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Jeff Brandes holding Thursday fundraiser as Lindsay Cross struggles to raise cash

St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes is holding another fundraiser Thursday for his re-election bid in Senate District 24, where he holds a better than 20-to-1 cash lead over Democratic challenger Lindsay Cross.

Among the several dozen names listed on the host committee for the St. Petersburg reception are former St. Pete Mayors Rick Baker and Bill Foster, Pinellas County Commissioners Jay Beyrouti and Karen Seel, Pinellas Clerk of the Court Ken Burke, Tampa Sen. Dana Young, former House Speaker Will Weatherford, St. Petersburg City Councilman Ed Montanari and state Rep. Kathleen Peters, who won the Republican nomination for Pinellas County Commission District 6 last week.

Brandes’ event will be held in the Grand Ballroom of The Birchwood, 340 Beach Drive NE, starting at 5:30 p.m. Those looking for more information or to send in an RSVP can contact Rick Porter or Ivey Rooney via 407-849-1112 or

SD 24 is among the seven state Senate seats Florida Democrats said they were targeting in the 2018 cycle, and early polling showed their initial recruit, trial lawyer Carrie Pilonwithin 5 points of Brandes among likely voters. Pilon’s campaign ended abruptly, however, due to unexpected health problems of a close family member.

Cross stepped in at the last minute and, while she was put in an unenviable position, she has been somewhat flat on the fundraising trail. As of Aug. 23, she had raised $48,725 for her campaign account and had about $44,250 in the bank.

She also failed to preserve the momentum built by Pilon’s campaign when it comes to the polls. The first measure of the race since she became the Democratic nominee showed Brandes with a 39-19 percent lead over Cross. With 42 percent of voters undecided, there’s room for growth for both candidates.

Brandes meanwhile, has raised about $820,000 for his campaign account, including $300,000 in self-funding, and had $531,370 on hand on Aug. 23. Should Cross start to catch up, Brandes has another $360,000 ready to deploy in his affiliated political committee, Liberty Florida.

SD 24 covers most of southern Pinellas 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.

Despite the GOP advantage, SD 24 voted for Barack Obama twice before going plus-7 for Donald Trump in 2016.

The fundraiser invitation is below.

Brandes fundraiser 9.6.2018


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

Seth Miller, Michelle Feldman: Preventing the next Biscayne Park scandal

Former police officers in Biscayne Park, a small suburb north of Miami, are charged with framing innocent people in an effort to boost the department’s crime-solving record. Raimundo Atesiano, the police chief who resigned in 2014, allegedly directed his force to pin unsolved crimes on random black people in the community.

False confessions played a major role in the scheme. Guillermo Ravelo, who was fired from the department this year, admitted to fabricating confessions from two innocent men who Chief Atesiano allegedly ordered him to arrest without evidence. Ravelo falsely claimed in an arrest affidavit that one man admitted to committing two home break-ins in 2013, and that another confessed to stealing items in five unsolved car burglaries in 2014. Charges against both men were eventually dropped.

Florida has a history of problems with false confessions, which contributed to six wrongful convictions in the state since 1989. The innocent Floridians in these cases collectively spent 66 years behind bars and taxpayers were forced to cover $38 million in civil awards and settlements stemming from the wrongful convictions.

There is a common-sense way to help prevent what happened to innocent people in Biscayne Park and around the state from happening again. The Florida Legislature should pass a law requiring police to record suspect interrogations in their entirety.

Had a law been in place, it would have been a lot more difficult for Guillermo Ravelo to make up confessions that never occurred. A law might have also protected Anthony Caravella, who spent 26 years in prison for a rape and murder in Broward County, until DNA testing exonerated him in 2010. Caravella, an intellectually disabled teenager, admitted to the crimes after five days of physical and mental coercion by his interrogators. Detectives taped only his confession, so the judge and jury did not hear critical context about the abuse that preceded it.

Nationally, 24 states and all federal law enforcement agencies require recording of suspect interrogations. In Florida, many jurisdictions have implemented the practice on their own. Broward County began recording interrogations over a decade ago, in the wake of several false confession cases. The Miami-Dade Police Department announced in 2014 that it would videotape interviews in homicide investigations.

However, without a state law, individual agencies and officers can choose whether or not to record. The result is a hodgepodge of practices across the state, and protections that vary based on where a Floridian is arrested. Even if a department does have a policy in place, there is no legal consequence if an officer decides to tape only part, or none, of an interview.

