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Blaise Ingoglia touts support from state senators in Florida GOP chair re-election bid

Nearly a dozen state senators are throwing their support behind Blaise Ingoglia’s bid to keep his job as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

The Spring Hill Republican announced Wednesday the support of 10 state senators, including former Majority Leader Bill Galvano and former House Majority Leader and newly elected Sen. Dana Young.

“Over this past election cycle, there has been a lot of rhetoric from the Florida Democrat Party, the media and those who wanted the grassroots to fail, by trying to give the appearance that the Republican Party of Florida and the Florida Senate have not been unified in our shared goals,” said Ingoglia, the current chairman of the Florida GOP and a state representative “Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that I, as well as the RPOF, have a great working relationship with our Florida Senators and their leadership. Florida Senators have attended all our major events, donated and helped raise money to help us succeed.”

In an email to state executive committee members, Ingoglia said he was committed to working “collaboratively with the Florida Senate, the Florida House, our Congressional delegation, the Governor and the cabinet to advance our shared goals of making Florida the best state in the nation.”

Aside from Galvano and Young, Ingoglia was endorsed by:

— Sen. Kelli Stargel

— Sen. Rob Bradley

— Sen. Frank Artiles

— Sen. Dennis Baxley

— Sen. Travis Hutson

— Sen. Debbie Mayfield

— Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, and

— Sen. Greg Steube.

Ingoglia was elected chairman in 2015, after Republican activists rejected Gov. Rick Scott’s hand-picked chairman. He previously served as the vice chairman on the state party.

Ingoglia will face Christian Ziegler, a Sarasota Republican committeeman, in the race to serve as the RPOF chair.

Ziegler, 33, announced his candidacy in November.


Craig Fugate fumes while Florida sinks in a sea of bulls**t!

Like a teenager who wants Daddy’s money, but not Daddy’s directives, Gov. Rick Scott is not embarrassed to throw tantrums when the feds fail to pony-up fast enough whenever it rains, even as he sticks his fingers in his ears at unwanted advice like “try rolling up your windows.”

Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) director Craig Fugate isn’t having it.

Fugate was the wind beneath then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s wings in the horrific hurricane seasons of the decade past. The Bush administration won worldwide admiration for its competence in dealing with whatever Mother Nature threw our way, and Fugate went on to earn more praise managing the nation’s response to the rapidly accelerating pace of acts of God and their ungodly consequences.

In a recent interview with Bloomberg View’s Christopher Flavelle, Fugate makes the case for a “disaster deductible.” The idea is to give state and local governments a pocketbook reason to get out of denial and in to action that would reduce the risk of death and damage from hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, volcanoes and earthquakes, fracking-related or not. States would be on the hook for a hefty deductible, but can bring the number down if they resist the urge to build in places people were not meant to live.

Fugate calls the current governments won’t worry be happy FEMA will pay incentives “perverse.” And since he’s talking to Bloomberg, which is an ultra-sophisticated venue for business journalism and not a full-service family newspaper, he also calls them “bullshit.”

“The builders and developers and all the people running around saying they’re capitalists and they’re Republicans and they’re conservatives, and it’s all about individual freedom and making money and growing the tax base, and all the bullshit they throw at people, convincing them this is an economic boon activity. It’s nothing but socialism and social welfare for developers when you subsidize risk … FEMA is the euphemism for you, the taxpayer, holding the bag,” fumed Fugate.

Developers can buy permits, pols and PR campaigns about jobs! jobs! jobs! for pennies on the dollars they’ll make building whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want, Fugate is that rare public official who won’t ignore the smell, and isn’t afraid to call it by its right name.

Will Weatherford’s timing off, but only for the moment

Like comedy, politics is most often all about timing. No one knows this better than Will Weatherford, who at the age of 26 rocketed from obscure legislative aide to Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives because of unanticipated, but perfectly placed, events (more about which in a moment).

Now, arguably, this once-rising star of the Republican Party has fallen victim to his breathtaking start. In short, two years after he surrendered the gavel as America’s youngest state House speaker, Weatherford has nowhere to go.

