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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.

Sean Shaw

Teachers union backing Sean Shaw for Attorney General

State Rep. Sean Shaw added another major endorsement Thursday in his campaign to replace termed-out Attorney General Pam Bondi in the fall.

The Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teacher union, said the Democratic lawmaker had “proven himself a friend of public education” during the two sessions he’s represented his Tampa-based district in the Florida House.

Shaw was one of a dozen House Democrats to earn top marks in the FEA’s recent “report cards” measuring legislators’ support for issues affecting public schools.

“We look forward to lending our support to an individual who believes in public education and will use the office of attorney general to support strong public schools,” FEA President Joanne McCall said

FEA’s endorsement comes a couple days after the Florida Young Democrats named Shaw as their pick in the Cabinet race. He’s also snagged endorsements from three state attorneys and the Florida Police Benevolent Association.

Shaw is the likely Democratic nominee for Attorney General, though he must first defeat Ryan Torrens in the primary before he earns his spot on the November ballot.

Through April, he had more than $300,000 on hand between his campaign and committee, Sean Shaw for Florida. Torrens has yet to post a breakout fundraising report after more than a year in the race. He had raised $100,000 and had less than $5,000 banked at the end of April.

Running on the Republican side are former circuit court judge Ashley Moody and state Reps. Jay Fant and Frank White.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

Frank White hits airwaves with $1M media buy

Republican Attorney General candidate Frank White announced Wednesday that he’s put $1 million behind his first television ad of the election cycle.

“As I have traveled the state, I’ve heard over and over from hardworking conservatives that they are fed up with politicians who don’t listen to them,” White said. “I am excited to share my message of principled conservatism and government accountability and look forward to a busy summer on the campaign trail.”

The Pensacola Republican is the first candidate in the Attorney General field to begin airing TV ads.

“This race begins today,” said Tim Baker, a strategy consultant for the White campaign. “The decision to go on television before qualifying and sustain that reach through election day means we have a significant advantage our opponents don’t – the ability to talk directly to primary voters.”

The 30-second spot, “Hold Accountable,” will start airing on cable and broadcast stations statewide today. The campaign said the first $1 million will keep it running for the next four weeks, and the campaign will follow that up with more as part of an “80-day plan” to keep White on TV screens through the Aug. 28 primary election.

Like many of the campaign videos White had released previously, the new ad features the first-term state Representative speaking to the camera intermixed with clips of him and his family.

“Politicians play by their own rules. They lack the courage to do the right thing. Liberal judges and elites threaten the constitution and mock our values. I’m Frank White and I’m running for Attorney General because we need a principled conservative who will stand up for us and hold politicians accountable,” White says in the ad.

“That’s why I believe in term limits and trusting people over politicians. Join me. Together, we’ll fight to hold government accountable.”

The closing seconds of the ad feature a narrator calling White “the conservative we can trust for Attorney General.”

White is one of three Republicans running to succeed term-limited Attorney General Pam Bondi in the fall. He faces Jacksonville Rep. Jay Fant and former circuit court judge Ashley Moody in the primary.

As of April 30, Moody led the three-way race in fundraising with $2.19 million raised to date, though White leads in cash on hand due a substantial amount of self-funding by way of his wife and her family. He had $2 million banked as of April 30, and a source close to his campaign said he threw in another $1.25 million in May.

Fant’s most recent report puts him at the back of the pack with $839,000 banked, including $750,000 in loans.

Campaign finance reports covering May are due to the state Monday.

White’s ad is below.

NRA’s ‘Jane Doe’ argument divides Attorney General candidates

Republicans running to replace Attorney General Pam Bondi disagree with her legal stand against a 19-year-old Alachua County woman who wants to remain anonymous in a National Rifle Association challenge to a new state gun restriction.

And all five announced attorney general candidates, from both parties, object in some fashion to a wide-ranging law approved by the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott after the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people.

The law, in part, raises the minimum age to 21 to purchase rifles and other long guns, imposes a three-day waiting period on the sale of long guns and allows specially trained teachers and other school personnel to bring guns to school.

The NRA, which is challenging the age restriction, is appealing a decision by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker that would prevent the Alachua County teen from being a plaintiff in the lawsuit under the pseudonym “Jane Doe.”

Bondi’s office argued that the request for anonymity “does not provide a sufficient basis for overcoming the strong presumption in favor of open judicial proceedings.”

Republican attorney-general candidates Jay Fant, Frank White and Ashley Moody sided with allowing the teen to remain anonymous, while Democratic candidates Sean Shaw and Ryan Torrens favor disclosure.

White, a state House member from Pensacola, pointed to the safety of the woman and said he wouldn’t have contested the addition of a “Jane Doe” to the case.

