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Jeff Brandes still up double digits in SD 24 re-election battle

St. Pete Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes is sitting pretty a month out from Election Day according to a new poll of his contest against Democratic nominee Lindsay Cross.

A new St. Pete Polls survey, commissioned by Florida Politics, found the longtime lawmaker with an 11-point lead over Cross, 52-41 percent with the remaining 7 percent of voters in the Pinellas County district unsure how they’ll vote come November.

The fresh poll, conducted Oct. 6 and 7, shows a marked decrease in undecided voters from St. Pete Polls’ previous measure. That poll, released in mid-August, showed Brandes with a 39-19 percent lead over Cross, putting them both behind “undecided,” which accounted for 42 percent of likely voters.

Brandes’ lead skyrockets among the one-in-seven voters who said they had already cast their ballot. That crowd preferred the U.S. Army veteran by a 32 percent margin, though 6 percent of them said they were “undecided” — whether that means the SD 24 contest will present a bundle of undervotes or that the Pinellas electorate is suffering from memory loss is unclear.

The race was tighter among those who said they hadn’t voted yet but that they planned on making it to the polls, with Brandes pulling an even 50 percent of the vote to Cross’ 42 percent.

Other good news for Brandes: 51 percent of likely SD 24 voters said they had a favorable view of President Donald Trump, giving him a plus-6 favorability rating within the boundaries of the southern Pinellas seat. That rating represents a 1 percentage point drop from the margin-of-victory SD 24 voters handed Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

Brandes also scored high marks among his constituents, who see him favorably by a 49-27 percent margin. He fared even better among those who’ve already ticked a box, earning a plus-39 percent favorability rating. Those who haven’t voted yet look poised to stay the course as well. They see the incumbent positively by a 19-point margin.

The St. Pete Republican also got a boost on Monday by way of an endorsement from FMA PAC, the political arm of the Florida Medical Association.

“The FMA PAC is proud to endorse Senator Jeff Brandes for re-election. We’ve worked closely with him during his time in the House and Senate and we look forward to continuing our work to ensure Florida patients have the very best health care,” said committee president Mike Patete.

Cross, meanwhile, is improving but still treading water when it comes to name ID. She earned a plus-5 favorability rating overall; a minus-8 among early voters; and a plus 8 among those who’ve yet to vote.

In each instance, however, more than a quarter of respondents said they didn’t know enough to have an opinion on Cross, who recently left as executive director of the Florida Wildlife Corridor.

Brandes’ lead is partially attributable to his strong support among Republicans and independent voters, whom he leads 81-15 percent and 47-42 percent, respectively. The Democratic base isn’t as keen on Cross — 70 percent of Dem voters said they would back her, but a fifth say they’re on Team Brandes.

Further down the poll, Brandes holds a clear lead among nearly every slice of the electorate. He holds a 16-point lead among non-Hispanic white voters, who make up 90 percent of the voting age population according to U.S. Census data. He also edges out Cross among men, women, Millennials, Gen Xers, Boomers and older voters.

SD 24 covers most of southern Pinellas County except for the tip of the peninsula, which is included in neighboring SD 19. According to the most recent bookclosing report published by the Florida Division of Elections, Republicans hold a 4-point advantage in voter registrations within the district, which voted in favor of Barack Obama twice before going for Trump in 2016.

Cross entered the race at the end of July, a few weeks after Florida Democrat’s prior pick, trial lawyer Carrie Pilonwithdrew from the contest due to the unexpected health problems of a close family member. During her brief tenure in the race, Pilon worked up from a 9-point deficit in late May to within striking distance by early July.

Though Cross had a lot of ground to gain in name recognition, she’s also been vastly outraised by Brandes, who has raised nearly $919,000 in hard money, including $300,000 from his personal fortune. Adding in the $433,000 he has socked away in his political committee, Liberty Florida, Brandes had $858,000 left to spend on Sept. 28.

Cross, meanwhile, only just broke the six-figure mark for her campaign account and had about $65,000 banked through the same date.

The St. Pete Polls survey received 770 responses from registered voters within SD 24’s borders and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

Election Day is Nov. 6.


