Richard Corcoran Archives - Page 5 of 62 - Florida Politics

FEMA reimbursements uncertain, counties say

After suffering major damage from Hurricane Irma, counties told the newly-formed House Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness that they are confident in their ability to handle disasters.

It seems they’re mainly concerned with reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)—something that might be a large focus for the new committee.

Representatives from Monroe County, which contains the Florida Keys that were devastated by Hurricane Irma, and Lee County, which also suffered a direct impact from the storm, told lawmakers how their counties fared and voiced concerns.

While each county had different qualms, both county representatives expressed uncertainty regarding FEMA reimbursements, specifically how long it would take for money to arrive and what the reimbursements would cover.

“There’s a big risk versus reward on those questions and FEMA can be a bit vague sometimes,” said Lee Mayfield, planning chief for Lee County Division of Emergency Management.

Michael Wanchick, county administrator for St. Johns County, brought with him a unique perspective, having a difficult experience awaiting FEMA reimbursements from Hurricane Matthew, which had a significant impact on St. Johns.

“I think the cash-flow situation that has been addressed is a serious one,” Wanchick said, explaining that FEMA’s process is very complicated with billions of dollars in play. 

“It’s not that the process is broken; it’s the process,” he later said. He explained that there are many estimates filed, but FEMA has a fiduciary responsibility to thoroughly check each one.

Overall, the committee meeting was introductory. There weren’t any proposals to be heard: Lawmakers were essentially there to listen.

The State Emergency Response Team and the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation also gave presentations to the lawmakers. The latter reported an estimated $4.57 billion loss and a total of 703,671 claims.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, created the committee following Hurricane Irma. He provided a list of policy considerations centering on protection of elderly, disabled, and other vulnerable persons; efficient evacuation and reentry; and mitigation of future storm damage.

The committee is set to reconvene Thursday, Oct. 26.   

House panel OKs subpoenas for Emeril Lagasse show

The House’s ethics panel Thursday voted to subpoena a television production firm for details on exactly how it spent millions of taxpayer dollars on a fishing show and a cooking show with celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse

The Public Integrity and Ethics Committee unanimously approved the move to compel information from Tallahassee-based MAT Media and its owner, Pat Roberts.

VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism marketing agency, signed a contract with the company to produce the shows, which cost between $10 million and $18 million for five seasons or programming, House general counsel Adam Tanenbaum told the committee.

But the agency doesn’t have the detailed spending information the House seeks, and after informal and formal requests from the House, Roberts “has chosen not to take advantage of those opportunities,” Tanenbaum said. “… There was pretty much silence.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, has been withering in his criticism of the agency and of Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development organization, calling them dispensers of “corporate welfare.”

Democratic ranking member David Richardson, a retired forensic auditor from Miami Beach, raised a concern that the information sought might be confidential under the contract. But Tanenbaum said the House has “a role and a right” to seek records on how tax dollars are spent.

Committee chair Larry Metz, a Yalaha Republican, declined media requests for copies of draft subpoenas, saying they weren’t final documents subject to disclosure as public records.

Metz, an attorney, also asked Tanenbaum who owned the copyright for the shows. “That’s unclear at this point,” Tanenbaum said.

Mike Pence to keynote Republicans’ conference in Orlando

Vice President Mike Pence is slated to be the keynote speaker at the Republican Party of Florida’s annual Statesman Dinner during their November state conference in Orlando.

Pence – with “special guest” U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio –  is to highlight the dinner set for Thursday, Nov. 2 at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, kicking off the two-day conference.

Also billed for the kickoff dinner to the quarterly party meeting are three of the four members of the Florida Cabinet, though not Gov. Rick Scott. The other advertised guests include Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Attorney General Pam Bondi,  Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, Florida Senate President Joe Negron, and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

General tickets are $200 for the dinner, with executive committee members and College Republicans getting discounts.

Bill to establish slavery memorial at Capitol advances in House committee

Legislation to establish a slavery memorial at the state Capitol in Tallahassee passed its first committee Wednesday.

The bill (HB 67) would authorize the Department of Management and Services, upon a recommendation from the Florida Historical Commission, to create and establish a Florida Slavery Memorial on the Capitol Complex.

