Richard Corcoran Archives - Page 7 of 56 - Florida Politics

Jeb Bush foundation issues legislative grades; aces for Richard Corcoran, Joe Negron

House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron aced the 2017 Legislative Session when it comes to school choice, said an organization founded by former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Foundation for Florida’s Future gave both Republican lawmakers an “A+” this year and included both on their “honor roll,” which the group says, “recognizes the legislative leaders who championed bold education reforms that keep the promise of a quality education for each and every student.”

“His determination to ensure every child, regardless of location, income or ability level, has access to a high-quality education earned him a top spot on Florida’s 2017 Education Report Card,” the group said of Corcoran. “His tireless advocacy and leadership will undoubtedly improve the educational outcomes for thousands of Florida students.”

Negron also received praise for expanding the Gardiner Scholarship Program, a program for disabled students passed during former Sen. Andy Gardiner’s time as the chamber’s president, and for rallying senators “to embrace student-centered education policies that empower parents and expand educational options.”

The Stuart Republican was a major force behind the controversial charter school bill HB 7069 clearing the chamber by two votes at the tail end of the 2017 Legislative Session.

The omnibus education bill included funding for the “Schools of Hope” program, which encourages charter schools to open in low-performing school districts by giving them incentives.

In addition to Negron and Corcoran, Foundation for Florida’s Future put a dozen other representatives and nine other senators on the honor roll with perfect scores.

Overall, the Foundation gave 23 of 40 senators and 75 of 120 representatives an “A” or higher.

Jack Latvala: ‘It is very possible I end up announcing something in the near future’

Sen. Jack Latvala didn’t use an appearance at the Tiger Bay Club of Southwest Florida to announce a 2018 gubernatorial bid.

Then again, he didn’t use it to quash any rumors about his plans for the future.

“We have several members of the press here today, so if I was to specifically make an announcement, then there wouldn’t be a reason for them to come to an announcement if I had one,” said the Clearwater Republican when asked what was in his future.

“I will say this: I have been involved in government in Tallahassee for a long time. I think I know the good and the bad, how many things happen and how to solve problems,” he said. “As I look at being term limited in the Senate, I obviously think about giving it a go and seeing what I can do. It is very possible I end up announcing something in the near future.”

Latvala, the chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, is believed to be considering a run for governor in 2018. If he decides to run, he’ll join Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the GOP race to replace Gov. Rick Scott. U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and House Speaker Richard Corcoran are also believed to be considering a run.

 “If I do it, it’s going to be based on the same principles that I’ve conducted myself. There might be some yelling, but mostly how I conduct myself is straight talk,” he said. “If people ask me a question, I give an answer. If I give somebody my word, I keep it. I work hard, and I think that’s what we need to have in our public officials at every level. I’m not going to be the best looking candidate, I’m not gonna be the slimmest candidate, but I think there’s not many jobs in government that I couldn’t do.”

When asked was going into making his final decision, Latvala said it wasn’t as much about making the final decision, but having enough time to make sure he could tell everyone he’s worked with over the years what his decision will be.

“There’s a lot of preparation that goes into it,” he said. “I want to do it right.”

While Latvala’s political future was on many people’s mind Wednesday, it wasn’t the only reason Latvala attended the Tiger Bay Club of Southwest Florida’s meeting. He was also on hand to discuss the 2017 Legislative Session, as well as the special session that followed.

Latvala called the 2017 Session “the worst one” in his years in the Legislature.

“We had, without a doubt, a tough session this year. By far, it was the worst one in my opinion. It was the least fun,” he said. “I think people are letting egos get in the way of their good judgement. They’re worried about their owned advancement, they’re worried about their own philosophy.”

Still, Latvala pointed to some achievements during the 2017 Session, including a legislation backed by Senate President Joe Negron to build additional water storage south of Lake Okeechobee, which will help alleviate discharges into the Calooshatchee River. He also touted money for beach renourishment projects and pay raises for state workers, both of which were personal priorities during the 2017 Legislative Session.

