Richard Corcoran Archives - Florida Politics

Jeb Bush, Richard Corcoran laud Ron DeSantis’ education policy

Republican nominee for Governor Ron DeSantis rolled out an education policy this week that wasn’t too different from that of dispatched primary rival Adam Putnam, with emphasis on school choice (charter schools) and vocational training.

As yet another signal of DeSantis being embraced by establishment Republicans, his campaign on Thursday rolled out a list of endorsements for his education policy.

Primary among them are former Gov. Jeb Bush, whose eight years in Tallahassee stressed educational reform and who was the last conservative defender of Common Core, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who abandoned his own gubernatorial ambitions and backed Putnam in the primary.

Bush said “DeSantis’ education policies will prepare Florida students to succeed in the competitive 21st century global economy. He understands that transforming our schools into a world-class education system requires bold reforms, and he is the only candidate with a plan to ensure Florida continues to lead the nation in raising student achievement.”

He added: “Ron is a fighter who will work tirelessly to ensure every student has access to a high quality education, and I am proud to endorse his education plan.”

The Bush imprimatur is interesting here, given the former Governor spent a good portion of his 2016 presidential run explaining away his own backing of Common Core. DeSantis, of course, wants to end Common Core.

No less interesting is Corcoran’s full-throated endorsement of the DeSantis plan. Corcoran, who called DeSantis “visionless” just this summer, now believes DeSantis offers “bold education policy.”

“Ron DeSantis will work to ensure that our tax dollars will be prioritized to reduce teacher shortages and reward great teachers with great salaries, not to funding wasteful education bureaucracy,” Corcoran vowed.

Corcoran’s wife is on a charter board, according to the Tampa Bay Times, as is Erika Donalds, the wife of state Rep. Byron Donalds, who also lauded the plan.

Rep. Donalds, a Naples Republican, asserts that DeSantis’ plan shows he is “committed to ensuring that the children of Florida have the best education in the country.”

“His policy will expand vocational and technical programs to teach real-world skills to students and help them prepare for the jobs of the 21st century,” DeSantis said. “I have always supported school choice and increasing opportunities for all Florida’s students and I am proud to stand by Ron DeSantis for Governor.”

Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr., running in a tough race for state Senate in Miami-Dade, likewise lauded the plan. Diaz, the chief operating officer of charter school-affiliated Doral College, claimed DeSantis would work “to expand school choice in our state.”

The DeSantis plan also is endorsed by incoming GOP House Speaker Jose Oliva, who did not mention charter schools explicitly. Oliva endorsed DeSantis back in June.

“He has made it clear that he will always stand with students and their parents over bureaucracy and special interests when it comes to the education of Florida’s children,” Oliva said. “Ron DeSantis is committed to ensuring that every student has the opportunity to get a quality education, regardless of their circumstance. I have no doubt that Ron DeSantis will work tirelessly to make Florida’s education system the very best it can be.”

Ardian Zika

Richard Corcoran backs Ardian Zika as his successor in HD 37

House Speaker Richard Corcoran weighed on the race for seat he’s vacating in the fall, offering his endorsement to Land O’ Lakes businessman Ardian Zika.

“I’ve long admired Ardian Zika’s service and commitment to Pasco County and Florida,” Corcoran said Wednesday. “Ardian and I share the priorities of faith and family and I am grateful for his commitment to our community.

“Ardian is a true conservative leader that understands the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for Florida. I am confident Ardian Zika will represent the people of House District 37 well and he has my strong support and my vote this election.”

Corcoran cannot run for re-election in the fall due to term limits. His endorsement comes after Zika received more than 57 percent of the vote in the three-way Republican primary for Pasco County-based state House district. He faces Democratic nominee Tammy Garcia, also of Land O’Lakes, in the general election.

“I am honored and humbled to receive the endorsement of Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives Richard Corcoran,” Zika said. “Speaker Corcoran has been a principled leader fighting for all Florida and has well represented the people of House District 37 over the past eight years. I am grateful for Speaker Corcoran’s service to the people of Pasco County and the State of Florida.”

HD 37 covers the majority of inland Pasco County, including the communities of Land O’ Lakes, Odessa, Heritage Pines, Shady Hills, Meadow Oaks and Moon Lake.

