Ron DeSantis Archives - Page 4 of 46 - Florida Politics

Democrats’ guests to State of the Union include DACA recipient, medical marijuana patient, hurricane evacuees

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is bringing a medical marijuana patient. U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch is bringing the wife of an American held hostage in Iran. U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel is bringing a trailblazing anti-sexual harassment advocate. U.S. Reps. Darren Soto and Stephanie Murphy are bringing Puerto Rico evacuees. U.S. Rep. Val Demings is bringing a police officer who responded to the Pulse nightclub massacre.

As usual, a handful of members of Congress are using their guest tickets to the president’s State Of The Union Address to honor someone from their district they admire — and to maybe make a political statement. On Monday and Tuesday a few of them will be holding press conferences introducing their guests, offering their inspiring story, and promoting the political causes they personify.

Florida Politics surveyed Florida’s 27 members of Congress and two senators and got a handful of advance responses on guests being brought to President Donald Trump‘s first State Of The Union address. Almost all of the responses came from Democrats.

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, the Ponte Vedra Beach Republican running for governor, is bringing his wife Casey Black DeSantis, his office said.

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson‘s office said she gave her guest ticket to Frankel.

Frankel is not yet saying exactly whom she’s bringing, but said on Friday it will be “a trailblazing anti-sexual harassment advocate” to be introduced on Monday.

Deutch, a Democrat from Boca Raton, is bringing Christine Levinson, wife of Bob Levinson, of Coral Springs, who has been missing in Iran for nearly 11 years, making him the longest-held hostage in American history.

Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat, is bringing Dani Hall of Clearwater, who was born with a birth defect impacting her lower spine, and who moved from powerful narcotics to medical marijuana, when she finally found relief.

Soto, an Orlando Democrat, will be introducing Claudia Sofía Báez Solá, 18, who was a college student at the University of Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria shut down that institution and most of the island, and who was sent, by her parents, and with her brother and grandmother, to live in Orlando while the parents continued to work to support them, living in a house with limited power.

Murphy, a Winter Park Democrat, is providing her ticket to Emmanuel Ortiz-Nazario, a 30-year-old from Puerto Rico who relocated with his wife and two young children to central Florida after Hurricane Maria.

U.S. Rep. Val Demings, an Orlando Democrat, is bringing Orange County Police Officer Adam Gruler, who was the first on the scene at Pulse the morning of June 16, 2016, and his wife Jaimi Gruler. The couple has just adopted three elementary school-age siblings.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, is providing her pass to Brenda Irizarry, 43, who serves on Castor’s Task Force on Puerto Rico Recovery & Assistance. She was among many Tampa Bay-area Puerto Ricans who took immediate action the day after Hurricane Maria to mobilize relief efforts, collecting supplies to send to the island.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat from Weston, is bringing a DREAMer from her district, Nicholas Perez, a DACA recipient who is a Broward County businessman.

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat, is bringing Paul Tutwiler, executive director of the Northwest Jacksonville Community Development Corporation, which offers services to 25,000 Jacksonville residents in communities heavily damaged by Hurricane Irma.

Richard Corcoran campaigns off ‘sanctuary city’ ban bill

With an eye on the governor’s mansion, House Speaker Richard Corcoran has spent nearly $100,000 on a Fox News media buy to campaign off a legislative priority: banning so-called “sanctuary cities.”

In a dramatic ad, Corcoran warns undocumented immigrants can target “any family, anywhere” — including a teenage girl walking in a Florida suburb.

The message will play well with the conservative Fox News crowd as it addresses the issue of sanctuary cities, recalling the case of American Kate Steinle, who was killed by an undocumented immigrant who was slated for deportation but was protected by a sanctuary city in California.

The suspect was acquitted of murder by a jury last year, but was found guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm. His attorney argued the shooting was accidental.

Corcoran has vowed to “never allow” Florida turn into a “sanctuary state” like California. In a fact sheet accompanying his new ad— paid for by his political committee,  Watchdog PAC — he cites the Florida House passing HB 9 on the first week of Session as proof that he would not let it happen.

In Florida, though, there are no so-called “sanctuary city” policies at the local level.