And Latvala said he was among those members who were concerned with the way the Session ended, with several big bills being negotiated behind the scenes.

“I hope we learned our lesson,” he said. “I think the Senate is not doing thing that way next year, people expect us to debate things on merit.”

 

Richard Corcoran’s agenda and style get bashed (and sometimes praised) by panel of Pinellas lawmakers

He wasn’t on the dais, but Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s policies and public comments were front-and-center when a panel of Pinellas lawmakers spoke Wednesday in Clearwater about the recently concluded legislative session.

Dubbed “the most interesting man in Tallahassee” in a recent Miami Herald profile, the 52-year-old Land O’Lakes Republican came into leadership last year with a firm and aggressive agenda, and achieved some major accomplishments in state government. And with a potential gubernatorial candidacy in the offing, opinions regarding his policies and legislative style were not in short supply from his fellow Republicans.

No one has been more critical of Corcoran’s tenure than the man who may be competing against him next year for the GOP nomination: Clearwater state Senator Jack Latvala, who lashed out at Corcoran’s recent comments that state legislators are more responsive to Floridians than local governments.

“I think it’s probably one of the most ridiculous things that has come out of his mouth,” Latvala said to laughter and applause from the business-friendly crowd which gathered for French toast and sausage at Ruth Eckerd Hall. “And I’ve heard a lot of ridiculous things come out of his mouth.”

The event was sponsored by the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce and moderated by FloridaPolitics/SaintPetersBlog publisher Peter Schorsch.

Latvala went on to say that the people who run for local office generally raise money from the people that they will ultimately represent on a city council or county commission. Not true in Tallahassee, he said, where most lawmakers contributions come via lobbyists.

“A lot of our legislators – particularly our newer ones – have the attitude that somehow or another they know more than the same folks who elected them at the local level,” Latvala continued. “I’ve never had that attitude, and I never will.”

When reached for comment later in the day, Corcoran responded by saying that “our point was based on the beliefs of our founding fathers.”

“Every branch of government should stay in their constitutionally authorized lane,” Corcoran said..”When local governments try to ban our citizens from using Uber; raise taxes on its citizens every single year; force small businesses to pay an unsustainable minimum wage; strip our citizens of their 2nd Amendment rights, and lobby the legislature to try and stop them from giving homeowners a property tax cut, then they are out of their lane and, more importantly, completely out of touch with the will of the people.”

Corcoran’s determination to eliminate state funding for Enterprise Florida, Visit Florida, and a host of other economic incentive programs, including those targeting professional sports teams and the entertainment industry, created a virtual civil war amongst Florida Republicans in the first half of 2017. Ultimately, Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida retained a substantial amount of funding, though EFI lost the bulk of its money for job incentives.

That proposal resulted in an intense ideological battle between Corcoran and Governor Rick Scott, who spent weeks traveling to the districts of House Republicans who supported the plan to defund the agencies.

“Unfortunately, the Speaker made a lot of people vote for that bill before he changed his mind and made his deal and then we had an about face and the end result was a decent bill,” said Latvala. “A lot of young House members were made to march the plank in their communities … just because of this ideological proposal from the House Speaker.”

Sitting right next to Latvala on the dais at the event was Seminole’s Larry Ahern, who was one of those House Republicans who supported Corcoran’s push to defundthose state agencies.

“No more does one corporation get all the benefits,” said Ahern of the final product. “Now it will be a better package for job training and creation throughout the state.”

South Pasadena Republican House member Kathleen Peters said she refused to “walk that plank,” and said she was quite vocal about not supporting it, before getting in her own dig at Corcoran.

“When I look at good leadership, I look at leaders who are not divisive, leaders who can see a problem and bring all the stakeholders together and come up with a good solution,” Peters said. “And that’s not what happened here in the beginning.”

Palm Harbor Republican Chris Sprowls supported the controversial legislation.

