Jason Pizzo – Florida Politics
Daphne Campbell

Daphne Campbell lands wave of endorsements ahead of primary battle

Democratic Sen. Daphne Campbell picked up 11 endorsements from her colleagues in the Florida Legislature ahead of her contested primary for another term in Senate District 38.

Incoming House Minority Leader Kionne McGhee and Senate Minority Leader Pro-Tempore Lauren Book topped the list, which also included Democratic Sens. Gary Farmer, Perry Thurston, Darryl Rouson, Kevin Rader, Victor Torres, Lori Berman and Democratic Reps. Bobby Dubose, Ramon Alexander and Wengay Newton.

“I am proud to support my good friend Senator Daphne Campbell in here Re-election campaign. Daphne has been a tireless advocate for the people of Miami Dade county and I look forward to continue working with her in fighting for Democratic principles in the legislature,” McGhee said.

The bulk endorsement comes a week after incoming Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson threw her support behind Campbell’s campaign for a second term.

“I am honored to have the support of my Democratic Colleagues in the Florida Senate and House in my Re-Election Campaign. My colleagues clearly recognize the experience that I bring to the Florida Senate and I am happy to have their support in this race,” Campbell said. “I look forward to working with my Democratic colleagues in supporting issues like expanding Medicaid, banning assault weapons, supporting increased funding for public schools and increasing our states minimum the wage to $15 dollars an hour.”

The Miami lawmaker faces former prosecutor Jason Pizzo in the Democratic Primary. Pizzo was the second-place finisher in the six-way primary for the seat two years ago and around the start of the year he began gearing up to challenge Campbell in the South Florida Senate district.

Pizzo currently has a cash advantage in the race thanks to $75,000 worth of loans. As of April 30, he had raised $152,000 including loans and had $78,200 banked. He also recently announced a half-dozen endorsements from mayors within the district.

Campbell has raised about $79,700 so far, none of it from loans, and had $32,500 in the bank heading into May.

No other candidates are challenging Campbell, though a GOP or other party candidate jumping in the race would pose little threat to the eventual Democratic nominee. SD 38 is a blue stronghold that Campbell — and Hillary Clinton — won with 75 percent of the vote in 2016.

Jason Pizzo

Jason Pizzo earns mayoral endorsements in SD 38 race

Former prosecutor Jason Pizzo announced he’s receiving support from several Miami-Dade County mayors in his race to challenge incumbent state Sen. Daphne Campbell.

Among those now supporting Pizzo are Aventura Mayor Enid Weisman, Bay Harbor Islands Mayor Stephanie Bruder, Miami Shores Mayor Mac Glinn, North Miami Beach Mayor Beth Spiegel, and Surfside Mayor Daniel Dietch.

“It’s time we have fresh leadership in Tallahassee fighting for our community, instead of their self-serving interests,” said Pizzo. “As we grow our coalition of support, I’m thankful to have the support of area Mayors who recognize a need for a new direction, and I look forward to continuing our service to the people of Miami-Dade County.”

Pizzo is running for the Senate District 38 seat after finishing second to Campbell in the Democratic primary in 2016. In addition to the endorsements, he’s also brought in more than $100,000 to help fund his primary challenge.

Campbell has also earned her fair share of endorsements, including that of incoming Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson.

Pizzo, who now works as an attorney in Miami, seemed confident in his chances following the latest round of support. “In the weeks ahead, our campaign will be working harder than ever as we meet with voters and get them engaged in this critical election.”

SD 38 represents a portion of northeast Miami-Dade County. The Democratic primary will be held on August 28, followed by the November 6 general election. Currently, no Republicans have filed to run in SD 38.

Audrey Gibson backs Daphne Campbell over Jason Pizzo in SD 38

Incoming Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson weighed in on the Democratic Primary in Senate District 38 Wednesday, announcing she would back incumbent Sen. Daphne Campbell in her race against insurgent challenger Jason Pizzo.

“Today I formally endorse the campaign of Sen. Daphne Campbell in her re-election bid for the state Senate. As a vocal and caring member, Sen. Campbell has worked tirelessly representing the people of Miami-Dade County with thoughtfulness and high standards. I have worked closely with Sen. Campbell and know that she will continue to be a strong voice for the residents of District 38,” Gibson said in a news release.

