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Jacksonville Bold for 8.3.18 — Home stretch

For political watchers, August offers an embarrassment of riches in this market.

A number of competitive and contested primaries, including one open Democratic primary and a citywide race for tax collector.

Not to mention the state races, including one competitive primary for governor and one that appears to be all but decided.

For those keeping score, at this point, it’s pretty easy to keep score.

The months of fundraising and endorsement hunting, of compromises and negotiations, of meet and greets — all but over now, with vote-by-mail underway and early voting soon enough.

Did they put in the work? Voters know that about candidates by now.

No election is won without a long-range plan. Politics is a game of ambition tempered with deliberation.

It’s true everywhere, a truth reflected in this week’s Bold.

Alvin Brown stumbles in radio hit

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown continued his recent media blitz on Jacksonville outlets by taking calls on WJCT‘s First Coast Connect Tuesday morning.

Can Alvin Brown win back Corrine Brown’s seat? (Image via Jax Daily Record)

Brown, who had managed not to say anything newsworthy in his two television spots over the weekend, described himself as “the Democrat who’s going to stand up to Donald Trump” and “challenge the status quo” — a marked shift from four years in City Hall where he offered little challenge to extant paradigms.

And ultimately, as was the case when we interviewed him in late June, questions about his tenure in City Hall still loom over his campaign, three years after he left the St. James Building.

When confronted by host Melissa Ross with a quote from his opponent, U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, saying that Brown’s record as mayor was subpar and that Brown called him and said “he wanted to be just like me,” Brown dodged the question, returning to talking points like “36,000 new jobs” familiar to those around in his 2015 re-election bid.

Brown was also asked about his pivot to the left from a “conservative Democrat” posture he asserted as recently as the 2015 reelection bid, including a failure to get Human Rights Ordinance expansion through after a 2012 vote against LGBT rights expansion.

Brown said he “focused on the issues that mattered the most,” which involved the economy and pushing for a “living wage,” again dodging the question that nettled LGBT and progressive voters in Jacksonville.

When asked if his move left was genuine, Brown dodged that question too, saying that he opposed “bullying, discrimination, and violence,” and that he enacted LGBT protections in City Hall.

Actually, though, that was Lenny Curry’s executive order.

Indivisible bets on Soderberg in CD 6

Ambassador Nancy Soderberg scored another key endorsement Monday in her bid for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, when the local Indivisible United Florida 6th District endorsed her candidacy.

Nancy Soderberg looks like the favorite in CD 6. She has deep Jacksonville ties.

“Nancy exemplifies the leadership qualities we seek in an individual to represent the constituents of this district in Washington, D.C.,” said Becky Berman, Co-Leader of Indivisible United Florida 6th District.

“Grassroots groups like Indivisible United Florida 6th District are helping lead the movement for new leadership in our district,” Soderberg said.

“Their hard work and dedication is critical to winning this seat in November. Our people-driven, grassroots campaign will continue working with committed local groups like Indivisible to bring change to FL-06. I am thrilled to have their endorsement and am proud to fight alongside these local leaders,” Soderberg added.

The endorsement from the local Indivisible group is another boost for a strong, disciplined campaign intent on flipping the east-central Florida seat from Ron DeSantis red to Democrat blue.

A survey released last week from St. Pete Polls showed Soderberg up big, with her 30 percent support amounting to more than opponents Steve Sevigny (10 percent) and John Upchurch (13 percent) combined.

Casey DeSantis goes national

Casey Black DeSantis, one of the most familiar faces on the Jacksonville media landscape, went national this week via an ad for the Ron DeSantis gubernatorial campaign.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

“Everyone knows my husband Ron DeSantis is endorsed by President Trump. But he’s also an amazing dad. Ron loves playing with the kids,” Casey DeSantis says, kicking off an ad that attempts to meld humor and the presentation of her husband as a family man.

The spot features DeSantis exhorting a child to “build the wall” using giant construction blocks, reading to a child from “The Art of the Deal,” and teaching a child to read from a Trump sign.

“Make America great again,” DeSantis reads to one of his offspring.

“People say Ron is all-Trump, but he’s really so much more,” Mrs. DeSantis quips, as the camera pans to a child of tender age in a crib, wearing a Make America Great Again onesie.

“Big league,” the candidate says, “so good.”

The ad was derided on social media; however, the campaign estimates that the total reach equaled a million dollars of paid exposure.