Jeff Brandes is a client of Extensive Enterprises Media, the holding company that owns

Environmental group launches ad buy supporting Kayser Enneking, Lindsay Cross

The Florida Conservation Voters Action Fund said Wednesday that it’s putting $250,000 behind a digital ad campaign supporting the Democrats challenging Gainesville Sen. Keith Perry and St. Petersburg Sen. Jeff Brandes in the fall.

The ad supporting Gainesville Democrat Kayser Enneking’s campaign in Senate District 8 hits Perry for his “disastrous ‘toilet to tap’ bill.” That measure, which was panned by environmental groups and vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott, would have allowed chemically treated, recycled water to be pumped into the state’s underground aquifer.

“You have a choice for Florida Senate District 8,” the 15-second ad says. “Keith Perry, author of the toilet to tap bill that even Rick Scott thought was too disgusting to become law, or Dr. Kayser Enneking, a physician who knows the value of clean water and our natural resources. On Nov. 6, who will you pick.”

The ad backing St. Pete Democrat Lindsay Cross hammers Brandes for his “votes to cut important funding to our water management agencies.” That statement refers to a 2011 bill Brandes voted for that capped the funds Water Management Districts can collect to perform their duties.

“Voting on Nov. 6? Republican incumbent Jeff Brandes voted to cut red tide funding. We could use some of that right now,” the SD 24 ad says. “Environmental scientist Lindsay Cross will fight for funding to combat red tide disasters. Vote Lindsay Cross for Florida Senate District 24.”

In a press release announcing the ads FCV Action Fund’s deputy director, Jonathan Webber, said Floridians could pin the blame for “our almost never-ending environmental problems” on Perry and Brandes.

“Year after year, bill after bill, Perry and Brandes have supported some of the most irresponsible ideas to ever pass through the Legislature,” Webber said. “Their abysmal record speaks for itself, and it’s clear: Perry and Brandes lack the basic common sense to be trusted with our water.”

The group also crafted a list of environmental bills it opposed that earned a yes vote from Perry or Brandes stretching back to when both Republicans were members of the Florida House.

SD 8 and SD 24 are top targets for the Florida Democratic Party in November.

Democrats hold an 8-point registration advantage in SD 8, which includes Alachua and Putnam counties as well as northern Marion, though Perry and Donald Trump both won the district two years ago. In 2018, Enneking has been competitive on the fundraising front but trails in the most recent public poll of the contest.

SD 24 covers most of southern Pinellas County except for the tip of the peninsula, which is included in neighboring SD 19. It voted twice for Barack Obama  before going plus-7 for Trump in 2016. A recent poll of the race showed Brandes with a 39-19 percent lead over Cross with 42 percent of those polled unsure of who they’ll vote for come Election Day.

The ads are below.

Five takeaways from a night of politics in St. Pete

Thursday night was big for St. Pete politics.

That evening, several local candidates mingled at the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce’s Popcorn and Politics hobnob. Later, local Democratic candidates spoke at a Sierra Club-sponsored gathering at Cage Brewery, featuring a surprise appearance from Lt. Gov. nominee Chris King.

King spoke at the Chamber event asking voters to choose the Democratic ticket this November. King is running alongside Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum to replace outgoing Gov. Rick Scott. Gillum’s opponent, Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis, could not make the event, instead sending a surrogate to speak on behalf of the campaign. DeSantis chose Pinellas County Commissioner Jay Beyrouti.

The two were the only to speak at Popcorn and Politics formally. Other candidates prowled the room speaking with voters. Jeff Brandes and his opponent, Democrat Lindsay Cross, both worked the room. Jennifer Webb, the Democrat running to succeed Kathleen Peters in her House District 69 seat was also there, but her opponent, Ray Blacklidge was not.

Peters, who is running for Pinellas County Commission to replace the late John Morroni and her opponent, Amy Kedron, both were unable to attend but sent campaign staff.

George Buck, the Republican challenging Congressman Charlie Crist in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, was there, but Crist was in Washington D.C. and sent staff.

Cross and Webb both spoke later at Cage Brewery.

Here are five takeaways from the Thursday evening politicking:

Don’t send Jay Beyrouti to do your bidding.

