Ron DeSantis Archives - Page 6 of 70 - Florida Politics

Adam Putnam, Ron DeSantis camps spar over federal ‘Fair Tax’ bill

On three separate occasions, U.S. Rep. and GOP candidate for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis co-sponsored Fair Tax legislation.

The bill, a favorite in some conservative circles (even as National Review-types such as Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru diverge), would overhaul federal taxation as we know it “by repealing the income tax and other taxes, abolishing the Internal Revenue Service, and enacting a national sales tax to be administered primarily by the States.”

On Tuesday, Florida Grown (a political committee supportive of the gubernatorial campaign of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam) spotlighted in television and radio spots the national sales tax proposal as leading to “skyrocketing costs” for Florida families.

“What would a 23 percent sales tax do to Florida’s economy? If Congressman DeSantis had his way, everything would cost 23 percent more — groceries, gas, home purchases,” the narrator says in the 30-second ad, which appears on cable and broadcast beginning Wednesday.

“Congressman DeSantis sponsored legislation to increase sales taxes by 23 percent, hurting families, destroying jobs, devastating tourism. Washington is full of bad ideas and phony politicians. Ron DeSantis and his huge tax increase fit right in,” the narrator adds.

In making the anti-Fair Tax case, Putnam is seemingly advocating for the current model of taxation on the federal level.

He’s not alone in opposing the proposal: left-leaning PolitiFact, in 2015, said the proposal was regressive, eliminating a graduated income tax in favor of a regressive, consumption-based tax.

The same PolitiFact write-up notes that for the tax to be revenue neutral, the rate may have to be well above 23 percent.

As a candidate in 2012, DeSantis outlined his philosophy regarding the burdens of taxation to the Palm Coast Observer.

“Americans are overtaxed. If you look at somebody who earns a relatively decent income, in Florida at least we don’t have income tax, but like in California you’re making $80,000 in a two-income family, you’re getting hit federally with the 15.4% FICA. Then you’re getting federal income tax and you’re getting state income tax, then you’re paying property taxes, you’re paying gas taxes, paying sales taxes — everything we do is being taxed. I just think we need to draw the line and say OK, we’ve taxed enough, let’s have government live within its means rather than asking us to pay more and more.”

DeSantis was slow to co-sponsor the bill for the third time in 2017 but did after an inquiry from the chairman of the group dedicated to passing the measure.

Campaign manager Brad Herold notes that DeSantis still supports the bill, saying “he’s co-sponsored it three times.”

When asked why Putnam would go on the attack on this point, Herold posited: “Putnam is facing the reality of having to finally get a job outside of politics, and he’ll say just about anything to avoid that. Including attacking Ron for supporting the FairTax.”

Herold, in what has to be considered foreshadowing of the president’s stump speech next week in Tampa, notes that “when President Trump endorsed us, he said Ron is ‘big on cutting taxes.'”

On behalf of the Putnam campaign, spox Meredith Beatrice asserted late Monday evening the candidate has real concerns about the Fair Tax.

“Conservatives have railed against this tax and explained how it would result in higher taxes for the middle class. This policy is particularly bad for Florida considering that retirees, who paid taxes on their wages during their working lives, would find themselves having to also pay higher taxes on everything they used their accumulated savings to buy,” Beatrice said.

Rick Scott to appear with Donald Trump at Tampa school

Gov. Rick Scott, who is running for U.S. Senate, will not attend President Donald Trump’s rally July 31 in Tampa but will appear with Trump earlier in the day.

Scott will attend an afternoon event with the president at Tampa Bay Technical High School, Scott campaign spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said Tuesday.

Trump plans to hold a 7 p.m. rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall, but Scott will be at a fundraiser that night. On Monday, Trump’s campaign organization announced the rally to build support for Scott, Northwest Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz and gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis.

Trump’s appearance will come about a month before Florida’s Aug. 28 primary elections. Scott is seeking to unseat U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the incumbent Democrat, in the November general election.

The governor was a strong supporter of Trump during the 2016 presidential election but has appeared to distance himself after formally entering the U.S. Senate race.

DeSantis, a U.S. House member, is touting Trump’s support while battling state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Donald Trump plans Tampa rally for Ron DeSantis

President Donald Trump will host a July 31 rally in Tampa where he is expected to tout his support for Republican gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

The rally will take place at 7 p.m. at the Florida State Fairgrounds. It’s the eighth time the President has come to the Tampa area since he declared his run for presidency in 2015.