His political committee has not yet updated its records to reflect the $95,560 expense. Committee spokesman Taylor Budowich has also declined to comment on the media buy or its content, but the wait won’t be long — the spot will be rolling Monday through Friday on the 24-hour news network. It will run in the Jacksonville, Mobile/Pensacola, Orlando, Panama City and Tampa markets, according to POLITICO Florida.

Corcoran is widely expected to announce his bid for governor after Session ends. The term-limited Land O’Lakes Republican has heavily fundraised through his political committee, which he started up last May.

Through the end of 2017, Watchdog PAC amassed more than $6 million in contributions and had more than $5.1 million banked. Records on the committee website show a lucrative start this year, with more than $500,000 raised between New Year’s Day and the start of the 2018 Legislative Session.

If and when he enters the fray, he’ll be up against Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis for the GOP nomination.

Putnam was the first-in Republican and has a massive campaign warchest. At the end of 2017 his campaign and committee combined to more than $22.5 million raised with $16.25 million cash-on-hand.

DeSantis made his entry official earlier this month and kick-started his run with a trio of high-profile endorsements among the far-right crowd — first from President Donald Trump, followed by Fox host Sean Hannity and radio personality Mark Levin.

Ana Ceballos contributed to this report.

5 thoughts on Ron DeSantis: The X factor in the Florida governor’s race

Monday morning sees U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis launching his campaign for Florida governor in Boca Raton.

DeSantis’ entry into the race was teased practically from the time he left the 2016 race for U.S. Senate when Marco Rubio opted to run for re-election in June.

DeSantis did settle for another two years in Congress, representing a swath of the Atlantic Seaboard from the Daytona area up through southern St. Johns County, but it was the openest of open secrets that he wanted to be in a statewide spot.

A Jacksonville native, DeSantis is a Harvard Law graduate who did his undergrad work at Yale. He served as a Navy lawyer and a federal prosecutor; in short, he checks all the boxes that the national Republican donor class wants in candidates they back (which reflects in DeSantis’ finance team and will reflect in his donors going forward).

That’s a thumbnail biography, of course. Though he’s never had a statewide position yet, he enters the race with a few unique advantages, and several questions worth pondering.

He’s Donald Trump’s candidate — will that matter?

President Donald Trump endorsed DeSantis on Twitter, of course.

“Congressman Ron DeSantis is a brilliant young leader, Yale and then Harvard Law, who would make a GREAT Governor of Florida. He loves our Country and is a true FIGHTER!”

In terms of an endorsement for a Republican primary candidate, could there be anything better? Sure, Trump played the Alabama U.S. Senate race about as badly as it could be played. He endorsed Luther Strange, who lost the primary, then deleted those “Big Luther” tweets and endorsed Roy Moore — a catastrophic move, but one all in a day’s work for this White House.

DeSantis said “when he tweets, and he has 100 million people that are seeing that, it’s a really, really big deal, and I really appreciate the kind words from the President.”

Kind words, yes. But will they matter in the end? For many people in the state, Trump’s tweet was their first introduction to DeSantis — because he’s been a Congressman for four years. Fox News viewers, of course, see DeSantis and Rep. Matt Gaetz in heavy rotation. But for those who have seen the Adam Putnam campaign evolve over months, with that sense of inevitability building over years, DeSantis will seem prefab to them.

He’s Trump’s guy … but he’ll have to be more than Trump’s guy.

Will the Governor’s race become nationalized?

Putnam spent much of 2017 slowwalking toward Presumptive Nominee status, and much of his energy attempting to shore up his right flank.

One of his more memorable news cycles was when he declared himself, apropos of nothing, an “NRA sellout.” His backing for campus carry was probably the best indicator of how far he’d go.

That dog-whistle was intended to reassure the right that they wouldn’t have to worry about Putnam going squishy on Second Amendment issues. In a field where it was Putnam, former Sen. Jack Latvala, and potentially Richard Corcoran, that was a reasonably smart play.

Now comes DeSantis, who is instinctively able to work that Fox News style of polemic. This puts Putnam in a unique position; though his NRA bona fides aren’t really in doubt (he consistently has gotten A+ ratings, with DeSantis getting an A last time he ran), it’s going to be impossible for Putnam to paint DeSantis as soft on 2nd Amendment rights — and other red meat issues.

The paradox: Putnam has built his support from Florida interests. DeSantis’ backing will come largely from outside the state.

Will state policy matter?

