Patrick Murphy Archives - Florida Politics

Darryl Paulson: Republican prospects in the 2018 Florida congressional campaign

Republicans have controlled the Florida congressional districts for almost three decades.

During that time, the size of the Florida congressional delegation has jumped from 23 in 1990 to 25 in 2000, and 27 in 2010. Projections have Florida adding two more seats after the 2020 census, growing the delegation to 29 seats in the House of Representatives.

Only California and Texas have larger delegations.

Currently, Republicans hold 16 of the 27 congressional seats, meaning Democrats need to flip three seats to take control of the delegation. How likely is that to happen?

That’s the topic of Paulson’s Politics for next week.

Three decades of Republican control of the delegation is testimony to the party’s ability to attract quality candidates and to provide them with the organizational and financial support essential for victory.

Is Republican dominance of the delegation over?

At one point, there were as many as seven more Republicans than Democrats in the Florida delegation. Democrats had hoped that a judicial redraw of the congressional district lines in 2016, due to a League of Women Voters challenge to the legislature’s redistricting plan that they believed violated the Fair District Amendment, would allow Democrats to pick up a number of congressional seats. In the end, Democrats picked up one seat, reducing the Republican advantage to 16 to 11.

Floridians elected eight new members to the Florida delegation in 2016, the highest turnover rate of any state with at least eight members. Typically, 90 percent of House members win re-election.

Three incumbent Republicans retired and were replaced by three new Republicans. Two Republicans lost to Democrats and another Republican, Daniel Webster, moved from District 10 to 11 after his District was redrawn and made heavily Democratic. Republicans picked up two seats that had been held by a Democrat. Gwen Graham decided not to seek re-election after her District 2 seat was redrawn to favor Republicans, and Patrick Murphy abandoned his House seat to run unsuccessfully for the U. S. Senate. Republican Neal Dunn won the Graham seat and Brian Mast won the Murphy seat. The net result was a one seat gain by Democrats.

One Republican strength has been that Republican voters have been more motivated than Democrats to turn out on Election Day, especially in midterms. Democratic advantages in voter registration numbers have been diminished by Republican advantage in voter turnout.

A recent Washington Post/ABC Poll indicates that the Republican edge in motivation will not be there in the 2018 midterms. An identical percentage of Republican and Democratic voters, 63 percent, indicated that they are certain to vote in 2018. That number may change by Election Day, but it has to be a concern for Republicans.

Republicans in Florida have been advantaged over the past three decades due to their organizational strength and their ability to finally support their candidates. This is no longer the case.

Democrats, who have had a long history of forming a circular firing squad and executing their own members, finally seem to have their act together. It is now the Republicans who are divided. When Gov. Rick Scott’s hand-picked candidate to lead the party was defeated by state legislator Blaise Ingoglia, Scott told Republicans not to contribute to the party, but instead to his own Let’s Get to Work PAC.

The flow of money to the Florida Republican Party has slowed to a trickle, making it difficult to support more than a small number of candidates. During the first six months of 2017, the Florida Democratic Party raised $3.5 million compared to only $2.4 million for the Republicans. This is, and will be, a major problem for the Republican Party and their candidates heading into 2018.

NEXT WEEK:  An analysis of the 2018 congressional races. Will it be status quo, or will Florida experience a political tsunami?

Though decrying gridlock, David Jolly would like to see Democrats stop Donald Trump

Republican former U.S. Rep. David Jolly doubled down Tuesday evening on his expressed wish that Democrats win the 2018 mid-term elections as a check on President Donald Trump, saying he hoped that so that “we may be safer as a nation.”

Jolly appeared Wednesday evening at the University of Central Florida in Orlando with Democratic former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy on their college-campus tour to talk about their concerns about how hyper-partisanship has caused gridlock, and forced both parties to kowtow to extremes within their ranks.

Yet Jolly, the St. Petersburg politician who served two terms and then chose to run an eventually-aborted campaign for the U.S. Senate Republican nomination last year instead of for re-election, expressed great frustration Monday night on MSNBC with his party’s unwillingness to stand up to Trump.

After the UCF forum Tuesday evening, he repeated that contention and his desire to see Democrats take over the U.S. House of Representatives for the last two years of Trump’s term. He told FloridaPolitics.com that he views Trump as unsteady and a national security concern, and is worried that his party cannot check him.

“I’ve struggled with it as we continue to hear stories around the national security implications around the president’s irascibility and volatility,” Jolly said. “Certainly we know some of the Constitutional issues that have been raised from ethics to Russia. We also know that he is an unsteady hand as commander in chief.

