Mike La Rosa Archives - Florida Politics

Top House Republicans holding fundraiser for Central Florida incumbents

Incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva and the two Republican lawmakers set to succeed him in that post will be in Orlando next week for a fundraiser benefitting the re-election campaigns of their Central Florida colleagues.

Oliva, Palm Harbor Rep. Chris Sprowls and Palm Coast Rep. Paul Renner will headline the Sept. 12 fundraising reception at The Groove, 6000 Universal Blvd. The event starts at 7 p.m.

The fundraiser will benefit 10 incumbent Republicans representing Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and Volusia counties in the state House: Mike La Rosa, Colleen Burton, Bob Cortes, Randy Fine, Bobby Olszewski, Scott Plakon, Rene Plasencia, David Santiago, Jennifer Sullivan and Josie Tomkow.

Also on the invitation is Stockton Reeves, the Republican nominee in House District 47, which is open this year due to current Republican Rep. Mike Miller opting to challenge U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

Reeves defeated Mikaela Nix by 10 points in the Republican primary for the seat last week. He now moves on to a general election showdown against well-funded Democratic nominee Anna Eskamani.

Most of the incumbents on the invite are running for re-election in safely Republican districts.

Cortes, who represents HD 30, and Olszewski, who holds HD 44, are both running for re-election in seats carried by Hillary Clinton two years ago, however, they both went uncontested in August and have substantial fundraising leads over their Democratic challengers.

Those looking to attend the fundraiser can direct their RSVPs to Rick Porter via 407-849-1112 or Ivey Rooney via Ivey@PoliticalCapitalFlorida.com.

The invitation is below.

House Republican Majority Fundraiser 9.12.2018

BusinessForce endorses 12 in Central Florida races

BusinessForce, a political committee supporting the business sector of Central Florida, on Monday announced a dozen endorsements for the general election including all six Republicans seeking re-election to Florida House seats.

The organization that spun off from Orlando Inc., the Orlando area Chamber of Commerce, recommended the election of Republican David Smith in Seminole County’s District 28, and the re-elections of Republican state Reps. Scott Plakon in District 29 in Seminole County; Bob Cortes in District 30 split between Seminole and Orange counties; Jennifer Sullivan in District 31 split between Lake and Orange counties; Mike La Rosa in District 42 in Osceola County; Bobby Olszewski in District 44 in Orange County; and Rene Plasencia in District 50, split between Orange and Brevard counties.

BusinessForce also made three endorsements in races for open seats on the Orange County Commission: Christine Moore in District 2; Mayra Uribe in District 3; and Susan Makowski in District 4.

In Seminole County, BusinessForce announced it was backing Jay Zembower in the District 2 race for the Seminole County Commission.

And for the Orange County School Board, BusinessForce endorsed Melissa Byrd for the District 7 seat.

“The candidates we endorsed are a solid representation of BusinessForce’s commitment to helping candidates who are pro-business and embrace a free market economy. We look forward to working with each of them on issues that align with our values and mission,” Craig Swygert, chairman of the board of BusinessForce, stated in a news release.

Central Florida Republicans start House general campaigns with strong financial edges

Several Central Florida Republican Florida House candidates entered the fall general election with solid financial advantages over their Democratic challengers.

That was the case with several House incumbent members seeking re-election and also is the case for David Smith who is running to win an open seat for Florida’s House District 28. It’s not the case with Democrats, excepting Anna Eskamani.

Neither Smith, a Winter Springs business consultant, nor Democratic nominee Lee Mangold, a Casselberry cyber-security business owner, had a primary challenge in HD 28 in northeast Seminole County. So both enter the fall stretch without having had to spend much, and Smith enters with a decided advantage in campaign cash.

Smith, who lent his campaign $85,000 to start, also had raised $146,000 through more than 1,300 contributions. Even though he spent considerably this year he still came through last Tuesday’s primary season with $136,118 left in the bank, according to the most recent campaign finance reports available through the Florida Division of Elections, covering activity through Aug. 23, the final report before the primary.

Mangold entered the general election campaign season with $15,265, built from a fairly robust 367 donations, plus $10,000 he lent his own campaign, minus more than $21,000 he has spent so far on his campaign.

Smith’s $120,000 campaign finance advantage was the third-best cushion heading into the fall election of any Central Florida Florida House candidates, behind only Democrat Eskamani and Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes, who also did not have primary challengers.

In House District 47 race in Orange County, first-time candidate Eskamani of Orlando reported having raised more than $309,000 in her official campaign fund and another $36,000 in an independent political campaign, putting her about $300,000 ahead of Republican nominee Stockton Reeves VI of Winter Park, who had to win a primary to enter the fall campaign. On Tuesday she reported that her next reports will put her over $350,000 raised. Reeves, who had to win a tough Republican primary, entered the fall with about $41,000 in his account.