Seriously, DON’T. Beyrouti’s brand of politics no doubt align with some members of the Republican Party. He, after all, led the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee for four years until stepping down in 2012. But he’s not exactly what one might call, a captivating speaker.

Beyrouti spoke for about five minutes. The gist of his talking points was this simple: DeSantis is a good Christian. DeSantis will be tough on crime and ban sanctuary cities. DeSantis wants school choice. DeSantis is proud of free-market conservatism. 

That was his basic sentence profile for almost the entire speech. There were long, awkward pauses between sentences — during which you could sometimes even hear people groaning, sighing or whispering to the person next to them.

There was one zinger.

“Oh, he’s also not, I might add, under FBI investigation.”

Chris King recognizes he needs local candidates to succeed.

“You can’t just send us to Tallahassee without sending a whole bunch of wonderful representatives and senators. Please, please don’t just focus all of your attention on electing Andrew Gillum and Chris King. If you send us up there without those folks, it’s going to be pretty miserable,” King said during his Cage appearance.

This is important because both Gillum and King have been speaking to groups and appearing at rallies all over the state since Gillum won the Democratic Primary in August. The pair pitch a bunch of priorities, but, most notably, the $1 billion plan to increase per-pupil spending in public schools and raise teacher salaries.

However, when asked last week whether that’s possible without adequate support from Democrats in the House and Senate, King didn’t really have an answer.

Local Democrats seemed a whole lot more into winning than Republicans.

Brandes showed up to schmooze with voters, but he stuck with a familiar crowd chatting with current and former staffers and other supporters. He shook some hands and answered some questions, but it was his opponent, Cross, who was really working the room.

Cross was constantly talking to someone. She assertively approached anyone who wasn’t already engaged in conversation and inserted herself into some ongoing conversations. Her campaign manager, Ella Coffee, also worked the room. Later, at Cage Brewery, Cross, an environmental scientist, took the stage with a powerful and enthusiastic speech.

“This is the time for us to rally together and say we are sick and tired of the special interests being a priority over the people,” Cross said. “I’m not taking any of that bull crap. We need to be putting a scientist into the Senate.”

Webb delivered a similar speech demanding change in Tallahassee. Webb also stayed at Cage until the bitter end, not leaving until after the band playing for the evening finished two full sets.

Candidates might not be earning any votes by attending these types of events.

At both events, the vast majority of attendees had already made their political choices. These were the types already in the political know; they’re typically party-line voters, though certainly not exclusively.

While Popcorn and Politics at the St. Pete Chamber event was a mixed bag of Republicans and Democrats who were commingling quite nicely, the Sierra Club event at Cage was a deep blue horde of die-hard Democrats and progressives. No one at Cage Thursday night came in wondering whether they were going to vote for Cross or Brandes. Most were well-aware who the candidates were, and even if they didn’t, the answer is simple — just vote for whoever has a “D” after their name on the ballot.

The win for the night probably came for Cross and Webb who, taking advantage of a gathering of like-minded voters, might have scored some campaign cash, convincing supporters to join their ground game to knock on doors and reach undecided voters.

Popcorn apparently goes really well on cheesecake.

Unless you are a total foodie, this is not earth-shattering news. But Ruth’s Chris, the restaurant that catered Popcorn and Politics, decided to take the theme all the way into dessert, serving cupcake-sized cheesecake topped with caramel drizzled popcorn.

The consensus on the food (and perhaps the lineup, as well): Love the sweet and salty, but the popcorn was a bit stale.

Is faulty polling fueling Florida Democrats’ optimism in Dorothy Hukill-Mel Martin race?

Florida Democrats touted some impressive poll numbers in Republican-leaning state Senate races last week, but now that the sunshine pumping has worn off it looks like there’s some serious flaws in those numbers.

To recap, the Florida Democratic Party pointed to a handful of Change Research polls that showed showing Melissa “Mel” Martin leading incumbent Sen. Dorothy Hukill by a couple points in SD 14; Faith Olivia Babis leading Republican state Rep. Joe Gruters in the race for SD 23 by 3 percentage points; and Robert Levy only trailing state Rep. Gayle Harrell by a few points in SD 25.

