Pam bondi – Florida Politics

Ten candidates qualify for Cabinet races

With a noon Friday deadline to qualify for this year’s elections, 10 candidates for state Cabinet seats had qualified as of Thursday morning, according to the Florida Division of Elections website.

Republicans Ashley Moody and Frank White and Democrat Sean Shaw had qualified to run for Attorney General, while Democrat Ryan Torrens was expected to appear Thursday afternoon in Tallahassee to submit his paperwork. The candidates are seeking to succeed term-limited Attorney General Pam Bondi.

In the race to replace term-limited Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Republicans Matt Caldwell and Mike McCalister and Democrats Nikki Fried and David Walker had qualified as of Thursday morning.

Also, incumbent Republican Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis had qualified to defend his seat. Democrat Jeremy Ring and write-in candidate Richard Dembinsky had qualified to try to topple Patronis.

Aakash Patel

Pam Bondi endorses Aakash Patel for Hillsborough Commission

Tampa Republican Aakash Patel notched another significant endorsement for his Hillsborough County Commission campaign Tuesday, this time from Attorney General Pam Bondi.

“I am happy to offer my support and endorsement to Aakash Patel as he makes his initial run for Hillsborough County Commission,” Bondi said. “I have known Aakash since he returned to Tampa after graduating from Florida State University. I know he will put forth every effort to apply his conservative beliefs and principles in all that he does.”

Bondi, a Hillsborough native, is the latest in a long line of Tampa Bay-area electeds to endorse Patel. Prior endorsements include U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, former House Speaker Will Weatherford and Zephyrhills Rep. Danny Burgess.

“I am extremely humbled and honored to have the support and endorsement of Attorney General Pam Bondi. I believe the voters of Hillsborough County understand her leadership is so helpful in advancing conservative causes and public servants to carry those causes forward. I am very honored to have her support,” Patel said.

Patel, who runs business consulting firm Elevate, Inc., is running for the countywide District 7 commission seat currently held by retiring Commissioner Al Higginbotham. He had previously been a candidate for the District 1 seat held by Commissioner Sandy Murman, who was expected to resign her seat early and make her own run in District 7.

Patel had raised more than $450,000 for his District 1 campaign before switching over to the District 7 race. He is one of ten candidates vying for the open seat, though only Republican attorney Todd Marks also a former District 1 candidate — and Democrat Kimberly Overman have posted any substantive fundraising numbers.

Also running are Democrats Ray Chiaramonte, Charles Davis III, Mark Nash, Corey Reynolds and Sky White as well as Republican Cherie Denham and Green Party candidate Kim O’Connor.

The District 7 seat will be on the 2018 ballot alongside Districts 2, 4 and 5, all three of which feature an incumbent Republican running for re-election.

Fred Costello

Pam Bondi endorses Fred Costello for CD 6

Attorney General Pam Bondi issued a lengthy endorsement Monday for former state Rep. Fred Costello’s bid to replace U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

“It is my pleasure to endorse Representative Fred Costello in the Republican primary for U.S. Congress. Representative Costello served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has been a long time supporter of veterans and law enforcement both locally as Mayor of Ormond Beach and while serving in Tallahassee as a State Representative,” Bondi said in a news release.

“Dr. Costello led the effort in the Florida House to pass legislation to adopt the Prescription Drug Management Program to give my office one of the tools we needed to put the pill mills out of business and fight opioid abuse. His effort helped us save lives.

“Fred is an outstanding example of a servant leader who answered the call to serve his community as a citizen legislator. He lives what he believes and has earned the respect of all who know him.

“We need more principled conservatives like Fred who support President [Donald] Trump and the #MAGA agenda to represent us in Washington. Because I know his heart, his values and his record of standing up for what he believes, I know Fred will well serve his district and all Americans with honor and distinction.”

Costello, who is a dentist and veteran of the Vietnam War, said he was “deeply honored” to receive Bondi’s endorsement.

