Gwen Graham Archives - Page 4 of 51 - Florida Politics

Jacksonville Bold for 12.8.17 — Progress report

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry took a victory lap on Facebook this week.

“2.5 years in office. Much done- pension reform, public safety investments, board reforms, reforms on how we serve kids, storm prep & relief, infrastructure, etc. The list goes on. However, that’s yesterday. I’m focused on winning today. Big things ahead. Love y’all Duval. We are just getting started.”

 

None of this was a given.

Pension reform was a heavy lift both in Tallahassee and locally, with unions and the city council.

Board reforms saw Curry castigated by former Alvin Brown supporters, who charged him with politicizing the boards.

Public safety — the new hires are being trained up and integrated into the force. However, that is still clearly a work in progress.

But still, Curry can take credit for a lot in just over half a term.

In a time when Tallahassee is mired in the Jack Latvala drama and Washington D.C. struggles to get what passes for tax “reform” through, it’s telling that Jacksonville’s Mayor is positioned to take a victory lap.

Though there are rivals to the Mayor who say that perhaps he gets too much credit — both in Jacksonville and Tallahassee — thus far he hasn’t had many missteps.

Could JEA privatization be a bridge too far? Or the proposed $18M+ purchase of land for a Peter Rummell development.

Time will tell. And so will Jacksonville Bold.

One Door to the slammer

After a legal ordeal lasting the better part of two years, Corrine Brown and her two co-conspirators in the One Door for Education case — former chief of staff Ronnie Simmons and the former CEO of the charity, Carla Wiley — were sentenced.

No one got off easy.

“A sentence of probation for a member of Congress convicted of 18 counts would not be sufficient,” Judge Timothy Corrigan said.

No one got off easy.

Brown got 60 months in prison, three years of supervised release, $62,650 to the IRS, and $452,000 of additional restitution, and $664,000 of forfeiture.

Brown will appeal, though attorney James Smith has yet to determine if he will see that appeal through.

Simmons and Wiley, meanwhile, got lesser sentences.

Wiley got 21 months in prison, three years of supervised release, $452,515 in restitution is also owed, along with a $654,000 forfeiture judgment.

Simmons, meanwhile, got 48 months in prison, three years of supervised release, $452,000 of restitution and an additional $91,000 to the House of Representatives for pay for a phony employee of Brown’s staff. An additional $721,000 of forfeiture is due.

Travis Hutson on Jack Latvala: ‘Napalm and matches’

It was inevitable that Republican senators would have to weigh in on the ongoing war between Republican Sen. Latvala and Rachel Perrin Rogers, a Senate aide accusing him of serial sexual harassment.

Via POLITICO, one of the first was from Northeast Florida: Sen. Hutson of St. Johns County.

Republican senators are joining calls for Sen. Jack Latvala to resign in light of scandal.

“This highly respected and regarded establishment is being burnt to the ground, and I feel Senator Latvala is running around with the Napalm and the matches,” Hutson told POLITICO.

“This is only going to get worse. And the best thing for everyone — every senator, every staffer, every accuser and/or accused — would be a resignation so that we do not have to deal with this problem anymore,” Hutson said.

Hutson also told POLITICO that donors to Latvala’s political committee should ask for refunds.

There is a school of thought that Latvala may use his committee to exact revenge against clients of Brian Hughes — Perrin Rogers’ husband. Hutson’s comments seem to indicate that strategy could be undermined by a wave of refunds and a bipartisan condemnation of Latvala.

Meanwhile, Sen. Audrey Gibson — a Democrat — was somewhat more circumspect than Latvala.

 “First,” Gibson said, “I have continually maintained my sensitivity and support of women who believe they have been harassed in any way by anyone, being able to come forward and file a complaint. Secondly, Senator Latvala and/or Republican Leadership are the determinants on resignation matters.”

Cord Byrd’s fix for a ‘broken system’

A new bill in the Florida House would offer a vehicle for people with “legal disabilities” a road via circuit courts to the restoration of civil rights.

HB 903, filed by Jacksonville Beach Rep. Byrd, would offer remedies for those whose civil rights were suspended after felony convictions.

Cord Byrd introduced this bill Wednesday, holding a presser to push it.

“Currently,” Byrd wrote on Facebook, “the average wait time for Restoration of Rights is over nine years, with some as long as 11 years. Over 22,000 applications are pending, with only a few hundred being processed each year. Clearly, the system is broken.”

The Byrd bill allows those seeking restoration of rights to petition their county’s circuit court; exceptions to this rule would be registered sexual predators or sexual offenders.

Appeals are possible, and those petitioners who find their bids rejected have the right to file anew a year after said rejection.

Some people wait decades to get their rights back, long after they have proved that the threat they once posed to society has been removed.

Byrd’s bill would be a potential corrective to these onerous delays.

Jay Fant challenge to HRO?

Rep. Fant, a Jacksonville Republican who is also running for Attorney General, filed Tuesday what he calls the “Free Enterprise Protection Act.”

Jay Fant, in the AG race, may have to enforce his law should it pass, and should he win.

HB 871 would prevent “discriminatory action” by any governmental entity in the state against businesses.

Said discriminatory action would include attempts by government to “alter the tax treatment” of businesses, which would include imposing penalties against them for crimes unlisted in the legislation as filed.

It would also include attempts to deny or revoke a business’s exemption from taxation, as well as withholding or denying a business’s “access or entitlement” to property, including “speech forums.”

The bill would also prohibit governments in Florida from discriminating against “internal policies” of businesses, as well as the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of religion.

Fant’s bill, if passed, could be used as a springboard to challenge local laws that conflict with rights enumerated in the bill, including Jacksonville’s own Human Rights Ordinance.

