Steve Crisafulli Archives - Page 4 of 36 - Florida Politics

Debbie Mayfield defeats Ritch Workman in SD 17

Rep. Debbie Mayfield came out on top in Senate District 17.

According to unofficial election results, Mayfield received 42 percent of the vote. She defeated Rep. Ritch Workman, who received 35 percent.

The race was one of the nastiest in this election cycle. Outside political committees poured thousands upon thousands of dollars into the race, running ads hitting the candidates on their voting records and personal life.

First elected in 2008, Mayfield succeeded her husband — Rep. Stan Mayfield, who died in Sept. 2008 — in the Florida House. The Vero Beach Republican is a staunch opponent of Common Core, and had the backing of Florida Parents Against Common Core. She also was endorsed by the Florida Board of Realtors, the Republican Liberty Caucus, and Florida Right to Life.

The long list of supporters didn’t stop the attacks. Workman called for her resignation after a bio box appeared in Florida Today saying she moved to Brevard County in 2015. And the “Accomplished Conservative Leaders Fund” — a political committee largely funded by Workman’s committee, “Citizens United for Liberty and Freedom” — attacked her voting records, family businesses, and personal loans to her campaign.

Workman took to Twitter on Tuesday to congratulate Mayfield, saying he looks forward to supporting her against Democrat Amy Tidd in November.

Workman didn’t escape the race unscathed. “Stop Career Politicians,” a political committee backing Mayfield, has called out Workman for using taxpayer dollars to send a mailer outside of his House district, votes on immigration, and support for an alimony reform bill.

And after months of attacks, Workman’s wife and ex-wife came to his defense. The campaign released an advertisement featuring both women, who hammered Mayfield for attacking Workman.

First elected in 2008, the Melbourne Republican rose to the position of House Rules chairman under House Speaker Steve Crisafulli. He was endorsed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and his campaign ran TV ads featuring Gov. Rick Scott.


The story from a primary election day in the not-too-distant future

TALLAHASSEE — Two years after Hillary Clinton became the nation’s first female president, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham has become the second woman to win a major party’s nomination for Florida governor.

Graham, an attorney and daughter of former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, held off her two Democratic rivals in a spirited primary election.

Graham now faces former state House Speaker Will Weatherford in November. The Wesley Chapel Republican edged out Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the GOP establishment favorite, in a free-wheeling, wide-open Republican primary.

The man Graham and Weatherford hope to replace, Rick Scott, easily won the Republican nomination in Florida’s U.S. Senate race. He’ll face three-term Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson in the fall.

Spending only $9 million out of his personal fortune, it was the least amount Scott has spent to win an election. Instead, the still-powerful governor raised more than $30 million for his Senate campaign from the political allies who have long supported him. The Florida Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce donated heavily to “Let’s Get to Work America,” the super PAC backing Scott.

It was Scott’s nonstop fundraising after winning re-election in 2014 — especially as it became clear he would be back on the ballot in 2018 — that became one of the launching points for Graham’s gubernatorial bid. Her promise to “clean up the Governor’s Mansion” became a rallying cry for her and supporters on the campaign trail.

Graham captured 38 percent of the Democratic vote, while Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn finished second with 30 percent and Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine, despite spending more than $50 million of his own money, ended in third place with 28 percent. A handful of also-rans and gadfly candidates rounded out the results.

The clear difference for Graham was her strength with African-American voters, who were reminded in television commercial after television commercial of Tampa’s controversial “biking while black” ticketing scandal.

While Graham rarely brought up the topic, an anti-Buckhorn super PAC never let the issue drop, dogging Buckhorn press conferences with paid protestors who would buzz the events by circling around on bicycles. The video of Buckhorn jumping down from a stage to confront one of the young protestors went viral.

Levine entered the race with considerable fanfare, distributing virtual reality players to donors and reporters so they could watch the short film he had produced about his tenure as mayor.

