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Karen Skyers

Karen Skyers gets Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus nod for HD 61

Ex-lobbyist and public defender Karen Skyers has added another endorsement to her campaign to replace state Rep. Sean Shaw in House District 61.

The Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus announced its support of Skyers in the four-way Democratic primary to be held on Tuesday, Aug. 28.

The move is no real surprise, as Skyers received the endorsement of the Hillsborough County LGBTA Democratic Caucus earlier this month.

“We are proud to support your campaign’s efforts to further the cause of equality for LGBT Floridians,” said Terry Fleming, president of the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus.

Skyers has also already been endorsed by Shaw, who entered the race for Attorney General. She’s also maintained a fundraising lead as the primary race comes to a close.

“I am ecstatic to have received an endorsement from the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus,” Skyers said.

“Supporting issues of equality and fairness are imperative. I will do what it takes to ensure that the rights of our brothers and sisters are not infringed upon.”

Skyers will face off against Sharon CarterDianne Hart and Norman Harris in Tuesday’s primary. HD 61 covers downtown Tampa, Ybor City and Seminole Heights.

The victor is virtually certain to take a seat in the Capitol: No Republicans qualified, meaning Tuesday’s winner faces only a write-in candidate in November. No write-in candidate has ever won elected office in the Sunshine State.

Former Puerto Rico Gov. Sila María Calderón Serra to join Philip Levine for Orlando tour

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is planning a whirlwind tour of Central Florida’s Puerto Rican communities with the isaland’s former Gov. Sila María Calderón Serra this weekend.

She endorsed Levine Friday in the Democratic gubernatorial primary election, his campaign announced.

That seal of approval adds to the endorsements Levine already has received from San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto and Ponce Mayor María “Mayita” Meléndez.

Calderón served as the eighth Governor of Puerto Rico from 2001 to 2005. Calderón also served as mayor of San Juan, and as Puerto Rico’s secretary of state.

On Saturday she will be joining Levine for three stops in Orlando and Kissimmee on Saturday evening, and one in Kissimmee Sunday morning.

“As a former governor myself, I was upset with the Trump administration’s handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. In a moment of crisis, Mayor Levine demonstrated true leadership, putting together relief efforts immediately and working to support the people of San Juan, and all of Puerto Rico,” Calderón stated in a news release issued by the Levine campaign. “Floridians deserve a compassionate leader like Mayor Levine, with a clear track record of action and a reputation for standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. Puerto Ricans have an incredible opportunity to decide this governor’s election, It is important that we stand with Philip in the way he stood with us after Hurricane Maria.”

Levine is courting Central Florida’s robust Puerto Rican community heading toward Tuesday’s primary showdown with Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum, Jeff Greene, and Chris King for the Democratic nomination to run for governor.

On Saturday, Levine and Calderón plan to start with a rally at 11331 Cypress Leaf Dr. at 4:15 p.m. They plan to join a Boricua vota caravana, a political parade, at the El Ponceño Restaurant in Kissimmee by 5:30, and then appear at an early voting center at the Kissimmee Civic Center by 6:30 p.m. On Sunday they will visit the Melao Bakery at 11:30 a.m.

“I’m honored to earn the support of Governor Calderón, a strong public servant who has stood up for what’s right, and has advocated for working people both while in office and after her tenure. As Governor, our state will stand with our Puerto Rican neighbors, strengthen our economic and cultural ties, and ensure that our state is accepting to those who came here after losing everything.”

Brady Campaign backs Emma Collum in HD 93

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, one of the largest gun control advocacy groups in the country, has endorsed Democrat Emma Collum in her run for House District 93.

The campaign is named after President Ronald Reagan‘s press secretary, Jim Brady, disabled as a result of the 1981 assassination attempt. Brady, who suffered a head wound, died in 2014.

Collum has called for change in the nation’s gun control laws in light of February’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“Here in Broward County, we know firsthand the devastating effects that unchecked gun laws can have on a community,” Collum said in a statement on the Brady Campaign’s endorsement.

“From Parkland to the Fort Lauderdale Airport shooting, it’s clear that we need comprehensive gun control in this country.”

Collum is running unopposed in the HD 93 Democratic primary, but will face Republican Chip LaMarca and non-party affiliated candidate Kelly Milam in the Nov. 6 general election.