News of Trump tentatively coming to Tampa on July 31 was first reported in POLITICO Florida’s Playbook on Thursday.

DeSantis, who has surged in polls in recent weeks, already carries Trump endorsements via Twitter. The President in June wrote on the social media platform, “[DeSantis] will be a Great Governor & has my full Endorsement.”

The June tweet followed Trump’s December embrace of the Ponte Vedra Congressman before he officially entered the race for governor.

DeSantis is among a select group of Republican congressmen who have habitually defended Trump amid controversy like the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. As Donald Trump Jr. reminded a crowd in Orlando last week, “Ron DeSantis was there from Day 1. He got it. He saw it. He went on TV. He was with us when it wasn’t cool to be with us.”

DeSantis will face Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the Aug. 28 primary. Putnam, a longtime Florida politician, has raised more than $35 million for his gubernatorial bid and until recently was considered a frontrunner. DeSantis has raised a little more than $13 million.

Trump’s recent intervention in the race, dating back to his June tweet, was followed by gains in DeSantis’ favorability. A poll published last week put DeSantis 20 points ahead of Putnam. A Florida Chamber poll published Friday put the two at a “virtual tie.”

Across party lines, some already see Trump’s planned appearance as a death blow to Putnam’s campaign.

“Our condolences to Adam Putnam,” Florida Democratic Party spokesman Kevin Donohoe said in a prepared statement.

Trump also will express his support for Gov. Rick Scott‘s bid for U.S. Senate, and U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz‘ reelection.

Adam Putnam scores another fundraising win, nears $35M raised

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam tacked on another $370,000 for his gubernatorial bid between July 7 and July 13, nearly putting him past the $35 million mark in total fundraising.

The Bartow Republican raised $158,134 in hard money and brought in another $212,575 via his political committee, Florida Grown, for a total haul of $370,709. That’s six figures better than the $226,850 primary opponent U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis brought in during the same stretch.

Putnam’s campaign cash was split across more than 300 individual donors, more than half of whom chipped in $100 or less. The committee haul was buoyed by a $100,000 check from freight shipping company R&L Transfer, while 14 other donors accounted for the balance.

Putnam’s campaign spent just $342, but Florida Grown shelled out a whopping $2.7 million for the week. That includes more than $2.4 million in media buys via Virginia-based Smart Media Group, a $200,000 contribution to the Republican Party of Florida and numerous smaller payments for campaign and fundraising consulting.

To date, Putnam has raised $34.85 million between the two accounts. He had $12.62 million in the bank on July 13.

DeSantis reports showed $81,850 in hard money and another $145,000 raised for his political committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis. The campaign report featured nearly 1,000 contributions, including more than 900 from donors chipping in $100 or less.

The committee report was more top-heavy, with a $50,000 check from Cherna Moskowitz taking the top spot among the eight contributions it received. Cherna Moskowitz is the wife of businessman and philanthropist Irving Moskowitz, who died in 2016.

DeSantis’ spending included $21,500 on the campaign side and another $608,000 out of his committee’s coffers. That included a $500,000 contribution to the Republican Party of Florida, $60,000 in consulting payments and $39,000 in videography through South Carolina-based Something Else Strategies.

Through July 13, DeSantis had raised a little over $13 million between his two accounts and had about $6.78 million banked.

Despite Putnam’s prolific fundraising, recent polls have shown DeSantis rocketing into the lead in the two-way primary race, with one poll showing him ahead by 20 points thanks to the so-called “Trump bump” following the president’s endorsement of the Ponte Vedra Republican.

A new measure from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, however, shows the two GOP candidates in a “virtual tie” at 36 percent support apiece with 28 percent undecided. The Florida Chamber has endorsed Putnam in the primary.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

​GOP campaigns for governor slam each other over dicey donors

The pitched GOP gubernatorial primary battle between Rep. Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam increasingly is pivoting on which campaign can malign the other side’s donors.

In Jacksonville Saturday morning, DeSantis devoted a lot of time to slamming the sugar industry, a position assumed after over $5 million was devoted to negative ads against the congressman when he got into the race.

The candidate vowed that he was “not going to be hamstrung by an interest group,” unlike Putnam, whom “one big company tells … what to do.”

“If they need all these subsidies, then why in heck are they spending all this money in politics,” DeSantis, who voted against sugar subsidies in Congress, asked rhetorically.

“They should have less subsidies and then not spend as much money,” DeSantis added.

On Monday, Putnam’s campaign spox Meredith Beatrice fired back with a rejoinder.