“When the Quick Action Closing Fund, paid for by tax dollars, says to an out of state company like Wa-Wa we’re going to give you millions of dollars in taxpayer money to come and compete with homegrown Florida businesses, I’m offended by that,” he said. “We all should be.”

St. Petersburg Democrat Wengay Newton said that Corcoran crashed a House Democratic meeting one Wednesday to persuade some of the members to his cause to get rid of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.

“He said I need you to stand with me,” Newton said in recounting that meeting. “That tells you right away that he didn’t have every Republican delegation in lockstep.”

Ultimately, 20 Democrats did support Corcoran on that vote.

Another controversial bill that Scott recently signed was House bill 7069, the education bill that includes the “schools of hope” plan for charter schools that was another pet project of Corcoran’s. The bill does many things, including add measures that force school districts to share construction money with charter schools and that create financial incentives for new charters to open and compete with low-performing public schools.

The bill was also a passion project of sorts for Chris Latvala, who spoke for so long about how important the legislation was that he was ultimately cut off by Schorsch.

Newton, like every Democrat in the Legislature, vehemently disagreed with the education bill.

“If you think that you’re going to be able to spend that amount of money on a charter school because they had some success somewhere else without bringing the people that’s providing that success and a government structure to the areas where you’re trying to implement it, it’s never going to work,” Newton said.

And speaking of education, the issue of USF being stripped of “preeminent” status in an education conforming bill near the end of session still rankles alumni and friends of the university. One anonymous audience member blasted Sprowls (scheduled to become Speaker of the House in a few years) on how could he let such a thing happen, or be so out of the loop as to not know it was about to happen.

While other members criticized the process, Jack Latvala said that USF officials were being too negative about how they fared overall this year.

“USF leadership is really good at the doom and gloom and highlighting the negatives, but what they haven’t told anybody was that USF got $42 million in new, additional operating money this year, as apart of the Senate’s various program to supplement higher education,” he said.”So it was one problem, but they got a lot of new money.”

The lawmakers were all asked who they believe their respective gubernatorial nominee will be next year. With many of the Republicans being loyal to Latvala, they opted not to weigh in, since he has not declared whether or not he’ll be a candidate.

Well, not everybody played possum. Ahern extolled the virtues of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who, as of today, remains the only major Republican to have entered the race.

 

VISIT FLORIDA board approves $76 million marketing plan, but questions overall goal

With its full state funding finally secured, VISIT FLORIDA’s board of directors approved a $76 million marketing plan for 2017-’18 that pours far more of the state money into core marketing programs than before, all but eliminates sponsorships, and pares down administrative costs backed by the state money.

In a conference call meeting Tuesday, the attending members voted unanimously for the plan that puts $39 million, more than half of the state money approved earlier this month, into marketing efforts for North American visitors; another $11 million aimed at four international markets, the United Kingdom, China, Brazil, and Germany; and another $15 million into various other marketing efforts, ranging from welcome stations at the state lines to $1 million specifically earmarked for a Veterans for Florida program.

Various board and VISIT FLORIDA staff members occasionally yet only briefly acknowledged that the state’s official tourism marketing corporation dodged a bullet this spring after Speaker Richard Corcoran led an effort seeking to cut state funding to to just $25 million, out of concerns of lack of transparency and accountability and questionable spending last year. The $76 million was restored only through the legislative deal struck during the special session three weeks ago, between Corcoran and Gov. Rick Scott, who, himself, late last year, fired and replaced the last VISIT FLORIDA president and other top executives, and issued a list of reform demands for the organization.

“I truly believe in my heart of hearts this is VISIT FLORIDA 2.0,” said Interim Chief Marketing Officer Nelson Mongiovi.

The plan approved Tuesday eliminates $11 million from the sponsorship pool of money, and reduces the administrative costs charged to the state by $5 million. All of that was pushed into the various marketing programs, particularly into the international marketing program.

