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Frank White snags two more sheriff endorsements in AG race

Pensacola Republican Rep. Frank White announced Thursday that a pair of county sheriffs had endorsed his campaign to succeed Attorney General Pam Bondi in the fall.

St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar and Putnam County Sheriff Homer “Gator” Deloach added their names to the list of officials backing White in the four-way GOP primary for the Cabinet seat.

“I am proud to stand with Frank White because I know he will stand with Florida’s men and women in blue to enforce the rule of law. Frank has proven he will defend our conservative values and protect taxpayers’ hard-earned money,” Shoar said.

Shoar has been in law enforcement for more than 30 years and is currently in his fourth term as sheriff of the First Coast county.

“I am proud to offer my support along with Sheriffs across Florida in standing with conservative Frank White for Attorney General. Frank will be a staunch defender of our Second Amendment rights, will help law enforcement keep our families safe and will protect the constitution at all times,” Deloach said.

DeLoach started out with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office in 2001 and was elected sheriff in 2016.

The pair join the sitting sheriffs of Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Escambia counties in endorsing White, who also got the nod from U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, a former Duval County sheriff.

“As momentum grows for our campaign, my proven record as a consistent conservative is resonating with folks from across the state and I am honored to have the support of these great Sheriffs who share my conservative values and commitment to both our constitution and the rule of law,” White said in a press release.

The freshman lawmaker faces former circuit court judge Ashley Moody, Dover state Rep. Ross Spano and Jacksonville state Rep. Jay Fant in the Republican Primary. Competing for the Democratic nomination are Tampa Rep. Sean Shaw and Ryan Torrens.

At the end of 2017, White led in fundraising with $1.95 million on hand between campaign and committee accounts, followed by Moody with $1.2 million in the bank, Fant with just shy of $1 million and Spano with about $50,000. Torrens has about $2,500 in the bank, while Shaw has about $41,000 he brought over from his House re-election campaign.

White’s total includes $1.5 million of his own money, while Fant has put $750,000 of his own cash into his campaign.

Florida Cabinet recognizes Mark Ober, David Gee in Tampa

After losing a bid for re-election in fall 2016, Mark Ober‘s career as Hillsborough County’s State Attorney didn’t end on his terms.

So during a Florida Cabinet meeting Thursday in Tampa, Ober took the opportunity to deliver a valedictory speech he was denied a year and a half earlier.

“I am absolutely overwhelmed to be in your company this morning because, in large part, of the high esteem that I hold for each one of you,” Ober said, speaking directly to Gov. Rick Scott, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, CFO Jimmy Patronis and Attorney General Pam Bondi.

For over a decade, Ober and Bondi worked closely together in the State Attorney’s Office (2000-2010); Ober said she had “always been a shining star in my life and in my career.”

With friends and family members in attendance, Ober called the Cabinet resolution honoring him “the pinnacle of my career.”

A Republican, Ober was elected in 2000, facing only token Democratic opposition in 2004, 2008 and 2012.

While remaining the odds-on favorite to win in 2016, Ober faced a challenge from Democrat Andrew Warren, a former federal prosecutor running on a platform of criminal justice reform.

Soon, the race turned bitterly divisive, as Warren accused Ober’s office of fumbles in two separate sex crime cases, which put the incumbent on the defensive during the campaign’s final months.

Any enmity between the two seems forgotten, however, as Warren cheered Ober on as part of the audience at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center inside the Florida State Fairgrounds.

Also honored by the Cabinet Thursday was David Gee.

In September, Gee retired as Hillsborough County Sheriff, less than a year after winning re-election for a fourth term. He chose not to make any remarks.

As is tradition, the Cabinet held its monthly meeting on the first day of the Florida State Fair, which runs now through Feb. 19.

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In video, Frank White outlines themes of his Attorney General campaign

Pensacola Republican Rep. Frank White has been in the Attorney General race for a few months, but formally introduced himself to voters in a video released Wednesday morning.

“I’ve been a consistent, principled conservative my entire life,” White says in the video. “Unafraid to stand up for our values and defend our way of life. As your next attorney general, I’ll keep up the fight.”

The freshman lawmaker says he’s in the AG race because Florida needs a “conservative watchdog looking out for our families and taking on those who would do us harm.”

The 2-minute-long video shows White with his wife, Stephanie, and sons Henry, Clayton and Wesley and also includes shots of the Republican lawmaker speaking to law enforcement officers and in front of his church, where he serves as a deacon.