Greene works Northeast Florida

On Monday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Greene made the rounds in Northeast Florida, a bus tour that included a number of Jacksonville stops.

Jeff Greene gave out backpacks (and campaign swag) at a Jacksonville school.

At one of them — a back-to-school backpack giveaway at Northwestern Middle School — we caught up with the candidate, who per at least one recent poll of the race is within 6 points of leader Gwen Graham.

Greene, as one might expect, projected confidence.

Noting that he has only been in the campaign since mid-June, Greene asserted that he’s “running against candidates who have been running for a year and a half.”

“I’m really thrilled,” Greene said, “that an electorate that had not been excited is suddenly getting excited and we’re doing better than we even expected.”

“The reaction I’m getting as we drive down the road — people honking their horns, thumbs up. We get off the bus and crowds have been great everywhere. The message has been getting through; Democrats are tired of losing,” Greene said.

Dirty campaign?

With the Democratic gubernatorial primary fast approaching, some of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum‘s most controversial allies are pushing an ad attacking front-runner Gwen Graham.

Some hand-wringing from Jax Dems about third-party spending on behalf of Andrew Gillum.

It started Monday: a $500,000 ad buy in Jacksonville, Tampa, and West Palm Beach via the Collective Super PAC.

This is not the first ad buy by the group hitting a negative message on Graham.

The new spot, “Zero Regrets,” attacks Graham for touting “progressive credentials despite voting with banks, supporting the disastrous Keystone XL pipeline, and publicly undermining President Obama’s Affordable Care Act to get reelected,” asserts the Collective group.

The group, after this buy, will have committed over $1.75 million to Gillum.

A pair of Jacksonville Democratic members of the Jacksonville City Council blasted Gillum for the ads.

“Andrew Gillum is running a dirty campaign. He is the only candidate in the race supporting negative Super PAC ads and he is the only candidate attacking his fellow Democrats — more than the Republicans are even attacking our party,” Garrett Dennis said.

“Mayor Gillum likes to say we need to give voters something to vote for — not against. If his campaign and Super PAC followed his own advice, maybe they would be doing better in this race,” Dennis added.

Dennis’ colleague Tommy Hazouri added that “The Republicans are loving to watch as Andrew Gillum embraces secret money and attacks Gwen Graham with Super PAC money. This irresponsible sham weakens our party, and makes it harder for us to win the General Election.”

Daniels holds cash lead

As of July 20, the last date for which campaign finance data is available, House District 14 incumbent Rep. Kim Daniels is still well ahead of Democratic challenger Paula Wright.

Kim Daniels, per the Florida Chamber, is the best Dem bet for business in the House.

In the money chase ahead of the open Democratic primary, Daniels raised $7,642, and spent $13,420, between July 7 and July 20. She has just over $21,500 on hand.

Of the contributions, $5,000 came in five $1,000 checks from a North Miami Beach address housing a gaggle of dialysis companies. Also contributing: former Republican candidate for 4th Circuit State Attorney Wes White, as well as Harry Rummell of the Peter Rummell family.

Of the over $13,000 spent, the majority was on campaign materials, food for workers, et al. Daniels is also employing a consultant with some name value, former state Rep. Terry Fields, who was paid $1,700 during the period.

Wright, whose fundraising was slow out of the gate, showed some improvement on the last report filed in June; she raised $5,364 and spent $1,020. All told, she has roughly $7,000 on hand.

More endorsements for Polson

More and more Jacksonville Democrats are lining up to endorse first-time candidate Tracye Polson in House District 15.

The Trayce Polson campaign is not fading away, and the seat could flip blue this fall.

HD 15 is currently Rep. Jay Fant‘s seat, but he opted to leave it months back to run for Attorney General. Polson — the cash leader in the race — hopes to turn the typically deep red seat blue.

And Jacksonville Democrats back her, almost without exception. Three more endorsements — from Rep. Tracie Davis, Jacksonville City Council Member Garrett Dennis and former Rep. Mia Jones — dropped Tuesday.

More will be coming.

Davis lauded Polson’s “passion for improving education” and “endorsement of Duval County teachers,” describing her as a “professional listener” with “compassion and vision.”

Polson lauded the trio’s “commitment and dedication to our city … not just Democratic values, but for policies that reflect and help every community and neighborhood in Jacksonville.”

For Polson, the endorsements are the latest sign of momentum.

Sen. Audrey Gibson, who aligns with the three latest endorsers, backs her. As do EMILY’s List, the Sierra Club, and Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Gwen Graham.

