Gwen Graham Archives - Page 7 of 31 - Florida Politics

Mitch Perry Report for 9.2.16 — Tampa City Council approves $251 million to improve stormwater system

They did it last night.

After nearly four hours of discussion, the Tampa City Council voted 4-2 to support the biggest infusion of taxpayer dollars ever to attempt to improve the city’s stormwater infrastructure, which for decades has been a major problem in the city.

Mike SuarezLisa MontelioneHarry Cohen and swing vote Guido Maniscalco opted to support Mayor Bob Buckhorn‘s proposal, nearly a year after they rejected a similar one. Councilmembers Charlie Miranda and Frank Reddick dissented, while Yolie Capin was not at the meeting.

The improvements will be paid for through a fee on Tampa property owners. Assessments will be based on the amount of hard surface a property as. Hard surface area cannot absorb stormwater, so fees will be higher for people with more of it.

Critics blasted the proposal, which exempts property owners in New Tampa and Harbor Island, where developers have already paid for drainage systems that do not discharge water to the city’s storm sewers. Others complained that the only “discount,” if you didn’t live in those areas, was a 10 percent reduction.

Although there were people who opposed the project, there were more in the audience at City Hall who spoke out in support of the proposal, with the phrase, “we’ve got to stop kicking the can down the road,” being repeated throughout the evening.

Maniscalco seemed to be wavering in which way he would go and said at one point that the thought the vote should be delayed because many members of the public had stayed away, after hearing reports for days that Thursday night the city would get the worst brunt of a tropical storm.

In fact, the weather wasn’t that bad at all Thursday night, not compared to the evening before or another major storm that occurred early Friday morning.

Although stormwater improvements in South Tampa are among the first projects that will be built with the new funds, Montelione, in particular, emphasized that the problems when major rains come to Tampa are by no means limited to that region of the city, showing a map of areas in her North Tampa district that get flooded out.

Suarez said the same thing, adding that it seemed that the media only liked to cover major flooding in South Tampa.

In other news …

Darryl Rouson leads Ed Narain by 75 votes in the SD 19 race as the official recount in takes place this morning in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Gwen Graham says she gets why Donald Trump has emerged in American politics, and says his unlikely success should be understood by all lawmakers.

Uber is targeting two PTC members to oppose proposed new rules which they don’t like, but are they targeting the right members?

And Charlie Crist‘s campaign manager says essentially the race between his candidate and David Jolly is a mere formality in a memo distributed to the media. Naturally, Team Jolly disagrees.

Gwen Graham says she gets part of Donald Trump’s appeal

Gwen Graham cut short her trip to Tampa Thursday, returning to Tallahassee to contend with Tropical Storm Hermine, which is expected to make landfall as a hurricane by early Friday in North Florida.

The Tallahassee-based Democratic representative, already considered a leading candidate to run for governor in 2018, has been hobnobbing around the state this week. She appeared at a campaign phone bank with New Port Richey state Rep. Amanda Murphy on Wednesday before attending a house party for Hillary Clinton supporters at a private residence in Tampa. She had been scheduled to visit MacDill Air Force Base on Thursday with Kathy Castor, as well as meet up with Rod Smith in Gainesville. Both of those events were canceled, however, with the storm approaching.

Ideologically speaking, Graham is considered a centrist, and she definitely made a statement shortly after she was elected to serve in Washington in early 2015 when Graham voted against Nancy Pelosi’s election as House Minority Leader, a promise she made while campaigning against Republican Steve Southerland. Graham paints that vote as less a statement against Pelosi, and more for a change of leadership Washington.

“I believe — and this has been confirmed — that we need new leadership in the House of Representatives for Democrats and Republicans,” Graham said on Wednesday.

“The Republicans have brought in Paul Ryan, and I think it would be a very positive effect, not only on the Democrats in Congress but also in encouraging other people to want to enter into elected office, to have new, fresh leadership for the House of Representatives,” Graham said, adding that she never intended it to be criticism of the San Francisco Democrat, who she praised for becoming the first female Speaker of the House.

And while Graham’s an ardent Democrat supporting Clinton for president, she says she understands part of the appeal of Donald Trump, who remains extremely competitive in Florida, despite the fact that he has had only one campaign office in the entire state (and despite reports that he would soon open up two dozen offices, which has yet to happen).