Yet the bottom line goal of the marketing program was doubted and debated throughout Tuesday’s meeting.

Mongiovi set forth a goal of reaching 120 million visitors in calendar year 2017, which would be an 6 percent increase from the record 113 million that Florida attracted last year. Various board members raised concerns over whether that 120 million number was realistic, given some concerns about a potentially softening international market, and given the six months of 2017 in which VISIT FLORIDA found itself in turmoil, shedding staff and potentially losing momentum, while it awaited its fate and the prospect of huge state cuts.

“If I were betting on my private business, I would put it as an aspirational goal but certainly not as a realistic goal, just so we don’t get caught by someone saying, ‘Did you hit 120 million visitors?'” said Gene Prescott of The Biltmore Hotel. “If we can hit it, that’s fantastic. But I think it’s optimistic.”

The goal wasn’t changed, but it was downplayed. Mongiovi and others insisted repeatedly that VISIT FLORIDA’s main goal is to improve the yield of visitors – that is, to attract more of the kind of visitors who spend lots of money. That’s one reason for the increased marketing money going into the international markets. They also discussed their desire to replace or add to the total visitors’ goal with a goal that reflects economic impact dollars.

“I’m focusing on yield. Having the right visitors matter,” said VISIT FLORIDA President Ken Lawson.

 

Gwen Graham: ‘Health care is a right’

Former Congresswoman and now Democratic candidate for governor Gwen Graham on Tuesday rapped the U.S. Senate’s proposed Obamacare replacement, saying “if you get quality health care, you can have a miracle.”

Graham, speaking to reporters in the state Capitol, was referring to her husband’s recent cancer remission. Steve Hurm was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer last year.

Acknowledging that her family has good insurance coverage, “I want that for everyone,” she said. “No one should be put in a position where they can’t get the health care they deserve.”

Her announcement came shortly after fellow Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum said he was “calling for a constitutional amendment declaring affordable healthcare a fundamental right for all Floridians.”

Graham stood next to a pile of petitions she said opposed Congress’ repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama‘s signature legislative achievement. She planned on delivering the petitions to Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio‘s Tallahassee office after her press conference.

Senate leaders scrambled Tuesday to rescue their health care bill, however, in deepening jeopardy as opposition from rebellious Republicans intensified. The defections proliferated after Congress’ nonpartisan budget referee said the measure would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026 than under Obamacare.

Graham, who represented north Florida’s 2nd Congressional District from 2015-17, also said “we should be expanding Medicaid” to cover more poor and working poor Floridians.

Efforts to do so in the Legislature have failed, faced by staunch opposition from House Republican leadership and Gov. Rick Scott, a Naples Republican and former head of a for-profit hospital chain.

“How do (they) sleep at night … knowing that decisions they have made caused people to die?” Graham said. “Where is the humanity? … We want to take care of people; we want to help people.”

She was joined by the mother of a child with the same generic heart disorder that late-night host Jimmy Kimmel‘s son has, and Dr. Louis St. Petery, a Tallahassee pediatric cardiologist who was involved in the controversial 2011 “Docs vs. Glocks” state law that aimed to stop doctors from asking patients about guns in their homes.

“The essential health benefits (of Obamacare) are what all children need,” he said, mentioning “checkups, immunizations and access to hospitalization” when needed.

The Senate bill, on the other hand, “which many people don’t know what’s in it, is heartless,” Graham said. She also opposes Medicaid block grants, which House Speaker Richard Corcoran and others in the Legislature favor.

In response to a question about Gillum’s proposal, she added: “I think health care is a right, but I want to make sure the way we go about it is too.”

(The Associated Press contributed to this post, reprinted with permission.)

On open records, half Florida’s legislators rate F or D

Half of Florida’s legislators failed or nearly failed in a review of their support for public records and meetings given by Florida newspapers and an open-government group after this year’s legislative sessions.

