Margaret Good – Florida Politics

Margaret Good jumps out to big lead in re-election campaign

Sarasota Democratic Rep. Margaret Good hasn’t let up in fundraising since she turned HD 72 blue with a February special election win over Republican James Buchanan.

Good added $62,605 to her campaign account last month, bringing her total campaign fundraising for the 2018 cycle to $82,700. She has $78,500 in the bank.

“I continue to be humbled by and grateful for the outpouring of support for the campaign. Our campaign is fueled by grassroots support. In our April reporting period, 387 individual donors contributed to our re-election effort; they want to continue the work we began after winning the special election in February,” Good said.

“The foundation of our campaign is grassroots; it’s community members who want our government to reflect our values. Sarasotans want a robust economy, a strong public school system that prepares children for a highly competitive future, and protection for our precious land and Gulf. Sarasotans know they can count on me to fight for them.”

Some notable figures for April: Good received 245 from donations from small-dollar donors giving $100 or less; she took in 31 checks for the campaign max of $1,000; and more than 90 percent of the money raised came from within the Sunshine State.

The April report shows her far ahead of her lone challenger, former Republican Rep. Ray Pilon.

Pilon held the Sarasota County seat for three terms before he abandoned it to mount an unsuccessful state Senate bid in 2016. He filed for a return trip to Tallahassee via HD 72 back in March and through two campaign reports – the same number as Good – he’s raised $18,600.

Pilon’s April report showed $11,000 raised, an improvement over his first report, and at nearly 50 names his donor roll wouldn’t be considered short compared to most candidates not named Margaret Good.

He started May with $14,770 in the bank, including a $1,000 loan to kick start his campaign.

In HD 39, the ‘blue wave’ barely causes a ripple

A ‘blue wave’ Democrats in Polk and Osceola counties had hoped for Tuesday barely made a ripple as Republican newcomer Josie Tomkow won over Democrat Ricky Shirah with a 60 percent victory in the special election for Florida House District 39.

The results contrasted with the surprise February election victory in Sarasota County in which Democrat Margaret Good, a Sarasota Democrat, defeated Republican James Buchanan and Libertarian Alison Foxall.

Tuesday’s election was to fill a vacancy incurred in November when then-Rep. Neil Combee, a Polk City Republican, resigned to accept a job with the USDA. Combee recently resigned the post to run for Congress.

Republicans said Wednesday the Tomkow victory is a bellwether for the state come November. Democrats said the wave is still building. A noted professor and columnist said it’s too early.

“This is a good snapshot of the fall elections,” said J.C. Martin, chairman of the Polk County Republican Party. “This is a district along I-4 and the I-4 Corridor has always been a barometer for Florida and the nation.”

Local Democrats, with very little help from the state party, had staged a last-minute effort for Shira, in a district that is more Republican but had more voters with no party than those in either party.

“This is a good sign that people, especially the unaffiliated, are going for Republican policies,” Martin said. “Neither party in the district had more than 40 Percent registration, and yet 60 percent of the vote went to someone who never ran for office and was never heard of before against a well-known candidate.”

Karen Welzel of Winter Haven, a former chair of the Polk County Democratic Party, blamed Shira’s loss, not on Republican ideologies, but on the massive war chest Tomkow ‘s campaign had amassed. Tomkow had received $168,185 to Shira’s $15,381.

“Unfortunately, money is important. She had big-time Republican fundraisers, the NRA and her connections to Neil Combee, Welzel said of Tomkow’s victory. “Statewide we have won more special elections this year by far,” Welzel said. “On the same day we lost this one, Javier Fernandez (a Democrat) was elected in South Florida. In a Republican district. Believe me; the blue wave is coming.”

“We did reach out to the state party to ask for help, but we knew there was not a lot of money and that they had to spend,” she said. “But we spent three months of grassroots campaign, and we added many precinct workers.”

Ironically, Welzel had run in a different house district in 2012 against a Republican incumbent who had ten times the amount of campaign money that she had without state Democratic Party funding and came within 2 percent of winning the race,

“The ‘Blue Wave is a bit of a ghost,” said Bruce Anderson a political-science professor at Florida Southern College and columnist in Lakeland. But so is the assumption that the District 39 special election is a repudiation of it, he had added.

“Winning in one district is not a bellwether. Thirty-nine is a stable largely Republican District. We know who the district was drawn for,” Anderson said referring to Combee. “And he kept his head down and locked in his seat.”