The HRO, as it is called locally, was expanded in 2016 to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, protecting their rights in the workplace, in the housing market, and in public accommodations, such as restrooms and locker rooms.

Fant told Jacksonville Republicans earlier this year that Mayor Curry could have done more to stop that bill, which was approved by 2/3 of the City Council, from becoming law.

Plea deals for child deaths draw scrutiny in House bill

Legislation filed in the Florida House Monday would compel state attorneys to explain why they cut plea deals in cases where children were killed.

Rep. Tracie Davis’ bill is designed to provide more clarity in deaths from childhood abuse.

HB 867, filed by Jacksonville Democrat Tracie Davis, would require state attorneys to explain in writing why they accepted a plea deal to lesser charges and penalties than originally filed in the case of the death of a child.

On Tuesday morning, Davis told us that there are many cases in which children die at the hands of abusers, and that drove her to file this bill.

“The number of children dying by abuse is alarming and steadily increasing through our communities. As I worked with families, it was [disturbing] to discover that many perpetrators are given a plea deal to a lesser crime in order for them to reveal the details of the crime,” Davis said.

Often families are unaware of changes to the charges. Davis added.

“I strongly feel that families have the right to know when a charge involving a child killed in an abusive situation deserve to know why the charge was decreased,” Davis noted.

JYDs roll out ‘cocktails with a candidate’ series

The Democratic race for Governor is beginning to heat up, and the Jacksonville Young Democrats are offering chances to meet with candidates via cocktail mixers in the coming months.

Libations and orations: Democratic gubernatorial candidates this winter in Jax.

Democratic candidates thus far have largely concentrated their efforts south of I-4, but Jacksonville’s young Democrats are clearly looking to change that.

The “Cocktails with a Candidate” series kicks off Dec. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at downtown’s Zodiac Bar and Grill, with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who appeared already at a JYD event in February.

Gillum — a pre-candidate at that point — discussed what his campaign would do to reach out to minority voters and young voters, as part of what he called an “18-month view of engagement” that would mobilize voters.

2018 brings — at least tentatively — two of Gillum’s opponents: Gwen Graham and Chris King to town.

Brian Hughes moves to Curry’s chief of staff

Comms specialist Hughes is — effective Jan. 2 — chief of staff for Mayor Curry, in a classic example of building something that lasts.

“To me and dozens of other elected officials, Brian Hughes has been a senior adviser on important matters of public policy and communications,” said Curry.

Brian Hughes, Lenny Curry’s new chief of staff.

“Working with me, Brian has already put a powerful imprint on our city’s future. From the pension solution to restructuring how we serve Jacksonville’s children with the Kids Hope Alliance, Brian applied his strengths to benefit this great city. I am honored to have him join my administration in a leadership role to help manage this successful team as we continue to accomplish big things,” Curry added.

City Council members — who will now have to work with Hughes in a different capacity — had a reaction.

Council President Anna Brosche said that “it’s my understanding that this is just formalizing how things have functioned for quite some time.”

Finance Chair Garrett Dennis, often the sole voice of opposition to Curry’s initiatives, expected a different hire.

“I thought Ali Korman Shelton was a shoo-in for the job. She has served the mayor and our city well. As a council member, I look forward to working with Mr. Hughes,” Dennis said.

That’s entertainment

Curry is closer to the big reveal of what his proposed downtown “entertainment district” will look like, per WJXT.

Ambitious plans from Lenny Curry.

“(The) riverfront. That’s where the Shipyards are. But also begin to think about an entire entertainment district moving a little bit north, between the football and baseball fields,” Curry said. “Just kind of a little teaser there. Big things could be coming.”

With a key rhetorical assist: Alan Verlander of the JaxSports Council.

“We need that fan district. We need a plug-and-play kind of place that people can go to. That’s the missing link here. You look at Nashville, look at Atlanta, you look at Dallas. Those places, they have destination points for their fans,” Verlander said. “We don’t have that here.”

“If they walk out the door and they see there’s things to do, they’re going to extend their stays for weekends around their conferences, and they’re going to have a great representation of Jacksonville,” added Visit Jacksonville VP Katie Mitura. “And when they leave, they are going to talk about the great time they had.”

Privatize, don’t criticize

The groundswell no one really predicted a month ago to privatize JEA continues to swell, per a Florida Times-Union dispatch.

Board chair Alan Howard gave CEO Paul McElroy 60-90 days to complete a report on such.

Outgoing board member Tom Petway made the pitch. Can Lenny Curry hit a home run?

“If, after what I anticipate will be a healthy debate, a decision is ultimately made to pursue privatization, that process will be open to all bidders so that we can achieve the best result possible for the citizens of Jacksonville and JEA’s customers,” Howard wrote.

T-U reported Nate Monroe notes that ratepayers may see savings: “The utility’s October survey of what other utilities charge showed a JEA residential customer pays $111.76 for 1,000 kilowatt-hours compared to $103.07 for a Florida Power & Light customer.”

We will see how it goes. The Mayor’s political operation is working this story hard, as a friendly dispatch in Sunshine State News indicated this week.

Kids Hope picks all but confirmed

To quote the departed Jim Nabors, “Surprise, surprise, surprise.”

The Jacksonville City Council Rules Committee did their best impression of Mayor’s Office staffers Tuesday, confirming six picks to the seven-person board of the nascent Kids Hope Alliance … with a seventh pick (Gary Chartrand?) held in abeyance.

Jacksonville City Council Rules Committee confirmed six picks to the seven-person board of Lenny Curry’s Kids Hope Alliance.