Cortes, of Altamonte Springs, enters the fall campaign with $135,081 in the bank for the HD 30 race in south Seminole and north Orange counties. His Democratic opponent, Maitland City Councilwoman Joy Goff-Marcil, emerged from a highly competitive three-way Democratic primary with just $3,657 left in her campaign account.

Republican state Reps. Scott Plakon of Sanford in Seminole County’s House District 29 and Bobby Olszewski of Winter Garden in Orange County’s House District 44, who also had no primary challenges while their Democratic opponents did, also emerged into the fall with sizable money advantages.

That wasn’t the case across the board. Several incumbent Florida House members who had primary challengers enter the fall campaign a bit financially spent, including state Rep. Thad Altman of Indialantic in District 52 in Brevard County, who spent so much to win his primary that his autumn opponent, Democrat Seeta Begui of Melbourne, a first-time candidate, actually starts the fall campaign with more than a $3,000 campaign money advantage in the bank, according to reports through Aug. 23.

None of the Democratic members of the Florida House seeking re-election enter the fall with much financial advantage.

First-time Republican candidate Ben Griffin of Orlando was given $50,000 by the Republican Party of Florida to run against Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando in House District 49 in Orange County, and Griffin raised only another $3,260 on his own. Still, Smith starts the fall campaign with only a $15,476 advantage.

In House District 48 in Orange County, Democratic state Rep. Amy Mercado‘s Republican opponent has raised no money, but she hasn’t raised much either. So Mercado, of Orlando, enters the fall campaign with a $17,262 campaign finance advantage over George Chandler of Orlando.

Among the other Central Florida races for the Florida House:

— Plakon entered the fall HD 29 campaign in Seminole County with $98,541 in the bank, compared with $8,582 for Democrat Tracey Kagan of Longwood.

— Republican state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan of Mout Dora entered the fall campaign for HD 30 with $53,827 in the bank in the House District 31 race in Lake and Orange counties, compared with $6,264 for Democrat Debra Kaplan of Eustis.

— Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa of St. Cloud had $81,894 in his campaign account entering the fall House District 42 race in Osceola County, compared with $25,392 for Democratic challenger Barbara Cady of Kissimmee.

— Olszewski came into the fall with $120,166 in the HD 44 contest, while former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson of Orlando, who had to win a Democratic primary, enters with $9,532, according to reports through Aug. 23.

— Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia of Orlando had to spend big to stave off a primary challenger, and so he entered the fall with just $36,309 to defend his House District 50 seat in east Orange County and north Brevard County, while Democrat Pam Dirschka of Titusville came into the fall campaign with $7,745 in the bank.

Tyler Sirois of Merritt Island, who also had to spend big to win a Republican primary. He came into the fall House District 51 race in north Brevard County with just $12,460 in the bank, compared with $7,152 for Democrat Mike Blake of Cocoa.

Bill Nelson, Adam Putnam top Orlando’s Political Salsa

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam were the top choices at Orlando’s Political Salsa hobnob for races for Senate and Florida Governor.

With more than 400 votes, Nelson topped Republican Gov. Rick Scott 52 percent to 43 percent with Rocky De La Fuente taking the rest during the Hispanic-oriented but mostly mixed-ethnic event Thursday night.  Organizers released results over the weekend.

Putnam won a tight contest over Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the 16-person straw poll for Governor, with Putnam grabbing 25 percent of the votes and Gillum 23. Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis finished third with 15 percent; Democratic former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, 13 percent; Democratic former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, 11 percent; Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King took five percent; and four points for Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene.

In a separate poll taken at Political Salsa held at Acacia, a community center for Central Florida’s Puerto Rican community,  77 percent of the participants said they support Puerto Rico statehood. Only 15 percent chose the option of independence, and 8 percent said none of the above.

Unlike many hobnob straw polls, the Political Salsa straw poll evenly divided favorites between Republicans and Democrats, offering a possible Democratic lean with several upsets.

The primary sponsors of the event were the Suarez Group of Companies and the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Florida.

Republican former Judge Ashley Moody was the pick for Attorney General, with 39 percent, compared to 27 percent for Democratic state Sen. Sean Shaw, 22 percent for Democrat Ryan Torrens, and 12 percent for Republican state Rep. Frank White.

In the race for Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, Democratic former state Sen. Jeremy Ring topped Republican Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis 51 to 49 percent.

Democrat Nikki Fried was the top choice for Agriculture Commissioner, taking 30 percent, compared with 19 for Republican state Rep. Matt Caldwell, 18 for Democrat Roy David Walker, and 17 for state Sen. Denise Grimsley, among the leaders.