Her endorsements come from beyond her party as well: the nonpartisan Jacksonville Firefighters and the Fraternal Order of Police threw down, as did former GOP mayoral candidate Audrey Moran.

And what’s more, she has the cash lead.

Fischer in control in HD 16

Rep. Jason Fischer, a first-term Republican from Jacksonville’s House District 16, continued to maintain a strong lead over his Democratic opponent Ken Organes in the latest filings.

Jason Fischer seeks a second term in the House.

Neither faces primary opposition; this is a race to November.

In the two weeks between July 7 and July 20, Fischer brought in $7,800 to his campaign account, with an additional $11,500 raised by his political committee, Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville.

Contributions of over $1,000 came from familiar names: the Jacksonville Kennel Club; JAX BIZ (the political committee of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce); Wayne Weaver; CSX Transportation; Duke Energy PAC; and Peter Rummell were all represented on the committee or hard money side.

Between committee and campaign account funds, Fischer has roughly $185,000 on hand.

Organes, a first-time candidate and a retiree from the aforementioned CSX Transportation, brought in $5,326 in the two week period, giving him approximately $27,500 on hand.

Ray tax collector bid backed by gun lobby

The National Rifle Association has an interest in the four-way race for Duval County Tax Collector, with the gun lobby backing former state Rep. Lake Ray.

A familiar orange mailer from the group trumpets Ray’s A+ rating on gun issues, giving the Jacksonville Republican another boost ahead of the August primary.

Ray has maintained a cash lead over his three opponents, and that continued in reports released by the four campaigns Friday.

Lake Ray is enjoying support from the NRA in his bid for tax collector.

Ray has raised and self-financed a total of $143,435, with roughly $109,000 of that on hand still. Of the $6,500 brought in during the most recent two-week reporting period (July 7-20), the biggest name contributor was Sleiman Holdings.

Worth noting: Toney Sleiman, the strip mall magnate embroiled in ongoing litigation with the city of Jacksonville over the dilapidated Landing, is at odds with fellow Republican Mayor Lenny Curry. It will be interesting to see if Curry endorses someone besides Ray, who at times has proved to be too independent of the mayor’s priorities.

Ray is spending money now: He dropped $22,863 in the most recent reporting period, the bulk of it on printing and mailing costs.

Shaver dithers, dumps consultant

This week saw movement in a story we covered last week, regarding St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver and a political consultant with whom she and other St. Augustine pols did a lot of business.

Bad for business: Mayor Nancy Shaver dumps controversial consultant, but may be too late to matter.

St. Augustine’s Daniel Carter accused well-connected local political blogger Michael Gold, whose Historic City News website attracts advertising from many prominent local politicians, of sending him a racist email.

As Carter wrote on Facebook: “Calling out a news outlet for being a racist piece of ____ and in turn, the editor-in-chief responds with overt racist remarks confirming that he is, in fact, a racist piece of ____.”

Shaver, when we talked to her, feigned ignorance. Yet, as WJCT reported this week, she evolved, asserting that the consultant’s email was “vile,” and that she would pull advertising.

Shaver, per campaign finance records, was spending less with Gold than she had in previous cycles. However, with an election just weeks away, it’s by no means certain that her delayed reaction to a consultant calling a constituent “lazy and shiftless” (among other racist phrases) will reassure anyone.

Dogs to relieve anxious flyers at JIA

Jax Paws, a program where K-9s and their handlers will help comfort anxious passengers at Jacksonville International Airport, launched this week, reports Action News Jax.

There are several advantages for having comfort dogs at the airport, says Anne Bell with Jax Paws: “It really has been proven that physiologically it calms the person, lowers the blood pressure … people seem to respond well to the dogs.”

Specially trained dogs help relieve anxiety at Jacksonville International. (Image via Action News Jax)

More than a dozen dogs are part of the program, which will begin at JIA from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and weekends.

volunteers can soon begin walking dogs in the airport, after passing the licensing process.

“Probably give this two or three months to see how this goes and then open this up to other handlers,” Bell told Action News.

JTA expands bus service to Yulee, Nassau County

JTA will soon be offering direct bus service between Yulee and Jacksonville.

On Tuesday, JTA Board approved an interlocal agreement with the Nassau County Council on Aging/NassauTRANSIT, creating the Nassau-Duval Regional Express Bus Service, per WJCT.

