Gwen Graham Archives - Page 7 of 30 - Florida Politics

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.


Gwen Graham joins Planned Parenthood officials in again calling for Congress to return to vote on Zika funding

Back in May, North Florida Democratic Rep. Gwen Graham joined more than 120 colleagues in the House, calling for Speaker Paul Ryan to hold a vote on President Obama’s $1.9 billion emergency appropriations request to fight the spread of Zika. Three months later, she was at it again, this time accompanied by officials with Planned Parenthood Votes, a super PAC aligned with Planned Parenthood.

“This is not the time to be playing partisan politics,” Graham said in a conference call held Thursday. “This is a time for us to do our job, and bring a clean bill forward so we can find additional resources.”

In late June, Senate Democrats rejected a request for $1.1 billion in Zika funding because of what they said were “poison pills” inserted in the measure. Specifically, they opposed a provision easing Environmental Protection Agency regulations, as well as a measure that would have prevented funding for Planned Parenthood. Instead it would go to other community health centers.

Graham said she recently — and reluctantly — requested that the Department of Health & Human Services divert funds from other vaccine production activities so that they could fund more Zika research.

While Graham, a noted centrist, didn’t criticize any Republicans in her remarks, that was not the case with Dawn Laguens, head of Planned Parenthood Votes.

“The Centers for Disease Control says that family planning is the primary strategy for reducing Zika-related pregnancy complications, yet instead of centering on women’s health, Marco Rubio and the Republican leadership have worked to gut family planning and women’s health care for years, including efforts to destroy the frontline providers like a Planned Parenthood, that are needed to do this work today,” Laguens said, adding that Rick Scott has been leading a “crusade” against women’s access to health care since the day he entered office.

“These politicians have worse than no plan. Their plans are making things worse,” Laguens added. “You cannot have a Zika strategy that focuses on mosquitoes, but not women and families.”

The Zika virus can be transmitted through a mosquito bite or from sexual contact with an infected person of either gender. The virus can cause serious birth defects, including microcephaly, where babies are born with abnormally small heads and brains.

Earlier this month, Sen. Rubio said pregnant women who have contracted the Zika virus should not have access to abortions.

“We need to respect each women’s ability and right to make decisions about whether or not to have a child, and she needs to be able to make this decision in accordance with her own feelings, her family, those feelings of faith she may have, and with her doctor,” said Laguens. “But Marco Rubio, Rick Scott and Donald Trump have no place in that decision.”


Gwen Graham supports ‘forever’ lobbying ban on members of Congress

If you’re gonna go out, go out with a bang.

U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, a Tallahassee Democrat, announced Friday “she is co-sponsoring legislation to ban members of Congress from ever becoming federal lobbyists.”

The problem is, it’s probably not constitutional.

“My horseback answer is ‘no,'” said Joseph Little, a retired professor of the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law and constitutional law expert.

“It would be hard to sustain such a statute if the terms are ‘forever,'” he said. “I think a court could well decide that’s unreasonable and beyond what’s needed to purge any unreasonable advantage someone might have.”

Graham, who is not running for re-election, served one term in Congress before her 2nd Congressional District was redrawn into a more conservative-leaning one.

As she explains it, “The revolving door from Congress to (lobbying) represents everything wrong with Washington. Members of Congress shouldn’t use their time in office as a taxpayer-funded class in learning to lobby.”

She added: “We need to restore the public’s faith in government, and that starts by restoring their trust in public officials.”

Now, the federal lobbying ban is two years for former U.S. senators and one year for former members of the U.S. House.

She quotes that “more than 430 former members of Congress are now lobbyists (or ‘senior advisors’ performing similar work).”

A spokeswoman for The Center for Responsive Politics, the government transparency group that operates the website, clarified that they identified 431 former lawmakers who are or at least once were lobbyists. Their list by name is here.

In April, Graham — daughter of former Florida Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham — said she was “seriously considering running for governor in 2018.”

Federal Election Commission records show Graham has cash on hand of $1.38 million in her “Graham for Congress” committee, money she can use for a state race.

Florida Right to Life PAC endorses Ken Sukhia in CD 2 race

Former federal prosecutor Ken Sukhia has received a significant boost from another pro-life group in support of his bid for Gwen Graham’s congressional seat.

Sukhia, the former U.S. attorney running as a Republican for Florida’s 2nd Congressional District, received the endorsement Friday of the Florida Right to Life Political Action Committee. Sukhia faces Panama City urologist Neal Dunn and attorney Mary Thomas in the Aug. 30 Republican primary.

“I’m humbled to receive the endorsement of Florida Right to Life PAC because protecting life is a primary duty in all civilized societies,” Sukhia said in a statement Friday. “Protecting the unborn is more than a political issue for me, it’s a moral issue that I am deeply committed to upholding both in my private life and in public service.”

Along with the Florida Right to Life PAC endorsement, Sukhia has also received backing earlier this month from the Personhood FL ProLife PAC.

In giving the group’s endorsement, Florida Right to Life PAC chair Jan Halisky said, “The endorsement indicates that you are the best pro-life candidate in the race and is a recommendation that our members and supporters vote for you.”

Sukhia has been on the front lines of the pro-life movement. He defended Florida’s Parental Notification of Abortion law in an intense trial before the 1st District Court of Appeal. In April 2016, Sukhia was called to testify before a Select Congressional Committee investigating the for-profit harvesting and selling of baby body parts.

Sukhia also helped to establish and has long supported Tallahassee’s Women’s Pregnancy Center.