In a “scorecard” produced by the Florida Society of News Editors and based on information provided by Florida’s First Amendment Foundation — which tracked a priority list of public records exemptions — the 160 legislators totaled three Fs, 77 Ds, 71 Cs, and 9 Bs.

Each year FSNE completes a project devoted to Sunshine Weeka nationwide initiative to educate the public about the importance of transparent government. This year FSNE members created a scoring system to grade legislators on their introduction of bills and their final votes.

“As an advocate for open government, the grades of course, are disappointing,” said Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, a nonprofit supported mostly by newspapers and broadcasters.

Several lawmakers contacted about their grades questioned the concept of fairly and accurately scoring how they addressed and decided on open records bills.

“It’s a little simplistic to think you can reduce this to a mathematical formula. It’s a little more complicated,” said Rep. Rick Roth, R-Wellington, who has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Emory University,

Roth, who was graded a D-minus, added, “The Sunshine Law is great in principle, but what it actually assumes is everybody is a crook. I just think it needs a little bit of tweaking.”

Florida’s Legislature established public records laws as early as the early 20th century, created the Government in the Sunshine Law in the late 1960s, and in 1992 established a “constitutional right of access.” Because of Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Law, the state’s records and meetings are more accessible than in most states. But the Legislature has, year in and year out, instituted, or considered instituting, numerous exemptions. The body, on average, imposes up to a dozen a year.

Petersen said the recent session accounted for “a near record number of new exemptions created, but we see few bills that actually would improve access to either meetings or records.”

The 2017 Legislature created 26 exemptions and expanded another, then instituted yet one more exemption during its special session. Should Gov. Rick Scott approve all the 28 new exemptions, the grand total over the years would be 1,150.

Where does your legislator rank? See the scorecard

The three legislative Fs — actually F-minuses — were assigned to two representatives from southwest Florida and one from the Jacksonville area.

The single lowest score went to Rep. Bob Rommel, R-Naples, who sponsored House Bill 351, which would have made secret records of public college president searches; and House Bill 843, which would have allowed two members of a government board to meet privately. Both bills failed. Rommel also voted on the House floor against government openness in five of seven cases.

Rommel was joined in drawing an F by Rep. Byron Donalds, another Naples Republican; and Kimberly Daniels, a Jacksonville Democrat.

Daniels did not personally return a reporter’s call, instead providing a prepared statement that doesn’t directly address her grade but says that getting the two public records exemptions passed, as well as four others, as a freshman legislator, “exceeds more than I could have imagined accomplishing.”

And all five voted for HB 111, which hides the identification of murder witnesses — Harrell co-sponsored it — as well as SB 118, which hides criminal histories. Those two bills passed and were signed by Scott.

No legislator earned an A in the same way the others got the Fs. Rep. Joseph Geller, D-Aventura, voted for government openness in six of seven floor votes and earned a B-plus, the same grade given to Rep. Lori Berman, D-Lantana.

Despite his favorable score, Geller is bucking for “at least an A-minus,” pointing out that he so frequently asks about the First Amendment Foundation’s position on open government bills that he said he “got a pretty bad ribbing about it on the floor from other legislators.”

Just six Democrats and three Republicans earned a score of B-minus or better. And 17 Democrats and 63 Republicans drew grades of D-plus or worse.

For Democrats, the most common grade was a C-minus. Dozens of Republicans drew C-minus grades, but more got a D-plus.

Scores in the House were much more likely to be lower than those in the Senate. Some of that may be because of HB 111, which drew nearly two dozen sponsors and co-sponsors in the House. The bill, which hides information about witnesses to murders, was signed by Scott in May.

Roth, of Wellington, defended his position on secrecy for the process of hiring public college presidents, explaining that while he’d be OK with making candidates public once there’s a “short list” of finalists, he feared scaring away top-flight candidates who don’t want their respective college leadership to know they’re shopping for a new position.