“Congressman DeSantis will say just about anything to voters these days. In true swamp creature fashion, he says one thing and does another.

“Florida-based companies and job creators obviously do not trust him, so Congressman DeSantis has surrounded himself with some very questionable company, like hush-money Elliott Broidy, money laundering Democrat Ahmad Khawaja and shady Victor Imber.”

Worth noting: The Florida Democratic Party has spotlighted Broidy’s interest in DeSantis for months. The former Republican National Committee finance chair and, more recently, vice-chair of finance, resigned from that role earlier this year.

After we contacted Putnam for comment, we received an email from Ardis Hammock, a sugarcane farmer who also is the spokeswoman for Florida Sugarcane Farmers.

“It’s truly a shame that Ron DeSantis has decided to attack hardworking Florida farmers in this governor’s race.

“Farming helps pay the bills and put food on the table for more than 1.6 million Florida families. It has a $160 billion economic impact to the state and provides food security for America.

“But none of this seems to matter to Ron DeSantis, who is clearly taking direction and money from far-left special interests who ultimately want to outsource Florida agriculture to Mexico,” Hammock said.

“Congressman DeSantis may claim to not take money from sugarcane farmers now, but he lost support from us in Florida’s heartland years ago,” Hammock added.

DeSantis’ campaign wouldn’t take the bait, continuing to hammer home the theme that Putnam is a particularly “transactional” politician.

“It’s an interesting tactic to double down on how much money he’s raised from special interests on the record, especially now that conservative voters had figured out he’s an transactional Republican with a long history of supporting amnesty, bailing out Wall Street, and voting with Nancy Pelosi,” DeSantis campaign manager Brad Herold said.

“But you have to admire the message discipline to keep repeating it even when down double digits,” he added.

Polls of the race are for now in DeSantis’ favor.

One new poll has DeSantis leading the race by a 42-30 margin, an indication that as the pool of undecided voters becomes more shallow, DeSantis’ support deepens.

The Putnam-supportive Florida Chamber has a poll that deems the race a dead heat, though the DeSantis camp asserts that poll doesn’t sample Trump voters, instead oversampling supervoters from pre-2016 samples.

Ron DeSantis vows not to take money from sugar industry

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who is looking increasingly like the front-runner in the Republican race for Governor, held a Saturday morning meet-and-greet in Jacksonville, where he drew contrasts between opponent Adam Putnam and himself.

One such contrast: DeSantis vowing that no matter what happens going forward, he will not take sugar industry money.

In his remarks, DeSantis blasted “big powerful interests like Big Sugar” attacking him with “$5.1 million,” which funded “fake news for months.”

DeSantis’ offense? Being “one of the few [Floridians in Congress] who voted against sugar subsidies.

The candidate vowed that he was “not going to be hamstrung by an interest group,” unlike Putnam, who “one big company tells … what to do.”

The talking points against the sugar industry used in Northeast Florida, which DeSantis’ camp counts as a source of strength, are of interest, given that the state is not, compared to points south, the current epicenter of the algae crisis.

In the media gaggle, which included local television and Breitbart, we asked DeSantis about the current governor, Rick Scott, who messaged heavily against lobbyists as a candidate in 2010 but made his peace with them in more recent years.

Though sugar is no deal for DeSantis, that doesn’t mean he’s opposed to the influence industry writ large.

DeSantis noted that “there’s a lot of people who have interests in Florida politics. That’s separate from one industry that is subsidized heavily.”

“If they need all these subsidies, then why in heck are they spending all this money in politics,” DeSantis asked rhetorically. “They should have less subsidies and then not spend as much money. I think that’s a unique situation given how subsidized they are.”

A new poll has DeSantis leading the race by a 42 to 30 percent margin, an indication that as the pool of undecided voters becomes more shallow, DeSantis’ support deepens.

That survey confirms consultant reports of myriad internal polls that have shown a pro-DeSantis trend.

The Florida Chamber has a poll that deems the race a dead heat, though the DeSantis camp asserts that poll doesn’t sample Trump voters, instead oversampling supervoters from pre-2016 samples.

Putnam held a public event in Jacksonville late last week; however, attendance was down from previous Putnam stops, with only two incumbent politicians showing — a drop from previous events where Putnam had strong showings from the elected class.

Putnam, when asked if he worried that the campaign was slipping away, said “I wake up every day worried. I’m fighting to the bitter end.”

Before that bitter end finally gets here, Floridians are expected to be treated to a Donald Trump rally on DeSantis’ behalf.