“She is a fierce guardian of the public interest and deeply understands the critical public safety issues that impact the lives of our fellow Floridians. I join Attorney General Bondi in supporting President Trump’s mission to make America safe, secure, prosperous and great again,” he said.

Costello is one of three Republicans vying for the seat, which opened up due to DeSantis’ decision to run for Governor. He faces Fox News contributor Mike Waltz and businessman John Ward in the Republican primary, the latter of whom has gone to great lengths to paint himself as the most Trumpian candidate in the race.

Ward led the Republican field with $709,000 banked at the end of the first quarter of 2018, including $550,000 in candidate contributions, while Waltz was about $50K behind counting the $400,000 he’d pumped into his campaign. Costello was in a distant third with $15,720 banked at the end of the reporting period.

CD 6 is rated as a “likely Republican” district in University of Virginia political scientist Larry J. Sabato’s “Crystal Ball,” though Democrats Steven Sevigny, a Daytona Beach physician, and Nancy Soderberg, a former Ambassador to the United Nations, have raised well into the six figures.

CD 6 covers a stretch of Florida’s east coast, from southern Jacksonville to New Smyrna Beach.

Rick Scott rebuts charges that he’d favor removal of pre-existing conditions coverage

In a statement released by his U.S. Senate campaign, Republican Gov. Rick Scott insisted that he continues to support the requirement that health insurers not discriminate against people with pre-existing medical conditions.

The statement puts Scott at odds with the apparent strategy of President Donald Trump, whose Attorney General Jeff Sessions indicated in recent court filings that the U.S. Department of Justice will not defend the pre-existing conditions coverage guaranteed under federal law through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

It also puts Scott at odds with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who added Florida to a list of states suing in that particular federal court case to get the Affordable Care Act, including the pre-existing conditions provisions, overturned.

Last week Scott also stated he supported non-discriminatory coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, but he declined to discuss the lawsuit.

Democrats have been seeking to tie Scott to Trump. The latest attempt being opposition to the pre-existing conditions law, one of the most popular provisions of ObamaCare. But on Monday Scott delivered a statement refuting that he would support efforts to eliminate the provision, charging that Democrats were doing so falsely.

“My position has not changed – I do not agree with efforts to remove pre-existing conditions,” Scott stated in a news release issued Monday by his campaign. “I’ve continued to say that it is important to cover individuals with pre-existing conditions and that every American, including those with pre-existing conditions, should have the ability to buy any kind of insurance they want. Obamacare is a disaster and costs way too much, but keeping pre-existing provisions should be a part of any healthcare reform. I disagree with efforts to dismantle protections for those with pre-existing conditions.”

Earlier this month, Sessions’ Department of Justice signaled that it would not defend the law’s pre-existing conditions provisions, though U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officials have said they consider pre-existing conditions to continue to be official federal policy.

Florida is among the 20 states that brought that lawsuit against Health and Human Services, and Florida continues to be a party seeking to terminate Obamacare through that suit.

Scott’s opponent in Florida’s U.S. Senate race, incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, and all 11 Florida Democrats in Congress sent a letter to Scott last week urging him to withdraw Florida from the lawsuit, and to support pre-existing conditions.

“Having failed multiple times to rip health coverage away through Congress, the Trump Administration is now attempting to use the court system to take the guarantee of health coverage away from 7.8 million Floridians with pre-existing conditions. This is wrong,” The Democrats’ letter states.

Nelson is meeting Monday morning with constituents with pre-existing conditions to talk about the potential policy change.

Scott’s campaign noted that Florida was brought into the federal lawsuit by Bondi who independently has such authority to do so, and was not brought by Scott.

Scott’s campaign also maintains that his position on pre-existing conditions has not changed, that he has consistently supported keeping them in any health care reform. What Scott seeks, the campaign outlined, is: removing Obamacare’s “excessive mandates and taxes;” allowing insurance to be sold across state lines; preserving the provisions requiring pre-existing conditions and that young adults may on their parents’ plans; and allowing families to buy the healthcare they want.

