Though many of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students who achieved prominence after a mass murder at their Parkland school have become activists for gun control, valedictorian Kyle Kashuv is a notable exception.
Kashuv, in the months since the massacre, has become a voice for the other side — those who see gun control measures as abrogations of the Second Amendment. He famously advocated for the STOP School Violence Act.
Friday saw Kashuv offer his first major political endorsement, one trumpeted by the Ron DeSantiscampaign for Governor.
“The great @RonDeSantisFL@RepDeSantis is running for Florida governor; we NEED to make sure he WINS. As we’ve seen, we need to DRAIN the FLORIDA SWAMP and there’s no one better to do it than Rep. DeSantis. He’s got my family’s vote and I hope he’ll get yours,” Kashuv wrote, closing with an emphatic “Vote DeSantis!”
The media release from the DeSantis campaign notes that it was contemporaneous to the Publix “die-in” that many of his MSD peers participated in today.
Kashuv has yet to elaborate on the specific aspects of the Florida swamp that he’d like to see drained.
Receiving the bulk of those funds was Smart Media Group. The Virginia-based company took in just under $2.8 million for three media buys — $872,000 on May 4, $1 million on May 10 and $925,000 on May 17. That last check was likely drafted to run Putnam’s newest campaign ad, which touts his plan to invest in vocational education and slams so-called “liberal elites” for their perceived lack of respect for trade workers.
The other $425,000 or so in spending included about $160,000 in payments to Chicago-based i360 for database services as well as a $150,000 contribution to the Republican Party of Florida, alongside numerous smaller expenditures.
When it comes to money received, Disney is so far the top donor in May. The House of Mouse gave the Polk County pol nearly $70,000 through a pair of its subsidiaries — $50,000 via Disney Worldwide Services and $19,794 via Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.
Florida Grown also received $25,000 checks from NBCUniversal, Georgia businessman Wayne Pearson, Lakeland retiree Mark Clayton Hollis Jr. and Building On Your Dreams, a political committee connected to Bradenton Republican Rep. Jim Boyd.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran put some cash on the table, too. His political committee, Watchdog PAC, cut the second-term Agriculture Commissioner a check for $20,000 last week.
Watchdog PAC was Corcoran’s main fundraising vehicle for what most onlookers though would be a gubernatorial — or even Attorney General — campaign in the fall. He ended speculation about his political future a couple weeks ago when he announced he would not make a statewide run and would instead back Putnam over U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in the Republican Primary for Governor.
The contribution came in on May 17, about a week after the endorsement.
Following Corcoran’s contrib on the ledger were trio of $10,000 checks, one each from TKM Farms, Saunders Real Estate and former TECO Energy CEO John B. Ramil.
The most noteworthy donor under the five-figure mark was Tallahassee lobbying firm Johnson & Blanton, which received $1.25 million in compensation during the first quarter. That includes $425,000 for its work lobbying the Governor and Cabinet, including Putnam.
As of April 30, Putnam’s committee had raised $23.43 million and had about $15.3 million banked. The 43-year-old Republican has also amassed nearly $5.5 million for his campaign account, with $3.6 million on hand. DeSantis’ April finance reports showed total fundraising of $7.8 million and a little over $7 million banked.
Finance reports covering all of May are due to the state on June 11.
We’ve reached the point in the primary cycle where, by now, campaign groundwork and infrastructure should be well underway.
Bold is offering evidence of that proposition.
Smart candidates are bringing out the big endorsements, and less seasoned candidates making career-killing gaffes.
The operatives are talking. If our Jacksonville correspondent isn’t typing, odds are good he is fielding a call from one or another.
Sometimes, what they say may even be true.
For those who have been reading Florida Politics in the Jacksonville market since 2014, what’s clear is that we much of the work — explaining why someone is winning (or losing).
Moments have predictive value. Trends emerge from specific phenomena. And the savvy players, whether donors, consultants, pols or endorsers are making rational transactional decisions.
Some like to sentimentalize politics. But they are soon disappointed when it is revealed (yet again) that the business is a discipline — and well-organized people, and operations, tend to do the best business.
Scott trumpets yet another record low crime rate
Tuesday morning, Gov. Rick Scott was in Jacksonville with what his office called a “major announcement” on “Florida’s safe communities” and the 2017 FDLE Crime Report.
Crime rates have decreased during the Scott era (from a 40 year low to a 46 year low and now, a 47 year low), and his trumpeting of the statistical decreases have become a yearly tradition, which allows the outgoing Governor and current Senate candidate to spotlight budget allocations for public safety measures.
