Gwen Graham Archives - Page 2 of 30 - Florida Politics

Philip Levine launches political committee, hires Matthew Van Name

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine appears to be inching closer to a 2018 gubernatorial bid, launching a political committee earlier this month and hiring staffers to help coordinate a statewide tour.

Levine launched All About Florida earlier this month. State records show the Miami Beach political committee filed its statement of organization on Feb. 10.

Levine has hired Matthew Van Name to work for the political committee. Van Name recently served as U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist’s campaign manager and was formerly the Florida political director of the Service Employees International Union.

The news of Van Name’s hiring comes just one day before Levine is scheduled to deliver remarks at the annual Cornerstone Award Breakfast sponsored by the Central Florida Urban League. Levine is expected to discuss his vision for Florida’s future.

Often mentioned as a 2018 contender, the rumor mill picked up in January when he announced he would not seek another term as Miami Beach mayor. In video, the Democrat said he looked forward to figuring out ways to “best to serve my community and my state; how to make Florida a 21st-century leader in the world economy.”

Around the same time, Christian Ulvert, one of Levine’s advisers, said the mayor would begin traveling the state to “listen to Floridians on how best to serve the state he loves.”

He is expected to make an announcement this spring about “his plans for continued public service.”

‘Not that he’s running for anything’: Andrew Gillum visits Jacksonville

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum drove east on I-10 for a hastily arranged a Jacksonville roundtable event on Wednesday.

But, as an organizer said, it’s “not that he’s running for anything.”

Of course not.

And Gillum echoed that point.

“I ain’t here to make news today,” Gillum said, about “what comes next.”

Of course not.

Why would anything come next?

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In all seriousness though, Gillum is traveling like a candidate. Walking like a candidate. And talking like a candidate.

But he’s not a candidate.

And when we asked the 38-year-old Democrat, one who was first elected to office soon after her graduated from FAMU (Go Rattlers!), if he had a timetable for deciding whether or not to throw his hat into a ring that could include Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, and former Tallahassee Rep. Gwen Graham, he said he had “no clue” about when or if he would decide to run.

Gillum has been linked to other bigger-stage candidacies before: there was talk of him getting into the 2016 primary race against Corrine Brown in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, but nothing came of it.

If Gillum is to get into the race for Florida Governor, though, he hinted during his remarks Wednesday to a few dozen Jacksonville Young Democrats what his timetable might be.

Gillum discussed an “18 month view of engagement,” one that would be central to his strategy of going beyond supervoters to reach those voters who may have participated in one out of the last eight election.

We’ve seen this before on the national level.

Former President Barack Obama brought Hope and Change to a set of those voters in 2008.

Current President Donald Trump ran up margins with “silent majority” blue-collar white voters with his own change persona, expanding the voter universe even as Trump’s Democratic, Green, and Libertarian opponents were unable to make their own cases as change agents.

On the state level, however, it’s tougher.

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For one thing, midterm elections see an enthusiasm gap for Democrats.

Gillum noted that “black and brown” voters – key to any viable Democratic campaign – are especially prone to turnout attrition.

For another thing, Democrats have lately fielded underwhelming statewide candidates.

If you asked most people in Northeast Florida about Alex Sink, for example, they’d wonder why someone named a plumbing fixture.

Charlie Crist, when he ran for governor in 2014, had no campaign at all in Northeast Florida … except for some fans given out at churches that showed his picture next to that of President Obama.

Gillum, should he become a candidate, has a model to change that – but whether he has the time or the resources to do so is a completely open question.

Visiting young Democrats at this point in the cycle is essentially de facto recruitment of energized volunteers.

As the youngest candidate in the field, Gillum would – if he wants to run and win – have to engage the kinds of grassroots canvassers that helped him get elected to city commission in his 20s, then mayor.

He was able to pull that off in Tallahassee: he won his first race for city commission with little more than a budget for t-shirts.

However, on the state level, the effort would have to look more like Obama for America – disciplined, well-budgeted, and unrelenting.

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Can Gillum do that?

It remains to be seen.

The Tallahassee mayor’s remarks in Jacksonville pivoted between taking Rick Scott to task for his positions, and making an appeal to young voters – a tough demographic to turn out en masse.

Gillum described Democratic values being “under attack” in Florida for a long time, framing the 2018 election as a “real pivotal moment not only in the country but in the state.”