The man said so himself Thursday afternoon:

“While I’m compelled at some point to re-engage in the political arena, I just think the timing right now is not right,” he told the Miami Herald.

At least, nowhere to go that strikes him as being worth the harrowing trade-offs. Thus, shall Weatherford, not so long ago included in everybody’s lists of top politicians under the age of 40, apparently skip the inviting 2018 races, ostensibly to concentrate on business opportunities with brothers Drew and Sam, leadership development within the Florida Republican Party, and — most important — join his wife, the redoubtable Courtney Bense Weatherford, parenting their four young children in their Southern-Living designed neighborhood in Wesley Chapel.

It’s not like Weatherford’s preferences for 2018 haven’t been an enticing target. As recently as Thursday morning, “The Fix,” a Washington Post politics blog, listed him prominently among probable candidates for Florida’s open gubernatorial seat.

Now, despite having jammed his chin into the mix last summer — “Don’t count me out,” he said on the podcast hosted by fellow SaintPetersblog contributor Joe Henderson and me — Weatherford has audibled out, perhaps sensing the defense was stacked against him.

He would, of course, be right. By training — he was a Jacksonville University linebacker — and instinct, Weatherford knows when a play won’t go.

Polk County’s Adam Putnam, the Agriculture Commissioner and presumed GOP frontrunner, opens with better name recognition, a wider base of contributors and the advantage of having twice won — handily — statewide races.

Moreover, if he has flaws, they are less obvious than those of Bill McCollum, the last Central Florida GOP frontrunner in a race for an open governor’s seat. And Weatherford lacks Rick Scott’s self-funding prowess.

Ah, yes. Rick Scott. And his enormous pile of campaign cash left over from 2014.

If he didn’t seek the Governor’s Mansion, conventional wisdom went, Weatherford surely would chase the Republican nomination to sideline Democrat Bill Nelson, Florida’s senior U.S. senator. Republicans had to like the prospects of a Weatherford-Nelson tussle, which would have contrasted the challenger’s youth and conservative bona fides against the septuagenarian representative of an increasingly hard-left partly

But there’s Scott, the two-time governor and early ally of President-elect Donald Trump — whom Weatherford prominently opposed — who’s widely rumored to be angling for a shot at Nelson. And did I mention his enormous pile of leftover campaign cash?

So here is Weatherford, still just 37, deciding to bide his time. Yes, his announcement Thursday cited specifically only the contest for governor, but there was a blanket nature to it as well:

“My focus right now is on raising my family, living out my faith, and growing my family’s business. I look forward to supporting Republican candidates that share my conservative convictions and can keep Florida headed in the right direction.”

Show of hands. Who else detects the careful phrasing of someone who has spent the last two years learning about how to invest?

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that the arc of Weatherford’s political career has, to now, suggested, if not impatience, then at least alacrity.

After all, things fell just so to get him launched: Then-Gov. Charlie Crist nominated state Rep. Ken Littlefield to the Public Service Commission after the ballots were printed in 2006, leaving the Pasco County Republican Party to identify Littlefield’s stand-in and successor.

Several prominent east Pasco volunteers were passed over in favor of Weatherford, who grew up the oldest of nine children in Land O’ Lakes but, with college and assorted jobs in the Legislature, hadn’t lived in the district in years.

On the other hand, he had the benefit of being Speaker Allan Bense’s top lieutenant and son-in-law. One thing led to another and — badda-bing — there was Weatherford, winning election under Littlefield’s name one day and rounding up the commitments from fellow House freshmen to become speaker-designate-designate-designate the next.

So fast. So very, very fast.

Still, the Sunshine State politician to whom Weatherford has most often been compared — Marco Rubio, Florida’s once-and-still junior U.S. senator — learned a tough lesson about being a young man in a hurry earlier this year. Sitting out 2018 might well mean Weatherford spent the autumn channeling Yogi Berra, who famously noted “You can observe a lot just by watching.”