“It looks like Bill Nelson and his Democratic party loyalists new favorite talking point is an attempt to call out Gov. Rick Scott for not taking a position on preexisting conditions, while ignoring clear and documented evidence to the contrary,” Scott’s campaign stated in a news release.

David Bergstein, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, argued that Scott’s long support for repeal of the Affordable Care Act and his support for last year’s Republican health care plan, which would have cut coverage for pre-existing conditions, bely his stated support for the provision.

“Rick Scott cannot escape his record just because it’s deeply unpopular with Florida voters,” Bergstein said in a written statement. “He spent years opposing protections for pre-existing conditions, and then in 2017 he bragged that he actually helped craft the GOP’s health care bill that would slash coverage for pre-existing conditions while giving himself a tax break.”

Pam Bondi endorses Mike Miller in CD 7 heading toward Republican primary

State Rep. Mike Miller has received the endorsement of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in his campaign for Congress in Florida’s 7th Congerssional District, providing a potentially potent voice to the district’s upcoming Republican primary.

“I am endorsing Mike Miller because I have served with him and know he will be an effective leader in Washington who will uphold the rule of law and keep fighting the battle against opioids,” Bondi stated in a news release issued by Miller’s campaign. “I am confident in Mike and know he will help President [Donald] Trump strengthen our borders, protect the tax cuts and fully eliminate Obamacare.”

Miller, of Winter Park, is battling with Sanford businessman Scott Sturgill and Vennia Francois for the August 28 Republican primary nomination. They all want a shot at Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park.

“I’ve worked with General Bondi for several years, particularly in trying to end the scourge of the opioid epidemic. General Bondi is a strong conservative that Floridians have come to respect and admire,” Miller stated in the release. “Knowing she recognizes our shared conservative principles and has confidence I will support the President’s agenda means a lot to me.”

CD 7 covers all of Seminole County and much of north and central Orange County, including downtown Orlando.

Ashey Moody

Jacksonville, Collier sheriffs latest to endorse Ashley Moody for AG

Ashley Moody is adding the endorsement of two more Florida sheriffs, now with 42 of 49 Republican sheriffs supporting the former Hillsborough County circuit judge as the state’s next Attorney General.

New endorsers are Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk and Sheriff Mike Williams of Jacksonville, according to an announcement Thursday from Moody’s campaign.

“Judge Moody is the tough and honest Attorney General that Florida needs. As Sheriff, I understand the importance of prosecuting criminals and keeping them off our streets,” Rambosk said. “Judge Moody will do just that and that’s why I’m supporting her.”

Williams added: “I recognize and value the dedicated hard work required to keep our communities safe. We need an Attorney General that will help us do just that. I support Ashley Moody for Attorney General. She will be the partner that our law enforcement community needs.”

“As the only former prosecutor in this race vying to be the state’s top prosecutor, I understand firsthand the need for meaningful partnership with our sheriffs in order to aggressively fight crime and keep our residents and tourists safe,” Moody’s campaign said.

In addition to endorsements, Moody is also showing robust fundraising, with nearly $450,000 raised between her campaign and committee accounts last month. She took in $271,500 through her committee, Friends of Ashley Moody, with the balance raised via her campaign account — besting the other two Republicans in the race to replace Pam Bondi this November.

Bondi, term-limited from running again, has also endorsed Moody’s campaign.

Other Republicans in the race include Pensacola Rep. Frank White, who reported $97,000 in outside money last month; Jacksonville Rep. Jay Fant showed just $1,640.

As reported earlier by Florida Politics, White had emerged as a big self-funder in the race — adding another $1.25 million into his campaign last month. This seven-figure “investment” adds to his already immense self-funding effort, giving him an advantage in on-hand cash.

Group targets Allen Winsor judicial nomination

A national civil- and human-rights group called Wednesday for the U.S. Senate to reject the nomination of Florida appellate Judge Allen Winsor to a federal judgeship.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 organizations, sent a letter to senators that focused on Winsor’s past work involving issues such as voting rights, same-sex marriage, abortion rights and the death penalty.