“My hope,” Gillum said, “is that after 20 years of turning the state over to the Republican Party,” that Democrats have a “fighting chance.”

Gillum also took the lobbyist culture to task, saying they were “buzzing all over the place” in Tallahassee, with legislators doing their bidding.

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The parallels between Gillum and a young Barack Obama are hard to miss.

In fact, they seem consciously cultivated, with Gillum telling those assembled in Jacksonville not to “fall for the okey doke” – a line that President Obama used to project authenticity to crowds over the years.

Does Gillum have what Obama had, though?

Key to Obama’s rise: his willingness to go to out-of-the-way places and make his pitch to rural populations, which helped keep John McCain’s margins down in those areas.

Can Gillum do that? That remains to be seen.

The appeal to “our generation of folks,” on issues ranging from LGBT rights to the Syrian refugee order, may not play as well in Jasper as it did to Democratic activists in Jacksonville.

While Gillum noted that appealing to “working class” voters does not mean “exclusion” of the white working class, he also seems willing to not bother attempting to appeal to a certain swath of the electorate.

“It may be too much to wrestle away the Fox News person who believes Obama is from Pakistan,” Gillum said, noting that a better use of activists’ time would be to cultivate voters who, were they “activated,” would vote Democrat.

Gillum, during a conversation after his remarks, noted his belief that the race for governor won’t come down to who has the biggest regional base of voters, but “what the candidate is saying” and “energy.”

That may be the case.

But, as is the case with many of the would-be candidates in the field, a delayed rollout may mean a lost political opportunity – if not for the party, then at least for the candidate.

John Morgan

John Morgan had a different kind of stump speech for Tallahassee

Orlando trial lawyer and possible gubernatorial candidate John Morgan was a study in highs and lows Thursday as he spoke to Tallahassee’s Capital Tiger Bay Club.

In wide-ranging remarks, Morgan – who said he still hasn’t decided on a 2018 run – pinballed between self-deprecating fat jokes and curse-word spiked anecdotes, and more serious musings about social good and the nature of God.

“There is more right about America than wrong,” he said at one point. “And there is more right about you than wrong. And there is more good about all of you, when we get to know each other, than bad.

“My politics is like my religion; I’m not the most religious guy,” he went on. “I do believe in God, I do pray to God … but I don’t ever pray to the God with a big long beard up in the clouds. The God that I pray to, the God that I talk to, lives in you, and lives in you, and lives in you. That’s where God is, that’s what I was told.”

Indeed, it seemed the only thing the 60-year-old Morgan did not touch on was the perfect ratio of Jack to Coke.

Morgan, a champion of Florida’s medical cannabis movement whose face is on ubiquitous billboards, TV ads and bus placards across the state, announced he was thinking about a run for governor late last year. He hasn’t even decided under which party.

Those expecting surprises from the maverick counselor were disappointed: Morgan repeated many themes he’s sounded recently, including the need to raise the minimum wage, ending the war on drugs and questioning what he called a “war on teachers.”

“Do you know what they make?” he asked. “They don’t make (scratch). And they work like crazy. But, all of a sudden, they’re the enemy?”

The real enemies, Morgan said, are charter school proponents like U.S. Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos.

“All these people who want charter schools are rich people who had a silver spoon stuck up their (posterior) so far their whole lives that their eyes are bloodshot,” he said.

Morgan also explained Donald Trump‘s presidential win as the result of an unnerved electorate.

“What we saw in the last election is that America is afraid,” he told an audience of several hundred. “People don’t make enough money to survive … People are losing hope; they’re losing the American Dream. It’s like they’re in quicksand and there’s no bottom.”

Morgan also called concerns over illegal immigration “the biggest hoax that’s ever been played on America.”

“You can build a wall. That ain’t the problem,” he said. “These immigrants are here to stay. If we wanted to get rid of them, we could do it today. You make it a third-degree felony to hire one and a $50,000 fine to keep one.

“But that’s never gonna happen, because we want this free, slave-like labor … We don’t want those people to leave. We like paying people off the books … to do the jobs Americans just won’t do,” he said.

With all his concerns, however, Morgan said his daughter recently told him he needs to “focus more on gratitude.”

“All we do is focus on what’s wrong,” he said. “Teachers are bad, crime is bad, illegal immigrants are bad. What’s good? Well, there’s a lot of good.”

