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Tommy Gregory HD 73

Connie Mack endorses Tommy Gregory for HD 73

Former U.S. Sen. Connie Mack III on Tuesday endorsed Tommy Gregory in the race for House District 73.

“Tommy Gregory is a patriot and a proven leader,” Mack said. “His military experience has effectively prepared him to enter this new sphere of public service, and there’s no question in my mind that he will be an outstanding and effective legislator. I wholeheartedly endorse him and urge all District 73 voters to support him.”

Mack’s endorsement follows nods from former Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube, Sarasota Sheriff Tom Knight, Zephyrhills Rep. Danny Burgess, former state Sen. Lisa Carlton and Steve Vernon, the second-place finisher in the 2016 HD 73 Republican Primary.

“It is an honor to have Senator Mack’s support,” said Gregory. “He has long been one of Florida’s most respected leaders, and his life has been a model of public service. I look forward to following his example and to working with him and other like-minded public servants to make the Sunshine State an even better place to live.”

Gregory is running against Melissa Howard in the Republican Primary for the seat, which covers parts of Sarasota and Manatee counties. HD 73 is open due to current Republican Rep. Joe Gruters’ decision to run for the Senate seat currently held by Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube. Gruters is Howard’s campaign treasurer.

Democrat Liv Coleman is also running for the seat, though Gruters’ replacement is likely to come out of the Republican Primary — GOP voters make up nearly half of the HD 73 electorate compared to a 25 percent share for Democrats.

Both Gregory and Howard are off to a fast start in the money race, though Gregory holds the lead with $132,220 banked, including $56,000 in candidate loans. Howard has $123,900 banked including $100,000 in candidate loans.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

Police union backs Nick DiCeglie for HD 66

Belleair Bluffs Republican Nick DiCeglie picked up an endorsement for his House District 66 campaign Tuesday from the Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association, a charter of the Florida PBA.

“The Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association, Inc. is proud to endorse Mr. DiCeglie’s candidacy for State Representative, District 66,” said association president George Lofton. “Public officials are very important people to law enforcement officers, so we try to select the very best. We feel that Nick will be of the very best and we wish him a successful election.”

DiCeglie, a small-business man and current chair of the Republican Party of Pinellas County, has also been endorsed by Pinellas County Commissioner Dave Eggers, Pinellas County Clerk Ken Burke, Largo Mayor Woody Brown, Largo Commissioner Curtis Holmes and Indian Rocks Beach Commissioners Phil Hannah, Ed Hoofnagle and Nick Palomba.

“I am honored to receive the endorsement of the brave men and women of the Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association,” said DiCeglie. “Law enforcement plays an extremely important role in providing public safety to our citizens and Public Safety is one of the most important functions of government – one that I support 100 percent.”

DiCeglie faces Seminole attorney Berny Jacques in the Republican Primary for the coastal Pinellas seat currently held by Republican Rep. Larry Ahern, who is termed-out and running for Pinellas County Commission.

Democrat Alex Heeren is also vying for the seat, though the Republican nominee has the best odds of succeeding Ahern in the western Pinellas district.

HD 66 includes part of Clearwater, Belleair, Indian Rocks Beach and Indian Shores. The district is safely Republican.

Rebekah Bydlak

Clay Ingram endorses Rebekah Bydlak as his successor in HD 1

Term-limited Rep. Clay Ingram on Tuesday endorsed Rebekah Bydlak in the Republican Primary battle to succeed him in House District 1.

“Rebekah Bydlak is the conservative champion we need for Northwest Florida,” Ingram said. “Rebekah’s life and career have been in service to conservative values, defending the Constitution and our way of life. I’m confident Rebekah will be the strong voice we need in Tallahassee. I’m proud to stand with Rebekah and fully support her to be our next Representative in the Florida House.”

The endorsement comes three weeks after Ingram hosted a fundraiser for Bydlak at his Pensacola home, with a slew of his House Republican colleagues in attendance.

“Rep. Ingram has served our community with integrity and a commitment to promoting our shared conservative values,” Bydlak said. “I’m honored and humbled to receive Rep. Ingram’s endorsement and look forward to working with him during the campaign ahead and in the future to serve the people of District 1.”