We asked the candidate if that would be the nail in Putnam’s coffin.

“A Trump rally is not something that is necessarily scripted,” said DeSantis.

“If and when that happens … he’ll be saying whatever he says in front of ten or fifteen thousand, however much the arena can hold, and I think that’s going to carry far and wide around the state,” DeSantis said.

“Nobody has the kind of megaphone he has. He’s excited about the developments in this race. Florida’s like a second home to him,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis believes he’s overcome the early part of the race, a period of “political vulnerability” that has seen him run against certain special interests.

“When we had the debate, when we had the President coming out [and re-endorse], that was going to draw the contrast. I think that’s been done,” DeSantis said, noting that despite the avalanche of negative ads against him, he’s more popular with Republicans than he was before the hits began.

“That tells me that our strategy has succeeded, and the strategy of the Tallahassee insiders has failed,” DeSantis concluded.

Florida Chamber says Ron DeSantis, Adam Putnam in ‘virtual tie’

Recent polls have shown U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis rocketing ahead of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the Republican primary for Florida governor, but the Florida Chamber of Commerce said Friday in a memo obtained by Florida Politics that the race is a “virtual tie.”

The pro-business group, which has endorsed Putnam, said its newest measure of the race shows the two GOP contenders with 36 percent support apiece with the remaining 28 percent of Republican primary voters saying they were undecided.

Still, those numbers do indicate a hefty surge for DeSantis compared to the last Florida Chamber poll, released in mid-June, which found Putnam up 32-15. The Florida Chamber CEO Mark Wilson acknowledged the boost and attributed it to “three external factors that combined to create a perfect storm favoring DeSantis.”

The first factor is the nationalization of the race since Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement. The second is President Donald Trump’s endorsement (or re-endorsement) of DeSantis — 60 percent of those polled by the Florida Chamber said they were aware of “the big man himself” backing DeSantis. And the third is a boost in Republican support for Trump after he nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

That “perfect storm” may have indeed given DeSantis a clear lead, if only briefly, but Wilson said the so-called “Trump bump” has settled in, tempering some of DeSantis’ gains.

So, why does the Florida Chamber poll show a tighter race? Unlike the St. Pete Polls survey, which found DeSantis ahead 50-30, or the Fabrizio-Lee poll, which put the race at 42-30, the Florida Chamber poll only interviewed registered Republicans that have voted in at least two of the last three elections, or in both of the last two elections if they registered after 2015.

The Florida Chamber said it is “absolutely true” that up to 30 percent of the primary vote will come from infrequent or first-time voters but trying to get a bead on them is harder. With the “tight screen,” however, infrequent or first-time voters don’t get thrown into the mix and there’s a clear picture of which way reliable voters are leaning.

The new poll is based on live telephone interviews with 700 likely Republican voters, with 30 percent of the sample contacted by cell phone. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.04 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.

Florida Chamber poll of GOP primary for Florida governor by Peter Schorsch on Scribd

Where will candidates for governor be today?

From a Democratic get-together in Punta Gorda to meet-and greets in Jacksonville, candidates for governor will spend this weekend connecting with voters. Here’s where you can find some of the major players.

For Democratic candidates for governor, South Florida this weekend is the place to be.

Philip Levine today will speak to Charlotte County Democrats at noon at the Politics in the Park event at Harbor Heights Park in Punta Gorda. Then he will head down the road to Fort Myers to open a new campaign office on Cleveland Avenue at 4 p.m.

Chris King’s “Keeping The Promise” tour continues today into Punta Gorda, where he also will attend Charlotte County Democrats’ Politics in the Park event at 1 p.m. King plans to focus on health care issues including Medicaid expansion and the opioid crisis.

Andrew Gillum will spend the day in South Florida. The Tallahassee mayor will rally supporters in Miami Gardens at the Unrepresented People’s Positive Action Council Community Forum’s Gubernatorial Community Forum, an event that runs from 9:30 a.m. to noon at the Greater New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church. Then he opens a West Palm Beach campaign office on Corporate Way at 2 p.m. before heading back to Miami for the Wilkie D. Ferguson Bar Association 40th Annual Gala at Briza on the Bay at 8 p.m.

And on the Republican side, Ron DeSantis will meet voters bright and early for a Duval County Meet and Greet at The Local in Jacksonville, where doors open at 8:30 a.m. Then he heads to Orange Park for a Clay County Meet and Greet there, held at La Nopalera Mexican Restaurant with doors opening at 1:30 p.m. and the program starting at 2 p.m.