The video also touts White’s conservative bona fides in the crowded race to succeed term-limited Attorney General Pam Bondi, including his A+ rating from the NRA, pro-life stance and private sector experience.

“Some people running for office just talk the talk in campaign season, but as a lifelong conservative committed to defending our values, you’ll always know where I stand,” he said.

White faces former district court judge Ashley Moody, and fellow state Reps. Jay Fant and Ross Spano in the Republican Primary race. Competing for the Democratic nomination are Tampa Rep. Sean Shaw and Ryan Torrens.

At the end of 2017, White led in fundraising with $1.95 million on hand between campaign and committee accounts, followed by Moody with $1.2 million in the bank, Fant with just shy of $1 million and Spano with about $50,000.

White’s total includes $1.5 million of his own money, while Fant has put $750,000 of his own cash into his campaign.

Click on the image below to watch the ad.

Three more state attorneys endorse Ashley Moody for Attorney General

Republican Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody announced Tuesday that three state attorneys endorsed her bid to succeed Pam Bondi in 2018.

“As a former circuit court judge, the endorsement of these State Attorneys, many of whom have spent their lifetime dedicated to justice and the pursuit of justice for victims and their communities, is tremendous. I am honored to have their support and as part of our team. Together we will work to ensure the rule of law prevails and victims have a voice in the process,” Moody said.

The endorsements came in from 19th Circuit State Attorney Bruce Colton, 14th Circuit State Attorney Glenn Hess and 8th Circuit State Attorney William Cervone.

The trio join previous state attorney backers Phi Archer, Ed Brodsky, Brian Haas, Brad King, R.J. Larizza, Bernie McCabe and Dennis Ward, giving Moody the backing of half of Florida’s 20 state attorneys.

Moody has also picked up endorsements from Bondi and 33 Republican county sheriffs.

“I know firsthand how important it is we have an Attorney General who stands firm in support of the rule of law and knows what it takes to put criminals behind bars. To ensure we have criminals brought to justice, we must have an Attorney General who understands the law, has practiced in a courtroom, and has a strong record of defending our communities. Ashley Moody is the only candidate prepared to be our next Attorney General,” said Colton.

Hess added that the state needs “an experienced and tough Attorney General” and that Moody “has proven throughout her career that she is ready to lead our state as Florida’s Top Cop.”

Cervone echoed his colleague’s calls for an Attorney General with tough-on-crime experience.

“When it comes to the safety and security of Floridians we need an Attorney General who knows what it takes to combat crime and lock up violent criminals. Ashley Moody not only has a demonstrated history of accomplishing just that, but also has the temperament and tenacity to continue that fight in Tallahassee. I’m proud to endorse her as our next Attorney General,” he said.

Moody is running against state Reps. Jay Fant, Ross Spano and Frank White in the Republican Primary race. Competing for the Democratic nomination are Tampa Rep. Sean Shaw and Ryan Torrens.

At the end of 2017, White led in fundraising with $1.95 million on hand between his campaign and committee accounts, followed by Moody with $1.2 million in the bank, Fant with just shy of $1 million and Spano with about $50,000.

White’s total includes $1.5 million of his own money, while Fant has put $750,000 of his own cash into his campaign.

Jeff Sessions to discuss opioid epidemic in Tampa

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will appear Wednesday in Tampa to address drug trafficking and the opioid epidemic, the Justice Department said Monday.

Sessions will address the issues during a midday appearance at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa.

The visit comes as Florida lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott also consider steps to try to reduce opioid addiction and overdoses that have plagued the state in recent years.

The state Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday is scheduled to take up a bill (SB 8), filed by Rules Chairwoman Lizbeth Benacquisto, a Fort Myers Republican, that would make a series of changes aimed at curbing the epidemic.

Pam Bondi’s aide appointed to Public Service Commission

On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott appointed Andrew Fay, the special counsel and director of legislative affairs to Attorney General Pam Bondi, to the Florida Public Service Commission.

The commission had been looking to fill the empty seat for some weeks after former state Rep. Ritch Workman — a Scott pick — resigned following sexual harassment allegations raised by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto. Benacquisto said she would not hold a confirmation hearing for Workman because he manhandled her at a 2016 charity event.

Workman “approached me from behind, pushed his body up against me and made vulgar and inappropriate gestures,” Benacquisto said in a statement last December.

After the former Melbourne appointee stepped down, the search began for his replacement for the $132,000-annual-salary utility regulator position.

