Hillary Clinton Archives - Florida Politics

Democrats ease into standard responses in final governor’s race debate

Anyone hoping Florida’s five Democratic candidates for Governor would break new ground in the final debate Thursday night may have left disappointed.

On stage, each candidate mainly stuck to the standards, with only a couple of questions eliciting any form of surprise.

Andrew Gillum, Jeff Greene, Chris King, Philip Levine, and Gwen Graham all pulled more punches than in previous debates, with just a few recycled squabbles — mostly centering on Graham’s record as a moderate member of Congress.

Graham also took a couple more shots for her family’s involvement in the development of the American Dream Miami megamall, as well as a brief flurry of jabs between Levine and Greene over the Palm Beach billionaire’s encounters with President Donald Trump.

On issues, the quintet renewed the standard commitments: Increasing public education funding; pushing for minimum wage increases; higher-paying jobs; standing up to the gun lobby; seeking repeal of the Stand Your Ground laws and fighting special interests to address the water flows creating the toxic algae blooms east and west of Lake Okeechobee.

Hosted by WPBF-TV in West Palm Beach and co-sponsored by the Florida Press Association, the debate provided the candidates a chance to restate a handful of distinctive policy ideas: Levine’s Education Security Administration to focus on school safety; King’s bullet tax and a ban on death penalties; Gillum’s Medicare-for-all style health care plan; Graham’s proposal for an executive order to ban sales of assault weapons and Greene’s commitment to spend $100 million or more of his own fortune to counter Republicans’ usual advantages in campaign money.

But this was a last-chance statewide appearance before the Aug. 28 Democratic gubernatorial primary, and most of the debate played out as a multipart closing statement on positions Floridians already heard through the first four debates.

“This is not a drill,” warned Graham, as the latest front-runner in polling. Her pitch was that as the party’s nominee — “whoever she is” — it needs to be someone, a mom, who can appeal to everyday Floridians.

“What I bring to voters is the best of the private sector mixed with the best of the public sector,” said Levine, the former Miami Beach Mayor and businessman.

“The Democratic Party is alive and well and kicking. The problem is we’ve been outspent by Republicans over and over again,” said Greene, the self-made billionaire from Palm Beach who is self-funding his campaign. “That’s going to be different this year. I have the resources.”

“We have got to come to them with big ideas that will fix their solutions. That’s how we defeat Donald Trump, not by calling people names, but by solving problems,’ said King, the Winter Park entrepreneur.

“Florida can’t be just a cheap-date state,” said Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor who argues the state’s corporations are not paying their fair share of taxes.

Some more telling moments in the debate came through cameo appearances through questions or answers: Trump, Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida gun lobbyist Marion Hammer, former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, currently the Republican gubernatorial front-runner

One Trump moment set Greene and Levine on each other.

Campaigning as the Democrat who can, as governor, take on Trump, Greene said he has taken on Trump, in the president’s exclusive Mar-a-Lago country club, of which Greene is a member.

“He couldn’t be worse!” Greene declared.

Hold on, hold on, Levine braked.

The former Miami Beach Mayor charged Greene with praising Trump in the past, and not publicly opposing him until after taking office, all while ignoring offensive things Trump said (or done) on the campaign trail. During that time, Levine was working hard on Democrat Clinton’s campaign.

“You said he was a great guy! I gotta tell you something. Seriously?” Levine exclaimed.

He then interrupted the next question to get to it: “It sounds like you’re more like Donald Trump! And I think one Donald Trump is enough!”

“Well, Phil,” Greene shot back, “first of all, I’m the only one who has stood up to Donald Trump. And this nonsense about your supporting Hillary Clinton? … When I was running for the United States Senate in 2010, you gave money to Marco Rubio!”

“I did what Barack Obama did, what Hillary Clinton did,” Greene explained. “The same day. I said: ‘You know, we have to stand behind our new leader.”

During the debate, Graham was tripped up by the Clintons, and badly.

Among a handful of questions directed at a single candidate, Palm Beach Post reporter George Bennett pointed out that the Clintons were bad luck to some other campaigns; he wondered if Graham, for whom Bill Clinton campaigned in 2014 for her congressional run, would welcome him back to campaign for her.

She refused to answer, even when moderator Todd McDermott, a WPBF news anchor, pressed her a second time, asking for a direct answer. Instead, Graham talked about how she fits into the #MeToo movement, and how Florida’s gubernatorial election would be a national race likely to attract many people from other states to campaign.

Levine seized on her reluctance, again interrupting another question to make his point: “If one of the greatest presidents in American history wanted to come down and campaign with me, I would welcome him with open arms. He was a great president, President Clinton, and a wonderful secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.”