On HB 843, dealing with talks between two officials, Roth said he voted for it — in fact he was a co-sponsor — but said it probably went too far and “I’m glad it failed.” He said he’d like to see a new bill with conditions that would satisfy opponents — such as requiring staff be present and notes be taken to be made public later. He said he supports trying to head off “skullduggery” but he said many elected bodies now are dominated by staffers who “pretty much drive the bus,” and since officials can’t talk in advance, “they don’t come to the board meeting fully informed.”

Roth also noted the bill to protect crime witnesses does require they’re eventually identified, and while he didn’t remember much of SB 118, he saw a desire to protect the privacy of people who had committed crimes in the past.

The First Amendment Foundation’s Petersen did note that, because the scorecard reflects only votes and sponsorship, it might skew perception of legislators’ attitudes toward open government.

For example, she said, Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Atlantis, who is in line to become Senate Democratic leader in 2018, “always has something to say about open government when something comes up on the (Senate) floor.”

But, she said, “what we would like to see is more awareness from some legislators, and we’re hoping that’s what this project will do.”

She said the last bill that improved access to meetings was pushed three years ago by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, now Senate President. And, she said, “We haven’t seen anything passed by the Legislature to enhance the right of access to public records since 1995. We did see a couple of bills that would improve access, but they didn’t even get a committee hearing.”

Some South Florida lawmakers also argued the scorecard’s narrow focus on open government doesn’t leave room for considering good policy.

On HB 111, for example, “It’s not that hard of a reach to say this law will keep others from being murdered,” said Rep. Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach, who earned a C-minus. ” I realize they (the First Amendment Foundation) are a one-issue, one-note organization. But at a certain point, reality comes crashing in to any philosophy.”

And Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, who also earned a C-minus, said, “It’s not that I don’t respect the First Amendment Foundation. It’s that I’m going to do whatever I can do as a legislator to begin to bring justice to individuals who are being murdered senselessly.”

Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat and another of those who earned a C-minus, said, “People are trying to get good grades from these organizations, instead of looking at whether it’s fair policy. The only grade that matters is the one that my residents give me when they decide to re-elect me into office.”

Two of the top four grades went to Republican senators from Tampa Bay: Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg and Bill Galvano of Bradenton.

“Our goal is that there be a completely transparent and open government,” Brandes said. He, along with Rep. Ben Diamond, D-St. Petersburg — who received a B-minus — sponsored legislation that protects court clerks from being sued if they release confidential information due to an error committed by a lawyer involved in a case. Current law isn’t clear on the issue.

Diamond called HB 843, the proposal to let two elected officials meet, an “existential threat” to open government in Florida.

Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, who earned a D-plus, supported HB 843.

“In the Legislature, we can meet with another legislator one-on-one, so I thought that the state government shouldn’t be treated any differently than the local government,” he said.

Thirteen Tampa Bay area lawmakers scored below a C.

“This ‘scorecard’ was created by a special interest group that thinks legislators should cater to the group’s own political agenda rather than do what is in the best interest of the people of Florida,” said Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, who scored a D-plus.

Fred Piccolo, a spokesman for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Lutz — who scored a D-plus — called inclusion of HB 111, the witness-identity bill, in the scorecard, “just plain silly.” And Latvala said, “If I have to vote on that bill 100 more times, I will vote 100 more times for that bill.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Richard Corcoran, Ron DeSantis, Jose Oliva attend Koch brothers retreat in Colorado Springs

Three of Florida’s top conservative lawmakers — including two potential Republican candidates for Governor — attended a Colorado retreat this weekend hosted by the influential Koch network.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and state Rep. Jose Oliva are listed among the big-name Republican politicians and donors at a three-day event held this weekend in Colorado Springs.

Presenting the conference is the Seminar Network, one of the satellite organizations of billionaires Charles and David Koch. The goal of the weekend is to strategize ahead of the 2018 election cycle.

In January, at a similar gathering in California, Seminar announced the Koch organization will invest as much as $400 million in the 2017-18 election cycle, up from about $250 million spent in the 2016 campaign. The spending boost, according to The Washington Post, makes it clear “they intend to deal with [Donald] Trump and congressional Republicans as they have every other administration — which could mean an impending confrontation with GOP leaders.”