Though Corcoran never faced an Election Day challenger in his three campaign since the seat was redrawn ahead of the 2012 cycle, the district has voted overwhelmingly for Republicans in statewide elections. Donald Trump carried the HD 37 by a 61-34 percent margin in 2016.

Prior to earning the nod from Corcoran, Zika had picked up endorsements from St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, former House Speaker Will Weatherford, Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano and Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

‘The primary is behind us’: Richard Corcoran now backing Ron DeSantis

It was only a few months ago that House Speaker Richard Corcoran was one of the most prominent backers of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam‘s bid for Governor.

After Corcoran decided that there was no path to victory for him against Putnam and Ron DeSantis, he endorsed Putnam.

After opting not to run for the Governor’s Mansion, it took him “2.2 seconds” to make his decision.

Though Putnam did not use Corcoran as a surrogate the way DeSantis did U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, Corcoran was not without his quotable moments.

“He’s got a bulldog mouth, a chihuahua a —, and he doesn’t even know what the heck is going on in this state,” the Tampa Bay Times reported Corcoran saying.

“Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, that’s the only thing he can say,” Corcoran added. “At some point, you’ve got to come out and give people a Florida vision.”

DeSantis spox Dave Vasquez had long before that dismissed the Corcoran endorsement of Putnam as a “corrupt bargain.”

“Insiders only know how to play one game, and that’s making deals to save their own skin,” Vasquez stated in a news release.

“After a year of campaigning and millions of dollars of special interest money spent, career insider Adam Putnam’s campaign has flatlined. So, he’s turning to deal-making in the Tallahassee swamp. Today he’ll stand in the shadow of the state capital in the middle of the Tallahassee swamp and receive the endorsement of a fellow career insider, one that will only matter to his fellow swamp dwellers,” Vasquez added.

The Corcoran endorsement did not help Putnam in the primary. However, despite the rhetoric of the summer, Corcoran found his way toward backing DeSantis (“chihuahua a**” notwithstanding).

On Sept. 12, Corcoran’s Watchdog PAC ponied up a relatively modest $22,625 to Friends of Ron DeSantis. That’s technically more than the $20,000 the PAC gave to Putnam’s Florida Grown committee earlier this year.

That $22,625 number pales in comparison to another recent convert to the DeSantis cause (the Florida Chamber of Commerce PAC) giving $100,000 just days before, and reflects the reality of Republicans coming home even after their groomed candidate got bounced in the primary.

As of Aug. 31, the last date for which Watchdog PAC has provided financials, the committee had roughly $760,000 on hand.

Vasquez gave us a quote late Friday on DeSantis’ behalf.

“The primary election is long behind us. Speaker Corcoran has been a champion for Conservatives across our state and we’re proud to have his support as we work to build a stronger economy, empower parents to make the best educational decisions for their children and protect our environment by electing Ron DeSantis the next Governor of Florida,” Vasquez said.

Jose Oliva to lead investigation of misspent state money at UCF

Incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva will take over chairmanship of the Public Integrity and Ethics Committee “to investigate the misuse of funds by the University of Central Florida,” term-limited Speaker Richard Corcoran announced Friday.

The university’s chief financial officer, William Merck, stepped down Thursday after an audit revealed the school improperly used $38 million in state funding to construct a campus building.

UCF President Dale Whittaker told the state university system’s Board of Governors on Thursday that the school has replenished the state money, while taking steps to investigate the problem and to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

The use of state operating funds to build the 137,000-square-foot Trevor Colbourn Hall, which opened this semester at UCF, was in violation of state policy that restricts that money to activities like instruction, research, libraries, student services or maintenance.

Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican who leaves office in November, released a letter he sent to Whittaker. He’s made a reputation for bird-dogging state spending during his 2-year tenure as leader of the House.

Whittaker took over Florida’s largest state university in July. The issue could have ramifications for the entire university-system budget, as it will provide fodder for lawmakers who have been skeptical about the universities’ control of large reserve funds.

“Unfortunately, this occurrence is one more example of mismanagement of taxpayer funds by public entities, and it has tarnished the reputation of UCF,” Corcoran told Whittaker.