The Dalai Lama once told him the secret to life is kindness, he added. “Where is all that kindness? … I think what this world needs is to focus on right more than wrong.”

Fred Conrad, a conservative Tallahassee lawyer and former prosecutor, said he didn’t “agree with everything he said, but I think he’s a tremendous speaker. And it is easy to see why he is a successful trial lawyer.”

Mary Pankowski, another former prosecutor now in private practice, had asked Morgan at the end of his remarks to support Democrat Gwen Graham if he decides not to run in 2018.

“I like his philosophy,” said Pankowski, a lifelong Democrat, referring to Morgan’s call to decriminalize minor drug offenses. “I thought his ideas were refreshing.”

Bob Graham: Daughter Gwen Graham hasn’t told him her plans yet

Like much of the rest of Florida, former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham said he’s waiting to hear what his daughter former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham will decide about running for governor.

The younger Graham has been talking about it for months, and even told FloridaPolitics.com that she wants to run for governor of Florida in the 2018 election, a job her father held while she was in junior high. But she also said she would not make that decision until after she left office as a member of the U.S. Congress.

She’s also dealing with the health of her husband Steve Hurm, who is being treated for prostate cancer.

Her last day in Congress was last week.

“She’s only been out of office for a few days. And she’s thinking about what to do. She’ll let her friends, and I hope parents, know when she makes the decision,” the former senator told FloridaPolitics.com during a stop in Orlando Friday.

“She hasn’t closed the book yet.”

Regardless of when she does, the elder Graham expressed keen interest in the 2018 gubernatorial election cycle, particularly because of the issue of protecting Florida’s natural resources — a passion he and his daughter have shared. He said he’s been very concerned about what recent administrations.

“Over the last few years, we’ve had a very distinct orientation towards the role of government in lives of Floridians. I’ve been particularly concerned about the role in protecting the natural resources that distinguish Florida,” he said. People are going to essentially have a referendum on the question of is this the way we want it to be permanently, or are we going to go back to a government we had at the end of the 20th century? That will be a very significant and with long-duration impacts, that decision Floridians will make.”

Andrew Gillum, possible 2018 governor candidate, launches ‘Campaign to Defend Local Solutions’

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is fighting for local rights, announcing this week he’s launched a statewide campaign to “defend local solutions.”

A rising star in the Democratic Party, Gillum has been mentioned as possible 2018 gubernatorial contender. He announced today he’s launched the Campaign to Defend Local Solutions, a nonpartisan, grassroots effort aimed at bringing together “individuals, organizations, and elected officials concerned about the erosion of local rights.”

And this new organization could help boost his profile across the state, especially when it comes to red meat issues for Democrats.

“This effort …  will send a message to state lawmakers, and give citizens around the country the tools to push back against special interest groups and large corporations, and maintain their right to put forward local solutions to the issues facing their community,” wrote Gillum in a post on Medium announcing the creation of the Campaign to Defend Local Solutions.

Among other things, Gillum said the group will “hold events to rise against looming threats on issues like minimum wage and health benefits, the environment, local hiring practices, and water quality.”

“We will help bring awareness and support to similar fights being undertaken by local officials across the country that are fighting to defend local solutions,” he continued. “And we will elevate the voices and narratives of these efforts, so that no attempt to bully or intimidate local communities around the country will ever be tolerated.”

If Gillum were to get in the race, he’d likely face a crowded Democratic field. Former Rep. Gwen Graham, the daughter of former governor and Sen. Bob Graham, and Orlando attorney John Morgan are considering a run. And Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer have all been floated as possible contenders.

Gillum’s announcement comes just days before the 1st District Court of Appeals is set to hear oral arguments in a case involving Gillum and the city of Tallahassee after the City Commission decided not to repeal city codes regulating firearms.

“I’m being personally sued by the gun lobby. In 2014, as a Tallahassee City Commissioner, my colleagues and I refused to repeal ordinances that prevent shooting guns in a public park,” he wrote. “Because of our actions that day, and our commitment to the safety of our citizens, my fellow locally elected officials and I are facing fines of $5,000 per vote, damages up to $100,000, and the potential to be removed from our elected jobs by the Governor of Florida. We have also been forced to find our own lawyers to defend us in Court.”