Over the years, legislation has been introduced to require recording of interrogations. Most recently, Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, and Democratic Rep. Sharon Prichett of Miami-Dade introduced a bill that passed three Senate committees but was never scheduled for a committee hearing in the House.

The next Biscayne Park scandal and the next wrongful conviction in Florida can be stopped, and you can help. Tell your state Senator and Representative that you support a law requiring police to record suspect interrogations.


Seth Miller is the Executive Director of the Innocence Project of Florida; Michelle Feldman is the Legislative Strategist at the national Innocence Project.

Brandes up big in first SD 24 poll since Lindsay Cross tagged in

Knocking off St. Pete Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes was always a long shot, and the first measure of the race since Lindsay Cross subbed in for Carrie Pilon shows those slim chances dwindling further.

According to a new survey from St. Pete Polls, Brandes has the support of nearly 39 percent of Senate District 24 voters, giving him a better than 2-to-1 lead over Cross, who was the pick for an even 19 percent of those polled. With 42 percent of voters undecided, there’s room for growth for both candidates.

Cross entered the race at the end of last month, a few weeks after the prior Democratic nominee, trial lawyer Carrie Pilon, withdrew 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. Cross will certainly see major gains in her poll numbers as Election Day approaches, though her poor showing in this inaugural measure is a bitter reminder that just because one candidate made headway by putting in some elbow grease, doesn’t mean another can swoop in and reap the benefits.

When it comes to name ID, she’s got a lot of work to do.

Brandes is a known quantity to 59 percent of SD 24 voters, and they find him favorable by a margin of 39-20. Cross, meanwhile, is known by just 27 percent of the district and those who offered their opinion gave her a somewhat lukewarm 21-16 favorability rating.

In addition to playing catchup on the name ID front, Cross needs to bring in some cold hard cash, pronto. Brandes, through Aug. 3, had nearly $863,000 in the bank between his campaign and political committee, Liberty Florida, and that’s after more than $807,000 in spending since the 2018 campaign cycle began.

As it stands, it’s unclear whether Cross is hunkering down to put in the work needed to put SD 24 in play.

According to her first campaign finance report, which to be fair only covered a partial week, she’s brought in just $3,000 in monetary contributions. One would expect Cross and her family, close friends, longtime co-workers and acquaintances to pitch in and jumpstart the campaign to build some buzz.

A typical candidate would have made the calls and had the checks ready for day 1 — Pilon did as much when she pulled together $100K for her inaugural reports.

The problem may be a bit deeper, however, as sources familiar with the Cross campaign say she is fresh off a European vacation and hasn’t quite returned to the day-to-day grind — If true, she better return from the clouds tout suite, or the conversation will quickly shift to the degree of electoral embarrassment she can expect come Election Day.

Of the cash she did bring in, two-thirds came from the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, stretched-thin pot of money overseen by Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson. The other $1,000 came from self-employed property manager Sidney Smith Wilson.

Gibson’s fund also threw in another $25,000 to kickstart research efforts, as well as buy a campaign computer and cell phone. While fronting that cash would be a no-brainer for the ever-flush Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, it is a much more significant investment for the FDLCC, which had $400,000 in the bank at last check in.

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.

The St. Pete Polls survey was conducted Aug. 11-12 and received responses from 757 likely general election voters. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.


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

Lindsay Cross takes over Democratic bid for SD 24 after Carrie Pilon’s departure

It has been more than three weeks since Carrie Pilon announced she was ending her bid to unseat St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes in state Senate District 24.

Now, Florida Democrats have settled on her replacement.

Lindsay Cross, an environmental scientist who works as executive director of the Florida Wildlife Corridor, will pick up where Pilon left off. It gives her just over three months to cobble together a campaign to take on the incumbent Republican.

“I’m running for State Senate because all residents in Senate District 24 need an advocate who works for them, not for special interests,” Cross said in announcing her candidacy Monday afternoon. “As a member of the State Senate, I’ll invest in the people of our district by ensuring a quality education, affordable healthcare, protecting our drinking water and environment, and buffering our local and tourist based-businesses from the effects of pollution and climate change.”

Pilon announced her withdrawal from the SD 24 race on July 6, and Florida Democrats faced a Monday deadline to pick her replacement. As of midmorning, the party had not issued a formal news release announcing Cross as their nominee in the Pinellas County district.