Levine soon found himself on the receiving end of perhaps the toughest directed question of the night; Miami Herald reporter Nancy Ancrum pointed out that during his administration as Miami Beach Mayor Levine was known at times to be anti-media, blocking and punishing critics.

Ancrum asked what sort of governing style Levine might bring to the governor’s office.

“Did I get things done? No question about it,” he said, adding with a big smile: “Have I learned a little more patience, no question about it.”

Nary mentioned once was the other major Republican gubernatorial candidate, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. DeSantis made an appearance only when King talked about how much DeSantis is running exclusively on his full support of Trump.

It led to one of the best lines of the night, from King: “Ron DeSantis is likely to become the Republican nominee. That should be terrifying to Floridians across this state. He is competing to be Donald Trump’s apprentice.”

King would be ready to counter that, he argued.

In an evening where most questions were asked before in four previous Democratic debates (or widely discussed in the 15-month campaign), and most of the answers had become rote, Gillum was the perhaps the only candidate who elicited even the slightest amount of emotion.

Nevertheless, the Tallahassee Mayor only did so only at the very end, in the final seconds of the debate.

As usual, Gillum did it with a personal story.

This time he talked about how his grandmother would watch him and his brother and sister early in the morning after his parents had dropped them off with her so they could go off to early-starting jobs.

Gillum recalled: “She would take her olive oil and anoint my head at the top so that no harm would come our way. And then she would have a saying, where she would say, ‘Boy, go to school. Mind your teachers. Get your lessons. And bring that education home, for your little brother, your little sister, for the neighbor down the street, for your mama and your daddy who get up every single day to work to support you, and to keep a roof over your head and clothes on your back.'”

“We have forgotten that we can do good — all of us.”

Tom Steyer’s ‘NextGen Climate’ opens state-level political committee

A group connected to activist Tom Steyer has opened a state-level political committee, signaling that the San Francisco billionaire has more plans for the Sunshine State in 2018.

NextGen Climate Action Committee was added to the Florida Division of Elections political committee database on Tuesday. The national version of the climate change-focused group is one of many operating under Steyer’s “NextGen America” banner.

The committee listing for the Florida spinoff names Chris Fadeff as chairman. Fadeff serves as the chief financial officer and vice president of legal for NextGen America. He has worked for the advocacy group since 2013, the year it was founded.

The committee’s treasurer is Rita Copeland, who holds the same position at the national NextGen Climate Action Committee according to Federal Elections Commission records.

Both Fadeff and Copeland list their address as a Washington DC office belonging to international law firm Perkins Coie, which represents a number of corporate and political clients, including serving as counsel to Hillary Clinton during her 2016 presidential campaign.

Carly Cass, who serves as youth organizing director of NextGen Florida, is listed as the new committee’s registered agent. The Tampa-based operative is the committee’s only listed officer with a Florida address.

Florida Politics reached out to the contact number listed by the committee but did not receive a response.

Back in February, Following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, NextGen alongside two other anti-gun violence activist groups announced they’d spend $1 million to register eligible high schoolers to vote.

In March, Steyer said NextGen America would to spend as much as $3.5 million in the 2018 cycle to register, engage and turn out young voters across the state of Florida. The group also announced it aimed to defend Florida’s 7th Congressional District, held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, and flip Florida’s 18th Congressional District, held by Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast.

Last month, NextGen America announced it was backing Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the Democratic primary for Governor and that it would put $1 million behind his bid — $500,000 via a grant from Steyer to Gillum’s political committee, Forward Florida, with the other half coming from elsewhere.

That adds up to $5.5 million in commitments this cycle, and with the new political committee there could be more announcements on the way.

Florida Democrats say ‘no GOP seat is safe’ in 2018

A record number Democratic candidates qualified for state races this week, and the Florida Democratic Party said now it’s time to prepare for the “Blue Wave.”

“From the Gubernatorial race, to State House and Senate, to county commissioners and mayors, we have the most qualified, committed, and exciting group of candidates we have ever seen,” said FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo.

“We have a record number of people who have stepped up to run, and what this shows us is that no GOP seat is safe. After nearly 20-years of all-Republican rule, Floridians are fed-up with economic policies that don’t benefit working families, they are tired of their children’s education being shortchanged, and they are tired of leaders who have failed to take action on everything from gun violence prevention to climate change.”

Rizzo also touted a record-breaking 82 Democratic women making the ballot for state legislative races.

“Women will be the difference in 2018, I do truly believe that. They are instrumental to the success of the Democratic Party, and they feel more empowered than ever to take their future into their own hands by running for office,” she said.

