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Blaise Ingoglia rolls out more endorsements in Florida GOP Chair re-election bid

Blaise Ingoglia has received the backing of nearly a dozen Republican members of Congress in his re-election campaign for GOP chairman.

The Spring Hill Republican announced Wednesday that 11 Republican members of Florida’s congressional delegation have endorsed his re-election bid.

“The organization Chairman Blaise Ingoglia put in place this past election cycle was crucial in delivering big wins from President-Elect (Donald) Trump and Senator (Marco) Rubio, our Congressional delegation, and the State Senate and State House,” said Rep. Ted Yoho in a statement. “I am proud to support his bid for re-election and with his continued leadership our party will be more than prepared for the 2018 cycle”

The announcement comes just days after Ingoglia, the current chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and a state representative, formally launched his re-election campaign. On Monday, he also rolled out a list of more than 100 grassroots leaders backing his re-election.

In addition to Yoho, Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Carlos Curbelo, Ron DeSantis, Tom Rooney, Dennis Ross, and Dan Webster endorsed Ingoglia. He also received the backing of incoming Reps. Neal Dunn, Matt Gaetz, Brian Mast, and John Rutherford.

“The operation that was built in Northwest Florida, under Chairman Blaise Ingoglia’s leadership, was crucial in helping my team as well as delivering the State of Florida for President-Elect Trump,” said Gaetz, who was elected in November in Florida’s 1st Congressional District and a former state representative. “We are grateful for his leadership and I am proud to support him for re-election as RPOF Chairman.”

Ingoglia was elected chairman in 2015, after Republican activists rejected Gov. Rick Scott’s hand-picked chairman. He had served as the party vice chairman, and was backed by grassroots leaders throughout the state.

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

Ziegler, 33, announced his candidacy earlier this month.

 

Republicans steamroll to win U.S. House races

Republican incumbents strolled to victory Tuesday over their Democratic opponents in three U.S. House races.

District 6

Republican Ron DeSantis, a two-term Republican incumbent who ran for the U.S. Senate this year before dropping out this summer, won Florida’s 6th Congressional District race to defend his seat. DeSantis, of Palm Coast, beat Democrat Bill McCullough, a political newcomer from DeLeon Springs.

DeSantis won with 59 percent of the vote or 212,923 votes to McCullough’s 41 percent or 150,447 votes.

CD 6 runs heavily Republican and stretches from Jacksonville’s southern suburbs south to New Smyrna Beach.

District 8

U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, who is completing his fourth two-year term in Congress, held on to his seat. He defeated Democrat Corry Westbrook, lead specialist for oceans policy at the World Wildlife Fund, by a wide margin in Florida’s 8th Congressional District.

Posey won 244,097 votes, or 63 percent, while Westbrook took 125,698, or 33 percent of the votes.

CD 8 includes all of Brevard and Indian River counties along with a section of east Orange County including parts of Avalon Park, Bithlo, Christmas, and Wedgefield.

District 11

U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster will continue his long career as a lawmaker, but in a new district.

Webster, a three-term Republican incumbent in Florida’s 10th Congressional District, beat political newcomer Dave Koller for Florida’s 11th Congressional District.

Webster won 256,541 or 65 percent of the vote, while Koller had 123,649, or 32 percent.

Webster switched to CD 11 after redistricting last year. His Orlando-area district was redrawn to favor Democrats so he decided to run in the heavily Republican 11th District.

Webster’s experience in the state Legislature and his six years in Congress gave him strong name recognition over Koller.

CD 11 encompasses parts of Lake, Sumter, Marion, Hernando, and Citrus counties.

National Taxpayers Union gives Marco Rubio an A, Patrick Murphy an F

The National Taxpayers Union, a fiscal conservative organization, is out with its new grades of federal lawmakers, drawing a clear distinction in assessments of candidates for Florida’s U.S. Senate race: Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio got an A, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy an F.

“Patrick Murphy’s F-rating from the National Taxpayers Union should come as no surprise after his years of casting liberal votes in Congress. Murphy supports higher taxes, a carbon tax, and wants to make it easier for the federal government to create new regulations. With a record like that, no wonder Murphy never actually worked as a CPA. Murphy’s liberal policies don’t work, and Florida families can’t afford them” Rubio spokesman Michael Ahrens stated in a news release issued by Rubio’s campaign.

Both candidates are in good company within their parties. The taxpayers union’s annual Taxpayer Score also gave Fs to Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and every other Democratic member of Congress from Florida except U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, who got a D. Among Florida Republicans, U.S. Reps. Curt Clawson, Ron DeSantis, Jeff Miller, and Ted Yoho also got As. The worst grades among Florida Republicans were the Cs that went to U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Letinen.

