neil combee Archives - Florida Politics

Josie Tomkow endorsed by NRA, Unified Sportsmen of Florida

Republican House District 39 candidate Josie Tomkow announced Wednesday that she had picked up endorsements from the National Rifle Association and the Unified Sportsmen of Florida.

“Josie Tomkow is the only candidate in this race we can trust to uphold the constitution rights of law-abiding firearms owners and sportsmen,” former NRA President Marion Hammer said. “We value your honest support of the Second Amendment, self-defense, and anti-crime issues.”

Tomkow embraced the endorsement in a campaign press release, which included a copy of Hammer’s endorsement letter listing the 22-year-old Polk County Republican as having an “A” rating from the NRA and a “Pro-Gun” rating from the Unified Sportsmen of Florida.

“I am honored and humbled by this endorsement and will never stop fighting to defend the Second Amendment and gun rights in Florida,” Tomkow said. “As a 7th generation Floridian and 3rd generation Polk County cattle rancher, gun rights are essential to our way of life. Those rights should not stop at the border of a college campus or at the door of your local church.”

Tomkow is one of two Republicans running in the special election to replace former Rep. Neil Combee, who stepped down the day after Thanksgiving in order to take a new job as Florida State Director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.

Combee has also endorsed Tomkow as his successor in the seat, which covers Polk County and part of western Osceola County.

Tomkow faces former prosecutor Jennifer Spath in the Republican Primary, slated for Feb. 20. The winner of that contest will move on to a May 1 general election against Democrat Ricky Shirah, a perennial candidate for the Lakeland City Commission who stands little chance of victory in the deep red district.

The most recent campaign finance reports from the three candidates show Tomkow in the lead with over $75,000 raised and $57,800 cash on hand. Spath has about $22,000 cash on hand after a month in the race, with much of her total coming in through loans, while Shirah had $1,340 in his campaign account as of Dec. 28.

The endorsement letter is below.

NRA and Unified Sportsmen of Florida endorsement letter

Josie Tomkow crosses $75K-raised mark in HD 39 special election

HD 39 candidate Josie Tomkow raised nearly $62,000 last month, building on her strong lead in the race to replace former Rep. Neil Combee in House District 39.

The banner month gives the Polk City Republican a total of $75,155 raised for her campaign account in less than two months, and she has $57,800 of that money on hand.

Tomkow is a third-generation cattle rancher, and a quick scan of her donor roll from last month shows plenty of of individuals and businesses in the agriculture industry chipping in $1,000 a pop – the maximum donation for Florida House campaigns.

Making the list with max checks were Lakeland rancher Suzanne Ellsworth, Wesley Chapel-based Wiregrass Ranch, Dade City seed farmers Chris and Jaclynn Hancock, livestock business Arcadia Stockyard, and many more.

Future Senate President Wilton Simpson, sometimes referred to as the “chicken man” due to his poultry empire, even chipped in through his Jobs for Florida political committee.

Tomkow also spent $17,050 last month, with Jensen Beach-based Strategic Image Management picking up more than $10,000 of that sum for a variety of services, including graphic design, printing, shirts and consulting work. Dade City’s Sunny Acres Lodge got the next biggest chunk, $3,168, for catering a campaign fundraiser.

Standing between Tomkow and a seat in the Florida House are fellow Republican Jennifer Spath, a former prosecutor, and Democrat Ricky Shirah.

Spath’s report showed only $4,000 in contributions, $2,000 of which came from those sharing her surname. The Bartow Republican did, however, pony up a $25,000 loan so she’ll have some money to work with during the truncated campaign cycle.

She entered the new year with about $22,000 in the bank.

Shirah, a perennial candidate for the Lakeland City Commission who stands little chance of victory in deep red District 39, raised $500 and loaned his campaign $1,000. He closed out the reporting period with $1,340 on hand.

House District 39 covers Polk County and part of western Osceola County.

The seat opened up in November after Combee announced that he would leave the House for a new a job as Florida State Director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.