Rebekah Davis, a former member of the Jacksonville Children’s Commission board of directors; Kevin Gay, an earlier Jacksonville Journey board member; former Jacksonville Sheriff and current Edward Waters College President Nat Glover; Iraq War Bronze Star recipient Joe Peppers; and Tyra Tutor, a senior vice president at The Adecco Group North America.

The controversial (to some) choice: Marvin Wells, the first African-American graduate of the UF College of Dentistry. But not for reasons of qualifications.

Wells doesn’t live in Duval County — a clear requirement of the ordinance.

But rules are made to be broken, and the Rules Committee was happy to accommodate. Despite protestations from Councilman Garrett Dennis, who is not on Rules but was visiting the committee, Wells joined the rest on Tuesday’s Consent Agenda.

Shazam!

No more room at the morgue

The opioid overdose crisis in Jacksonville has taxed city resources on a number of fronts, including those not visible to the public, such as the Medical Examiner’s office.

Numerous city hall conversations this year have spotlighted the pressures created by the unnatural and unbudgeted deaths of the overdose crisis.

Bodies on top of bodies in the Duval County Medical Examiner’s office.

Tuesday saw the Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee discuss facilities, including short-term and long-term solutions.

The short-term fix would be cooling trailers, but Medical Examiner Valerie Rao is angling for a new building.

That concept has support from Finance Chair Garrett Dennis, who believes the project should be prioritized in the city’s capital improvement plan.

However, Rao nettled other Finance members by not having outlined the business case for the new building with specifics.

The building she suggested as a model — in Orlando — cost $16 million to build in 2010.

Jax Council candidate blames sexual harassment on female ‘libido’

Jacksonville City Council candidate Earl Testy may be losing the money race to fellow Republican opponent Randy DeFoor in District 14; however, he certainly is garnering earned media.

But not for reasons any sane person would want.

Testy took a provocative position on the current tsunami of sexual harassment charges Monday.

Testy took women to task, asserting “they have themselves and their libidos to blame for much of their own abuse by men.”

“Feminists have no more call to be proud of their abuse of sex than men do, albeit seemingly passive,” Testy asserted.

Testy equated the current spate of revelations with “Gay Pride logic.”

“Sin is sin,” Testy asserted, “regardless of male, female, homosexual or heterosexual orientation.”

Testy advanced his insights in reaction to an article on National Review Online by longtime conservative pundit Mona Charen, a woman who has never asserted that the female libido is “to blame.”

Terror plot foiled

In custody right now: A Filipino national who was willing to die to kill as many people as possible at the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida.

Per CBS News, 69-year-old Bernandino Gawala “Nandie” Bolatete was arrested this week for possessing an unregistered silencer, a federal crime.

Bernandino Bolatete, a foreign national, was stateside on a green card.

Bolatete, a gun enthusiast, had a purpose in mind.

“I just want to give these freaking people a taste of their own medicine, you know,” the foreign national told an undercover detective.

“The suppressor is not really that ‘quiet’ but it can be used on the 4th of July or New Year (sic) time, it can easily blend with the sound of fireworks,” Bolatete added.

Per Action News Jax, Bolatete’s lawyer argued that this was just “talk,” but as one might expect when a foreign national travels to the states to kill a bunch of Americans, his bond request was rejected, and he’s still in lockdown.

​​Philip Levine tops $1 million in November for campaign and political committee

Gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine maintained his huge fundraising lead in the Democratic Primary with another $1 million raised last month between his campaign and committee accounts.

“In a big state like Florida, with over 20 million residents and ten media markets, resources are a key benchmark for running a successful statewide campaign. In his first month as a declared candidate for Governor, Philip Levine has shown he will aggressively meet those benchmarks,” senior adviser Christian Ulvert said in a press release.

“With this level of support, in the months ahead, we are confident that we will have ample resources to take Philip’s progressive vision for Florida’s future directly to voters in all 67 counties, from the Panhandle down to the Keys. Florida Democrats need a candidate with a vision and mission to do the right thing by getting things done, and Philip Levine is well-positioned to earn the support of Democratic voters in the coming months.”

Levine hadn’t uploaded his November finance report to the Florida Division of Elections as of Thursday afternoon, nor had his political committee, All About Florida, though the campaign said the two accounts “brought in over $1 million in November, with over $800,000 raised by the campaign and political committee.”

The difference could be made up through checks from Levine himself, who through October had already dumped $2.8 million of his personal fortune into his committee account.

November marks Levine’s second million-dollar month in a row, and he has now raised somewhere in the ballpark of $7 million for his gubernatorial bid. The October haul came in before he officially declared his candidacy.

That level of funding puts him far ahead of his closest primary competitor, former congresswoman Gwen Graham, who had raised a total of $4 million by the end of October. Through the same date Winter Park businessman Chris King had raised $2.7 million and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum had $1.6 million in total fundraising.

One of the few who could have financially overshadowed him in the primary race, Orlando attorney John Morgan, announced the day after Thanksgiving that he wouldn’t run for governor as a Democrat.

Still, Levine is far behind Republican front runner Adam Putnam, who had raised more than $20 million by the end of October with nearly $14.7 million in the bank.

Gwen Graham to ‘chummy’ politicians: ‘When I’m Governor, the party is over’

After saying that politicians in Tallahassee treat Session and committee weeks like it’s “spring break,” Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham said Thursday that if she becomes Governor “the party is over.”

“It’s time our public servants truly serve the people and that can only happen when politicians stop serving themselves,” Graham said at a press conference.

The former congresswoman said that should start with Sen. Jack Latvala, who is facing multiple sexual harassment allegations. She called on him to resign, again. If Latvala does not step down, Graham said, the Senate should expel him.

