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Manny Diaz retains money lead despite strong fundraising period for David Perez

Manny Diaz is holding onto the fundraising lead in Senate District 36 despite a strong reporting period for Democrat David Perez.

Diaz, who is attempting to move to the Senate after representing House District 103, is the only Republican filed to run in the race.

He brought in more than $4,600 in outside contributions from Aug. 4 to Aug. 10. Nearly all of that came from assorted PACs from entities such as the Duke Energy Corporation and Holland & Knight law firm.

Diaz spent even more than that during the same period. He dropped more than $2,600 on various supplies and just over $1,500 on campaign door-hangers. Another $500 was spent on canvassing, and $444 went toward meals among other, smaller expenditures.

Still, Diaz holds plenty of money as he readies for the general. He’s brought in more than $450,000 overall, spending just over $250,000 of that.

Also, Diaz has a political committee called Better Florida Education. That committee spent just $1,250 during the recent reporting period, mostly on phone banking. Overall, the committee has about $20,00 cash on hand.

Perez, ex-aide to former Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, has earned a lot of support from within the party as he competes with Julian Santos for the nod.

Perez managed to outraise Diaz during the Aug. 4 to Aug. 10 period, bringing in more than $13,000 to about $4,600 for Diaz. $5,000 of that came from various law firms, but Perez posted dozens of smaller contributions ranging from between $10 and $50 as well.

He spent just under $2,400 during the period on digital consulting and software services.

Floridians for Change, a political committee associated with Perez, spent $1,260 on legal expenses during this time frame. But the group is sitting on a ton of cash, raising nearly $130,000 so far and spending less than $6,000.

Santos trails Perez in the money race ahead of their Aug. 28 primary. He put $5,000 into his campaign, according to the recent reporting period, spending just under $200 on campaign services. Overall, he’s brought in only over $26,000 and has spent nearly $20,000.

Currently occupying the seat is outgoing state Rep. Rene Garcia, who has endorsed Diaz, his fellow Republican.

Jason Pizzo approaches primary with large cash lead over Daphne Campbell

As Jason Pizzo and Daphne Campbell face off for the de facto general election race on Aug. 28, Pizzo earns the advantage when it comes to cash on hand to close out the contest. That’s according to the most recent filings with the Florida Division of Elections.

The pair of Democrats are the only candidates filed to run in the race for the Senate District 38 seat, currently held by Campbell. That means the winner of the primary will determine who is holding this seat next session.

Pizzo maintains more than $50,000 cash on hand himself, with another few thousand available in a pair of committees associated with his campaign.

Campbell, meanwhile, has just over $3,000 available in her campaign. An associated committee, Millennials for Change PC, has spent more money than it’s taken in.

Looking at the most recently reported fundraising period, from Aug. 4 to Aug. 10, Pizzo’s campaign took in $2,115 in outside contributions, with Pizzo chipping in another $20,000 in self-funding.

Much of that $2,115 was made up of contributions from individuals. Another $1,000 came from a group called the Florida Laborers Political Committee. All-in-all, Pizzo has raised more than $123,000 in outside contributions while adding a total of $320,000 of loans to his campaign.

Pizzo spent nearly $17,000 during the last reporting period. More than $8,400 of that went to a direct mail campaign. Another $5,000 was spent on voter outreach. Pizzo’s campaign has put nearly $400,000 into this race throughout the cycle.

New Leadership for Florida, an associated committee, was quiet during the Aug. 4 to Aug. 10 period. The organization took in no money and spent just $10,000 in a contribution to another committee. To date, the group has brought in just under $230,000 while spending just over $228,000.

Protecting Coastal Communities PAC, the second committee associated with Pizzo’s campaign, had no reported activity in the most recent period. Overall, that committee has brought in $24,500 while spending $21,000.

As for Campbell, she took in just over $7,800 in the last period. A little less than $1,500 of that came from individual donors. The NFIB chipped in $1,000. The Florida Internet and Television Association added another $500. Another $3,000 came from various corporations, including some from the farming industry.