“I am baffled by how the actions of one irresponsible officer’s effort at flouting the Legislature’s and State University System’s budget controls could result in a four-year-long unauthorized endeavor of this magnitude.

“There are only two possibilities: That others within UCF were aware of and conspired in this misuse of public funds, or your administration lacks the necessary internal controls to manage its fiscal responsibilities. Either scenario warrants an internal investigation and correction,” Corcoran wrote.

Copies of the letter also were given to Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, State University System Board of Governors chair Ned C. Lautenbach, State University System Chancellor Marshall M. Criser III, and Marcos R. Marchena, chair of the UCF Board of Trustees.

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Background provided by The News Service of Florida, republished with permission.

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Updated 4:30 p.m. — The University of Central Florida issued a response below:

The university will hold a special meeting of its Board of Trustees on Sept. 20 at 1 p.m. to further discuss the issue with the independent, external investigation team. A formal meeting and agenda information will be available soon.

A review of actions the university has already taken follows these statements.

Marcos Marchena, UCF Board of Trustees Chairman: “We welcome this action, and agree that this serious matter deserves a thorough review. I pledge UCF’s full cooperation, as this will add to the independent, external investigation we have already begun. Although the decisions that led to this issue took place several years ago, I applaud President Whittaker for taking strong action to address it immediately as his presidency begins.”

Dale Whittaker, UCF President: “Speaker Corcoran is correct that UCF and the state need to get to the bottom of this. We’ve taken immediate, aggressive action to thoroughly and transparently investigate this matter, how it happened and who was involved. Our Board of Trustees will hold a special meeting on Sept. 20 with the external investigation team to discuss the process moving forward in cooperation with the Board of Governors and Florida House.”

The decision to inappropriately use about $38 million in state funds to build Trevor Colbourn Hall was made several years ago. The State Auditor General flagged this in a preliminary finding that was shared verbally with UCF in August President Dale Whittaker and Board of Trustees Chairman Marcos Marchena have acted swiftly to make corrections and ensure this will never happen again.

UCF has taken several actions, including:

— Accepted the resignation of the Vice President for Administration and Finance and Chief Financial Officer who made the decision to use the inappropriate funds for Trevor Colbourn Hall.

— Ordered an external review by Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, an Atlanta-based law firm specializing in corporate internal investigations. This will review UCF’s processes, delegations of authority, procedures and personnel. Representatives of the firm will visit campus on Sept. 20 to start the review.

— Called a special Board of Trustees meeting for Sept. 20 to begin the external review.

— Held a specially called Board of Trustees meeting on Sept. 6 for immediate approval of:

• Replenishing with eligible state funds the state dollars improperly used for construction, with no impact on services to students.

• Requiring future approvals of capital projects to include written certification by the President, the Vice President presenting the item, the General Counsel, and the new CFO. The certification will identify the source of all funds and certify that they are appropriate for the purpose sought.

President Whittaker appointed UCF’s Associate Director of University Audit to serve as the Interim CFO, who will report directly to him. He appointed the UCF Foundation’s Assistant Vice President and CFO to serve as the university’s interim Vice President for Administration and Finance. Splitting these positions will separate the financial responsibilities from facilities planning.

Ardian Zika

Ardian Zika secures HD 37 Republican nomination with ease

Three Republicans competed in the primary to succeed exiting House Speaker Richard Corcoran in Pasco County’s House District 37, and with the election in the books, Land O’ Lakes businessman Ardian Zika earned the nomination.

With 35 of 36 precincts reporting, Zika led his closest opponent, Elle Rudisill, 57-26 percent. The third Republican vying for the seat, Ryan Patrick Boney, received about 17 percent of the vote.

Zika, who immigrated to the U.S. from Kosovo in the 1990s, held a consistent lead in fundraising and in endorsements throughout his campaign to replace Corcoran, who could not run again due to term limits.

Five days ahead of the primary, Zika had raised more than $227,000 for his campaign and had more than $85,000 left to spend.

Among the many backers Republican politicians backing his bid were St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, former House Speaker Will Weatherford, Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano and Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco.

His support among first responder and trade groups was also strong, with the Fraternal Order of Police, the Florida Chamber of Commerce lining up behind his bid in the three-way primary.