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, Florida Carry and the Second Amendment Foundation sued the city, Gillum, city commissioners Gil Ziffer and Nancy Miller, and then-Mayor John Marks in 2014. The groups claimed the commission violated state statutes when it refused to repeal city codes regulated firearms provisions, according to the paper.

Among other things, the city code said it was illegal to discharge a firearm in a city-owned park or facility. According to the Tallahassee Democrat, plaintiffs in the case said it violates state law, which says only the state can regulate firearms.

In November 2015, Circuit Judge George S. Reynolds ruled the city didn’t violate state statute. Florida Carry and the Second Amendment Foundation appealed the ruling, sending it to the 1st District Court of Appeals. Oral arguments are scheduled for Jan. 10.

Gillum said the suit isn’t about guns, but about “huge special interests, in this case the National Rifle Association (NRA), spending big money to take away local voices and local control, using tactics called preemption and super-preemption.”

“It’s also about how these special interests and corporations, after getting their way with state government, are trying to intimidate and bully local communities by filing damaging lawsuits against officials like me. Like your local commissioners. Like your local councilmembers. Like your Mayor. And like you,” he wrote. “It’s wrong, it’s cowardly, and unfortunately, it seems to be getting worse; especially in places with far-right conservative state governments.”

“I am calling on you to help defend your vote, defend your rights, and to help us #DefendLocal at DefendLocal.com,” he continued. “This is how we fight and win against bullies like the NRA.”

Mitch Perry Report for 1.4.17 — Waitin’ on the man

Over the weekend, the Times’ Rick Danielson and Sue Carlton shared a byline online where they essentially discussed the Bob Buckhorn Experience in Tampa, close to six years after he was elected mayor.

Although the initial thrust of the story was how the Mayor wasn’t above looking a little silly on occasions to sell a particular program or event, it ultimately evolved into an overall review of his time in office to date.

“ … it’s clear that Tampa has been reshaped — and in some spots, resurrected — during Buckhorn’s years in office,” the authors write, and the mayor clearly approves, including a link to the story in his weekly email newsletter he sends out to constituents.

As is commonly known, Buckhorn is still kicking around the idea of running for a statewide office next year. And while his timeline has shifted from immediately after the election to early in 2017, there seems to a shift in plans.

Once considered a shoo-in to run for governor, that’s hardly the case now. Some advisers have suggested that he consider running for the Chief Financial Officer position, because unlike the role of governor, he’d still be able to return home most weekends in Tampa to be with his family (You don’t think it’s a coincidence that Pam Bondi over the years has held a number of Tampa public events on Thursdays or Fridays, do you?). Also, the fact of the matter is there aren’t any heavyweights in Florida politics that have been publicly associated with running for CFO yet, as opposed to the governor’s race (where Richard Corcoran, Adam Putnam, Gwen Graham, Philip Levine are all strongly thinking of entering the contest).

There is also the likelihood that Buckhorn shucks those ambitions, and hunkers down to finish the work that he was re-elected to original do in 2011. Unlike in some other cities, Tampa’s charter limits the mayor to two terms (hence the fact that Rahm Emanuel‘s predecessor as Chicago mayor, Richard M. Daley, ruled the roost there for more than two decades), or there’s a decent chance Buckhorn might prefer to stay on after 2019, if the electorate were to continue to have him.

However, that’s not the case today, meaning the mayor’s options are limited politically if he doesn’t take a run for statewide office next year.

In other news …

Florida Republican members of Congress had various views of their secret vote on Monday night gutting the independent Office of Congressional Ethics.

Tampa Bay area state Sen. Tom Lee has filed legislation killing the recently created state agency responsible for parceling out potentially millions for the construction or improving of sports facilities.

Sarasota Rep. Vern Buchanan began the new Congress yesterday by introducing seven new bills.

As Andrew Warren was being sworn into office as the new Hillsborough County State Attorney on Tuesday, a dozen activists came out to the county courthouse to cheer — and not jeer — his ascension.

Email insights: Gwen Graham reflects on time in Congress, hints a ‘look to the future’

Congresswoman Gwen Graham took the last few days of the year to reflect on 2016, looking back on a series of successes during the Tallahassee Democrat’s single term in Congress.