“The gun control crowd wants to bully and threaten her into not taking a stand for the Second Amendment,” White said. “I don’t think the identity of the individual impacts the substance of the case and as attorney general, I would not have pursued the unmasking of this young woman.”

Moody, a former Hillsborough County circuit judge, said she “generally” understands and supports the concept that anonymity shouldn’t be allowed in litigation.

“But the case law in this area does not deal with the unique factual circumstances presented by this case,” Moody said. “By and large, the prior case law addressed the fear of humiliation or some associational harm if a litigant’s identity is revealed. Here, the fear is greater. It is the fear of being harmed or living with the continuous threat of harm. The court system has always been and must continue to be a sanctuary of protection. I would never support a position that undermines that fundamental assurance to our citizens.”

Fant, a state House member from Jacksonville, said simply it’s his belief “that the safety of this young woman is protected and her rights are upheld.”

But Shaw and Torrens supported Bondi’s approach. The issue is pending at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

“Unless there is compelling evidence that this young woman’s safety is being threatened, setting a precedent that essentially closes off our judicial process to the general public because someone does not want their identity known in a proceeding they have initiated is not warranted,” said Shaw, a House member from Tampa.

Torrens, a Hillsborough County attorney, called the NRA’s argument “unusual.” The NRA also requested the use of the pseudonym “John Doe” for another 19-year-old who is part of the case.

“The NRA has asked a U.S. district court to allow individuals to keep their identities secret as they contend their Second Amendment rights are being violated by Florida’s new law that raised to 21 the legal age for purchasing rifles and other long guns,” Torrens said. “But the NRA is asking that the identity of the individual complainant, a 19-year-old Alachua County woman be listed only as the pseudonym ‘Jane Doe’ — thus making it impossible for defendants to verify the validity of her contentions, nor those of another party who has been identified only as ‘John Doe.’ ”

The Legislature and Scott quickly moved forward with the wide-ranging law after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Along with the gun-law changes, the measure includes numerous other provisions to try to improve school safety.

But the attorney-general candidates found fault with different parts of the law.

Torrens, for example, said the law doesn’t go far enough because it didn’t ban assault weapon purchases and goes too far in other areas. One of the most-controversial parts of the law would allow trained school employees to be armed.

“I stand with the Florida Education Association in opposing the provision of the bill that, in effect, makes it legal to bring guns into classrooms — in the possession of those teachers that choose to become trained to use them against potential school shooters,” Torrens said. “The law’s goal here is noble. But we have yet to see a written plan for how and where the guns of those teachers will be stored and safeguarded in a way that assures the weapons will never fall into the hands of students or adults who might use them in anger.”

Fant, White and Shaw all voted against the bill on the House floor, although for different reasons.

Shaw said he supported most aspects of the bill, but “the idea of arming teachers is a step too far.”

“Putting more firearms into our classrooms is not going to solve this issue and could actually create an even greater threat to students and educators,” Shaw said. “We need to address the underlying issue of the epidemic of gun violence in this state, where a child is shot every 17 hours, through common-sense reforms, not by adding more firearms into the mix.

White and Fant supported the voluntary training of school staff to have firearms but questioned the gun-ownership restrictions.

“I firmly believe it went too far in infringing on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens,” White said.

Moody also said she wouldn’t have backed the measure due to the provisions related to the age of gun buyers.

“I did not support the measure as a whole because of provisions that took away the ability of law-abiding adults to purchase a firearm to protect themselves,” Moody said. “There are, however, parts of the act that I agree with. I support the hardening of our schools, expanding law enforcement’s presence and role on campus, and providing more mental health screening and treatment to students. The heroism and bravery shown by (Marjory Stoneman Douglas) teachers like Aaron Feis, Angela McQueen, Jason Seaman, and others, show the protective instincts of those closest to our children cannot be ignored. That is why allowing certain extensively trained school personnel to have access to a firearm to defend themselves and our students should be considered. The focus must remain on preventing another tragedy, not on political points.”

Feis was a football coach at Marjory Stoneman Douglas who died protecting students during the February shooting. McQueen and Seaman are teachers in Illinois and Indiana who intervened to stop school shootings.

John Morgan calls on Rick Scott to drop medical marijuana appeal

Saying “this madness has to end,” Orlando attorney John Morgan called on Gov. Rick Scott to drop the hastily-filed appeal of a decision allowing medical marijuana to be smoked in Florida.

Morgan spoke at a Tuesday news conference that was streamed live on Facebook.

In a 22-page order released Friday, Tallahassee Circuit Judge Karen Gievers said that the ban on smoking is “invalid because it conflicts” with the constitutional amendment on medicinal cannabis approved by statewide voters in 2016.

Gievers agreed with the argument that the amendment “recognizes there is no right to smoke in public places, thereby implicitly recognizing the appropriateness of using smokable medical marijuana in private places.”