So, 2018 isn’t Weatherford’s time. That doesn’t mean his time won’t come.

Philip Levine among INFLUENCE Magazine’s 2016 Politicians of the Year

They can’t all be winners, but it’s fair to say several top Florida politicians had one heck of a 2016.

In the winter edition of INFLUENCE Magazine, we recognize some of the runners-up for 2016 politician of the year. Sure, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry may have grabbed the top spot, but these Floridians also had an extraordinary year.

They guided their communities through good times and bad; donned windbreakers and faced down storms; and were catapulted to the national stage. Some ousted the establishment, while others sailed through to easy victories. And one even mounted a successful comeback.

A couple of highlights:

— Gov. Rick Scott deserves a hand for the way he handled the multitude of challenges in 2016, from an attack on an Orlando nightclub to two hurricanes — Hurricane Hermine and Hurricane Matthew — barreling toward the state. Florida saw record tourism numbers, despite concerns about Zika and blue-green algae. And the Naples Republican shot on to the national scene for his steadfast support of Republican Donald Trump.

— With all eyes on Orlando this year, Mayor Buddy Dyer stepped up to the plate and represented The City Beautiful — and the state of Florida — with grace. He spearheaded the effort to create the OneOrlando Fund to assist victims of the Pulse nightclub attack, and was a steady voice throughout the tragedy.

— Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has emerged as a leading voice in discussions about climate change. In recent months, he was name-checked in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece on the issue, featured on National Public Radio talking about the impact rising tides have on his community, and was interviewed by Leonardo DiCaprio for his climate change documentary.

— They’re the next class of congressmen (and congresswomen). The Sunshine State is sending 10 new members to the U.S. House of Representatives this year, marking one of the congressional delegation’s largest turnovers. We’re expecting great things from this group of guys and gals, which includes former state Rep. Matt Gaetz, former Gov. Charlie Crist and political newcomer Stephanie Murphy.

Want to know more about the 2016 Politician of the Year Runners-Up? Check out the 2016 winter edition of INFLUENCE Magazine, available online now.

Report: Will Seccombe could receive over $300K in severance


VISIT FLORIDA‘s CEO could receive more than $300,000 in salary and performance pay as part of his severance package.

The Naples Daily News reported Wednesday that Will Seccombe, the outgoing head of the state’s tourism agency, could receive over $326,000 in salary and performance pay if that deal is approved.

Later Wednesday, the agency’s executive committee authorized board chair William Talbert to negotiate a “transition plan” with Seccombe. He’ll report back to the full board at its Jan. 10 meeting.

Talbert told committee members he had spoken with Seccombe, who was “amenable to negotiation,” though he asked for additional authority to consult with lawyers if needed. Authority to hire and fire the CEO lies with the board, not the executive committee.

Gov. Rick Scott last week called on Seccombe to resign in the wake of a controversy involving a once-secret $1 million contract with rapper Pitbull.

The rapper released his contract last week, after House Speaker Richard Corcoran sued to get the documents released.

While the suit was ultimately dropped, Seccombe fired two of his top executives — Chief Operating Officer Vangie McCorvey and Chief Marketing Officer Paul Phipps — over the incident.

Hours later, Scott called for Seccombe’s resignation.

Seccombe’s contract includes a severance package that would pay out a lump sum equal to 18 months’ pay, according to the Daily News. He currently has an annual salary of $293,000.

The Daily News also reported he would also be eligible for performance pay, equal to 40 percent of the salary he collected in the current fiscal year. He would also continue to receive health benefits for 18 months following his departure.



Blaise Ingoglia announces more grassroots support in Florida GOP chair re-election bid

Blaise Ingoglia is rolling out more endorsements from grassroots supporters in his re-election bid for Republican Party of Florida chair.

The Spring Hill Republican announced Tuesday another two-dozen local Republican leaders have thrown their support behind his re-election bid. The endorsements signal continued grassroots support for Ingoglia as Florida GOP chair.