People will tend to vote for the person in that seat, he said. And Tuesday’s election is no indicator of how the I-4 Corridor will go in November

Democrats have had their victories mostly in open seats. Overall, Anderson said it is too early to predict a trend for the November elections.

“Republicans, I suspect, will continue to win where there is a long history of Republican incumbents. But if it is an open seat Democrats may win out.”

In HD 39, however, almost the same race will begin again in November, likely with the same candidates. Shira has said he will be a candidate for District 39 in the general election, which will decide who will serve a full two-year term.

Latest on the legislative staffing merry-go-round

With a tip of the hat to LobbyTools, here are the latest movements – both on and off – of the legislative merry-go-round.

Off: Ashley Ross is no longer deputy chief of staff on Commerce, Tourism, and Community Affairs in the Senate President’s office.

Off: Holly Maxwell is no longer committee administrative assistant for the Senate Appropriations Committee.

On: Abby Ross and Christi Fearnley have become legislative assistants for newly elected Boynton Beach Democratic Sen. Lori Berman.

Off and on: Michele McCloskey is no longer district secretary for Bradenton Republican Rep. Jim Boyd. She has now moved to become district secretary for Tampa Republican Rep. Shawn Harrison.

Off and on: Kevin Lata has been replaced by Grace Moseley as a legislative assistant for Sarasota Democratic Rep. Margaret Good.

On and off: Bill McVay is the new district secretary for Winter Garden Republican Rep. Bobby Olszewski. District Secretary Samantha Surdin is leaving the position to take over duties as Olszewski’s campaign manager with the Republican Party of Florida for his re-election this year in House District 44.  Surdin previously successfully served in this role last year when Olszewski won both the Republican primary and general election in a special election in October. McVay who comes from Washington D.C. with extensive nonprofit work along with an MBA from Virginia Tech. The former long-time aide to former Senate President Andy GardinerKathy Johnson, remains as Olszewski’s legislative aide.

Latest on the legislative staffing merry-go-round

With a tip of the hat to LobbyTools, here are the latest movements – both on and off – of the legislative merry-go-round.

On: Holly Maxwell is the committee receptionist for Senate Appropriations.

Off: Jay Shannon and Jacob Flaherty are no longer legislative assistants for Fort Lauderdale Democratic Sen. Gary Farmer.

Off: Marilyn Barnes is no longer legislative assistant to Tallahassee Democratic Sen. Bill Montford. Barnes retired after spending her career serving the Legislature, which included the Speaker’s Office in the 70s, many years of service on Joint Committees, and more recently several years with the Senate and Montford.

Off: Ali Kurnaz is no longer a legislative assistant to Orlando Democratic Sen. Linda Stewart.

Off and on: Kenneth Thomas is no longer district secretary in Tallahassee Democratic Rep. Ramon Alexander‘s office. Navael Fontus has become a new district secretary.

Off: Stephany Montano is no longer district secretary for Miami Democratic Rep. Robert Asencio.

Off: Abby Ross is no longer chief legislative assistant for Lantana Democratic Rep. Lori Berman.

Off: Nutoshia Carr is no longer district secretary for Ocoee Democratic Rep. Kamia Brown.

Off: Charlotte Codie is no longer legislative assistant for North Fort Myers Republican Rep. Matt Caldwell.

Off and on: Carlos Ramos is no longer legislative assistant; Erika Flores moved from district secretary to legislative assistant and Margie Ramirez is the new district secretary for Tampa Democratic Rep. Janet Cruz.

Off and on: Clarence James is no longer executive secretary and Consqailla Toney is a new district secretary for Jacksonville Democratic Rep. Kimberly Daniels.

Off: Chesten Goodman is no longer legislative assistant for Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jay Fant.

Off: Sadie Haire is no longer district secretary for Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jason Fisher.

Off and on: Kay Mathers replaced Susan Neaves as district secretary for Sarasota Democratic Rep. Margaret Good.

Off and on: Jerrick Leonard is no longer legislative assistant and Jessica Garafola moved from district secretary to legislative assistant for West Park Democratic Rep. Shev Jones.

Off and on: Lisa Kauffman is out, and Katie Siciliano is in as legislative assistant for Hutson Republican Rep. Amber Mariano.

Off and on: Grace Moseley is no longer a district secretary and Cyrus Calhoun moved from district secretary to legislative assistant in St. Petersburg Democratic Rep. Wengay Newton‘s office.

Off: Samantha Surdin is no longer district secretary for Winter Garden Republican Rep. Robert Olszewski.

Off: Jesika Davis is no longer district secretary for Key Largo Republican Rep. Holly Raschein.