The contrast between Putnam and DeSantis is pretty stark. Putnam has taken pride in campaigning and appearing throughout the state the last eight years; DeSantis announced his campaign on Fox and Friends for a good reason — he’s at least as comfortable in a TV studio as he is on the stump.

The open question is going to be how quickly DeSantis moves into talking state issues, and how knowledgeable he will be when he does so. Those Fox News hits tend to be at the intersection of hawkish foreign policy and apologias for President Trump. Though Gov. Rick Scott has been known to dabble in that space, the vast majority of state business will proceed apace whether or not the Mueller investigation is spiked or not.

DeSantis has had one elected position, and he spent most of that time looking for his next move. There are those who question how committed he is to his positions. And there are those who question how interested DeSantis will be in dealing with issues like Visit Florida, Enterprise Florida, the charter school debate, Florida Forever, and so on.

Brian Kilmeade interviews are good preparation for a lot of things. But Putnam (and Richard Corcoran, should he get in) will need to devote a lot of energy to exposing DeSantis’ inexperience on state policy issues.

What does Corcoran do now?

The House Speaker isn’t supposed to announce his next move until March. Those close to DeSantis contend that Corcoran already lost the Koch network support, citing the sanctuary cities bill and insurance reform as distraction from the fact Corcoran is a trial lawyer. However, sources inside the Koch network dispute that narrative, saying that both are A+ rated candidates and champions for issues of importance in their respective chambers; they say that having two such candidates in the race is a “good problem to have.”

Corcoran will be in a unique position. DeSantis will be able to co-opt many of his policy positions in the weeks before Sine Die. Between that and the really big “will he or won’t he story” of March, the Rick Scott announcement, it will be worth watching to see if Corcoran’s path gets too narrow for him to even run in the end.

How will the Dems botch this golden opportunity?

Wave election: check.

Trump endorsee: check.

Grassroots and donor enthusiasm: check back later.

The two leading Democrats in the gubernatorial race, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, would love the contrast with DeSantis.

Graham told me earlier this month that she doesn’t think much of DeSantis’ debating skills, and relishes the opportunity. And Gillum, whether he gets the nomination or ends up Graham’s Lt. Gov. pick, would love to be able to tee off on the DeSantis/Trump axis for months on end.

It’s easy to do that in theory. But if DeSantis gets the nomination, the billionaires and a national cable news network will be at his disposal.

And yeah, though it’s a wave election, it’s an open question whether the Democrats can counter the waves of outside money and support that will flood in for DeSantis.

Eight years ago, a Tallahassee outsider took the Republican nomination, then won the whole thing. He won re-election four years later. Neither of them were blow out wins. They didn’t have to be.

DeSantis may be the proverbial answer to a question that nobody asked. But for Republicans and Democrats alike, he has become the #1 problem to solve in 2018.

Fred Costello defends staying in 2016 race against Ron DeSantis

In a speech to the Flagler County Tea Party this week, former state Rep. Fred Costello explained why he stayed in the 2016 race against incumbent U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

Costello, running now as he did then for the Republican nomination in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, was one of two candidates who didn’t back out of the race when DeSantis reversed course from his U.S. Senate bid in the summer of 2016.

Costello finished a distant second to DeSantis in the primary, garnering 24 percent of the vote.

Costello’s recollection: that DeSantis told him he wasn’t getting back in the race, and that Costello relied upon that guidance when he abandoned his spot in the state House. When DeSantis reversed course, Costello felt bound to honor his commitment to follow through on the race.

DeSantis’ team demurred comment on this version of events

“I support Ron DeSantis as an outstanding member of Congress,” Costello said, “but I’m going to tell you the truth.”

“I contacted Ron DeSantis and said ‘my understanding is you’re running for Senator’,” Costello continued. “If Marco Rubio gets back in this race, are you going to get back in the congressional race?”

“The answer was quote ‘it will not happen’.”

“So I left the Florida House and ran for Congress. Then when Marco Rubio got back in the Senate race, Congressman DeSantis got back in the congressional race,” Costello asserted.

“Many people think that’s just politics,” Costello said.

“I chose to keep my word,” Costello added, to current Rep. Tom Leek, who launched a run expecting the House seat to be open.