More information on Sukhia’s campaign is at

CD 2 covers much of Northwest and North Central Florida. It includes all or part of Bay, Calhoun, Columbia, Dixie, Franklin, Gilchrist, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Lafayette, Leon, Levy, Liberty, Marion, Suwannee, Taylor, Wakulla, and Washington counties.

Mitch Perry Report for 8.5.16 — Rio or bust

For those of you excited about the Summer Olympics, now is your time.

Comcast says it will be broadcasting 6,800 hours of  programming on 11 channels, and “up to” 41 live streams. So they’ve got you covered.

The NFL also returns this weekend — sort of — with the Hall of Fame ceremonies from Canton, Ohio taking place Saturday night; and Bucs fans will no doubt be excited to see Tony Dungy get his time in the spotlight.

The first 20 years of the Tampa NFL franchise showed only glimmers of success before Dungy took over in the mid-1990s. And with the help of Rich McKay drafting a great core of players, they turned the team into a power that ultimately won its one and only championship in 2002-2003 — a year after he was unceremoniously dumped by the Glazier family.

But that’s ancient history. There’s a couple of other heavyweights who also will be getting inducted.

As a lifelong Oakland Raider fan, I’m a bit ambivalent about the fact that their legendary quarterback from the 1970s, Kenny Stabler, finally gets inducted. Why do I have mixed feelings? Because though “The Snake” retired in 1984 and was eligible at the beginning of the 1990s, the sportswriters who make such weighty decisions bypassed him every year until he fell out of contention. Yes, his stats are as impressive of others from his era (like Roger Staubach or Fran Tarkenton). He threw more interceptions than touchdowns, completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes, and posted a quarterback rating of 90 or better just twice in 15 NFL seasons. But he was leader of the legendary Raiders of the 1970s , a team that has only grown bigger in stature in the ensuing decades.

Sadly, Stabler died a year ago at the age of 69. Perhaps it was a sympathy vote, but he finally, finally made it to Canton this past January. Congrats, Snake.

Another quarterback by the name of Brett Favre will also be inducted, and he will, of course, be the star of the show. I used to loathe him when he was the darling of the NFL for so many years, but contrarily became a fan just when everyone else seemed to grow weary of his act late in his career, when he bounced to the New York Jets and the Minnesota Vikings. And he still looks great in those Wrangler ads.

In other news …

Debbie Wasserman Schultz now says she will debate Tim Canova in the race for Florida’s 23rd Congressional District.

Gwen Graham has returned over $400,000 to her donors after announcing she wouldn’t run for re-election to her seat in Congress.

Vern Buchanan says “enough!” and is calling on President Obama to halt the repatriation of any Syrian refugees into the U.S.

Andrew Warren, the Democratic challenger to Mark Ober at the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office, lays out another indictment of Ober’s tenure, while the GOP incumbent says little in response.

Dick Greco is backing Augie Ribeiro in the Senate District 19 race.

Gwen Graham returns more than $326,000 in campaign contributions

Since announcing that she would not run for re-election to her Congressional seat in Tallahassee back in April, Gwen Graham has refunded more than $326,000 to the public and political committees who had given her campaign contributions.

That may appear as a lofty number for a political figure who could be running for another office next year and might want to transfer the funds to another campaign, but the majority of those returns were generated by a federal election law.

Graham became an instant star in Florida Democratic politics back in 2014, when she won a bid to serve in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District. Due in part to a lackluster bench and the fact that she is the scion of Florida Democratic Party royalty (as the daughter of former Governor and Senator Bob Graham), Graham immediately began being mentioned in political circles as a potential candidate for higher office in the years to come.

That idea began to accelerate earlier this year, after Graham opted not to run for re-election to her congressional seat. Her decision was predicated on her electoral prospects dimming due to redistricting of her 2nd Congressional District, one of eight in the state determined by the Florida Supreme Court to have been drawn up in violation of the state’s Fair Districts amendments passed in 2010. So in April, she announced that she would not run for re-election, but would consider a gubernatorial run in 2018.

Although Graham could legally transfer the funds generated by her congressional campaign into an account to run for governor, she opted to immediately issue a letter to her campaign contributors telling how they could get a refund, if they wanted to. That led to 55 separate donors requesting a refund, for a total of $55,000. Graham spokesman Matt Harringer said that was out of a total of 8,500 contributors.

But the bulk of her refunds — $271,000, or 83 percent of the $326,000 she gathered from individuals and political action money — were automatically returned to contributors who had given the maximum of $5,400 — broken down into $2,700 contributions for the primary and general elections. A Federal Election Commission rule states that “if a candidate candidate accepts contributions for the general election before the primary is held and loses the primary (or does not otherwise participate in the general election), the candidate’s principal campaign committee MUST RETURN the general election contributions within 60 days of the primary or the date the candidate became ineligible to participate in the general election.”

Graham’s move is in contrast to what happened with Eric Lynn, the CD 13 Pinellas County Congressional candidate who dropped out of his Democratic primary race against Charlie Crist earlier this year, and instead filed to run in a state legislative race against fellow Democrat Ben Diamond in House District 58. Lynn has said only a few donors requested a refund from his congressional campaign account, while he maintained the majority of his campaign coffers that he had raised and ultimately put into his legislative campaign. Lynn said he did not send out a letter to contributors about getting a refund.

Graham spoke to the Florida Democratic Delegation in Philadelphia last week, a speech widely interpreted as an initial salvo in generating more name recognition for a possible run for higher office in 2018.

Graham still has $1.38 million cash-on-hand going forward.

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