Service will start Dec. 3.

Starting December, JTA will begin service to Nassau County.

“We will be launching the Red Line which is the next corridor, known as the East Corridor, of the First Coast Flyer Bus Rapid Transit System,” said JTA spokeswoman Leigh Ann Rassler in a statement to reporters. “And so, when we launch the Red Line, we’ve got some other enhancements, and this fits nicely into those changes,”

The service will include two morning and three evening trips between Yulee and Jacksonville.

“We are excited about offering another public transportation option to all residents in Nassau County,” Janice Ancrum, NCCOA President and CEO, told WJCT. “JTA has the expertise and resources to leverage NassauTRANSIT’s mobility services within and across our own county.”

The Florida Department of Transportation will fund the program for the first three years.

___

Appointed Arezou Jolly (reappointed) to Jacksonville Transportation Authority.

Jaguars: We’re number 8!

Training camp is in full swing with workouts designed to get the team ready for the season opener. Goal number one is to survive the next four weeks with no devastating injuries.

If that happens, the Jaguars are projected to be one of the NFL’s elite teams in 2018. As a sign of the respect they gained by their postseason run last year, USA Today’s NFL Power Rankings lists Jacksonville as the eighth-best team in the league.

We’re No. 8! (Image via Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Of course, all of these rankings are subjective and those involved in ranking the teams clearly believe the NFC is much stronger than the AFC. No fewer than 6 of the top 7 teams come from the NFC.

The New England Patriots are the highest-rated AFC team, coming in at number two. The Jaguars are the next-highest team, just as the two teams finished the 2017 season.

Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia is the top-ranked team.

AFC South Division foes Houston and Tennessee came in at number 11 and 12, respectively. Indianapolis is ranked No. 31 out of 32 teams.

There are good reasons for the high rankings for the Texans’ and Titans’ ranking. They have the easiest, and second-easiest schedules in the league for 2018 while Jacksonville’s strength of schedule is listed as a tie for No. 25.

The Jaguars open their preseason schedule on Thursday against the New Orleans Saints at TIAA Bank Field.

If they avoid the injury bug through four preseason games, they will be completely satisfied to still be ranked number 8 heading into the season opener on September 9 against the New York Giants.

Adam Putnam ad spotlights Ron DeSantis ‘betrayal’ of Florida

Florida Grown, a political committee supporting Adam Putnam‘s run for Florida Governor, released a hard-hitting ad Friday spotlighting opponent Ron DeSantis‘ “betrayal” of Florida.

The charge: “Why did he sell Florida out? Because the real Ron DeSantis is part of the Washington swamp, working for one of the largest lobbying firms in America… taking a million dollars from Wall Street… and facing massive ethics violations. Hypocrisy. Betrayal. That’s D.C. DeSantis.”

The ad spotlights DeSantis’ support of the FairTax, a national sales tax proposal that would replace the Internal Revenue Service. As well, the spot spotlights DeSantis supporting cuts in Social Security and raising the retirement age, via votes in three successive years.

Putnam has hammered DeSantis for trying to cut entitlements and spending power of senior citizens, and this ad amplifies those attacks, in addition to highlighting a DeSantis vote to raise the debt ceiling during the Barack Obama presidency.

Raising the debt ceiling — the term for raising the amount of debt the U.S. Treasury can incur — is a routine occurrence that started creeping back into the headlines in Obama’s second term. DeSantis voted to increase the debt ceiling early in his first term, as did all but 33 of his Republican colleagues in the U.S. House.

That punch may be damaging in a normal Republican primary race, though the Putnam vs. DeSantis brawl is anything but normal. Since earning an explicit endorsement from President Donald Trump, DeSantis has surged into the lead in the primary race and it’s unclear whether even an association with Obama could repel Florida Republicans, most of whom are firmly aboard the Trump train.

Despite losing his frontrunner status, Putnam has the support of many monied donors and has maintained a massive fundraising advantage in the race — the most recent round of campaign finance reports put him at $36.8 million raised and $7.3 million banked compared to $15 million raised and has $4.2 million banked for DeSantis.

With that kind of cash, there could be another volley of attacks on the horizon.

The ad is below.

Democrats ease into standard responses in final governor’s race debate

Anyone hoping Florida’s five Democratic candidates for Governor would break new ground in the final debate Thursday night may have left disappointed.

On stage, each candidate mainly stuck to the standards, with only a couple of questions eliciting any form of surprise.