“This year, our budget invested more than $5.2 billion in public safety, a more than $300 million increase over last year,” Scott said. “This investment includes $22.8 million to pay increases for state sworn law enforcement officers, which includes the 5 percent raise I signed last year.”
Scott also trumpeted a 10 percent raise for juvenile probation officers and increased funding for prevention programs for at-risk youth.
“As our economy continues to grow,” Scott said, “we continue to invest more money in law enforcement. These investments are clearly working. Crime in our state is at a 47-year low.”
“The crime rate dropped by 6 percent in 2017, including a reduction in violent crime of 3 percent,” Scott said.
Scott spotlighted several officers who died since mid-April, including Officer Lance Whitaker of Jacksonville, asking for a moment of silence in commemoration.
Scott was accompanied by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams, who spotlighted local efforts, including hiring more police officers and a 36 percent decrease in nonfatal shootings in Q1 2018.
Graham returns to Jacksonville
Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Gwen Graham found herself on familiar turf Monday evening, addressing the monthly meeting of the Duval Democratic Party.
In Jacksonville, Graham — once seen as a prohibitive front-runner for the nomination — made at least one “comeback kid” posture, noting that in her 2014 race for Congress, some political reporters bet against her and others said she couldn’t win.
Graham also noted her commitment to progressive ideals in the remarks, including education, public option for health care, and gun control measures, before saying that “these things don’t matter if you can’t win.”
Graham espoused a commitment to the “67 county strategy,” a phrase also used by opponent Philip Levine. While a candidate has to do well in South Florida and the I-4 Corridor, “elections are won or lost north of Orlando.”
And Graham insisted that went beyond just Jacksonville, noting that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton “did well in Duval but got beaten badly west of here,” by way of making the case that the key is to “not get beaten so badly in places where Democrats have lost in the past.”
“Look at the data, and you will see: the reality is you have to do well everywhere,” Graham added. “You can’t write off any part of the state and think there’s a path to victory.”
Curry backs Waltz in CD 6
A major regional endorsement from Mayor Curry went to Mike Waltz Mondayin the three-way GOP primary in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.
Curry and Waltz share some of the same political advisers; judging from the quotes of mutual admiration, there is ideological affinity as well.
“Michael Waltz is a leader and a warrior with a servant’s heart,” Curry said.
“From the battlefield to the halls of power, Mike has already demonstrated a deep reverence for the Constitution and a willingness to fight for the conservative values we share. Washington needs people who instead of saying what they want to do will simply get things done. Florida needs more conservative voices in Congress, and that’s why I am proud to endorse and support Michael Waltz for Congress,” Curry asserted.
“Mayor Lenny Curry is a true leader, visionary and champion for real conservative reform,” said Michael Waltz. “He has worked tirelessly to enact a positive conservative agenda with real results for the people of Northeast Florida. I am humbled by Mayor Curry’s support and look forward to working together in the months ahead.”
The GOP race in CD-6, where candidates vie to replace outgoing Rep. Ron DeSantis, has been an interesting one, with Waltz and John Ward both raising serious money for what will be an expensive primary straddling three media markets (Jacksonville, Daytona and Orlando).
Ward: Puerto Ricans shouldn’t vote here
John Ward, a Republican running to succeedDeSantis in CD 6, looks to have made the biggest gaffe of his political career recently.
According to Fox News, Ward asserted that displaced Puerto Ricans shouldn’t be allowed to vote in Florida.
“I don’t think they should be allowed to register to vote,” Ward said, given that “the Democrat Party is really hoping that they can change the voting registers in a lot of counties and districts, and I don’t think they should be allowed to do that,” Ward said at an April forum.
Instead, Ward added that Puerto Ricans “belong” in Puerto Rico.
Per the Orlando Sentinel, likely Democratic nominee Nancy Soderberg blasted the comments:
“Puerto Ricans are citizens of the United States, plain and simple, and every bit as American as John Ward,” Soderberg said in a statement. “Every American citizen, regardless of where they come from, deserve a vote.”
DeSantis — who took issue with Ward filing for the seat before he was officially running for Governor — blasted his would-be replacement via POLITICO, saying the comments were “beyond the pale.”
Gibson investigates ‘problem spa’
Per Action News Jax, Sen. Audrey Gibson investigated a “problem spa” on Jacksonville’s Southside late last week.
When she walked up to the building, Gibson’s reaction: “Who the hell would want to come here for a massage? It’s seedy!”
Gibson and reporter Tenikka Hughes had an interesting dialogue with spa staff, which we include below.