In congressional races, three Democratic incumbents came out on top and one Democratic challenger took a surprise victory.

Democrat Sanjay Patel outpolled Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey 53 to 47 percent in Florida’s 8th Congressional District, which is Brevard County-centered with a piece of eastern Orange County.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy barely topped Republican state Rep. Mike Miller in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, covering Seminole and north and central Orange counties. Murphy polled 35, Miller 33. The other three candidates, two Republicans and a Democrat, drew totals in the low teens.

In Florida’s 9th Congressional District, Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto not only came out on top but his Democratic primary rival, former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson finished a distant third. Soto got 51, Republican Wayne Liebnitzky 34, and Grayson 15 points in that district covering Osceola, south Orange and eastern Polk counties.

In Florida’s 10th Congressional District, which covers west Orange County, Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings has only an upstart Democratic challenger standing between her and re-election. And that was relatively close in this poll: Demings 61 percent, Wade Darius, 39 percent.

Several surprises came in Florida House races.

Democrat Lee Mangold topped Republican David Smith 53 to 47 percent in House District 28.

Republican state Rep. Scott Plakon came out on top in House District 29, taking 44 to 40 percent for Democrat Tracey Kagan; Democrat Darryl Block took 16 points.

Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes topped House District 30, taking 49 to 22 percent against Democrat Brendan Ramirez; 20 percent went to Clark Anderson and 9 points for Joy Goff-Marcil.

Democrat Debra Kaplan led Republican state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, 58 to 42 percent in House District 31.

Democrat Ricky Shirah was the choice in House District 39, topping Republican Josie Tomkow 54-39 percent.

Democrat Barbara Cady topped Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa 54 to 46 in House District 42.

Republican state Rep. Bobby Olszewski topped House District 44. He drew 38, to 33 for Democratic former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson and 29 for Melanie Gold.

Democrat Anna Eskamani edged out a Republican rival the House District 47 contest with 47 percent; 42 percent went for Republican Mikaela Nix and 11 percent for Republican Stockton Reeves.

Democrat Carlos Guillermo Smith got 56 percent to Republican Ben Griffin‘s 44 in House District 49.

Democrat Pam Dirschka led the House District 50 contest with 45 percent, while Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia took 40 percent, and Republican George Collins, 15 points.

Republican Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke led in the contest for Orange County Mayor. Clarke grabbed 41 percent, to 35 percent for Sheriff Jerry Demings and 24 percent for businessman Rob Panepinto.

Retired Florida Highway Patrol Chief Joe Lopez pulled off a shockingly easy upset in the contest for Orange County Sheriff, topping Orlando Police Chief John Mina 51 to 28, with Democrat Darryl Sheppard finishing third with 21.

In Orange County Commission races, Republican Christina Moore was the top choice in a four-person field for District 2, leading Republican Mark Byrd 35 to 28 percent; Democrat Eric Rollings was the pick in the five-person field for District 3, leading Pete Crotty 36 to 22 percent; Gina Perez-Calhoun and Maribel Gomez Cordero were the top choices in the five-person District 4 race.

For the Seminole County Commission, Katrina Shadix was the choice in District 2, and Amy Lockhart in District 4, with both polling more than 50 percent.

For the Osceola County Commission, Wanda Rentas got 44 percent in District 2, while incumbent Commissioner Viviana Janer took 25 and Janette Martinez 24. Adam Michelin led a tight race for District 4, taking 32 percent versus 26 percent for incumbent Commissioner Cheryl Grieb, Will Fonseca taking 24, and Will Gonzalez Jr., 18 points.

Voter registration trends suggest tougher races for Mike La Rosa, Bob Cortes

Democrats’ voter registration gains in greater Orlando is spelling bigger challenges for several Republicans running in GOP-held Florida House seats.

It includes state Reps. Mike La Rosa and Bob Cortes, whose districts are turning bluer as they seek re-elections this fall.

In many ways, Central Florida mirrors statewide trends in the era of President Donald Trump, with Democratic voters increasing as percentages of the electorates in urban and, increasingly, in suburban areas. Republicans are gaining voters in more outlying areas that may be parts of the metropolitan media market but center more on smaller cities such as Melbourne, Daytona Beach, and Leesburg.

Democrats are seeing improved chances for their ambitions to knock off Republicans in the immediate Sanford-Orlando-Kissimmee corridor and gaining more advantage in their safe urban districts. However, in a few areas farther from the urban core, Republican voter bases are growing. That’s solidifying the GOP’s holds for such seats as House District 52 in north Brevard County and House District 25 in Volusia County, and also making inroads in more purple areas such as House District 27 in western Volusia.