According to her Florida Wildlife Corridor bio, Cross has lived in the Tampa Bay area since 2001 and spent 14 years with the Tampa Bay Estuary Program “working to protect and restore water quality and coastal and upland habitats.”

“Having led an environmental non-profit, I fully appreciate the importance of Florida’s natural resources on every aspect of our lives,” Cross said. “Moreover, I understand how to balance a budget and keep spending focused on priorities that will make a difference.”

During that time, she earned a master’s degree in environmental science from the University of South Florida and graduated from the University of Florida’s Florida Natural Resources Leadership Institute and the St. Petersburg Chamber’s Leadership St. Pete program.

Polling consistently shows SD 24 as winnable for a Democratic candidate. A survey conducted by St. Pete Polls days ahead of Pilon’s exit showed her within five points of Brandes with 13 percent of voters undecided.

Despite the hopeful measures for Democrats, the truncated campaign cycle gives Cross little time to build name recognition or raise the kind of money needed to take on Brandes, who had $464,000 in hard money and another $369,000 in his political committee, Liberty Florida, as of July 20.

The past three weeks have also seen Brandes ramp up his ground operation in the district, giving him a massive head start in voter outreach.

The good news for Cross: She faces no opposition in the primary, nor are there any third-party candidates running to siphon away Democratic-leaning residents already inclined to vote blue rather than send Brandes back to Tallahassee.

She and Brandes will go head-to-head in the Nov. 6 general election.

The first inkling of Cross’ fundraising ability will come Aug. 10, in a campaign finance report covering the first few days of her candidacy. Her first full-week report is due Aug. 17.

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.

Fort Myers shooting highlights cracks in patchwork pretrial release system

Fort Myers police officer Adam Jobbers-Miller died Saturday, one week after Wisner Desmaret allegedly shot him while Jobbers-Miller was answering a call at Marathon gas station.

The shooting, now killing, has turned into a flashpoint that cuts across many political issues, namely immigration, mental health and pretrial release.

Desmaret, 29, is a Haitian immigrant who came to the United States legally when he was 9 years old but remained illegally after his visa expired. He has in the past been held on an ICE detainer, and another has been issued in the wake of the shooting.

In 2016, Desmaret was deemed incompetent to stand trial and non-restorable by a Lee County judge due to an “intellectual disability.”

Also in 2016, he was deemed incompetent to stand trial but not un-restorable by a Sarasota County judge. After that ruling, he spent 14 months in a Florida state hospital until a doctor signed off that he was competent enough for the court to proceed with his case.

He was arrested this year for violating the terms of his probation, and on July 19 a Sarasota County judge released him from jail under the supervision of the county’s pretrial services program until his scheduled court date for the probation violation on Aug. 16.

His pretrial release stipulated that he must take all of his medications, check in by phone and in-person with Sarasota County’s pretrial services program every two weeks, and inform the program if he intended to leave the county overnight.

He never made the first of those bi-weekly phone calls or visits, as just two days after his release he was two counties away in Fort Myers, where he shot Jobbers-Miller, also 29, as he was attempting to apprehend Desmaret after responding to a 911 call that a man had assaulted a group of people after stealing a cell phone from one of their vehicles.

While immigration issues are largely relegated to the federal government, pretrial release policies are not.

Matt Jones, a Charlotte County bail bondsman who serves as president of the Florida Bail Agents Association, said the shooting “hit close to home” due to a relative of his being a police officer in the area. Given Desmaret’s background, he says “there needs to be a lot better checks and balances” in Florida’s pretrial release programs, which can vary greatly depending on jurisdiction.

“We need to have better transparency — rather than a county by county thing, there needs to be a statewide system,” he said. “There’s a statewide pretrial release [framework], but only a couple rules to follow. You have statewide charges, why not a statewide pretrial release system?”

Jones said he was unsure whether current laws could have prevented this shooting. As a bail bondsmen, he said that if Desmaret “had called our office we probably wouldn’t have bonded him out.” Still, while he and the association he represents are in favor of judges deciding the best course of action in any case, he said he doesn’t “think pre-trial release is the solution to the mental health crisis.”

“Was pre-trial going to be giving him his meds every day?” He asked.

With a bi-weekly check in schedule, and Desmaret’s indigent status, that would seem unlikely.

Most medications that treat severe mental health disorders — Desmaret wrote to a judge that he believed people, specifically police, were out to kill him — must be administered daily. And a large subset of them need time to gradually titrate through a patient’s system.