Adam Putnam will meet with firefighters today at the Florida State Forest Service Association’s executive board meeting.

Gwen Graham and Jeff Greene have not announced any public events today.

But following up on a similar event in Fort Myers, Sen. Bill Nelson plans to meet with health care professionals at a roundtable in Deltona at the Community Life Outreach Center at 2:30 p.m, part of his re-election effort. Then he plans to visit Bethune Cookman University for a tour of Mary Mcleod Bethune before a Volusia County canvassing event. He’ll end the day with a keynote address at the 7 p.m. Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Gala at Hilton Daytona Beach Ocean Front Resort.

Gov. Rick Scott, who is challenging Nelson, will join Puerto Rico Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón for a Valrico rally at Rico Frappe Latino at 2:15 p.m. He will then meet with Puerto Rican leaders there. González-Colón endorsed Scott in May.

If more events get announced, this story will be updated.

Adam Putnam committee spends more than $2.7M

A political committee that plays a key role in Republican Adam Putnam’s gubernatorial campaign spent $2.73 million during a recent week-long period, with most of the money going toward advertising.

The committee Florida Grown spent the money from July 7 through July 13 and had nearly $8.1 million in cash on hand at the end of the period, according to newly filed finance reports posted on the state Division of Elections website.

More than $2.43 million of the money during the period went to Virginia-based Smart Media Group, LLC for advertising, while the committee sent another $200,000 to the Republican Party of Florida.

Putnam, who is finishing his second term as agriculture commissioner, raised a combined total of $370,000 for his campaign account and the committee during the period. His campaign account had about $4.53 million on hand as of July 13, a report shows.

Putnam is locked in a tough primary race with U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who raised a combined total of about $227,000 during the period for his campaign account and the committee Friends of Ron DeSantis.

The DeSantis committee spent nearly $608,000, with $500,000 going to the Republican Party of Florida, reports show. The committee had $5.61 million on hand as of July 13, while DeSantis’ campaign account had about $1.16 million.

Jacksonville Bold for 7.20.18 — Cash is king.

In this market, we periodically hear remarks about fundraising reports.

Often, people seek publicity for candidates who do not have the slightest interest in raising money. It’s hard for media to garner interest in a candidate who has no clue on how to target (or even reach) a constituency.

Others wonder why there are so many fundraising stories. Our answer is simple: The best way to know what drives a politician is by identifying who he or she strokes for checks.

At this point in the election cycle, cash is truly king.

The idea that covering a politician’s platform should be first or exclusive, while sounding nice, doesn’t jibe with the strong correlation between committed resources and victory.

This edition of BOLD (as well as the next few) will — by necessity — be about numbers. Whether left or right, there are ways to bring in money — donors, interests and causes.

Serious candidates find their way. The rest become footnotes.

GOP plays in CD 5 Dem primary

After two quarters, former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown is behind incumbent U.S. Rep. Al Lawson in the money race in Florida’s 5th Congressional District.

While Republicans play both sides, Democratic House leadership backs Al Lawson.

Brown announced Friday that he had raised over $165,000 in Q2, and had $144,360 cash-on-hand. Lawson, per his FEC report, kept pace with $136,514 raised — and more importantly, holds the COH edge with $219,272 on hand.

However, there is an interesting side story: Prominent Republicans are playing both sides of the Democratic primary in CD 5, with challenger Alvin Brown getting more GOP donor interest by far than incumbent Al Lawson.

Among Brown’s more interesting Republican contributors: charter school magnate Gary Chartrand, Jacksonville lobbyist Marty Fiorentino, Preston Haskell, former Republican Jacksonville City Councilman Stephen Yoost, former CSX President Michael Ward, and former Jaguars’ owner Wayne Weaver.

Lawson, meanwhile, saw a donation from Ballard Partners’ Susie Wiles, a longtime Lawson friend who chaired President Donald Trump’s campaign down the 2016 stretch.

Also see: Pelosi endorses Lawson.

Rutherford cruising to re-election

U.S. Congressman John Rutherford, if cash-on-hand is any indication, will cruise to re-election in Florida’s 4th Congressional District.

Smooth sailing for The Sheriff.

The first-term Jacksonville Republican raised $106,447 in Q2, spending $46,730, and ended Q2 with $360,466 on hand.

Rutherford got checks from a variety of Jacksonville businessmen, such as former Jacksonville Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver, as well as corporate citizens, including the GEO Group, Comcast, Publix and Universal Music Service.