Gibson: “Do you know there’s been illegal activity at this place? Did you know about that?”
Worker: “I don’t know.”
Hughes: “You see, it says sweet, young Asian girls. None of these girls work here?”
Worker: “No, no, no.”
Hughes: “Did you know it was being advertised like this?”
Worker: “I don’t know. That’s the first time I saw.”
Gibson: “Can we come in and see your massage rooms?”
Doubts of Gibson permeate Senate Dem caucus
Two new political committees speak to doubts about the way forward for Senate Democrats, for which Sen. Gibson is Leader-Designate.
This is the “latest, most indelible sign of a growing rift within the caucus and yet the divide may be improving the minority party’s chances of retaking the chamber.”
“In late April, Friends of Kevin Rader PC was established by David Ramba, a prominent Tallahassee lobbyist who administers dozens of political committees on behalf of a broad range of political clients. Also recently formed was Future Democratic Majority PC and, in addition to Rader, involves Sens. Randolph Bracy, Lauren Book from Plantation, Linda Stewart from Orlando, Bobby Powell from West Palm Beach, and Darryl Rouson from St. Petersburg.”
Per one consultant: “It’s about a crisis of confidence in Audrey (Gibson) and a fear of what the caucus might become if Gary Farmer is eventually given the reins.”
Gibson faces a primary challenge from Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown. What’s clear, however, is that the issues around the state are at least worthy of monitoring for the incumbent.
Event chairs included Marty Fiorentino, former Congressional candidate Hans Tanzler (endorsed by Hutson in 2016), JEA Board member Husein Cumber, Jaguars’ lobbyist and all-around problem solver Paul Harden, and bestbet’s Jamie Shelton.
Among the standout names on the host committee: charter school impresario Gary Chartrand and the Jax Chamber mainstay Daniel Davis.
A similar group of players came together last year for a fundraiser in support of future House Speaker Paul Renner, whose political committee had a $261,000 month because of it.
Hutson is pursuing the Senate presidency in 2022, and fundraisers like this for his political committees will fuel the work to secure support for his bid.
The committee brought in $155,000 in April, with much of that money coming from other committees.
Firefighters back Polson in HD 15
Democrat Tracye Polson is still waiting to find out which of three Republicans will emerge from the August primary to face her in the House District 15 race.
But she doesn’t have to wait any longer for the endorsement of one of Jacksonville’s most influential public-sector unions.
The Jacksonville Association of Firefighters gave its imprimatur to Polson, meaning that no matter what happens in the GOP battle, she can count on union backing.
“I am humbled to have earned the support of the men and women of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters. This endorsement is particularly meaningful to me. As a licensed mental health professional, I’ve spent many years treating victims of trauma and I know the critical impact first responders have when they arrive on the scene of fire and medical emergencies. District 15 continues to battle the opioid epidemic, having two ZIP codes with the highest rate of overdoses in the city,” said Polson.
“Furthermore, because of the stressors first responders are exposed to every day, they have increased rates of PTSD and suicide. And this impacts their loved ones and our entire community, too. I will be a staunch advocate for them and their families,” Polson added.
The local Fraternal Order of Police had previously endorsed Polson, giving her a public safety sweep.
Bowman, Wilson take Jacksonville City Council helm
The top job starting July 1 in the Jacksonville City Council will go to current Vice President Aaron Bowman, elected President-Designate Tuesday.
There was little surprise: Weeks prior, Bowman had 13 of the 19 councilors pledging support.
Bowman, a VP for the Jacksonville Chamber‘s business recruitment wing JAXUSA Partnership, will represent a break from the chaotic, parlous dynamic between current President Anna Lopez Brosche and Mayor Curry.
Republican Scott Wilson took the VP spot — notable because he entered Tuesday with no pledges and overcame intense lobbying from the head of the Republican Party of Duval County for his opponent, Danny Becton.
Earlier this month, the city filed suit against Councilwoman Katrina Brown, a first-term Democratic member of the Council’s Finance Committee, for breach of guaranty, relative to a defaulted loan of $380,000 to the Browns’ family business, CoWealth LLC. [COJ v Katrina Brown]
CoWealth defaulted on the loan after Jan. 1, 2017, per the filing, which noted that the city is owed over $346,000 in principal, in addition to interest, late charges and so forth.
The city has retained Burr and Forman LLP to represent its interests.
To recap, the city fronted CoWealth $380,000 of loans from the city of Jacksonville and $220,000 of grants in 2011 to build a BBQ sauce plant in Northwest Jacksonville. The grant money was conditional on the company creating 56 permanent jobs, but none were created.
