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Jason Pizzo

Jason Pizzo nabs AFL-CIO endorsement for SD 38

Miami attorney Jason Pizzo now has the backing of the AFL-CIO Florida chapter in his run for Senate District 38.

Pizzo is competing in the Democratic primary against incumbent state Sen. Daphne Campbell. Despite his challenge to a sitting senator, he’s been able to pull in a wide range of endorsements during his campaign.

The Florida chapter of the AFL-CIO, which is the largest federation of unions in the country, is the latest group to support Pizzo’s bid.

“With over 500 local labor unions, 10 councils, and over one million union members, retirees, and their families in the State of Florida, our endorsement can make a difference in his campaign,” said Florida AFL-CIO President Mike Williams.

“We wish Jason luck in his endeavor and look forward to working with him now and after his victory!”

In addition to the various endorsements of his campaign, Pizzo has also earned sizable fundraising totals to compete with Campbell.

“For too long, working families in Florida have had the odds stacked against them with anti-union legislation decimating their ability to fight for the wages and benefits that they deserve,” said Pizzo in reaction to the news.

“With this endorsement from an organization who serves the backbones of our society, our workers, we take one step closer to reverse the harmful measures that hurt our competitiveness and quality of life. I thank the Florida AFL-CIO for their support and look forward to working with them and the rest of our coalition all the way to Election Day on August 28.”

August 28 is the day primary voters will head to the polls to choose the Democratic nominee in SD 38. That will be followed by the general election on November 6.

Hialeah City Council President endorses Manny Diaz in SD 36 race

Manny Diaz‘s Senate campaign just notched another endorsement with Hialeah City Council President Vivan Casals Muñoz announcing her support Thursday.

Diaz is competing for the Senate District 36 seat after serving in the state House since 2012, where he’s represented House District 103.

“Manny Diaz really demonstrated his leadership abilities in the Florida House,” said Muñoz.

“While he has been at the forefront of issues like education reform, he has never taken his eye off the importance of policies that support a strong economy and pressing constituent needs in his district. He is ready to continue leading in the Florida Senate, and I’m proud to support him.”

Muñoz has served on the Hialeah City Council since 2006. She is also the chairwoman of the Hialeah Planning and Zoning Board and serves on both the Business and Economic Advisory Committee and the Hialeah Historic Preservation Board.

She’s one of many Miami-Dade County officials who has endorsed the Diaz campaign, including the mayors of Miami, Miami Springs, and Hialeah. Diaz is also backed by current Sen. Rene Garcia, who Diaz is running to replace. Garcia is term-limited.

“Vivian Casals Muñoz is a public servant of the highest caliber,” said Diaz of her endorsement. “I’m honored to have her support, and I look forward to continuing to work with her on behalf of our friends and neighbors in Hialeah.”

Diaz is the only Republican filed to run in SD 36. Challenging him on the Democratic side are David Perez and Julian Santos.

Belinda Keiser antes up another $500K out of pocket for SD 25 campaign

With more than $600,000 added to candidates’ coffers in May, the race for Senate District 25 just got a whole lot richer.

However, a whopping $500,000 of that was in the form of a self-loan from Belinda Keiser to her campaign. That’s on top of nearly $55,000 in donations earned by Keiser in her first month as a candidate for SD 25.

Keiser, who serves as vice chancellor of Keiser University, announced her bid back in early May. For some, the move raised eyebrows, as Keiser is based in Broward County. SD 25 covers Martin and St. Lucie counties as well as a piece of Palm Beach County.

Keiser has also taken heat for numerous past donations to Democrats despite her decision to run as a Republican. The influx of money into her campaign could help Keiser fight back if her opponents try to target her on those issues.

Democrat Robert Levy joined the SD 25 self-funding trend, loaning $50,000 to his campaign. He also took in more than $1,000 in outside donations.

Gayle Harrell, who is competing with Keiser for the Republican nomination in SD 25, raised nearly $5,000 in donations in May, according to her filings with the Florida Division of Elections.

Joining the trio is Dr. Joe Smith in a campaign for Senate President Joe Negron‘s seat. Smith has not yet registered any fundraising information with the state.