“This weekend our focus will be on how to expand opportunity for those most in need and applying the principles of a free and open society to take on some of our nation’s biggest challenges,” said Seminar Network co-leader Mark Holden in a statement to The Denver Post. Holden also serves as general counsel for Koch Industries.

Held in the exclusive Broadmoor resort at the base of Pikes Peak, the annual event draws hundreds of the nation’s top conservative donors and marquee Republicans.

At last year’s Colorado Springs Koch event, the featured guest was U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan. This weekend, the guest list includes Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas, Matt Bevin of Kentucky, Doug Ducey of Arizona, and Eric Greitens of Missouri. Also in attendance were such Republican heavyweights as U.S. Sens. John Cornyn, Corey Gardner, Jeff Flake, Ben Sasse, Mike Lee and Ted Cruz.

In addition, Vice President Mike Pence — a noted Koch ally — stopped by Colorado Springs Friday for a series of fundraisers. The following day, a motorcycle cop was injured in a crash escorting Pence’s motorcade to the airport.

With Corcoran and DeSantis mingling among the GOP elite in Colorado, it only adds fuel to speculation on their future ambitions — most notably in the Florida Governor’s race.

In May, Corcoran launched a new political committee, Watchdog PAC, which some speculate could help fund a campaign for Governor in 2018.

Americans for Prosperity Florida, the state chapter of the Koch-funded activist network, had been big supporters of Corcoran’s push in the Florida House in 2017 to end a pair of Gov. Rick Scott‘s favored job incentive programs, which they called “corporate welfare.”

“Those are the only two choices — Governor or not run for office,” the Land O’Lakes Republican said about his new fundraising arm to the Tampa Bay Times in April. “If I can’t raise the money, I can’t raise the money, and if I raise the money and I don’t want to run for governor, I don’t run for governor.”

At the same time, DeSantis is also hearing rumblings calling him to run.

The Miami Herald reported in April that the conservative group Madison Project, which backed the Ponte Verde Beach Republican’s short-lived U.S. Senate campaign in 2016, issued a statement urging DeSantis to consider a bid for Governor. The declaration appeared on The Resurgent, a popular conservative website by political commentator Erick Erickson.

On April 12, The Resurgent ran results from a poll, conducted by Republican pollsters WPA Intelligence, showing DeSantis could fare well statewide against Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who is now raising money in his own race for Governor.

“While DeSantis may trail Putnam at this early date,” post said, “with 52 percent of voters undecided — and 51 percent not knowing who he is — this race is wide-open.”

Corcoran spokesperson Fred Piccolo suggested not to read too much into the Speaker’s appearance at the Colorado event. It was simply to honor Florida’s recent conservative legislative wins.

“The Speaker is a conservative,” Piccolo told FloridaPolitics.com. “The gathering was a chance to share the conservative successes we’ve had in Florida and get ideas for the future.”

Philip Levine says his authenticity is a quality voters want from their leaders

When setting out a game plan to become elected governor of the third largest state in the nation, it’s probably not in the playbook for a political candidate to get into a shouting match with a news reporter in front of other members of the press.

But that’s Philip Levine.

Last month, the Miami Beach Mayor got into a spat with a bar owner at a press conference where he was announcing a proposal to limit alcohol sales and reduce outdoor noise on Ocean Drive.

“I think that what people want and what they’re missing in a lot of their elected leaders is a really unique word called authenticity, saying how you feel, being a little less filtered,” Levine told POLITICO Florida reporter Marc Caputo in a discussion Friday morning at the U.S. Conference of Mayors kicked off at the Fontainebleau Hotel.

“For me, I always say I’m authentic,” Levine said regarding his dispute with bar owner Daniel Wallace. “I am which I am, and as a business guy and an entrepreneur, I speak his language pretty loud and clear.”