“Mr. Winsor is a young, conservative ideologue who has attempted to restrict voting rights, LGBT equality, reproductive freedom, environmental protection, criminal defendants’ rights and gun safety,” the letter said. “He does not possess the neutrality and fair-mindedness necessary to serve in a lifetime position as a federal judge.”

President Donald Trump in April nominated Winsor, a judge on Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal, to serve as a judge in the federal Northern District of Florida. Winsor was appointed in February 2016 by Gov. Rick Scott to the 1st District Court of Appeal after a nearly three-year stint as state solicitor general in Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office.

The Tallahassee-based 1st District Court of Appeal hears cases from throughout North Florida, ranging from Jacksonville to Pensacola.

Here is a link to the letter.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Ashey Moody

Ashley Moody raises big, Frank White doubles down and Jay Fant fizzles

Former circuit court judge Ashley Moody again topped her primary opponents in the Attorney General race with nearly $450,000 raised between her campaign and committee accounts last month.

The Hillsborough County Republican received $271,500 of that cash through her committee, Friends of Ashley Moody, with the balance raised via her campaign account.

Her May effort easily bested the other two Republicans vying to replace term-limited Attorney General Pam Bondi in the fall. Pensacola Rep. Frank White reported $97,000 in outside money last month, while Jacksonville Rep. Jay Fant showed a paltry $1,640.

“Judge Ashley Moody, the only Attorney General candidate who has actually prosecuted a case, continues to outraise all primary opponents, and this month’s finance report is no exception as we look toward next week’s official qualifying period,” campaign manager Nick Catroppo said in a Tuesday news release.

“This morning’s announcement that Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd became the 40th Republican sheriff to endorse Ashley Moody for Attorney General makes her the best, most qualified candidate to serve as Florida’s next chief legal officer.”

Though White’s actual fundraising performance pales when compared to Moody’s, he also dumped another $1.25 million into his campaign last month. The seven-figure “investment” adds to his already immense self-funding effort and keeps him in the top spot when it comes to cash on hand.

He entered June with more than $3.4 million banked. His total includes $2.7 million in self-funding and another $200,000-plus in contributions tied to his father-in-law, Pensacola car dealership magnate Sandy Sansing.

Moody has raised $2.64 million so far and has nearly $2.1 million on hand. Her only self-funding was a $6,000 check used to kick-start her campaign in June.

Fant, who has had a rough time on the fundraising trail for months, has now raised $637,313 and kicked in another $750,000 via a candidate loan. He finished the month with $805,000 in the bank — $711,000 in his campaign account and $93,800 in his committee, Pledge This Day.

White started flexing his cash advantage last week with a $1 million ad buy as part of an “80-day plan” to keep him on TV screens through the primary election. He is the first AG candidate to start running TV ads, but Moody is certain to follow.

A recent poll found her with about 15 percent support in the three-way primary, followed by White at 13.7 percent and Fant at 10.2 percent. More than 60 percent of those polled were undecided.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

Poll: Attorney General GOP primary anyone’s race at this time

One thing is clear at this point in the race for Florida’s next Attorney General: While former Circuit Judge Ashley Moody is enjoying a slight lead — within the margin of error — the GOP primary is anyone’s race.

In statewide campaigns in Florida politics, two things matter when assessing the leaderboard this early in the race — money and polling.

In other words, where do the candidates stand right now with voters and how do their financial resources best position them until and on Election Day?

In a new St. Pete Polls survey conducted last week, just ahead of when candidate qualifying begins, voters remain overwhelmingly unsure in this race.

When asked which candidate they would vote for, 61.1 percent are undecided, 14.9 percent would vote for Moody, 13.7 percent for state Rep. Frank White and 10.2 percent for state Rep. Jay Fant. And concerning polling with a margin of error of 3 percent, this means that before candidates begin spending money on paid advertising, Moody and White are tied, and Fant lurks just below them.

After all the endorsements, all the campaign events, conservative talk radio appearances and Republican club speeches, not a single candidate has broken out in the Republican primary race to succeed Attorney General Pam Bondi.