“Mr. Trump has been able to tap into a frustration and disappointment in some areas in the way that our government is functioning, and in that respect, I don’t disagree with him,” she says. “He is a symptom of what I see at times, which is that people don’t put those that you’re elected to serve first, and when you allow partisanship to stand in the way of getting things done, then people have a rightful reason and a rightful frustration about government. I hope this is a wake-up call to those who take more of an ideological position when they’re making decisions that it’s time to get back to really governing again.”

Graham’s Democratic Party bonafides are most prominent when talking about the environment, as she rains down criticism on Rick Scott’s leadership — or lack thereof. She says if she ran the state government, she would add scientists and conservationists to water management boards around the state, and not political appointees.

On Monday, Scott announced he had selected Miami attorney and Bacardi Family Foundation board member Federico Fernandez to fill a space on the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Fernandez would replace Sandy Batchelor, a Charlie Crist appointee in 2010 who was reappointed by Scott to a four-year term in 2012. Batchelor has a master’s degree in forest conservation, and was coincidentally the lone board member this year to oppose tax cuts advocated by Scott.

“I don’t think that’s someone who actually has the expertise to be making water quality decisions,” Graham, said, adding that she agrees with recent comments by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam that water was Florida’s most important element of its economy, but didn’t believe that his, nor Governor’s Scott’s, actual water policies indicate that’s really the case.

“I don’t think you can say in one breath that you believe that water is most important for the economy in Florida, and then support something that does the complete opposite,” she said, referring specifically to the state’s Environmental Regulation Commission vote to approve a proposal by state regulators that would impose new standards on 39 chemicals not currently regulated by the state, and change the regulations on 43 other chemicals.

In July, Graham called on Scott to hold a special session to deal with the toxic algae bloom that had just then begun to engulf South Florida. In that letter, she said that in her discussions with local stakeholders, she learned the problem was the nutrient-rich stormwater runoff that flows from central Florida into Lake Okeechobee.

Scott will be coming to Washington next week, and Graham says she wants to work with him in addressing water quality in Florida as well as the growing issues with the Zika virus.

“I look forward to working hand-in-hand from a federal perspective, in building the bridges and relationships with those in the federal government that would allow us to hopefully move forward and get additional funding” for Zika.

Darryl E. Owens: For grandma’s sake, Florida lawmakers need to get tough on elder abuse

darryl owensTwo pictures of the elderly in America dominate.

One pictures seniors as convivial grandparents, spoiling grandchildren with toys and taffy, enjoying priceless moments of conspiratorial mirth.

The other dog-eared snapshot isn’t a proud Kodak moment. It pictures silver-headed senior citizens beaten black-and-blue. Or neglected to the point of bedsores. Or sobbing over the realization someone bamboozled her out of her nest egg.

Seniors like the 83-year-old father of Jeffery Frank Watkins.

Fort Walton Beach Police last month charged his son with felony neglect of an elderly person after an emergency room visit where his poppa’s pacemaker bulged from his chest from malnourishment — even as bedbugs heartily feasted on the octogenarian.

We tend to dismiss this kind of nauseating neglect as anomaly — atrocities perpetrated by the Darwinian misfits who populate “The Jerry Springer Show.” However, among Florida’s many secret shames, the Sunshine State’s fondness for slapping around grandmas and fleecing them ranks near the top of an ungodly heap.

Worse, seniors will remain clay pigeons until lawmakers make smart moves such as clarifying definitions of “vulnerable” and using the reduced standard of “diminished capacity” to allow watchdog agencies to help seniors sooner.

Florida Rep. Gwen Graham, during a June Workday assisting the elderly, outed the state.

“Florida has a reputation as the best place in America to retire. Unfortunately, that reputation is under threat by an increase in elder abuse and fraud targeting seniors,” she said.

The Orlando Sentinel recently reported substantiated elder abuse and neglect cases since 2011 skyrocketed 74 percent. Statewide, cases last year numbered 2,525. And those numbers likely don’t tell the whole story.

Seniors are convenient punching bags and easy marks. A recent University of Kentucky study — for the National Center on Elder Abuse — found that home is where the hell is for nearly 90 percent of abused elders. More chilling, one in three suffered abuse at their children’s hands.

Elder abuse victims “tend to be socially isolated, physically weakened and struggling to maintain their independence,” according to a piece last year in Stateline, a state policy publication of The Pew Charitable Trusts. “They are reliant on family, friends or caregivers who violate their trust.”