Andrew Gillum, Jeff Greene, Chris King, Philip Levine, and Gwen Graham all pulled more punches than in previous debates, with just a few recycled squabbles — mostly centering on Graham’s record as a moderate member of Congress.

Graham also took a couple more shots for her family’s involvement in the development of the American Dream Miami megamall, as well as a brief flurry of jabs between Levine and Greene over the Palm Beach billionaire’s encounters with President Donald Trump.

On issues, the quintet renewed the standard commitments: Increasing public education funding; pushing for minimum wage increases; higher-paying jobs; standing up to the gun lobby; seeking repeal of the Stand Your Ground laws and fighting special interests to address the water flows creating the toxic algae blooms east and west of Lake Okeechobee.

Hosted by WPBF-TV in West Palm Beach and co-sponsored by the Florida Press Association, the debate provided the candidates a chance to restate a handful of distinctive policy ideas: Levine’s Education Security Administration to focus on school safety; King’s bullet tax and a ban on death penalties; Gillum’s Medicare-for-all style health care plan; Graham’s proposal for an executive order to ban sales of assault weapons and Greene’s commitment to spend $100 million or more of his own fortune to counter Republicans’ usual advantages in campaign money.

But this was a last-chance statewide appearance before the Aug. 28 Democratic gubernatorial primary, and most of the debate played out as a multipart closing statement on positions Floridians already heard through the first four debates.

“This is not a drill,” warned Graham, as the latest front-runner in polling. Her pitch was that as the party’s nominee — “whoever she is” — it needs to be someone, a mom, who can appeal to everyday Floridians.

“What I bring to voters is the best of the private sector mixed with the best of the public sector,” said Levine, the former Miami Beach Mayor and businessman.

“The Democratic Party is alive and well and kicking. The problem is we’ve been outspent by Republicans over and over again,” said Greene, the self-made billionaire from Palm Beach who is self-funding his campaign. “That’s going to be different this year. I have the resources.”

“We have got to come to them with big ideas that will fix their solutions. That’s how we defeat Donald Trump, not by calling people names, but by solving problems,’ said King, the Winter Park entrepreneur.

“Florida can’t be just a cheap-date state,” said Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor who argues the state’s corporations are not paying their fair share of taxes.

Some more telling moments in the debate came through cameo appearances through questions or answers: Trump, Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida gun lobbyist Marion Hammer, former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, currently the Republican gubernatorial front-runner

One Trump moment set Greene and Levine on each other.

Campaigning as the Democrat who can, as governor, take on Trump, Greene said he has taken on Trump, in the president’s exclusive Mar-a-Lago country club, of which Greene is a member.

“He couldn’t be worse!” Greene declared.

Hold on, hold on, Levine braked.

The former Miami Beach Mayor charged Greene with praising Trump in the past, and not publicly opposing him until after taking office, all while ignoring offensive things Trump said (or done) on the campaign trail. During that time, Levine was working hard on Democrat Clinton’s campaign.

“You said he was a great guy! I gotta tell you something. Seriously?” Levine exclaimed.

He then interrupted the next question to get to it: “It sounds like you’re more like Donald Trump! And I think one Donald Trump is enough!”

“Well, Phil,” Greene shot back, “first of all, I’m the only one who has stood up to Donald Trump. And this nonsense about your supporting Hillary Clinton? … When I was running for the United States Senate in 2010, you gave money to Marco Rubio!”

“I did what Barack Obama did, what Hillary Clinton did,” Greene explained. “The same day. I said: ‘You know, we have to stand behind our new leader.”

During the debate, Graham was tripped up by the Clintons, and badly.

Among a handful of questions directed at a single candidate, Palm Beach Post reporter George Bennett pointed out that the Clintons were bad luck to some other campaigns; he wondered if Graham, for whom Bill Clinton campaigned in 2014 for her congressional run, would welcome him back to campaign for her.

She refused to answer, even when moderator Todd McDermott, a WPBF news anchor, pressed her a second time, asking for a direct answer. Instead, Graham talked about how she fits into the #MeToo movement, and how Florida’s gubernatorial election would be a national race likely to attract many people from other states to campaign.

Levine seized on her reluctance, again interrupting another question to make his point: “If one of the greatest presidents in American history wanted to come down and campaign with me, I would welcome him with open arms. He was a great president, President Clinton, and a wonderful secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.”