Graham stopped short of saying Senate Democrats should take a caucus position and call on the powerful Senator to step down, arguing that it should not be a “partisan issue.”

Minutes before, however, she said the Republican-controlled Legislature, with Gov. Rick Scott at the helm, is to blame for the “crisis in confidence” elected officials are facing today because of sexual harassment and conflicts of interest.

“Republicans, they own this because they have been in total control,” she said.

If elected, Graham vowed to take steps to combat sexual harassment across all state agencies. Her plan includes appointing an independent investigator to oversee complaints about workplace harassment who could refer cases to the attorney general for full prosecution under the law.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King also unveiled a plan to clean up the Florida Capitol. In a statement, he said that if elected he would create an Office of Victim Advocacy under the Florida Division of Ethics — a department that does not exist, but likely meant the Florida Commission on Ethics — to handle sexual misconduct complaints. And would require any claim of sexual harassment or assault made against a government employee to be reported to the office within two days.

“If we want to bring ethics and accountability to Florida, we need to create an environment that supports victims and allows them to come forward without fear of retaliation,” King said.

Latvala is also facing claims that he is intimidating sexual harassment victims from coming forward by using defense tactics that aim at publicly shaming his accuser, Rachel Perrin Rogers, a top aide to the future Senate president, Sen. Wilton Simpson.

Sen. Lauren Book, a close ally of the 66-year-old senator, filed a formal complaint with the Senate Rules Committee claiming Latvala was interfering with the Senate investigation by his approach in fighting the sexual harassment claims in the public eye.

Amid the Senate investigation that has been going on for a month now, Scott has called him a “distraction” and senators have slowly called on him to resign. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who is likely to announce his bid for the governor’s mansion after Session, told a national audience this week that Latvala was “heading toward expulsion.

The Latvala sex scandal could be seen as ammunition in the governor’s race. And as the only woman in that race, Graham said she has the “ability to talk about this in a way that resonates with everyone,” because she too has experience sexual harassment.

While she would not go into detail about her #MeToo story, she said that it happened a “long time ago.”

When asked if the back-to-back sex scandals rocking the Capitol in recent weeks have had an impact on her professional life, or the women in her orbit, she acknowledged that there’s been tension.

“I personally have not been treated differently, but I have heard that,” she said. “I’ve heard that at the Capitol men are afraid of getting in an elevator with women, I’ve heard that.”

Annette Taddeo, Lori Berman press for Medicaid expansion by ballot

In what is likely a dead-on-arrival proposal, two South Florida lawmakers said they will push for a legislatively-initiated state constitutional amendment approving Medicaid expansion in Florida.

Sen. Annette Taddeo of Miami and Rep. Lori Berman of Lantana, both Democrats, announced their resolutions (SJR 1136 and HJR 911) at Thursday press conference in the Capitol.

“The resolutions will put before the voters the opportunity to determine whether approximately 800,000 working poor without healthcare should be able to get the insurance Florida’s taxpayers have already paid for,” they said in a statement.

Democratic candidate for governor Gwen Graham also came out last month in support of a constitutional amendment on Medicaid expansion.

“Maine recently passed a constitutional amendment that mirrors Florida’s proposal, and states including Utah and Idaho are considering ballot initiatives as well, indicating that momentum is building across the country,” the lawmakers’ statement said.

“It is time for the Legislature to listen,” Taddeo added Thursday.

The House’s Republican leadership, however, has been vehemently opposed to Medicaid expansion for years, virtually ensuring the measure won’t survive that chamber in the 2018 Legislative Session. That’s despite some polls showing support for such a ballot initiative at nearly 70 percent.

Expanding Medicaid to cover working poor without health insurance is a provision of the Affordable Care Act. When lawmakers first began considering such a move in 2013, Florida could have received close to $51 billion over 10 years, according to reports.

As the Tampa Tribune has reported, the idea was to “wean states, including Florida, from another federal funding source known as the Low Income Pool, or LIP. The pool reimburses hospitals for charity care.

But “House leadership warn(ed) that the federal government (then under President Obama) could withhold dollars at any time, leaving state taxpayers stuck with the bill,” the paper reported. “Close to a third of the state budget already goes to paying for Medicaid.”

Gov. Rick Scott‘s proposed budget for 2018-19 “provides more than $1.5 billion annually over five years to fund the low income pool (LIP), in the event hospital districts decide to contribute the necessary matching funds,” according to the Governor’s Office.

“It is incumbent on the hospital districts to partner with the federal government to draw down these funds,” its website says. “The LIP program is a federal matching program that provides federal funds to Florida hospitals to cover costs for the state’s most vulnerable patients.

“This year, Gov. Scott worked with the federal government to secure this critical funding. This funding is an increase of more than $892 million over what was provided by the Obama Administration.”

A Periscope video of Thursday’s press conference is below.

Jacksonville Young Democrats to host cocktail mixers with gubernatorial candidates

The Democratic race for Governor is beginning to heat up, and the Jacksonville Young Democrats are offering chances to meet with candidates via cocktail mixers in the coming months.

Democratic candidates thus far have largely concentrated their efforts south of I-4, but Jacksonville’s young Democrats are clearly looking to change that.

The “Cocktails with a Candidate” series kicks off Dec. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at downtown’s Zodiac Bar and Grill, with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who appeared already at a JYD event in February.

Gillum — a pre-candidate at that point — discussed what his campaign would do to reach out to minority voters and young voters, as part of what he called an “18 month view of engagement” that would mobilize voters.

2018 brings — at least tentatively — two of Gillum’s opponents.