The primary election is just 78 days away and these numbers demonstrate what some of Florida’s savvier political observers and donors have long suggested: in a race where all three candidates begin relatively unknown, this race will come down to resources.

White currently has a large cash advantage over Moody, but that is boosted by $2.75 million of his own money, beginning with a million-dollar television ad buy last week. He says it will continue through Election Day.

Moody has establishment support as well as an enviable list of endorsements (including Bondi’s), but she needs just a little more traction with primary voters, at least according to polling.

As for Fant, his less-than-stellar showing in the poll coupled with significantly fewer resources than either White or Moody may only serve to stoke the ever-present rumors that he may not even make it to qualifying and could pursue a graceful exit.

By many accounts, this is shaping up to be a two-person race between Moody, her resume and endorsements versus White, his resource advantage and conservative bona fides.

This is one of the more interesting statewide races flying under the radar for 2018. In the next couple of weeks, it will be interesting to see what Fant decides to do and how the Moody campaign counters White and his money.

The scientific results shown for the questions below have a sample size of 1,046 and a 3.0 percent margin of error.

Summary of scientific results:

In the Republican primary race for Attorney General, who would you vote for: Jay Fant, Ashley Moody or Frank White?

Jay Fant: 10.2 percent

Ashley Moody: 14.9 percent

Frank White: 13.7 percent

Undecided: 61.1 percent

Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Jay Fant?

Favorable: 18.8 percent

Unfavorable: 6.1 percent

Unsure: 75.0 percent

Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Ashley Moody?

Favorable: 19.4 percent

Unfavorable: 8.2 percent

Unsure: 72.4 percent

Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Frank White?

Favorable: 19.9 percent

Unfavorable: 7.1 percent

Unsure: 73.0 percent

Time for Florida GOP to draft Pam Bondi?

Richard Corcoran must be kicking himself right now.

If the House Speaker knew a month ago what the rest of the state does now — that a former employee of Adam Putnam’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services failed for more than a year to conduct national background checks on applications for concealed weapons licenses — would he have scrubbed his gubernatorial bid and endorsed the Bartow Republican?

Probably not. And with Putnam’s campaign imploding and calls for his outright resignation from Democrats reaching a fever pitch, a nervous Florida GOP establishment may have turned its desperate eyes to the Pasco lawmaker.

It’s not clear how much damage this scandal will do to Putnam. Will it drive him from the race? Will it keep him from winning the primary? If he wins the primary, does it hobble him in a general election? We probably need another 72 to 96 hours to see where Putnam stands. But one thing is certain. He is no longer the front-runner for the GOP nomination. He probably hasn’t been for a few weeks.

As Putnam stumbles, it’s increasingly probable that twenty years of Republican control of the Governor’s Mansion will come to an end this November.

Yes, Ron DeSantis can win the general election. The people who say he can’t just because he’s backed by Donald Trump are many of the same geniuses who had Hillary Clinton winning the Sunshine State on her way to The White House.

DeSantis can win, I just don’t think he will. I think the PredictIt Market that pegs it at about a three-to-two possibility that a Democrat will win in November feels right. Conversely, the Republicans — either DeSantis or Putnam — being given about a 40 percent chance also seems about right.

If Putnam does lose to DeSantis, the Florida GOP establishment will embrace the “outsider” DeSantis even quicker than it did Rick Scott after he defeated Bill McCollum in 2010.

DeSantis’ campaign manager is Brad Herold, a former executive director of the Republican Party of Florida. DeSantis’ finance director’s last job was for Senate President Joe Negron. DeSantis’ big donors are major donors to Trump, the party, etc. In other words, there are many more overlaps between DeSantis World and the Florida GOP than there were between Scott and the then-establishment.


Don’t for a second believe that The Establishment wants to see DeSantis beat Putnam. The heaviest of heavyweights — The Florida Chamber of Commerce, Disney, Florida Power & Light, the sugar industry, the mega-networked lobbying firms — have been investing in Putnam for more than a decade. For there to be zero return on this investment will be difficult to stomach.