It’s too early to tell whether Democrats can crack the GOP’s hold on state government by flipping the Governor’s Mansion, or possibly even the state Senate, but now that the title cards are set it’s clear heretofore underdogs’ strategy is more reminiscent of Rocky than Glass Joe.

Republicans currently hold a 23-16 advantage in Florida Senate, with one vacancy. Democrats plan to take the chamber back has been clear for months — flip Tampa Bay and field fresh, credible challengers in Gainesville-based SD 8, Lakeland-based SD 22 and Miami-Dade-based SD 36. Win five, win the Senate.

On the Tampa Bay front, Democrats have recruited House Minority Leader Janet Cruz to challenge Republican Sen. Dana Young in SD 18; former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy to take on former Republican Rep. Ed Hooper in SD 16, and trial attorney Carrie Pilon to challenge St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes in SD 24. None of those races will be easy, but the 2018 crop of candidates is certainly more competitive than in 2016.

In SD 8, the party likes its odds with Kayser Enneking, and she’s done her part by pulling in a respectable amount of cash for her campaign. Incumbent Republican Sen. Keith Perry still leads her in fundraising, but not by near the margin found in the Tampa races.

The fundraising gap and Republican lean is more significant in SD 22, where former circuit court judge Bob Doyel is challenging Lakeland Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel. He’s a much more formidable opponent however than the 2016 Democratic nominee, Debra Wright, who to her credit still came within 7 points despite being outspent 20-to-1.

Time will tell on David Perez’ bid against Republican Rep. Manny Diaz in SD 36. Diaz is a popular and very well-funded, and Perez has only been in the race for a couple of weeks.

While the Senate roadmap is known, Florida Democrats have been less direct about their overall strategy to chip away at the GOP’s sizable majority in the House.

Republicans currently have a stranglehold on the chamber, which is split 76-41 with three vacancies. Two of those empty seats are Republican locks, and the third was a gimme for Democrats — congrats to Boynton Beach Democrat Joseph Casello, who was elected to HD 90 without opposition Friday.

At 42 seats, the party is still a dozen from the number that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and in 2018 the strategy in the lower chamber reflects a familiar adage: “You must be present to win.”

To that end, Democrats are fielding a candidate in over 100 districts, a marked increase from the 63 Democrats who took a shot in 2016. And it’s not all quantity over quality — a cursory glance the 95 House races that weren’t decided Friday jogs the memory on some of the strong candidates running under the Democratic Party banner.

In Orlando’s HD 47, Anna Eskamani has strong odds to flip the seat vacated by Republican Rep. Mike Miller. In Broward-based HD 93, Emma Collum has a genuine chance to succeed term-limited Republican Rep. George Moraitis. And in perennial target HD 63, Fentrice Driskell is raising cash and landing endorsements as she aims to unseat Tampa Republican Rep. Shawn Harrison.

Even in some districts previously thought of as moonshots, some real-deal candidates have shown up and gotten to work. In Sarasota’s HD 74, for instance, Tony Mowry is confident he can hand James Buchanan his second defeat of the year in a traditionally Republican seat. Tracye Polson is matching her GOP opponents in fundraising in her bid to flip HD 15, the seat vacated by Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jay Fant.

Blake Dowling: Social engineering

Do you need a break from Putnam, Donald, Kim and all the other headlines raging this week in the Sunshine State and our nation?

How ‘bout we talk cybersecurity, so you can make sure you have all the bases covered (baseball analogy for the upcoming College World Series).

Are you familiar with “social engineering?” The term gets thrown around a lot in cybersecurity circles, but according to Webroot:

“Social engineering is the art of manipulating people, so they give up confidential information. The types of information these criminals are seeking can vary, but when individuals are targeted the criminals are usually trying to trick you into giving them your passwords or bank information, or access your computer to secretly install malicious software — that will give them access to your passwords and bank information as well as giving them control over your computer.”

In the political, lobbying and business world we live in, we have long, complex passwords, perimeter security devices, layered anti-spam and anti-virus tools, someone watching the network with a remote monitoring tool, real-time backups, etc.

Social engineering bypasses all that.

I am sure everyone remembers former Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta. He got a bogus email from Google, saying he must change his password now, which he did. It was subsequently stolen (as it was not really from Google).

The ramifications were significant, as we all know.

Now think about how former CIA Director John Brennan’s personal email account was similarly hacked. That’s right. The CIA.

Hackers called Brennan’s internet provider, Verizon, and claimed to be from Verizon customer service trying to fix an issue with their client. They didn’t stop until they had his Social Security number.

The hackers took that info, did a password reset and — presto — complete access to all his email.