Gwen Graham and Chris King are expected to be in Jacksonville talking to this group.

Hmmm … poll shows Rick Scott with 10-point lead over Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate seat

A new poll from St. Leo University found Gov. Rick Scott has surpassed U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup in for Nelson’s seat in 2018.

The poll, conducted online between Nov. 19 and Nov. 24, showed Scott with a double-digit lead over Nelson in the matchup, 42-32, with 8 percent preferring another candidate and 18 percent undecided.

Eight months ago Nelson held a 5-point lead over Scott, 39-34, and in September the Scott took a slim 35-33 lead.

Scott, a Republican, has not formally entered the race for U.S. Senate, but he is termed-out as governor and is almost sure to challenge Nelson, a Democrat, in his campaign for a fourth term next year.

“We’re still almost a year out from the 2018 elections, but Rick Scott is in the best position he’s been in yet against incumbent Bill Nelson,” said polling institute director Frank Orlando. “It will be interesting to see if he can maintain this support while his party is hurting electorally throughout the country.”

Scott has also made considerable strides over the last two months when it comes to voters’ perception of his job performance.

Back in March, about 56 percent of Florida voters said they had a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” view of the second-term governor, while about 39 percent said they viewed Scott, a Republican, in a “somewhat unfavorable” or “not at all favorable” light.

Last month, the positive view climbed to about 61 percent while the negatives had dwindled to about 31 percent. The other 8 percent said they were unsure how they felt about Scott.

The poll also touched on the leading candidates to replace Scott in the governor’s mansion, though the bulk of the survey was conducted when Orlando attorney John Morgan was still considering a run in the Democratic Primary.

Morgan, who said the day after Thanksgiving he would not run for governor as a Democrat, had the most support among Dems at about 13 percent, followed by former congresswoman Gwen Graham at 9.4 percent.

Among all voters lumped together — Republicans, Democrats and independents — Morgan again came out on top with 24 percent support, followed by Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam at just under 19 percent.

About 53 percent of Democratic voters said they were unsure, leaving the race wide open for fellow Democratic candidates Andrew Gillum (6 percent), Orlando-area businessman Chris King (3 percent) and Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine (2 percent).

“No one has been able to rally establishment support and win the invisible primary. With some uncertainty removed as Morgan took himself out of contention, the process of winnowing the field might finally begin in earnest,” Orlando said.

Putnam, who has gone gangbusters on the fundraising trail, leads the Republican field with 15 percent support, though nearly 63 percent of GOP respondents were unsure.

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, not yet a candidate, was second-place among named options at 4.8 percent, followed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran and embroiled Clearwater Sen. Jack Latvala, both with under 3 percent support.

“Adam Putnam isn’t in an insurmountable position, but he’s at least the leader in the clubhouse,” Orlando said. “Other prominent GOPers are busy fulfilling the duties of their office or in the news for the wrong reasons. It’s difficult to compare Putnam against Morgan at this point, as our results show that voters would still prefer someone else in the governor’s mansion.”

The poll took in responses from 500 Florida voters — including 181 Democrats and 166 Republicans — and has a 4.5 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level. More detailed information on the poll’s methodology and findings can be found on the St. Leo University polling website.

Gwen Graham moving campaign HQ to Orlando

Gwen Graham is moving to Orlando.

At least her gubernatorial campaign is doing so. The campaign confirmed Thursday that it’s moving its headquarters from Tallahassee, her home for decades, to settle into the City Beautiful, taking advantage of its centralized location to better accommodate campaigning and putting focus on the I-4 corridor battle.

The campaign expects to open an Orlando-area headquarters “in coming months” while keeping its Tallahassee office open, according to a statement.

“Gwen learned in 2014 to win in Florida you have to talk to every voter in every community. From day one of her gubernatorial campaign, we have been dedicated to building a statewide operation,” campaign manager Julia Woodward said in the statement. “Opening an Orlando area headquarters will allow us to reach even more voters along the I-4 corridor and easily travel to any corner of this state.”

She’ll be moving her campaign from sharing a town with Democratic rival candidate Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, to sharing a town with Democratic rival candidate Chris King, a Winter Park businessman. It also will put her in a much easier distance to South Florida, with its critical mass of Democratic voters. Graham has roots there, and it’s also home to her other Democratic rival, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

“I was born and raised in Miami, started a family in Tallahassee and have spent my life traveling this state,” Graham said in the statement. “Wherever I am in Florida, whether it’s talking to members of our military in Pensacola or discussing environmental protection in the Keys, I feel at home.”

Since announcing in May, Graham has put more than 50,000 miles on her SUV, which she calls the “Chev Victory,” according to the statement.

She is not, her campaign implied, giving up on North Florida, where her father, former U.S. Sen. and former Gov. Bob Graham, always fared well, and where she was elected to Congress.

Winning the election from Tallahassee in her off-year 2014 race, Graham outperformed Barack Obama in North Florida by 4.5 percent — a wide margin in a year only one other Democrat in the nation was able to defeat an incumbent Republican congressman, the campaign noted.

“By opening offices in Leon County and conservative counties like Bay and Jackson in 2014, we were able to energize progressive voters in deep blue areas and win over older Democrats, independents, and even Republicans in cities and towns Democrats typically don’t campaign in,” Woodward said.

Graham is planning to keep her Tallahassee office active and already has an active volunteer base in Miami, along with her parents, Bob and Adele Graham.

“We are replicating that same 2014 strategy by exciting our base in North Florida, South Florida and the I-4 corridor — along with reaching out to voters in conservative counties and rural areas,” Woodward said. “We are building an Obama-style coalition to take back the Governor’s Office,” she added.