For certain conditions and the medications that treat them, that could mean a continual ratcheting up of doses — one pill a day the first week, two a day for the next, and so forth, until the optimal dosage is achieved.

Rushing that process is dangerous, or possibly deadly, depending on the medication. And court services programs do not have the medical know how to determine if a drug combination is effective in the first place.

Jeff Clayton, a lobbyist for the American Bail Coalition, says nobody — meaning the 46 states that have a cash bail system — is handling mental health well. In California, for example, someone deemed incompetent to stand trial can only be held in jail for up to three years. In Colorado that same person could be held indefinitely.

But when it comes to pretrial release, he agrees that statewide consistency is important.

He also pointed to data poking holes in pretrial release programs effectively reducing jail populations, saying “supervision isn’t the answer” to that dilemma, but more and better prearrest diversion programs could be.

Clayton added that risk assessment tools — algorithms that take an offender’s data and spit out a risk score — also share some blame in possibly letting the wrong people walk free while they await trial. Those algorithms have seen widespread adoption in recent years to varying success.

“Before 2013, if you were against risk assessments you were a leper,” he said. “When the algorithms are debunked it will be like the lifeboats on the Titanic.”

Right on Crime, a national group that pushes policies on many criminal justice issues, doesn’t ascribe to that line of thinking when it comes to risk assessment tools. The group says such algorithms can help judges “gain a bigger picture of each individual and make decisions on a case-by-case basis if they utilize risk assessment tools that take criminal records into account.”

The group is, however, in favor of prearrest diversion programs that give police the option of sending low-risk offenders with mental health or substance abuse problems to treatment programs rather than jail.

When it comes to the case of Desmaret, Right on Crime’s Florida state director, Chelsea Murphy, said there is a promising new law on the books that could possibly prevent something similar to the Fort Meyers shooting from happening again.

“First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with the Fort Myers Police Department,” she said. “This is an absolute tragedy and further proves that judges need all the tools possible when making decisions. Pretrial services, risk assessment, and mental health services all play a key role in ensuring public safety. Hopefully with the passage of the new 2018 data transparency bill and with future legislation in 2019 we can work to have a more transparent criminal justice system.”

The current measure referenced by Murphy is SB 1392, which was championed by St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes in the Senate and Tarpon Springs Republican Rep. Chris Sprowls (via HB 7071) in the House. The legislation was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott on March 30.

Among its many provisions, the bill requires the establishment of two prearrest diversion programs in each judicial circuit in the state, one for adults and one for juveniles. It also requires that information about prearrest diversion programs and pretrial release programs be shared with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which in turn makes that information freely available to the public.

The thinking is that the more data made available to the judges who make the decision pretrial release decisions, the better their decisions.

As far as the legislation for 2019, details are expected in the coming months. Whatever its final form, it’s likely that the proposal will be a collaboration supported by both the bail industry and Right on Crime — that would be a “breakthrough” according to one bail industry expert, given that Right on Crime often champions bail reform measures that are harshly opposed by bail bondsmen.

Rick Scott holding fundraiser during Trump rally in Tampa

When President Donald Trump takes the stage at the Florida State Fairgrounds next week, Gov. Rick Scott will be a county away raising cash for his U.S. Senate bid.

The Scott campaign sent out an invite this week for a fundraiser Tuesday evening in Clearwater. The private reception starts at 7:00 p.m., the same time as a Tampa campaign rally where Trump is expected to make the case for U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis to succeed Scott as Governor.

The president is friendly with Scott and is expected to speak in support of his Senate campaign as well as U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz’ re-election bid in Florida’s 1st Congressional District.

While Scott will not attend the rally, he will get some facetime with the president earlier in the day. Scott campaign spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said earlier this week that the two politicians will attend an afternoon event at Tampa Bay Technical High School.

Scott’s Clearwater fundraiser will be hosted by Jay and Linda Beyrouti, Jane and Leo Govoni, Jim Holton as well as Joe and Jo Ann White. Scott recently appointed Jay Beyrouti to the Pinellas County Commission to fill the empty seat created by longtime Commissioner John Morroni‘s passing on May 20.

Listed as co-hosts are Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, St. Petersburg state Sen. Jeff Brandes, Pinellas Clerk of the Court Ken Burke, State Attorney Bernie McCabe and Pinellas Tax Collector Charles Thomas. The invite, attached below, says it’ll take a minimum contribution of $1,000 to attend.