Change Research has been given some credibility as of late for being the only pollster to correctly predict Andrew Gillum’s win in the Democratic primary for Governor. Of course, that feat is seldom mentioned alongside the disclaimer that Gillum’s campaign cut a check for $4,600 to commission that poll.

That doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something nefarious going on with the DC-based polling outfit, but for a company that pitches itself as providing precise measures on the cheap thanks to online polling, those state Senate results deserve some extra scrutiny.

Take SD 14, for example. Republican Sen. Dorothy Hukill absolutely destroyed her Democratic challenger two years ago, earning more than two-thirds of the vote in the Brevard- and Volusia-based seat on Election Day. But in 2018, Martin is supposedly leading Hukill by a basket in a seat that also voted for Donald Trump carried the by 17 points.

No offense to Hukill, whose 14-year career in the Legislature shows she’s tuned in to her constituency, but a tomato can with an “R” next its name on the ballot could probably hang on to SD 14.

According to the Survey Monkey poll that produced Martin’s lead, it seems that’s pretty close to what happened: The one question that truly mattered in the poll — whether voters prefer Hukill or her opponent — mislabeled their party affiliations.

incorrect party poll

Then there’s the Change Research poll that showed David Holden within striking distance” in his bid to oust U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney in Florida’s 19th Congressional District.

Holden’s campaign issued a necessary disclaimer — one week after touting the results — that the race was only close “after people were informed of Frances Rooney’s record and David Holden’s plans and positions. Before receiving that information the poll showed people favoring Holden by 42 percent to Rooney’s 51 percent.”

Whether Florida Democrats knew about the screwup in the SD 14 poll or were oblivious, it’s kind of hard to understand their optimism for a clean sweep of the Senate when public polls of their absolute top targets show their recruits are, at best, trading blows with the Republicans they’re looking to unseat.

Even Ft. Lauderdale Sen. Gary Farmer is drinking the Kool Aid — and spending beaucoup bucks chasing rainbows.

That’s not an outlandish statement when it comes to Amanda Murphy, who barely trails Ed Hooper in SD 16, nor Janet Cruz, who was three points back from Tampa Sen. Dana Young in the last measure of SD 18.

But Lindsay Cross? She is in no way, shape or form leading or within the margin of error in SD 24. The most recent public poll of that contest found St. Pete Sen. Jeff Brandes up 2-to-1 over Cross, who, to her credit, wasn’t planning on running for public office a few months ago.

There were glimmers of hope for Carrie Pilon, who polled well enough when Election Day was six months out, but she never broke through the margin of error in SD 24.

With Election Day only six weeks away, it might be time to stop talking about expanding the map and start helping out the candidates who stand a chance.

Chris King confirmed for St. Pete Chamber’s ‘Popcorn and Politics’

The St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce is hosting Florida Democratic Lieutenant Governor nominee Chris King during its “Popcorn and Politics” event Thursday. The program runs from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Florida Holocaust Museum in downtown St. Pete.

King is scheduled to speak at 6.

The event also features several other local candidates during a casual meet and greet reception.

Incumbent Senate District 24 Republican Jeff Brandes will be there alongside his Democratic challenger, environmental scientist Lindsay Cross. Brandes holds a commanding lead in the most recent polls over Cross and is massively out-raising her. Cross is battling from behind after jumping into the race late in the game following the former candidate, Carrie Pilon, abruptly withdrawing from the race.

House District 69 candidate Jennifer Webb, the Democrat in that race, is also confirmed. Her opponent, attorney Ray Blacklidge, has not confirmed whether he will attend. Webb holds a double-digit lead over Blacklidge, according to a recent poll.

George Buck, the Republican challenging Congressman Charlie Crist for the Congressional District 13 seat, is scheduled to attend.  Buck faces an uphill battle against Crist. The district now favors Democrats after its boundaries were redrawn to include parts of downtown St. Pete.

Due to votes in the U.S. House this week, Crist will not attend the event.

Two Pinellas County Commission candidates are going. Republican Kathleen Peters and her Democratic opponent Amy Kedron both confirmed their attendance. Peters is favored in that race for the mid-Pinellas district that covers some of the beaches and Seminole. Kedron took a hit to her campaign after the Tampa Bay Times reporter she called the police on one of its reporters who was trying to interview her in public space.