Bydlak faces former Republican Rep. Mike Hill in the primary and through April held a significant lead in the money race. As of April 30, she’d raised $118,500 and had $95,690 banked compared to $34,585 in total fundraising for Hill, who has about $23,900 on hand.

The winner of the Aug. 28 Republican Primary will be Ingram’s de facto replacement in the deep-red district, though Democrats Vikki Garrett and Franscine Cecilia Mathis have also filed for the seat. Garrett has about $7,300 banked, while Mathis joined the race last week and had not yet filed her first finance report.

HD 1 covers the bulk of Escambia County, including the communities of Century, Molino, Gonzalez, Ensley, Ferry Pass, Belleview and Brent. Ingram has held the seat since it was redrawn in 2012. Before that, he held the old HD 2.

Denise Grimsley

Denise Grimsley rolls out third wave of sheriff endorsements

Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley is steadily racking up law enforcement support for her statewide campaign to succeed Adam Putnam as Agriculture Commissioner.

The longtime Republican lawmaker had already earned the backing of 14 county sheriffs, and on Thursday she added four more — Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast, Liberty County Sheriff Eddie Joe White, Madison County Sheriff Ben Stewart and Okeechobee County Sheriff Noel Stephen.

“I am happy to announce my endorsement of Denise Grimsley for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, alongside three of my esteemed colleagues today,” Prendergast said. “She has made a commitment to meet with and listen to the law enforcement community as she travels the state; and, as a result, she truly understands the dangers that put Floridians at risk. I am confident she is the best candidate to keep Floridians safe and proudly lend her my support and endorsement.”

Those 18 backers make account for more than a third of the Sunshine State’s Republican sheriffs. Grimsley, whose career spans healthcare and agribusiness, leads her opponents in the Cabinet race when it comes to sheriff endorsements, and outside of Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody, few others have had as much success snagging sheriffs’ support.

“On the campaign trail, I have sought to hear directly from our state’s sheriffs and learn what tools they need to fight criminals and keep Floridians safe,” Grimsley said. “If elected, as Florida’s next Commissioner of Agriculture, I will continue to work hand in glove with our state’s law enforcement to ensure Florida consumers are well protected from would-be scam artists, and that fraudsters that seek to harm our Florida families are brought to heel.

“I am truly grateful that sheriffs in the Sunshine State have continually lent me their support and that our message is resonating with them. I look forward to meeting with even more members of the law enforcement community as I travel the state, thanking them for their dedication to serving and protecting, and learning what more we can do together to keep Floridians safe.”

Grimsley is running against Lehigh Acres Rep. Matt Caldwell, retired U.S. Army Col. Mike McCalister and former Winter Haven Rep. Baxter Troutman in the Republican Primary.

Caldwell has snagged a few law enforcement endorsements of his own, including one from Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson and another from the Florida Police Benevolent Association. He and Grimsley are running neck-and-neck in fundraising, though as of April 30 Caldwell held a slight edge with $1.93 million banked compared to just under $1.9 million for Grimsley.

Troutman technically leads the field with $2.9 million in the bank, though his actual fundraising is only about $350,000. The rest his money, about $2.8 million, came from his own checking account. McCalister has raised just $2.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

Darren Soto picks up Emgage Muslim group endorsement in CD9 race

Orlando U.S. Rep. Darren Soto has picked up the endorsement of a national Muslim civil rights group in his quest for re-election, announcing Thursday that the Emgage PAC is backing him because of his efforts on behalf of Muslims caught up in the White House’s Muslim policies.

“On the first day of President [Donald] Trump’s hateful, useless Muslim ban, friends and family of Muslims in Central Florida called Congressman Soto because their loved ones were being held at the Orlando Airport. Soto rushed down there and was able to help them re-enter our country even as others were being turned away at airports around the country,” his campaign stated in a news release. “Since then, Soto has worked with Emgage to fight the Muslim ban and other discrimination and helped gain approval to build a Muslim American Community Center in Orlando.”

Emgage (formerly EmergeUSA) is a national organization, which Soto’s campaign says has a strong Central Florida presence, dedicated to increasing the civic engagement of Muslim Americans. The organization strives to “build the political awareness and capacity of Muslim Americans to engage on key policy issues,” according to its website.