The city won a default judgment against the businesses, but that was effectively worthless. Brown’s parents, including her mother who ran the businesses, filed for bankruptcy months ago.
This news is ill-timed for Councilwoman Brown, who has drawn no fewer than seven challengers for her District 8 seat.
Jacksonville’s latest Inspector General, James Hoffman, took all of six sentences in a terse resignation letter late Friday to end his twelve-month tenure.
Hoffman is the second permanent inspector general to leave the role in recent years, and the second one to last a year or less.
“I would like to thank you for the trust placed in me to lead the Office of Inspector General. The last 12 months have been personally and professionally rewarding. I have enjoyed learning and working in the consolidated government. I have been inspired by the professionals within the Office working tirelessly every day to make our government more effective and efficient. However, for personal and professional reasons, I resign as the Inspector General for the City of Jacksonville,” Hoffman wrote.
The resignation will be effective June 8.
Back in 2016, Thomas Cline left the position, after less than a year. Steve Rohan, a former city lawyer, also served on an interim basis in between the two permanent hires.
Jacksonville City Council members, including the president of the body and the body’s chief advocate for an IG position, didn’t see the departure coming.
Land Trust honored for fort preservation
The North Florida Land Trust was recognized recently with the 2018 Florida Preservation Organizational Achievement award for the work they did to acquire and preserve the 1898 Spanish-American War Fort.
The property had been purchased at a tax deed sale, and the buyer had considered demolition. However, a combination of $162,500 in city funds, a $100,000 donation from the Delores Barr Weaver fund, and other support combined to meet the $400,000 purchase price.
Per a media release: “NFLT was chosen for the Florida Trust’s Preservation Award in the organizational achievement category for the capital campaign they led to preserve the 1898 Spanish-American War Fort. NFLT partnered with the National Park Service in 2015 to serve as the acquisition and fundraising partner to save the fort. They negotiated with the landowner who had acquired the property at a tax deed sale and had planned to destroy the fort to build a house. The staff then set out on a yearlong capital campaign to raise the money needed to purchase the property and save the fort.”
“This is an example of what a community can achieve when we work together to save an important part of our state’s history,” said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT. “When we took this on in 2015, it was the largest capital campaign our organization had ever undertaken in its 16-year history. Our then small staff of six worked very hard to achieve our goal to save the fort. With help from the City of Jacksonville, the Delores Barr Weaver Fund and many in the community who contributed to the campaign, we were able to raise the money needed to purchase this property and save a piece of Jacksonville history.”
The National Park Service will be the ultimate custodians of the fort.
Tim Nolan takes helm of TOTE
Per media release: Tim Nolan has been named the next President and CEO of TOTE Inc., the parent company to TOTE Maritime and TOTE Services.
“I am honored and excited to step into this new leadership role with TOTE,” commented Nolan. “The TOTE team is an exemplary group of people and I am confident that together we will make this a successful transition. I look forward to working closely with customers, vendors and key stakeholders as well as all of the TOTE companies.”
TOTE’s corporate headquarters is moving to Jacksonville, where both TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico and TOTE Services are currently based.
Nolan will key in on selecting his replacement in his previous role: the next president for TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico.
WJCT reports that Jacksonville’s decision to sell “Iva,” a painting by Joan Mitchell that had not been displayed in a decade, will mean big profits for city coffers.
“Leaders in the arts community now have $2.8 million in their pockets, thanks to the auction seller’s fees being waived by Christie’s grant of a 104 percent return.”
The money will be split 50/50 by the city and its Museum of Contemporary Art.
The city’s share will go toward its Arts in Public Places program, which has $700,000 in unmet maintenance needs.
Black Creek land deals cut
The state has acquired the land needed for a project to pump water out of Black Creek and into aquifers at Keystone Heights, reports the Florida Times-Union.
“The project calls for using Black Creek — which floods frequently — as an alternative water supply to meet the region’s future water needs by helping replenish the Floridan aquifer, the state’s main water source. It is the first attempt in Northeast Florida to use water from a creek or river to recharge the aquifer.”
There are critics, including HD 19 Democratic candidate Paul Still.
Still got in the race against incumbent Bobby Payne in part because of the “Black Creek boondoggle,” and he still is unmollified.
“It should be clear that the wetlands associated with Black Creek at Penney Farms require frequent high creek levels to keep them functioning and that withdrawing water at the proposed rate for the Black Creek Project would harm those wetlands,” said Still.