Campbell burned through just over $6,500 during the same period, mostly on campaign staff and canvassing.

Overall, Campbell has raised more than $135,000 while spending more than $132,000 of that.

Millennials for Change PC dropped $10,000 last period on consulting. It has raised just over $120,000 but has spent nearly $123,000.

That leaves Campbell with a net of a few hundred dollars for the close of the campaign, while Pizzo has just over $55,000 available between his campaign and the above-mentioned committees.

A new poll also showed Pizzo with a double-digit lead over Campbell. He led the incumbent 40 percent to 26 percent, with 34 percent still undecided.

Bill Galvano wants to revisit school safety

As students across Florida start the new school year, incoming Senate President Bill Galvano wants lawmakers to think about expanding the school-safety efforts approved during the 2018 Legislative Session after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

In a series of tweets Tuesday, the Bradenton Republican implored senators to look more at school safety.

“As incoming Senate President of the third-largest state in the nation — a bellwether for others — I am committed to making sure our re-examination of school safety policies does not end here,” Galvano tweeted. “Some issues simply must transcend politics. The safety of our children is one.”

In the 2018 Session, lawmakers approved a wide-ranging, $400 million measure (SB 7026) measure that includes requiring schools to have safety officers, bolstering mental-health services and upgrading protections through school “hardening” projects.

The law also allows includes-gun related changes, such as adding a three-day waiting period for all firearm purchases and increasing from 18 to 21 the minimum age to buy rifles and other long guns. The National Rifle Association has filed a lawsuit challenging the age change.

“We cannot be complacent, or think our work is done — we must continually review existing policies and encourage new ideas to keep our students safe,” Galvano continued in his tweets. “Florida’s experiences and reforms should be shared and exported to other states. 6 months later, as millions of students begin a new school year, we cannot help but reflect back on that heartbreaking day. As we do, we can mark this moment as a time when grief galvanized action, and we were not immobilized by our differences.”

Galvano, who helped spearhead the school-safety bill, is set to take over from Senate President Joe Negron after the November election.

Equality Florida pledges $25k to elect Jason Pizzo, savages incumbent Daphne Campbell

Jason Pizzo has already earned the endorsement of Equality Florida in his race to boot state Sen. Daphne Campbell from her Senate District 38 seat.

Now, the Equality Florida Action PAC is promising $25,000 in support of Pizzo’s election.

The PAC plans to spend the money on a “program to turn out pro-equality voters in Miami-Dade County” to support Pizzo’s Democratic primary challenge.

SD 38 covers portions of Miami-Dade County including Miami Beach and North Miami.

“Equality Florida’s primary program in Senate District 38 will focus on roughly ten thousand pro-equality voters and will include mail, phone calls and mobilizing LGBTQ community support,” read the group’s release.

That mailer includes a side-by-side of the candidates positions on LGBT rights, arguing that Pizzo would better represent the community on these issues.

“Jason Pizzo is exactly the kind of pro-equality leader we need and deserve in Tallahassee,” said Stratton Pollitzer, chair of the PAC.

Pollitzer also had harsh words for Campbell, criticizing her record on LGBTQ rights: “Unlike his opponent, Jason has pledged to fight for statewide LGBTQ non-discrimination protections and to guard against any attack on marriage equality.”

The group savaged Campbell over her past votes. The PAC highlighted her vote supporting a GOP-backed abortion bill in 2011, along with her opposition to a repeal of Florida’s ban on gay adoption in 2015.

“We are going to use every resource we have to make sure voters in this district know that we have a clear choice between a pro-equality champion like Jason Pizzo and an anti-LGBTQ extremist,” Pollitzer added.

Pizzo and Campbell are the only candidates running in SD 38. The district’s primary vote will take place on Aug. 28.

Daphne Campbell campaign apologizes for mistaken endorsement

In response to reporting from Florida Politics on Thursday, the Daphne Campbell campaign has issued a formal apology for falsely claiming the endorsement of Aventura City Commissioner Robert Shelley.