Graham, who opted not to run for re-election after redistricting made Florida’s 2nd Congressional District too Republican, is also looking to the future — with the promise to “continue fighting for each and every Floridian.”

Likely, this includes a run for Florida Governor in 2018, which she publicly announced that she was considering last year. Graham is being replaced by Panama City Republican Neal Dunn, who defeated Democrat Walt Dartland to win CD 2 with nearly 67 percent of the vote.

“This year brought environmental crises, critical moments for our military families, and more,” the email begins. “But through it all, Gwen never lost sight of what matters most — standing up for Florida’s families, putting your needs first, and making sure your voice is always heard.”

Team Graham’s accomplishments began early, the email says, with the very first bill she introduced in Congress, the VETS Act, which sought to help veterans have a smoother transition into civilian life.

Among the other issues included a push for more transparency in government, particularly in Florida waterways after delays in informing the public of a massive sinkhole opening in Polk County last summer, which has been blamed for contaminating groundwater in the Floridan Aquifer.

At the time, Graham blasted Gov. Rick Scott’s administration for “remaining silent for weeks.” In July, she also called Scott to convene a special session to address last summer’s surge in algae blooms along the Treasure Coast.

“Floridians have a right to know when their health and well-being is at risk,” the email says. “That’s why Gwen will always fight to increase transparency in our government and prevent disasters like this from ever happening again.”

The email also invoked Graham’s father, former Florida Governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham; both Grahams had a program of Workdays — where each would spend shift working at various businesses in the District and Northwest Florida.

“From flying a T-38 jet at Tyndall Air Force Base to beekeeping in Wewahitchka,” the email says, “Workdays are always a great way to meet folks from across the state, build lifelong friendships and learn from each other.”

Capping off the email is a positive message of Florida’s future — with a commitment to Florida that has “never been stronger” — possibly including another generation of Graham in the Governor’s Mansion.

“Now more than ever, we need new leaders who will bring our communities together, build a government that’s transparent and accountable, and ensure every family and every child has the chance to succeed.”

Neal Dunn nails one-handed catch, makes New Year’s resolution for D.C.

While most New Year’s resolutions revolve around eating better or getting healthy, newly elected Republican Congressman Neal Dunn seeks to make some more far-reaching changes.

“Hitting the gym is nice and all,” Dunn, a Panama City orthopedic surgeon, says in introducing a 30-second Facebook video posted Friday. “But my New Year’s resolution is to be the strongest conservative voice for you in Congress.”

“Well it’s that time year again … and everybody’s making their New Year’s resolutions … Hitting the gym … or eating healthy,” he says, each punctuated by a barbell pump and a perfectly executed one-handed apple catch, shown in slow motion.

Dunn, who will take the place of Gwen Graham in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District this week, then lays out his conservative priorities for once he officially becomes a member of Capitol Hill: “I’m going to be protecting the Second Amendment. I will appeal Obamacare. I will stand up for veterans.”

“I may not hit all of the CrossFit sessions with Speaker [PaulRyan,” he adds, “I will be a conservative voice for you in Washington.”

Dunn won his race for the CD 2 by about 67 percent of the vote against Democrat Walt Dartland. The North Florida District came out of redistricting with a more Republican lean, forcing Democratic incumbent Graham to decline a bid for re-election. She will instead be a likely candidate for governor in 2018.

The 115th Congress is scheduled to convene Tuesday, where new members, including Dunn, will be sworn in.

 

Infamous dates: The moments that shaped Florida politics in 2016

Everyone expected Florida to play an important role in politics this year.

And why wouldn’t they? Presidential hopefuls hailed from here; the state’s electoral votes were coveted; and its Senate race could have determined control of the U.S. Senate.

But just like many predictions in 2016, some of the prophecies for Florida’s outsized role on the national stage fell flat. Many believed a Sunshine state politico would be a presidential nominee (not quite right) or that the election would hinge on its 29 electoral votes (close but no cigar). And that much anticipated battle for the U.S. Senate? It fizzled out before the first vote was even cast.

Here are the dates that really mattered in Florida politics this year. And some of them might just surprise you.

Jan. 20Florida Senate says it won’t appeal redistricting decision — A years-long battle over the state’s political lines came to an end in January, when Senate leadership announced it planned to let the court-ordered maps go into effect. The Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald reported the four-year legal battle cost Florida taxpayers more than $11 million. The new maps threw a wrench in the 2016 election cycle, with all 40 of Florida’s state Senate seats on the ballots. While many believed the new maps could boost Democrats chances in 2016, that didn’t quite pan out.