The state filed a notice of appeal within minutes of the decision’s release. 

“How much more money is the state of Florida going to spend chasing (its) tail?” Morgan said. He backed the amendment, passed by 71 percent of voters, and filed the lawsuit against the ban. 

” … I really believe that Gov. Scott is playing with political wildfire for something that he does not have to do.” The term-limited Naples Republican now is trying to unseat incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson

Scott is “going to have to explain to veterans and really sick people and people who have really bad injuries why (he) kept this (case) going,” Morgan said. ” … Rick Scott is the boss and the buck stops there, with the man wearing the Navy hat.”

The state regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use, under the Department of Health, the named defendant in the case. It reports to Scott.

Last year, lawmakers approved and Scott signed into law an implementing bill for the amendment that does not allow marijuana to be smoked. It does allow edibles, oils and ‘vaping,’ among other uses.

That statute now must be “stricken,” Gievers said, as “unconstitutionally inconsistent.”

“Anybody that gets upset if he decided to drop this appeal, they’re not going to vote against him,” Morgan said. ” … I believe Gov. Scott has a political chance to make a huge dent … Imagine the headlines tomorrow: ‘Great Scott: Gov. Scott drops medical marijuana appeal.’ I think he gains five points overnight.”

Assuming the governor presses forward, “the fight goes on,” Morgan said. “They did not count on a person like me. Thank God I have the resources … Thank God I hate to lose.”

Judge strikes down ban on smoking medical marijuana

Quoting George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, a Florida judge has ruled that the state’s ban on smoking medical marijuana is unconstitutional.

In a 22-page order released Friday, Circuit Judge Karen Gievers said that the ban on smoking is “invalid because it conflicts” with the constitutional amendment on medicinal cannabis approved by statewide voters in 2016. A one-day trial was held last Wednesday. 

The ban “prohibits a use of medical marijuana that is permitted by the amendment: smoking in private,” she wrote. The suit is against the Department of Health, which regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use.

Health Department spokesman Devin Galetta said the agency will appeal the ruling, which will put an automatic delay on its effect. 

“This ruling goes against what the Legislature outlined when they wrote and approved Florida’s law to implement the constitutional amendment that was approved by an overwhelmingly bipartisan majority,” he said in an email.

The amendment, passed by 71 percent of voters, was spearheaded by Orlando attorney and entrepreneur John Morgan, who filed the lawsuit against the ban. 

“When I start something I finish it. Truth prevails!! The voters will be done!! #BELIEVE #ForThePeople #NoSmokeIsAJoke,” he tweeted Friday. 

Gievers agreed with argument from plaintiff’s counsel Jon Mills that the amendment “recognizes there is no right to smoke in public places, thereby implicitly recognizing the appropriateness of using smokable medical marijuana in private places.”

In an email to Florida Politics, Morgan called the decision “a huge win for Floridians.” He sat at counsel’s table but did not participate in last week’s trial.

“I hope and pray that Gov. (Rick) Scott and (Attorney General) Pam Bondi don’t appeal this win for the people,” he added. “I think this could be a major issue in the U.S. Senate race. It has all drug out long enough.

“…Let the people find compassionate care while they recover and also while they die in dignity,” Morgan said. Representatives for Scott and Bondi were not available Friday evening.

But Kim Rivers, CEO of Florida medical marijuana provider Trulieve, late Friday said her company “stands ready to provide Florida patients (with) full flower cannabis” that can be smoked: “We look forward to guidance from the Department of Health on next steps to approve this next form of medicine for patients.

*                    *                    *

Gievers began by quoting Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address that people have the right to “make and alter” their constitutions, which are “sacredly obligatory upon all.” She added a line from Jefferson that written constitutions should be not be made “blank paper(s) by construction.”

The Legislature’s ability to pass laws is not “unfettered,” the judge wrote, in that lawmakers can’t “overrule or ignore the ‘sacred obligation’ referred to by President Washington.”

“Just as no person is above the law, the Legislature must heed the constitutional rights Floridians placed in the Constitution in 2016,” Gievers wrote.

The judge noted that “no legislation is needed to implement the Amendment,” but that if lawmakers chose to pass laws related to it, those acts must be “consistent with” the amendment.

Because the amendment doesn’t require the “accommodation” of smoking marijuana in public, Gievers reasoned – as did Morgan and Mills – that “the ability to smoke medical marijuana was implied in this language and is therefore a protected right,” the order says.

Last year, lawmakers approved and Gov. Rick Scott signed into law an implementing bill for the amendment that does not allow marijuana to be smoked. House Republican Leader Ray Rodrigues of Estero, who sponsored the measure, has said “we don’t believe you smoke medicine.” Edibles and “vaping” are permitted, however. Rodrigues couldn’t be reached.