Scott, who is term-limited as Governor, is looking to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in the fall, and recent polls show him with a slight edge over the incumbent. The election is Nov. 6.

Uber provides billion dollar boost to Florida’s economy, study says

When lawmakers relaxed Florida’s laws on ridesharing, a lot of people benefitted.

That’s according to a new study from the Economic Development Research Group, which found that the top ridesharing app, Uber, supports $1 billion of Florida’s gross domestic product and has provided a positive net impact of $134 million on the Sunshine State’s economy.

“Since Florida lawmakers voted in 2017 to remove road blocks and allow residents and visitors alike to have choices when it comes to transportation, the economic impact of ridesharing, particularly Uber, proved what Florida businesses have said all along: when government gets out of the way, and the market is allowed to flourish, the economy will prosper,” said Tom Feeney, the president CEO of Associated Industries of Florida.

The 2017 legislation that created the statewide framework for ridesharing companies, shepherded through the Legislature by Sen. Jeff Brandes and Reps. James Grant and Chris Sprowls, was considered a “landmark” achievement when it was signed into law.

While economists parse the data in the EDR Group’s report, there’s one group that doesn’t need to read a white paper to buy into the positive impact of ridesharing: Drivers.

Take-home payouts for Uber partners hit a whopping $870 million in Florida last year. Of course, most of those drivers are part-time workers who spend less than 20 hours a week behind the wheel in order to earn some supplemental scratch — but a subset of those workers said they’ve also seen their paychecks grow at their day jobs since signing on with Uber.

While the pay boost is nice, the ability to make your own schedule is nicer. According to the report, more than three-quarters of drivers said they benefitted from the flexibility Uber offers while another third said that benefit was what got them in the door in the first place.

“No matter where you live, work, or play in Florida, Uber is at the forefront of the mobility conversation: upward mobility for driver partners with flexible hours and a reliable income, and transportation mobility for people to make trips and visit destinations they would not have otherwise have accomplished,” said Julio Fuentes, President and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

But the benefits described in the report don’t just show a boost for driver’s checking accounts, they show a positive trend for businesses and tourism.

A quarter of Uber riders in Florida said they use the service for their daily commute. Another 6 percent of respondents said their most recent ride delivered them to a bus or rail line while 11 percent said they last opened the app to get to or from an airport.

When people get where they need to be when they need to be there, local governments benefit.

“When local governments and business work together, they have the ability to greater impact the community that they serve. It is through partnerships like these that communities are able to evolve more rapidly,” said Ginger Delegal, executive director of the Florida Association of Counties.

The new report comes hot off the heels of another announcement from Uber that is of particular interest to county and municipal governments — the success of a Central Florida pilot program to augment transit between neighboring cities so that residents who work in the next town over or prefer the nightlife a few exits down can more easily get where they need to go.

Florida’s biggest industry, tourism, also accounts for a lot of riders. The benefits of having a reliable method of transportation for visitors in unfamiliar territory hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, either.

“Florida’s tourism industry relies heavily upon the ability for our 116.5 million visitors to travel safely and seamlessly to our hotels, restaurants, airports and attractions,” said FRLA president and CEO Carol Dover. “The millions of dollars injected into our state’s economy bodes well for our number one industry, and we look forward to Uber’s continued impact on Florida’s economy.”

Clearwater aerial photo

Candidates sign up for ‘Politics in Pinellas’

Another election cycle, another edition of Politics in Pinellas.

The event, hosted biennially by the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, is set to draw at least 10 candidates for offices ranging from Pinellas School Board to state Senator.

“Are they running for office for the first time or up for re-election? This is your opportunity to personally hear the view point and strategy of those seeking public office in Pinellas County,” the event listing says.

The 2018 edition of Politics in Pinellas will be held July 26 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the EpiCenter at St. Petersburg College, 13805 58th St. N., in Clearwater.

So far, 10 candidates have signed on to participate in the event.

School Board District 2 incumbent Terry Krassner and challenger Jeff Larsen will both attend, while Lisa Cane has not yet signed up. For School Board District 3, only challenger Nicole Carr has signed up. She faces incumbent Peggy O’Shea and former Democratic state Rep. Carl Zimmerman.

For Pinellas County Commission District 6, Republican state Rep. Kathleen Peters has confirmed. She faces fellow Republican state Rep. Larry Ahern, Republican businesswoman Barb Haselden and Democrat Amy Kedron in the race to succeed longtime Commissioner John Morroni, who died earlier this year at the age of 63.