The two are running for the late John Morroni’s seat after he passed away earlier this year.

Clearwater Republican Chris Latvala will also attend. Latvala’s challenger, Dawn Douglas, won’t be joining him. Douglas is a teacher at Oak Grove Middle School in Clearwater.

Lindsay Cross, Jennifer Webb team up to raise campaign cash

Lindsay Cross and Jennifer Webb are raising campaign funds together Wednesday evening during in Indian Rocks Beach. The two Democrats are running for seats in the Florida Senate and House, respectively.

Cross is running against Incumbent Republican Jeff Brandes for the Senate District 24 race in St. Petersburg. Webb is running for the open House District 69 seat against Republican Ray BlacklidgeKathleen Peters is vacating the seat to run for Pinellas County Commission.

The fundraiser is important to both candidates. Cross is lagging behind Brandes in campaign funding by nearly $800,000. Brandes has raised $866,000. Cross has pulled in less than $90,000.

Webb had a commanding lead in campaign cash over her opponent up until this month. Blacklidge has now out-raised Webb by about $47,000. Webb does have more cash on hand though. She did not have to wage a primary battle. Blacklidge spent more than $70,000 during his primary campaign against Jeremy Bailie.

Indian Rocks Beach Mayor Cookie Kennedy and Belleair Beach City Council member Wanda Schwerer are hosting the fundraiser at the Beach Art Center in Indian Rocks Beach from 6-8 Wednesday.

A flyer announcing the event asks if voters love the state’s waters, beaches, bays, springs and rivers and then asks whether voters think “your Legislators in Tallahassee really care.”

“Come meet two candidates who DO,” the flyer reads. “And [who] will fight to protect them.”

Cross is an environmental scientist who formerly served as the executive director for the Florida Wildlife Corridor and spent 14 years working for the Tampa Bay Estuary. Protecting the environment is one of her top three priorities if elected.

Webb, a small business owner, earned her Masters degree from the University of South Florida where, after graduating, taught faculty members how to conduct research within the community.

Webb also lists protecting Florida’s drinking water and waterways as a top priority, according to her campaign website.

Webb leads Blacklidge 48 to 33 percent, according to an SEA Polling and Strategic Design survey released Tuesday. Brandes leads Cross 38 to 19 percent, according to a St. Pete Polls survey last month.

Jeff Brandes increases fundraising lead over Lindsay Cross

Sen. Jeff Brandes, the Republican incumbent in St. Petersburg’s District 24, has a massive lead at the bank over his challenger, Democrat Lindsay Cross.

Cross has not had anywhere near as much time to raise funds as Brandes — she entered the race late after Carrie Pilon withdrew abruptly, citing personal reasons. 

During the most recent reporting period of Sept. 1-14, Cross raised just $24,000. Brandes pulled in $44,000.

Now, Brandes has raised $866,000 to date, including rollover funds from previous campaigns. Cross has only pulled in $83,000.

In terms of cash on hand, Brandes has $458,000 left in his campaign coffers while Cross has just $71,000.

Cross has a steep climb to unseat Brandes, a popular Tampa Bay lawmaker. He has the benefit of robust name recognition.

In an interview with Florida Politics, Cross said she’s not worried: “I’m out there talking to the voters and my message is resonating.”

In a St. Pete Polls survey last month, Brandes held a 2-1 lead over Cross, but 42 percent of respondents were still undecided.

Cross has three priorities if elected: Improving public education funding, boosting environmental protection and expanding access to health care.

Cross wants better teacher pay and higher per-pupil spending in traditional public schools. Brandes has long been a supporter of school choice programs like charter schools and voucher programs.

School choice critics argue such programs divert money way from public education. Charter schools are publicly funded, but operated privately. Voucher programs use tax credits to fund scholarships for low income students to attend private school.

Cross could also do well campaigning on environmental issues as red tide continues to wreak havoc on Pinellas County beaches. The stench of rotting fish and toxins that make the air difficult to breathe have left beach businesses empty during recent weeks.

Many Democrats blame Republican-backed environmental policies for making the naturally occurring marine phenomenon even worse.

Brandes joined the majority of his party in voting to reject federal funding to expand Medicaid, something Cross said is not in the best interest of his constituents.