King sent a welcome basket, of sorts.

“Kristien & I are pleased to welcome @GwenGraham to Central FL,” King tweeted. “This community raised me, educated me & has lifted my candidacy to serve as the next #FlGov. I Trust Gwen will find my hometown a diverse, dynamic & welcoming place.”

Gwen Graham backs push for Haitian residency

Gwen Graham endorsed federal legislation on Wednesday that would grant permanent residency to Haitians and Central Americans who are living in the U.S. under Temporary Protected Status.

Known as the ESPERER Act, the bill would benefit the more than 300,000 Haitians, Nicaraguans, Hondurans and Salvadorans currently living in the U.S. through TPS, according to Graham.

There are an estimated 32,500 Haitians living under TPS in Florida alone.

Graham’s endorsement of the legislation, which is sponsored by Miami Republican U.S. Rep Carlos Curbelo, is her way of following through on what she described as her “fierce criticism” of the Trump administration’s decision last week to end TPS for the Haitians who sought refuge to the U.S. following the 2010 earthquake.

Donald Trump lied to Florida’s Haitian community on the campaign trail and stabbed them in the back,” Graham said in a release, referring to Trump’s 2016 promise to support the community. “Haitian Floridians have contributed to our economy, lived in our communities and enriched our state.”

Graham, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former congresswoman, didn’t shy away from attacking current Gov. Rick Scott for being silent on the issue in the wake of the Trump administration’s announcement last week.

But in May Scott had asked the administration to extend the TPS deadline for Haitians.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who is a 2018 Republican gubernatorial candidate, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who is highly anticipated to announce his candidacy after the 2018 Session, also were criticized by Graham.

“This isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue — this is about who we are as Floridians,” Graham said. “Do our state’s elected officials have the courage to speak out against Trump or will they turn another blind eye as he harms Floridians and our state?”

She added that she hopes the Republican trifecta joins her and the South Florida delegation consisting of U.S. Republican Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democratic Reps. Alcee Hastings, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Frederica Wilson, who all back the bill.

John Morgan leaving Democratic party, won’t seek its nomination for Governor

Black Friday brings sad tidings for those hoping attorney John Morgan would jump into the Democratic race for Florida Governor.

Via Facebook, Morgan wrote Friday morning that “while it’s amazing to be leading the polls for Governor without being a candidate I can’t muster the enthusiasm to run for the nomination.”

“And I can’t muster enthusiasm for any of today’s politicians. They are all the same. Both parties. I plan to register as an Independent and when I vote, vote for the lesser of two evils. And if I ever ran, run as an Independent. #ForThePeople.”

 In September, a poll of 263 likely Democratic voters — commissioned by the Florida Chamber of Commerce — Morgan took the support of 23 percent, a number well ahead of the 15 percent for former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham.

However, with the general election a year away, most people have not yet made up their minds; 44 percent were undecided.

In a tweet, Morgan said he plans to register as an independent, and vote for “the lesser of two evils.” If he were to run it would be as an independent — a disappointment for the Florida Democratic Party — which has enjoyed Morgan’s largesse in the past.

Morgan had previously hosted high-dollar fundraisers for Hillary Clinton in her 2016 presidential bid.

Morgan’s exit from consideration in the Democratic field clears the path for Graham, who most polls put her ahead among declared candidates, and Philip Levine, the Miami Beach Mayor who is winning the money race and released the first television ad in the contest.

For much of 2017, Morgan teased a play for the Democratic nomination; even as early as February, he posted a Facebook link to a Tampa Bay Times article suggesting that he’d be the most potent Democratic candidate for the state’s highest office.

Last year, after the success of the constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana in Florida, the outspoken Orlando attorney — a significant backer of Amendment 2 — told supporters: “the outpouring of encouragement to run for governor has been overwhelming and unexpected … It is either extremely flattering that so many people put such faith in me, or sad that people have so little faith in the typical politicians of both parties who are expected to seek the office.”

The statement was in response to an online petition started by Ben Pollara, the South Florida political consultant who worked with Morgan on Amendment 2.

Called “For the Governor,” the petition sought to enlist Morgan to run, gathering about 2,000 signatures. Pollara told the Orlando Sentinel that the reaction on social media has also been positive.

But Morgan warned: “Before I go down this road any further I need a lot of time to think about it … There are obvious drawbacks and hurdles.”

Morgan then held a “listening tour,” which took him around the state — as well as a handful of Democratic events — pledging to decide to run early in 2018.

In the end, though, the unconventional noncandidate did not stick to his self-imposed timetable.

As it stands, there are now four Democrats actively in the race — three mainstream candidates (Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Miami Beach Mayor Levine), as well as a political newcomer (Orlando businessman Chris King) with long ties to the Democratic Party.

Republicans have two very conventional, longtime politicians in the race — former Congressman and current Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow, and one-time Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala of Clearwater, whose campaign has been somewhat sidelined over allegations of sexual harassment.

One undeclared candidate is House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who has been coy about entering the race, saying he would prefer to make a decision sometime after the 2018 Legislative Session, which begins early January. The Land O’Lakes Republican has raised millions of dollars for his own political committee, which could be used for a campaign if he so chooses.

Morgan may not be in the race, but he will stay politically active, particularly on his next issue, Florida’s minimum wage. Morgan told the Miami Herald in July he hopes to have a constitutional amendment on the ballot by the 2020 election cycle.

Thanksgiving messages from Florida’s elected officials and politicians

A compilation of Thanksgiving message from Florida’s elected officials and politicians:

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, via Twitter:

“Grace and I wish everyone a wonderful #Thanksgiving. And special thanks to all the brave men and women serving in our military – both here and overseas – who sacrifice so much to keep the rest of us safe. We are ALL thankful for your service!”