Tomkow was the first candidate to file for the seat after the announcement, and she quickly earned Combee’s endorsement. The Auburndale Republican has since reiterated his support of Tomkow, 22, after some reports questioned whether she was too young for the job.

Tomkow qualified for the race via petition signatures ahead of the holidays, as did Shirah, though Spath had to pay the $1,781 qualifying fee in order to force the special Republican Primary.

With the qualifying period over, Tomkow and Spath are set to face off on Feb. 20, with the winner going up against Shirah in a May 1 special general election.

Vacant seats to dot Legislature during Session

More than 1.1 million Florida voters won’t have a representative in one of the legislative chambers when the 2018 Session begins next month.

Resignations and a recent death have created six open seats, with most expected to remain vacant through the 60-day Session because of scheduling requirements for special elections.

The vacancies do little to alter the Republican hold on both chambers, with the GOP up 23-15 in the Senate and 76-40 in the House entering the 2018 Session.

But a vacancy can mean additional work for other lawmakers.

More importantly, Aubrey Jewett, a political-science professor at the University of Central Florida, said people in districts short of full representation could struggle to see local needs and funding advanced.

“Some districts have certain issues that are important which may not be pursued at all or pursued with the same vigor,” Jewett said. “Every district may have specific issues or projects that they would like funded. In the absence of representation, it is likely they will not get their share of the appropriations pie.”

“The system is set up so that most members primarily listen to and try to help their own constituents — under normal circumstances it is considered bad form to work with a constituent who does not live in your district,” Jewett added. “Some years ago, when I was in college, I interned with my state representative. One of the first things that I was taught when being contacted by someone was to get their address and find out if they lived in the district or not. If they did not, I was directed to steer them towards their appropriate elected official.”

However, he noted that district staff members usually remain in place until new lawmakers are seated, which helps with some constituent services.

Jewett also said a lawmaker leaving unexpectedly could affect bills that the lawmaker sponsored or planned to champion.

“If no other member has the passion for one of these issues, then it is likely that the policies will not have an advocate and will have a harder time becoming law or being funded,” Jewett said.

As an example, former Rep. Alex Miller, a Sarasota Republican, resigned in August, pointing to family and work obligations as well as House leadership issues. She had earlier announced plans to pursue new state wildlife laws after videos surfaced of people abusing sharks. Since Miller’s departure, no one has picked up issue.

As another example, Rep. Don Hahnfeldt, a Republican from The Villages who died of cancer Sunday, backed five local projects, including proposals that would provide money to Lake-Sumter State College and make improvements to County Road 466A, which runs through The Villages.

Having co-sponsors could help keep proposals moving after the departure of lawmakers.

Hahnfeldt, for instance, was sponsoring a bill (HB 1029) that calls for raising the legal age for smoking from 18 to 21. Rep. Lori Berman, a Lantana Democrat who is co-sponsoring the bill, intends to move forward with the proposal.

“I was honored to have worked with him on raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 and will pursue this important issue in his legacy,” Berman tweeted on Tuesday. Sen. David Simmons, an Altamonte Springs Republican, also is sponsoring a Senate version of the bill.

Susan MacManus, a political-science professor at the University of South Florida, said the vacancies highlight the importance of coalition building.

“It is never optimal in a representative democracy for vacancies during a Legislative Session,” MacManus said in an email. “But constituents missing a representative or senator have little choice other than to turn to others who share(d) his, her interests whether via a political party or committee assignment or interest group.”

With legislative seats vacant for months after the exits of lawmakers, MacManus said it is important for voters to understand the necessity of special-election timelines. That includes providing time for overseas voters to receive and cast ballots.

“Too many voters see this as an intentional delay rather than as mandated protection of overseas voters’ right to vote,” MacManus said.

Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson this month rejected arguments by Florida Democratic Party leaders that special elections in two legislative districts should be held more quickly so the seats could be filled for at least part of the Legislative Session.

Dodson described as “unfortunate” the timing of the resignations of former Sen. Jeff Clemens in Palm Beach County’s Senate District 31 and former Rep. Daisy Baez in Miami-Dade County’s House District 114. But he said moving up special election dates set by Gov. Rick Scott could lead to an argument that shorter windows for absentee voting would prevent people from casting ballots.