“I figured I was out of politics and that’s fine,” Costello continued, “then I hear that Ron is running for Governor. So I wait and find out that he is going to run for Governor.”

“I believe I am the guy who can best represent us at the federal level,” Costello continued, “so I got back into this congressional race.”

In 2016, Costello maintains he was not running against DeSantis; rather, he “did what [he] told people he was going to do.”

“We had zero doubt we were going to lose … but my choice was to either do something I said I wasn’t going to do, or do something I said I was going to do.”

Costello has been eying the Congressional seat for some time, and when running in 2016, he said he was “in it to win it” even after DeSantis made his bid for re-election.

“DeSantis’ decision to back out of the U.S. Senate race and enter the Congressional District 6 race rather than run in Congressional District 4 where he lives does not in any way change my focus,” Costello said.

“In spite of the odds favoring a candidate with over $3 million in the bank, I will enthusiastically continue my campaign to serve as our District 6 Congressman, where I have lived for 39 years, as I said I would do,” Costello added.

Costello went on to contrast himself, “a candidate with a solid conservative record as a state representative who is focused on the needs of our community and our great nation,” versus the incumbent, “a candidate who is not a part of our community and has already demonstrated he is more interested in raising his national profile as a career politician in preparation for higher office than serving his constituents as their Congressman.”

Costello, a former Ormond Beach mayor, added that unlike, “DeSantis, who lives near Jacksonville outside District 6 and has already demonstrated he is looking toward the next step in his political career, I will be fully focused on Congressional District 6 for the next eight years should the voters give me the honor of representing them as their member of Congress.”

Costello maintains he timed his launch to ensure that DeSantis was running for Governor before jumping in; however, that narrative is disputed by one Federal Elections Commission complaint.

The charge: Costello had campaigned before becoming a candidate, telling potential voters and media in Florida’s 6th Congressional District that he was the “best candidate” and outlining his policy platform since Summer 2017 — months before DeSantis launched his campaign for Governor.

Costello believes the complaint is without merit, as any comments pre-candidacy were predicated on a condition.

“I am fully confident I always said I would be a candidate “IF” Congressman DeSantis runs for Governor instead of re-election to Congress. And it was not out of concern for the FEC. I always said “IF” to assure friends that I would not run against Congressman DeSantis because we all like him. If necessary I can provide names of attendees at various meetings who will state that when candidates were invited to come up and speak, I did not go up and speak until the presider added a comment such as ‘and those thinking of running are also invited to speak’ at which time I would go forward and relate that I would run IF Congressman DeSantis did not run.”

Costello has two primary opponents of note: businessman John Ward and former Green Beret Mike Waltz

Majority of Florida Delegation demands clarity on White House offshore drilling position

Both of Florida’s U.S. senators and 22 of its House members are in a dither over mixed signals on offshore oil drilling from Washington.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke assured Gov. Rick Scott that Florida was “off the table” earlier this month.

Soon, Zinke’s position was undercut by Ocean Energy Management Acting Director Walter Cruickshank’s telling the House Natural Resources Committee that areas off Florida’s coast are still under consideration.

With inchoate policy guidance from the Executive Branch, Florida legislators demanded answers Wednesday from the Donald Trump administration in a letter.

“In light of Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Acting Director Walter Cruickshank’s recent statement before the House Natural Resources Committee that the Planning Areas off Florida’s coasts are still under consideration for offshore drilling, we write to reiterate our strong opposition to any attempt to open up the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling,” the lawmakers wrote. “We object to any efforts to open the eastern Gulf of Mexico to drilling, and we urge you to remove this area from the five-year plan immediately.”

The letter notes that these areas have been off limits since 2006, and that since the Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010, local and regional stakeholders and leaders have been adamant in opposition.

The letter also cites the “critical” nature of the Eastern Gulf Test and Training range for training missions for F-22 and F-35 pilots. And on the eastern side, facilities like Patrick Air Force Base, Kennedy Space Center, and the Jacksonville Naval Air Station would be impacted.

Some Florida politicians — notably, Scott — took Zinke at his word, even after the Cruickshank remarks became news.

“Secretary Zinke is a man of his word. He’s a Navy Seal. He promised me that Florida would be off the table, and I believe Florida is off the table,” Scott said.

“Secretary Zinke has made a commitment,” Scott added, “and he’ll live up to his commitments.”