Rudisill, also of Land O’ Lakes, wasn’t as successful on the fundraising front — her tally barely crossed the $15,000 mark — but she did gain some nods from area Republicans, including former Clearwater Rep. Ed Hooper, Pasco Clerk Paula O’Neill, former state Rep. Ken Littlefield and former Pasco Commissioner Henry Wilson.

Boney, an Odessa Republican, entered the race at the beginning of the year and didn’t field much of a campaign. The lone action from his campaign account was fronting the ballot fee by way of a candidate contribution.

With the nomination secured, Zika now moves on to the general election, where he’ll go head-to-head against Land O’ Lakes Democrat Tammy Garcia.

Garcia, a first-time candidate who works in medical insurance billing, has raised $12,381 since opening her campaign account in January with about $5,800 in the bank on Aug. 23. Finances aside, she faces an uphill battle given HD 37’s strong Republican lean.

While there are no state House results to point to — Corcoran never faced an Election Day challenger in his four campaigns — the district cemented itself as a Republican stronghold when Donald Trump carried the it by a 61-34 percent margin on Election Day 2016.

HD 37 covers the majority of inland Pasco County, including the communities of Land O’ Lakes, Odessa, Heritage Pines, Shady Hills, Meadow Oaks and Moon Lake.

The 25 moments that defined the 2018 primary for Florida Governor

Marco Rubio brought us to this.

The long slog to Tuesday’s primary election for Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates was the usual series of false starts, histrionics, re-inventions, pandering to bases, and — new this time — dealing with the shadow of Donald J. Trump.

But if one could pick a starting point for the trail that led us here, it would have to be the Republican Rubio’s June 2016 decision to end his quest for the presidency, and re-enter the U.S. Senate race.

That was the political big bang that set into motion the forces and decisions — starting with Ron DeSantis’ exit from that same Senate race — shaping Election 2018 for the person to succeed the two-term Rick Scott, 45th governor of the Sunshine State.

Before the big show starts tomorrow at 7 a.m. Eastern time, let’s revisit the key moments that went from a small singularity to the current universe we call “Florida politics”:

June 13, 2016: Rubio decides to re-enter U.S. Senate race

After a bruising fight for the GOP nomination for president, Rubio said he wouldn’t go back to trying to get reelected to his Senate seat. But of course, his senses kicked in, and he did, announcing that decision on June 22. That essentially squeezed out DeSantis, the congressman who very well could win the GOP gubernatorial contest. Rubio went on to crush Scott ally Carlos Beruff in the GOP primary and edge out Democrat Patrick Murphy in the general election. “Gee,” we know some of you thought at the time. “Wonder what DeSantis’ political future holds now?”

Dec. 22, 2016: Will Weatherford decides not to run

In late 2014, as both men were leaving their leadership roles, Senate President Don Gaetz told the Tampa Tribune that then-House Speaker Weatherford “is the future of Florida.” He said he expected “to host a fundraiser for Will Weatherford for Governor or U.S. Senator sometime in the next five years. He will be, if he wants to be, very significant on the Florida political landscape for the next 30 years.” “If he wants to be” turned out to be prescient. Weatherford, citing his family and Weatherford Partners, the venture capital group he created with his brothers, declines to run for Governor in 2018.

Jan. 20, 2017: Donald Trump is inaugurated

The president goes on to become the biggest force in this state’s GOP primary, bar none. His kingmaking ability, which had faltered in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race, works in shovelsful here, as we’ll see. 

April 13, 2017: Gwen Graham’s husband’s cancer goes into remission

Had Steve Hurm’s cancer not gone into remission, we would not now be talking about former Congresswoman Graham’s campaign for Governor. Indeed, Hurm’s fight against prostate cancer “was a factor in her decision on whether to run for governor,” WCTV later reported. “Graham … said her husband is one of her biggest supporters and did not want her to make the decision based on him.” But she did, and here we are. She entered the race May 2, becoming the first major-party woman candidate.