“The grassroots of the Republican Party of Florida is literally the lifeblood of our organization,” he said in an email to members of the state party’s executive committee. “You are the ones who knock on the doors, make the phone calls, organize the precincts and most importantly … get good Republicans elected.”

The latest round of endorsements includes:

Tony Ledbetter, Chair, Volusia Co.
Kevin Brown, Chair, Escambia Co.
Chuck Brannan, Chair, Baker Co.
John Black, SCM, Sumter Co.
Sherri Ortega, Chair, Suwanee Co.
Earl Claire, SCM, Highlands Co.
Sally Claire, SCW, Highlands Co.
Barry Jolette, Chair, Charlotte Co.
Toby Overdorf, Chair, Martin Co.
Karyn Morton, Chair, Duval Co.
Paul Deering, SCM, Volusia Co.
Stacey Hetherington, SCW, Martin Co.
George Gasparini, Chair, Citrus Co.
Bob Sutton, Chair, Broward Co.
Randy Evans, Chair, Pasco Co.
John Allocco, Chair, Hernando Co.
J.C. Martin, Chair, Polk Co.
Bob Bezick, Chair, Madison Co.
James Campo, SCM, Martin Co.
Chris Norton, SCW, Baker Co.
Marina Woolcock, SCW, Sumter Co.
Joanne Updegrave, Chair, Flagler Co.
Chris Summerlin, SCW, Suwanee Co.

“Each grassroots endorsement is special to me, and your friendship and support mean more than you would ever know,” said Ingoglia. “I look forward to continuing our discussion on our shared goals as we prepare for another successful election in 2018.”

Ingoglia was elected chairman in 2015, after Republican activists rejected Gov. Rick Scott’s hand-picked chairman. He previously served as the vice chairman on the state party.

Ingoglia will face Christian Ziegler, a Sarasota Republican committeeman, in the race to serve as the RPOF chair.

Ziegler, 33, announced his candidacy in November.


Alan Grayson: Florida Democrats need someone with a message

Imagine a populist Democrat who not only bucks the party but has to battle against it, funded only by small donations and passionate followers lured to a message about what’s in it for THEM.

Bernie Sanders? Alan Grayson? The party’s only hope in Florida if it wants to elect someone statewide, other than Bill Nelson? Or just another dreamer who mistakes popularity for electability, and goes down in flames in a party primary? Or Donald Trump, had he been a Democrat this time?

Grayson is wrapping up his third and, for now, final term as a Democratic congressman from Orlando, a never apologetic liberal lion with perhaps as much name recognition in California and New York as he does in Florida.

While looking ahead to his announced plans to run a legal or Florida constitutional amendment campaign to restore civil rights for felons, Grayson also  reflected on his own accomplishments, his collapsed campaign for the U.S. Senate, and his opinions for what it would take for the Florida Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee,and other Democratic establishments to win.

Grayson got crushed in the Aug. 30 primary, losing to U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy by more than 40 points,. That was just a few weeks after many polls had the race fairly tight and an occasional survey even found Grayson ahead.

A lot contributed to Grayson’s pummeling, including renewed, ugly reports about his personal life, and his stubborn refusal to ever acknowledge that either his personal or business controversies were anybody’s damned business, or that he ought to address them. But so, too, did a late advertising blitz by Murphy and by various Democratic groups in support of Murphy or nasty opposition of Grayson, which the small-donors-only Grayson campaign couldn’t dream of matching.

Yet the lesson Grayson seemed to take from it was the one he’d expressed all along, that the Democratic Party wanted to back a safe, moderate, mainstream and, if possible, self-funded, candidate; and that such a candidate would surely lose big in Florida’s general election, like almost all the similar safe, moderate, mainstream, self-funded candidates the party had backed for a couple of decades. And Murphy did.

And so once again Grayson is calling, really wishing, for a new approach.