The winner will replace outgoing state Rep. George Moraitis Jr., a Fort Lauderdale Republican who’s term limited.  HD 93 covers portions of eastern Broward County, including Hillsboro Beach, Lighthouse Point and Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.

Buddy Dyer endorses Gwen Graham

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer has endorsed Gwen Graham in the governor’s race, her campaign announced Friday.

Dyer, mayor of the City Beautiful for 15 years and with with enough statewide recognition that he was considered a possible strong candidate to run for governor himself this year, matches up well political with Graham’s more moderate Democratic views.

“Here in Orlando, together we have transformed our community by creating an inclusive place, where people from all walks of life have united behind the shared goal of creating opportunities for everyone.” Dyer stated in a news release issued by Graham’s campaign. “Gwen Graham has spent her life bringing people together to solve problems. She has spent a tremendous amount of time here in Orlando over the last year, and she understands how the state of Florida can be a true partner to help Orlando grow into the future.”

Dyer, the dean of Florida’s big-city mayors, was elected in 2003. He is the longest-serving mayor in Orlando history, and is popular enough that he is in line for what likely will be another easy re-election in 2019.

“We want to make sure our Orlando community has a loud voice in selecting our next governor, and I hope people will join me tomorrow in casting an early ballot for Gwen,” he stated in the release.

The Central Florida Democratic political leaders’ endorsements in the governor’s race have largely been split between Graham and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, with Chris King and Philip Levine each also picking up a couple of key backers.

Dyer is the the biggest available.

Graham also has gotten the backing of state Sens. Victor Torres and Linda Stewart; and state Reps. Amy Mercado and John Cortes, among others. Gillum’s endorsements have included those from State Attorney Aramis Ayala, Orange County Commissioner Emily Bonilla, state Sen. Randolph Bracy, and state Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Kamia Brown. King’s most notable Orlando backer is former Orange County Chair Linda Chapin. Levine has Kissimmee Mayor Jose Alvarez, plus the mayors of San Juan and Ponce, Puerto Rico, who have considerable influence in Central Florida’s large Puerto Rican community.

Graham, Gillum, Levine, King, and Jeff Greene have a showdown Tuesday for the Democratic nomination. Orlando, as always, is a key swing area in the election.

“Orlando is a real example of what Florida can be, a place with a growing economy, shared prosperity, and a community open to a diversity of ideas,” Graham stated in the release. “Mayor Dyer has accomplished these goals by bringing together people from different perspectives, forcing compromise to solve problems, while at the same time never backing down from his progressive values. I am honored by his support, and eager to work with him to move Florida forward.”

Democrats’ Florida House Victory backs Brendan Ramirez in HD 30

The Democrats’ Florida House Victory political committee is backing Brendan Ramirez in the three-way Democratic primary to run in House Disrict 30.

The endorsement, from the campaign arm of the Florida House Democrats, comes in a highly-contested primary that includes a sitting city councilwoman from Maitland who’s been campaigning for six months, and a cyber-security expert who’s been running for nine months. Ramirez, of Orlando, entered the race in late June.

Ramirez, who runs a mental health care clinic, faces Maitland City Councilwoman Joy Goff-Marcil and Clark Anderson of Winter Park, in a party battle for a shot at Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes.

Anderson expressed mild frustration Friday that the party was weighing in a few days before the primary after, he said, he had received assurances early on that it would treat all candidates fairly. Goff-Marcil’s campaign declined to comment.

It’s not been a good week for either of them; earlier this week a political committee backed by New York billionaire George Soros jumped in, backing Ramirez.

One reason the party might be getting behind Ramirez: an internal poll conducted by Change Research early this month showed Ramirez leading Cortes by seven points.

“Brendan Ramirez understands the importance of expanding health care resources for hard working families,” incoming Florida House Minority Leader Kionne McGhee stated in a news release issued by the Victory Fund. “His record of delivering critical mental health resources to Floridians is needed in Tallahassee.”

Democrats hold a two-point voter registration advantage in the district, which covers south-central Seminole County and north-central Orange County. Florida House House Victory stated in the news release that it has identified the seat as one that can be flipped to Democrats.

“I’m thrilled to have earned the support of Florida House Victory,” Ramirez stated in the news release. “I’m committed to fighting for affordable healthcare, housing, and stronger environmental protections for the families of House District 30. Now more than ever, this district deserves someone they can count on.”

Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce endorses Hillsborough transit tax plan

The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce announced Thursday that it is in favor of the referendum to add a one-cent sales tax to fund transportation initiatives in Hillsborough County.

The referendum, backed by “All for Transportation,” made the 2018 ballot last month through the citizen’s charter amendment process. It would bring in an estimated $280 million per year to fund transportation initiatives in the county.

“The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce voted unanimously to support this important referendum because it gives our community the right to decide to invest in our transportation future. We are supportive of efforts to expand local private and public revenue sources dedicated to transportation and expanding transit services and options for Tampa Bay,” said Bob Rohrlack, president and CEO of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

The Greater Tampa Chamber joins one of its partners, the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce, which voted in favor of supporting the referendum earlier this week.

“The South Tampa Chamber supports the All for Transportation referendum because we believe that this is the best proposal to date to provide much needed, long-term funding for multimodal transportation options, including expanding our county bus system, but also providing opportunities to increase the safety of streets in our neighborhoods,” said Kelly Flannery, president and CEO of the South Tampa Chamber.

The nod from the two Chambers follow an endorsement from Tampa Downtown Partnership, a non-profit group that administers a special services district aimed at bettering Tampa’s downtown.

All for Transportation launched a frantic push early last month to make the November ballot via the citizen’s charter amendment process.

The initiative has been heavily supported by Water Street Tampa developer and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik as well as businessman and philanthropist Frank Morsani, both of whom pitched in $150,000 to jump-start the eleventh-hour petition drive.

If approved by voters, the tax would go into effect in 2019 and last for 30 years. Hillsborough Area Regional Transit would get 45 percent of the funds by the tax to use on improving mass transit. The other 55 percent would be split up between the county and local governments for road maintenance and projects tackling traffic congestion.

Mikaela Nix gets Carlos López-Cantera’s backing in HD 47 primary

Republican Florida House candidate Mikaela Nix has been endorsed by Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos López-Cantera for House District 47, her campaign announced Thursday.

“I admire Mikaela because she has a passion for helping people and a love for the law,” said López-Cantera in a prepared statement. “There’s no doubt that she would be an effective leader for the citizens of District 47.”

Nix, a lawyer from Orlando, is battling with Winter Park businessman Stockton Reeves VI for next Tuesday’s Republican primary nomination. The winner takes on Democratic nominee Anna Eskamani to represent HD 47, covering north and central Orange County, including downtown Orlando. Incumbent state Rep. Mike Miller, a Winter Park Republican, is running for Congress.

“I am honored that the lieutenant governor reached out to me and volunteered his support,” Nix said. “I have worked hard to get to where I am today, and I am proud that it is recognized by leaders of our state.”

FMA PAC endorsing Javier Fernandez in HD 114

The political arm of the Florida Medical Association is recommending a full term for Javier Fernandez in House District 114.

Fernandez won that seat in May of this year through a special election after Daisy Baez vacated the seat after pleading guilty to perjury.

Now, the FMA PAC says Fernandez should remain in place come November.

“The FMA PAC is happy to endorse Javier Fernandez in HD 114,” said Dr. Mike Patete, president of the organization.

“He’s a leader in his community having been raised in Miami and now raising a family of his own there, we have no doubt he’ll work with us to improve the health care policies to help the patients and physicians of Florida.”

“I am honored to have the support of Florida’s foremost association of medical professionals,” Fernandez said.

“I look forward to working with the association’s many distinguished members to expand access to quality healthcare for thousands of Floridians.”

Fernandez is running unopposed in the Democratic primary. He will face Republican attorney Javier Enriquez in the general election on Nov. 6, as the GOP nomination also is uncontested.

Javier Fernandez backs Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in CD 26

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell has earned the endorsement of another elected official ahead of her Aug. 28 Democratic primary matchup with former naval officer Demetries Grimes.

State Rep. Javier Fernandez, who represents House District 114, says he’s supporting Mucarsel-Powell’s bid to challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo in Florida’s 26th Congressional District.

Debbie is exactly the kind of representative South Florida needs: Someone committed to ending gun violence and standing up for immigrants,” Fernandez said.