Feb. 20 — Jeb Bush ends 2016 presidential bid —  All signs pointed to Jeb Bush being the front-runner for the GOP nomination. The son and brother of two presidents, the former Florida governor racked up a massive war chest and plenty of big-name endorsements. But Bush couldn’t make headway in a crowded field of Republican hopefuls and was often on the receiving end of then-candidate Donald Trump’s attacks. After a sixth place finish in Iowa and a fourth place finish in New Hampshire, Bush hung his hopes on South Carolina. He spent days on end campaigning in the Palmetto state, but it was just too late. He came in third, and ended his campaign that night.

March 15Donald Trump triumphs in Florida primary — Was it the turning point for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign? Maybe. The New York Republican was already on a winning streak by the time the March 15 primary rolled around, but the Sunshine State contest was the biggest one to date. And Trump was up Sen. Marco Rubio, who was believed to be a hometown favorite. Turns out, Florida voters weren’t keen on sending Rubio to the White House. Trump trounced Rubio, winning every county except for Miami-Dade County. Rubio ended his presidential campaign that night, saying America was in “the middle of a real political storm, a real tsunami. And we should have seen this coming.”

April 21Gwen Graham hints at 2018 plans — When the dust settled on new congressional districts, one thing was clear: Florida’s 2nd Congressional District was solidly Republican. What wasn’t entirely clear was whether Rep. Gwen Graham would run for re-election or follow in her father’s footsteps and run for governor in 2018. She put the rumors to rest in April, announcing she was dropping her re-election bid and was “seriously considering running for governor in 2018.” In the months since, Graham has continued to fuel speculation about her plans for 2018, most recently telling reporters every part of her “wants to run for governor,” but that her husband’s battle with cancer will play a significant role in her decision.

April 28Workers’ compensation decision rocks business community — A Florida Supreme Court decision striking down the state law limiting attorney’s fees in workers’ compensation cases might have been a victory for injured workers, but it also set the wheels in motion for what would become significant workers’ compensation rate hikes. The 5-2 ruling in Castellanos v. Next Door Company was just one of the decisions striking down workers’ compensation laws this year. Those rulings prompted the National Council on Compensation to ask state regulators to approve a nearly 20 percent rate hike. That rate, which was eventually lowed to 14.5 percent, went into effect Dec. 1. The state’s business community has said the rate hikes could have a dramatic impact on business, and are pushing lawmakers to tackle workers’ compensation reform in 2017.

June 1249 killed in an attack on Pulse nightclub — In the wee hours of the morning on June 12, a gunman entered the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 people and injuring more than 50. It was the deadliest mass shooting in recent history, and sent shockwaves through the state and country. Gov. Rick Scott spent several weeks in Orlando, visiting with the victims and their families, attending funeral services, and meeting with members of the community. In the weeks and months that followed, the community came together to support the victims and their families. Spearheaded by Mayor Buddy Dyer, the city set up the OneOrlando Fund to assist victims of the attack. As of Dec. 2, the fund distributed $27.4 million for 299 claims, or 98 percent of all eligible claims filed.

June 17David Jolly drops out of U.S. Senate race, announces re-election bid — When Rep. David Jolly announced he was forgoing a re-election bid to run for the U.S. Senate, all signs indicated former Gov. Charlie Crist would sail to an easy victory. But after more and more politicos pushed encouraged Sen. Rubio to run for re-election, Jolly ended his U.S. Senate bid and announced a re-election bid, challenging Crist in an effort to keep his seat in a newly drawn district that favored Democrats. He had the support of many local Republicans, but Jolly’s push to end the practice of lawmakers dialing for dollars soured many congressional Republicans. When Election Day rolled around, Crist defeated Jolly, 52 percent to 48 percent.

June 22 — Marco Rubio reverses course, decides to run for re-election — After a devastating loss in his home state’s presidential primary, Sen. Rubio swore he wouldn’t run for re-election. The Miami Republican said multiple times that was going to serve out the remainder of his term and then go back to being a private citizen. And, as he mentioned on more than one occasion, a close friend — Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera – was already running for his seat. But in the days after the Pulse shooting, Lopez-Cantera encouraged his friend to run for re-election. Rubio ultimately announced his re-election bid just days before the qualifying deadline, effectively clearing the Republican field. He walloped Carlos Beruff in the Republican primary, and led in nearly every poll between him and Democrat Patrick Murphy. Rubio sailed to victory, winning a second term with 52 percent of the vote.