Gibson’s endorsement comes a little over three months before voters decide whether Campbell, who moved from the House to the Senate in 2016, gets another term in the northeastern Miami-Dade seat.

“I am honored to have the support of the Incoming Senate Democratic Leader, in my race for re-election. Leader Gibson has been a tremendous colleague during my time in the Senate, and I look forward to continuing our work together in Tallahassee,” Campbell said.

Pizzo, a Miami attorney, has had his name down to challenge Campbell since shortly after her election last cycle. He was the second-place finisher in the six-way primary for the seat two years ago, and around the start of the year he began campaigning in earnest with a message of “building bridges in what is Florida’s most diverse state Senate district.”

Since his operation got off the ground, he’s nearly matched Campbell in fundraising with $77,000 raised in three months to her $79,700 raised over 18 months. He’s also laid down $75,000 of his own money, giving his campaign a substantial lead in cash on hand — $78,200 to $32,500.

No other candidates are challenging Campbell, though a GOP or other party candidate jumping in the race would pose little threat to the eventual Democratic nominee. SD 38 is a blue stronghold that Campbell — and Hillary Clinton — won with 75 percent of the vote two years ago.

Jason Pizzo

Jason Pizzo adds another $50K in loans for SD 38 bid

Democrat Jason Pizzo boosted his primary campaign against Sen. Daphne Campbell with another $50,000 in loans last month, bringing his total funding well past the $100,000 mark.

Pizzo has been filed for Senate District 38 since late 2016, but began campaigning in earnest at the beginning of the year. He was the second-place finisher in the six-way Democratic Primary race for the seat in 2016.

The loans made up the bulk of the Miami attorney’s March report, which also saw him add $16,510 in outside money and chip in another $10,605 via “in-kind” support for fundraisers and office supplies.

Outside of his own money, Pizzo brought in a half-dozen checks for $1,000, the maximum contribution for a state Senate campaign.

Those donations came in from Miami realtor Evan Rundle, Red Bank, New Jersey attorney John Giunco, Fort Worth consultant Gianfranco Di Cicco, and St. George Apartments and its managers, Joyce and Argy Maniatopoulos.

Expenditures came in at nearly $30,000, including nearly $9,500 in payments to Stephanie Bromfield & Associates, $8,400 to MDW Communications for campaign consulting and web development and $5,000 to Edge Communications for consulting.

In all, Pizzo has raised $66,679 for his campaign and chipped in $75,000 of his own money. He had $93,240 in the bank heading into April.

Campbell took a step backward in March, with only two fundraising transactions on her report: A $500 check from Carl Nicoleau and an $850 refund to Julio Alfonso.

The negative fundraising was compounded by $1,680 in spending, including a $655 payment to LeRoseau Printing for web development and $375 to Walter Haas for graphic design work.

Since filing for re-election, Campbell has raised $77,434. She had $36,244 banked at the end of March.

Pizzo and Campbell are the only two candidates currently running for Senate District 38, a Democratic stronghold covering a small piece of northeastern Miami-Dade.

Jason Pizzo

Jason Pizzo begins campaign for SD 38

North Miami Beach attorney Jason Pizzo, technically a candidate for Senate District 38 since late 2016, announced Wednesday he is formally launching his campaign for the seat.

SD 38, in Miami, is held by state Sen. Daphne Campbell, a fellow Democrat who beat Pizzo in the 2016 primary. Pizzo finished second in a field of five Democrats. Campbell won the general election over an independent candidate, without a Republican in the race.

Pizzo filed for a rematch a few weeks after the 2016 general election, but as a placeholder for the paperwork, as he assessed the prospect. He has not done any campaign activity or raised any money since.

That changed on Wednesday, as his campaign announced he was officially launching his campaign to challenge Campbell, a former state representative from the area.

Campbell’s re-election campaign most recently reported raising about $65,000, and had about half of that left in the bank at the start of the year. No other candidates have filed for the contest.

A news release said Pizzo is focused on restoring strong ethical leadership.