Off: Leilani Gonzalez is no longer district secretary for Estero Republican Rep. Ray Rodrigues.

Off and on: John Brown is no longer district secretary; Jasmine Mattear filled a vacant legislative assistant position after being district secretary for Tampa Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw.

On: Sarah Johnson is a new legislative assistant for Boca Raton Democratic Rep. Emily Slosberg.

Off: Dottie Acosta is no longer district secretary for St. Johns Republican Rep. Cyndi Stevenson.

Off and on: Cooper Harrison is out, and Brian Pierce is in as district secretary for Panama City Republican Rep. Jay Trumbull.

Off: Mamie Rubottom is no longer district secretary for Jacksonville Republican Rep. Clay Yarborough.

Ray Pilon holding April 12 fundraiser for HD 72 return

Former House District 72 lawmaker Ray Pilon is holding a fundraiser next month for his comeback campaign.

The April 12 event will be held at Gold Coast Eagle Distributing in Sarasota, 7051 Wireless Court from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

The host committee for the event lists more than two dozen names, including several business leaders, Fort Myers Republican Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, Sarasota Republican Rep. Joe Gruters, who is running for state Senate in 2018, and St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, who Pilon recently endorsed for re-election over his daughter-in-law, Democrat Carrie Pilon.

RSVPs can be made via an email to or by calling 941-539-8646.

Pilon represented HD 72 from its creation until 2016, opting to run for state Senate rather than re-election to the Sarasota County district.

His successor, Alex Miller, held the seat for less than a year before stepping down to “spend more time at home.” The seat flipped to Democrat Margaret Good in the ensuing special election.

So far Pilon is the only Republican who has filed for the seat. Buchanan opted to run in neighboring HD 74, which is opening up due to Republican Rep. Julio Gonzalez’ congressional bid, rather than give District 72 another shot.

Also running against Good is Libertarian Alison Foxall, she, too, ran in the special election and pulled about 3 percent of the vote.

Pilon ran up the score in past elections to HD 72, but it remains to be seen whether the so-called “blue wave” that pushed Good past Buchanan will be present come November.

The fundraiser invite is below.

Ray Pilon Invite - April 12, 2018

Four candidates running for Julio Gonzalez’ House seat

Four candidates have filed for the state House seat being given up by Republican Rep. Julio Gonzalez so he can pursue the congressional seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney.

Republican Nicholas Trolli opened his campaign account ahead of Gonzalez’ announcement he would run for Florida’s 17th Congressional District, and since then another three candidates have entered the race.

The most recognizable by far is Republican James Buchanan, who was his party’s nominee in the recent special election for House District 72, which was ultimately won by Democratic Rep. Margaret Good.

HD 74 is the third district Buchanan, the son of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, has filed for – he initially sought HD 71 before switching over to the HD 72 special.

Trolli filed for the seat on Feb. 28 but reported no contributions for the final day of the month, putting him and Buchanan on even financial footing in the Republican Primary albeit with a three-week head start for Trolli.

Also running for the seat are a pair of Democrats. Yves Junior Chery opened a campaign account on March 15 and Timothy Fitzgerald followed five days later.

House District 74 covers southern Sarasota County, including Venice and Northport and has a hefty advantage for Republicans.

The district voted 60-37 in favor of President Donald Trump in the 2016 election. By comparison, neighboring HD 72 voted 50-46 for Trump.

Gonzalez ran a couple points ahead of Trump two years ago, beating Democrat Manny Lopez 63-37 on Election Day.

Last-hour effort to delay USF System consolidation fails

Ever since legislation calling for consolidating the University of South Florida System was unveiled in mid-January, officials from the St. Petersburg community have raised serious objections.

The bill, sponsored by Estero Republican Ray Rodrigues (HB 423), would make USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee operate separately from the main campus in Tampa under its own accreditation. USFSP received accreditation in 2006 and USFSM followed suit in 2011, creating the USF System.

As the bill was introduced in the House Education Committee Tuesday afternoon, two Pinellas lawmakers introduced amendments that would improve the fate of USFSP.

St. Petersburg Democrat Ben Diamond‘s amendment was the more dramatic measure, effectively putting consolidation efforts on hold for another year.

It would appoint a study committee, comprised of students, faculty members and administrators from all three USF campuses, as well as members of the business community, to study consolidation of the separate campuses. They would then write a report and submit it to the Legislature before the 2019 session begins.

“My concern with what we’re doing … is that there hasn’t been the community discussion in Pinellas County yet as to this consolidation,” Diamond said. “I’m concerned that we’re rushing into this before we have a chance to hear from our community.”