“And we’ve seen Republicans largely unwilling to stand up to him,” Jolly continued. “Listen, I’m a Republican, who hopes we see a Republican Congress pass Republican policies. But it may be for the greater good that there is a stronger check on Capitol Hill on this president than the Republicans are currently providing. So if it meant Democrats take control of the House for two years, and the president not being in office come January 2021, then we may be safer as a nation in my opinion.

“This may be bigger than the party,” Jolly concluded.

The matter did not come up during the 75-minute forum, in which Murphy and Jolly expressed their concerns about how gerrymandering had created too many safe seats, and how the party leadership in Congress was valuing power over any bipartisan relationships, discouraging members in any contested seats from building relationships with those across the aisle.

Murphy said gerrymandering was the biggest single problem. Yet he also decried the closed-primary system in Florida and other states that use it, noting that voter turnout in a primary average is 15 percent. That 15 percent, he argued, likely represents the most extreme wing of the party; and becomes the deciding force in any district predetermined to be a safe seat for one party or the other. And he contended 90 percent of seats are so predetermined.

“So imagine you’re a member of Congress. Imagine your a candidate. Are you going to appeal to that 85 percent [who don’t vote in the primary] or that 15 percent? Murphy said. “You’re going to tailor a message to them. You’re going to make sure they see ads.And you’re going to get to office. And then you’re going to say the same thing, even if it’s against your own self interest.

“We both know friends on both sides of the aisle that are standing for things they don’t truly believe in,” Murphy said.

Both Murphy and Jolly talked about how leaderships punish members who work across the aisle. Murphy said it starts from the very first week a freshman member of Congress arrives, and is segregated from freshmen from the other party, and then is told to not get chummy with those in the other party, because the goal is to see them defeated in the next election. Murphy and Jolly said both sides do it, threatening to not provide re-election money, or threatening to take away valuable committee seats.

“We can’t can’t take human nature out of this,” Jolly said. “It requires a certain amount of political courage to step forward to say I’m going to be one of those people who decide to change it.”

David Jolly, Patrick Murphy discuss fixing Washington — it was (sort of) interesting

One could reasonably approach the David Jolly-Patrick Murphy roadshow hitting Tampa Thursday night with a healthy dose of cynicism.

Here are two former politicians decrying problems of Washington D.C. when, if things had turned the way they hoped they would, both would have been ensconced in the belly of the beast they were now criticizing.

Nevertheless, the two former members of Congress, for the most part, kept it pretty engaging during the hourlong conversation at the University of South Florida Marshall Center, facilitated by USF professor Susan McManus and Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith.

Each man spent the first 15 minutes of the Oval Theater event giving their own prescriptions of what they find wrong with politics today.

Unlike the 34-year-old Murphy, who had been first elected to Congress at the tender of age of 29 after defeating Tea Party Republican Allen West in 2012, Jolly was already an insider, having worked for years as both a lobbyist and an aide to longtime Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Young.

After winning a special election in March 2014, Jolly said he was stunned to discover how much fundraising was expected of new members, since it wasn’t something he ever saw Young doing. Jolly then described a slide he had seen from a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee presentation to incoming lawmakers (he suspected the National Republican Congressional Campaign had one as well) suggesting candidates spend 20-30 hours a week raising money, and only 10 hours a week doing their jobs.

“I truly was taken aback by the fact that consumes every single minute,” the Pinellas Republican said. “If any member tells you that they spend more time on policy than fundraising, they’re lying.”

Another thing that surprised Jolly: The lack of understanding of policy among members of Congress, without naming names.

“It’s remarkable how many people don’t understand the Constitutional implications, the subject matter implications, or even care to learn,” he said, noting they just rely on senior staff help.

Murphy, a Treasure Coast Democrat who lost a bid to defeat Marco Rubio, concurred. He said that while he still believes in term limits, serious policy issues remain (as one, he referred to the Dodd-Frank financial regulation), which take time to learn.

Both men offered some details of what happens behind the scene, especially as freshmen lawmakers.

Murphy discussed how he interviewed several people to learn how to run a campaign, ultimately hiring one as a consultant. He said he was “shocked” to learn the expense (over $10,000 a month). Murphy hired a consultant, a campaign manager, and then a fundraising team.

Jolly was also told he needed a pollster, which he thought absurd since Young served in Congress for more than 40 years without one. But his general consultant told him that a pollster was necessary to learn what constituents care about.

