Richard Corcoran Archives - Page 5 of 57 - Florida Politics

Adam Putnam and Jack Latvala to speak at Florida GOP meeting

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala are both set to speak at the Republican Party of Florida’s Quarterly and Executive Board Meeting this weekend.

The Friday and Saturday event at the Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando will feature a handful of appearances open to the press, including a “Dessert with Sen. Jack Latvala” Friday at 9 p.m. and an “Up & Adam Breakfast” with Putnam Saturday at 8 a.m.

Putnam’s event will be followed up by a talk from Fox News contributor Stephen Moore, with the RPOF Executive Board set to meet from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Putnam is currently the only major Republican candidate running to be Florida governor, though Latvala could join him in the race as soon as next week. The Pinellas County Republican is set to announce his 2018 plans on Aug. 16 at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Both men have millions socked away in their political committees. Putnam ended July with $11.6 million on hand between his campaign and committee, “Florida Grown,” while Latvala had $3.84 million on hand for his committee, “Florida Leadership Committee.”

A couple more big name Republicans are also mulling a run, including House Speaker Richard Corcoran whose committee neared $3 million in total fundraising last month. U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis is also considering a run.

Chris King: ‘I want to be the economy candidate’

Chris King wants to convince Florida voters that the state really doesn’t have it so good, that the economy has stagnated for this entire century, and that it’s the Republicans’ fault since they’ve been in charge the whole time.

King, the Winter Park developer who’s seeking the Democratic primary nomination to run for governor of Florida in 2018, offers data charts, tables, and statistical analysis from various U.S. agencies to back up his claims. He weaves them into almost every speech, highlights them at virtually every event.

Those numbers, showing Florida losing ground, dramatically in some cases, to almost every high-population state regarding household income growth, poverty rates, and per-capita gross domestic product, provide the foundation for King’s theme: a Democrat who talks economics and business strategy.

“This was the big ‘Aha!’ for me. That was the decision to run, run now; and that this would be our message; and that I would be the economy candidate in the Democratic Party,” said King, the 39-year-old political novice whose closest friends say has been preparing for politics his whole life.

King sat down last week with FloridaPolitics.com to discuss his economic vision for Florida.

He described a plan based on his view that under the past 19 years of one-party, Republican rule, the state’s growth has progressed little or regressed, especially compared with rival states; and that it’s time to abandon strategies aimed at attracting low-wage businesses. He said his focus would be on investing in long-term strategies to promote higher-paying jobs while at the same time investing in affordable housing and environmental technologies.

“I will be heavily contested on this concept that Florida is a back-of-the-pack state,” King added. “They will fight me hard on this. But the basic suppositions I make is [based] on 15 years of one party rule, from 2000 to 2015 – it’s obviously been longer than that, but that was the period I really studied. And that during that period it is undeniable, based on Florida’s numbers, state numbers, that when we compare to our peers, Florida went backward.”

King’s background with a Harvard University education and a law degree from the University of Florida, and as a businessman, may give him preparation for such a debate. But he is new to public debate.

Unlike his current rivals and most of his potential rivals, King has little real-world experience in government economics, having never been tested with challenges of competing public interests, taxes, and legislative budget fights.

On the Democrats’ side, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has run a city. Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham has waged public money battles in Congress. On the Republicans’ side, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam had run a state department, and before that wrestled with public finances in Congress and the Florida Legislature. Potential candidates include Democratic Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine, Republican Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, and Republican Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran. They likely will relish going after King’s inexperience in public spending and taxing policies as he pushes his economic vision.

Still, King has something most of them do not, save Levine and another potential Democratic candidate, Orlando lawyer John Morgan: a record of high success in running businesses that made him wealthy and created significant equity and jobs.

King spoke of using the governor’s office pulpit and the line-item veto to create a “culture change” in the state’s economic approaches.

“So, Republicans, or our one-party state government, would argue we are growing. And they would point to unemployment numbers being low. They would point to a AAA bond rating, which establishes credit for the state. And a good and healthy rainy-day fund,” King said. “My critique would be: At what cost have those things come? And if those jobs are not paying a wage that a family lives on, or an individual can survive on, isn’t that a problem?”