“I wish I could do something,” Dodson said as he ruled against the party’s request. “But there really isn’t time to do it.”

State law requires 45 days for absentee voting before special and general elections. The party argued the requirement shouldn’t apply to special elections.

Here are details of the seats that will be vacant for all or part of the Session, which starts Jan. 9 and is scheduled to end March 9:

HOUSE DISTRICT 33

— Vacant because of the death of Republican Rep. Hahnfeldt of The Villages.

— Includes Sumter County and parts of Lake and Marion counties.

— Election dates have not been set.

— Registered voters as of October 2016: 140,817.

HOUSE DISTRICT 39

— Vacant because of the resignation of Auburndale Republican Neil Combee.

— Includes parts of Osceola and Polk counties.

— Special primary election: Feb. 20.

— Special general election: May 1.

— Registered voters as of October 2016: 112,258.

HOUSE DISTRICT 72

— Vacant because of the resignation of Sarasota Republican former Rep. Miller.

— Includes part of Sarasota County.

— Special primary election: Was held Dec. 5.

— Special general election: Feb. 13.

— Registered voters: 124,346.

HOUSE DISTRICT 114

— Vacant because of the resignation of Coral Gables Democrat Baez.

— Includes part of Miami-Dade County.

— Special primary election: Feb. 20

— Special general election: May 1

— Registered voters as of October 2016: 96,381

SENATE DISTRICT 16

— Vacant because of the resignation of Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala, which will take effect Jan. 5.

— Includes parts of Pasco and Pinellas counties.

— Election dates have not been set.

— Registered voters as of October 2016: 336,940.

SENATE DISTRICT 31

— Vacant because of the resignation of Lake Worth Democrat Clemens.

— Includes part of Palm Beach County.

— Special primary election Jan. 30.

— Special general election: April 10.

— Registered voters as of October 2016: 305,998

Field finalized in race for Neil Combee House seat

Without any last-minute entries, the three-candidate race to replace former Republican Rep. Neil Combee of Auburndale was finalized Thursday.

Republicans Jennifer Spath and Josie Tomkow will square off in a Feb. 20 special primary election, with the winner facing Democrat Ricky Shirah in a May 1 special general election.

The trio qualified for the race Wednesday, and no other candidates qualified before a noon deadline Thursday, according to information on the state Division of Elections website.

Combee left the House District 39 seat last month to take a federal agriculture job.

HD 39 includes parts of Polk and Osceola counties.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Josie Tomkow qualifies for HD 39 by petition

Republican Josie Tomkow announced Wednesday she qualified via petition for the special election to replace former Rep. Neil Combee in House District 39.

“We have been going door-to-door for weeks, meeting with voters throughout HD 39 and I am humbled by the outpouring of support. This is going to be a grassroots campaign — we will not be outworked.  I am proud of my team and look forward to building on our strong grassroots effort,” Tomkow said.

HD 39 opened up after Combee announced last month that he would leave the House for a new a job as Florida State Director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.

Tomkow also has roots in ag, which plays well in the Polk and Osceola district. The University of Florida alumna is a third generation cattle rancher and an active member of Florida Farm Bureau and the Florida Cattlemen’s Association.

Tomkow was the first candidate to file for the seat after the announcement, and she quickly earned Combee’s endorsement. The Auburndale Republican reiterated his support of Tomkow, 22, after some reports questioned whether she was too young for the job.

Also running for the seat is fellow Republican Jennifer Spath and Democrat Ricky Shirah, a perennial candidate for the Lakeland City Commission who stands little chance of victory in deep red District 39.

Spath is the public affairs manager for Community Based Care of Central Florida, and she formerly served as an assistant state attorney for the 10th Judicial Circuit in Polk County.

Neither Spath nor Shirah have filed their first campaign finance reports, though they have some catching up to do after Tomkow was able to bring in $50,000 during her first three weeks in the race.