May 7, 2017: George Soros gets behind Andrew Gillum

Readers of conservative journal Human Events once voted billionaire financier Soros “the single most destructive leftist demagogue in the country.” Soros, who fled Nazi Germanyoccupied Hungary as a youth, also has been described by the Tampa Bay Times as a “liberal mega-donor and bogeyman to conservatives.” He gave $250,000 to Forward Florida, the Gillum-associated political committee, in April. He later went on to pump hundreds of thousands more to Gillum’s electoral benefit.

June 22, 2017: The FBI’s subpoena in a Tallahassee corruption investigation drops

Gillum, the city’s Mayor, never really recovers. “Federal authorities have demanded the city of Tallahassee produce volumes of records related to top local developers behind some of the biggest projects subsidized by the Community Redevelopment Agency,” the Tallahassee Democrat reports at the time. “Among those named in the subpoenas are Adam Corey, developer of the city-backed Edison restaurant in Cascades Park and a former campaign treasurer for Gillum.” It’s bad … but Gillum later says the FBI told him he’s not a target. Still, the association with Corey lingers, and other revelations continue, including a Costa Rica trip.

July 25, 2017: Adam Putnam’s “NRA sellout” tweet

Putnam went all-in for gun rights, saying guns should be allowed on college campuses and hinting it was time to look at once again allowing open carry in the state. After a Times columnist panned the speech with the headline, “Adam Putnam sells out to the NRA,” Putnam tweeted, “The liberal media recently called me a sellout to the NRA. I’m a proud #NRASellout!” As Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, he oversees concealed carry licensing. (That comes up later in the story.)

Oct. 10, 2017: Philip Levine sets up shop

The Miami Beach Mayor “hired a veteran fundraiser for his political committee, which he already stuffed with nearly $5 million since establishing it six months ago,” POLITICO reported. We learn that “veteran Democratic fundraiser Courtney Whitney” has joined his All About Florida political committee. Levine says he “intends to make an official decision on whether to join the crowded Democratic primary for Governor in 2018.” He, of course, gets in. 

Nov. 3, 2017: POLITICO Florida reports on Jack Latvala sexual misconduct allegations

This story was the beginning of the end for the Clearwater Republican, who had risen to Appropriations chairman after an unsuccessful run at the state Senate presidency. He later declared he would run for Governor. Then the website drops the bomb that “six women who work in Florida’s Capitol say … Latvala has inappropriately touched them without their consent or uttered demeaning remarks about their bodies.” It was “so disgusting, and I had to just stand there, over and over again when he would do this, squeezing me hard and grunting in my ear,” one woman said. Latvala eventually resigned, suspended his campaign and escaped prosecution after Tallahassee’s top prosecutor said he wouldn’t pursue him criminally

Nov. 24, 2017: Orlando businessman & lawyer John Morgan takes himself out of contention

Everyone had feared the native Kentuckian’s charisma, down-home appeal, and — perhaps most of all — his ability to self-fund. Then he tweeted, “While it’s amazing to be leading the polls for Governor without being a candidate I can’t muster the enthusiasm to run for the nomination.” Good thing, too, for the other Democrats: “His name recognition alone, built through years of TV ads throughout Florida, would have cost every other candidate tens of millions of dollars to achieve,” the Times explained. (And they’re right.)

Dec. 22, 2017: The first Trump tweet for DeSantis

“Congressman Ron DeSantis is a brilliant young leader, Yale and then Harvard Law, who would make a GREAT Governor of Florida. He loves our Country and is a true FIGHTER!” … Not quite a full endorsement, but that was simply yet to come.

Jan. 30, 2018: The 50th Graham workday, a hallmark of her campaign

Graham posts on Twitter: “On my 50th Graham Workday, I spoke with Dad (former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham) about the meaning of our family tradition and what he learned working 408 different jobs with Floridians across the state.” Graham herself spent that day “learning the ins and outs of a Florida microbrewery (at) the M.I.A. Beer Company in Doral.” This only helped burnish the Graham brand. 

Feb. 14, 2018: The Parkland shooting

A teenaged former student gunned down 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Broward County. The politics of gun control spiked yet again as a “student-led campaign organizes two mass walkouts from schools and country-wide demonstrations, (while) Trump and Mike Pence, the vice president, appear at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Dallas,” The Economist later reports. A “Rally to Tally” later sees nearly two dozen buses bringing parents, teachers, and students to the Capitol to demand action from lawmakers on the day a gun bill would be heard.