It would “honor the nameless and forgotten men, women and children who have gone unrecognized for their undeniable contributions to our great state and great country,” explained Miami Democrat Kionne McGhee to the House Oversight, Transparency & Administration Subcommittee.

McGhee’s proposal is supported by House Speaker Richard Corcoran. A similar measure  passed the House during the 2017 Legislative Session, but failed to advance in the Senate, after initially being blocked by Ocala Republican Dennis Baxley.

Baxley told a reporter that he had a “discomfort about memorializing slavery” and that it would be too negative.

“I would rather celebrate overcoming the heartbreak of slavery. I wouldn’t want to build a memorial to child abuse; I wouldn’t want to build a memorial to sexual abuse,” Baxley told the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times. “I have a discomfort about memorializing slavery. … I would like to take it in a more positive direction than a memorial to slavery.”

The comments rankled McGhee, who called them “borderline racist.” The two later met for dinner and cleared up their differences.

Well-known legislative gadfly Brian Pitts praised the bill during public comment, but said that legislators should consider a similar memorial for Native Americans.

The Capitol complex currently includes monuments honoring veterans, law enforcement officers and women and one recognizing the Holocaust.


Joe Henderson: Negative campaigning works again

Negative campaigning has long been an accepted tactic. As much as people say they hate it, they seem to respond to that message.

We saw the truth of that again in Tuesday’s special election for the GOP nomination in House District 58.

Mailers that labeled Plant City businesswoman and civic activist Yvonne Fry as a tax-loving liberal who wants to limit gun rights were, in my opinion, a key to the victory by upstart Lawrence McClure. He won in a rout, with about 55 percent of the vote.

Fry is anything but liberal, but reality is rarely a factor in these races. McClure was the beneficiary of a lot of campaign donations from outside the district, along with mailers from supporters that painted Fry as a spawn of Pelosi.

They threw in a few grade-school level insults, too, and then casually whispered to voters that Fry WANTS TO TAX YOU BACK TO THE STONE AGE! The fact that she doesn’t support the loony idea of allowing open-carry for guns on college campuses must mean she WANTS TO TAKE YOUR GUNS!

Voila! It didn’t matter that none of it was true, or that McClure consistently denied any direct connection with that strategy.

That’s not saying there weren’t legitimate reasons to support McClure or oppose Fry.  And it must be acknowledged that Fry’s response to most of the attacks was tepid at best. She didn’t start to counter-punch until it was way too late, and that speaks to the lack of a ground game.

That shortcoming led to this election being more about who Fry isn’t than who McClure is, and Fry’s campaign let that happen. When you get into a mud fight, it’s not good strategy to wear your Sunday best clothes.

Fry, who also had never run for office but is well-known in Plant City after serving on various boards and other civic causes, was expected to clean up in her home town while battling for votes in the rest of the district that stretches to Temple Terrace and the University of South Florida.

However, McClure won in 16 precincts with Plant City addresses compared to 10 for Fry. Nearly one-third of McClure’s total of 3,631 votes came from eight precincts with addresses in Plant City, Seffner and Thonotosassa.

That’s a direct indictment of those who directed Fry’s campaign.

In a statement on her Facebook page, Fry said:

“I will sleep well tonight having earned the respect of those who value it in the first place. I will continue to serve our community that I cherish so much.”

On his Facebook page, McClure responded, “I also want to thank Yvonne Fry for her service to our community and for her gracious words tonight. I look forward to the general election and will see everyone back on the campaign trail tomorrow.”

McClure now only needs to defeat no party candidate Ahmad Saadaldin, Libertarian Bryan Zemina, and Democrat Jose Vasquez in the general election on Dec. 19.

Translation: McClure almost certainly can start checking out spots to eat while in Tallahassee for the Legislative Session.

Given that Fry had many endorsements, including from outgoing (and popular) state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons, it might be easy to label this race just another rebuke by voters fed up with the powerful insiders. I don’t see it that way. I just think McClure’s side did a better job of rallying those supporting him than Fry’s did for her.

A lot of McClure’s financial support came from people closely aligned with House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who certainly had issues with Raulerson’s tendency to buck the system. Read into that what you will.