The cash edge looks prohibitive: Democratic nominee Ges Selmont closed Q2 with $3,167 on hand, a number that simply won’t get it done.

Rutherford’s supportive Conservatives United political committee is not even raising money for this race, a strong indication that he doesn’t feel he’ll need it.

The former Jacksonville sheriff won the race to represent the coastal Northeast Florida district by 40 points in the 2016 general election.

Yoho stands tall against Sapp

U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, representing Florida’s 3rd Congressional District that runs from Orange Park to Gainesville and Ocala, has amassed a strong cash on hand lead against primary challenger Judson Sapp.

Ted Yoho (Image via

Yoho, a Republican seeking his fourth term, has $431,093 on hand, compared to $133,012 for Sapp.

In Q2, which ended at the end of June, Yoho raised $142,823, spending $67,282 in the same period. Almost $72,000 of the Yoho haul was from individual contributions.

Sapp actually took in more campaign money than Yoho in Q2, bringing in $172,525 in his second quarter in the race, spending $63,428.

Of that money, $165,000 (of a total $190,000) was self-financed. The most interesting external donor was the surprisingly still active Friends of Cliff Stearns, the political committee of the former congressman defeated in 2012 by Yoho in a primary.

Stearns’ political committee has been kept live, even though his political career has not.

The winner of this primary will face a lightly-funded Democrat in the general.

Congressmen pan the Prez

It’s a measure of how dubious President Donald Trump‘s performance was at the Helsinki summit that even Republicans who proudly campaigned with the president in 2016 are distancing themselves from his remarks.

Is the ball bugged? (Image via ABC News)

Congressman Ted Yoho, who faces a primary challenge from Judson Sapp in Florida’s 3rd Congressional District, bemoaned a “missed opportunity” by the president.

“Today’s news conference between President Trump and Vladimir Putin was a missed opportunity to hold Russia accountable for their meddling into our 2016 presidential election … Putin has never been, nor will he be, a friend to the United States. It must be made clear to his regime that we will not tolerate any hostile action against the United States,” Yoho added.

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford bemoaned a “missed opportunity for the president to place additional pressure on Vladimir Putin for his regime’s misdeeds. Even with the president’s misgivings with those who seek to undermine him at home, we cannot equate ourselves with the Putin regime, its record of hostility, and its assaults on democratic values across the globe.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson spoke up too, saying the meeting was “utterly disgraceful.”

Duval DeSantis

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who looks increasingly like the front-runner in the Republican race for Governor, plans a Saturday morning meet and greet in downtown Jacksonville.

Front-runner? We’ll see what his crowd looks like Saturday morning. (Image via Getty)

The event kicks off at 8:30 at the Omni downtown. If you miss him there, catch him at Orange Park’s La Nopalera in the afternoon.

A new poll has DeSantis leading the race by a 42 to 30 percent margin, an indication that as the pool of undecided voters becomes more shallow, DeSantis’ support deepens.

That survey confirms consultant reports of myriad internal polls that have shown a pro-DeSantis trend.

Putnam held a public event in Jacksonville late last week; however, attendance was down from previous Putnam stops, with only two incumbent politicians showing — a drop from previous events where Putnam had strong showings from the elected class.

Meanwhile, DeSantis’ last visit to the Jacksonville area, in late June, happened just as momentum in the race was beginning to turn.

Graham finally runs TV in Jacksonville

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham finally bought TV time in Jacksonville this week.

Per a media release from her campaign: “The new ad, ‘Lessons,’ introduces Graham as a mother, former PTA president, congresswoman, and daughter of popular former Governor and Senator Bob Graham. Like her previous ads [not seen in the 904], the new spot contrasts 20 years of Republican rule with Graham’s progressive priorities of restoring public schools and expanding health care.”

To watch the ad, click on the image below:


“Everything I do is through the prism of being a mom,” Graham says in the ad. “The Florida Legislature have not taken Medicaid expansion. They have hurt education. They have used the lottery to reduce funding — but we’re gonna take it back.”

The media release notes that despite having spent just $3.8 million this campaign, “far less than her self-funding opponents” Jeff Greene and Philip Levine, Graham is still in the mix in polls.

The results of a recent survey conducted by St. Pete Polls and commissioned by Florida Politics shows Graham ahead of Levine and trailing Greene by just a tenth of a percentage point.

Bean sprouts above field

As is typical this time of year, a recap of state race fundraising.