Still, Brandes has at times bucked against extreme conservative policy position in his party. He was a leader in pushing for medical marijuana and ‘right to try‘ measures, for example.

Brandes has also made a name for himself supporting innovation and technology and has been at the forefront in ensuring Florida is welcoming to the autonomous vehicle industry.

His sponsored bills ranging from including coding as a foreign language option for students, to establishing a framework to use delivery drones for on-demand purchases from places like convenience stores and local shops.


Jeff Brandes is a client of Extensive Enterprises Media, the holding company that owns

Brandes TV ad

Jeff Brandes says he will hold politicians accountable in new SD 24 ad

St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes has released a new ad for his re-election campaign highlighting his roots in Senate District 24 and promising to hold “bureaucrats and politicians” accountable.

The 30-second ad features shots of Brandes walking with and talking to employees of a lumber yard and touts the values instilled in him when he worked for his family’s business.

“I’m Jeff Brandes. My grandfather started our family lumber business nearly 70 years ago. He taught me to work hard, to stand up for what’s right and to never give up,” Brandes says in the ad. “As a soldier, I worked to protect the America we love. As a businessman, I’ve created hundreds of jobs.”

“Today, I’m holding bureaucrats and politicians accountable so we can create better jobs, provide safe, 21st Century schools and protect families and seniors. And if the politicians don’t wake up, I’m taking ‘em to the woodshed,” he concludes.

The ad disclosure indicates the spot was paid for by the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, a PAC chaired by incoming Senate President Bill Galvano which supports GOP state Senate campaigns. Federal Communications Commission filings indicate FRSCC has placed several media buys supporting Brandes and other Senate Republicans in recent weeks.

The new ad follows another recent commercial paid for by Brandes’ campaign touting his role in shepherding the “Right to Try” law through the Legislature.

Brandes faces Democratic challenger Lindsay Cross in the general election. Cross was recruited by the Democratic Party in late July after Brandes’ previous challenger, trial lawyer Carrie Pilon, withdrew from the race for family reasons.

Through the end of August, Brandes had more than $900,000 on hand between his campaign account and political committee, Liberty Florida. Cross, meanwhile, has raised $58,600 for her campaign fund and had $54,120 on hand heading into September.

When Pilon was the presumed nominee, polling showed her within striking distance. The only public poll since Cross stepped in, however, showed Brandes with a 39-19 percent lead and 42 percent of voters undecided.

SD 24 covers most of southern Pinellas County except for the tip of the peninsula, which is included in neighboring SD 19. According to the most recent bookclosing report published by the Florida Division of Elections, Republicans hold a 4-point advantage in voter registrations within the district, which voted in favor of Barack Obama twice before going plus-7 for Donald Trump in 2016.

Brandes and Cross are the only two candidates running for the seat.

The ad is below.


Jeff Brandes is a client of Extensive Enterprises Media, the holding company that owns

Bill Galvano (Left) and Wilton Simpson (Right)

Top Senate Republicans raising cash for Tampa Bay candidates on Monday

State Senate President Bill Galvano, Majority Leader Wilton Simpson and Fort Myers Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto will be in Tampa next Friday to help four area Senate candidates boost their campaign accounts ahead of the November general election.

The Sept. 17 event will be held in the Snowy Egret Room on the second floor of the Grand Hyatt, 2900 Bayport Drive, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The invitation doesn’t list a suggested contribution for attendees, though it does ask that they send their RSVPs to or call (813) 965-1043.

The reception will benefit the re-election efforts of incumbent Sens. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, Tom Lee of Thonotosassa and Dana Young of Tampa, while also providing a boost to former Republican Rep. Ed Hooper, who is the party’s nominee in the race for Pinellas- and Pasco-based Senate District 16.

Lee, Brandes, Young, and Hooper are all running in seats being targeted by Florida Democrats in the fall, though Brandes is likely safe because the candidate initially recruited by the party, trial lawyer Carrie Pilonwithdrew because of the unexpected health problems of a close family member.

He now faces Lindsay Cross, and recent polls show that he has a 39-19 percent lead with 42 percent of voters undecided. He also has more than $890,000 on hand between his campaign and political committee, Liberty Florida, while Cross has managed to build only a $44,250 war chest since tagging in for Pilon at the end of July.