In Florida, I have personally seen phishing attempts to local, association and lobbying entities were hackers dig up info on key personnel in the organization, an attempt to impersonate them.

If your email address is posted on your website, the bad guys can find it. They then create a fake domain resembling yours and reference something in the news to make the email sound legit and ask for money.

As an example, Bob gets an email from his accounting person saying they need $4K to put on a rally in Miami, the individual needs the money wired because they “can’t use a credit card.”

You would think there’s no way this would work, but occasionally it does. I have seen it happen.

Last week, I took a call from a client who said Microsoft is calling them to do some maintenance and needs their password. As I have said before it is hard enough to get a call through to Microsoft, they certainly never call you for anything, ever. This is an attempt at a hack. What if you have an intern at your office or a campaign volunteer. Do they know about this? Or would they give their password to “Microsoft” putting all of your data in jeopardy?

Sometimes you can’t even trust the security companies as widely known security giant, Kaspersky was hijacked, or maybe even involved in some cyber shenanigans.

Here in Florida, we must protect ourselves every day, especially with some huge elections on the horizon.

Just like college football (and elections), Texas, California and Florida are the states you want to watch, and all eyes — including hackers — will be looking this way. Just like last time.

Make sure you and everyone on your team are ready.

___

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

The Keiser Bunch - Belinda Keiser

FMA slams ‘blue wave’ Belinda Keiser in new ad

A political committee tied to the Florida Medical Association released a new ad Wednesday hammering Belinda Keiser, who is running as a Republican in the special election for Senate District 25.

FMA is backing Stuart Republican Rep. Gayle Harrell in the SD 25 race, which is opening up this year due to the early exit of Senate President Joe Negron.

“The Keiser Bunch,” as the title hints, borrows heavily from the intro to Sherwood Schwartz’s famous 1970s sitcom to cast Keiser as a faux Republican, still in league with the Democrats she’s been donating to for decades.

Keiser takes center square in the Better Florida Fund Corp ad while Democrats Hillary Clinton, Charlie Crist, Bob Graham, Al Gore, Alcee Hastings, Buddy MacKay, Bill Nelson and Debbie Wasserman Shultz fill out the remainder of the grid.

Those eight Democrats got a spot in The Keiser Bunch because they’re among the better-known Democrats who have received campaign contributions from Keiser, but that list isn’t exhaustive.

“Here’s the story of Belinda Keiser moving from Parkland to run as a Republican for Senate. She’s donated thousands to Democrats like ‘crooked Hillary,’ Al Gore, Debbie Wasserman Shultz and not one dime to President [Donald] Trump. And she’s even run for office as a Democrat,” the ad narrator states.

The ad then pans over a spreadsheet showing dozens of donations Keiser made to Democratic politicians over the years. Federal candidates alone have received $141,667 from the Keiser University chancellor, add in state-level candidates and the Florida Democratic Party and that figure approaches nearly $200,000 without adding in the funds she used to boost her failed campaign as a Democrat for state House.

Those aren’t all old contribs, either — just six months ago she cut a $1,000 check to Plantation Sen. Lauren Book, and in July 2017 Crist, now a Congressman, received a $2,500 check.

“Blue wave Belinda has paid her dues to the left, but this Broward County Democrat won’t fool us. Vote no on ‘blue wave’ Belinda Keiser,” the ad concludes.

Keiser’s palatial Parkland home is 80 miles away from the southern border of SD 25, which covers all of St. Lucie and Martin counties, along with a small portion of Palm Beach County. Despite the long trek, she filed for the seat using the address of Keiser University’s St. Lucie campus shortly after Negron’s announcement.

Since then she’s attempted to paint herself as a loyal Trump supporter who has been a member of the Republican Party since the turn of the century, though a cursory search of her own statements shows she joined the GOP no earlier than 2007.

The ad is below.

Steve Schale: Florida, persuasion or turnout, or both?

In the never-ending quest to simplify Florida, one of the ongoing debates about winning the state is whether Florida is a state won by winning persuadable voters, or whether it is all about turning out one’s base.

I remember when I started with Barack Obama, I got a ton of advice — most of it unsolicited (much was helpful), though a significant portion went something like this:

“Steve, nothing matters but I-4 … Steve, if you don’t maximize the Jewish vote, you can’t win … Steve, the field is dumb, it is an air war state … Steve, TV is dumb, it is a field war state … Steve, you have to do better with absentees … Steve, don’t waste money trying to convince Democrats to vote by mail … Steve, you have to watch your floor in North Florida, or you can’t win … Steve, you have to take Obama to Condo X, or you won’t win … Steve, you have to pay for bus benches in Miami, or you can’t win.”