Fay is a close ally to Bondi, a member of the three-member Cabinet that helps Scott set a wide-range of policy issues. The 34-year-old is appointed for a term beginning Friday and ending Jan. 1, 2022.

Bondi said she was “thrilled” for Fay.

“(I am) proud to have fully supported his appointment throughout this process,” she said. “The citizens of Florida will be served well by such an ethical and bright attorney.”

His appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Pam Bondi opens investigation into fake social media followers

Fake followers beware: Attorney General Pam Bondi is investigating “recent allegations of social media identity theft involving West Palm Beach company Devumi and related company Bytion.”

The investigation was announced on her official website.

“If you or someone you know has had their identity stolen and used to create a fake social media profile on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or any other social media platform please file a complaint with our office,” the site says.

“My Office has opened an investigation into these very serious allegations,” Bondi said in a statement. “I encourage any citizen who believes they have been a victim of this scam to please contact my office at (866) 9NO-SCAM or file a complaint online.”

A request for comment sent to Devumi from Florida Politics is pending.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that Bondi, a Tampa Republican, joined in the investigation with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat.

He “announced on Saturday that he would begin reviewing whether the company had violated state laws against impersonation and commercial deception.” Devumi also has offices in New York City.

That makes for an unexpected pairing: Schneiderman sued President Donald Trump—a friend and political ally of Bondi—for $40 million, citing dozens of complaints over the defunct “Trump University.”

He alleged the program enticed students with a get-rich-from-real-estate scheme, then socked them with expensive and sub-par seminars. That ended in a $25 million settlement agreement in late 2016.

Bondi said her office received “one complaint” in 2011, which was closed by her citizen services’ staff, according to a Tampa Tribune account. Because the New York case sought relief for all former students, Bondi did not get involved with that lawsuit, she has said.

Bondi and Schneiderman’s move on Devumi follows another Times report Saturday on the firm’s “vast trade in fake followers and fraudulent engagement on Twitter and other social media sites, often using personal information taken from real users.”

“The Times found evidence that the information of Twitter users in every state—including thousands of people in Florida and New York—had been copied onto bots sold by Devumi or rival companies,” the story said.

After two terms as the state’s chief legal officer, Bondi is term-limited this year.

AG hopeful Ashley Moody banks eight more sheriff endorsements, up to 33 total

Republican Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody added eight more Florida sheriffs to her endorsement list Thursday.

“I am truly honored to have the endorsement of these respected and dedicated law enforcement leaders who put their lives on the line each and every day,” said Moody. “As Florida’s next Attorney General, I look forward to working together to ensure law enforcement agencies have the tools, personnel, and training they need to keep our communities safe.”

Moody, a former Hillsborough County judge, has proven especially adept at getting the endorsement of Florida’s sheriffs, key as she makes the case to enforce the rule of law.

She has 33 sheriff endorsements — a full 70 percent of Republican sheriffs in the Sunshine State. Chief lawmen in Baker, Gilchrist, Hardee, Highlands, Levy, Madison, Nassau, and Wakulla Counties offered their backing in the latest round.

Scotty Rhoden said “Moody’s record of service to the rule of law and her conservative principles of adhering to the rule of law make her just the type of Attorney General we need in Florida. She knows what it takes to put criminals behind bars and has a proven record of taking violent felons off the streets.”

Bobby Schultz, the chief lawman in Gilchrist County, asserted that “conservatives have a clear choice for Attorney General. Ashley Moody is a tough former federal prosecutor and judge and the only candidate in this race with criminal justice background, which is fundamental to this important and very difficult job.”

Hardee County Sheriff Arnold Lanier likewise made his argument based on Moody’s background: “As a federal prosecutor, she helped lock up violent felons and as a private lawyer, she helped victims of domestic violence obtain protection from their abusers. We in law enforcement are grateful Ashley Moody was willing to give up her career as a judge to partner with us in our fight against crime.”

“Ashley Moody is a trusted, law and order conservative who will protect our state and our Constitution. As our state faces evolving threats, we need an Attorney General who understands what is required to meet these threats and support law enforcement in their mission to combat them. Ashley Moody is the only candidate prepared and ready to do this on day one and I’m proud to support her,” said Highlands County Sheriff Paul Blackman.

“The Attorney General of Florida must be someone with the ability to work with law enforcement across the state in protection of our citizens. There is no other candidate more qualified for this position than Ashley Moody,” observed Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum.