Chambers wins eco dev award
Via a news release from the Jax Chamber: “Cathy Chambers, JAXUSA Partnership senior vice president of strategy and business development, was honored with the prestigious Eunice Sullivan Economic Development Professional of the Year Award at the 2018 Florida Economic Development Council (FEDC) Annual Conference on Tuesday.”
“The FEDC recognized Chambers as a leader of business development success and advocacy for the profession, the region and women in the field,” the release continues. “During her tenure at JAXUSA Partnership, Chambers spearheaded efforts to attract more than 10,000 jobs and capital investment to the Northeast Florida region, including significant projects such as Deutsche Bank, Macquarie, Citibank, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Web.com, PNC Mortgage and EverBank, among others.”
“Cathy is a highly respected voice for economic development in the Northeast Florida region and the state,” said Jerry Mallot, president of JAXUSA Partnership and 1997 recipient of the Eunice Sullivan Award. “Many business decision-makers and site consultants have recounted that they are drawn to the region because of Cathy’s professionalism, credibility and knowledge. She consistently impresses our clients resulting in their investment in the region which is good, not only for them but also for our community.”
Jags’ Ramsey makes plans for fatherhood; trolls Bills’ QB
With Father’s Day just three weeks away, Jaguars’ cornerback Jalen Ramsey is looking forward to his first. He is already making plans for the future when it comes to the young Ramsey.
Whether he becomes the father of a boy or girl, he would like for the child to follow in the footsteps of his or her parents. He sees a potential track star in the 2030s.
Both Ramsey and his girlfriend both ran track in high school back in Tennessee. The former FSU All-American was also a track star in Tallahassee.
“Hopefully he or she will be a little track star,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ramsey is getting ready for training camp by doing something else he does well. One of the league’s best shutdown corners is also one of the league’s most prolific agitators.
The target this time was Buffalo Bills’ rookie quarterback Josh Allen. When the Bills spoke of the impending first pass of Allen’s career during a rookie workout, Ramsey retweeted “that’s a pick waiting to happen.”
Ramsey later deleted the post, but Allen was asked about it later.
Allen said Ramsey’s barb did not bother him at all. “That’s one of the best corners in the league,” he said.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham has hired Monica Rodrigues to be her campaign’s political director and also added , Ed Rodriguez, and Jenny Busby to head the policy, and operations teams, Graham’s campaign announced Thursday.
Rodrigues, of Miami Beach, previously served as the communication director and development director for Enroll America, helping with the enrollment of 1.9 million Floridians in Obamacare.
A former Navy corpsman and Iraq War veteran, Rodriguez joins the campaign’s deputy policy director. He has previously worked for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America as a legislative associate in the organization’s Washington, D.C. policy team, and also has experiences as a legislative staffer in the U.S. Senate and as a political consultant for Solidarity Strategies.
Busby joins as the operations director. She previously worked as a staffer to U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, and also has worked for the Democratic Party and state Sen. Nan Rich.
“Monica, Ed, and Jenny are all motivated, dedicated young Floridians who joined our team because they care about our state and making the future brighter for their generation,” Graham stated in a news release. “With their help, we’re going to continue talking with more Floridians across the state about restoring our public schools, protecting our environment, and creating an economy that works for everyone.”
Graham, a former congresswoman from Tallahassee, faces businessman Chris King, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine in the August 28 Democratic Primary. The leading Republicans are U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
Florida Democrats want Northeast Florida U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis to come clean about the contact he had with former RNC deputy finance chair and major gubernatorial campaign backer Elliott Broidy relating to Qatar.
The Florida Democratic Party is pointing to a Monday report from The Associated Press about Broidy lobbying in favor of anti-Qatar policies in Washington in order to ingratiate himself with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and possibly nail down up to $1 billion in business deals.
“New reports have raised the chilling prospect that Ron DeSantis’ outspoken opposition to Qatar was part of a quid-pro-quo with one of his leading donors, Elliott Broidy. DeSantis should immediately disclose whether he had any conversations with Broidy about U.S. policy towards Qatar. Floridians deserve a governor who will stand up for them — not someone who is controlled by DC lobbyists and foreign governments,” said FDP spokesperson Kevin Donohoe.
FDP then openly questions whether DeSantis’ hardline stance on Qatar may have been due to direct lobbying from Broidy, who is also a member of DeSantis’ national finance team.
“AP reports that Broidy worked to influence at least one member of Congress: Congressman Ed Royce of California. But did Broidy also lobby Ron DeSantis?” the FDP email asks.