La Rosa’s House District 42, which includes part of Kissimmee but otherwise covers huge, mostly rural parts of Osceola County and some of east Polk County and a few small towns, is a bit of an exception. That’s due in large part to the swell of Democratic voters throughout Osceola County.

Republicans have lost almost two percentage points of the HD 42 voter base in the latest book closings for the Aug. 28 primary compared with the 2016 primary. As a result, Democrats in that previously purple district now have almost a 6-point advantage over Republicans in voter registrations.

Democratic HD 42 nominee Barbara Cady said she’s sensing that on the campaign trail, saying voter turnout will be critical to her hopes to unseat La Rosa.

“I think it’s going really good. the campaign is terrific. … I think we have a good chance in November,” said the Democratic activist from Kissimmee. “I have a cautious, optimistic sense that it’s just about voter turnout, and that’s what we’re focusing on. If they come out to the polls, we have a really good chance.”

Yet  La Rosa, of St. Cloud, is a well-known figure; a three-term representative who has won easy re-elections; chairman of the House Tourism Gaming Control and Tourism Subcommittee; and an active fundraiser, who’s outraised Cady $158,000 to $42,000.

He said things are going well for his campaign.

“Of course the district is changing. It’s been changing since Day 1 for me, and I just do what I need to do to represent the district,” La Rosa said.

As Osceola turns deep blue throughout and HD 42, taking in most of the more conservative areas, is turning pale blue. The latest voter numbers show the HD 42 voter base to be 37 percent Democrat, 31 percent Republican, and 32 percent independent.

Cortes’ House District 30 in south-central Seminole County is following the lead of that county’s voter base, where Democrats have made the most significant gains, relative to Republicans, since 2016. Democrats picked up two percentage points in HD 30, and now have almost a 4-point advantage there, 37.4 percent to 33.5 percent.

Cortes, a two-term lawmaker from Altamonte Springs who is reportedly on U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis’ short list of possible Lieutenant Governor running mates, awaits the Democratic primary to see whom he will face in November. The Democratic battle is between Maitland City Councilwoman Joy Goff-Marcil, Brendan Ramirez, and Clark Anderson.

Others where Republican voters slipped as percentages of their districts’ overall electorates: Seminole County districts represented by Republicans, House District 28 with Jason Brodeur and House District 29 with Scott Plakon.

Also feeling the pinch are three Orange County districts represented by Republicans, House District 44 with Bobby Olszewski, House District 47 with Mike Miller, and House District 50 (split between Orange and Brevard counties) with Rene Plasencia.

Miller is not seeking re-election in HD 47. Democrats are running activist Anna Eskamani, while lawyer Mikaela Nix and businessman Stockton Reeves VI are battling toward the Aug. 28 Republican primary.

The other four Republican-held districts in Orange and Seminole still have more Republican voters than Democratic voters, but the gaps are shrinking.

In HD 28, where Brodeur is not running for re-election, and where Republican David Smith will be facing Democrat Lee Mangold, Republicans’ advantage is now five percentage points, down from seven.

In HD 29, Plakon’s 8-point advantage for Republican voters in 2016 is down to 5 points. He awaits the winner of a Darryl BlockTracey Kagan Democratic primary.

In HD 44, Olszewski’s district, Republican voters had almost a 6-point advantage in 2016, and that’s down to 3. He awaits the winner of the Melanie GoldGeraldine Thompson Democratic primary.

In HD 50, Republicans’ advantage has slipped by almost 2 points, and they now have an advantage of 36 percent to 34 percent for Democrats. Plasencia’s facing his own primary challenge from Republican George Collins, with Democrat Pam Dirschka waiting for next.

Only one Central Florida seat held by Democrats saw any shrinkage of its Democratic voter base compared with Republicans, but that’s a relatively safe seat in Volusia County, House District 26, held by Democratic state Rep. Patrick Henry. Even with a 2-point swing toward Republicans in the past two years, the district still is 41 percent Democrat and 30 percent Republican, by voter registration.

Most of the deep-red or deep-blue Central Florida districts got more so in the past two years.

In Republican strongholds, state Rep. Thad Altman’s advantage in House District 52 in Brevard County has increased to slightly, with Republican voters now up 19 percentage points over Democrats. State Rep. Jennifer Sullivan‘s House District 32 in Lake County plus a corner of northwest Orange County, saw Republicans edge up toward a 14 point advantage in voter rolls. House District 51, held in Brevard County by state Rep. Tom Goodson but featuring a Republican primary battle this year between Tyler Sirois and Cocoa Mayor Henry Parrish, saw Republican voters’ increase to an 11 percent advantage over Democrats.

In Democratic strongholds, state Reps. Bruce Antone in House District 46 in Orange County; John Cortes, in House District 43 in Osceola County; and Kamia Brown, in House District 45 in Orange County, do not have Republican opponents. Here’s why: Democratic voters expanded their dominance in each of those districts to way more than 30 points greater than the percentages of Republican voters.