“Unless there is substantial structural change, the Blue Dogs will continue to make the argument that a populist Democrat, or for that matter a progressive Democrat, which is not exactly the same thing, has no chance of winning – because that’s the way they continue to dominate the statewide machinery,” Grayson said. “Even though they’ve been proved wrong in every single race except for Alex Sink’s race for CFO, every single race for a quarter century.”

Grayson said the party needs to stop relying on identity coaltion-building politics – black, Hispanic, gay etc. – and focus clearly on basic issues people can believe will improve their lives, and which can be delivered. In the senate campaign, his was “seniors deserve a raise,” which referred to his plans to expand Social Security and Medicare. Trump and Gov. Rick Scott won populist campaigns on bringing back jobs.

“There are populist issues that would actually bring the whole state together and galvanize the groups that we did extremely poorly with in the national election, for instance high school dropouts, where the Democratic Party got wiped out,” Grayson said. “The polls showed Bernie did 40 points better than Clinton with high school dropouts. 40.”

A populist campaign, he argued, that focuses on those issues as Sanders did, while paying little attention to issues that have only regional support in Florida, could win.

“There are a number of issues that play just as well in the Panhandle as they would play in South Florida and the polls show it. For instance, increasing the minimum wage. There’s basically majority support all around the state except for Fort Myers,” Grayson said. “There are certain issues, actually, that you do see regional differences like for instance gun control, like abortion, and not the way you might think. Abortion is not that popular in South Florida.”

He also railed against what he called “the commentariate and the political industrial complex” for writing off attempts to appeal to certain segments of voters, like much of the working class, because they don’t vote. This year they voted, for Trump.

“I think if the Democratic party stopped ignoring them, they might vote,” he said.

New Florida Chamber poll finds jobs remain top concern for Florida voters

The No. 1 issue facing Florida continues to be jobs, according to a new Florida Chamber of Commerce survey.

The Florida Chamber Political Institute released a new statewide survey Monday aimed at “checking the political pulse of Floridians on how they feel about elected officials as well as the issue impacting them.”

Jobs and the economy remain a big issue for Floridians, with 19 percent of respondents saying it was a top concern. The survey found 10 percent of Floridians said healthcare and the Affordable Care Act were a top concern, while 9 percent said education was a big issue facing Florida.

About 20 percent of men said jobs and the economy were the most important issue, compared to 17 percent of women polled. Ten percent of men said education was important, compared to 9 percent of women. About 11 percent of women said healthcare was a top issue, compared to 8 percent of men.

Floridians continue to be concerned about global warming and immigration, with 8 percent choosing global warming. Seven percent picked immigration, according to an analysis by Marian Johnson, the executive director of the Florida Chamber Political Institute.

More than half (52 percent) of Floridians said they believe the state is heading in the right direction, while 27 percent believe things are heading in the wrong direction.

“Voters are more optimistic than they have been,” wrote Johnson. “In fact, for the first time since the Great Recession began in 2007, the Florida Chamber Political Institute poll shows more than 50 percent of Floridians are more optimistic about Florida’s direction.”

And that appears to bode well for Gov. Rick Scott. According to the Chamber analysis, Scott’s favorability ratings “are more positive than negative as voters have a positive outlook on the state.” The survey found 44 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of Scott, compared to 42 percent that have an unfavorable opinion.

“Governor Scott, throughout his term as Governor, has mostly been seen as doing a good job even if voters sometimes do not have a favorable opinion of him,” wrote Johnson. “In the Florida Chamber’s eighth statewide poll of 2016, Governor Scott’s job approval numbers continue to grow.”

The survey showed 53 percent of Florida voters approve of the job Scott is doing as governor, compared to 40 percent who disapprove.

Donald Trump wins all votes of Florida’s Electoral College

As expected, Florida’s 29 Republican members of the Electoral College on Monday cast their vote for Donald Trump for president and Mike Pence for vice president.

The electors are among Florida’s most loyal Republicans. They were chosen by the state GOP and approved by Gov. Rick Scott.

The votes were cast as dozens of protesters hollered and chanted against Trump in the Capitol rotunda.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who was appointed by Scott, presided over the highly-scripted and generally uneventful meeting.