Murphy’s 25 percent score from the taxpayers union was in fact the second-highest among Florida Democrats, after Graham’s 33 percent. Nelson got a 17 percent score. Rubio got an 87 percent score, tied for best among Florida’s congressional delegation.

The National Taxpayers Union was founded in 1969 and calls itself the”The voice of America’s taxpayers.”

“The Taxpayer Score measures the strength of support for reducing spending and regulation and opposing higher taxes. In general, a higher score is better because it means a member of Congress voted to lessen or limit the burden on taxpayers,” according to the organization.

CD 6 longshot candidate will stump at Jacksonville’s Tiger Bay Friday

The resource gap in the Congressional District 6 race between incumbent Republican powerhouse Ron DeSantis and Democratic challenger William McCullough defies belief.

DeSantis, who was an energetic fundraiser during his discontinued campaign for the United States Senate, had $2,604,630 on hand as of his October quarterly filing.

McCullough? He’s $1,269 in the red.

In what seems like a curious decision given that it’s outside of CD 6, McCullough will be in Jacksonville Friday stumping at the First Coast Tiger Bay meeting at the University Club.

DeSantis had another engagement, claimed the local political discussion group in its newsletter.

McCullough’s remarks are one part of the program.

The part with more local relevance: a debate between the two general election candidates in the red-hot House District 13 race between Republican Mark Griffin and Democrat Tracie Davis.

FloridaPolitics.com posted an extended interview with Davis on Friday morning, in which she discusses the unprecedented nature of her campaign, re-launched earlier in October after Rep. Reggie Fullwood resigned from the state House and abandoned his re-election bid.

Ron DeSantis, John Rutherford want 2017 Atlantic Ocean red snapper season

In a preview of how they will work together in Congress, Rep. Ron DeSantis and John Rutherford (running in Florida’s 4th Congressional District) issued a joint statement calling for a 2017 red snapper season in the Atlantic Ocean.

While fishermen have the latitude to fish for red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico Friday through Sunday in September and October, an Atlantic coast ban on snapper fishing was instituted in 2010 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in response to concerns about snapper population depletion.

This year, the ban continues, because of what happened last year.

NOAA asserts that “the total number of red snapper removed from the population in 2015 exceeded the allowable level [of] … 114,000 fish.  After evaluating landings and discard information for 2015, NOAA Fisheries has determined the estimates of total removals were 276,729 fish.”

NOAA’s concerns about population depletion notwithstanding, the congressman and the likely congressmen see a need for a season for economic recovery purposes, as well as to avoid “government overreach.”

“Our coastal communities up and down the east coast are just now beginning the long road of recovery after Hurricane Matthew,” said Rep. DeSantis. “A 2017 red snapper season would go far in bringing an influx of tourist dollars to help fuel our recovery.”

“The red snapper ban is government overreach at its finest,” said Rutherford. “I look forward to working with Congressman DeSantis and the entire Florida congressional delegation to restore balance with our fisheries management and end this destructive ban.”

Ron DeSantis voted against Hurricane Sandy aid. How will he vote next week?

Thousands of Floridians are heading for higher ground as Hurricane Matthew approaches South Florida and the state’s Atlantic coast. The storm, a Category 3 as of this writing, could make landfall in South Florida or the along the East Coast sometime later this week.

And even if— by some miracle — Matthew does not directly hit Florida, its path is almost guaranteed to bring hurricane-level winds and damage to millions of people living along the coast.

With the approaching storm, Matthew will also bring another type of tempest — to North Florida Republican Ron DeSantis.

In January 2013, DeSantis — newly elected to Florida’s 6th Congressional District, which covers Jacksonville through the north of Orlando — was one of the 67 House Republicans who voted against flood insurance assistance for victims of Hurricane Sandy, after it recently wreaked havoc on the New York-New Jersey area.

That bill, providing $9.7 billion in aid, otherwise passed unanimously through the Senate and was overwhelmingly approved by a (rare) bipartisan vote in the House.

”I sympathize with the victims of Hurricane Sandy and believe that those who purchased flood insurance should have their claims paid,” DeSantis said in a statement. “At the same time, allowing the program to increase its debt by another $9.7 billion with no plan to offset the spending with cuts elsewhere is not fiscally responsible.”

Paradoxically, DeSantis’ district now finds itself in the crosshairs of Matthew, which could have a double-barreled force even greater than that of Sandy.

Again, Matthew is almost certain to cause (at the very least) significant flooding and other related damage in much of Florida.