In partisan contested races, state Rep. Amy Mercado‘s District 48 in Orange County tipped a bit further toward Democrats, who now have a 30-point lead over Republicans there; and state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith‘s House District 49 in Orange County saw Democratic advantage grow to be 15 percentage points better than Republicans in voter registration.

Ten Central Florida house seats set for primaries August 28

Ten seats in Central Florida’s portion of the Florida House of Representatives will have primaries on August 28, with four Republican and six Democratic in-party battles set by Friday’s ballot qualifying.

The big primary battles among Republicans are preparing for two open seats now held by Republicans, and among the Democrats for four places where they see prospects to knock off incumbent Republicans.

Meanwhile, five other seats are lined up for November showdowns between one Republican and one Democrat.

Two other races already have been decided, as Democratic state Reps. John Cortes in House District 43 in north Osceola County and Kamia Brown in House District 45 in western Orange County drew no opponents and won. In House District 46, Democratic state Rep. Bruce Antone has all but won but still must go into the November election because a write-in candidate qualified to challenge.

The most intriguing primary matchup for Democrats emerges in House District 44, where five Democrats jumped in wanting to take on Republican state Rep. Bobby Olszewski, and then started dropping out. The third withdrawal, Eddy Dominguez, occurred this week, leaving former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson and activist Melanie Gold, both of Orlando, remaining for the Democrats’ primary.

Olszewski gets the HD 44 Democratic primary winner in November election to represent southwest Orange County.

A winnowing of potential candidates also occurred in House District 27, in western Volusia County, leaving Democrats Neil Heinrichsen and Carol Lawrence, both of Deltona, set to meet in a primary after another Democrat dropped out.

Republican state Rep. David Santiago of Deltona will meet the HD 27 Democrats’ winner in November.

In House District 29, lawyer and social worker Darryl Block of Lake Mary faces lawyer Tracey Kagan of Longwood in the Democratic primary, again after another Democrat dropped out.

Republican state Rep. Scott Plakon of Longwood will get the Democrats’ HD 29 primary winner in November for that north-central Seminole County district.

In House District 30, Clark Anderson of Winter Park, Maitland City Commissioner Joy Goff-Marcil, and newly-entered Brendan Ramirez of Orlando all have qualified for the Democratic primary.

The winner will face Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes in the November election for HD 30, covering south-central Seminole and north Orange.

House District 47 is the only seat that will see primaries for both parties, thanks to the late entry of Lou Forges on the Democrats’ side this week. Forges, of Apopka, meets Anna Eskamani of Orlando on the Democrat side, while Mikaela Nix of Orlando meets Stockton Reeves VI of Winter Park in the preliminaries. The seat will open up with the departure of Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Miller.

In House District 50, covering part of east Orange and north Brevard County, incumbent state Rep. Rene Plasencia of Orlando will meet George Collins of Orlando in the Republican primary.

The Republicans’ HD 50 primary winner meets Democrat Pam Dirschka of Titusville in November.

In House District 51, an open seat representing central Brevard, Republicans Tyler Sirois, and Cocoa Mayor Henry Parrish will meet in the Republican primary, with the eliminations of two other Republicans who also had filed for that seat. It’s opening up with the departure of Republican state Rep. Tom Goodson.

The HD 51 Republican primary winner faces Democrat Mike Blake of Cocoa in November.

In House District 52, incumbent state Rep. Thad Altman of Indialantic meets Matt Nye of Melbourne in the Republican primary for the central-Brevard district.

Democrat Seeta Durjan Begui gets the winner of that HD 52 Republican primary in November.

In House District 53, covering south Brevard, Democrats Phil Moore of West Melbourne and FiorD’Aliza A. Frias of Palm Bay meet in the Democratic primary.

The winner of the Democrats’ HD 53 primary will face incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Randy Fine in the general election.

The head-to-head general elections set for the November 6 general election include:

— Republican David Smith of Winter Springs versus Democrat Lee Mangold of Casselberry, battling for the open seat for Florida’s House District 28, covering eastern Seminole. That’s an open seat, being vacated by Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur.

— Republican state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan of Mount Dora will meet Debra Kaplan of Eustis battling for House District 31, covering northern Lake County and a piece of northwest Orange.

— Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa of Saint Cloud will meet Democrat Barbara Cady of Kissimmee for House District 42 covering east and central Osceola.

— Democratic state Rep. Amy Mercado of Orlando will face Republican Scotland Calhoun of Orlando for House District 48, including parts of south and east Orange.

— Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando will face Republican Ben Griffin for House District 49, covering parts of north and east Orange.