June 29 — Gov. Rick Scott declares state of emergency after algae clogs waterways — The Army Corps of Engineers began releasing Lake Okeechobee discharges down the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers after record rainfalls earlier in the year. While those discharges sparked outrage in both communities, the appearance of algae blooms on the state’s east coast prompted action from the governor. Scott declared a state of emergency in Martin, St. Lucie, Lee and Palm Beach counties in June, and called on the federal government to quickly approve permits for dispersed water management projects. The declaration helped push the issue of water quality to the forefront of many campaigns.

July 8Corrine Brown indicted — It was a no good, very bad year for former Rep. Corrine Brown. Florida’s 5th Congressional District, which she represented since 1993, was redrawn as part of the state’s ongoing redistricting case. She and several other political operatives were served with subpoenas at a BBQ joint in Jacksonville. And in July, Brown and her chief of staff were indicted on federal corruption and fraud charges. The charges stem from her involvement in an allegedly fraudulent charity scheme. Brown was defiant, saying “just because someone accuses you, doesn’t mean they have the facts.” To add insult to injury, Brown was lost her primary in the newly drawn district.

July 29 — Zika comes to Florida — The first reported cases Zika virus in the Sunshine State began popping up in February, when state health officials confirmed there were nine travel-related cases of the mosquito-borne virus. Gov. Scott declared a public health emergency in four Florida counties, a number which would grow as the months wore on. As concerns about the illness spread, officials called on the federal government to assist Florida in combatting the disease and minimize the chances of homegrown cases. But in July, health officials announced the first cases of locally acquired Zika had been reported. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quickly issued a travel warning for the Wynwood neighborhood, where the first cases were found. The state eventually identified several Miami-Dade communities, including a portion of Miami Beach, where local people had contracted the illness. The state cleared the final Miami-Dade Zika zone in early December. According to the Department of Health, there were more than 250 cases of locally acquired infections reported this year.

Aug. 30The Grayson era comes to an end — Rep. Alan Grayson was known throughout Florida — and beyond — as a bombastic, no holds bar congressman. And he lived up to that reputation when he ran for U.S. Senate. Grayson made headlines after his ex-wife claimed domestic abuse over two decades, a claim he refuted (but not before getting physical with a reporter). Grayson gave up seat in Florida’s 9th Congressional District to run for office, but convinced his second wife to run. That pitted Dena Grayson against Susannah Randolph, a former aide to the congressman, both of whom tried to carry the banner for the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. And there was no party at the Grayson house when primary night rolled around. Rep. Murphy crushed Rep. Grayson in the U.S. Senate primary; while former state Sen. Darren Soto defeated both Dena Grayson and Randolph (Dena Grayson came in third). The hits kept coming for the Grayson political dynasty. In November, Star Grayson, the former congressman’s daughter, finished a distant third in a three-person race for the Orange County Soil & Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors.

Sept. 2Hurricane Hermine ends Florida’s hurricane-free streak — The Category 1 hurricane was the first storm to make landfall in Florida since Hurricane Wilma in 2005. And boy, did it leave an impression. The storm smacked the Panhandle, knocking out power to thousands upon thousands of customers. While power was restored in some communities relatively quickly, Tallahassee struggled to get up and running. That led to a tussle between Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum and Gov. Scott. In a testy press release, the governor said the city was declining help from other utility companies and expressed frustration over how long it was taking to get the power back on. Gillum shot back, saying Scott was just trying to undermine a cooperative process. But politicos across the state noted the way Gillum, a rising star in the Democratic Party, handled the situation might come back to haunt him in future political runs.