Levine soon found himself on the receiving end of perhaps the toughest directed question of the night; Miami Herald reporter Nancy Ancrum pointed out that during his administration as Miami Beach Mayor Levine was known at times to be anti-media, blocking and punishing critics.

Ancrum asked what sort of governing style Levine might bring to the governor’s office.

“Did I get things done? No question about it,” he said, adding with a big smile: “Have I learned a little more patience, no question about it.”

Nary mentioned once was the other major Republican gubernatorial candidate, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. DeSantis made an appearance only when King talked about how much DeSantis is running exclusively on his full support of Trump.

It led to one of the best lines of the night, from King: “Ron DeSantis is likely to become the Republican nominee. That should be terrifying to Floridians across this state. He is competing to be Donald Trump’s apprentice.”

King would be ready to counter that, he argued.

In an evening where most questions were asked before in four previous Democratic debates (or widely discussed in the 15-month campaign), and most of the answers had become rote, Gillum was the perhaps the only candidate who elicited even the slightest amount of emotion.

Nevertheless, the Tallahassee Mayor only did so only at the very end, in the final seconds of the debate.

As usual, Gillum did it with a personal story.

This time he talked about how his grandmother would watch him and his brother and sister early in the morning after his parents had dropped them off with her so they could go off to early-starting jobs.

Gillum recalled: “She would take her olive oil and anoint my head at the top so that no harm would come our way. And then she would have a saying, where she would say, ‘Boy, go to school. Mind your teachers. Get your lessons. And bring that education home, for your little brother, your little sister, for the neighbor down the street, for your mama and your daddy who get up every single day to work to support you, and to keep a roof over your head and clothes on your back.'”

“We have forgotten that we can do good — all of us.”

Physicians back Ron DeSantis: FMA PAC endorsement latest sign of momentum

In yet another sign that the Republican primary race for governor has a clear frontrunner, the Florida Medical Association PAC endorsed U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis, the beneficiary of President Donald Trump offering unambiguous endorsement Tuesday at a Tampa rally, now will enjoy the backing of the state’s self-described “leading advocate for electing pro-medicine candidates.”

FMA PAC President Dr. Mike Patete noted that the FMA PAC is “the first statewide association to endorse” DeSantis, “a true friend of medicine” who “will represent Florida’s more than 22,000 physicians on issues impacting our patients, policies and the quality and availability of health care.”

DeSantis, “proud to have the endorsement of the Florida Medical Association and all of the physicians the organization represents,” anticipates “working with the FMA to find ways to make the doctor-patient relationship stronger and to reduce costs.”

In latest swipe at right, Adam Putnam camp makes issue of Ron DeSantis’ Koch support

As the gubernatorial campaign of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam moves forward, the former Republican front-runner finds his operation in the awkward position of warring with prominent elements on the right.

Wednesday, Putnam’s camp spotlighted U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis garnering support from the Koch brothers.

Hours before President Donald Trump‘s rally supporting DeSantis’ campaign in Tampa, Trump blasted the “globalist” Kochs, saying he didn’t “need their money or bad ideas.”

DeSantis, who worked hard for the Kochs’ backing even before getting into the governor’s race, has been endorsed and is benefiting from direct mail against Adam Putnam.

Putnam’s camp wondered: “Is DeSantis happy to accept millions from people against strengthening our borders and negotiating powerful trade deals?”

Contacted for comment, DeSantis’ campaign manager Brad Herold noted that “[u]nlike Amnesty Adam we’re in the stage of the campaign where people are joining it, not leaving it.”

That comment is a reference to reporting from multiple sources suggesting that enthusiasm is flagging among Putnam supporters, many of whom got in early, when Putnam was the prohibitive front-runner in polls.

It was only last week that Putnam went on the offense against DeSantis’ support of the Fair Tax, which would phase out the federal income tax structure and replace it with a simple excise tax on all purchases.

Though considered a regressive measure by some economists and analysts, even on the right, the attack was most notable for inviting active antagonism from Neal Boortz, the conservative talk radio host who has long championed the proposal.

Putnam seems to be evading Boortz, even after days of attempts at dialogue from the “talkmaster.”

Adam Putnam, the forgotten man at Donald Trump Tampa rally

For roughly an hour Tuesday night, Donald Trump worked the crowd at the Florida State Fairgrounds, in his element in a state he won in 2016 and clearly wanting to call the shots in the 2018 elections.