Gov. Rick Scott:

“As another great year comes to a close, I am so thankful for my family, my wife, Ann, our wonderful daughters, Allison and Jordan and six beautiful grandchildren. I am also so honored and thankful to have the incredible opportunity each and every day to work for Florida families and fight to make our state the best place in the nation to get a great job, receive a top-notch education and live in a safe community. I wish every Florida family a safe and happy Thanksgiving.”

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis:

“Gathering around my family’s table each year, I’m reminded of the many reasons to be grateful. I’m reminded of our firefighter community, and the men and women who protect our country. Both sacrifice time with their families to keep us safe while we spend time with ours.

“This year, I’m incredibly thankful to serve this great state as your CFO and State Fire Marshal. Thanksgiving marks the start of the season of giving. My hope is that this spirit will remain in our hearts all year long.”

Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum:

There are so many things I’m grateful for in my life. In May, my wife and I welcomed our third child, Davis, and our twins Caroline and Jackson continue to make us proud as they grow and learn their place in the world. I’m truly blessed with a house of love. … I’m grateful for the grace of the people of Tallahassee, and people all across Florida. On this journey, we’ve had a chance to meet thousands of people who have shared their stories of triumph, their big dreams, and their hopes for their children. They’ve given us strength and hope that our state’s best days are still ahead of us. … And I’m grateful for the richness of our experience, especially during trying times. Our collective strength far outweighs the difficulties we might face, and I’ve never been more convinced of that than I am today.

Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham:

“While there will always be more work to accomplish and more challenges to meet, this Thanksgiving I am reflecting on how fortunate we are to live in America and how thankful I am for the people of this great state. Florida is blessed with amazing beaches and springs, live oaks and palm trees, wild turkeys and orange groves — but our greatest blessing is each other, our fellow Floridians.”

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, on what he’s faithful for:

“Melissa and the kids. My faith. The resilience of this state. We’ve faced so many challenges this year, and there are many more ahead in our future. But the people of Florida prove time and time again that they can withstand anything that comes our way.”

Sen. Thad Altman, via Twitter:

“Thankful every day for God, my Family, our Veterans, our Active Military men and women, and First Responders who serve and protect this great nation including on Thanksgiving Day.”

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto:

“During this Thanksgiving season, I am reminded of all we have to be grateful for. First and foremost, as a mother, I am thankful to have the ability to spend this holiday with my son Austin and daughter Gabriella. Also, I am thankful that you have placed your trust in me to serve on your behalf in the Florida Senate. It is truly an honor to serve beautiful Southwest Florida. … In the United States of America we have a great number of things to be thankful for, but paramount among them are the service members who sacrifice greatly to protect our freedom. Let us remember and thank our servicemen and women during this season. … Lastly, this Thanksgiving I hope we can all take time to reflect on the blessings in our lives and be sure to keep in mind the less fortunate in our community. Let us continue to look to the future with hope and gratitude in our hearts, and a love for all humankind.”

Wishbone, one of two turkeys pardoned by Donald Trump, is previewed in the press briefing room.

Sen. Jim Boyd:

“The first Thanksgiving was in 1621 and was a three day long feast celebrating the pilgrims coming to the New World in search of liberty. Today, we give thanks that we’ve been able to maintain liberty on this continent since the pilgrims landed here 396 years ago.”

Sen. Jeff Brandes:

“This year has given me so much to be thankful for.

“First and foremost, I am incredibly grateful for my wife and children. Natalie and I added a fourth child to our family this year, and eight-year-old Lizzie is already proving she can hold her own amongst her new siblings. We are relishing this time as we get to know her and have learned that she loves swimming, chicken nuggets, and playing Candy Crush (no English required). I am blessed to now say we now make dinner reservations as the Brandes party of six.

“I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to serve the hardworking taxpayers of District 24. I recognize the special trust placed in me to represent our district in the Florida Senate and truly appreciate their thoughts and advocacy as we work together to build a stronger community.

“Finally, I want to say I am especially thankful to my colleagues in the Florida House. Last year, on the sixtieth day of Session, I found myself needing a miracle to pass SB 590, a bill to help unmarried, non-custodial parents establish a path to see their children. The bill had stalled in the House, and the rules needed to be waived in order to hear it (a situation that usually kills the legislation). Leader [Janet] Cruz (D) and Rep. [Lori] Berman (D) graciously agreed to not object and allow the bill to be both read and voted on that final day of Session. This is a gesture that I will not forget as it allowed a day sixty legislative miracle to happen.

“In this all too often partisan world, I am thankful for the relationships that allow us to look beyond party and to extend kindness and trust that so together we can make Florida a better place to live.”

Sen. Denise Grimsley:

I hope you have a great Thanksgiving full of family, friends, and food! … Without the hard work of our farmers and ranchers, Thanksgiving meals wouldn’t be possible. While we’re all thankful for so much this year, I am especially thankful for our Florida Agricultural community. … God bless you, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Sen. Jack Latvala:

“As we gather with family and friends during this Thanksgiving holiday, I have a lot to be thankful for. I am grateful for my family. They have been my rock, especially during these past few weeks. I’m also thankful for my friends whose support has lifted me up.

“We are fortunate to live in a free country and an incredibly dynamic state. I’m thankful for the men and women who protect our freedom and keep us safe. To our military men and women, I say thank you. To law enforcement, firefighters, and other first responders — I am grateful not only for your support, but the sacrifice you make on a daily basis.