“As you know, District 38 is a large and wonderfully diverse community, comprised of 15 municipalities, with so many critical issues which bring us together,” Pizzo said in the release. “We want safer streets, more efficient transportation, vibrant neighborhoods, and for working people to stop struggling to make ends meet. We want true equality and protection for both our people, and our precious environment.”

Voters throw cold water on ‘Buy the Land’ candidates in primaries

It is often said that “elections have consequences,” and for those engaged in the political struggle to convince voters to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee, these consequences will soon seem all too real. Among the biggest losers in Tuesday’s primary were candidates who signed the “NowOrNeverGlades” declaration to buy land from Florida sugarcane growers.

Whether Republican or Democrat or at the state, local or federal level, candidates in South and Southwest Florida that tied themselves to environmental activists pushing for buying farmland came up short. This summer, water thick with toxic, blue-green algae spilled onto the shores of the Treasure Coast. Environmental activists seized upon the crisis in a renewed push to blame sugarcane farmers. On Tuesday, in the minds of voters, none of it seemed to matter.

In federal races, losing candidates included South Florida’s Tim Canova, who tried unsuccessfully to tie incumbent opponent Debbie Wasserman-Schultz to the sugar industry. Congressional District 18 candidate Rebecca Negron made buying the land a focal point of a television ad in the later weeks of the campaign against disabled veteran Brian Mast, who won convincingly. In Southwest Florida, former Ambassador to the Holy See Francis Rooney cruised to victory over Chauncey Goss in a bid to replace outgoing Congressman Curt Clawson, a supporter of buying land himself. Goss was among the candidates to sign the activists’ pledge to purchase the land. Others losing candidates supportive of the petition included Dr. Mark Freeman (CD 18) and Annette Taddeo (CD 26).

At the state level, #NowOrNeverglades petition signer Jason Maughan lost a bid challenging incumbent state Sen. Lizbeth Benaquisto. Other petition signers on the losing end were Augie Ribeiro (SD 19), Jason Pizzo (SD 38), Andrew Watt (HD 85), and Tinu Pena (HD 86).

Locally, Lee County Commission candidate Dick Anderson also came up short, as did Martin County Commission candidate Donna Melzer on the Treasure Coast. So did Martin County Republican challenger and “buy the land” supporter Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, as did incumbent Anne Scott in their county commission bids.

Other losers in this debate are the Treasure Coast Newspapers, which have gone all in for buying land. This summer, the Stuart News editor Eve Samples walked the beaches of Martin County urging residents to sign petitions to buy land south of Lake Okeechobee. The petitions were then delivered to Gov. Rick Scott’s office by her colleague and fellow opinion writer Gil Smart. Apparently, voters on the Treasure Coast were unfazed by the paper’s activism masquerading as journalism.

Big winners are political teams for U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals, who have a knack for picking the right horses on both sides of the aisle. As noted before, this success isn’t winning them any favor with the Miami Herald, but in the halls of the U.S. Capitol and the Florida Legislature, it’s good to be king.

Jason Pizzo releases first SD 38 ad

Jason Pizzo is out with his first advertisement, pledging to fight for commonsense gun legislation if elected.

“While gun violence continues to rip our communities apart, typical politicians do nothing,” the Miami-Dade Democrat says in his first television advertisement. “I’m running to change that.”

He continues: “As a former state prosecutor, I took on criminals who exploited our seniors and those who brought pain to our children and their families. As your state senator, I will fight for commonsense laws that take illegal guns off our streets.”

Pizzo also vowed to give Florida workers a “living wage.”

The 30-second spot — called “Leadership” — will air on cable networks and targeted broadcast stations. Pizzo faces Democrats Anis Blemur, Kevin A. Burns, Daphne Campbell, Don Festge, and Michael Gongora in Senate District 38.

“I am proud of the strong campaign we continue to run as we engage directly with residents on how we can bring renewed Democratic leadership to the Florida Senate,” said Pizzo in a statement. “We have the support from a diverse group of elected and community leaders, organizations, and residents who believe it’s time for Tallahassee to be more responsive to the people.”

The primary is Aug. 30.

24 hours before qualifying, Democratic Senate candidate was a registered Republican

Bruce Kaplan was a Republican until last Thursday. On Friday, he qualified to run for the Florida Senate as a Democrat.