Doneene Loar, who is running for 6th Circuit Judge, will also attend. She faces Donald McBath in the nonpartisan judicial election.

Candidates from two of the county’s seven state House districts will also be in attendance.

House District 64 Republican candidate Terry Power, who faces incumbent Rep. Jamie Grant in the Aug. 28 primary, will have a table. As will Pinellas GOP chair Nick DiCeglie, who is running to succeed Ahern in House District 66. He’ll be joined by Democratic foe Alex Heeren, though Seminole Republican Berny Jacques hasn’t put in an RSVP.

Also attending incumbent Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes of Senate District 24 and former Rep. Ed Hooper, the likely Republican nominee for Senate District 16.

Brandes had been facing a challenge from Democratic trial lawyer Carrie Pilon, though she announced two weeks ago that she was withdrawing from the race. The Florida Democratic Party is in the process of selecting her replacement.

Hooper is running against former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy, and recent polling shows the race is a dead heat with Hooper holding a slim advantage.

Politics in Pinellas is free and open to the public. Those who attend will be able to vote for their preferred candidates in a straw poll.

The event flyer is below.

Jeff Brandes holding ‘Super Saturday’ canvassing event

Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes is gearing up for his re-election bid with a “Super Saturday” canvassing event in St. Petersburg-based Senate District 24.

“Come show your support for Jeff Brandes! Join us on July 14 at 9:00 a.m. at Crisp Park in St. Petersburg for coffee and donuts. Help Senator Brandes spread his message by knocking on voters doors in nearby neighborhoods. Then at 12:30 p.m. we’ll meet at Green Bench Brewery for lunch and drinks,” the event listing says.

Crisp Park is located at the intersection of 37th Avenue NE and Poplar Street NE in St. Petersburg; Green Bench Brewery is located at 1133 Baum Ave. North. Those looking to attend can sign up to volunteer on the Facebook event listing.

Brandes, a lifelong resident of St. Pete, is running for his final term in the Florida Senate. He was first elected in 2012 and was a member of the Florida House for the two years prior.

Democratic trial lawyer Carrie Pilon was slated to be his opponent in the Nov. 6 general election, though she recently withdrew from the race, citing serious and unexpected health problems of a close family member.

With Pilon’s exit, the Florida Democratic Party must now recruit another nominee to pick up the baton for the last four months of the 2018 cycle — a tough task only made tougher by Brandes’ prolific fundraising.

SD 24 covers most of southern Pinellas County. The GOP has a 4-point advantage in voter registrations within the district, which voted in favor of Barack Obama twice before being carried by Donald Trump in 2016.

Election Day is Nov. 6.


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

Jeff Brandes

Jeff Brandes piles on cash as Florida Democrats scramble to replace Carrie Pilon

St. Petersburg Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes doesn’t know who he’ll be up against come Election Day, but that hasn’t stopped donors from pouring beaucoup bucks into his political committee.

A newly filed campaign finance report for Liberty Florida shows the Senate District 24 incumbent reeled in a six-figure haul from a crop of well-known donors in the last week of June.

Naples Republican Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, a candidate for Senate President in 2022, chipped in $15,000 via her Working Together For Florida political committee and Miami-based air cargo company Florida Cargo Fresh matched her while U.S. Sugar and AIF-affiliated Floridians for a Stronger Democracy each showed up at the $10,000 level.

AT&T, Allstate and GEICO also made the donor sheet with smaller contributions.

In all, Liberty Florida cashed 17 checks worth a combined $103,500 during the week and now has more than $350,000 in the bank. Brandes’ campaign account is even more flush with cash — he had $467,250 in hard money three-quarters of the way through June.

The committee cash came a week before one-time challenger Carrie Pilon’s announcement that she would abdicate her spot on the ballot due to serious and unexpected health problems of a close family member.

SD 24 has a slight Republican lean. It voted for Barack Obama twice before going plus-7 for Donald Trump two years ago, and 2018 polling has consistently shown it was possible for a Democratic candidate to flip it — a recent survey conducted by St. Pete Polls put Pilon within five points of Brandes.

With Pilon’s exit, however, the Florida Democratic Party must now recruit another nominee to pick up the baton for the last four months of the 2018 cycle — a tough task only made tougher by Brandes’ prolific fundraising.


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

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