Polk County delegation piles on the campaign cash in May

The five lawmakers representing a piece of Polk County in the Florida House continued cruising toward Election Day with more than $90,000 in combined campaign fundraising.

Winter Haven Republican Rep. Sam Killebrew had the strongest May fundraising report of the five members of the Polk delegation, all of whom are Republicans.

The House District 41 lawmaker added $35,525 in contributions and spent just $2,395, leaving him with $80,790 in the bank as he runs for a second term against Democratic challengers Carmelo Garcia and Alex Perkins.

Garcia, who filed May 26, posted a waiver for the brief period he was a candidate last month, while Perkins hasn’t reported raising a dime since filing for the Republican stronghold in February.

Over in House District 56, term-limited Wauchula Rep. Ben Albritton showed $24,450 in new money for his campaign to succeed exiting Republican Sen. Denise Grimsley, who is running for Agriculture Commissioner in the fall.

The report, his best since October, brings his fundraising total to $172,050 with $105,646 banked. His opponent in the Senate District 26 race, Democrat Catherine Price, had raised just under $17,000 for her campaign through the end of April and had $14,263 on hand.

The gulf in fundraising between Albritton in Price is even wider when committee money is included in the tally —Albritton has another $175,000 on hand in Advancing Florida Agriculture, including $11,000 raised in May.

Taking the No. 3 spot on the Polk delegation list was Lakeland Republican Rep. Colleen Burton, who received $19,150 in campaign contributions for her House District 40 re-election bid.

Burton, currently in her second term, has now raised nearly $135,000 for the 2018 election cycle. After $7,666 in May spending, she has $88,080 banked.

Her lone opponent is Democrat Shandale Terrell, who showed $250 raised in May. Since filing for the seat in November 2016, Terrell has raised about $3,200 and had $2,330 in the bank heading into June.

St. Cloud Rep. Mike La Rosa, who represents a piece of western Polk, was $50 shy of the $10,000 mark in his May report. The third-term HD 42 lawmaker’s $9,950 in fundraising was almost completely wiped out by $9,843 in spending, leaving him with $66,765 in his campaign account on May 31.

His main opponent, Democrat Barbary Cady, hasn’t posted her May numbers yet, though she had raised a not insignificant $32,000 through the end of April with $20,175 on hand.

Also running are Republican Bienvenido Valentin and unaffiliated candidate Lonzell Ivory, neither of whom have gained traction in the money race.

The final member of the Polk delegation is also the newest member of the Florida House: Polk City Rep. Josie Tomkow.

In her first campaign finance report since winning the special election to replace former Rep. Neil Combee in House District 39, Tomkow showed $2,220 in contributions.

The small haul isn’t anything to worry about — no other candidates have filed for the seat and it’s unlikely another Republican files to challenge her before the end of the candidate qualifying period on June 22. If a Democratic candidate were to enter the fray HD 39 already proven to be a safe fortress to ride out “blue wave.”

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: Connie Ennis is a new administrative assistant for the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee.

On: Karina Pereira is a new legislative assistant for Fort Lauderdale Democratic Sen. Gary Farmer.

On: Elise Minkoff is the new legislative assistant for St. Petersburg Democratic Sen. Darryl Rouson.

Off: Vanessa Thompson is no longer legislative assistant for St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes.

Off: Shawn Hall is no longer legislative assistant for Boynton Beach Democratic Rep. Joseph Abruzzo.

On: Kavanjote Birdi is the new district secretary for Miami Democratic Rep. Robert Asencio.

On: Brandon Johnson is the new district secretary for Ocoee Democratic Rep. Kamia Brown.

Off: Rebekah Hurd is no longer legislative assistant for St. Cloud Republican Rep. Mike La Rosa.

Off: Janine Kiray is no longer district secretary for Clearwater Republican Rep. Chris Latvala.

Off: Dylan Fisher is no longer legislative assistant for Ormond Beach Republican Rep. Tom Leek.

Off: Sarah Sims is no longer legislative assistant for Naples Republican Rep. Bob Rommel.

On: Shorty Robbins is the new district secretary for St. Johns Republican Rep. Cyndi Stevenson.

On: Melissa Santoro is the new district secretary for Wellington Democratic Rep. Matt Willhite.

Republican lawmakers earn high grades on Associated Industries’ report card

The Associated Industries of Florida on Tuesday released a report measuring how closely Florida lawmakers’ votes aligned with its interests.

The conservative business group’s 2018 Voting Records report found a slight uptick in lawmaker support for AIF-backed legislation, with 78 percent of the Senate and 91 percent of the House voting in favor of its priorities.

AIF also recognized five lawmakers – three in the Senate and two in the House – with “non-voting” awards for going above and beyond during the 2018 Legislative Session.