You get the point.

Here is the secret — all of it matters. Florida is neither a persuasion state or a turnout state. It is, in my honest opinion, both. It doesn’t matter if it is a presidential cycle or a midterm year, Florida is a state about managing margins, everywhere.

Avid readers of my blog (thank you to all three of you) have read me refer to Florida as a self-correcting scale. The bases of both parties do a nice job of balancing — or canceling themselves out, almost regardless of population or demographic shifts.

Before we go any further — it is important to note that this phenomenon is almost exclusively a result of my party losing vote share among non-Hispanic whites. If we were winning non-Hispanic whites at a level anywhere near Obama 2008, based on the demographic shifts in Florida, we would be a leaning to likely Democratic state.

At the same time — if Florida wasn’t experiencing demographic changes — and the Republicans weren’t losing share among voters of color — particularly Hispanics, we would be a predictably Republican state. Functionally, if either party can broaden their own coalition, Florida quickly gets less competitive.

But these two factors have largely canceled each other out — hence the self-correcting scale.

Let’s review quickly how Democrats and Republicans win Florida.

Because I am a Democrat, let’s start there. Democrats earn their votes in a handful of counties, specifically: Leon, Gadsden, Alachua, Hillsborough, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Broward, and Dade.

Winning Democratic candidates typically do a few other things: win Pinellas, win St. Lucie, win a few North Florida counties like Jefferson, maintain reasonable margins counties like in Duval, Sarasota, Volusia, and Seminole. They also maintain a reasonable floor in North Florida, suburban/exurban counties around I-4 and the Fort Myers media market.

For Republicans, their math is a little different — they win a lot more counties but by relatively smaller counties. Their win comes from winning in places like Pinellas and St. Lucie as well as running up the score in places like Duval, the suburban and exurban counties around I-4, and in southwest Florida.

I’ve written extensively about this dynamic in presidential cycles. You can read my primer on Florida here, or my 2016 debrief here and here, but in short, I would argue there was a lot of misreading of the Obama wins in Florida.

Yes, they were driven by significantly increasing the margins in the Democratic base counties over John Kerry and growing them in 2012. But here’s the thing — that alone wouldn’t have won the state. In both 08 and 12, Obama generally kept the margins in check in the GOP counties — and he won the few battleground counties that exist in Florida.

Take Obama 12 and Hillary Clinton 16 — both races decided by a roughly 1 percent margin. For all the chatter about a “less than enthusiastic” Democratic base, Clinton won the base Democratic counties by more than Obama did.

Her problem wasn’t turnout. Her problem was Trump winning the few battleground counties and setting records in both share of the vote and actual vote margins in those places where they must run up the score to win, and where we need to keep it in check.

I can read your mind — “That’s interesting Steve, but this is a midterm cycle, and you know it is different.”

Yes, it is — and no it isn’t.

Yes, it’s different because the electorate is smaller, and at least in the last two cycles, been more Republican (a fact impacted by two consecutive midterm waves for the GOP), which was a change from 06, where turnout marginally leaned Democratic (and Dems won 2 statewide races).

But there are a lot of similarities between the presidential and midterm cycles. Both Republicans and Democrats still need to carry their margins in the same counties as they do in presidential cycles. While the vote totals are different in individual regions and counties are different, the functional roadmaps for winning isn’t.

Rick Scott won two elections by a point. However, the shape of those wins was quite different, and in those differences lies the path to how the Democrats can win in 2018.

In 2010, the Democratic struggles were a creature of three real problems: Hispanic drop-off from 2008, lower participation among white Democrats particularly in Central Florida, and a wave of GOP and GOP-leaning NPA voters who saw voting for the GOP as a way to send a message to President Obama.

From a math standpoint, this led to lower than necessary margins in South and Central Florida base counties. But here is the thing, Scott ran up some very large margins in parts of the state, Alex Sink kept him in check in many others. In fact, she kept him in check by more than enough in many GOP counties to have a winning coalition if the Democratic counties had performed well. But they didn’t.

The lesson of Sink: Florida isn’t alone a persuasion state.

Charlie Crist’s math in 2014 was quite different. Crist ran on a far more progressive platform than Sink, with a fairly robust turnout operation — certainly not the size of Obama, but the largest in midterm cycle history for Florida Democrats, and as a result succeeded to run up the score in the base Democratic counties, winning the three South Florida counties by almost 100,000 more votes than Sink. He also did well enough in the “Crist counties” — the stretch from Pasco through Sarasota, where his brand is most established, winning those counties by almost 2.5 percent, where Sink lost them by a half of a point.