Point one of his critique: Adjusted for inflation, Florida’s median household income has declined 7 percent from 2000 to 2015, to $49,000, which is well below those of the other four highest-population states, California, Texas, New York, and Illinois, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Point two: Florida’s 2015 per-capita, gross domestic product of $39,000 was virtually unchanged this century, and is at least 27 percent lower than those of California, Texas, New York, and Illinois, which all saw far more growth in GDP this century, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Census Bureau.

Point three:  Florida’s poverty rate has increased dramatically since 2000, reaching 16.2 percent in 2015, moving it well above the poverty rates in California, New York, Illinois, which saw far-more modest increases in poverty, and in Texas, which saw its poverty rate decline during the same period, according to the Census Bureau.

“We haven’t had a leadership who have wanted to invest in the hard things that create long-term value,” he charged. “For two decades we have been spending huge amounts of time and money to recruit out-of-state, large corporations to open up, not flagship offices, not headquarters, but satellite offices, with low-paying jobs.”

King offered broad ideas he wants to pursue but said his detailed proposals would be rolled out this fall, focusing on three themes: promoting small business, driving down the cost of living, and creating pathway options for children.

Among specific ideas he said he would embrace:

— Addressing access to small-business and start-up capital, particularly for new college-graduate, minority, and military-veteran entrepreneurs, through tax policies, small state business incentives, micro-lenders, and financial institutions.

— Aggressively developing affordable housing, including stopping raids on the affordable housing trust fund, and pushing to invest $250 million to $350 million in state money into public-private matches for affordable housing partnerships, which he said would create nearly $1 billion in housing investments. “It’s a winning formula,” said the affordable housing developer, who added his companies do not accept public money for their projects.

— Investing more in community colleges, trade schools, and access and affordability for four-year universities “I’m going to be a governor who is a big, big fan of our community college system in Florida,” he said.

— Increasing money for university research, especially in already-established, commercially-promising specialties such as the University of Central Florida’s optics science and technology programs.

— Fostering openness to diversity in universities, and that includes foreign students and immigrant faculty and researchers, to attract “the best and the brightest.”

— Accepting Medicaid expansion, if it’s still available.

— Pushing for passage of the Florida Competitive Workplace Act, which he said will signal nationally that the state is welcoming.

— Opening markets and business opportunities for solar energy, which he said the market is moving on already, as evidenced by the high numbers of jobs in such states as Massachusetts. “We should not be just a national leader; we should be an international leader in solar,” he said.

— Promoting technologies, research, insurance products, commerce, development, and planning strategies to address rising sea levels. “It’s scary. The next governor has to be, he or she, somebody, who is not only trying to address these issues, but is trying to build markets, the products, and services of the future, to position Florida to survive this challenge,” King said. “I don’t think of it just as a problem. This is an opportunity for businesses and organizations and our best thinking.”

Gwen Graham has now raised $3 million for 2018 bid

Democrat Gwen Graham announced Sunday that she raised another $350,000 in July for her bid to be Florida’s next governor.

Graham raised $220,000 of that money through her campaign account, with the other $130,000 coming in through her political committee, “Our Florida.”

The former congresswoman ended June with $1.6 million in her committee account and $475,000 on hand in her campaign account, and while the campaign didn’t announce her on-hand total for July, it did note another 2,000 donors chipped in last month for a total of 6,700 unique donors thus far.

The haul keeps her far ahead of Democratic Primary rivals Chris King, a Winter Park businessman, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and her news release announcing the numbers indicates she’s more focused on her Republican competition than the more immediate primary battle.

“This summer has shown why electing a Democratic Governor is vital to our state’s future,” Graham said. “While Donald Trump wages a war against our health care, threatens our citrus industry, and moves forward with drilling off our beaches, Rick Scott and Adam Putnam refuse to stand up to the president and put Florida first.