“Our team goes to great lengths to ensure legislators are aware of AIF’s positions on issues of great importance to Florida’s business community. And, after every session, AIF compiles a record of success with our Voting Records” said Tom Feeney, president and CEO of AIF.

“We are proud to honor elected officials as Champions for Business – those lawmakers who take risks for his or her beliefs in the free-enterprise system, who defy the status quo when it’s harmful to our state’s competitive climate and who face down opponents to grow prosperity for Floridians.”

Though lawmakers scored higher marks in 2018 than years prior, the scorecard results don’t paint a complete picture of the session according to Brewster Bevis, senior vice president of state and federal affairs for AIF.

He explained that the focus shift brought about by the February mass shooting in Parkland “resulted in a slowed legislative process and fewer bills making it through to the end – the lowest number of bills passed since 2001.

“So while AIF’s Voting Records show more favorable outcomes for the business community compared to last year, it is important to note the political environment and the impact it had on the legislative process this year.”

The AIF report, now in its 43rd year, is a compilation of voting records based on committee, amendment and floor votes cast.

“Votes provide tangible evidence of whether a legislator supports the ability of Florida companies to prosper and operate free of overly burdensome state regulation and taxation,” Feeney said.

He went on to name AIF’s five 2018 Champions for Business: Republican Sens. Rob Bradley, Kathleen Passidomo and Dana Young, and Republican Reps. Joe Gruters and Mike Miller.

“Whether they proposed an important bill, authored a key amendment or toiled behind the scenes, these legislators are the ones who made a difference during the 2018 Legislative Session,” Feeney said.

Only Dana Young, who represents Tampa-based Senate District 18, has received the Champion designation in the past. AIF will present the Champions for Business awards to the lawmakers at its annual conference, to be held Sept. 12 through 14 in Orlando.

AIF also recognized another 33 members of the Florida House for achieving a 100 percent voting record for the 2018 Legislative Session.

“These lawmakers showed a commitment to sound policy that supports Florida’s employers and job creators. Not only does this score encompass votes to pass legislation beneficial to businesses, it includes votes to defeat policies that would have a detrimental impact on businesses and their employees.  We applaud all 38 lawmakers highlighted in our Voting Records for helping make Florida the best place to do business,” Feeney said.

The full list of 100 percenters: House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Indialantic Rep. Thad Altman, Hialeah Rep. Bryan Avila, Bradenton Rep. Jim Boyd, Lehigh Acres Rep. Matt Caldwell, Jonesville Rep. Chuck Clemons, Altamonte Springs Rep. Bob Cortes, Orange Park Rep. Travis Cummings, Naples Rep. Bryon Donalds, DeFuniak Springs Rep. Brad Drake, Palm Bay  Rep. Randy Fine, Jacksonville Rep. Jason Fischer, Venice Rep. Julio Gonzalez, Stuart Rep. Gayle Harrell, Spring Hill Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, Winter Haven Rep. Sam Killebrew, St. Cloud Rep. Mike La Rosa, Clearwater Rep. Chris Latvala, Daytona Beach Rep. Tom Leek, Port Richey Rep. Amber Mariano, Beverly Hills Rep. Ralph Massullo, Plant City Rep. Lawrence McClure, St. Petersburg Rep. Kathleen Peters, Sebring Rep. Cary Pigman, Ft. Walton Beach Rep. Mel Ponder, Lake City Rep. Elizabeth Porter, Valrico Rep. Jake Raburn, Palm Coast Rep. Paul Renner, Palm Beach Gardens Rep. Rick Roth, Riverview Rep. Ross Spano, Ocala Rep. Charlie Stone, Royal Palm Beach Rep. Matt Willhite and Pace Rep. Jayer Williamson.

All recognized were Republicans except for Willhite, a Democrat.

Henry Parrish

Henry Parrish has second big fundraising month in HD 51 race

The House District 51 open seat race in Brevard County is heating up as Cocoa Mayor Henry Parrish posted his second big month of fundraising since entering the race in February.

Parrish, a Republican, raised $12,012 in March, following up the $21,100 brought in during his debut month; he said it’s reflecting the revival the city of Cocoa is experiencing.

“I’m just getting started. I’m very lucky; I have a lot of supporters,” Parrish said.

With Parrish’s entry, the campaign of Republican Tyler Sirois is finding new energy, too. The $11,140 raised in March is his biggest monthly haul his campaign has brought in since its debut a year ago. Sirois now has raised about $71,000 and has about $55,000 in the bank, while Parrish’s campaign headed into April with about $32,500.

They’re striving to succeed term-limited Republican state Rep. Tom Goodson of Rockledge in the north coast Brevard County district.