A central question coming into the event was how much the President would say on behalf of U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and against his gubernatorial primary opponent, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

In what could be considered a birthday gift of sorts for Putnam, Trump did not mention the Commissioner by name.

Out of sight. Might as well have been out of mind; the primary seemingly decided (at least, in the crucible that is a Trump rally) four weeks before counting a single vote.

Early in the speech, Trump called DeSantis a “tough, brilliant cookie … who’s going to be your next governor” eliciting rousing applause as he allowed DeSantis to speak.

In turn, DeSantis extolled Trump — for the economy,  standing by Israel, “strong Constitutionalists” on courts, and ending “the disastrous Iran deal.”

DeSantis also vowed to “appoint strict Constitutionalists” to Florida courts, and stop Common Core.

While Trump did not name Putnam, he did say “everybody needs to support Ron DeSantis” in the August primary.

Roughly ten minutes after the rally began, the President moved beyond Florida concerns, into familiar rhetorical riffs lasting nearly half an hour before reminding the crowd again to vote for DeSantis, then pivoting with a Trumpian double-edged statement notable after an elided transition.

“The lobbyists and special interests fighting against my administration, many of them globalists, care about what’s happening in other countries. I care what’s happening here.”

And then, toward the end, another endorsement.

“He’s going to be an incredible governor … I don’t do these endorsements easily,” Trump said, noting his support in the Georgia gubernatorial primary that led to a landslide victory for Brian Kemp, who was a “great guy.”

“I had to be here to formally endorse Ron,” Trump said, again omitting mention of Putnam. “You’ve gotta get out and vote.”

“When you elect Ron DeSantis as your governor,” Trump predicted, “the people of Florida” will beg DeSantis to come to him and complain of “too much winning.”

“The people of Florida are just downright tired of winning, they can’t stand it,” a hypothetical DeSantis said to a future Trump.

No matter, the President assured. The winning won’t stop.

At least in the GOP gubernatorial primary, there were no named losers.

Putnam went unmentioned, a cipher at the Fairgrounds where he sits on the board.

And the message with relevance in August was clear.

Ron DeSantis was Trump’s guy.

And Adam? Adam who?

Putnam, in a prepared statement, said he supports Trump and his agenda.

“But this is about being Florida’s governor. This is about leading a $1 trillion economy in the third largest state, and to do that you need to know Florida,” Putnam said. “I know Florida better than any of the other candidates running. I’m confident that there’s an awful lot of Trump-Putnam voters out there who want a governor who actually understands the challenges facing them and puts them first.”

The venue Tuesday was important because the Tampa Bay media market can potentially reach a quarter of the state’s voters and has the largest concentration of Republican voters, said Susan MacManus, a longtime political-science professor at the University of South Florida.

“It’s clear now that DeSantis is playing offense and Putnam is playing defense. We’ll have to see. Putnam probably still has a lot of loyalists who see polls that suggest he could be better against any of the Democratic nominees,” MacManus said.

Incoming Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva, a Miami Lakes Republican who was one of the opening speakers at the Tampa rally, said he supported the president’s decision, noting the differing political agendas of the Republican and Democratic parties.

“At a time we’re engaging in this debate, the sidelines is no place for a leader,” said Oliva, who was one of the first major Tallahassee leaders to endorse DeSantis.

Democrats, of course, framed the event as a bipartisan split.

“Tonight’s rally was not surprisingly filled with divisive rhetoric and bluster — and completely ignored the real challenges facing Florida,” asserted Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

But Buckhorn was missing the point.

It’s an August rally — all about the base.

Material from the News Service of Florida is used in this story with permission.

Ron DeSantis: Donald Trump endorsement ‘separates the wheat from the chaff’

Hours before President Donald Trump rallies for his gubernatorial campaign in Tampa, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis appeared on Fox News Channel to outline the state of the race.

Even on a day that began with Trump savaging fellow DeSantis backers the Koch brothers, DeSantis couldn’t help but take a victory lap that doubled as a preview of the Tuesday evening event.

DeSantis called the president’s endorsement the “800 pound gorilla” in the race against Adam Putnam, a nod that “separates the wheat from the chaff.”

DeSantis also addressed his ad, released this week, that spotlights his family — with DeSantis himself playing Trump-themed games with his children as his wife, an accomplished television host, narrates the humorous spot.

“Sometimes in this process,” said DeSantis, “you have to step back and laugh, have fun with it.”

DeSantis has moved to positive messaging, a sign that his campaign feels confident that the public polls showing him ahead match reality.