But the floor fell out for him in North Florida. Despite North Florida shrinking as a percentage of the electorate from 2010 (20 percent) to 2014 (19 percent), Crist lost the region by 8 percent more than Sink did, netting Scott’s margin roughly 107,000 more votes, more than wiping out the gains Crist made in the base Democratic counties (97,000 votes).

One other way of looking at it, Crist won the base Democratic counties by 92,000 more votes than Sink did. He lost everything else by 95,000 more votes than Sink. The lesson of Crist, as was also the lesson of Clinton: Florida isn’t alone a turnout state.

If Clinton has her margins in the base counties, plus Obama’s elsewhere, she wins by a point or two.

If Sink had her math, plus Crist’s margins in the base counties, he wins by about a point. If Crist has his margins, plus Sink’s margins only in North Florida, he wins by almost a point.

2018 will be different yet.

The Democratic nominee will benefit from an electorate that is more diverse, meaning the base county margins should rise, and I think there is a lot of room for growth in the Orlando urban core. However, at the same time, they will be unlikely to be able to count on some the margins Crist won in his corner of the state and will have to contend with areas where the GOP population is growing.

The questions aren’t as simple as how do we turnout more voters, but also have to include questions like how do we keep Duval looking more like it did for Obama, Clinton, and Sink than it did for Scott in 14 or Rubio?

For Republicans, they must deal with the fact demographics are changing in a way that helps the Democrats, and that 2018, unlike 2010 and 2014, will almost surely not be a very good Republican year, as we’ve seen in each of the competitive special and off-cycle elections this year.

I believe that in Scott/Nelson, as well as in the Governor’s race, Florida starts this year somewhere around 47-47 — maybe even 48-48, and we will be fighting over the path to that remaining 150,000 votes or so that a winning candidate will need.

Some of those votes are found by increasing turnout, others won and lost in the persuasion fight. The candidate who wins in 2018 won’t find those votes by getting just one of those things right, they will succeed in building the right answer to a puzzle.

That is just how Florida works these days.

Ron DeSantis hasn’t always been a full-throated supporter of Donald Trump

If there is one thing fueling Ron DeSantis’ ambition to be Florida governor, it is this: A full-throated endorsement (on Twitter, at least) from President Donald Trump.

But when Congressman Matt Gaetz takes to Breitbart to say “Trump knows he can trust DeSantis to make tough decisions,” it seems as if DeSantis also has the president’s back.

That has not always been the case

For DeSantis tosuggest he has always been a strong Trump supporter involves some revisionist history.

Looking back over the past few years, it’s clear DeSantis began bolstering the president only when it became politically expedient.

For example, as Tampa Bay Times’ Adam Smith noted in Sept. 2015, DeSantis sounded as if he favored Marco Rubio over Trump: “DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach tells The Buzz he is staying out of it, but in a recent 20-minute conversation he mentioned Rubio at least three times. When we suggested that he sounded like a Rubio guy, DeSantis acknowledged he likes the idea of Rubio facing Hillary Clinton: ‘He would be a good contrast, There’s no doubt about it.’”

A few months later, DeSantis was again hesitant to weigh in on Trump.

“No response so far to multiple requests for comment,” Smith wrote about asking DeSantis his feelings on then-candidate Trump’s call for a Muslim ban.

And during the Republican presidential primaries, DeSantis was still not a fan, telling “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren” Feb. 25, 2016, that he was NOT endorsing Trump.

“Sir, you haven’t endorsed anyone?” host Van Susteren asked. “No.”

DeSantis campaign spokesman Brad Herold later clarified to the Times: “DeSantis has long decided to remain neutral in the presidential primary and is focused on building a broad coalition for his Senate campaign.’”

In other words, he was not a Trump devotee at the time.

Soon afterward (March 14), the National Journal reported on DeSantis’ response to being asked point-blank if he would support Trump as the Republican nominee.

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera said: “I don’t think I could.” DeSantis, on the other hand, “refused to answer the question altogether, saying, ‘I just don’t want to. … You can either run your own race, or you can make comments about other races.’”

By May, instead of full-fledged support, DeSantis only offered a tepid approval, mainly because Trump was “the Republican nominee.”

Again, the Miami Herald noted the congressman’s long-standing reluctance: “… DeSantis plans to vote for Trump. ‘The congressman has been clear that he will support the Republican nominee,’ campaign manager Brad Herold said. As recently as March, DeSantis would not endorse.”

While an actual endorsement wasn’t forthcoming, DeSantis’ real intent was a little clearer.