In Senate District 4, incumbent Republican Aaron Bean continues to dominate the competition with almost $180,000 on hand. He’s destroying primary challenger Carlos Slay, who has $88 on hand. The winner of Bean/Slay will take on Democrat Billee Bussard, who raised $3,405 and now has $7,167 on hand, and Libertarian Joanna Tavares, who has $38 on hand …

Team Bean wants another win. The money says it’s gonna happen.

The most competitive race for state House in the region is HD 15, where Democrat Tracye Polson, with $127,000 on hand, still holds a narrowing cash lead against the Republican field. GOP lobbyist Wyman Duggan has $122,947, well ahead of Mark Zeigler ($32,482 on hand) and Joseph Hogan ($12,537). Duggan has a hold card, however, with Mayor Lenny Curry cutting an ad on his behalf this week.

In HD 11, HD 12 and HD 16, Republican Reps. Cord Byrd, Clay Yarborough and Jason Fischer look safe. Byrd has over a 10-1 advantage over opponents in cash on hand. Yarborough: a 20-1 edge over a Democrat. Fischer: an 8-1 advantage.

Meanwhile, in HD 14’s money race, incumbent state Rep. Kim Daniels is way ahead of Duval County School Board chair Paula Wright.

Daniels, a first-term lawmaker from Jacksonville, answered the challenge with her best fundraising of the cycle in the two weeks between June 22 and July 6: $26,412, bringing her up to $47,227 raised with almost $28,000 of that on hand.

Republican money and interests, including private prisons, showed up for the Demonbuster.

Wright is far behind in fundraising after a very disappointing two-week period. She raised just $3,501.

What Bean is up to

On Saturday, The Fernandina Beach Republican will attend the River Road Baptist Church’s Clothing Giveaway 2018 and help distribute food and clothes to those in need (the free event is open to the public), 9 a.m., River Road Baptist Church, 21067 County Road 121, Hilliard.

On Monday, July 23, Bean will discuss tourism and related legislation at the Amelia Island Tourist Development Council workshop, noon, Omni Racquet Park Conference Center, Fernandina Beach. Later, he will speak to the first Coast Republican club, providing an update on the 2018 Legislative Session, 6:30 p.m., Casa Marina, Jacksonville Beach.

On Thursday, July 26, Bean will receive the Guardian ad Litem’s (GAL) Legislator of the Year Award, 1 p.m., Edward Ball Building, Jacksonville.

Boffo receipts for GOP senators

Political committees for powerful Northeast Florida Senate Republicans Travis Hutson and Rob Bradley stayed active as July heated up.

Rob Bradley, Travis Hutson committees are worth watching down the stretch.

Both of Hutson’s committees, First Coast Business Foundation and Sunshine State Conservatives, were active in the days leading up to July 6, the final day for which reports are available.

First Coast Business Foundation moved $35,000 to Sun Coast Patriots, a committee that has gotten over $65,000 from Hutson committees since April.

Sunshine State Conservatives, meanwhile, brought in $51,000: $1,000 from Tesla, Elon Musk‘s car company, and $50,000 from Floridians United for Our Children.

Between the two committees, Hutson has roughly $430,000 in cash on hand.

Bradley’s Working for Florida’s Families committee, between June 30 and July 6, saw $30,000 in contributions with over $25,000 of that flowing out.

Voice of Florida Business ponied up $20,000; Floridians for Strong Leadership, the committee of Sen. Anitere Flores, the other $10,000.

The committee gave $15,000 to the Florida Republican Senatorial Committee, and dropped six $1,000 checks in the following campaigns: Sen. Kelli Stargel of Lakeland; Clearwater Rep. Ed Hooper‘s bid for the state Senate; South Florida Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr.‘s re-election bid; Pinellas Sen. Jeff Brandes‘ re-election effort; Gainesville Sen. Keith Perry‘s competitive bid for another term; and Marili Cancio‘s challenge to Kendall’s Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo.

Ray stays paid

As of July 6, former State Rep. Lake Ray continues to lead his three opponents in fundraising for the Duval County Tax Collector election to be held this August.

The election, which will see the top two candidates move to the November ballot if no one gets a majority of votes, was necessitated by former tax collector Michael Corrigan moving on to a role with Visit Jacksonville.

From Tea Party to Tax Collector? Long strange trip for Lake Ray.

Ray has raised and self-financed $136,935, with over $125,000 of that still on hand.

Ray’s closest competitor is also a Republican, former property appraiser and city councilman Jim Overton, who has raised $92,620 total, with just over $70,000 on hand.