I think that led to another truth of these elections. While Fry was belittled as just another insider, a lot of power in this election came from the Tallahassee political elite that banks on voters paying no attention to the person behind the curtain.

Oh, when in doubt, there’s this: LIBERAL!

Just keep saying it.

Richard Corcoran committee raised $445K in September

House Speaker Richard Corcoran brought in another $445,000 for his political committee and possible governor’s race fund, “Watchdog PAC,” between Sept. 1 and Oct. 9 according to reports available on the committee’s website.

The committee has now raised $4.4 million total since Corcoran started it up in June, and has just shy of $3.9 million on hand.

The largest contribution last month was a $100,000 check from The Voice of Florida Business, a political committee tied to the Associated Industries of Florida. Following the six-figure check is a three-way tie between Miami auto dealer and former Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman, Wal‐Mart Stores, and Conservative Principles of Florida. Each gave $50,000.

A committee controlled by Republican Rep. Jason Brodeur chipped in $30,000, while a number of other GOP movers and shakers came in at the $25,000 level.

Among them are former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli through his Growing Florida’s Future committee, political consultant Anthony Pedicini through Citizens Alliance for Florida’s Economy, and Rep. Jamie Grant through Floridians for Liberty and Innovation.

Corcoran’s committee received the money across just 27 contributions. And one of those, a $25,000 check from Orlando law firm Newsome Melton, was refunded.

Expenditures clocked in at $265,814 through Oct. 9, with $68,800 of that money heading to Ft. Lauderdale-based Fabrizio, Lee & Associates for surveys, consulting and travel expenses.

Rapid Loop Consulting received $42,500 for consulting work and expenses, followed by D.C.-based Go Big Media which took home about $33,000 for consulting and travel, and Jacksonville-based Political Capital with $20,000 for consulting.

Corcoran has said he is waiting to announce his future plans after the 2018 Legislative Session, which ends in March.

Currently, the only two major Republicans running to succeed Rick Scott as Florida governor are Adam Putnam and Jack Latvala. Putnam’s fundraising has reached the double-digit millions through his committee, Florida Grown, and campaign accounts, while Latvala has a few million of his own in his committee, much of it left over from his campaign to be Senate President.

Decision time in contentious House District 58 GOP primary

In eastern Hillsborough County, one of the more contentious Republican primaries in quite some time will soon be over.

Tuesday night, a winner will emerge from the hard-fought House District 58 battle between Yvonne Fry and Lawrence McClure.

HD 58 opened up in August after Plant City Republican Dan Raulerson stepped down for health reasons.

Final financial reports in the race, filed Friday night, show McClure,  a 30-year-old Dover businessman, out-fundraising Fry, with more than $23,000 cash on hand for the campaign’s final days. That includes an additional $11,000 raised by Fry’s separate political committee.

McClure’s last report includes several $1,000 contributions from various established lobbying groups based in Tallahassee, including Southern Strategy Group, Florida Beer Wholesaler Association, and the Florida Cow Political Action Committee.

The Tampa Bay Times also noted several contributions made to McClure’s campaign from allies of House Speaker Richard Corcoran. When asked, McClure said he was unaware of that, but then pivoted, saying that as the most conservative candidate in the race, it only follows he’d receive conservative backing.

An automated phone poll on election eve of 358 registered voters in the district gives McClure an 18-point lead, 54 to 36 percent.

McClure has been running hard as the purest conservative in the race, with some mailers from third-party groups going as far as to label Fry a “liberal” – something clearly intended to be a black mark in a staunch GOP primary.

Flyers contained pointed commentary, accusing Fry of once being supportive of light rail, a bugaboo with Tea Party types (although Fry counters that she’s now against that form of transit, she was once quoted as speaking up for the 2016 Go Hillsborough transportation plan, which included a light rail component).

Among the third-party groups behind mailers attacking Fry include Save Southern Heritage and Hillsborough County Conservatism Counts.

There have even been mailers attacking campaign strategists. One attacked Anthony Pedicini, McClure’s campaign strategist, mailed Thursday by a group called The Florida Leadership Fund. The group’s treasurer later told Florida Politics that he had nothing to do with the mailer.

Fry is the more politically connected of the two, working several years as a civic activist involved in Plant City public affairs. Her information technology consulting company, Lines of Communication, performed work orders for the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office (led by her paramour, Mark Ober) as well as other government agencies in Hillsborough County and across the state.