Also in that contest, Republican Jeffrey Ramsey of Merritt Island had no campaign finance activity in March, and had raised about $15,000, with about $7,800 in the bank; Republican Thomas O’Neill of Rockledge had no campaign finance activity in March, and has raised $2,290, and had about $800 in the bank; Democrat Michael Blake of Cocoa raised $666 in March, giving him $766 total raised, and about $80 in the bank; and newcomer independent Shain Allen Honkonen has not yet filed any reports.

Parrish’s and Sirois’ March campaign contribution totals were among the largest among Florida House of Representatives’ campaigns in the Central Florida area, not including that of House District 47 Democrat Anna Eskamani of Orlando, who has made a habit of topping House in campaign contributions in the region in most months. Earlier this week, her campaign reported bringing in another $19,234 for March, pushing her total contributions over $203,000 and her cash holdings to $152,000.

Also in the HD 47 race, Republican Mikaela Nix of Orlando raised $8,037 and lent her campaign $2,500. That brings her total haul to about $31,500, leaving her with just under $29,000 in the bank by the start of April. Stockton Reeves of Winter Park brought in $2,950 and lent his campaign another $4,700. That gives him $118,000 raised, including $94,000 he put in, and about $105,000 left in the bank going into April.

HD 47 is likely to be an open seat in north-central Orange County as Republican state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park is running for Congress.

Republican David Smith of Winter Springs again led all Seminole County house candidates as he reported raising $11,494 in March for his run in House District 28 in northeast Seminole. Including $85,000 he has put into his own campaign, Smith has gathered about $189,000 and has about $149,000 left. Democrat Lee Mangold of Casselberry raised just $941 in March. With $10,000 he lent his campaign, he has raised $25,400 and ended March with about $13,200 left.

They’re eying for the seat being vacated by Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur of Sanford.

In another race heating up, Republican state Rep. Bobby Olszewski reported raising $6,000 in March, giving him $43,300 raised and about $35,500 in the bank. Democrat Eddy Dominguez of Orlando reported raising only $1,000, but he also reported receiving $11,000 in in-kind contributions, including staff time. He has reported more than $20,000 in such in-kind support in two months, though his campaign has raised only $3,525 overall, and finished March with only about $1,500 in the bank. Democrat Matthew Matin of Winter Garden reported raising $2,000 in donations. With $1,070 loaned to his campaign, Matin raised $12,200 and had about $9,600 left.

That southwest Orange County race is likely to change now with the entry this month of former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson of Orlando. She has not filed any campaign finance reports.

In three other Florida House of Representatives contests in Central Florida, Democratic challengers sent significant fundraising challenges toward their Republican incumbent opponents, who had been barred from fundraising during the first 11 days of the month due to the Legislative Session.

In the central Brevard County House District 52 race, Democrat Ann Fuller of Melbourne reported raising $8,157, her second $8,000 month since she entered the race in early February against Republican state Rep. Thad Altman of Indialantic. Fuller now has raised $16,677 and ended March with $15,582 in the bank, while Altman did not raise any money in March, and finished the month with a total raised of $25,050, and only $18,803 in the bank.

In the House District 30 race, covering south-central Seminole County and parts of north-central Orange County, Democratic Maitland City Commissioner Joy Goff-Marcil reported raising $7,340. In less than two months she has raised $14,890 and entered April with about $11,560 left. Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes raised $5,760 in March. Yet Cortes already had a comfortably-sizable campaign fund, and now has raised $94,675, with about $77,440 left in the bank. Democrat Clark Anderson of Winter Park reported raising $1,275. With the $10,000 he had previously lent his campaign, he finished March with $12,525 raised and $11,666 in the bank.

In east and south Osceola County’s House District 42, Democrat Barbara Cady of Kissimmee reported raising $5,380 in March. That gives her $26,754 so far, and $16,831 left heading into April. Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa of St. Cloud raised just $60 in March, though, like Cortes, he already had a hefty campaign fund. He has raised $112,467 overall and entered April with $61,282 in the bank.

In four other contested house races in Central Florida, Democratic challengers raised modest or small amounts of campaign money for campaign fund totals still under $10,000, while House District 29 Republican State Rep. Scott Plakon of Altamonte Springs; Republican House District 31 state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan of Mount Dora; Republican House District 50 state Rep. Rene Plasencia of Orlando; and Republican House District 53 state Rep. Randy Fine of Palm Bay also raised little money in March, most of them held comfortably-large campaign fund balances.

Raising little money in March were unopposed Democratic state Reps. John Cortes of Kissimmee in House District 43; Kamia Brown of Ocoee in House District 45; Bruce Antone of Orlando in House District 46; Amy Mercado of Orlando in House District 48; and Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando in House District 49. Each entered April with modest campaign funds of less than $50,000 apiece.

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