Current Jacksonville City Councilman Doyle Carter, running third, has $63,000 on hand and Shad Khan’s blessing. And former Rep. Mia Jones is in fourth. Still in fourth place, the sole Democrat in the race: former State Rep. Mia Jones.

Jones raised $6,925, and has nearly $19,000 on hand.

CSX posts outstanding Q2           

CSX Corp. is celebrating after reporting a strong second quarter of 2018, with nearly every metric showing improvement.

As reported by the Jacksonville Business Journal, net earnings saw a significant rise and efficiency improved while “trains dwelled less, moved faster, carried higher volumes and arrived on time more often than the previous quarter.”

CSX is popping champagne corks with Q2 earnings report.

“Two words I think sum up everything: great performance,” said CEO Jim Foote in an earnings call this week.

Compared to the second quarter of 2017, net earnings increased by more than $360 million — 72 percent — with almost 6 percent more revenue, $3.1 billion. At the same time, CSX spent 8 percent less, $1.8 billion, on expenses from the same period last year. Earnings per share came in at $1.01, a 46-cent improvement.

JTA seeks drivers for new downtown-to-beach route

Jacksonville Transportation Authority is hiring, looking for 30 bus operators for a new 18.5-mile First Coast Flyer Bus Rapid Transit route, running between downtown and the beaches. Service begins in November.

“We are excited to continue to grow our team of skilled operators,” JTA VP of Transit Operations Lisa Darnall said in a statement to the Jacksonville Business Journal. “With the ongoing expansion of our routes, our goal is to onboard 30 additional operators by November of this year.”

JTA needs drivers for a new route to Jacksonville beaches to begin in November. (Image via JTA)

Driver pay starts at $12.50 an hour during the first seven weeks of training, rising to $14 an hour. Drivers will be eligible for health benefits, a pension plan, paid vacation and additional incentive pay. Interested candidates must be 21-years-old or older, have a high school diploma or equivalent diploma, a Florida CDL license class A or B and no more than three traffic violations in the last five years.

Vestcor Bridges Run for Charity

The Vestcor Family Foundation holds its 23rd Annual Charity Run on Saturday — the 5K begins 7 p.m. Last year, the Vestcor Bridges Run attracted 1,000 runners and spectators and raised a total of $35,000 for local nonprofit organizations. After the race this year, runners can enjoy free food and beer, live music, raffle prizes and finisher medals.

Registration will be open on race day and can found online here.

Grab your running shoes.

Race participants will start and finish on Water Street in front of the Prime Osborn Center by the new Lofts at LaVilla. Lofts at LaVilla is Vestcor’s third community in downtown Jacksonville with two other communities coming through fall 2019. Runners will pass by The Carling and 11 East and continue over the Acosta and Main Street bridges before reaching the finish line. Registration will be open on race day and can be found online here.

The run is part of the Vestcor’s continued support of Jacksonville’s downtown and its recent growth. Funds raised will benefit local educational and children-focused nonprofit organizations. Previous charities benefitted from the run include American Heart Association, Give Kids a Chance, Monique Burr Foundation for Children, Tiger Academy and UF Health Jacksonville.

Tony Romo picks Jags, Packers in Super Bowl

Last Sunday, Jaguars’ quarterback Blake Bortles was on the golf course with future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. If former Cowboys’ quarterback and current Fox NFL commentator Tony Romo is correct, they will be together competing again for a championship.

CBS commentator Tony Romo predicts another championship matchup between the Jags, Packers.

They were participating in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship in Lake Tahoe, an event won by Romo. Earlier in the week, Romo was asked for his prediction on who will be playing in the Super Bowl in February.

“Thing about the NFL is things change pretty fast. Injuries happen, a lot of stuff happens, but, um … if I was picking right now, I’d probably go with Green Bay versus Jacksonville,” Romo told “That would be a tentative, rough guess here in the summer months.”

When he learned of Romo’s prognostication, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s response was a simple “We will see, Tony, we will see.”

The Jaguars will see soon enough if they are a contender. The Patriots will be in town for the Jaguars’ home opener on Sept. 16.

How did Rodgers and Bortles do in the golf course? Bortles hopes that if the two meet in the Super Bowl, he will have a better showing throwing a football than hitting a golf ball.

Rodgers finished in a tie for 18th, while Bortles limped in with a 76th place finish, just ahead of Larry the Cable Guy. Despite finishing near the bottom, Bortles did achieve his primary goal.

“I usually just set one every year,” he said. “I’ll beat Charles Barkley.”

Mission accomplished. Barkley, the former NBA star, finished last.

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