In Florida, better than 800 people over the past half-decade faced elder abuse and neglect charges, according to the Office of State Courts Administrator. Just less than half were convicted or sentenced.

“It breaks my heart, but it’s more prevalent than any of us would like,” Graham said.

That’s because of a national plague of erratic reporting and sparse resources, most glaringly, for Adult Protective Services (APS) agencies. Florida and other states rely on APS to safeguard vulnerable adults from abuse, neglect and exploitation.

Graham, for her part, is introducing federal legislation to stem the carnage. Her measure would task the Department of Justice with creating a model public, searchable registry listing creeps convicted or found by a state investigation (with an appeals process) to have abused, neglected, mistreated or bilked someone over age 65. States like Florida without a comparable registry could replicate the model.

It could provide a long overdue tool that could protect vulnerable Florida seniors … eventually.

Right now, swindles threaten one in 25 Florida seniors, says Bonnie Conrad, project director for elder rights with the Area Agency on Aging/Your Aging & Disability Resource Center in West Palm Beach.

“The legislative policy has not kept up with the growing sophistication of the criminal class,” she says. “Because seniors in Florida have more wealth collectively, and are more likely to live far from family, they are a target.”

Worse, wallets are often a gateway to wallopings.

“Most physical abuse starts with exploitation,” Conrad says, “so this must be addressed to keep harm from progressing.”

Some municipalities are standing in the gap. Palm Beach County, for example, recently began requiring background checks for senior caregivers. That helps police remove abusive/exploitive aides.

State-wise, Conrad lauds recently tweaked definitions in the state exploitation statute and guardianship protections. Those moves, however, fail to dam the flood of new crime targeting seniors, she warns.

Current definitions classify many endangered seniors as competent. Tweaking language that solves jurisdictional roadblocks, clarifies that exploiters need not be caregivers, and swaps “competent” for “diminished capacity” as the threshold for APS intervention would be prudent next steps.

In the race to protect Florida seniors, legislators are playing the tortoise. In taking reforms slow and steady, shamefully battered and broke seniors are losing more than a race.


Award-winning former Orlando Sentinel columnist Darryl E. Owens now serves as director of communication at Beacon College in Leesburg, the first higher education institution accredited to award bachelor’s degrees exclusively to students with learning disabilities, ADHD and other learning differences. Views expressed are his own.

U.S. House district in Florida Panhandle likely to flip to GOP

Recent redistricting makes the U.S. House seat from the eastern part of Florida’s Panhandle one of the few nationally that are likely to flip from Democrat to Republican this year.

Democratic incumbent Gwen Graham cited the redrawn 2nd Congressional District’s heavy Republican presence in saying she won’t seek a second term. A physician, a former government lawyer and a former prosecutor are vying for the GOP nomination in the Aug. 30 primary.

The Democratic primary is between former Florida assistant Attorney General Walt Dartland and Steve Crapps, a former supervisor at the Department of Children and Family Services.

Four seats nationwide could flip from Republican to Democrat, but the 2nd District is the only one considered a safe Republican takeover, said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. Overall in Florida, Democrats are likely to pick up a few seats in the state’s heavily Republican delegation following district revamping that has unleashed one of Florida’s most vibrant campaigns in several seasons.

The three Republican candidates — Dr. Neal Dunn, Mary Thomas and Ken Sukhia — all agree on the main issues of combating terrorism, strengthening law enforcement, immigration reform and improving health care. They’ve taken turns attacking each other for not being conservative or Republican enough.

One ad by Dunn tried to link Thomas, a former general counsel at a state agency, to former Gov. Charlie Crist, who switched parties and is now running for Congress as a Democrat.

Thomas has tried to assert that Dunn, a physician, is a supporter of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul because the group that represents doctors in the state-backed Medicaid expansion.

Dunn, 63, has the most cash on hand according to recent filings to the Federal Election Commission. Former two-term congressman Steve Southerland, who lost to Graham in 2014, has endorsed Dunn.

“The non-politician is in favor,” Dunn said. “We have made advances in health care, but there are more obstacles in the way for patients.”

Thomas, 38, is trying to become the first Indian-American woman elected to Congress. During Thomas’ five years in Gov. Rick Scott‘s administration, she was the state’s chief negotiator on many cases, including the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Her key endorsement has come from the House Freedom Caucus, a group of 39 conservative congressmen.