However, Sen. Bill Nelson, who will likely face Scott in his re-election contest this year, called Zinke’s declaration and Scott’s trumpeting thereof a “political stunt.”

Joining Sens. Nelson and Marco Rubio signing the letter: Reps. Stephanie MurphyTed DeutchIleana Ros-LehtinenKathy CastorAlcee HastingsVern BuchananVal DemingsDebbie Wasserman SchultzFrederica WilsonDarren SotoBill PoseyAl LawsonGus BilirakisLois FrankelBrian MastCharlie CristJohn RutherfordRon DeSantisDennis RossFrancis RooneyNeal Dunn, and Matt Gaetz.

‘#1 Conservative’ Ron DeSantis to kick off gubernatorial campaign next week

Rep. Ron DeSantis, a Congressman representing St. Johns, Flagler, and Volusia Counties, will kick off his gubernatorial campaign next week.

And it won’t be anywhere near his district.

The campaign will launch at the Boca Raton Embassy Suites on Jan. 29 at 11 a.m.

According to an email to supporters: “The excitement and momentum is squarely behind Ron DeSantis. He has already been endorsed by President Donald Trump, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin — and we haven’t even kicked off the campaign yet!”

DeSantis’ leading primary opponent, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, has over $15 million cash on hand, but DeSantis is unfazed.

He bills himself as the “#1 conservative in Florida” on his invite to the Boca Raton event, where he will build on remarks made on Fox and Friends as the year started — when DeSantis confirmed that he would in fact run.

“As a military officer, an Iraq veteran, and a proven conservative, with the support of the president, I’m in a position to exercise the leadership that can build on the great work that Governor Rick Scott has done to advance economic opportunity, reform education, and drain the swamp in Tallahassee that needs to be drained just like Washington,” DeSantis affirmed.

DeSantis — now within five points of Putnam in the most recent poll from the Florida Chamber — has a finance team that can compete with any candidate in the field, should it become fully engaged.

Here are just a few of the names:

Palm Beach billionaire Thomas Peterffy; Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson; timeshare moguls Jackie and David Siegel; Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus; Palm Beach fundraisers Gay and Stanley Gaines; David Bossie, chairman of the Citizens United political activism organization and deputy campaign director for Trump; Republican financier Rebekah Mercer of New York and Foster Friess of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

The contrast between the slick DeSantis operation and that of Putnam, a candidate who prides himself on knowing the concerns of every county in the state, is stark.

DeSantis clearly will have national backing and has enjoyed ready access to Fox News, a network taken very seriously by the super voters who will decide the 2018 nomination.

Philip Levine launches Spanish commercial on DACA

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine has launched another television commercial – his fourth overall and second this week – with a Spanish-language ad decrying the administration of President Donald Trump‘s policies toward so-called DREAMers, the young, undocumented immigrants who essentially grew up in the United States.

The 30-second spot “Injusticia” shows images of DREAMers and their families while a narrator attacks Trump for rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program initiated by former President Barack Obama, and for his rhetoric threatening to send them back to their native countries even though their parents brought them to the United States when they were small children.

It’s the second-consecutive commercial in which Levine, a state candidate, targets Trump on what is essentially a federal issue. Earlier this week he launched an English-language commercial, running statewide, going after Trump for his policy position to open up oil-drilling off the Florida coast, thought that commercial also mentions Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

“President Trump is turning his back on these young people who, filled with dreams, became doctors, lawyers and teachers. And who today are ready to work for America,” the narrator states. “Philip Levine will work to end this injustice!”

Levine then uses his own Spanish, declaring, “We are talking about kids, and what it means to be an American.”

Levine is the only gubernatorial candidate to place commercials on television so far. He faces Chris King, Gwen Graham, and Andrew Gillum in the Democratic primary contest, while Ron DeSantis and Adam Putnam are the leading Republicans.

Levine’s independent political committee All About Florida is putting up $100,000 to run the ad for 10 days on Spanish-language television channels across Florida.

“We want DREAMers to know that they are not alone, and that there are many who are fighting for them and believe in doing the right thing,” Christian Ulvert, senior advisor, stated in a news release from All About Florida.

Hannitized: Ron DeSantis scores Fox News host’s backing for gubernatorial bid

Slowly, but surely, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis‘ path to the Governor’s Mansion is becoming clearer.