“We need a poll so we know your Republican voters are going to be participating — what is most important to them, so when we determine how to spend money on mailers and commercials, we’re on message with it,” Jolly explained.

Jolly supports open primaries and “jungle primaries” in places like Louisiana and California, where the top two finishers of a race advance to a general election, not the top Republican and Democrat.

He said what he found sad — going across party lines to show independence wouldn’t be rewarded by voters — referring to how he came out for same-sex marriage in 2014 a few months after his election. Jolly said his consultant told him that it was lose-lose; he had just lost Republican votes and wasn’t about to gain any Democratic ones.

“Aren’t you winning independents?” Smith asked.

Jolly replied that he thought that after “multiple” elections one could build up a constituency of independent voters, but in early races, “you’re not bringing people over.”

Both men spoke up in support of lobbyists, saying that in many cases they’re the most informed participants on a public policy issue. (Did we mention that Jolly was previously a lobbyist?)

A frequently overlooked aspect of a member of Congress’ job is constituent services. Both men related poignant stories of helping individuals, which left them both humbled and feeling fortunate they can actually help somebody.

While much of Murphy’s message seemed to be that the system encourages extremes of both parties and drown out centrists, Jolly’s approach was more realistic. He said it was fine to be progressive or conservative, but the lesson politicians learn is that by compromising on some issues is how public policy advances.

“It’s OK to be far to the left or far to the right,” Jolly said, “but the challenge and the breakdown right now is that those two communities are not working together.”

Responding to audience questions, Jolly and Murphy agreed that the Netflix show “House of Cards” was fairly realistic.

When asked if it was possible to win without political action committees, Jolly said a prevalence of third-party groups means candidates have to raise less money on their own. Murphy said “very unlikely.”

To the same question, Murphy answered “very unlikely.”

In the audience of several hundred were mostly students, many holding slices of free pizza offered as an incentive to attend. Other students admitted they were only there to get extra credit from professors.

David Jolly, Patrick Murphy ready to take their act on the road

While he’s not sure if he will attempt to resume his political career by running against Charlie Crist in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, former Republican congressman David Jolly says he will be part of another campaign in the future – a GOP effort to block Donald Trump from being renominated in 2020 as the party’s presidential nominee. Read more

Jeremy Ring adds $168K in August for CFO campaign

Democratic CFO candidate Jeremy Ring will report a combined $168,822 raised last month between his campaign and committee accounts, his campaign finance director said Tuesday.

Shelby Rogers said the former state senator brought in $154,322 of the money through his campaign account and another $14,500 through his committee, “Florida Action Fund.”

“Our August fundraising numbers are further proof that Jeremy Ring’s message of bringing a more innovation-driven economy to Florida to create high-paying jobs has resonated with Floridians from the Panhandle to the Keys, and we are excited to continue sharing Jeremy’s vision for a stronger Florida economy,” Rogers said.

Ring finished July with about $130,000 between the two accounts; Rogers didn’t give any update on Ring’s on-hand totals.

According to his committee website, FAF has about $5,200 on hand, while his campaign’s August report hasn’t been filed.

James Pugh Jr. topped the committee donor roll with a $5,000 check, followed by the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters and the Florida Alliance for Better Government at $2,500, Alliance for Progressive Government at $2,000 and the Florida AFL-CIO and lobbyist Paul Wharton at $1,000 each.

Committee expenses came in at around $13,000 and included $5,500 to Johnson Campaigns and $3,000 to Renaissance Campaign Strategies for consulting work.

As of Sept. 5, Ring is still the only candidate running for CFO.

Potential GOP candidates include sitting CFO Jimmy Patronis and Brandon state Sen. Tom Lee.

David Jolly, Patrick Murphy to embark on speaking tour of Florida college campuses

Former Florida Congressmen David Jolly and Patrick Murphy will tour college campuses this fall, where the onetime U.S. Senate rivals will try to explain why politics in Washington is so screwed up.

“Why Gridlock Rules Washington and How We Can Solve the Crises” will feature a town-hall style format moderated by members of the media and academics, with a question-and-answer session to follow.

The first stop is Sept. 12 at the University of South Florida in Tampa.  The 75-minute event will be sponsored by USF and the Tampa Bay Times.

Other stops include Oct. 4 at Florida International University, Oct. 18 at the University of Miami and the University of Florida in Gainesville Oct. 25, with more events likely to be added.

Jolly, a Republican from Pinellas County, won the special election in early 2014 to succeed the late Bill Young; he was re-elected later that year. He lost his bid for re-election last fall to Democrat Charlie Crist after his 13th Congressional District was redrawn up with plenty more Democrats after the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the district had been illegally drawn up by the Florida Legislature.