According to LobbyTools, that might present a problem for the newly minted Senate District 38 candidate. Florida statutes require candidates to switch parties no less than a year before the start of qualifying.

Kaplan, notes the Miami Herald, is 368 days too late.

Miami-Dade elections record shows Kaplan, 56, was a registered Republican until June 23, 2016. State law mandates that Kaplan should have been a Democrat since June 20, 2015, to be eligible to run as a Democrat.

With that, Kaplan, a former Miami-Dade County commissioner, may not be a Democratic candidate for much longer.

Alex Daugherty of The Miami Herald writes that Kaplan signed the official candidate oath, which states: “I have not been a registered member of any other political party for 365 days before the beginning of qualifying preceding the general election for which I seek to qualify.”

The Florida Division of Elections does not control whether a candidate has violated the election oath before filing to run for office.

“The filing officer performs a ministerial function in reviewing qualifying papers,” FDOE spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice told the Herald. “The filing officer may not determine whether the contents of the qualifying papers are accurate.”

Candidates who were previously not registered to vote or have registered with no party affiliation can run in a party’s primary, as long as they join before the deadline to qualify.

In response to Kaplan’s entry, consultant Christian Ulvert, who works for Democratic rival Jason Pizzo, filed a lawsuit Thursday in Florida’s 11th Circuit Court.

Joe Geller will not join SD 38 race vacated by Gwen Margolis

Rep. Joe Geller announced Wednesday he will not run for the state Senate in Miami-Dade County-based Senate District 38. He was exploring a run for the safe Democratic seat.

The announcement comes after Sen. Gwen Margolis declared she would not run for the seat, bringing her 2016 plans to an abrupt end.

“While serving in the Senate would certainly be a new challenge, particularly given the district itself, I will not be a candidate for Senate District 38,” said Geller in a statement.

“I am honored to serve the people of House District 100 as their Representative, and I am fully committed to seeking re-election to that position. I have a lot left to do as a member of the House, and I am dedicated to the ambitious agenda I have pursued for justice, equality, fairness, safety and prosperity,” said Geller.

He gestured toward the retirement of the “legendary” Margolis — who recently dropped her bid for the seat amid fallout from a disparaging comment she made about her opponents — as the impetus for his announcement.

Miami Rep. Daphne Campbell and self-funder Jason Pizzo are among the five candidates currently squaring off to replace Margolis in a Democratic primary.

Miami Beach Rep. David Richardson also announced this week he would take a pass on a Senate run in SD 38.

Geller’s safe Democratic seat consists mostly of Aventura, a large suburban city north of North Miami Beach.

The latest musical chairs in play in South Florida’s legislative races

More shake-ups in South Florida’s legislative races may be coming down the pike.

According to a top South Florida Democratic political consultant, Andrew Korge may jump into the Senate District 40 race. That decision would set up a three-way Democratic primary between Korge, Dwight Bullard, and Ana Rivas Logan.

Korge is currently running in Senate District 39 and does not face a primary challenge. He is gearing up for a tough general election battle against Republican Sen. Anitere Flores.

The race between the two is already shaping up to be one of the most expensive legislative races this election cycle, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

If Korge makes the leap, his decision would likely put pressure on Bullard, a longtime Democratic state senator, to move into Senate District 38.

A jump into nearby Senate District 38 would pit him against five other Democrats — Anis Blemur, Phillip Brutus, Daphne Campbell, Don Festge and Jason Pizzo. Sen. Gwen Margolis dropped her re-election bid and announced she was retiring.

His entry into the Senate District 38 could narrow the field, and may put pressure on Pizzo to get out of the race or move to Senate District 39 to face off against Flores.

If Korge moves districts, Flores would only face Sheila Lucas George, a no party affiliation candidate, come November.

One question that would remain is whether Annette Taddeo would end her congressional bid and jump into the Senate District 39 race.

The anticipated moves are just the latest string of changes in South Florida. On Monday, Rep. Irv Slosberg dropped his re-election bid and announced he was planning to run for state Senate in SD 29. He’ll face Rep. Kevin Rader, who announced last week he was running for Senate instead of re-election.

Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, meanwhile, will run is House District 81. Rader currently holds that seat.

Qualifying for state legislative races ends at noon on June 24.

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