Shelley endorsed Jason Pizzo, Campbell’s Democratic primary opponent in Senate District 38. Yet Shelley’s face remains on a campaign flyer being sent out by the Campbell campaign touting several different endorsements of her re-election bid.

It is against Florida election law to falsely claim an endorsement from someone without signed documentation. Violators can face civil penalties.

In a letter addressed to Commissioner Shelley, obtained by Florida Politics, Campbell campaign manager Maxo Sinal apologizes for the erroneous claim and explains how Shelley’s face ended up on that flyer.

Sen. Campbell “is deeply sorry for an incident that involves your name and your picture,” Sinal says.

“A file that included all of our endorsements was given to campaign staff to prepare an endorsement list since our communications director has left the campaign to go back to school. Unfortunately, the staff didn’t recognize that you removed yourself from endorsing Sen. Campbell, and gave your name to our graphic designer to prepare literature for the campaign.”

That reference to Shelley removing his endorsement of Senator Campbell refers to reporting from early July, where Shelley’s office appeared to send out signed endorsement letters to both the Campbell and Pizzo campaigns.

At the time, Shelley clarified the issue by noting he was backing Pizzo, and the letter to Campbell was sent in error. “By the time we uncovered the mistake, it was already distributed,” says Sinal of the flyer.

“Sen. Campbell respects everyone’s choice to support her, or her opponent. This incident doesn’t reflect our campaign values. On behalf of Sen. Daphne Campbell, I present to you my sincere apology and I have already implemented steps to avoid such a mistake.”

Shelley had requested a formal apology in response to the news his image was still being used by the Campbell campaign. In comments to Florida Politics, he says he is “glad they acknowledged the mistake” and accepts the campaign’s apology. Shelley is currently running for re-election to the Aventura City Commission.

Daphne Campbell continues to claim nonexistent endorsement from Aventura pol

(Update: Daphne Campbell has issued a formal apology for the incident, a portion of which has been added to this piece. You can read the full apology here.)

State Sen. Daphne Campbell appears to be openly flouting Florida election law by once again claiming an endorsement from an Aventura City Commissioner who has endorsed her opponent, Jason Pizzo.

Campbell lists Commissioner Robert Shelley (whose name is misspelled in her materials) on a campaign flyer issued to voters in Senate District 38. You can see his face among a list of others who have endorsed Campbell’s campaign.

The problem is: he’s backing her opponent in the SD 38 Democratic primary. And this isn’t the first time Campbell has made this claim.

On July 3, Florida Politics published a piece detailing what appeared to be a mistake by Commissioner Shelley which led to confusion over which candidate he was endorsing.

It turns out both the Pizzo and Campbell campaigns had received a signed letter from Shelley’s office indicating his support. After contacting Commissioner Shelley directly, he said the letter to the Campbell camp must have been sent in error, and that he was actually endorsing Pizzo.

Nevertheless, Campbell did receive that letter, and provided it to Florida Politics. That explained why Shelley was among a list of people Campbell claimed were endorsing her campaign in early July.

In the reporting for our previous story, Florida Politics contacted the Campbell campaign directly, explaining Shelley was sticking by his endorsement of Pizzo. They clearly got the message, as Shelley says Campbell later retracted a reciprocal endorsement of his campaign for re-election to the Aventura City Commission.

Yet, his photo remains among a list of people purportedly endorsing Campbell, seen on the flyer above.

“This one is just intentional,” Shelley says.

“I don’t know where she’s getting it from. But it’s just a disgrace; it’s illegal.”

On the law, he’s right.

Florida Statute 106.143 reads, in the relevant part: “It is unlawful for any candidate or person on behalf of a candidate to represent that any person or organization supports such candidate, unless the person or organization so represented has given specific approval in writing to the candidate to make such representation.”

Back in July, the Campbell campaign had what they thought was valid written approval. But not now, says Shelley.