“Instead, Adam Putnam has turned to copying the president by attacking the free press,” she added. “It’s a desperate attempt to appeal to the extreme right, and it won’t work. One Donald Trump in our state — even just part time — is more than enough.”

Putnam, the state’s term-limited Agriculture Commissioner, has nearly $12 million on hand. He recently made a hard turn to the right, much to the surprise of many of his moderate Republican supporters, and Graham is seizing the chance to kick him in the shins.

Among his recent displays are imploring his Twitter followers to sign a petition to “stop fake news on CNN” and declaring himself a “proud NRA sellout,” despite criticism from others in his party that his advocacy has been non-existent for most gun bills debated in the legislature during his time as Ag. Commissioner.

So far, Putnam is the only major GOP candidate to enter the race, though he could be joined by Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala of Clearwater as soon as next week.

Both have millions on hand in their political committees, as does House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican who will decide whether to throw his hat into the ring after the 2018 legislative session.

Graham’s fundraising announcement came shortly after King’s campaign said it added $154,000 in July. Those numbers bring the businessman up to $2.4 million raised since he entered the race in April, with $1.7 million of that total on hand between his campaign account and his political committee, “Rise and Lead, Florida.”

Gillum, who had raised a total of $1.3 million between his campaign and “Forward Florida” committee through the end of June, hasn’t reported his July numbers yet, though the unofficial tally for Forward Florida on the committee’s website show just one contribution for $10,000 in July.

Adam Putnam campaign banks another $1.3 million in July

Between his campaign and committee, Adam Putnam’s gubernatorial bid is now approaching $17 million in total fundraising, including nearly $1.3 million banked in July.

“The finance operation continues to gain strength, with nearly $17 million in contributions to support Adam Putnam for Governor. But, more importantly, our grassroots momentum is gaining speed,” campaign spokeswoman Amanda Bevis announced Thursday. “Floridians are passionate about Adam Putnam’s willingness to fight for our freedoms and his ability to bring common sense, business smarts to our state’s capital.”

The two-term Agriculture Commissioner ended June with just under $15.7 million in total fundraising, and about $11.6 million on hand between his committee, “Florida Grown,” and his campaign. Bevis said Putnam added $1.299 million between the two accounts in July to finish the month with $16.98 million in total fundraising and $12.3 million in the bank.

Also noted was the fact that more than 5,000 donors had chipped in since the campaign started, with about 4,000 of those being small-dollar donors, defined as giving $500 or less.

Neither fundraising report is available on the Florida Division of Elections website, though the figures provided by the campaign indicate Putnam spent more than $600,000 last month.

The campaign also touted a trip to Kennedy Space Center with Vice President Mike Pence and stops at fire houses and Republican barbecues last month. The campaign also beat Putnam’s recently acquired “NRA sell out” drum, complete with mention of a clay shoot and picture of him gun-in-hand.

Putnam is currently the only major GOP candidate running for governor, though Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala and House Speaker Richard Corcoran each mulling a run.

Latvala has $3.84 million on hand in his political committee, “Florida Leadership Fund,” while Corcoran recently announced hitting nearly $3 million in total fundraising since starting his committee, “Watchdog PAC,” in May.

Latvala will announce whether he will run Aug. 16 at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, while Corcoran will wait to announce until after the 2018 legislative session.

Darryl Rouson’s past used against him by local official during homestead expansion debate

Darryl Rouson says that he was legitimately undecided days before the Florida Senate would vote on whether to place a measure on the 2018 ballot to increase Florida’s homestead exemption.

A late amendment that would exempt 29 of the state’s poorest counties from being affected by the loss of property tax revenues ultimately led him to become one of six Democrats in the state Senate to support the measure. But it was a comment by a local elected official who wanted him to oppose the measure that really fueled his support.

“”Rouson, don’t be stupid. The voter is stupid. You can’t trust the voters,’ ” were the words of an unarmed official, according to the St. Petersburg Democrat who was speaking in Tampa’s Seminole Heights Wednesday night.