The party pointed to DeSantis’ statements on the Qatari government over the past six months, including his demand that the Treasury Department crack down on terrorist financiers in Qatar and signing on to a letter criticizing UN Ambassador NikkiHaley for not saying that Qatar funds Hamas.
The party also mentioned Broidy’s resignation from the RNC finance committee after a Wall Street Journal report indicated President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid $1.6 million to a Playboy model to keep her quiet about an affair with Broidy.
DeSantis is one of two major Republicans running for Governor in 2018. He faces Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the Republican Primary.
Contending that there are statutory problems with the federally authorized bonds All Aboard Florida intends to use to finance its Orlando Brightline train expansion, U.S. Reps. Brian Mast, Bill Posey, Ron DeSantis and Matt Gaetz are urging the federal government to suspend the authorization.
At issue is $1.15 billion worth of private activity bonds that the U.S. Department of Transportation signed off on, allowing All Aboard Florida to get tax exemption status to lower interest rates on bonds it wants to issue for construction of the West Palm Beach to Orlando phase for the company’s private, higher-speed Brightline passenger train line.
North Carolina Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on Government Operations, wrote and sent a letter last week to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, with the four Florida Republican congressmen signing on.
The letter includes an assertion that the department’s approval of the bonds for All Aboard Florida “amounts to blank-check authority.” The letter also includes an apparent veiled threat from Meadows, the powerful chairman of the House Freedom Caucus: “Please consider carefully the damage to the future of PABs that results from continuing this allocation.”
Mast, of Palm City, and Posey, of Rockledge represent areas that the train would be passing through and have been adamant opponents of it. They spoke April 19 at a hearing on the bonds before the House Government Operations subcommittee. DeSantis, of Ponte Vedra Beach, is a member of that subcommittee and a Republican candidate for governor. Gaetz, of Fort Walton Beach is, like Meadows and DeSantis, a close ally of President Donald Trump.
Brightline wants to upgrade the tracks from West Palm Beach to Cocoa and build new tracks from Cocoa to the Orlando International Airport, and start higher-speed train service, running up to 110 mph between West Palm Beach and Cocoa, and up to 120 mph between Cocoa and Orlando, by the early 2020s.
Brightline has contended throughout that it has followed all federal rules and received the approval through appropriate processes, and that courts which reviewed the financing have agreed.
In the April 19 subcommittee hearing, Meadows, Mast and Posey raised questions about whether All Aboard Florida and the Brightline train should have qualified for the private activity bonds program, while federal transportation and company officials assured that it did and explained why it was approved. The trio of congressmen and a couple of others on the committee challenged the departments’ interpretations of rules and laws behind the program, charging that those interpretations appeared to them to be in conflict with what Congress had intended.
“Given the ongoing review by the Subcommittee on Government Operations, and given the number of yet-to-be answered questions relating to this issue, we the undersigned Members of Congress respectfully urge you to use your authority to suspend the allocation of the AAF PABs until the hearing record is complete and the Subcommittee has reviewed the addition information it expects to receive,” Meadows letter to Chao states.
“Failing to do so compromises the integrity of the entire PAB program, and we cannot support what amounts to blank-check authority for this program,” the letter continues. “Please consider carefully the damage to the future of PABs that results from continuing this allocation.”
If there is one thing fueling Ron DeSantis’ ambition to be Florida governor, it is this: A full-throated endorsement (on Twitter, at least) from President Donald Trump.
But when Congressman Matt Gaetztakes to Breitbart to say “Trump knows he can trust DeSantis to make tough decisions,” it seems as if DeSantis also has the president’s back.
That has not always been the case
For DeSantis tosuggest he has always been a strong Trump supporter involves some revisionist history.
Looking back over the past few years, it’s clear DeSantis began bolstering the president only when it became politically expedient.
For example, as Tampa Bay Times’ Adam Smith noted in Sept. 2015, DeSantis sounded as if he favored Marco Rubio over Trump: “DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach tells The Buzz he is staying out of it, but in a recent 20-minute conversation he mentioned Rubio at least three times. When we suggested that he sounded like a Rubio guy, DeSantis acknowledged he likes the idea of Rubio facing Hillary Clinton: ‘He would be a good contrast, There’s no doubt about it.’”
A few months later, DeSantis was again hesitant to weigh in on Trump.
“No response so far to multiple requests for comment,” Smith wrote about asking DeSantis his feelings on then-candidate Trump’s call for a Muslim ban.
And during the Republican presidential primaries, DeSantis was still not a fan, telling “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren” Feb. 25, 2016, that he was NOT endorsing Trump.
“Sir, you haven’t endorsed anyone?” host Van Susteren asked. “No.”