McCallum slashed, without naming them, Moody’s three primary opponents — all of whom are in the Florida Legislature: “Unlike unprepared politicians angling for the position for political advancement, Ashley Moody is uniquely prepared to protect Floridians from the moment she takes office and I’m proud to offer her my support.”

Ben Stewart, Sheriff of Madison County, lauded Moody’s ability to “strengthen our criminal justice system and protect each and every Floridian from the growing public safety threats that risk tearing families and communities apart.”

“Over my 40-year career in law enforcement, I’ve witnessed firsthand the sacrifices our brave men and women in uniform make to keep us all safe. No candidate better understands this than Ashley Moody. The wife of a federal law enforcement officer and a former federal prosecutor herself, Ashley and her family have demonstrated a commitment to justice that cannot be matched by any politician. I’m proud to endorse Ashley Moody for Attorney General and know our state will benefit from her experience and unwavering support of our first responder community,” said Nassau County’s Bill Leeper.

“The protection of the people of Wakulla County is my top priority as Sheriff. Throughout my career in law enforcement, I’ve worked alongside professional, experienced, and dedicated public servants who’ve helped keep our community safe and Ashley Moody fits that same mold. Her lifetime of experience will serve each and every Floridian well and I’m happy to support her to be our next Attorney General,” added Wakulla’s Jared Miller.

Moody, the leading fundraiser (although Rep. Frank White has more cash-on-hand because he is, in part, self-funding his campaign) in the four-person race for Attorney General, is backed by incumbent Pam Bondi.

Her sheriffs’ endorsements show that she has a foothold throughout the state of Florida, a unique value add in a statewide race where the candidates are largely unknown even to GOP primary voters.

Attorney General candidates set first forum next month at Disney World

(UPDATED)Several candidates running for Florida Attorney General will convene at a forum in Central Florida next month.

Republicans Jay Fant, Ashley Moody, Ross Spano and Frank White join Democrat Ryan Torrens to participate in a forum, part of the Federalist Society’s Annual Florida Chapter Conference next Saturday, February 3, at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resort in Lake Buena Vista.

A Federalist Society spokesman say Democrat Sean Shaw from Tampa, the other major candidate in the race, has yet to respond to email inquiries.

The conference begins Friday, February 2; among the highlights will be a roundtable discussion featuring Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and U.S. Circuit Court Judge Gregory Katsas.

Founded in 1982, the Federalist Society seeks to advance conservative ideas in the legal academy and ultimately in the legal system as a whole. Since then, the Society has become a powerful organization in the conservative movement, as exemplified by the fact that now-President Donald Trump promised during his campaign that if he were elected president, all his judicial nominees would be picked by the Federalist Society.

To register for the event, those interested can visit the Federalist Society website.

Bills that would create state trafficking hotline have yet to gain momentum

Lawmakers want to put an end to “modern day slavery” by creating a Florida human trafficking hotline under two identical proposals that have yet to gain momentum in the state Legislature.

Those advocating for the measures, HB 159 and SB 596, urged lawmakers on Monday to back the proposals and give them hearings in their committee assignments. The bills would require the Attorney General’s Office to create and operate a toll-free hotline, which would be subject to funding approval.

Since 2012, Florida has received the third highest numbers of calls to the national human trafficking hotline, trailing California and Texas, according to the national hotline’s data.

“This is a glaring reflection of the magnitude of the problem in Florida, and shows why the state needs its own hotline, one that is capable of focusing specifically on the unique challenges experienced here,” said former Sen. Maria Sachs, who runs a human trafficking foundation.

Sen. Perry Thurston and state Rep. Robert Asencio are championing the bills in an effort to better identify areas in the state affected by human trafficking. Both of their bills have been referred to three committee assignments, but have yet to be heard.

Under the proposals, HB 159 and SB 596, the Attorney General’s Office would also be tasked with pushing education campaigns that would help people identify warning signs of trafficking.

Attorney General Pam Bondi has urged multi-state collaboration to combat human trafficking and has pledged to put a stop to human trafficking in Florida in the past by saying the state is taking a “zero-tolerance” stance on the crime.

Former U.S. Attorney Pam Marsh, who fought investigated human trafficking in the Northern District of Florida from 2010-15, said the state is “ground zero in the fight against human trafficking.”

“We must draw trafficking out of the shadows, and expose it to the full light of day,” Marsh said. “Only then can we eradicate it.”

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