Diamond then read off a host of local groups he said were extremely concerned about consolidation, namely the Pinellas County Commission, the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and the Pinellas County Economic Development Agency.

The St. Petersburg Democrat said he personally had several questions he believed needed additional vetting: What are the admission standards at each university? How will consolidation affect the curriculum? How is the governance structure changed if they are not separately accredited institutions?

But Rodrigues rejected his gambit, saying he believed that USF Tampa was on the verge of making “preeminence,” the state designation that rewards Florida’s top universities with millions of dollars. Such a delay would prevent Manatee-Sarasota and USFSP from enjoying the bounties of that achievement.

“All students that get a degree that says USF will be benefitting from that preeminence,” Rodrigues told the committee. “If we delay, then the money that is going to come to the University of South Florida would be invested in Tampa, because those would be the only students that have contributed to the metrics that have made them preeminent.”

Rodrigues added that USF System President Judy Genshaft and the state’s Board of Governors support his bill.

While the Diamond amendment went down to defeat (with Pinellas Republicans Chris Latvala and Larry Ahern voting no), Rodrigues did encourage the committee to back  Ahern’s amendment that would make USFSP and USFSM official USF campuses and not universities by 2020.

It also requires the USF board of trustees to publish a “biennial regional impact report,” which would get into the specifics of how USF is funding programs across its three counties.

That accountability report will also have to include statistics about research and infrastructure, student access to new degree programs and any changes in how students are performing and enrolling, among other things.

Newly elected Sarasota County Democrat Margaret Good asked what the harm was in delaying the implementation of the consolidation for another year to allow for a study to be conducted.

Rodrigues stuck to his previously declared bottom line: USF was approaching preeminence, and it’d be a shame if the St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee universities couldn’t share in the money that comes with that distinction.

Ray Pilon planning return to House District 72

Former Rep. Ray Pilon is planning a return to the Legislature, but it isn’t due to the seismic shakeup caused by U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney’s announcement that he won’t run for re-election.

The Sarasota Republican said in an email to Florida Politics that he plans to file for House District 72, the seat he held before running for state Senate in 2016.

Republican Alex Miller took over HD 72 when Pilon left, but stepped down after less than a year in office. Earlier this month, Democrat Margaret Good bested Republican James Buchanan in the special election to replace Miller.

Since HD 72 is held by a Democrat, it hasn’t been as ripe for speculation after Rooney’s bombshell announcement.

Nearly every other officeholder in the Sarasota area has been pegged as a potential candidate for Florida’s 17th Congressional District, or at the very least Sen. Greg Steube’s SD 23, which is opening up due to his own aspirations for Rooney’s seat.

Pilon had even been floated as a possible candidate for CD 17, but HD 72 it is.

When Pilon files, he’ll join Good, Libertarian Alison Foxall and Republican Alexandra Coe in the race.

Coe filed for the HD 72 special election, but failed to qualify for the ballot.

Pilon ran up the score in past elections to HD 72, but it remains to be seen whether the so-called “blue wave” that pushed Good past Buchanan will be present come November.

Pilon beat Democrat Greg Para with 58 percent of the vote in 2014, and in 2012 he defeated Democrat Liz Alpert 54-46. In 2010 he scored a 3-point victory over Democrat Keith Fitzgerald in the old House District 69.

Neither Good nor Foxall have filed campaign finance reports for the 2018 race due to the special election cycle, though Good was able to pull in plenty of money in that contest.

She had nearly $75,000 on hand in her campaign account and $28,124 in her political committee days before the election.

Final campaign finance reports from the special election are due in May.

Latest on the legislative staffing merry-go-round

With a tip of the hat to LobbyTools, here are the latest movements – both on and off – of the legislative merry-go-round.

Off: Andrea Jahna is no longer legislative assistant to Lake Placid Republican Sen. Denise Grimsley.

Off: Karen Riggien is no longer legislative assistant for Jacksonville Democratic Rep. Kimberly Daniels.

Off: Daniel Martinez is no longer legislative assistant for Hialeah Republican Rep. Manny Diaz.

On: Kevin Lata is the new legislative assistant for Sarasota Democratic Rep. Margaret Good.

Off: Benjamin Kelly is no longer executive secretary for Tampa Republican Rep. Shawn Harrison.

On: Amy Carpenter is a new district secretary for Dover Republican Rep. Lawrence McClure.

Off: Lindsay Graham is no longer a district secretary for Winter Park Republican Rep. Mike Miller.