DeSantis campaign spokesman Brad Herold later clarified to the Times: “DeSantis has long decided to remain neutral in the presidential primary and is focused on building a broad coalition for his Senate campaign.’”
In other words, he was not a Trump devotee at the time.
Soon afterward (March 14), the National Journal reported on DeSantis’ response to being asked point-blank if he would support Trump as the Republican nominee.
Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera said: “I don’t think I could.” DeSantis, on the other hand, “refused to answer the question altogether, saying, ‘I just don’t want to. … You can either run your own race, or you can make comments about other races.’”
By May, instead of full-fledged support, DeSantis only offered a tepid approval, mainly because Trump was “the Republican nominee.”
Again, the Miami Herald noted the congressman’s long-standing reluctance: “… DeSantis plans to vote for Trump. ‘The congressman has been clear that he will support the Republican nominee,’ campaign manager Brad Herold said. As recently as March, DeSantis would not endorse.”
While an actual endorsement wasn’t forthcoming, DeSantis’ real intent was a little clearer.
On May 6, Mark Harper of the Daytona Beach News-Journal wrote: “…While the GOP is not rallying in full support of Trump-for-president, it’s more unified in a sentiment stuck to [suntan lotion magnate Ron] Rice’s door: STOP HILLARY. That’s how a statement from U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis reads. ‘Electing Hillary Clinton will continue America’s journey down the wrong track.’”
At that point, DeSantis’ only mention of Trump was anything but a ringing endorsement. In fact, it seemed more like resignation: “It is now clear that Donald Trump will accumulate the delegates necessary to be nominated by the Republican Party. If we want to defeat Hillary Clinton and have a chance to change the trajectory of our country, we need to unite behind the Republican ticket this November.”
On Monday, Matt Dixon noted the largest donation to DeSantis’ political committee in April came from Andy Khawaja, a major Democratic donor. Khawaja, a California payment processing executive and founder of Allied Wallet, gave the committee $100,000. His affiliated company, E-Payment Solutions, Inc., gave another $100,000 to DeSantis’ committee in February.
“This election cycle, he and his company have already given $1 million to Senate Majority PAC, which supports Democratic U.S. Senate candidates, including Sen. Bill Nelson,” Dixon writes. “The super PAC is funding $2 million in ads supporting Nelson, calling him ‘one of America’s most independent Senators.’”
In 2016, Khawaja and his company gave nearly $6.5 million to Democrats, including more than $1 million to Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Revisionist history – and $200K Democratic backing – is not a good look for DeSantis, a candidate who claims to proudly carry the conservative banner, as well as Trump’s support.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine has added two more area directors to his campaign with the additions of Megan Sirjane-Samples as north Florida area director and Chris Hudtwalcker as Miami-Dade area director.
Sirjane-Samples previously served as a legislative advocate for the Florida League of Cities, helping to craft the League’s legislative policy statements and assisting on research and analysis of legislative and policy issues to provide league management and local government officials with information on state and municipal policies, laws, budgets, and operations.
Hudtwalcker worked as a legislative assistant to Democratic state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, managing the senator’s legislative and political affairs. Hudtwalcker also worked as Rodriguez’s campaign manager during the 2016 election, working with staff to implement a successful strategy to secure Florida’s 37th Senate District in one of the most competitive races of the cycle.
Levine is battling with Gwen Graham, Chis King, and Andrew Gillum for the August 28 Democratic primary nomination to run for governor. The leading Republicans are Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis.
“With the addition of Megan and Chris to Team Levine, we are continuing to build the campaign infrastructure best equipped to achieve success in the primary and general elections and flip the Florida Governor’s Office blue,” Levine’s Campaign Manager Matthew Van Name, stated in a news release. “The presence of our area directors throughout the state’s regions allows our team to have roots in communities across Florida and enables us to reach voters in all 67 counties.”
John Ward, a Republican running to succeed Ron DeSantis in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, is just beginning to get his campaign into top gear.
Ward released his first television ad this week, a 30-second spot in which he branded himself as a “constitutional conservative.”
And before that, the Massachusetts transplant showed a clear willingness to put resources behind his effort via self-financing.
Through March, Ward had put $550,000 of his own money into his campaign. That’s notable in what will be anexpensive race.
Ward led the Republican field with $709,000 banked on March 31, followed by Mike Waltz at $653,000 and Fred Costello with $15,720.
A Navy veteran and businessman, Ward has set himself up as the candidate in the race best able to position himself against what will be a well-funded Democratic opponent, and one who — unlike Waltz — could never have been accused of being a ‘Never Trumper.’