Young and Hooper face much tougher battles, however.

Young is up against House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in Senate District 18, and though she holds a strong fundraising advantage, polling has shown the two Tampanians neck and neck with Cruz holding a slim advantage.

To give Young a boost, the Galvano-chaired Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee recently stepped in with a new TV ad dogging Cruz for her past property tax blunders.

It’s the same situation in Senate District 16, where Hooper is up against former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy — despite a sixfold money advantage and hitting TV early on, Hooper trailed Murphy by two points in an early August poll of their general election showdown.

Lee’s Senate District 20 is the safest of the bunch. He won re-election without opposition two years ago, when the seat also voted plus-8 for President Donald Trump. Through the end of August, Lee had $122,500 in hard money while his opponent, Wesley Chapel Democrat Kathy Lewis, had virtually exhausted her $17,850 in campaign fundraising during her primary contest against Tampa Democrat Joy Gibson.

Election Day is Nov. 6. The fundraiser invitation is below.

FRSCC fundraiser invitation

Jeff Brandes TV ad

Jeff Brandes recalls ‘Right to Try’ law in new campaign ad

St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes released a new ad Thursday touting his successful legislative effort to give patients more options in to fight terminal diseases.

The new ad, titled “Right to Try,” features St. Petersburg osteopathic physician Rob Proietto speaking about Brandes’ role in passing a 2015 bill that authorized the use of experimental treatments and medications for terminally ill patients.

Though Gov. Rick Scott signed the House version of the bill into law, Brandes was instrumental in shepherding the Senate companion, SB 1052, through its committee stops.

“For a long time, patients fighting a life-threatening illness were also fighting a system that wouldn’t give them a chance,” Proietto says in the ad. “That’s why Jeff Brandes passed Florida’s ‘Right to Try’ law. Now, eligible patients with a serious medical condition can get access to experimental drugs or clinical trials.

“Critically ill patients have the right to try because Jeff Brandes is keeping hope alive,” Proietto concludes.

A narrator then says, “Giving patients the right to choose the treatment they need. Jeff Brandes for state Senate.”

Specifically, the “Right to Try” law allows dying patients to access experimental medical treatments that have passed a Phase One Clinical Trial but have not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

“Floridians deserve to have access to medical treatments that could extend or improve the quality of their lives,” Brandes said of the proposal in 2015. “It often takes three years or longer for medications to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. We can save lives by speeding up access to these treatments for patients who don’t have other options available, and I look forward to strong bipartisan support of this legislation.”

The new ad was paid for by Brandes’ campaign account, though as of Thursday afternoon no details of the media buy backing it up had been posted by the Federal Communications Commission.

Brandes, a lifelong resident of St. Pete, is running for his final term in the Florida Senate. He was first elected to the Senate in 2012, but due to redistricting has been forced to run for re-election every two years since taking office. He was also a member of the Florida House from 2010 through 2012.

This year, he faces Democratic challenger Lindsay Cross, an environmental scientist who recently resigned as executive director of the Florida Wildlife Corridor to run for the SD 24 seat. Cross was recruited after the Florida Democratic Party’s first pick, Carrie Pilon, withdrew due to the unexpected health problems of a close family member.

Since entering the race, Cross has failed to gain traction in fundraising, have raised just $58,588 through the end of last month with $54,121 in the bank.

By comparison, Brandes has raised $822,170 in hard money, including $300,000 in self-funding, and had $525,000 in his campaign account on Aug. 31. He also had more than $375,000 at his disposal in his affiliated political committee, Liberty Florida, on Sept. 7.

SD 24 covers most of southern Pinellas County except for the tip of the peninsula, which is included in neighboring SD 19. According to the most recent bookclosing report published by the Florida Division of Elections, Republicans hold a 4-point advantage in voter registrations within the district, which voted in favor of Barack Obama twice before going plus-7 for Donald Trump in 2016.

A recent poll of the race showed Brandes with a 39-19 percent lead over Cross with 42 percent of those polled unsure of who they’ll vote for come Election Day.

Brades’ ad is below.


Jeff Brandes is a client of Extensive Enterprises Media, the holding company that owns

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