“‘In fact, you ought to be able to relate to this, Rouson,'” he recounted. ” ‘The voter is like a drunk that you give a glass of wine to and walk away and say ‘do the right thing.’ “

Rouson has talked frequently about his addiction to alcohol and crack cocaine — an addiction which undoubtedly the local official was referring to in attempt to make a point. Rouson declined to tell this reporter who he was referring to, saying only that it was a locally elected official in the Tampa Bay region

Although there was no official Democratic position to put a measure to expand the homestead exemption to $75,000 on next year’s ballot, it was strongly opposed by the majority of Democratic legislators, as well by most city council and county commissioners throughout the state, who say passage of the measure will lead to major reductions in property tax revenues and, therefore, a reduction in local services.

Those says the expansion would only worsen a tax unfairness problem caused by Save Our Homes, a provision in the state constitution that limits increases in the assessed value of homesteaded property to 3 percent a year.

Hillsborough County officials say they could see a reduction of at least $30 million in revenues if the measure passes, while Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has said the city is looking at a $6 million cut in revenues.

Rouson was narrowly elected to Senate District 19 last fall, the majority of which resides in Hillsborough County. He was crashing the intimate town hall meeting at the Seminole Heights Exchange that was hosted by Tampa state Representative Sean Shaw, who couldn’t be more vocal about his opposition to the measure.

“I voted against it because I don’t believe everything needs to go on the ballot to the voter,” Shaw says. “If there’s stuff that’s atrocious enough that I don’t think deserves the attention of the Florida Constitution, I’m going to vote against it.”

Rouson does not support the passage of the measure. He simply says that the voters should be given the option, and thinks with education, they will oppose the measure.

“I believe that between now and 17 more months, people like you will become educated and will learn about the impact that this will have on their communities and will exercise the right decision, ” he said. “I’m not your parent, keeping something away from you that you can’t be trusted with.”

The measure was strongly supported by House Speaker Richard Corcoran.  His office strongly contests the notion that counties in Florida will see their revenues reduced if the measure passes.

In addition to Rouson, five other Democrats in the Senate supported the measure, which ensured its passage, since it needed to get two-thirds support in the Senate.  If all 15 Democrats had opposed it, it would not be on the ballot.

It was the measure by Tallahassee Senator Bill Montford to protect the state’s 29 poorest counties from losing any more property tax revenue that Rouson said gave him comfort in putting the measure on the ballot.

Florida TaxWatch opposes the measure because of the inequality that it says that it’s passage will create.

“It’s just a tax shift,” Robert E. Weissert, executive vice president and counsel to the president and CEO with TaxWatch said at a Tampa Tiger Bay meeting last month. Weissert says that local governments will rely less on getting revenues from owner-occupied homes to businesses and non-homestead properties, such as vacation homes and apartment complexes. He also noted that the higher exemption would protect the state’s 29 poorest counties from losing any more property tax revenue.

Ken Lawson to tourism industry: ‘I want to earn your trust’

VISIT FLORIDA CEO Ken Lawson is telling tourism industry leaders he “want(s) to earn (their) trust” in a Wednesday post on the public-private tourism marketing agency’s blog.

Ken Lawson

“As you know, I have been traveling the state, engaging with our partners, board members, legislators and other stakeholders to listen, learn, and offer VISIT FLORIDA’s support at every stop,” he wrote on “Sunshine Matters.”

“I want to earn your trust and learn from you first hand. This has been a hard year for all of us,” he added. “VISIT FLORIDA is your organization, one that each of our industry partners have built over the years. Its value cannot be underestimated.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran had aimed to gut the organization this Legislative Session from nearly $80 million in state funding to $25 million, even suing after it refused to reveal a secret deal with Miami rap superstar Pitbull to promote Florida tourism. Pitbull himself published a copy of the contract via Twitter, revealing he was promised a maximum of $1 million.

Corcoran, Gov. Rick Scott and Senate President Joe Negron later agreed to a deal that ensured $76 million in state funding with increased transparency measures on spending.

Scott moved Lawson from secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to head VISIT FLORIDA in January. The former Marine went hat in hand to lawmakers this session to ask for funding—a “hard and messy battle,” he called it.