The Establishment also hasn’t really liked the last eight years under Scott, at least not the way they liked it under Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist. Those were the salad days. Under Scott, the governing strategy has been to stay off his administration’s radar, stay out of the news, and cut $50,000 checks to his political committee whenever one of his fundraisers made an ask.

The Establishment hoped to strike back under Putnam. However, for the third time in eight years — McCollum losing in 2010, Bush flailing in 2016, and Putnam faltering now — its plans are being thwarted.

It can’t be overstated just how shocked many establishment figures and lobbyists were during DeSantis’ recent tour of Tallahassee, where he met with dozens of top lobbyists. It wasn’t just that these insiders were alarmed by the Ponte Vedra Republican’s lack of knowledge about issues facing the state, it was the indifference and disdain he displayed while meeting with them. Almost every one of the lobbyists I spoke with who met with DeSantis mentioned how often he checked his phone, as if they were on a bad first date. He asked few, if any, questions about what concerns or suggestions they had. Instead it was just Trump, Trump, and more Trump.

The Establishment has been licking its Scott-inflicted wounds for nearly eight years and in DeSantis it sees another four years of living under an absentee landlord who, if we’re honest about it, would rather be in D.C. than Tallahassee.

So the Florida GOP, which has held hegemonic control over the state since 1998, faces limited choices.

— It can grin and bear DeSantis. That’s what most will do. There are top-tier lobbying firms already positioned to thrive under a DeSantis administration.

— It can back-door its support for Gwen Graham or Philip Levine. This is what some — not many but some — will do. And they’ll keep their Republican bona fides by doubling-down on their donations to incoming legislative leaders Bill Galvano and Jose Oliva.

OR … and with thirteen days until candidate qualifying closes, this is crazy … The Establishment could Draft Pam Bondi.

The Attorney General chose not to run for higher office this cycle. And she didn’t get/take a position in the Trump White House, despite her ties to the president. She’s coy about what her plans are for when she leaves office, although many expect her to pursue a track in television, specifically with Fox News.

She’s also never expressed any real interest in being Governor.

But … if she wanted it … it’s there.

There hasn’t been recent polling, at least none that I’ve seen, but a survey last year from Associated Industries of Florida showed Republican voters giving Bondi high marks. Fifty-four percent approve of the job she was doing, while just 12 percent had an unfavorable view and 17 percent said they had no opinion. She stood heads-and-shoulders above any Republican not named Scott, including Putnam.

Bondi would have some issues in the general election, especially because of a scandal linking a donation from Trump to a decision not to pursue a legal case against his “university,” but she also has a strong record she can run on, including her fight against pill mills.

Could she beat DeSantis in the primary? She probably has a better chance of doing so than Putnam does at this point. It would be a tall order to raise the kind of money she would need to win, but at least she wouldn’t be out-Trumped by DeSantis the way Putnam has been.

Meanwhile, the GOP Establishment would quickly transfer its support from Putnam to her because the devil you know (Bondi) is always better than the devil you don’t (DeSantis).

I don’t even know what a general election match-up would look like between Bondi and Graham or Levine, but Bondi probably has a better shot at keeping the moderate Republican women voters turned off by Trump in this so-called “Year of the Woman.”

Bondi is both incredibly telegenic and personable on a retail level, so she would give the Republicans their best chance at holding on to power. If she is the nominee, those PredictIt odds instantly move from three-to-two against to better than even money.

Only there’s just two weeks to convince Bondi that she’s the best candidate to help the party maintain control of the Governor’s Mansion through the next presidential election and redistricting process. She’d have to put on hold whatever those apolitical ambitions are that so many believe she has. She’d have to raise money 24 hours a day for the next four months. She’d have to convince Donald Trump not to weigh in too heavily in the Republican primary. And that only gets her to the general election, where a blue wave is supposedly building.

But it’s all there if Pam Bondi wants it.

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