That statute now must be “stricken,” Gievers said, as “unconstitutionally inconsistent.”

Gievers also called “compelling” testimony from plaintiff Cathy Jordan, a Manatee County woman who has Lou Gehrig’s disease, uses a wheelchair and struggles to speak. She testified at trial that she’s been smoking marijuana since the late 1980s: “I figured, ‘what the heck, what’s it gonna do, kill me?’ “

“Qualifying patients,” including Jordan, “have the right to use the form of medical marijuana for treatment of their debilitating medical conditions as recommended by their physicians, including the use of smokable marijuana in private places,” the judge wrote.

Gievers, elected to the circuit bench in 2010 from private practice, also recently ruled in favor of Tampa strip club mogul Joe Redner, whose lung cancer is in remission. He sued to be able to grow his own marijuana to make juice of it. The state is now appealing that ruling. 

Second ‘stand your ground’ case filed at Supreme Court

Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office is asking the Florida Supreme Court to take up a Hillsborough County case that deals with how courts should carry out a controversial 2017 change to the state’s “stand your ground” self-defense law.

Bondi’s office filed a notice asking justices to hear an appeal from a May 4 decision by the 2nd District Court of Appeal in a case involving defendant Tymothy Ray Martin, according to documents posted this week on the Supreme Court website.

The notice does not detail the arguments Bondi’s office will make, but the issue centers on a 2017 decision by lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott to shift a key burden of proof in “stand your ground” cases from defendants to prosecutors.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal agreed with Martin that the change should be retroactively applied to his case. Martin, who was convicted of felony battery in a 2016 altercation involving his girlfriend, had sought to use the “stand your ground” law to be shielded from prosecution, but a judge denied his request in a pre-trial hearing.

Also pending before the Supreme Court is a request to take up the retroactivity issue in a Miami-Dade County case. In that case, however, the 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled that the 2017 law should not apply retroactively to defendant Tashara Love, who was arrested in a 2015 shooting incident during an altercation outside a Miami-Dade County nightclub.

The “stand your ground” law says people are justified in using deadly force and do not have a “duty to retreat” if they believe it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm. When the defense is successfully raised in pre-trial hearings, defendants are granted immunity from prosecution.

Before the 2017 change, the Supreme Court had ruled defendants had the burden of proof in pre-trial hearings to show they should be shielded from prosecution.

With backing from groups such as the National Rifle Association, the 2017 change shifted the burden from defendants to prosecutors to prove whether self-defense claims are justified.

Ross Spano

Ross Spano lands Pam Bondi’s support in CD 15 primary

State Rep. Ross Spano landed a big endorsement for his congressional campaign Monday: Attorney General Pam Bondi.

“Today, I am proud to endorse my friend Ross Spano to be the next Congressman in Florida’s 15th District. Along with being a fighter for the people of Florida, Ross is a tried and true rock solid Conservative who will go to Washington, defend our Conservative values and partner with President [Donald] Trump in advancing his America First agenda. I hope the people of Hillsborough, Polk and Lake counties will join me in supporting Ross Spano,” Bondi said.

The announcement dropped shortly after Republican Primary rival Neil Combee announced another wave of local endorsements, this time within Spano’s home turf in Hillsborough. Bondi’s endorsement is the biggest thus far among the dozen candidates, including six Republicans, running to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross.

“I am extremely humbled to receive Attorney General Pam Bondi’s endorsement. She is a Conservative leader whom I have been able to work alongside for the last six years to protect Floridians and our shared Conservative values,” Spano said. “The Attorney General and I have worked tirelessly to eradicate human trafficking from Florida and although there is much more to do, we have made huge strides. I look forward to continuing our collaborative efforts once I am elected to Congress.”

The one-time Attorney General candidate – Bondi opted to support former circuit court judge Ashley Moody in that contest – has now been endorsed by more than a dozen current and former elected officials.

Past endorsements include state Reps. Sam Killebrew, Jake Raburn, former state Rep. Rich Glorioso, Hillsborough Tax Collector Doug Belden, Hillsborough Commissioner Al Higginbotham, Polk Commissioners George Lindsey and John Hall, Plant City Mayor Rick Lott, Plant City Commissioner Bill Dodson, former Plant City Mayor Randy Larson, and former Plant City Commissioner Billy Keel.

Spano faces Combee, Sean HarperDanny KushmerCurt Rogers and Ed Shoemaker in the Republican Primary. Also running are Democrats Kristen CarlsonAndrew Learned and Ray Pena as well as three write-in candidates.

About half of CD 15’s Republican voters live in Hillsborough County and another two-fifths live in Polk while a small slice lives in Lake County. The district is rated “likely Republican” by Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the prediction newsletter from University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

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