“We are excited about tomorrow,” says Fry. “We have been working hard, talking to voters and spreading our conservative message.  I am looking forward to having the opportunity to represent District 58.”

McClure did not immediatley return a call for comment.

The winner of Tuesday night’s GOP primary advances to the general election for HD 58 Dec. 19. They will face Democrat Jose Vazquez, Libertarian Bryan Zemina and non-party-affiliated candidate Ahmad Saadaldin.

The polls will be open Tuesday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Supervisor of  Elections Craig Latimer announced two last-minute polling place changes Tuesday:

Precinct 753 voters (originally assigned to vote at Plant City Recreation and Parks due to a storm-related closure of the polling place at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center) will instead be voting at the Bruton Memorial Library (302 McClendon St. in Plant City).

Precinct 763 voters, assigned to Hope Lutheran Church, will instead be voting at Faith Temple Assembly of God (4240 N Frontage Road).

The elections office learned Monday of extremely long lines for Food for Florida benefits at the Plant City Stadium that will make sights on Park Road inaccessible for voting. Approximately 800 eligible voters will be affected by these changes.

Election eve poll gives Lawrence McClure wide lead in HD 58 special election

A barrage of nasty direct mail campaigns in the HD 58 special election may have snookered Yvonne Fry’s chances in the Tuesday Republican Primary, according to a new survey from St. Pete Polls.

An automated phone poll conducted over the weekend surveyed 358 registered HD 58 voters and found the Plant City native trailed Republican businessman Lawrence McClure 54-36 percent, with another 10 percent saying they were unsure which candidate they would choose at the ballot box.

McClure polled 20 points better than Fry among whites, and did similarly well among both men and women. He also dominated among voters over 30 – voters aged 50 to 69 picked McClure over Fry by 32 points, with only 7 percent saying they were unsure.

Fry’s only wins came among the 18-29 crowd, 50-33, and among Hispanics, who preferred her 2-to-1 over McClure.

About 44 percent of those polled also said they had already voted in the special primary,

The prime timers have turned out for the election, too, with more than 55 percent of the 70-and-up crowd having already cast their ballot.

There’s still a day left before the door shuts on the primary, but even Fry’s wins don’t paint a pretty picture in a district where 64 percent of the electorate are non-Hispanic whites, and the median age is hovering around the late-30s.

Fry was the first-in candidate for the special election, which Gov. Rick Scott scheduled after former Rep. Dan Raulerson announced he would leave office due to health issues.

She amassed plenty of support from all levels of GOP leadership, too. In addition to Raulerson coming out in support of her once he became a “private citizen,” she won over all five current Plant City Commissioners as well as neighboring Rep. Ross Spano, Attorney General Pam Bondi and a host of others.

McClure picked up his support, and cash, from allies of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who found himself at odds with Raulerson more often than not.

With those deep pockets backing him, he has led in fundraising through most of the campaign. And his major foible – having never cast a ballot in a primary election until last year– was outshined by the rash of mailers branding Fry as a liberal in cahoots with “Obama, Clinton and Pelosi” when it came to 2nd Amendment rights.

The winner of the McClure-Fry battle is the odds-on favorite for the seat, but still must face Democrat Jose Vazquez, Libertarian Bryan Zemina and non-party-affiliated Ahmad Saadaldin in a Dec. 19 general election.

Joe Henderson: Yvonne Fry in tough HD 58 fight

In a different reality, Yvonne Fry would enter Tuesday’s special HD 58 election without concern.

Her neighbors in Plant City know her as smart, personable, connected and dedicated. She is one of them, having been born and raised there. In addition to being well-liked and respected, she is a successful businesswoman and making her first run for public office.

She has the support of former state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons in August. Raulerson was easily elected twice in the district Fry now wants to represent.

Her opponent, Lawrence McClure, was embarrassed when Mitch Perry reported voting records show he has never cast a ballot in a non-presidential primary — and yet he is asking for support in the same type of race in which he has never voted.

Slam dunk, right?

Not exactly. And the support she has received from Raulerson could be one reason why.

Connect the dots.