Negron announced he would step aside before his term ends in 2020, triggering a special election this November. Primary voters will decide the candidates in that election when they head to the polls August 28.

Negron has already endorsed Harrell as his successor. If she comes out on top in the primary, she’ll face a Republican-friendly electorate. The GOP nominee has won the previous two SD 25 elections by at least 14 percentage points. In 2016, the district also voted for Donald Trump by more than 11 points.

Jason Pizzo pulls in bundle of endorsements from city and town officials

Fresh off the news that Jason Pizzo‘s campaign has now more than $100,000 cash on hand, he’s announced a new round of more than 20 endorsements from current and former South Florida lawmakers.

Pizzo is challenging incumbent state Sen. Daphne Campbell for the Senate District 38 seat. The two are set to face off in the Democratic primary August 28.

The latest lawmakers backing Pizzo’s insurgent campaign include five Bay Harbor Islands council members, four Aventura commissioners, three commissioners each from Sunny Isles Beach and Surfside, two North Miami Beach commissioners, and an El Portal councilmember.

Also among the group endorsing Pizzo are Sunny Isles Beach Vice Mayor Dana Goldman, former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Katy Sorensen and former state Sen. Ron Silver. Silver himself formerly served in SD 38.

“I’m proud to have a growing number of local elected officials endorse our candidacy,” said Pizzo of the new slate of endorsements. “They understand the challenges and opportunities of District 38 and as the primary election gets closer, we’ll continue to grow our campaign and connect with voters in every corner of the district.”

Campbell defeated Pizzo in the 2016 primary before going on to win the general election. But with sizable support from South Florida officials, Pizzo seems confident this year will be different.

“We have a crucial opportunity this year to elect a state senator who we can trust to do what’s right for our community. I am humbled to have the support from those around District 38 who similarly believe in a government that works for all of us.”

Two more candidates to compete against Manny Diaz in SD 36

Manny Diaz is by all measures the current front-runner to take the Senate District 36 seat. But that’s not stopping others from entering the race.

Two more Democrats have decided to run. David Perez filed paperwork Thursday, while Imtiaz Ahmad Mohammad made his official entry into the race earlier today.

The pair joins Muhammad Amin in the fight for the Democratic nod in SD 36. Only Diaz has filed to run as a Republican.

SD 36 covers portions of Miami-Dade County. The race for the seat will be open as current state Sen. Rene Garcia is term-limited.

Diaz, who currently represents House District 103, remains the overwhelming favorite in the race. He’s received widespread support through a series of endorsements from Miami-Dade County mayors, most recently from the mayor of Miami Springs. Diaz has also pulled in support from the departing Garcia.

On top of that, Diaz has built up a healthy war chest, pulling in more than $500,000 through April.

Amin, meanwhile, has yet to file any fundraising since entering the race early last month. Neither of the newly-filed candidates has offered any fundraising information as yet.

It remains to be seen whether any big-name Republicans will step in to challenge Diaz, or whether any of the Democrats currently running can compete with him in the general election.

There are currently three candidates running for Diaz’s HD 103 seat: Frank Mingo, Cindy Polo, and the newest entrant, Rick Tapia.

Primary voters will head to the polls Aug. 28. The general election is scheduled for Nov. 6.

Indicted Senate candidate Reggie Brown stays in race, reports no May fundraising

Suspended Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown, currently facing 32 federal counts in a scheme to defraud with another suspended council colleague, is still an active primary opponent in Senate District 6 for Minority Leader-designate Audrey Gibson.

Brown told media he was not suspending his campaign at his indictment a week ago, and proof of that active candidacy could be found in his May campaign finance filing: the fourth straight month in which Brown reported no fundraising.

Given that he faces, if all maximum penalties prevail, 601 years and a $8.275 million fine, perhaps that explains the reluctance.

At the end of April, which was her most recent filing, Sen. Gibson had nearly $132,000 cash on hand.

“I have not made any comments about the opponent in the race and I have none today. I continue to do my legislative duties, work to get more Senate Dems elected as Leader-designate, and focus on my re-election campaign,” Gibson said last week after the indictment dropped.

The winner of the primary campaign will face nominal November opposition from a write-in candidate.