Feb. 14, 2018: Richard Corcoran, Gillum debate on immigration

The House Speaker, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, and Gillum squared off over the “tired, (the) poor, (the) huddled masses yearning to breathe free …” The debate “was sparked by Corcoran’s anti-sanctuary cities ad and House Bill 9, which is legislation Corcoran is pushing to eliminate sanctuary cities in Florida,” WTXL explained. The event was moderated by Troy Kinsey of BayNews 9 and Gary Fineout of the Associated Press.

April 18, 2018: The first Democratic gubernatorial candidates’ debate

It was a lackluster performance all around, with some on the stage “stumbling on basic questions regarding some aspects of state government,” the USA Today Network-Florida reported. Graham scored with her “Gwen and the men” line, but she and the others flunked when asked about their morning reading habits. Not one mentioned SUNBURN, POLITICO Playbook, the Tampa Bay Times — the largest circulation newspaper in the state — or any state-centric news source. The GOP soon smelled blood.

May 9, 2018: Corcoran drops out, endorses Putnam

Corcoran, who had been expected to enter the Governor’s race, instead got behind Putnam. Term-limited in the House, he framed his decision to stay off the ballot as sticking to his word. He told news media repeatedly that he would run for Governor or otherwise “go home.” “I’m proud to say that decision is, thoroughly, we’re going home,” Corcoran said, before getting in a dig at DeSantis: “He’s got a bulldog mouth, a chihuahua a —, and he doesn’t even know what the heck is going on in this state. Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, that’s the only thing he can say. At some point, you’ve got to come out and give people a Florida vision.”

June 4, 2018: Billionaire Jeff Greene enters race

The über-rich Palm Beach real estate investor, who had previously told the Post he was “underwhelmed by the Democratic field,” files to enter the race as a “D” himself. That’s after “Greene spent about $24 million of his own money on a losing 2010 U.S. Senate bid, getting 31 percent in a Democratic primary against former U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek.” The idea, insiders say, is that he won’t throw good money after bad: He’s in it to win it. 

June 7, 2018: Patrick Murphy decides against running

Murphy gets behind Graham, “ending speculation he’d run on a bipartisan ticket with former Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly,” according to TCPalm. Murphy says “he hasn’t decided whether he’d accept a position as Graham’s running mate, if she offered him a shot at Lieutenant Governor. (He) said he (was) worried over mounting such a late campaign in an already crowded primary. ‘I was always, I guess, on hesitant footing to do this, and it was always going to take quite a bit to get me over that hump to do it.’ ” Nice timing: The next day, the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers’ union, endorses Graham.

June 8, 2018: The concealed weapons permitting scandal breaks

The Times’ Steve Contorno reports that “for more than a year, (Putnam’s gun-licensing division) failed to review national background checks on tens of thousands of applications for concealed weapons permits … The employee in charge of the background checks could not log into the system, the investigator learned.” Putnam later said applications were still run through two other databases: “When we became aware of the problem, we undertook the process of reviewing 365 names … and ultimately revoking 291 licenses.” Other stories continued to dribble out about problems at his Licensing Division over the summer, causing headaches for Putnam and staff.

June 22, 2018: Trump’s full-throated endorsement of DeSantis.

Tweet: “Congressman Ron DeSantis, a top student at Yale and Harvard Law School, is running for Governor of the Great State of Florida. Ron is strong on Borders, tough on Crime & big on Cutting Taxes — Loves our Military & our Vets. He will be a Great Governor & has my full Endorsement!” … Whoomp, there it is.

June 28, 2018: The Fox News debate

As the network described it, Putnam and DeSantis “sparred … over their support for President Trump … DeSantis championed his relationship with the president, and Putnam argued he’s more focused on local issues than his opponent … Putnam said in his opening remarks, ‘It’s different than a Washington, D.C., studio. Welcome to Florida, congressman.’ DeSantis played up Trump’s endorsement … ‘I am proud to have the endorsement of President Trump in this race.’ ”

June 29, 2018: Gillum gets ‘Next Gen’ support

Gillum gets to boast of the support of a second billionaire after Soros with Tom Steyer‘s NextGen America announcing its “investment” of $1 million into his bid for governor. Mo’ money, indeed. 