“Every American deserves to have their voice heard in Washington, and I’m proud to support Debbie on her bid to become the voice of Florida’s 26th district.”

Fernandez has held his seat for just a few months, after winning a special election back in May. He’s currently facing a challenge from Republican lawyer Javier Enriquez.

“I’m honored to have Javier Fernandez’s support as we take the fight for gun control to Congress,” Mucarsel-Powell said of the endorsement.

“Voters in our community know that Congressman Curbelo is only looking to serve himself and his Republican donors in Washington. It’s quite simple: South Florida deserves better.”

The news comes on the heels of a solid fundraising period for Mucarsel-Powell, where she actually topped Curbelo’s haul. Curbelo is also facing a primary challenge of his own, as Souraya Faas is contesting the GOP nomination.

GOP candidate in CD 27 drops out, endorses Donna Shalala

A topsy-turvy week of political news just got a bit stranger after Democrat Donna Shalala appears to have just pulled in a new endorsement — from a Republican opponent in Florida’s 27th Congressional District.

Following comments made to Univision, Stephen Marks has confirmed to Florida Politics that he has stopped campaigning in the CD 27 Republican primary and has endorsed Shalala.

Marks will still appear on the primary ballot. But he says his own polling shows him trailing former news anchor for Telemundo and CNN en Español Maria Elvira Salazar and former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro by a large enough margin that he doesn’t feel like he has a shot at winning.

Marks

The decision by Marks comes after a Salazar internal poll showed her lapping the Republican field in CD 27.

While we always preach caution when it comes to internal polls, Marks earned just four percent support compared with Salazar’s 40 percent. Barreiro was in second place with 16 percent.

But Marks made clear his own internal polling showed Barreiro and Salazar in a dead heat. Florida Politics was able to review the results, which showed Barreiro earning 31 percent support to Salazar’s 30 percent. That was in a survey of 211 likely voters with a margin of error of 6.75 percent.

Marks released one of the more attention-grabbing ads in the GOP primary for CD 27. The ad, unveiled in May, placed blame on the government for the death of his parents.

“I’m running for Congress because they both just died from our government’s policies that make the lives of senior citizens worthless,” Marks said in the ad.

Marks says that health care for seniors is what drove him to enter the race and is now driving him to endorse Shalala, a Democrat.

“Even if I disagree with a lot of the other stuff she does, I think she would be the best person to fight for senior citizens,” Marks said. “So I made this radical decision to cross party lines.”

Marks has spent decades in Republican politics as a consultant for various campaigns. He even wrote a book on the topic in 2008 called “Confessions of a Political Hitman.”

Marks told Florida Politics he was concerned with increasing Alzheimer’s research, increased funding for assisted living facilities, and an overhaul of nursing homes throughout the country.

Shalala appears focused on tackling these issues in Congress, which attracted his endorsement, he added: “She’s very in sync with me on this.”

But he also says he supports Barreiro in the Republican primary. Marks recently put out an ad hitting Salazar over a 1995 interview she did with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Shalala also reacted to the news of the endorsement with a statement sent to Florida Politics. While she has been hit by her Democratic opponents for being the “establishment candidate” in the race, Shalala sees the news of Marks’ endorsement as a sign of her candidacy’s strength.

“I’ve spent my entire life getting things done no matter where I was serving,” Shalala said. “I’m happy that my lifelong commitment to service is being recognized not only by Democrats but also by Republicans.”

However, one of her primary opponents, state Rep. David Richardson, slammed Shalala for accepting Marks’ endorsement.

“After Donna Shalala donated over $20,000 to Republicans, are we really surprised that one just endorsed her?,” Richardson asked.

“Not just any Republican, but Marks is a veteran of the D.C. establishment who led the charge for corporate healthcare in his congressional campaign. I agree: he and Donna Shalala are very in sync on healthcare.”

Marks didn’t quite claim he and Shalala were completely in sync on health care, however, only noting their agreement on those issues important to Marks.

Former Knight Foundation Program Director Matt Haggman, Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and former University of Miami academic adviser Michael A. Hepburn are also competing for the Democratic nomination.

The winner of the CD 27 Democratic primary will face the task of converting a seat held by longtime GOP U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who elected not to run for re-election. An appeal to GOP voters and independents could help in that effort.

The primary will be held Tuesday.

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