Virginia Gardens mayor latest to back Manny Diaz Senate bid

A seventh South Florida mayor is endorsing Manny Diaz in his bid for Senate District 36.

Virginia Gardens Mayor Spencer Deno IV became the latest to throw support behind the Diaz campaign.

Diaz is looking to make a move to the Senate after representing House District 103 since 2012.

Deno says he’s the right man for the job: “Manny Diaz is a strong leader whose commitment to our community has served us very well.”

“In the Florida House, Manny has demonstrated his commitment to improving Florida’s education system as well as addressing practical local and constituent concerns. I am confident he will continue to serve with the same tenacity and dedication to our community in the Florida Senate.”

Deno was the youngest mayor ever elected in Virginia Gardens; he worked for the United States Postal Service for 20 years.

SD 36 covers portions of Broward and Miami-Dade counties. So far, Diaz has earned the support of seven mayors from Miami-Dade County including the mayors of Miami, Hialeah and Doral. Diaz was also recently endorsed by term-limited state Sen. Rene Garcia, who Diaz is running to replace.

The seat is all but a sure thing for Diaz unless another big name decides to challenge the Republican. Diaz has brought in more than $500,000 to his campaign. The only other entrant into the race, Democrat Muhammad Amin, has not declared any fundraising information with the Division of Elections.

Diaz doesn’t appear to be taking anything for granted, however. He’s continuing to court support from South Florida officials, resulting in this latest endorsement from Mayor Deno.

“I am honored to receive Mayor Deno’s endorsement,” said Diaz. “He has served Virginia Gardens very well for many years, and I am grateful to have him join our team. I look forward to continuing our partnership in improving the communities we are privileged to call home.”

Rene Garcia backs Manny Diaz in bid for Garcia’s SD 36 seat

As Rene Garcia gets ready to leave the Florida Senate, he’s now officially named Manny Diaz as his preferred replacement.

Diaz, who currently represents House District 103, elected to run for the seat held by Garcia, who is term-limited. Now, Garcia says the Diaz is the right man to take his place.

“Manny Diaz is a proven and effective leader,” said Garcia. “I have worked with Manny for a number of years, and I know his dedication to his constituents and our community. His leadership on education issues as well as his consistent support for policies that strengthen our economy make him the right fit for District 36, and I’m proud to support him and encourage all District 36 voters to do the same.”

That’s the same message sent by a number of Miami-Dade County mayors who have thrown their support behind Diaz’s campaign as well.

Garnering the support of the man he’s looking to replace is certainly a big get, though the race for Senate District 36 appears all but over unless Alex Penelas or another big-name Democrat files within the next few weeks.

Diaz is the only Republican filed to run. His only declared Democratic opponent, Muhammad Amin has not listed a single donation so far with the Florida Division of Elections.

Diaz, meanwhile, has raised more than $500,000 between his campaign and political committee.

Diaz was grateful for Garcia’s support. “For more than two decades, Rene Garcia has been an effective public servant,” he said following news of the endorsement. “I am grateful for his friendship and support, and I’m honored by his vote of confidence in me.”

Garcia served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2000 to 2008 before moving over to the Senate in 2010. He now chairs the Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs and is Vice Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax.

Diaz noted Garcia’s years of political service, saying of the outgoing Senator, “He has a track record of outstanding leadership, and I look forward to continuing the excellent representation he delivered for District 36.”

Personnel note: Eileen Stuart departs Mosaic Co. for Hopping Green & Sams

Big news in the influence industry: After almost 10 years leading fertilizer giant Mosaic’s lobbying efforts in Tallahassee and Washington, Eileen Stuart is moving on to a new role.

She’s joining the Tallahassee law firm of Hopping Green & Sams (HGS) in June to helm its government affairs practice.

Stuart will be a shareholder of the firm, though her practice will center largely on state and federal government and regulatory affairs.

“Her expertise in environmental, energy, permitting and tax issues will complement HGS’ deep roster of professionals,” a news release said.

The firm “is a powerful combination of the state’s top environmental and land development lawyers, along with a robust and loyal client base,” Stuart said in a statement.