“I think what Patrick and I are focusing in on is regardless of where you consider yourself on the (political) spectrum, there’s a path forward to working together, and in this environment I don’t think there’s enough people speaking to that,” said Jolly, who describes himself as a “governing conservative,” willing to approach issues where few Republicans seek a compromise.

Murphy was a two-term Democratic Representative from Jupiter who narrowly defeated Republican Allen West in Florida’s 18th Congressional District in 2012. He was the Democratic Party’s nominee for U.S. Senate last fall but lost to GOP incumbent Marco Rubio.

“One of the biggest things that are frustrating Americans on both sides of aisle, and perhaps resulting somewhat in President Trump’s election, was the lack of progress that people have been seeing,” says Murphy, who said both he and Jolly agreed upon their election that there was common ground to be found on issues such as climate change, tax reform and the need for infrastructure spending.

During their short time serving together in Congress, the two men found ways to work together on those issues and more. There was the possibility that the two could have faced each other in the Senate race last year, but Jolly ultimately dropped out of the race once Rubio flip-flopped and decided he would run again for his Senate seat after his presidential ambitions collapsed.

Murphy says of all the problems with a dysfunctional Congress, gerrymandering is at the top. Jolly agrees but believes that districts should be redrawn in terms of electoral competitiveness, so that working across the aisle will be positive, instead of giving ammunition to political party officials to have that candidate “primaried” come election time.

Murphy recently agreed to serve as one of six fellows at Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service this fall.

Jolly, meanwhile, has been ubiquitous on CNN and MSNBC this year offering unfettered criticism mostly at Trump. He says that while the tour isn’t about Trump at all, it clearly is designed to provide an alternative to politics in the Trump era.

You can find more information about the tour at fixwashington2017.com.

Jeremy Ring raised $45K in July for CFO bid, spent $60K

Former state Sen. Jeremy Ring headed into August with about $130,000 on hand after spending more than he raised in July for his Chief Financial Officer bid.

The Margate Democrat brought in a total of $45,396 between his campaign account and his political committee, “Florida Action Fund PC.” Combined, the two entities spent $60,515, including a $20,000 payment to the Florida Democratic Party.

Among the other $40,000 in spending was more than $10,000 in payments to D.C.-based MDW Communications for a website, $4,800 to NGP VAN, Inc., based in Washington, D.C. and Somerville, Massachusetts, for IT work and a slew of $1,000-plus payments to various consulting groups across the Sunshine State.

Contributions to the committee included $10,000 from the Firefighter FactPAC, $5,000 from the Pelican Bay political committee in Naples and $2,500 from the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters. The campaign account took in $26,000 in July across 38 contributions, including $3,000 a piece from Robert Greenberg, Eric Becker, Adam Stein, James Stork and Nadezda Usina.

Ring is currently the only declared candidate for Florida CFO, is now held by Republican Jimmy Patronis, who was appointed to the position after Jeff Atwater left the job earlier this year to become the CFO of Florida Atlantic University.

Patronis, a former lawmaker himself, hasn’t said whether he would run for CFO, but several of his former colleagues in the Legislature have hinted they might take a stab at the Cabinet seat in 2018.

Possible Republican entrants include state Sen. Tom Lee and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

A couple of Democrats have been floated as candidates as well, including former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.

Brian Mast campaign says it raised more than $700K in Q2

Rep. Brian Mast will report raising more than $700,000 in the second quarter of 2017, his campaign announced.

The Mast campaign said Thursday it raised $733,964 between April 1 and June 30. That three-month fundraising haul brings his total raised to more than $1.12 million this cycle, according to the campaign.

“While national Democrats desperately dump money into the 18th District with lies to undermine Brian Mast’s service to our country, people obviously aren’t buying it,” said Brad Stewart, a spokesman for Mast, in a statement. “With 92% of all donations being small dollar and a median donation of $25, it’s clearer than ever that there is broad grassroots enthusiasm for Brian’s agenda to upend the status quo in Washington and restore fiscal sanity to our country.”

Federal campaign finance reports are due to the Federal Election Commission by July 15.

Mast is one of 59 Republicans the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee identified earlier this year as incumbents the group will try to oust in 2018. The Palm City Republican defeated Democrat Randy Perkins in 2016 to replace Democrat Patrick Murphy in Florida’s 18th Congressional District.

Six Florida congressional Democrats now support single-payer health care system

As Senate Republicans return to Washington this week, looking to salvage their attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, support grows among Democrats for a single-payer health care system.