“The problem with the Sandy package was, if you look at it, only 30 percent of it was going to be spent in the first two years,” DeSantis told the St. Augustine Record in a June 2013 interview. “It actually appropriated money out to 2020 and 2021, things that could not in any way be said to be emergency spending. It just was so much extraneous stuff.”

One could assume Florida is going to see quite a bit of such “extraneous stuff” over the next few days.

On Wednesday, DeSantis tweeted this helpful warning: “We must take precautions & be prepared for #Matthew. You can build your emergency plan here: http://flgetaplan.com/ #HurricanePrep.”

While that’s all well and good, it will certainly be interesting to see how DeSantis votes next week.

Todd Wilcox launches Restoring American Leadership super PAC

Todd Wilcox, the former combat veteran and CIA case officer who ran for nearly a year as a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, announced Wednesday he is forming a Super PAC called “Restoring American Leadership.”

Wilcox will serve as chairman of this new committee.

We are at a crossroads in this country where we must decide whether we continue on the destructive path we have been on for eight years, or do we renew our commitment to American leadership,” said Wilcox. “I am fighting to do everything in my power to ensure we elect only those who will fight for the conservative principals of limited government, free market capitalism, strong national defense, and the liberty ensured by an originalist interpretation of our Constitution.”

Wilcox announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat held by Marco Rubio on the 4th of July in 2015. He declared at that time he was “fed up with the status quo and I’m fed up with career politicians who care more about re-election or the next higher office than they do about their neighbors. That’s why I am declaring my candidacy for the U.S. Senate.”

For months he was the only non-politician in the GOP field, which also included Congressmen David Jolly and Ron DeSantis, and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera. Earlier this year, Manatee developer Carlos Beruff joined the party.

But the race changed dramatically when Rubio’s chances for president faded and he decided in June to re-enter the contest. Although resistant at first to dropping out, Wilcox ultimately did exactly that, leaving Beruff to get manhandled by Rubio in the August primary.

As FloridaPolitics.com reported last month, Wilcox, a millionaire, has been giving out campaign contributions to federal candidates running in the Sunshine State since dropping out of the Senate race. And as POLITICO’s Marc Caputo reported Wednesday, Wilcox is getting behind Brian Mast, a combat veteran running in Florida’s 18th Congressional District against Democrat Randy Perkins.

Wilcox alluded to a spat the two candidates had at a meeting in front of the TC Palm editorial board recently when he wrote in an ad published in the Post on Wednesday that, “As a Green Beret in the United States Army, I had the tremendous honor of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the bravest, hardest working Americans to ever step on a battlefield. Like most who saw your recent meltdown, I watched in total disgust as you questioned ‘why the sacrifices and the services’ Brian Mast provided for this country make him ‘capable of solving issues’ affecting seniors, children, single mothers, veterans, and families.”

Orlando facing prospect of all-freshman lineup in Congress

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown and her nearly 24 years in Congress – gone.

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson and his nearly six years in Congress – gone.

U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster and his nearly six years in Congress – gone, moved to an outside district.

U.S. Rep. John Mica and his nearly 24 years in Congress – more at risk than he’s faced in more than a decade.

This year, Orlando is losing most and potentially all its seniority, experience, leadership and clout in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Whoever gets elected, the voters’ choices for change may wind up being for the better. And in the long run, who knows, at this point, how effective the new class might become?

But at first it could be like replacing an entire college basketball team starting lineup with freshmen for the coming year. And it’s not about wins or losses. At least in the short term, it’s about attracting Washington’s attention to Central Florida’s needs and priorities, and about finding and bringing federal money for such discretionary goodies as transportation improvements, veterans’ facilities, military simulation center support, social services’ grants, and college and university research funding.

Might Central Florida’s next congressional starting line-up be able to compete?

“It certainly might have a big effect when you lose so many people who are established in Washington and have been serving this area for at least some time,” said University of Central Florida political scientist Aubrey Jewett. “How much it hurts will be determined by which party is in control of Congress. That’s going to play a big role.”

Technically, Orlando still has U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, the Rockledge Republican, assuming he wins re-election in Florida’s 8th Congressional District. But he’s always been first and foremost about the Space Coast, not the inland counties, though his district includes a sparsely-populated corner of Orange County.

Technically, Orlando may be picking up U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, the Flagler County Republican, whose newly-redrawn Florida’s 6th Congressional District, assuming he wins re-election, stretches into the northernmost Orlando suburbs in Volusia County. But his attention more likely would be focused east and north, from Daytona through St. Augustine, where his base always has been.