“The federal government is not taking actions on environmental, veterans and immigration issues. This district needs someone who understands all those issues and has the ability to get people on both sides together,” Thomas said.

Sukhia, 63, is a former federal prosecutor with experience in immigration and drug trafficking cases. He also was an adviser to Florida’s attorney general in challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who is Donald Trump‘s key adviser on immigration, has endorsed Sukhia.

“I’m the only candidate that has fought on the current issues and been on the front lines,” Sukhia said.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

The story from a primary election day in the not-too-distant future

TALLAHASSEE — Two years after Hillary Clinton became the nation’s first female president, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham has become the second woman to win a major party’s nomination for Florida governor.

Graham, an attorney and daughter of former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, held off her two Democratic rivals in a spirited primary election.

Graham now faces former state House Speaker Will Weatherford in November. The Wesley Chapel Republican edged out Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the GOP establishment favorite, in a free-wheeling, wide-open Republican primary.

The man Graham and Weatherford hope to replace, Rick Scott, easily won the Republican nomination in Florida’s U.S. Senate race. He’ll face three-term Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson in the fall.

Spending only $9 million out of his personal fortune, it was the least amount Scott has spent to win an election. Instead, the still-powerful governor raised more than $30 million for his Senate campaign from the political allies who have long supported him. The Florida Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce donated heavily to “Let’s Get to Work America,” the super PAC backing Scott.

It was Scott’s nonstop fundraising after winning re-election in 2014 — especially as it became clear he would be back on the ballot in 2018 — that became one of the launching points for Graham’s gubernatorial bid. Her promise to “clean up the Governor’s Mansion” became a rallying cry for her and supporters on the campaign trail.

Graham captured 38 percent of the Democratic vote, while Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn finished second with 30 percent and Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine, despite spending more than $50 million of his own money, ended in third place with 28 percent. A handful of also-rans and gadfly candidates rounded out the results.

The clear difference for Graham was her strength with African-American voters, who were reminded in television commercial after television commercial of Tampa’s controversial “biking while black” ticketing scandal.

While Graham rarely brought up the topic, an anti-Buckhorn super PAC never let the issue drop, dogging Buckhorn press conferences with paid protestors who would buzz the events by circling around on bicycles. The video of Buckhorn jumping down from a stage to confront one of the young protestors went viral.

Levine entered the race with considerable fanfare, distributing virtual reality players to donors and reporters so they could watch the short film he had produced about his tenure as mayor.

And while the “Miami Beach Miracle” movie was the first use of VR on a campaign trail, Levine did not deliver at the box office. Polls indicated he never connected with either the conservative north Florida Democrats loyal to Graham or the voters of the I-4 corridor which Buckhorn hoped would be enough of a base to beat Graham.

The Tampa Bay area was ground zero for the GOP primary, with at least five candidates having staked some sort of claim to the state’s largest media market. Weatherford is from Wesley Chapel, Putnam from Bartow, Carlos Beruff from Parrish, Richard Corcoran from Land O’ Lakes, and Jack Latvala from Clearwater.

Beruff never stopped running for statewide office after losing to Marco Rubio in the 2016 U.S. Senate race. Although his consulting team was busy with Scott’s race, the prospect of Beruff writing another eight-figure check for his campaign kept the nucleus of his team together.

The Manatee County homebuilder parted with another $14 million in his bid to become governor, making it nearly $25 million Beruff has spent in the last two years for two losing campaigns.

Corcoran and Latvala, the two legislative powerhouses who brought the Capitol to a standstill earlier this year over Corcoran’s resistance to commit any taxpayer dollars to Latvala’s plan to build a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays, really only flirted with running for governor.

Corcoran was in the race for about a month, Latvala less than that. But after the so-called “Waffle House Summit” at which Corcoran and Latvala agreed to drop their bids for governor and instead run for attorney general and chief financial officer, while backing Weatherford over Putnam, the governor’s race became a two-man affair.

Corcoran will square off against Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Aronberg in the attorney general’s race, while Latvala will face Democrat Jeremy Ring. Former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli faces nominal Democratic opposition in the race for agriculture commissioner.

For much of the race, Putnam held every advantage — in fundraising, endorsements, and name recognition. But Weatherford doggedly traveled the state, damning Putnam with faint praise.

“Adam has been a good politician for more than 20 years,” Weatherford would say, “And he would make a good governor. But what Florida needs now is a transformational governor.”