Since then, Lawson has hit the road, going around the state to meet with stakeholders.

“It is now time to heal and come together,” he said Wednesday. “As part of this process, I am humbly reaching out to you to hear your story, learn about your challenges, and determine how VISIT FLORIDA can help with your future success.”

He shared stories of his latest visit to the Miami area, including meetings at Jungle Island and with the Vice Consul General of Germany.

Lawson also met with Democratic state Rep. David Richardson of Miami Beach and Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon II of Miami Gardens. “They both expressed their continued support of VISIT FLORIDA’s mission, and I updated them on our new marketing plan and exciting opportunities on the horizon,” he wrote.

“As I plan other trips like this in the weeks and months to come, I look forward to engaging with as many of you as I possibly can to better understand the vital role each of you play in the continued success of our industry,” Lawson wrote.

Richard Corcoran’s committee has now raised nearly $3 mil

House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s political committee brought in more than $820,000 in July.

Watchdog PAC has now raised nearly $3 million since being formed at the end of May.

Corcoran has said he is considering a 2018 gubernatorial run. These figures put him on track to have several million dollars in the bank when he makes a decision, which he has said will come after the legislative session concludes in March.

“There is clearly growing and diversified support for Watchdog PAC, and we look forward to another strong month of fundraising in August,” said James Blair, the committee’s chairman.

In addition to a high-profile $100,000 check from the law firm of Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley PA, Corcoran’s committee also picked up a $100,000 check from Citizens Alliance for Florida’s Economy, a political committee indirectly connected to the Florida Justice Association. State Rep. Carlos Trujillo‘s committee contributed another $50,000 after seeding the committee with a sizable contribution in June.

Heritage Insurance kicked in $50,000 to Watchdog PAC; U.S. Sugar donated $25,000.

Other notable contributions include a $15,000 check from the “Friends of Matt Gaetz” political committee, a $15,000 contribution from helicopter training group Vertol Systems Company Inc. and $25,000 from Southeast QSR, a company that operates several fast food franchises.

Blair said the broad support is because “Floridians support government that embraces constitutional conservative principals whose leaders do more and talk less.”

 

Pasco businessman Ardian Zika to run for House District 37 seat

Land O’ Lakes business owner and banker Ardian Zika is the latest Republican to file to run for the Pasco County state House seat being vacated by term-limited Richard Corcoran.

The 37-year-old Zika was born in the former Yugoslavia and emigrated to the U.S. from Kosovo in 1997.

“I’m the product of American exceptionalism and I, like you, am working tirelessly in pursuit of the American Dream,” said Zika in a statement released Tuesday.

“Our campaign puts Floridians First so each one has an opportunity to reach the American Dream through upward economic mobility,” he says. “I’ll champion bold and visionary ideas to unleash the American entrepreneurial spirit of innovation and transform our community. As your State Representative, I’ll fight for lower taxes, less regulation and more personal responsibility and to protect our constitutional rights.’

Zika has spent the past 14 years in the banking industry before starting up his own business advisory company, Guardian & Company I, earlier this year.

He’s a known quantity in GOP circles, having been appointed by Governor Rick Scott to the Florida Council on Homelessness, the Pasco Hernando State College Board of Trustees and the CareerSource Florida Board of Directors in recent years.

In 2015, Zika was named by the Tampa Bay Business Journal as a “40 under 40 Up and Comer.”

After immigrating to the U.S. twenty years ago, Zika moved to Louisiana and attended Louisiana Tech University, where he received a B.S. in marketing. He also became very involved politically there, as he was elected to the student senate, served as student government executive vice-president, student senate president, student government supreme Court chief Justice and Vice President of the College Republican Club.

He later received a Masters Degree in Business Administration from Saint Leo University.

Zika and his wife, Tasha, have five children and are active members of Idlewild Baptist Church.

He is now the fourth Republican to enter the race, along with George Agovino, Bill Gunter and Elle Rudisill. Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey is also reportedly contemplating a run in HD 37.