The way will be spotlighted, every few days or so, with a key national endorsement.

Wednesday saw Fox News host Sean Hannity back the Marineland Republican.

“I’ve known you all these years,” said Hannity. “I cannot more enthusiastically endorse and completely support your run, and I really think the people of Florida will be blessed because I know what a strong leader you are.”

“You’re going to be my future governor, I hope,” Hannity, who owns a condo in Naples, added.

“That means a lot to me,” replied DeSantis. “We’ve got a good opportunity to build on the success that Governor [RickScott has had. I think this tax bill is going to give us a tremendous, competitive advantage in Florida to create a lot of jobs. We have an opportunity to fix our activist courts and live under the rule of law.”

The news release from the DeSantis campaign notes that Hannity’s endorsement follows the endorsement of President Donald Trump and conservative talk show host Mark Levin.

In addition to Trump, billionaires have also lined up behind DeSantis,  joining his “Finance Leadership Team,” a long list of backers obtained by POLITICO Florida which includes Las Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, hedge fund heiress Rebekah Mercer, Home Depot founder and Boca Raton resident Bernie Marcus,  investment banker Foster Friess of Wyoming and others both in and outside Florida.

Adelson, Freiss and Mercer rarely get involved in state-level races. The Mercers, who hold a part of Breitbart media and Cambridge Analyitica, also played a role in the Trump transition team.

Many of the names on the list are familiar as helping fund of the Koch brothers’ extensive national conservative network, as well as Trump’s successful presidential run, seemingly able to give DeSantis access to the big money needed to mount an effective statewide run.

That’ll be useful in the Republican Primary, where he faces Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and his sizable campaign war chest.

Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran is also considering a run for governor.

DeSantis announced his campaign on Fox and Friends. And it is clear that he will continue to use Fox News assets to message — key in a race where the prime directive seems to be to get to the rhetorical right and tap into Trump enthusiasts to win the primary.

New Philip Levine TV ad focuses on off-shore drilling threat

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is launching a new television commercial throughout Florida today accusing Gov. Rick Scott of denying climate change and vowing that any threat of oil drilling off Florida’s coast  “is going to stop” if Levine is elected governor.

The 30-second ad “Denial” is backed by a $375,000 broadcast and cable TV ad buy for the next two weeks in all ten Florida media markets. It’s the third television commercial launched by the Levine campaign, the first to go statewide, and the first to be explicitly about a public policy issue. His first ads were introductory.

It’s also the first statewide television commercial by any 2018 candidate.

In Denial, Levine seeks to lump President Donald Trump, Scott, the oil industry, climate change denial, and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon/BP Oil disaster all into one issue. It begins with scenes of the Deepwater Horizon/BP Oil spill off the coast of Louisiana which brought oil onto Florida Panhandle beaches, and dragged down Florida’s entire tourism economy for a year.

The ad implicitly builds on the announcement two weeks ago by the Trump administration that it intends to open up off-shore oil exploration throughout the country, including off Florida’s coast, when current federal moratoriums end. It does not explicitly address the announcement by Scott that he talked U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke into leaving out Florida, though the Levine campaign argues in a news release that assurance has very little practical value. The ad also does not address that Levine’s Democratic gubernatorial primary opponents, Chris King, Gwen Graham, and Andrew Gillum, all are as adamant as he about preventing any future drilling off Florida’s coast.

Nor does it explicitly claim that Scott, or leading Republican gubernatorial candidates Adam Putnam or Ron DeSantis, ever supported off-shore drilling along Florida. Yet it paints a picture bringing together environmental disaster with the denials of climate change by leading Republicans, starting with Trump and Scott.

In announcing the ad Wednesday morning, the Levine campaign cited a POLITICO story that reported that many members of Congress, including the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Utah Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, “acknowledge that there are no ‘long-term assurances’ [from Secretary Zinke] that plans to drill off the coast would not return.” Others have said the same thing.

“The BP oil spill was one of the worst environmental disasters in history,” the ad begins.

“Now we have a governor who denies climate change, a president who denies everything, and a Congress that may start allowing drilling,” Levine declares as he walks along a beach. “When I’m governor, the threat of drilling is gonna stop.”