William March of the Tampa Bay Times reported Monday that campaign finance records show House leaders close to Speaker Richard Corcoran are donating heavily to McClure’s campaign. That has helped give McClure $135,485 for his campaign compared to $112,790 for Fry.

Raulerson was increasingly at odds with Corcoran before leaving the House. One interesting tidbit is that Raulerson received an “A” grade and a 100 percent score in a legislative report card by the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Corcoran scored a “C” in the same survey, with the notation that the “grade was decreased because Speaker Corcoran presided over a regular Session that saw Legislature unable to finish on time, operate in the sunshine or meaningfully address certain important business issues.”

Corcoran also bucked the Chamber position on economic and marketing efforts, which could explain why political committees tied to that group have poured $785,000 this year into Adam Putnam’s campaign for governor.

Corcoran, of course, is contemplating a run for governor as well. He has also been known to administer a little payback for anyone who steps out of line with his agenda, and Raulerson certainly did that.

Raulerson also has been highly critical of the process which gives the House Speaker vast power during the Legislative Session.

“I wouldn’t discount that entirely,” he told me. “I don’t think it’s the only reason for the support though. I think the overriding reason is that (Corcoran) wants control of everything. The fact I didn’t always go along with leadership and went rogue possibly contributed to this.

“I voted the way I felt the way my vote needed to be. Obviously, I did not play the puppet role. What’s interesting is that (House) leadership never got involved in primaries before. I see that culture has changed.”

Fry has been the target of a slew of attack mailers in recent weeks that have played loose with the facts. She has been labeled a “Lie’n liberal” in some of the fliers and, in one particularly scary appeal to the Republican base, was said to have “joined the ranks of Obama, Clinton and Pelosi in declaring war on the Second Amendment” because she opposes open-carry and campus carry.

Will it work?


Mailers tend to target so-called super voters — those who cast ballots in every election. As of Monday morning, there were 5,050 ballots cast either by mail or early voters so far. That is likely about half of the turnout that might reasonably be expected in an off-peak race like this, and the Republican base tends to get nervous when the subject is the Second Amendment.

And while Fry will likely enjoy strong support from Plant City, that may not be enough to carry the day. Only about 35 percent of the voters in this election are expected to come from Plant City. The remainder will likely come from the Temple Terrace and USF area, where Fry isn’t as well known.

“I will say this — Yvonne is a tough cookie,” Raulerson said.

Given Corcoran’s apparent influence and interest in this race, it’s worth pondering what awaits the winner.

Would McClure become a rubber stamp for the Speaker’s agenda? Would Fry find herself relegated to insignificant committees and given little to no voice in trying to accomplish things for her district?

Good questions in a race increasingly rife with palace intrigue.

Will Weatherford endorses Ardian Zika for HD 37 seat in 2018

Former House Speaker Will Weatherford is endorsing Ardian Zika for the Pasco County-based House District 37 seat.

“I’ve known Ardian Zika for the past decade, and he is absolutely the best person to represent District 37 as our State Representative,” said Weatherford in a statement. “Ardian’s story is one of hard work and dedication. He is proof that if you have a dream and work hard, you can achieve success.”

The 37-year-old Zika was born in the former Yugoslavia and emigrated to the U.S. from Kosovo in 1997. He spent the past 14 years in the banking industry before starting up his own business advisory company, Guardian & Company I, earlier this year.

“His passion for our country and for Pasco County is evident from the moment you first meet him,” Weatherford added. “His strong financial background will help him fight for our shared values of lower taxes while growing and strengthening our economy for all us.”

“I am honored and humbled to have the endorsement of Speaker Will Weatherford,” said Zika.

Weatherford had previously contributed $1,000 to Zika’s campaign, as he and the rest of the Pasco County GOP establishment have shown that they are firmly behind his candidacy to succeed current House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who is term-limited out of his seat next year.

Florida Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson endorsed Zika last week.

Weatherford has stayed out of electoral politics since leaving the House of Representatives in 2014. He announced shortly before Christmas last year that he would not run for governor in 2018. He currently works as a managing partner of Weatherford Partners, a capital investment and strategist advisory firm that is based in Tampa.

George Agovino, Elle Rudisell and Bill Gunter have also entered the HD 37 primary.

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