Gov. Rick Scott set the special primary election for Feb. 20 with a general election to follow on May 1. Those dates keep the seat vacant until after the 2018 Legislative Session, which runs from Jan. 9 through March 9.

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 and on: Lily Tysinger, a legislative analyst for the Senate Majority Office, now serves as a program specialist in the Office of the Senate Secretary.

Off: Josie Tomkow is no longer an executive secretary for the Senate Majority Office. She’s left to run to replace Polk City Republican Rep. Neil Combee in House District 39.

Off and on: Erin Juszczyk replaced Robert Hunter as administrative lead for the House Rules & Policy Committee.

On: Administrative support staffer Tori Denson has been named to both the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee and Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee.

On: Breanna Kim was named administrative support for the House Judiciary Committee and its Criminal Justice and Civil Justice & Claims Subcommittees.

On: Michael Strynkowski is a legislative assistant for Port Orange Republican Sen. Dorothy Hukill.

Off: Marcia Mathis is no longer a legislative assistant for Quincy Democratic Sen. Bill Montford.

On: Staz Guntek is a new district secretary for Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perry.

On: Dan Horton is a legislative assistant and Erika Grohoski is the district secretary for Miami Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo.

On: James Befanis is district secretary for Indialantic Republican Rep. Thad Altman.

On: Amanda Daughtry is a new district secretary for Monticello Republican Rep. Halsey Beshears.

Off and on: Zulema Delgado is no longer a legislative assistant and Maria Lombardo moved from district secretary to legislative assistant for Miami Republican Rep. Michael Bileca.

Off and on: Charlotte Jones and George Davis are out; Clarence James is a new district secretary for Jacksonville Democratic Rep. Kim Daniels.

On: Justin Gendler has returned as district secretary for Plantation Democratic Rep. Katie Edwards.

Off: Jervonte Edmonds is no longer executive secretary for Lantana Democratic Rep. Al Jacquet.

Off and on: Erin Shields is a new legislative assistant, while Ed Sol is no longer district secretary for Boca Raton Democratic Rep. Emily Slosberg.

Off: Karly Humphrey is no longer district secretary for Palm Harbor Republican Rep. Chris Sprowls.

Proposal allowing retroactive criminal law changes heads to full CRC

A Constitutional Revision Commission panel on Tuesday cleared a proposal that would give lawmakers the power to adjust criminal sentencing guidelines retroactively.

Commissioner Darryl Rouson, appointed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, is sponsoring the measure (P 20), which he says would “remove an archaic provision” added to the state constitution in 1885.

“This clause was a response to fear and maintaining it has proven over time to be an overreach,” Rouson told the members in the Judicial Committee.

The proposed change to the state constitution would allow lawmakers to use their judgement to apply reduced or increased sentencing requirements to people who commit crimes before new rules have gone into effect.

Now that the proposal cleared its last committee stop, it heads to the full 37-member commission. If approved, it will go directly on the November ballot, where it would need 60-percent voter approval to become part of the state constitution.

While Commissioner Tom Lee, a Republican senator, supported the proposal, he expressed concerned that a constitutional amendment could also give the Legislature power to potentially alter “what a state attorney can charge somebody with or what a judge is required to hand down as punishment.”

“Just keep one eye on it if you would,” Lee said.

The measure has been pushed by a coalition of mostly conservative organizations and former state Rep. Neil Combee, who recently resigned his post in the Legislature for a job in the Trump administration.

If passed, reduced sentences would not be automatically retroactive, the Legislature would have to stipulate retroactivity in the bills passed.

Republican Jennifer Spath enters HD 39 special election race

Former prosecutor Jennifer Spath has filed to run for the special election in House District 39, seeking to replace form state Rep. Neil Combee, who resigned last month to take a federal job.

Spath, a Republican from Bartow, is a fourth generation Floridian who said she’ll be running on conservative principles, including support for gun rights, low taxes, and fiscal transparency, and opposition to abortion and sanctuary cities. She is a fourth-generation Floridian.

“To truly understand the challenges and needs of District 39, it’s important that the future representative has lived, paid taxes, and owned a home within the district,” Spath stated in a press release issued by her new campaign.