On May 6, Mark Harper of the Daytona Beach News-Journal wrote: “…While the GOP is not rallying in full support of Trump-for-president, it’s more unified in a sentiment stuck to [suntan lotion magnate Ron] Rice’s door: STOP HILLARY. That’s how a statement from U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis reads. ‘Electing Hillary Clinton will continue America’s journey down the wrong track.’”

At that point, DeSantis’ only mention of Trump was anything but a ringing endorsement. In fact, it seemed more like resignation: “It is now clear that Donald Trump will accumulate the delegates necessary to be nominated by the Republican Party. If we want to defeat Hillary Clinton and have a chance to change the trajectory of our country, we need to unite behind the Republican ticket this November.”

Making matters worse for DeSantis comes by way of new reporting from POLITICO Florida.

On Monday, Matt Dixon noted the largest donation to DeSantis’ political committee in April came from Andy Khawaja, a major Democratic donor. Khawaja, a California payment processing executive and founder of Allied Wallet, gave the committee $100,000. His affiliated company, E-Payment Solutions, Inc., gave another $100,000 to DeSantis’ committee in February.

“This election cycle, he and his company have already given $1 million to Senate Majority PAC, which supports Democratic U.S. Senate candidates, including Sen. Bill Nelson,” Dixon writes. “The super PAC is funding $2 million in ads supporting Nelson, calling him ‘one of America’s most independent Senators.’”

In 2016, Khawaja and his company gave nearly $6.5 million to Democrats, including more than $1 million to Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Revisionist history – and $200K Democratic backing – is not a good look for DeSantis, a candidate who claims to proudly carry the conservative banner, as well as Trump’s support.

Belinda Keiser

Belinda Keiser’s Democratic donations may trouble SD 25 Republican voters

Keiser University Vice Chancellor Belinda Keiser announced her bid for Senate District 25 Tuesday, but her past political contributions to Democrats should raise some questions about her attractiveness to Republican primary voters.

SD 25, held by exiting Senate President Joe Negron, covers St. Lucie and Martin counties as well as a piece of northern inland Palm Beach County.

Keiser University’s home base is also in Fort Lauderdale, though it has campuses all over the state, so a donation or two to Democrats in the largely blue South Florida county could be spun by Keiser as being pragmatic — in the age of Donald Trump, she may well say it’s evidence that “our system is broken” and, as a businesswoman, she had to do it.

That might serve as adequate cover for her donation to U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, who represents Keiser’s Parkland home in Congress. Ditto for her contribs to CD 20 U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, whose district includes Keiser University’s main campus, or Debbie Wasserman Shultz, who represents neighboring CD 23.

That same logic could apply to the checks she wrote former U.S. Reps. Peter Deutsch, Ron Klein and Robert Wexler, but at that point the “had-to-do-it” column is overfilled to the point of bursting.

Assuming Republican voters can look past those, which is a big ask, there’s a veritable host of candidates Keiser has supported that simply won’t be glossed over.

Keiser has cut checks to the failed presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Al Gore, to St. Petersburg U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. To top it all off, she’s donated to the Democratic National Committee and former California U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Sure, Charlie was a Republican once. And yes, he’s one of the Sunshine State’s most likable pols — he could teach a masterclass in retail politics. But that kind of logic won’t play well among Rick Scott voters. Same goes for Nelson. It doesn’t matter that SD 25 voters re-elected him by 10 points in 2012 — Keiser’s task of making them remember that is doomed in an election year where Nelson is standing in the way of a Scott Senate campaign.

And those Clinton and Gore donations. Yeesh. That’s going to be a hard one to sell in a district that voted overwhelmingly for Trump.

Then there’s the donations to Boxer and the DNC. There is simply no way to sidestep those.

A Republican who gives to their Democratic congressman? Fine. No GOP candidate is going to take down Deutch, anyway. A Republican who prefers Clinton to Trump? Not the best look in a primary campaign, but she’s definitely not alone on that one.

But in what world is someone who cuts checks to the DNC and boosts the campaign accounts of out-of-state Democrats considered anything other than a Democratic fundraiser? Not this one.

Good luck, Belinda. You’ll need it.

Jay Fant

Email insights: Jay Fant chides Ashley Moody over trial lawyer support

Jacksonville state Rep. Jay Fant knocked former judge Ashley Moody in a Tuesday email for campaign contributions she’s received from trial lawyers.

Fant and Moody, along with Dover Rep. Ross Spano and Pensacola Rep. Frank White, are competing in the Republican primary to replace termed out Attorney General Pam Bondi in the fall.

“Ashley Moody, who has won the backing of trial lawyers nationally and in Florida, has now surpassed the $100,000 mark in contributions from 90 trial lawyers and firms,” the Fant campaign said in the email.