“HGS’ widely recognized expertise and reputation provide an unparalleled platform, and I am excited to work alongside the exceptional team there to help our clients achieve their objectives.”

Added HGS shareholder Gary Hunter: “We are thrilled to welcome Eileen to the firm. Having worked closely with her over the last decade, we appreciate firsthand Eileen’s substantial talents.”

“Her deep relationships, substantive command and understanding of the key levers in state and federal government will greatly enhance our growing presence in the Florida government affairs arena. Most important, our clients will benefit from her expertise.”

Stuart, a known and respected name in Tallahassee, most recently served as Vice President for Government and Regulatory Affairs for The Mosaic Company, directing the Fortune 500’s state and federal government affairs strategy and engagement in the state and national capitals.

Before that, she was Vice President for Public Affairs and led the company’s strategic communications and community engagement. She will continue to represent Mosaic in Tallahassee and serve as a key voice and face for the company.

Prior to joining Mosaic, she worked in the Executive Office of the Governor under Gov. Charlie Crist where she served as Deputy Policy Director.

She also has worked at the Florida Senate and the Public Service Commission. Stuart received an undergraduate degree from the University of Florida and a law degree from the Florida State University College of Law. She and her husband live in Tallahassee with their two sons. 

Tom Lee stays on sidelines in congressional race

Saying “this is simply not the right time for me,” state Sen. Tom Lee announced Thursday he will not run for a Central Florida congressional seat that became open when U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross decided against seeking re-election.

It was not immediately clear whether Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican and former Senate president, will seek re-election in November to his Senate seat.

Lee, who mulled running for a variety of offices, issued a statement saying he will not enter the contest in Congressional District 15, which covers parts of Polk, Hillsborough and Lake counties.

“The outreach and encouragement from across the district has been truly humbling,” Lee said. “Unfortunately, this is simply not the right time for me to go to Washington.”

With qualifying for federal offices ending at noon Friday, four Republicans — former state Rep. Neil Combee of Auburndale, Sean Harper of Lakeland, Curt Rogers of Dover and Ed Shoemaker of Lakeland — and a trio of Democrats — Kristen Carlson of Lakeland, Andrew Learned of Valrico and Ray Pena of Lakeland — had filed paperwork as of late Thursday afternoon to run for Ross’ seat.

State Rep. Ross Spano, a Dover Republican, has announced he will run for the seat after initially running for state attorney general. Spano was not listed on the state Division of Elections website as having qualified Thursday afternoon.

Lee, who did not immediately return a call for comment, can run for re-election in state Senate District 20, which includes parts of Hillsborough, Polk and Pasco counties. Qualifying for legislative races is from June 18 to June 22.

Lee, a vice president of Sabal Homes of Florida who served in the Senate from 1996 to 2006 and returned in 2012, has said he is attempting to balance his family and political aspirations.

On April 19, Lee ended the possibility of running for state chief financial officer, pointing to the time and travel needed to mount a statewide campaign. At the time, he also noted, “I really would love to continue to be serving (in the Senate), but I have to be pragmatic about it and put my kids first.”

Heading into the final half-day of federal qualifying, all 23 congressional incumbents seeking re-election had qualified for the November ballot, with Congressman Daniel Webster, a Republican who once served as state House speaker, getting his paperwork in on Thursday.

At least 21 of the state’s 27 seats will feature Republican-Democrat contests in November.

As of late Thursday afternoon, all but Democratic congresswomen Kathy Castor and Lois Frankel faced opponents who had qualified for the ballot. Democratic incumbent Alcee Hastings only had a write-in challenger.

Four Republican-held U.S. House seats are being vacated this year, with Ross, Tom Rooney and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen retiring and Ron DeSantis running for governor.

Democrat Donna Shalala, a former University of Miami president who served as secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton, has joined a crowded field in South Florida to replace Ros-Lehtinen.

Meanwhile, as expected, a Democratic primary has emerged in the race for a Treasure Coast seat held by freshman Republican Congressman Brian Mast. Pam Keith, an attorney who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2016, and Lauren Baer, a foreign policy official in the Obama administration whose family owns Baer’s Furniture, qualified to run for the seat this week.

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