The charge of Putnam being a career politician began to stick as Weatherford won straw polls at county party meetings and the endorsements of national movement conservatives. To many observers, the Weatherford vs. Putnam race played out like the Marco Rubio vs. Charlie Crist race of 2010.

By the time Goliath noticed David, it was too late.

Weatherford heads into November knowing that Florida Republicans typically outperform Democrats in non-presidential years.

But Graham is anything but a typical politician. With her father campaigning by her side and a legion of volunteers behind her, Graham may be the Democrats’ best chance to take back the Governor’s Mansion since the days of Lawton Chiles.

In CD 2, Neal Dunn gives his campaign a money infusion

Neal Dunn is getting by with a lot of help from his friends — and himself.

Dunn, one of three GOP candidates for the 2nd Congressional District in north Florida, has recently received campaign contributions from medical-associated political organizations. No surprise: He’s a Panama City urological surgeon.

He also lent his own campaign $100,000 earlier this week, all according to down-to-the-wire campaign finance reports on the weekend before Primary Election day.

Federal Election Commission records show he gave his campaign $50,000 on Tuesday, and again on Friday.

Dunn is running for the newly redrawn and now heavily conservative 2nd District. His GOP primary opponents are former federal prosecutor Ken Sukhia and state government lawyer Mary Thomas.

Walt Dartland and Steve Crapps are facing off in the Democratic primary.

In addition to the self-administered money injection, Dunn also got a $2,500 boost from the American College of Radiology’s associated political action committee that day.

He received $5,000 from Acton PAC in Sharpsburg, Georgia, affiliated with Georgia Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, a fellow Republican.

And Dunn got $2,500 from Checksmart Financial LLC PAC of Dublin, Ohio, a group that represents payday lenders.

Other notable contributions to Dunn this week came from north Florida’s next GOP state senator, George Gainer ($1,300), who clinched the seat being vacated by Don Gaetz when no one else qualified to run.

Dunn was given $5,000 by the Pioneer PAC of Washington, D.C., affiliated with Republican Congressman Patrick J. Tiberi of Ohio.

And at the start of the week, the National Emergency Medicine PAC of Irving, Texas, donated $2,000.

Dunn specializes in the treatment of advanced prostate cancer and is an Army veteran, according to the campaign. He is also on the board of directors of Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private economic development agency.

Incumbent 2nd District Congresswoman Gwen Graham, a Democrat, said she would not seek re-election after one term and is instead thinking about running for Florida governor in 2018.

Jack Latvala says Michael Bay’s ’13 Hours’ one of two reasons he’s voting for Donald Trump

Nationally and in Florida, there are many, many Republican elected officials who seem to equivocate when asked whether or not they’ll support Donald Trump for president.

Jack Latvala is not one of those Republicans.

The always-irascible Pinellas County lawmaker made it clear Friday morning that while the Manhattan real estate developer is hardly his cup of tea, there are two reasons why he won’t be holding his nose when he pulls the lever for him this fall (or scribbles in a circle next to his name, to be more accurate).

One is the power the next president has to nominate what could be multiple selections to the U.S. Supreme Court — besides the already-open seat left bare as Senate Republicans have refused to give Merrick Garland a hearing.

The other is the visceral disdain Latvala says he feels toward Hillary Clinton, a feeling he says he’s had ever since watching “13 Hours,” the Michael Bay-directed dramatic portrayal account of what happened at the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, when Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

“I will tell you that it had a very profound impact on me,” the Clearwater Republican told an audience in South Tampa Friday morning.

“I do not believe that Donald Trump would leave four American employees of our country — officers of our country — in a situation like that, and never try to help them, and that’s the tie-breaker for me,” he said.

Along with the burgeoning issues with her private email server and perceptions of “pay-to-play” that those emails have shown regarding the Clinton Foundation, Clinton’s role as secretary of state during the Benghazi attack has been an issue that Republicans have attacked her on since she officially became a candidate for president last year. She testified for nearly 11 hours last October before a House committee examining the attack.

“I’ve always been a Republican, and even though I don’t agree with the choice that our party has made, I still think that he’s a whole lot better than the candidate on the other side,” Latvala said, adding that he thinks virtually any other one of the original group of 17 Republican who vied for the nomination a year ago would be leading Clinton decisively at this point of the campaign.