“The first time, OK. It could be a mistake, I’ll chalk it up to a mistake. This is not a mistake. She knew.”

Violations of that statute could result in civil penalties.

At first glance, it is possible that the flyers were made to be printed before Campbell receiving notice that Shelley’s endorsement was sent in error. However, Pizzo says that’s not the case here.

Take a look again at the flyer:

In the bottom right, you see the phrase, “Touch 90,” ostensibly referring to Campbell’s “punch number” for Election Day.

“We all got our punch numbers of what number we are going to be on the ballot on July 5,” says Pizzo.

That’s two days after we spoke to the Campbell campaign and released our original story on July 3.

Commissioner Shelley says he wants a formal statement from the Campbell campaign making clear they understand he is not endorsing her campaign. He also says the campaign should cease sending the flyers out immediately.

Shelley also says he’s concerned with his own constituents receiving confusing information.

“This is something which I don’t want affecting me personally, because I’m running for re-election.”

In response to this piece, the Campbell campaign issued a formal apology directly to Commissioner Shelley for misuse of his photo.

“Unfortunately, the staff didn’t recognize that you removed yourself from endorsing Sen. Campbell and gave your name to our graphic designer to prepare literature for the campaign,” said Campbell campaign manager Maxo Sinal.

“By the time we uncovered the mistake, it was already distributed. Mr. Shelley, Sen. Campbell respects everyone’s choice to support her or her opponent. This incident doesn’t reflect our campaign values. On behalf of Sen. Daphne Campbell, I present to you my sincere apology and I have already implemented steps to avoid such a mistake.”

Jason Pizzo

Eileen Higgins gets behind Jason Pizzo in SD 38

Miami-Dade Commissioner Eileen Higgins, who won a shock victory in the District 5 special election back in June, says she’s endorsing Jason Pizzo in the Democratic primary for Senate District 38.

Pizzo is facing off against incumbent state Sen. Daphne Campbell in the race. But despite Campbell’s incumbency, Higgins says she’s supporting the challenger in a statement released Friday.

“Our community deserves an honest, dedicated state senator fighting for us and Jason Pizzo will be that state senator,” said Higgins.

“Over the years, I’ve seen Jason’s passion and unwavering commitment to making our neighborhoods safer. I know he won’t stop when he gets to Tallahassee.”

Pizzo works as an attorney in Miami; he graduated from the University of Miami School of Law. He praised Higgins for her efforts in her surprise win, where she defeated Zoraida Barreiro in a runoff election for the District 5 seat.

“Commissioner Higgins reaffirmed that voters want honest, authentic leaders who are accountable to the community they serve,” said Pizzo.

“I share her conviction that public service is bigger than just one person, which is why I’m honored to have her support in the home stretch of our campaign. We can deliver a better future for our children, and it starts on Aug. 28 with our vote.”

Pizzo hasn’t been shy about spending money to take over this seat. He recently added another $125,000 in self-loans to his campaign.

SD 38 covers parts of Miami-Dade County including Miami Beach, North Miami and Bal Harbour. No Republicans filed to run in the race, leaving Pizzo and Campbell as the only two declared candidates.

Fraternal Order of Police backs Manny Diaz in SD 36

Manny Diaz has pulled in another endorsement from the law enforcement community, as the Florida State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) is backing his bid for the Senate District 36 seat.

FOP is a nationwide organization that advocates on behalf of law enforcement officers. Diaz issued a statement thanking the Florida Lodge for its support after he received word of the endorsement.

“I’m very honored to have FOP’s support,” Diaz said.

“Keeping law enforcement strong is vital to every community across Florida, and I will continue to make that a priority. I admire and appreciate the bravery and dedication law enforcement personnel show each and every day, and I look forward to continuing to work with them to make sure residents and tourists alike enjoy peace and safety in our state.”

This is the second pro-law enforcement group to back Diaz in recent weeks, as the Dade County Police Benevolent Association also endorsed Diaz last month.