Technically, Orlando may be able to count on Webster, the Clermont Republican, assuming he wins re-election, because he’ll still be representing Orlando’s western-most suburbs in Lake County, if he’s elected in Florida’s 11th Congressional District. But he no longer has any responsibility toward Orlando voters. And any congressional clout Webster had was largely stripped away in 2015 anyway, after he first challenged John Boehner and then Paul Ryan for the house speakership. Insurgents who lose are not rewarded with shared power.

That leaves Mica, the Winter Park Republican who is the only Orlando-oriented member of Congress with a chance to still be in office next year. Suddenly he is getting a stiff challenge from Stephanie Murphy in a race the national Democrats are trying very hard to win, for Florida’s 7th Congressional District seat representing north Orange County and Seminole County. A poll commissioned by Democrats last week showed her in the margin of error against him.

Mica, first elected in 1992, is almost a poster child for how a member of Congress grows in power with seniority, key committee assignments, and longterm relationships, and using them to bring federal support for his district. SunRail, the Interstate 4 expansion, Orlando International Airport expansions, the Orlando Veterans Administration Medical Center, Orlando’s National Center for Simulation, and other Orlando projects have gotten federal approval and money, due in part to his his connections, and in part to his work with Brown, Grayson, and Webster, who had their own clout.

Mica makes congressional seniority and the power that comes with it a key part of his campaign message.

“I do have a senior position in Congress and because there are 435 members it takes many years to gain positions of importance,” he said.

Mica offers another advantage, as big brother to the new members of Congress. Orlando will have two freshmen for sure, either Democratic state Sen. Darren Soto or Republican businessman Wayne Liebnitzky in Grayson’s old Florida’s 9th Congressional District; and either Democratic former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings or retired businesswoman Thuy Lowe in Webster’s old Florida’s 10th Congressional District. Brown’s entire district is gone. First her district was pulled from Orlando in last year’s redistricting, then she lost her primary.

Statewide, there will be at least seven freshmen, out of 27 Florida members of Congress.

“If I’m re-elected one of the things I’m going to work with both Republicans and Democrats in my position – I’m fairly well respected – to help them get on committees that they want. Eventually they will benefit our community and our state, and of course our country too,” Mica said. “That’s one of my goals: to help place and mentor the new kids on the block.”

But there’s that word “if,” which seemed unnecessary and modest until recently, though Mica always says he never takes re-election for granted.

Mica also has political policy positions and records, particularly conservative views on social issues, which Murphy and the Democrats are portraying as out of step with the changing, younger, more diverse, more Democratic new CD 7, which covers much of north Orange County and all of Seminole County.

Murphy is asking voters to trade Mica’s seniority and experience for fresh ideas and more liberal policies. National Democrats are investing millions of dollars to help her knock off Mica. A recent poll – commissioned by Democrats – showed the race within the margin of error.

She also says that Congress simply doesn’t work anymore, adding that Mica votes with the Republican line 97 percent of the time. So his seniority is partisan, she said.

“I think seniority is important if you are willing to work across the aisle in a bipartisan manner and actually lead on issues,” she said.

She dismissed any notion that the next class of Orlando members of Congress would lack experience.

“I have deep experience in business, in national security and academia and I would be able to draw on those real-world experiences to bring fresh perspectives to Congress, and a willingness to work across the aisle to get things done,” Murphy said. “I’m excited about the prospect of having a trio of members of Congress representing the Orlando area who will be a powerhouse representing the area with fresh new ideas that actually represent the people as opposed to being very partisan.”

Meanwhile, Orlando leaders are bracing for changes that are likely to require them to start over in building relationships with member of Congress, whether Mica or Murphy wins. The lobbyists and institutional leaders across the region insist they play no political or partisan favorites – they just want someone they can talk to who can get things done.

“We’ve been very fortunate in terms of the team we have there, not just who’s there, but the length of them they’ve had there, and their abilities to be effective. I’m very mindful about the changes that might take place. I’ve had discussions with board members about what that might mean,” said Harry Barley, executive director of MetroPlan Orlando, Central Florida’s transportation planning agency.

He noted both Brown and Mica have had senior positions on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, saying, “They’ve worked well together over the years. I’m not sure they’ve agreed on anything other than transportation. But that’s been a very great team. They’ve both been very, very helpful to us.”

Michael Waldrop, chair of Orlando’s Veterans Advisory Council, said the issue is making sure the new members of Congress are willing to work together to forward veterans’ and defense concerns, which he said must be non-partisan matters.

“You would hope a newer delegation that represents us in Central Florida realizes this and if they can work together on any one or two topics then it is the defense of our nation nd supporting our veteran community,” he said.

