguments that it is the City Charter and local Ordinance Code that dictate the requirements of the special local election, and such were followed,” Gabriel added.
In a seven-page decision, the court repeatedly struck down Taylor’s petitions for relief, effectively saying that even if there were a legitimate petition for redress, it couldn’t be provided in a timely way.
JEA wants out of Plant Vogtle
According to WSAV in Savannah, Jacksonville’s municipal-owned utility JEA wants out of the Plant Vogtle deal.
The controversial accord, set a decade ago, obligated JEA to buy electricity from two reactors that were at the beginning of the construction process.
“Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) says it wants out and is urging MEAG to vote “no” on any continuation of the new reactors. In a letter to MEAG CEO James Fuller, JEA … wrote that ‘a decision to continue (the new reactors) cannot be justified on any rational basis.’”
A clean energy advocate quoted in the Savannah market piece noted that “staying locked on to this sort of sinking ship means you’re going to pull your ratepayers down and so I think JEA is ready to jump ship.”
Getting out of the deal could cost JEA $1.5 billion, but would represent savings of at least $750 million, per the Florida Times-Union.
Fall semester begins at UNF
As the fall semester begins at the University of North Florida, it’s not just a new school year for the incoming freshmen. Monday was the first day for President David Szymanski.
Szymanski, who previously served as dean of the Lindner College of Business at the University of Cincinnati, is taking the reins from John Delaney, who retired in May.
While Delaney is now in the private sector, he will not be soon forgotten. The student union is named after the former president, among the many changes returning students will notice.
Also new are renovations to Skinner-Jones Hall, with upgraded classrooms and research labs for engineering and computing.
UF Health TraumaOne nationally recognized
University of Florida Health has received national recognition as a level I trauma center by the American College of Surgeons, the health system announced last week.
The Chicago-based association assesses trauma facilities to help hospitals improve care and to provide an objective, external performance review with stringent criteria, reports the Jacksonville Business Journal. The process includes a peer review team spending two days at the facility to evaluate policies, resources, patient care and other performance metrics. The designation is for three years.
In operation since 1983, UF Health TraumaOne, at 655 8th St. W., is one of 10 level 1 trauma centers in Florida — the only one of its type in Northeast Florida, and just one of three trauma centers in Duval County.
Other trauma facilities include Wolfson Children’s Hospital, which specializes in pediatrics, and Memorial Hospital, which also received level II designation in 2018.
Gorillas find new home at Jacksonville Zoo
A family of gorillas moved home this week, part of the Jacksonville Zoo’s new African Forest exhibit, which is set to open Aug. 31.
The gorillas — father, named Lash; mother, named Madini; and baby gorilla, named Patty — were released into the display after a year of renovations, reports News4Jax.
The new African Forest habitat replaces the Great Apes Loop, which has been around for nearly 20 years. Renovations include additional viewing windows, water features for the animals and new homes for bonobos and lemurs.
Jaguars considering trade offer for Fowler
During the long, hot practices of NFL training camps, tempers tend to flare. Fights break out, like they did when Dante Fowler, Jr. tangled with two teammates in separate incidents two weeks ago.
The second one, featuring Fowler and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, led to the former Gator’s suspension. Subsequent events indicate this may be more than just a skirmish that blows over.
This week, news broke that the Jaguars were contacted by the New York Jets about a possible trade for Fowler. The name offered in return was quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who is trying to return to the NFL after a devastating leg injury two years ago.
When he was hurt, Bridgewater was already showing signs of becoming a dynamic NFL quarterback. After his contract expired last year, the Jets signed him.
Fowler also had to overcome a serious injury. After being the third overall pick, he suffered a season-ending knee injury on the first day of rookie minicamp.
The Jaguars could be looking for a solid backup for Blake Bortles at quarterback and have someone with NFL experience who could fill in if Bortles is injured. In addition, the team is well-stocked on the defensive side of the ball, making an addition to the offense something worth considering.
If the fight is more than just a training camp skirmish and the Jaguars are looking to promote locker room harmony, Bridgewater would be a good option. He is not known for having a flamboyant personality.
At first glance, such a trade might not appear to provide a fair return for the Jaguars. Bridgewater has yet to prove he is fully recovered.
There are two more preseason games remaining. Jaguars’ fans will have to wait and see how it all plays out.