Diaz has represented House District 103 since 2012 but is attempting to make a move to the Senate to replace term-limited state Sen. Rene Garcia. Garcia has already endorsed Diaz, who is the only Republican in the race.

On the Democratic side, David Perez, former aide to ex-Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas, is running against Julian Santos, a former employee at the Florida Office of Financial Regulation in Miami.

Jason Pizzo

Jason Pizzo adds another $125k in loans to his campaign

Jason Pizzo has added another $125,000 in loans to his campaign in an effort to unseat state Sen. Daphne Campbell in Senate District 38.

The newest self-funding spree came during the period of July 7 to July 20, according to a recent report filed with the Florida Division of Elections. He also added more than $5,000 in outside donations during that period.

Pizzo, a Miami attorney, has now poured in $275,000 in self-loans, on top of more than $110,000 in donations.

He’s also spent more than $260,000 of that money, including more than $60,000 last period. Much of his recent expenditures have gone toward direct mail and door hangers (more than $31,000), canvassing ($4,335) and voter outreach ($4,000).

During the same period, Campbell raised just over $7,000 in donations while spending more than $11,000. That’s yet another financial period where Campbell has spent more than she’s taken in.

The majority of Campbell’s expenditures from last period were used to pay consultants ($4,350) and work on advertisements (more than $3,200).

Pizzo is challenging Campbell in the SD 38 Democratic primary after losing a similar bid in 2016. However, that field featured six challengers, whereas this year’s election in a one-on-one contest between he and Campbell.

No Republican filed to run in the race.

SD 38 covers parts of Miami-Dade County including Miami Beach, North Miami and Bal Harbour. The primary election will be held Aug. 28.

Latino Victory Fund endorsing trio of Florida Legislature candidates

Liberal action group Latino Victory Fund, which seeks to help elect more Latinos to government, is offering up new three new endorsements for the Florida Legislature.

David Perez, Brendan Ramirez, and Robert Asencio are strong Latino leaders with a demonstrated commitment to their communities, and they will play a key role in turning out Latino progressives this election cycle,” said Cristóbal J. Alex, president of Latino Victory Fund.

Perez is competing against Julian Santos for the Democratic nomination in the race for Senate District 36. Ramirez is battling a pair of Democrats, Clark Anderson and Joy Goff-Marcil, in House District 30. And Asencio is pushing for re-election in House District 118.

“Latino Victory is proud to support these exemplary candidates and will do everything in our power to get them to the finish line this November,” added Alex.

Perez previously worked as an aide to former Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas. If he earns the Democratic nomination, he will face off against current state Rep. Manny Diaz, who is trying to make a move to the Senate after representing House District 103 for six years.

Perez has also served as a lieutenant in the Coral Gables Fire Department.

I am ready to serve my district and state in the same way that I have served my community as a firefighter — always on the front lines, ready to fight,” said Perez.

“As the son of Cuban immigrants, it is an honor to receive the endorsement of Latino Victory Fund and to know that like-minded organizations support my campaign.”

Ramirez, an Orlando resident, is attempting to oust Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes.

“For far too long our community has been underrepresented and it is high time that we say, ‘presente,’” remarked Ramirez.

“That is why I decided to run for Florida House District 30. Leadership commands a devoted organization that provides a steadfast force of empowerment. Latino Victory is that vehicle and I am humbled to be among this solid and dynamic organization. I look forward to working together.”

Asencio is unopposed in the Democratic primary as he fights to hold onto the HD 118 seat he won in 2016. Kendall business owner Anthony Rodriguez is the only Republican filed to run against Asencio.

“As a proud Puerto Rican, career public servant, and member of the Florida House of Representatives, Latino Victory Fund’s endorsement for reelection serves as a testament to our mutual commitment to representation for Latinos,” said Asencio.

“With unified voting power, our economic and political influence as Latinos is limitless and the key to forging a brighter future for our nation, communities, and families. I eagerly look forward to the accomplishments of our work together. En unidad marchamos adelante.”

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