One bit of tension came when elector and state Rep. Ray Rodrigues, the House Republican Leader, missed the roll-call vote. He was back in the chamber within minutes, however.

“You’re buying us dinner,” Detzner joked.

Elector and Senate President Joe Negron led the pledge of allegiance before members got down to the quick work of filling out separate and distinct ballots” for president and vice president.

Each elector then signed copies of the official “certificate of vote” and had a group photo taken.

State Rep. and Republican Party of Florida chair Blaise Ingoglia apologized to electors for any “intrusion on your family time.”

The electors had been deluged with emails, letters and phone calls from people hoping to convince electors not to cast their vote for Trump, but their pleas didn’t sway them.

Elector Nick DiCeglie, the Pinellas County GOP chair, Sunday said he received “thousands of letters, thousands of emails” asking him to reconsider. He showed reporters a picture of his home postbox filled with mail on Thursday.

Ingoglia mentioned the “awesome responsilbility we have as electors,” and added he hoped his colleague would look back and say, “We were part of history.”

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

Rick Scott wants it both ways: cut taxes, fund services. Can it be done?

Last April, in a news release by his office after signing HB-7099, Gov. Rick Scott bragged, “Over the past two years, Florida has cut more than $1 billion in taxes.”

What a happy day that must have been for the governor.

He has never met a tax he wouldn’t cut or gut, and that bill was a continuation of the theme. It included the permanent elimination of the sales tax on manufacturing machinery and a three-day sales tax holiday for back-to-school stuff.

Scott wants to keep cutting taxes, too.

It stands to reason, though, when there is less money coming in something has to lose. We got a hint of that right here in a story last week on FloridaPolitics.com. It included a quote from state budget chair Jack Latvala about what could be a hotly contested fight for dollars when the Legislature gets together next year.

“To do any increases, we’re going to have to find areas to cut. That’s a certainty,” Latvala said. “Just my luck to be chairman in a year like that.”

But where can the hunt to “find areas to cut” lead when the governor and House Speaker Richard Corcoran want to keep chopping taxes, while Senate President Joe Negron wants to increase funding for higher education?

The Florida Policy Institute reported that more about 70 percent of Florida’s $82.2 billion budget for 2016-17 was allocated to education (29 percent) and “human services” (41 percent). Nearly 18 percent went to natural resources, growth management and transportation.

FPI also noted that despite spending increases in that budget for service areas, “they fail to fund state services at a level that keeps pace with population growth and inflation, and do not improve Florida’s national standing in the provision of these services.”

More ominously, projections are for the state to face a $1.3 billion deficit a year from now, ballooning to $1.9 billion the year after that. Since Republicans control the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the Legislature, they can’t blame Democrats for fiscal irresponsibility. That leaves them with two choices: spend less, or bring in more.

It’s the acid test of the Republican (and Libertarian) ideal that growth comes through lower taxes. It’s the mantra they’ve preached for decades. We see it playing out now in Washington with the corporate tax cuts president-elect Donald Trump has planned.

Lower corporate taxes, they argue, will lead to job creation and expansion. Workers with a healthy regular paycheck will buy more things and that will sustain the government.

Well, that might be sort of true – provided government goes on a diet. That sounds fine in theory. In application, though, it gets trickier.

You also have to look at the complete picture. To coax businesses from other states to move here, Scott has touted Florida’s reputation as a low-tax state. Florida is one of just seven states without a state income tax, for instance.

Wallethub.com also sized up the bevy of state and local taxes and concluded Florida’s bite on median-income residents this year will be $4,868 – 10th lowest in the nation. That’s nearly 16 percent under the national average.

Scott probably wouldn’t be satisfied until Florida is No. 1. He seems driven to prove this state really can have it both ways – cutting taxes, cutting spending while keeping services and education adequately funded for a rapidly growing state.

Logic says that can’t be done. Latvala’s challenge is to prove it can be.

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