Latvala also questioned the conventional wisdom regarding the potential nominees for governor in Florida in 2018, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in particular, who appears to be the Republican to beat. Latvala said a party that favors Donald Trump would hardly be the same one to support someone who’s been serving in Tallahassee and Washington for almost two decades.

He mentioned Southwest Florida congressional candidate Frances Rooney, CFO Jeff Atwater and incoming Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran as the ones to watch. “Richard Corcoran is running for governor,” he said definitively.

He also scoffed at the conventional wisdom that has Tallahassee U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham in the driver’s seat for the Democrats, calling it “incredible” that because of her last name (she’s the scion of former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham) she’s at the top of the charts.

He gave a shoutout to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine as possible contenders.

Will Mary Thomas be owned by D.C. special interest group Club for Growth?

What does it say when a candidate is backed primarily by a single special interest group?

As the race in North Florida’s 2nd Congressional District heats up, a flood of money has engulfed the Aug. 30 Republican primary, a contentious three-way contest where each candidate seeks to outdo the other for the title “most conservative.”

A majority of the nearly $1.6 million benefiting CD 2 Republican hopeful Mary Thomas seems to come from a single source — the conservative action group Club for Growth. The group, which had most notably backed the failed presidential bid of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, is making a major play in CD 2.

Club for Growth, which also has been behind several anti-Donald Trump campaigns, has provided nearly 60 percent of the financial support for Thomas’ congressional bid.

Thomas, a government attorney who had worked in Gov. Rick Scott’s administration, faces Panama City surgeon Neal Dunn and Ken Sukhia, a former federal prosecutor, for the seat now held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham. After redistricting made CD 2 a more reliably Republican district, the winner in Tuesday’s primary will have a better-than-average shot at becoming the next U.S. representative from North Florida.

Club for Growth is a Washington D.C.-based advocacy group that seeks to promote “conservative values” — limited government, lower taxes, prosperity, and opportunity. On its website, the Club’s stated mission is to take on “any member of Congress on policy who fails to uphold basic economic conservative principles … regardless of party.”

According to Federal Elections Commission records accessed Thursday, Club for Growth so far has sunk $756,028 into the CD 2 race. Hard-dollar contributions filed by the Thomas Campaign reported Club for Growth bundling another $173,561, making an overall $929,589 the conservative action group has either directly given or bundled.

In addition, FEC reports also show $838,941 in receipts for Thomas (a number that includes money bundled by Club for Growth).

This makes $1,594,969 in total dollars for Thomas’ campaign, 58 percent of which can be directly attributed to a single special interest group. Most of that money has been used for a variety of campaign costs — including things such as internet, TV ad buys and direct mailers — either supporting Thomas or opposing Dunn.

Thomas, who recently snagged the endorsement of former presidential candidate and Libertarian Rand Paul, has become a champion for the conservative cause.

But when a single group has a majority interest in your campaign, it leads to an obvious question — who will own Mary Thomas should she win CD 2?

Being a Charlie Crist appointee will not determine the fate of Mary Thomas

Whether or not one is following the GOP primary for Florida’s 2nd Congressional District, it is getting a lot of attention both inside and outside of the Panhandle. The winner will succeed Democrat Gwen Graham, who chose not to seek re-election in a Florida Supreme Court-inspired redrawn district.

Attorney Mary Thomas is under assault in paid broadcast media. Try going on the internet without seeing an ominously silhouetted picture of Thomas charged with the sin of being a “Charlie Crist Republican” and “Charlie Crist appointee.”

The issue stems from Thomas serving in the Department of Community Affairs while Crist was governor. Michael Moline has written a must-read piece on her furious attempts to get the television ad pulled.

First, here is the truth about this silly argument: The governor appoints agency secretaries. Agency secretaries tentatively appoint agency management.

The governor’s chief of staff can, and does, block some tentative appointments. The secretary is part of the governor’s administration. Therefore, the secretary’s appointments are part of the governor’s administration.

The ads will not be pulled because Thomas was indeed appointed by Crist, who was responsible for his entire administration. She should feel free to criticize her opponents or Crist, but serving the public in the Crist administration will not determine whether she wins or loses.

Who is paying for these ads her supporters want to be pulled? Neither of Thomas’s opponents, former U.S. Attorney Ken Sukhia nor Dr. Neil Dunn are responsible.

For their part, Thomas and supporters are doing their best to link Dunn to Crist. The Club for Growth is running ads against Dunn and whatever connection he might have with the former governor. Sukhia is offering himself as the serious choice while Thomas and Dunn bicker.