Florida Politics caught up with Ward last week in Jacksonville, where he gave us his thoughts on how the campaign kicked off, and the path forward.
Ward noted, regarding running a spot on television, that he’d been making the grassroots push (everything from door to door to Rotary Clubs, Trump Clubs, and Chamber meetings) throughout the district since October, and it was “time to get started with that type of voter outreach.”
“Given the proximity to the primary,” Ward said, “it was time to reach voters with that [biographical] message.”
Indeed, the ad hits those points, framing Ward as a U.S. Navy Intelligence veteran, an entrepreneur, and a Constitutional conservative who is “very similar to Ron DeSantis.”
DeSantis, meanwhile, has yet to publicly weigh in on the race; Ward hasn’t heard any indication that he will.
“He’s kind of staying out of it,” Ward noted, as he is focused on running for Governor.
Ward, for his part, is focused on his run in the sprawling district, which encompasses roughly 750,000 people and three counties.
“I’m probably the one candidate who has been to every corner of this district many, many times,” Ward said, noting that were he elected, he would be uniquely positioned — due to his connections in the business world — to help the district with economic development issues.
This is in contrast to Mike Waltz, who Ward sees as much less of a grassroots presence. Ward also doesn’t think Fox News spots are paying off for his opponent.
“You will see Michael Waltz on Fox News less and less,” Ward predicts, as the network has “not put its thumb on the scale in primary races.”
As well, Ward says internal polling from his camp asserts that Waltz’s national profile hasn’t “moved the numbers.”
“He doesn’t live in the district,” Ward said bluntly. “His daughter’s in school in Washington. I wonder if he meets the residency requirement.”
“He’s not in the district that much,” Ward added, and when Waltz is, the topics tend to be Afghanistan and Waltz’s book.
Ward thinks that instead of running for Congress, Waltz would be better positioned to work in the Pentagon … had he not taken a Never Trump position in 2016, that is.
Ward, at this point at least, won’t make a formal challenge of Waltz’s residency. But reasonable inferences would suggest that might be an issue down the stretch.
Ward also dismisses the other challenger for the nomination, former state Rep. Fred Costello, as running for the wrong office, more interested in zoning issues and Tallahassee concerns than Congressional matters.
Democrats running, likewise, have a “very steep hill to climb” in a district Trump won by double digits.
Nancy Soderberg, a former United Nations ambassador during the Clinton presidency, is a “leftist Democrat” who is going to “try to run to the center.”
And Daytona Beach Dr. Stephen Sevigny, said Ward, is “also very left.”
Ward’s path to the nomination and potentially to Congress, he clearly believes, is through demonstrating an affinity to the President.
When asked, he said he “wouldn’t change a thing” about Trumpian foreign policy, lauding him for moving the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, “getting us out of the one-sided and flawed Iran deal,” and putting America “on the verge of denuclearization of North Korea.”
The bet is clear: Trump Republicanism will be the brand that carries the primary and the general election.
Republican John Ward, a Palm Coast businessman, released his first TV ad Thursday for his campaign to replace U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.
“Forged to be an American leader, John Ward. A U.S. Naval Intelligence veteran, he answered the call and protected us around the globe,” the ad narrator states.
“Strengthened by service, John Ward built successful companies adding thousands of jobs and more than a billion dollars to the economy. An unbreakable constitutional conservative, Ward stands with President Trump fighting to take our country back from the swamp. Made in America, John Ward for Congress.”
Ward entered the race for CD 6 in October, ahead of DeSantis’ announcement that he would run for governor rather than re-election to the Northeast Florida seat in 2018.
He is one of three Republicans to qualify for the ballot alongside former state Rep. Fred Costello and Fox News contributor Mike Waltz. Running on the Democratic side are Daytona Beach physician Steven Sevigny, former Ambassador to the United Nations Nancy Soderberg and John Upchurch.
Ward and Waltz have been their own biggest backers – through March, Ward had put $550,000 of his own money into his campaign, while Waltz had put down $400,000. Ward led the Republican field with $709,000 banked on March 31, followed by Waltz at $653,000 and Costello with $15,720.
Both Soderberg and Sevigny have also raised well into the six figures.
CD 6 covers a stretch of Florida’s east coast, from southern Jacksonville to New Smyrna Beach. It has been a reliably Republican seat, and DeSantis would have likely been safe for re-election had he opted to stay in the U.S. House. His exit moved the needle to “likely Republican” according to University of Virginia political scientist Larry J. Sabato’s “Crystal Ball.”