Elections complaint against Fred Costello amended; campaign says it’s ‘fraudulent’

On Wednesday, the congressional campaign of state Rep. Fred Costello was dinged with an amended Federal Elections Commission complaint.

Costello maintains the complaint is “without merit” and should be thrown out.

Costello, an Ormond Beach Republican, is vying to replace U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in the district that runs from St. Johns to Volusia Counties.

The original complaint was reported just after the new year by POLITICO.

The charge: Costello had campaigned before becoming a candidate, telling potential voters and media in Florida’s 6th Congressional District that he was the “best candidate” and outlining his policy platform.

The second FEC complaint, filed like the first by Orange City’s Thomas Homan, is now 13 pages.

Much of the message is still the same: Costello was functionally campaigning since August (“beyond the deliberative process … and into the process of planning and scheduling public activities).”

The complaint asserts that Costello needs to retroactively report such activities and be subject to fines.

Moreover, Homan contends that Costello’s Dec. 28 campaign launch email lacked appropriate disclaimers.

Costello’s campaign responded to inquiries Thursday afternoon.

“I want to thank our adversaries for calling Fred’s campaign to your attention.  We got more coverage than we normally would at the kickoff of our Congressional campaign, which you missed,” said Costello spox Vic Baker.

Baker also provided a statement, which he said contradicted the complaint.

For example, Costello told a group of Republicans “that he would be a candidate for Congress IF and only if Ron DeSantis chose to run for some other elective office.”

“Further, Mr. Homan cites Fred Costello’s distribution of a palm card including a logo and verbiage. The palm card is permissible for prospective candidates under FEC rules. A closer examination of the verbiage further disproves the complainants claim. Dr. Costello clearly asserts that he would NOT be a candidate unless Ron DeSantis chose not to run,” Baker asserted.

Baker also addressed presenting a business card on Dec. 12, which presented him as Costello’s campaign manager.

“Because I did not want them to think that Fred would run against (the very popular) Ron DeSantis, I made it clear that IF Congressman DeSantis runs for Governor, Fred will run for Congress and I will be his Campaign Manager. I told each person to whom I gave the card that we believed Congressman DeSantis would soon announce for Governor and thus Fred would become a candidate for Congress,” Baker asserted, adding that the complaint is “fraudulent and should be rejected out of hand.”

Costello added his own take, via an email chain with the FEC.

He contends that, contra Homan, he did not declare that he was an active candidate, but a conditional, prospective one — only “if” DeSantis did not run.

He also addressed the building of a team pre-candidacy, saying that was legal given he had not spent $5,000.

“I was building my team to be ready for if/when Congressman DeSantis announced his bid for Governor. All of my team were fully aware that I would not run for Congress unless Congressman DeSantis ran for Governor,” Costello asserted.

“If it matters, and I believe it does not because we had not yet spent $5,000, we can provide the names of multiple attendees at the referenced December 12 Volusia County Republican Executive Committee Christmas Party who will state that when Vic Baker handed out his card to them, he specifically related to them that if Congressman DeSantis runs for Governor, Fred (Costello) would be running for Congress and he (Vic Baker) would be my Campaign Manager.”

“I had not yet gone over the $5,000 threshold (which would have forced me to announce within 15 days of going over that threshold) and because Congressman DeSantis had not yet made his plans public, at that time I had not yet chosen to file as a candidate.”

Costello continued: “I am fully confident I always said I would be a candidate “IF” Congressman DeSantis runs for Governor instead of re-election to Congress. And it was not out of concern for the FEC. I always said “IF” to assure friends that I would not run against Congressman DeSantis because we all like him. If necessary I can provide names of attendees at various meetings who will state that when candidates were invited to come up and speak, I did not go up and speak until the presider added a comment such as ‘and those thinking of running are also invited to speak’ at which time I would go forward and relate that I would run IF Congressman DeSantis did not run.”

Costello ran against DeSantis less than two years ago, of course. He was one of two candidates who didn’t withdraw after DeSantis decided to run again after abandoning his Senate run.

Costello finished second to incumbent Ron DeSantis in the 2016 primary, with 24 percent of the vote.

With DeSantis running for Governor, Costello is currently in against businessman John Ward.

Other candidates – including former Green Beret Michael Waltz, St. Johns County Commissioner Jimmy Johns, and Brandon Patty – are taking hard looks at the race.

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