The question for those watching Tuesday in Tampa: Will Donald Trump, called “vile and obscene” by Putnam during the 2016 primaries, give the Agriculture Commissioner a birthday present that he won’t want and can’t return?

Before Tampa appearances with Koch-backed Ron DeSantis & Rick Scott, Donald Trump blasts Koch brothers

The Koch brothers back Gov. Rick Scott‘s run for Senate and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis‘ run for Governor.

However, in classically contrarian fashion, President Donald Trump, who will appear with Scott in Tampa Tuesday before a fairgrounds rally in the evening, devoted two tweets this morning to blast the Koch brothers.

The timing on this blast could not have been worse for the Koch network’s most prominent Florida assets.

Scott spent much of the weekend, per the Tampa Bay Times, at a summit with the Koch Brothers.

DeSantis, who worked hard for Koch backing even before getting into the governor’s race, has been endorsed and is benefiting from direct mail against Adam Putnam.

Florida Politics has reached out to both DeSantis and Scott for comments.

New mailer touts Trump’s nod for Ron DeSantis, takes down Adam Putnam’s record

As President Donald Trump comes to Tampa on Tuesday to rally for Republican gubernatorial front-runner Ron DeSantis, Republican voters across Florida began receiving a mail piece which highlights the President’s endorsement of DeSantis.

On the other side of the mailer is a multi-pronged, heavily sourced attack on Adam Putnam‘s long record in public office.

The DeSantis-aligned political committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis, sent the piece, which will appear in mailboxes across the state just as statewide media coverage of the president’s Tampa visit on behalf of DeSantis’ campaign kicks up dramatically and vote-by-mail ballots finish being delivered statewide.

Sensing a winning hand, the pro-DeSantis mailer remains positive – free of the dark imagery and distorted photos that often mark political “hit mail.”

Instead, the piece simply compares the records and positions of DeSantis and Putnam on key Republican issues such as illegal immigration, fiscal responsibility, and education.

The piece stands out for its heavy use of citations and limited hyperbolic language – a stark contrast to the tactics of Putnam, who has recently faced withering criticism from mainstream media outlets, fact-checkers, and national conservative figures over a series of false attacks on DeSantis.

New American Bridge ad slams Ron DeSantis for having no answers to school shootings

The left-leaning American Bridge group on Tuesday is rolling out a new 80-second digital ad spotlighting U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis‘ perceived evasions to answering questions about the Parkland school shooting.

The spot will be seen on Facebook and Instagram and will be geotargeted to young voters in the area around the Donald Trump rally in Tampa.

“Young voters across Florida are standing up and demanding politicians actually do something to prevent gun violence, but Ron DeSantis isn’t listening,” said American Bridge spokesperson Zach Hudson. 

“Ron DeSantis wants to be Governor, but when Floridians demand action to prevent their friends and family from being murdered, he just runs away,” Hudson added.

The spot juxtaposes news clips in the immediate wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with shots of DeSantis being confronted by either a reporter or a tracker in a stairwell, being asked why he won’t offer more than “thoughts and prayers” for the victims.

DeSantis did suggest he would offer solutions at an “appropriate time,” and chided the questioner for disparaging the power of prayer.

“Praying for people,” DeSantis said, “I don’t think you should diminish that.”

With the entire Democratic field advocating changes in gun laws, the eventual GOP nominee can expect to get peppered with questions along these lines through the general election.

On Monday evening, we asked the DeSantis camp to assess its gun policy, and if enough had been done.

As one would expect, they said yes.

“Within days of the tragedy in Parkland, Ron DeSantis offered viable solutions to secure our schools by employing retired military and law enforcement. He’s been clear about supporting the Guardian program and measures that harden schools and protect our students without infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens. He’s met with survivors and victims families and he’s been a leading voice in Congress calling for accountability at the FBI and the removal of Broward sheriff Scott Israel,” asserted DeSantis spox Dave Vasquez.

“It’s unfortunate that the Democrats continue to use this tragedy to score political points,” Vasquez added.

The campaign also provided a quote from Andrew Pollack, whose daughter was one of those killed in Parkland in February.

“Ron DeSantis has been a leader in demanding accountability for those — from local officials in Broward County to federal officials at the FBI — who failed at their duties.  Ron is committed to securing Florida’s schools. He is one of the few people that I spoke with demanding accountability which means a lot to me and my family.” Pollack asserted.

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