The endorsement continues the Soto campaign’s efforts to build up backing from progressive and Civil Rights leaders, including that last week of U.S. Rep. John Lewis, as a potential political firewall against the Democratic primary challenge being brought by his predecessor, former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, who has some national backing as a progressive bulldog.

The winner of the August 28 Democratic primary will face Saint Cloud businessman Wayne Liebnitzky.

“Soto is proud to stand with Muslim Americans, and all Americans who believe that a welcoming, inclusive culture is what truly makes America great,” the Soto campaign release stated.

Ted Deutch endorses Robert Weinroth for Palm Beach County Commission

Democrats just got a helping hand in their efforts to turn a Palm Beach County Commission seat blue: U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch has endorsed Robert Weinroth in the race for District 4.

The contest serves as a harbinger for Democrats’ hopes on a national level, as Republicans have represented District 4 since its inception in 1988.

Despite that, Weinroth is seen as the favorite in the race after Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie was forced to withdraw her bid following a corruption scandal that ended in her arrest.

If Democrats are indeed poised to flip this seat, it could signal good fortunes for the party in November. A high-profile endorsement from Rep. Deutch shows the party is taking this race seriously.

“On the Boca Raton City Council, Bob was a champion on the issues mattering most to constituents,” said Deutch in a statement announcing his endorsement.

“On the Palm Beach County Commission, I know that he will continue his legacy of creating jobs, battling the opioid epidemic, protecting our beaches and the environment, and promoting sensible gun safety policies. I’m excited by the prospect of having Bob as a partner in government on the county level.”

Weinroth was thankful for the support, saying, “I have known Rep. Deutch for many years and I am proud to call him my congressman. In addition to his leadership on legislative issues, he and his staff have always greatly impressed me by their commitment to constituent services. I look forward to continuing our close working relationship once elected to the Palm Beach County Commission.”

Weinroth currently serves on the Boca Raton City Council, but has decided not to run for re-election to pursue the County Commission seat. Weinroth has raised more than $90,000 in the race while his only declared opponent, Republican William Vale, has raised just over $3,500.

Ardian Zika endorsed by former Pasco state Senator

Ardian Zika has added another backer in his bid to replace term-limited House Speaker Richard Corcoran in House District 37.

The Land O’ Lakes Republican announced Wednesday that John Grant, who represented Pasco and Hillsborough counties in the Florida Senate from 1986 to 2000, had endorsed him in the four-way Republican Primary for Pasco County-based seat.

“For fourteen years the voters of Pasco County gave me the honor of representing them in the Florida Senate,” Grant said. “They elected and re-elected me because I shared their values. Ardian Zika shares those same values and that’s why I am supporting his election to the Florida House of Representatives, District 37.”

Grant joins St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, former House Speaker Will Weatherford,  Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco, and the Fraternal Order of Police in endorsing Zika.

“I am honored to have former Florida State Senator John Grant’s endorsement,” Zika said. “Senator Grant represented the residents of Pasco County for fourteen years in our state capitol. He fought for lower taxes, less government, more personal responsibility and freedom. I am grateful for Senator Grant’s example and for his support and endorsement of my campaign.”

Zika is running against Ryan BoneyBill Gunter and Elle Rudisill in the primary. Democrats Tammy Garcia and Denise Mestanza-Taylor are also running.

Through April, Zika had raised more than $183,000 for his campaign and had $170,000 in the bank. Rudisill is in a distant second place with $13,500 banked, while Boney and Gunter each have $0 in their campaign accounts.

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.

The district is a Republican stronghold. Corocran never faced an Election Day challenger in his three re-election campaigns since HD 37 was redrawn. The seat voted plus-27 for Donald Trump in 2016.

Miami mayor backs SD 36 candidate Manny Diaz

Current state Rep. Manny Diaz continues his charge to the Florida Senate after pulling in another endorsement from a Miami-Dade County mayor.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is the latest to back Diaz, announcing his support for Diaz’s Senate District 36 bid.

“I’m honored to have Mayor Suarez’s support,” Diaz, a Republican, said.

“He is an outstanding leader and public servant, and I’m grateful to have him join the other local leaders from across Miami-Dade who have joined our team. I look forward to continuing a strong partnership with them as we serve the best interests of our communities together.”