So, who is bankrolling this fourth quarter broadside against Thomas? The ESAFund, which stands for Ending Spending Action Fund, is trying to sway this race away from Thomas.

ESAFund is not a huge player. The District 2 race is their first venture into Florida politics.

The most recently available reports posted by the Center for Responsive Politics show they have raised about $4 million this cycle. The biggest beneficiary so far is New Hampshire Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte, who has received $1.2 million in assistance. ESAFund has also spent nearly $300,000 against Ayotte’s opponent, Maggie Hassan.

Perhaps an ominous note comes from Kansas where ESAFund spent more than $750,000 attacking Republican Congressman Tim Huelskamp in his primary race against Roger Marshall. They also kicked in nearly $400,000 on behalf of Marshall, who handily defeated the incumbent Tea Party stalwart.

A million dollars in a predominantly rural district is a big deal. They must see similarities in the Florida Panhandle.

Who is putting up the money behind ESAFund? Marlene Ricketts kicked in the most with $850,000.

Ricketts is the wife of TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts and the mother of Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts. The Ricketts family owns the Chicago Cubs.

Wrestling moguls Vince and Linda McMahon donated $250,000. Miami Worldcenter co-developer and Delray Beach resident Bill Powers ponied up $50,000.

Crist may be running for Congress from St. Petersburg, but his presence still looms far too large in North Florida.

Mitch Perry Report for 8.19.16 — Herald makes surprise endorsement in Florida Senate primary

Donald Trump could earn a big PR move today. He’s scheduled to travel to Louisiana to visit the flood-ravaged areas. Meanwhile, President Obama enjoys the last days of his summer vacation, golfing with Larry David.

The Miami Herald is making a little news this morning. The paper’s editorial board is dismissing both Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson in their review of the Democratic U.S. Senate race, and is endorsing Pam Keith in the contest.

The paper acknowledges what has been evident for nearly a year now — that the Democratic Party decided a long time ago that Murphy was their man, the heck with what the voters might believe. “Stacking the deck against Rep. Grayson corrupts the process,” the editorial board says.

The paper also acknowledges the electoral realities for a Keith victory are, well, “slim to none.” But it makes a strong case for why she deserves serious consideration. The paper is also backing Marco Rubio in the GOP race.

Meanwhile, I was hoping for a little more illumination from Time magazine with their cover story out today, called, “How Trolls Are Ruining The Internet.” Nevertheless, it does attempt to try to understand why there’s so much hatred expressed by people on the internet and, surprise, some of these “trolls” are well-established professionals.

Speaking of the Senate race, Rubio is seizing on the U.S. State Department’s acknowledgment yesterday that its $400 million cash delivery to Iran earlier this year was contingent on the release of four American hostages.

“This administration has peddled one outright lie after another as it attempts to defend its disastrous nuclear deal with Iran,” the Florida senator said in a statement. His campaign also banged on Murphy for supporting the Iranian nuclear deal, something that you’ll see other Republicans use as a cudgel against Democrats leading up to November.

The nuclear deal has also become an issue in the South Florida Congressional race between Tim Canova and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who supported the deal. Though Canova has been running to DWS’s left on most policy issues, he’s been critical of her for supporting that deal.

In other news…

It’s not hyperbole at all to say that the Republican Party of Florida is one of the most effective political machines in the nation. So while there’s no doubt that although their “Leadership Victory Committee” announced yesterday they will do their best in this presidential year to get the vote out, it’s also noticeable about how none of the members of the committee bothered to express any comment about making sure Donald Trump wins the Sunshine State in November — which most political analysts say he has to do to win the White House.

A day after we reported on a mailer HD 60 candidate Jackie Toledo has issued vowing to crack down on “illegal aliens,” the Democrat in the race, David Singer, weighs in.

Patrick Murphy mocks Marco Rubio’s public support for Donald Trump in new web ad.

The Pinellas County Democratic Party pulled their request for a grant to beautify their party headquarters after the city council’s approval created an uproar.

Gwen Graham joined members of a super PAC affiliated with Planned Parenthood in calling for Congress to return back to Washington to pass a “clean” bill on Zika virus funding.

Hillsborough GOP Clerk of the Courts nominee Eric Seidel signed a “pledge” to run a clean campaign in the general election versus either Pat Frank or Kevin Beckner.


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