The co-sponsor count for Michigan Democrat John Conyers‘ “Medicare for All” bill now stands at 113, nearly twice as many as last year. One of those new Democratic co-sponsors is Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor.

Castor signed on to the legislation in April, joined by five other Florida Democrats this year: Alcee Hastings, Frederica Wilson, Al Lawson, Darren Soto and Ted Deutch. 

In a brief interview Monday after speaking with health care officials in Tampa on the opioid epidemic, Castor said that while she knows that such legislation won’t be passed anytime soon in a Republican-controlled Congress, she thinks now is the time to look for alternatives to bring down escalating costs of health care in America.

Under a single-payer system, all Americans would have health coverage, while the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates 22 million people would become uninsured under the Senate GOP health care plan.

Republicans believe support for the issue can hurt Democrats at the polls.

Although Florida Senator Bill Nelson doesn’t support such a plan, the fact that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren does was enough for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) to run a Facebook ad last week linking the two lawmakers.

Citing Warren’s recent comments on getting behind a single-payer plan, the ad’s narrator says such a system “would be absolutely devastating for Florida families and businesses.”

Castor noted that she has previously supported a government public-option plan.

The idea of a public option is to create a separate, government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers offering coverage through the Affordable Care Act exchanges. President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders included versions of the public option in their proposals in 2009 when they first began working on health care reform. But they dropped the idea relatively quickly.

Democrat Patrick Murphy embraced the idea during his unsuccessful Senate run last year, as has current gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham.

Support for a single-payer health care system has never been higher.

In the June Kaiser Health Tracking poll, 53 percent of respondents now favor such a system, with 43 percent opposing.

That’s the highest level of support in the 19 years since Kaiser began polling on the issue. However, Kaiser Health officials point out that “a prolonged national debate” on the issue could easily shift the public’s attitudes.

According to the Kaiser Health website“For example, when those who initially say they favor a single-payer or Medicare-for-all plan are asked how they would feel if they heard that such a plan would give the government too much control over health care, about four in ten (21 percent of the public overall) say they would change their mind and would now oppose the plan, pushing total opposition up to 62 percent.

“Similarly, when this group is told such a plan would require many Americans to pay more in taxes or that it would eliminate or replace the Affordable Care Act, total opposition increases to 60 percent and 53 percent, respectively.”

 

Alan Grayson raising beaucoup bucks for a race he may not run

Alan Grayson said on Tuesday that he is not running for any office in 2018, at least not yet. But there are plenty of people who want him to, as he has racked up several hundred thousand dollars in campaign contributions for a CD 11 bid, a seat currently occupied by Republican Daniel Webster. 

The former U.S. Representative has been actively campaigning for Jon Ossoff, the Democrat running in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District through Act Blue, which bills itself as “the online clearinghouse of Democratic action.”

An online ad for Ossoff includes the disclaimer, “Your contribution will be divided evenly between Jon Ossoff and Alan Grayson.” There is a link that says, “click here to allocate amounts differently.”

In an interview Tuesday afternoon, Grayson said repeatedly when he originally told FloridaPolitics last December — that because he continued to receive campaign contributions larger than $5,000 after he lost in the U.S. Senate Primary race last August to Patrick Murphy, he had to legally file to run for office in 2018.

He opted to file to run in Florida’s 11th Congressional District, centered in Lake County, a seat currently held by Republican Daniel Webster, who defeated Grayson in Florida’s 8th Congressional District in 2010.

District 11 is a deep-red, conservative seat, and includes the Villages retirement community, a GOP stronghold. The seat was previously held by Rich Nugent before he announced his retirement last year. Ginny Brown-Waite held the seat before that.

“We passed the $5,000 mark quickly, and I had to file, so we went ahead and filed,” he said. “I haven’t made any decisions about what my plans are to run in Congress, but we filed for a specific district, and what prompted that was simply the legal obligation to do so.”

As a federally registered political action committee, Act Blue serves as a conduit for online contributions to Democratic candidates and committees.

According to the website Open Secrets, a website run by the Center for Responsive Politics. Grayson had raised $437,291 at the end of March, the first quarter of 2017.

Grayson says that every time he ran in Congress, he never decided whether he would run again until the same year as the election, so his decision to hold off on any announcement until 2018 is par for the course. He says his decision to run for the U.S. Senate was a much bigger race, which is why he did announce his candidacy for that seat a year in advance.

“It’s encouraging that I have that kind of support,” he said.

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