Republican Josie Tomkow of Polk City also has entered the race, and already has raised $50,000 in three weeks, which is headed toward a February 20 special primary election, and a May 1 special general election if any non-Republicans get into the field.

House District 39 covers Polk County and part of western Osceola County.

“I spent several years at the State Attorney’s Office successfully prosecuting criminals to ensure that the people of Polk County were safe,” Spath stated. “Sanctuary cities pose a great threat to the safety and security of Floridians. It’s time for the legislature to step up and put a ban into effect.”

Spath is the public affairs manager for Community Based Care of Central Florida, developing policy and advocacy messages relating to foster children.

She previously served as assistant state attorney for the 10th Judicial Circuit in Polk County trying more than 50 jury trials to completion. During her time as a prosecutor, her cases ranged from domestic violence, battery, and drug trafficking, to DUI manslaughter and attempted murder.

“My experience as a prosecutor coupled with my role as public affairs manager has helped mold me into a fierce advocate, a trait which I will take to Tallahassee to fight for the well-being of the constituents of District 39 and the great state of Florida,” Spath stated.

Spath currently serves as the president of the Polk Association of Women Lawyers. She is a member of the Suburban Republican Women’s Club and the Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division. She attended the Political Leadership Institute.

She holds a law degree from Stetson University College of Law and a bachelor’s  degree in political science from the University of Florida. She lives in Bartow with her husband, Chris, and their daughter.

HD 39 candidate Josie Tomkow raises $50K in first three weeks on campaign trail

Republican Josie Tomkow is currently running solo in the special election for House District 39, but that hasn’t stopped her from raising plenty of money for her campaign.

Though Tomkow has not yet filed her November campaign finance report, her campaign announced the first-time politician brought in more than $50,000 last month. The campaign news release did not mention how much money Tomkow’s campaign spent during her first few weeks in the race.

“We have a remarkable team.  The outpouring of support from my friends and family humbles me.  No one will work harder than I will to earn the trust and support of the people who live and work in District 39,” Tomkow said in a news release.

Tomkow is running to replace former Rep. Neil Combee, who left the seat on Nov. 24 to start a new job as Florida’s State Director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.

Combee endorsed Tomkow before exiting the House, even over another potential Republican candidate, Polk County Commissioner John Hall, who expressed interest in running.

“Josie is ready and prepared for this next step in her public service.  She will represent our area well and continue the fight for conservative values in the halls of the Florida capitol,” he said shortly after she filed.

The Auburndale Republican reiterated his support of Tomkow, 22, after some reports questioned whether she was too young for the job.

“Although I am aware she is young by time’s standard, I don’t think age should ever preclude someone from entering public service,” he wrote. “You can never be too old, or too young to want to give back to your community and help your neighbors.”

Gov. Rick Scott last week set the special primary election, which may not be needed, for Feb. 20, while the special general election is May 1.

On Tuesday, a second Republican candidate opened a campaign account to run in the special election. Bartow Republican Jennifer Higley Spath opened an account Tuesday in House District 39.

HD 39 covers parts of Osceola and Polk counties, including Polk City, Auburndale, and the outskirts of Kissimmee at its eastern border and northern Lakeland along the district’s southwestern edge. It has a strong Republican lean.

Rick Scott sets spring special election to replace Neil Combee in House

Gov. Rick Scott has set a special election for 2018 to fill the seat vacated by former state Rep. Neil Combee in House District 39, serving parts of Polk and Osceola counties.

Scott set a primary election for Feb. 20, 2018, and a general election for May 1. That would keep the seat open until after the 2018 Legislative Session, which runs from Jan. 9 through March 9.

Combee left his seat last week to take a federal appointment as Florida’s State Director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.

One candidate has filed, 22-year-old University of Florida political science student Josie Tomkow, a Republican, who actually filed for the regularly-scheduled 2018 election but is expected to refile for the special election. Combee is backing Tomkow, even over another potential Republican candidate, Polk County Commissioner John Hall, who expressed interest in running. No Democratic candidates have emerged yet.

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