Richard Corcoran announces 2018 leadership in House

In a Tuesday memo, House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced his leadership for the 2018 Legislative Session, including the committee weeks that lead up to the annual session.

Current Majority Whip Dane Eagle keeps that post, but now will be a member of the Republican leadership team.

Rep. Jim Boyd will chair the Commerce Committee, taking over from Jose Felix Diaz, who is running for state Senate.

Replacing Boyd at the helm of the Ways & Means Committee is Paul Renner, recently picked to become Speaker in 2022-24.

Other top positions remain the same, according to the memo. For instance, Jeanette Nuñez and Ray Rodrigues remain Speaker Pro Tempore and Majority Leader, respectively.

Speaker-designate Jose Oliva will continue as head of the Rules & Policy Committee, and Carlos Trujillo will again chair Appropriations for the chamber.

“Updated committee assignments will be made within the next few weeks,” Corcoran wrote. “If you are interested in serving as a subcommittee chair or on a particular committee, I strongly encourage you to speak with the chair of the full committee with jurisdiction over the subcommittee.

“As we did last year, subcommittee chair appointments will be made in collaboration with the full committee chairs,” he added. “I look forward to seeing all of you soon.”

It’s official: Pete Antonacci hired as Enterprise Florida CEO

Without surprise or intrigue, the full board of Enterprise Florida (EFI) on Monday hired lawyer and Gov. Rick Scott loyalist Pete Antonacci to be its next leader.

The former lobbyist had been recommended as the new CEO by the jobs-recruiting agency’s executive committee during a conference call last week. Scott chairs the EFI board of directors as governor.

In another 15-minute conference call, plagued by static and audio distortions, the board voted unanimously to hire Antonacci, who will be paid $165,000 a year (all in private funds) and will start Aug. 2. State Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, also appointed by Scott, made the motion to hire Antonacci.

Antonacci was formerly Scott’s general counsel and was most recently head of the South Florida Water Management District, where he “advised scientists to stay in their lane rather than criticize his water agency’s work on Everglades restoration,” the Tampa Bay Times reported last week.

He was also Scott’s personal pick to run the water district after his predecessor was forced out.

Antonacci, 68, “has no prior experience at recruiting businesses, just as he had no prior experience at running a water agency overseeing flood control and the Everglades restoration project before Scott tapped him for that job,” the Times added.

But EFI vice chair Stan Connally, president and CEO of Gulf Power Co., said Antonacci’s work experience has caused him to “touch virtually every corner of the state,” making him a “fantastic candidate.”

“He’s a quick study and knows our state and how to sell our state,” he said. “He has an energy and passion to move quickly.”

Scott praised Antonacci, saying he “builds good relationships” and did a “really good job” at the water district.

He replaces Chris Hart IV, a former state representative and head of CareerSource Florida, who stepped down this March after less than three months as Enterprise Florida CEO, citing a lack of “common vision” with Scott. Hart is now Executive Vice President of Florida TaxWatch.

Mike Grissom has been interim CEO. The agency’s head also carries the title of Florida’s Secretary of Commerce.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran tried to scuttle the organization and a multitude of its business incentives this Legislative Session, saying EFI was little more than a dispenser of “corporate welfare.” Though a public-private partnership, it doles out mostly public dollars.

Scott supports EFI, saying it helps bring companies and their jobs to the state. Scott and lawmakers eventually worked out a deal to save the agency this year by creating an $85 million Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, focused on promoting public infrastructure and job training. 

Bill Johnson, the agency’s leader before Hart, had taken hits over his people skills as a proposed $250 million incentives fund crashed and burned during the 2016 Legislative Session. Johnson also was questioned over his hiring and office expenses.

Antonacci has been in a plethora of government jobs, including as an assistant prosecutor in Tallahassee, a special assistant federal prosecutor, Florida’s statewide prosecutor and the chief deputy to former Attorney General Bob Butterworth.

Butterworth did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

In 2012, Scott made Antonacci acting state attorney in Palm Beach County for the rest of the term of Michael McAuliffe, who quit for a job in private practice. Antonacci also was a member of the state ethics commission in 2001-05.

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