“Moody’s mentor and former President of the liberal American Bar Association, Martha Barnett, is leading the charge. Barnett, who has close ties to Hillary Clinton, was reported to be ‘rainmaking for Moody’ and the checks from liberal special interests are certainly rolling in.”

The memo, complete with a spreadsheet showing $108,000 in contributions from attorneys, asks businesses to “pay close attention to the significant support Ashley Moody has secured from lawyers who advertise on TV” before laying out a final jab on trial lawyers.

“Trial lawyers want a revolving door for class action suits against successful businesses and it’s clear their candidate in the Attorney General’s race is Ashley Moody,” the message concluded.

The $108,000 listed in the email represents a small fraction of Moody’s $1.8 million raised, with majority of those dollars coming from the business community.

The email went out after Tampa Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw filed his first report as an AG candidate, showing about half of the $240,000 in his campaign coming from trial lawyers, as well as a $15,000 check from Swope Rodante to his committee.

That sum easily bests Moody’s total from the trial bar through her nine months in the race, making the Fant camp’s email look even more like another instance of him singling out Moody in the four-way race — remember the one-man debate White and Spano didn’t get an invite for?

The attack from Fant also follows recent reports on the mysterious origins of the $750,000 loan he made to his campaign back in September.

Sitting lawmakers are required to list their assets in financial disclosures, and Fant’s disclosures don’t show where that much money could have come from if not from an outside source, such as his wife.

Personnel note: Justin Day heads to Capital City Consulting

Capital City Consulting (CCC) has hired Justin Day away from The Advocacy Group (TAG), the company has announced.

Day now will open a new office in the Tampa Bay area with CCC partner Dan Newman.

It’s the first satellite office for INFLUENCE Magazine’s 2016 Lobbying Firm of the Year, which is looking to have a greater statewide presence and will continue to grow in other local markets.

“With CCC’s strong growth over the few years, a local office in Tampa is a natural progression,” said Nick Iarossi, the firm’s founding partner. “In fact, we have an eye toward future offices in key local markets to expand the services we can provide clients.”

Added Ron LaFace Jr., another founding partner: “Local market expansion has always been a goal to enhance our client services, but finding the right people is paramount.  

“Justin is a great fit for our firm’s culture, and to enhance our capabilities,” LaFace said. “We are excited to have him and Dan representing us in the Tampa Bay market.”

Day’s departure from The Advocacy Group was an amicable one and the two firms will continue to partner on local and state work, they said.

“We wish Justin the best of luck with CCC’s new Tampa Bay Office,” The Advocacy Group’s Slater Bayliss said. “We look forward to a mutually beneficial strategic relationship with CCC to better serve current and future clients.”

Day said, “I enjoyed my time at TAG and appreciate the smooth transition the great professionals provided me. Opening CCC’s first local office in Tampa Bay with Dan is an exciting endeavor and I’m very happy to be part of such a well-established and growing organization.”

And Newman said, “With our combination of public affairs, campaign and lobbying experience, Justin and I will bring an impactful team to Tampa Bay.”

Day has over 15 years of experience in the political and governmental fields to the firm. He provides guidance to clients that perform business with state, county, and municipal governments, as well as public-private partnerships, public transit, airports, and seaports.  

He also assists clients in all aspects of government affairs and business development including: procurement, regulations, legislation, solicitations, negotiations, teaming, and strategic planning. Day’s clients have interests in the areas of transportation, construction, education, public works, technology, consulting, affordable housing, and the environment.

Prior to joining CCC, Day worked with several Tampa Bay based public entities and private businesses.  

He also worked in senior finance roles on various political campaigns in Florida including U.S. Senate, Governor, Attorney General, and various local campaigns. Day has raised over $13 million dollars for local, state, and federal candidates.  

He is active in national Democratic politics serving on Secretary Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama’s National Finance Committees, and as the Tampa Bay Regional Finance Chairman for President Obama’s re-election campaign.  

In addition, he was a National Co-Chair for the Democratic National Committee’s Gen44 program. Currently, Day is the Deputy Treasurer for the Democratic Governors Association.  

Day has an undergraduate degree in International Affairs and a Masters Degree in Applied American Politics and Policy from Florida State University.  

He is a graduate of Leadership Tallahassee, and sits on numerous community boards including, Hillsborough Community College Foundation Board of Trustees, the Greater Tampa Chamber Board of Directors, AMIkids Inc, Board of Trustees. Additionally, Day serves as an Advisor to Avant-Garde Growth Capital, LLC. He resides in Tampa with wife Elena.

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