“As you spend time with loved ones over these next few days, remember the things that make this country the greatest of all countries. The spirit of the original European settlers who made great sacrifice to come here still exists today. This Thanksgiving is a great time to remember that America is still a beacon of hope for many around the world.

“Have a great time with friends and family. I will. We all have many reasons to be thankful.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran:

Rep. Lori Berman:

Rep. Danny Burgess:

“I’m thankful for the men and women in uniform who are away from their families this holiday season to ensure I can be with mine.”

Rep. Bob Cortes:

“I am thankful for a new day for another chance at doing right to others. To family, friends and everyone else that makes our lives complete. I am also thankful that even though it has been a rough year full of natural disasters, it has brought us all together with renewed compassion. Thankful for the opportunity to serve and being able to help my fellow Puerto Ricans in their time of need.

“Finally, thankful to live in a free country and enjoy what many in other parts of the world many people are denied.”

Rep. Janet Cruz:

“I’m thankful that my 83-year-old mother, who’s still working, taught me the value of a solid work ethic. I’m proud of my reputation … known as a workhorse, not a show horse. Thanks, Mom! … I’m thankful for a family that fully supports my fascinating yet frustrating service as a Legislator. Nothing better than feeling loved by my husband Steve (the good doctor and smartest all-around man in the WORLD) daughter Ana Cruz (the brilliantly successful redhead at Ballard Partners) and son Nick Cruz (eat at Big Ray’s which will someday contribute to my nursing home fund) … I’m thankful for every American soldier. These brave men and women risk their lives for my freedom … they have never met me, yet they are willing to die for my freedom. Could never thank them enough. … I’m thankful for our teachers in Florida. They are underpaid and often underappreciated, yet they continue to educate and are sometimes the only positive influence in a child’s life. Blessed are the teachers! … I’m thankful for Maddie, Peter, Tess, Patrick, Maizy, and Julian who are my delightful grandchildren. They are living proof that things will be alright once I’m gone. … I’m thankful for a supportive staff in Tampa and Tallahassee make me look good. The taxpayers certainly get their money’s worth here!”

Rep. Dane Eagle:

“My staff and I wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving and a wonderful start to the holiday season. As we enjoy this time with our loved ones, let’s remember those who cannot be with their own families as they protect us and defend our freedom. We have many reasons to be thankful. Happy Thanksgiving!”

Rep. Randy Fine:

“My wife, Wendy, for being a great partner and friend, and for giving us our two young sons, Jacob and David. Every moment I get to spend with them is a blessing. I’m particularly grateful to Wendy this year for the all solo duties she has had to handle when I’ve been in Tallahassee.”

Rep. Jason Fischer:

“Thanksgiving is upon us again, and it offers us all a chance to reflect and show our gratitude for life’s many blessings. And blessed we all are! The Fischer family invites you all to join us as pray a special blessing for our armed service personnel and their families as they work to keep us safe at home and abroad.”

Rep. Bill Hager:

“As you prepare to sit down with your family and friends for a festive holiday meal, I want to take a moment to thank you. Thank you for allowing me to serve you in the Florida House of Representatives. I am privileged to represent District 89 in Tallahassee, and it is only possible because of the honor you have bestowed upon me. Happy Thanksgiving!”

Rep. Blaise Ingoglia:

Rep. Wengay “Newt” Newton:

Rep. Chris Sprowls:

“I’m thankful that I get to experience childhood again through the eyes of our two little boys. Every day brings another gift.”

Rep. Frank White:

“This week we celebrate and give thanks for the many blessings in our lives and as a nation. I’m giving thanks for my family, friends, faith and community. I am blessed every day by my lovely wife, Stephanie, and my three boys Henry, Clayton, and Wesley. In fact, these overwhelming blessings in my life were my primary motivation for entering public service. My faith teaches that to whom much has been given, much is expected. Giving back to my community in public service with your support has been the honor of a lifetime. … I wish you all a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving!”

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry:

“I’m thankful for my wife Molly, my kids Boyd, Brooke & Bridget, and for the opportunity to serve the city I love.”

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman:

“I am thankful for quite a bit this year, including my family, friends, and good health. The opportunity to serve the city and people I love for another four years is also at the top of my list. Thank you for believing in me and for giving me a chance to earn your support if I didn’t have it in this past election. Have a happy Thanksgiving and please take a moment to take stock of your blessings. Please also keep St. Pete’s first responders and personnel in your thoughts, for many of them are not able to enjoy Thanksgiving with their loved ones. Thank you, St. Pete.”

Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano:

“As a public servant, I am blessed and thankful to have the opportunity to continue to serve the people of Pasco County and work with individuals at our Tax Collectors office who are truly second to none. Thankful and blessed to have been given the means allowing me to help those less fortunate than us and so I may give back to our community in some small way. God bless!”

Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore:

 

Chief Financial Officer candidate Jeremy Ring:

Pinellas County Republican Party Chair and House District 66 candidate Nick DiCeglie:

“Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you’re enjoying a tasty home cooked meal this week in the company of family and friends.

“On this Thanksgiving, and every day, I thank God for the many blessings he has bestowed upon me, especially my loving and talented wife Erica, and my kids Livia and Carlo. I’m also thankful for my family business, Solar Sanitation, which for 37 years has provided the essential service of trash collection to the residents and businesses of Pinellas County.

“This year I am also thankful for the opportunity to run as a candidate for Florida House, District 66. For more than 20 years, Indian Rocks Beach has been where Erica and I have decided to raise our children and enjoy the breathtaking sunsets in the best place to live, work and play.

“Happy Thanksgiving from the DiCeglie family to yours.”

Lobbying firm The Fiorentino Group:

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