Mayor Suarez had previously served on the Miami City Commission after he won the District 4 seat back in 2009. He remained in that role until winning the mayoral race last year with an overwhelming 86 percent of the vote.

Suarez also serves as vice-chair of the Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization and is a former president of the Miami-Dade County League of Cities.

Suarez’s family has strong political ties to Miami. His father, Xavier, is a current Miami-Dade County Commissioner and also served as mayor of Miami in the late 1990s.

Diaz hopes the latest endorsement helps propel him from the Florida House to the Senate. He’s already earned endorsements from the mayors of Hialeah, Hialeah Gardens, Doral, Miami Lakes, and Medley.

Diaz has represented House District 103 since 2012 but is now seeking to replace GOP Sen. Rene Garcia in SD 36. Garcia is term-limited.

“Manny Diaz is a compassionate leader who will be very effective in the Florida Senate,” Suarez said. “In the Florida House, he has demonstrated strong commitment to the communities he represents, and I am confident he will serve Senate District 36 with the same determination and responsiveness. I look forward to working with him.”

Diaz is the only Republican who has entered the SD 36 race. Only Muhammad Amin has filed as a Democrat.

Gayle Harrell gets clean bill of health from FMA

The Florida Medical Association on Tuesday endorsed Stuart Republican Rep. Gayle Harrell in the race to succeed Senate President Joe Negron in Senate District 25.

“Gayle Harrell has been a wonderful friend of medicine during her public service in the Florida House. We are thrilled to support her in her quest to serve in the Florida Senate and look forward to working with her on important health care issues. Gayle Harrell is a tremendous advocate not just to Florida physicians, but to the patients of this state as well,” said Dr. Mike Patete, president of FMA PAC.

Harrell has more than 30 years of experience in health care, including managing the practice of her husband, Dr. James E. Harrell, and founding the Breast Imaging Center, a mammography center specializing in preventive care for women. She currently is the CEO of Health IT Strategies and works as health information technologies consultant.

“I am very grateful for the support of the Florida Medical Association and the caring physicians who dedicate their lives to the health and well-being of their patients,” she said. “I am proud to have their endorsement and look forward to continuing our work together to put patients first and provide affordable access to the best health care possible for all Floridians.”

Harrell faces Belinda Keiser, vice chancellor of Keiser University, in the Republican Primary for SD 25, which covers St. Lucie and Martin counties, along with a small portion of Palm Beach County. Stuart Democrat Rob Levy has also announced declared for the seat.

The trio is running in a special election due to Negron’s announcement that he would leave the Senate with two years left on his term. The SD 25 special will be held concurrently with the regularly scheduled Aug. 28 primary election and Nov. 6 general election.

Dave Aronberg endorses Democrat Lauren Baer in CD 18

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg has announced his support for Democrat Lauren Baer in the race for Florida’s 18th Congressional District.

The endorsement is yet another big get for Baer, who has previously been endorsed by former Rep. Patrick Murphy and current Rep. Ted Deutch.

She even picked up a recent celebrity endorsement, earning a shoutout from Rosie O’Donnell.

Baer is one of two Democrats running for the right to compete against incumbent U.S. Rep. Brian Mast.

She’s facing off against former U.S. Navy Officer Pam Keith in the Democratic primary. This isn’t Keith’s first run for federal office, as she ran for U.S. Senate in 2016. She lost in the Democratic primary to Murphy, who is now endorsing her CD 18 opponent.

Aronberg spoke highly of Baer in a statement announcing his support.

“Our community is facing many challenges. From the opioid epidemic to threats to our environment, we need a representative in Washington who will seek common sense solutions and actually accomplish them. I am proud to endorse Lauren Baer, who has the experience of bringing people together in these divisive political times.”

Baer is an attorney who previously served as a senior adviser in the Obama administration, working with Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.

Baer and the Democrats feel they can target Mast as part of their efforts to take back the House. Mast was recently elected to the seat in 2016, defeating his Democratic opponent by about 10 percentage points. That’s a decent gap, but one that can be closed if Democrats overperform this November.

Mast was recently passed over for the position of Veterans Affairs Secretary, leaving him free to run for re-election. He faces two challengers in a Republican primary in Dave Cummings and Mark Freeman. But Mast is widely favored to win the Republican nod.

The Florida primary election will be held Aug. 28.

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