UCF Senior Vice President Dan Holsenbeck, who has overseen the university’s lobbying for decades, said there is reason to be concerned, but ultimately reasons to be hopeful.

“Seniority is the way you get a principal voice in budgeting, the way you get access to make meaningfully comments on policy,” Holsenbeck said. “So if you lose your seniority in the eleciton, then it does have a significant impact on policy and budgeting, on persuasion opportunities.”

But, he added, new relationships eventually lead to new opportunities.

“We’ve done very well over the years, our president and others, to build new relationships,” he said. “That would be our challenge, to build new relationships of trust and support for UCF.”

CD 6 personal finances: Democrat Bill McCullough fails to file disclosure statement

Democratic congressional nominee Bill McCullough has failed to file his personal financial disclosures report as required under federal law in his campaign attempting to unseat U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

McCullough, who won the Aug. 30 Democratic primary, has twice filed for extensions on the requirement, but both extensions have expired. He told FloridaPolitics.com this week that it should be filed soon.

DeSantis, a two-term Republican incumbent who ran for the U.S. Senate this year before dropping out this summer and instead won a Republican primary to defend his seat, filed a disclosure showing he has modest stock assets, some money in the bank, and student loans and a home mortgage that put him in debt overall.

DeSantis reported less than $15,000 worth of stock in each of Scottrade, SiriusXM Holdings and United States Steel Corp., and somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 in the bank. He did not list his house as an asset. His liabilities include two student loans that total between $25,000 and $65,000 and a home mortgage for between $250,000 and $500,000.

He listed no outside income. He draws $174,000 a year as a member of Congress.

Florida congressional races start fall with lopsided campaign cash

In 20 of Florida’s 26 contested congressional races this fall, one major party nominee escaped from last Tuesday’s primaries with more than five times as much cash-on-hand as the other major party’s candidate.

And in many cases, the cash gap heading into the fall is so overwhelming that one party’s congressional nominee’s bank account would barely be a rounding error for the other party’s nominee. In 15 of the districts, one nominee has at least 30 times as much money as the opponent, and in six of those, the leading candidate has at least 100 times as much cash.

And in only one of the 27 races did the most-endowed, major-party nominee not have more than twice as much campaign money as the rival, in campaign finance reports through Aug. 29, the eve of the primary.

This, according to data gathered, compiled and provided by On 3 Public Relations of Tallahassee on Tuesday.

Florida is a place where a five-to-one disadvantage in campaign money looks pretty good, considering most of the state’s congressional races.

In a couple of districts, one party’s nominee came out of last Tuesday’s primaries nearly broke because of the need to spend everything to win bruising primaries. But most typically, the huge discrepancies between the major parties’  nominees are due to the complete dominance of one party.

The numbers don’t reflect other factors, such as the prospect that newly minted nominees can expect the campaign contributions to start flowing now that they’ve got a win; or that many of the campaigns may be assisted or even overwhelmed by super PAC or dark money this fall, making official campaign funds close to irrelevant.

But still.

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, fresh off an aborted U.S. Senate run, came out of a fairly contested Republican primary in Florida’s 6th Congressional District with $2.9 million in the bank. That’s roughly $21,500 for every dollar that Democratic nominee William McCullough had in his campaign fund at primary time.

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, who through redistricting is seeking another term in Florida’s 22nd Congressional District, came out of the primary with $705,000 in the bank, or roughly $1,763 for every dollar Republican nominee Andrea Leigh McGee had on hand.

U.S. Reps. Bill Posey, a Republican in Florida’s 8th Congressional District; Dennis Ross, a Republican in Florida’s 15th Congressional District; Francis Rooney, a Republican in Florida’s 19th Congressional District; and Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican in Florida’s 25th Congressional District; all also start the fall with 100-to-1 advantages in campaign money over rivals.

The only close-money races in Florida include an unexpected one. In Florida’s 3rd Congressional District, Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho‘s penchant for never raising much campaign money has created a close money race. Yoho left the primary with $429,000, while Democratic nominee Ken McGurn had $247,000 in the bank Aug. 29. That’s a 1.7-to-1 ratio, the closest in Florida.

In other races that could only generously be described as financially close headed into the fall, Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. John Mica has about five times as much money as Democratic nominee Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 7th Congressional District; Democrat Charlie Crist had about 2.3 times as much money as Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. David Jolly in Florida’s 13th Congressional District; Democratic nominee Randy Perkins had about four times as much money as Republican candidate Brian Mast in Florida’s 18th Congressional District; Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has about 2.5 times as much money as Republican nominee Joseph Kaufman in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District; and Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen has about five times as much money as Democratic nominee Scott Fuhrman in Florida’s 27th Congressional District.

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