Sept. 26 Water contamination concerns prompt rule changes — Days of rain leading up to, and following, Hurricane Hermine overwhelmed St. Petersburg’s sewer system. City officials opted to release millions of gallons of partially treated sewage into Tampa Bay, marking the first time in about a year the city did that. Combine that with news that a Mosaic Fertilizer sinkhole released 215 million gallons of toxic, radioactive water into the water supplies, and it’s no wonder concerns about Florida’s water supply ran rampant this fall. After many people raised questions about when the spills were reported, Gov. Scott ordered the Department of Environmental Protection to establish new reporting requirements. Those requirements are meant to guarantee local governments and the DEP are notified within 24 hours of a pollution incident. The state in October reached a deal with Mosaic over the sinkhole, which held the company accountable for fixing the sinkhole and rehabilitating the impacts of the spill.

Oct. 7 — Deadly storm threatens Florida’s east coast — One month after Hurricane Hermine made landfall near Tallahassee, Floridians were faced with another hurricane barreling toward their shores. What started as destructive tropical cyclone morphed into Hurricane Matthew, the first Category 5 Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Felix in 2007. Gov. Scott and other officials throughout the state encouraged Floridians to evacuate and warned of days without power. The storm sideswiped the entirety of the East Coast, causing damage up and down the coast. The storm tore apart A1A in Flagler Beach, forcing it closed and requiring significant restoration.

Nov. 8Medical pot becomes legal — The second time was the charm for a medical marijuana ballot initiative. The constitutional amendment which allows people with debilitating medical conditions to use medical marijuana, easily passed with 71 percent of the vote. Supporters of the amendment, led by Orlando attorney John Morgan, were able to fend off opposition attacks. Florida was one of six states that legalized marijuana for either medicinal or recreational purposes on Election Day, marking one of the biggest electoral victories for marijuana reforms in years.

Nov. 10Richard Corcoran era brings new rules to Florida House — Calling for a new culture of transparency in the Florida House, House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced new rules aimed at getting tough with with the capital’s lobby corps. The rules prohibit representatives from flying on planes owned, leased or paid for by lobbyists; require lobbyists to filed individual disclosures for each bill, amendment and appropriation they’re working on; and increased the lobbying ban on former members from two to six years. Corcoran also created the Committee on Integrity and Ethics, an oversight committee.

Dec. 22Will Weatherford rules out 2018 gubernatorial bid — Considered a likely 2018 gubernatorial contender since he left office in 2014, former House Speaker Will Weatherford ended the year (and helped officially kick off the 2018 election cycle) by saying he would not run for governor in two years. “I have decided that my role in the 2018 gubernatorial election should be as a private citizen and not as a candidate,” he said in a statement. “My focus right now is on raising my family, living out my faith, and growing my family’s business.” Weatherford was the first candidate to formally say whether they were running. But even without Weatherford in the race, Floridians can expect a crowded field. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is expected to run, and Speaker Corcoran has been mentioned as a possible candidate. On the Democratic side, Rep. Graham has already expressed her interest, as has trial attorney Morgan. And Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer are all believed to be pondering a run.

Adam Putnam political committee brings in more than $2.3 million in 2016

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam raised more than $2 million in 2016, boosting his war chest ahead of a likely 2018 gubernatorial bid.

State records show Florida Grown, Putnam’s political committee, raised more than $2.3 million through Nov. 30. The committee has raised more than $6.3 million since February 2015, according to state campaign finance records.

Records show Florida Grown spent nearly $1.4 million in 2016, including at least $240,000 for political consulting and $51,450 for advertising and advertising design work.

Putnam is one of several Republicans pondering a 2018 gubernatorial bid. While he hasn’t formally announced his plans for 2018, many consider Putnam to be the man-to-beat in what will likely be a crowded Republican field.

Former House Speaker Will Weatherford announced on Dec. 22 he decided against a 2018 bid, saying his role in the 2018 gubernatorial election “should be as a private citizen and not as a candidate.”

“My focus right now is on raising my family, living out my faith, and growing my family’s business,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to supporting Republican candidates that share my conservative convictions and can keep Florida headed in the right direction.”

But Weatherford is far from the only Republican considering hoping in the race. House Speaker Richard Corcoran is believed to be considering a run, and a recent Gravis Marketing poll conducted for the Orlando Political Observer tested how Attorney General Pam Bondi, CFO Jeff Atwater and former Rep. David Jolly would fare on the ballot.

The field is expected to be just as crowded on the Democratic side. Former Rep. Gwen Graham, the daughter of former governor and Sen. Bob Graham; John Morgan, an Orlando trial attorney and top Democratic donor; Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine; Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn; and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer are all considering a run.

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