Levine’s proposal to limit alcohol sales at outdoor venues along Ocean Drive will go before the voters in November.

The 55-year-old mayor is playing host this weekend to more than 250 mayors from across the country who have descended upon Miami Beach for the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting, the first time the city has hosted the event since 1962.

Levine is currently in the “testing the waters” phase of a potential gubernatorial candidacy. Although a Democrat who campaigned extensively for Hillary Clinton last year for president, Levine surprised much of the Florida political establishment last month when he announced at a Tampa Tiger Bay meeting that he was considering a run as an independent.

“I tell everyone, I’m a Democrat, but I’m a radical centrist, I’m an American before I’m anything, and that’s the most important thing,” Levine told Caputo when asked about his gubernatorial aspirations. “I’m not left or right, I’m forward. If that’s a Democratic hat, great? If not, we’ll see, and I haven’t made any decisions.”

Levine’s visible expressions of anger haven’t been limited to heckling bar owners. The mayor has also reacted brusquely with Florida political reporters on Twitter.

“You learn in this game of politics that people love to grandstand, they like to go after you for different things,” he said. “I came in with a thinner skin. My skin now is kind of like alligators.”

Although not calling him out by name, Levine took a shot at Florida Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran on a couple of occasions in the interview.

Referring to his campaign to strip funding for “corporate welfare” public agencies like Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, Levine said he sided with Scott on the months long dispute between the state’s two top elected Republicans in the state.

“I can’t vouch whether it’s well run, well funded, it should be changed, but I know the concept is good,” he said of Enterprise Florida, which ultimately received $85 million in state funding in the FY 2018 budget. “It’s unfortunate that the governor was caught in a situation where folks were playing politics with him,” he said, adding that he felt the same about Visit Florida.

“One thing that people are sick of is people playing politics with good things, and the only one who suffers in the people.”

Levine has also been involved in a high profile spat with Airbnb in Miami Beach. While he was dueling with executives of the short term rental startup, the Florida Legislature was working on a proposal that would have limited the ability of local governments to regulate short-term vacation rentals.

Although that proposal fizzled, Levine still resents the idea that Tallahassee knows best.

“What works in Miami may not work in Pennsylvania, and vice versa, so I think it’s a local issue,” he told Caputo, “but unfortunately, we have a state that seems to be thinking that the old Soviet style of central planning from Moscow is the way to go and it’s not the way to go, it’s better to have local control.”

 

Report: Richard Corcoran raises $608K for new Watchdog PAC

House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s political committee brought in more than $600,000 in one month to a newly formed political committee.

The Miami Herald reported that Corcoran’s newly formed Watchdog PAC raised $608,000, half of which came from contributions from political committees run by Reps. Jose Oliva and Carlos Trujillo. The committee, the Herald reported, also received $100,000 from Norman Braman.

According to the report, Oliva’s political committee, Conservative Principles for Florida, gave Watchdog PAC $250,000; while Trujillo’s committee, Conservative and Principled Leadership for Florida, gave it $100,000.

The committee raised about $183,000, according to the Herald, before a fundraiser hosted by Orlando attorney John Morgan.

Corcoran is believed to be considering a 2018 gubernatorial run. He launched the political committee in May, and it could help fund a run for statewide office.

Richard Corcoran to speak to St. Johns County Republicans Thursday

House Speaker Richard Corcoran will be the featured speaker at Thursday night’s St. Johns County Republicans’ Lincoln/Reagan Dinner.

Corcoran, who is reportedly mulling a run for Florida Governor commencing after the 2018 Legislative Session, is uniquely positioned to build relationships with the Jacksonville area donors who will turn out en masse for the event at Sawgrass Country Club.

Corcoran’s remarks will focus on “American Exceptionalism” in schools; the Speaker will be joined by Dr. Peter Wood.

For this speech, “a fabulous Dinner, cocktails and silent auction,” tickets are $75.

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