July 19, 2018: Tampa Bay-area “Stand Your Ground” case becomes an issue

The shooting death of Markeis McGlockton, 28, by Michael Drejka, 47, happens in a convenience store parking lot in Clearwater after the two men get in a confrontation over McGlockton’s girlfriend parking in a handicapped spot. The county sheriff initially declines to file charges, saying Drejka is protected by the state’s “Stand Your Ground” provision of self-defense law. Democrats seize on the shooting to say the state law “incentivizes” violence. Republicans back the law and use the incident to show how 2nd Amendment rights could be threatened.

July 31, 2018: Trump campaigns for DeSantis

The Times tops itself with this lede: “Declaring himself the most popular Republican in the history of America, President Donald Trump revved up thousands of fans Tuesday night at a rowdy Tampa Bay campaign rally to help gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis and, above all, celebrate Donald Trump … ‘(W)e need to elect Ron DeSantis … He’s going to be an incredible governor. I have no doubt, no doubt. I don’t do these endorsements easily.’ ”

Aug. 2, 2018: The final Democratic debate

Anyone hoping Florida’s five Democratic candidates for Governor would break new ground in the final debate left disappointed. On stage, each candidate mainly stuck to the standards, with only a couple of questions eliciting any form of surprise. The five contenders pulled more punches than in previous debates, with just a few recycled squabbles — mostly centering on Graham’s record as a moderate member of Congress. The political class hit their collective snooze button.

Aug. 23, 2018: Jeff Greene “goes dark”

Greene, after barreling into the race in early June and becoming omnipresent on TV through much of the summer, stepped out of the spotlight for the final push. The campaign essentially went dark publicly, with six days before the end of primary voting. He decides to focus on mobilizing his organization for get-out-the-vote efforts and to get paid staffers and volunteers to lead the way with more intimate messaging on his behalf, while pulling campaign ads and limiting public appearances, according to a campaign spokesman.

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Tallahassee correspondent Danny McAuliffe, Orlando correspondent Scott Powers, and Senior Editor Jim Rosica contributed to this post.

Rick Scott names lawyers to Florida Elections Commission

Gov. Rick Scott appointed two Tallahassee attorneys to the Florida Elections Commission, his office announced Friday night.

Coincidentally, both specialize in representing automotive dealers.

Martin Hayes, 62, is a partner at the Akerman firm. Hayes fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning Aug. 24 and ending Dec. 31, 2020.

Hayes

Hayes, a litigator, mainly works with motor vehicle dealerships “in all aspects of the motor vehicle dealer-manufacturer relationship,” according to his firm bio.

He “represents auto dealers in litigation, mediations, and informal settlement conferences on issues as diverse as acquiring additional dealerships, warranty audit issues, facility upgrades, terminations, and buy-sell turndowns.”

Hayes received his undergraduate and law degrees from Florida State University. He was nominated by Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon II of Miami Gardens.

Jason Allen, 39, is a partner at Bass Sox Mercer, which “represents automobile, truck and motorcycle dealers in complex commerical transactions,” its website says.

Allen

Allen got his undergraduate degree from Florida State, where he was a member of the golf team, and his law degree from Mercer University School of Law, his bio says.

He served as a staff attorney for then-House Speaker Marco Rubio, now the state’s Republican U.S. senator, and later as a clerk for state Supreme Court Justice Ricky Polston.

Allen succeeds Commissioner Sean Hall and is appointed for a term beginning Aug. 24 and ending Dec. 31, 2020. He was nominated by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican.

The appointments are subject to state Senate confirmation.

Chris Nocco gives full endorsement of Ardian Zika in new ad

Land O’ Lakes Republican Ardian Zika is rolling out a new ad touting an endorsement from Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco in the Republican primary for House District 37.

“I’m Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco and in this election, I’m standing with Ardian Zika for state representative,” Nocco says in the ad. “Ardian stands with our first responders, that’s why he is endorsed by the Police Benevolent Association and the Fraternal Order of Police.