Off: Nikolas Pascual is no longer legislative assistant for Miami Lakes Republican Rep. Jose Oliva.

Off: Erin Shields and Benjamin Gross are no longer district secretaries for Boca Raton Democratic Rep. Emily Slosberg.

Off and on: Carmen Perez moved from district secretary to legislative assistant in Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Trujillo‘s office.

How the dominoes could fall after ‘Rooney out’

Last week U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney put out the “Rooney out” message, launching a wave of speculation over who could step in and win the heavily Republican CD 17 in the fall.

So far, all the GOP candidates running to replace Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam – former Winter Haven Rep. Baxter Troutman, Lehigh Acres Rep. Matt Caldwell and Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley – have taken their names out of the hat. Fort Myers Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto said she wasn’t ruling out a run, and a host of other elected officials within CD 17 have been even less public about their plans.

Florida’s 17th Congressional District covers parts of Sarasota, Lee and Polk counties as well as the whole of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee.

The seat is a Republican stronghold that voted plus-27 for President Donald Trump.

The massive district covers a number of state legislative seats, but outside of Benacquisto’s nexus in Lee County, most of the GOP power players in CD 17 are concentrated in Sarasota County, though Rep. Michael Grant, who represents Charlotte County, is thought to be mulling a run, as is Rep. Ben Albritton, who represents DeSoto, Hardee and part of Polk.

At the top of the heap in Sarasota County are Sen. Greg Steube, Rep. Joe Gruters and Rep. Julio Gonzalez. Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight has said he will not run for the seat.

Then there are former pols such as Ray Pilon, who could jump in and muddy the vote within the Sarasota area even more, though he could just as easily lay out a return trip to the Legislature if enough of his former colleagues abandon their posts.

If any of those lawmakers make the plunge there could be a chain reaction that shakes up the Republican landscape in the Sarasota area, though Steube’s entry would register much higher on the Richter scale.

If he makes the call, his Senate seat will be a more natural step up for some contemplating the congressional jump, and a more realistic option for those lower down the totem pole.

Gruters is in no way at the bottom of that totem pole –  he chairs the Sarasota GOP and was one of President Donald Trump’s top men in Florida. Trump connections may not have played well in the HD 72 special, but both CD 17 and SD 23 have far greater Republican advantages.

The freshman lawmaker hasn’t ruled out a CD 17 run, but his likely play is to wait for Stuebe to announce for Congress and pounce into the Senate race, where he would have a massive advantage.

SD 23 covers all of Sarasota County and part of Charlotte.

GOP voters outnumber Democrats 161,000 to 114,000 and the seat voted plus-14 for Trump in 2016, putting it outside the common threshold for a “blue wave” flip.

So, who runs for Gruters’ seat if he goes for an upgrade?

Perhaps there will be a do-over for James Buchanan, the loser of the HD 72 special. He didn’t have to go through a primary in that race, but if he wants to become a lawmaker this year he’ll have to.

His opponents will likely have more political experience than him this time around. Likely to join him in the HD 73 race are Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh and Lakewood Ranch Republican Club head Steve Vernon. Vernon took Gruters to the wire in the 2016 primary for HD 73, losing by just 385 votes.

That three-way primary would be a pricy one, but it’s a guaranteed House seat for the winner. HD 73 went plus-25 for Trump in 2016 and Democrat Liv Coleman, who is currently filed to run against Gruters, has only $5,000 of loans in her campaign account.

If Gonzalez’ makes a move, it’s likely for Congress. He told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune he’s “absolutely” interested in the seat. If he makes the plunge, there’ll be another battle royale for a state House seat.

HD 74 has a strong GOP edge. Republicans have 21,000 more registered voters than Democrats in the district, making the seat’s GOP advantage half again better than the 13,000-registrant advantage in neighboring HD 72, which recently flipped with the election of Democrat Margaret Good.

Gonzalez beat Democrat Manny Lopez with 63 percent of the vote in 2016, and no candidate has filed to run against him in 2018.

If he hops into the congressional race, his legislative assistant, Vickie Brill, is likely to take a shot, as are North Port Vice-Mayor Linda Yates and up-and-comer Justin Taylor.

Firsthand experience in the legislative process has been more than enough to win a seat for many lawmakers, but Yates brings the experience of an elected official, while Taylor has enthusiasm and ties to former Sen. Nancy Detert working in his favor. An endorsement from Detert, now a Sarasota County Commissioner, could make a big difference early on in a campaign.

No matter who replaces Rooney, expect a few extra fresh faces when the 2019 Legislative Session begins.

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