“I hope you join me and the men and women who wear the badge and so many others in our community and vote for Ardian Zika for state representative,” Nocco concludes.

Zika, a businessman, faces Elle Rudisill and Ryan Patrick Boney in the Aug. 28 Republican primary to succeed term-limited House Speaker Richard Corcoran in the Pasco-based House seat. The winner of that contest will go up against Land O’ Lakes Democrat Tammy Garcia in the Nov. 6 general election.

Through July 20, Zika had cracked the $200,000 mark in total fundraising and had more than $164,000 in the bank. That puts him far ahead of the combined total of his challengers.

In addition to his strong fundraising and law enforcement support, Zika has locked down endorsements from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson and former House Speaker Will Weatherford.

HD 37 covers the majority of inland Pasco County, including the communities of Land O’ Lakes, Odessa, Heritage Pines, Shady Hills, Meadow Oaks and Moon Lake.

Corcoran never faced an Election Day challenger in his four campaigns in the House, three of which came after HD 37 was redrawn. The seat is a Republican stronghold that voted plus-27 for Donald Trump two years ago.

Zika’s ad is below.

State appeals conservation funding case

Legislative leaders are appealing a Leon County circuit judge’s ruling that the state has not properly carried out a 2014 constitutional amendment that required spending on land and water conservation.

Attorneys for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, and Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican, filed a notice this week of taking the case to the 1st District Court of Appeal.

As is common, the notice does not detail the arguments that the Legislature will make at the appeals court. Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson last month ruled that lawmakers had failed to properly comply with the voter-approved constitutional amendment, which required using money from a real estate tax to bolster land and water conservation.

Environmental groups filed legal challenges against the state, contending that lawmakers had diverted portions of the money to other expenses.

The notice of appeal was filed after Dodson refused to grant a rehearing in the case.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Ardian Zika

Ardian Zika hits $200K raised for HD 37 campaign

Land O’ Lakes businessman Ardian Zika hit another fundraising milestone in the race to succeed House Speaker Richard Corcoran in Pasco County’s House District 37.

Zika, a Republican, tacked on another $6,150 during the middle two weeks of July, bringing his overall fundraising past the $200,000 mark since he entered the race in August 2017. He has more than $164,000 in the bank.

“I am humbled by the strong financial support our campaign has received from throughout the district and from the Tampa Bay area,” Zika said. “I am grateful for the many generous donors who have heard our message and have given of their hard-earned resources to help us get the message out to the voters in House District 37.

“I’m also extraordinarily grateful for the many volunteers, who have given of their time as we have walked door to door throughout House District 37,” he continued. “Only our campaign qualified for the ballot by petition, our campaign has large signs and yard signs in neighborhoods across the district, and most importantly, we have walked every single precinct, knocking on doors and meeting voters at their homes.”

Zika’s fundraising tally keeps him far ahead of his primary opponents, Elle Rudisill and Ryan Patrick Boney, neither of whom have made much headway on the fundraising trail.

Rudisill, also of Land O’ Lakes, has raised a little over $14,000 for her campaign after more than a year in the race. She had about $5,400 at the ready as of July 20. Boney, of Odessa, has only shown about $1,800 in activity since joining the fracas in January. He spent every dime in his campaign account covering the qualifying fee to make the ballot.

In addition to his strong fundraising, Zika has had plenty of success reeling in endorsements. His most recent nod came in from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, with prior backers including three police unions, St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson and former House Speaker Will Weatherford, who represented Pasco County’s HD 38 during his time in the House.

The primary election is Aug. 28. Whomever emerges from the three-way battle will be the heavy favorite to succeed Corcoran, who cannot run for re-election due to term limits. Still, the Republican nominee must defeat Land O’ Lakes Democrat Tammy Garcia in the Nov. 6 general election. She had raised a little over $10,000 for her campaign and had $6,100 on hand through the reporting period ending July 6.

HD 37 covers the majority of inland Pasco County, including the communities of Land O’ Lakes, Odessa, Heritage Pines, Shady Hills, Meadow Oaks and Moon Lake. Corcoran never faced an Election Day challenger in his four campaigns in the House, three of which came after HD 37 was redrawn. The seat is a Republican stronghold that voted plus-27 for Donald Trump two years ago.

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