And while the “Miami Beach Miracle” movie was the first use of VR on a campaign trail, Levine did not deliver at the box office. Polls indicated he never connected with either the conservative north Florida Democrats loyal to Graham or the voters of the I-4 corridor which Buckhorn hoped would be enough of a base to beat Graham.

The Tampa Bay area was ground zero for the GOP primary, with at least five candidates having staked some sort of claim to the state’s largest media market. Weatherford is from Wesley Chapel, Putnam from Bartow, Carlos Beruff from Parrish, Richard Corcoran from Land O’ Lakes, and Jack Latvala from Clearwater.

Beruff never stopped running for statewide office after losing to Marco Rubio in the 2016 U.S. Senate race. Although his consulting team was busy with Scott’s race, the prospect of Beruff writing another eight-figure check for his campaign kept the nucleus of his team together.

The Manatee County homebuilder parted with another $14 million in his bid to become governor, making it nearly $25 million Beruff has spent in the last two years for two losing campaigns.

Corcoran and Latvala, the two legislative powerhouses who brought the Capitol to a standstill earlier this year over Corcoran’s resistance to commit any taxpayer dollars to Latvala’s plan to build a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays, really only flirted with running for governor.

Corcoran was in the race for about a month, Latvala less than that. But after the so-called “Waffle House Summit” at which Corcoran and Latvala agreed to drop their bids for governor and instead run for attorney general and chief financial officer, while backing Weatherford over Putnam, the governor’s race became a two-man affair.

Corcoran will square off against Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Aronberg in the attorney general’s race, while Latvala will face Democrat Jeremy Ring. Former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli faces nominal Democratic opposition in the race for agriculture commissioner.

For much of the race, Putnam held every advantage — in fundraising, endorsements, and name recognition. But Weatherford doggedly traveled the state, damning Putnam with faint praise.

“Adam has been a good politician for more than 20 years,” Weatherford would say, “And he would make a good governor. But what Florida needs now is a transformational governor.”

The charge of Putnam being a career politician began to stick as Weatherford won straw polls at county party meetings and the endorsements of national movement conservatives. To many observers, the Weatherford vs. Putnam race played out like the Marco Rubio vs. Charlie Crist race of 2010.

By the time Goliath noticed David, it was too late.

Weatherford heads into November knowing that Florida Republicans typically outperform Democrats in non-presidential years.

But Graham is anything but a typical politician. With her father campaigning by her side and a legion of volunteers behind her, Graham may be the Democrats’ best chance to take back the Governor’s Mansion since the days of Lawton Chiles.

Donald Trump to hold fundraiser in Tampa days after RNC

Donald Trump will be in Tampa on Tuesday, July 26, to appear at a fundraiser on his behalf.

The event will be hosted by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus. 

Governor Rick Scott will also be in attendance, along with Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, St. Pete business magnate Bill Edwards, Tampa Bay area philanthropist Les Muma, Hillsborough County Aviation Authority Chairman Robert Watkins, Outback Steakhouse founder Chris T. Sullivan, Port Tampa Bay Chairman  Steve Swindal and developer Joe Williams.

The site has for the fundraiser has yet to be announced.

Later in the day, Trump will then travel to Miami for another fundraiser at 7 p.m. that evening.


Florida court sides against former Miami congressman David Rivera

A Florida court is refusing to block a recommendation that a former U.S. congressman and one-time ally of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio should pay nearly $60,000 stemming from an ethics investigation.

The 1st District Court of Appeal on Wednesday rejected former U.S. Rep. David Rivera‘s contention that he was denied due process by the Florida Commission on Ethics. Rivera, a former state legislator from Miami, served one term in the U.S. House.

Rivera is accused of violating several state ethics laws. The commission recommended Rivera pay $16,500 in penalties and more than $41,000 in restitution.

It’s up to House Speaker Steve Crisafulli to decide whether to impose penalties.

Rivera’s attorney says Crisafulli has no authority over former House members, but the court said it couldn’t rule on that until the speaker acts on the case.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Joe Henderson: Richard Corcoran flexes muscles with $53K June fundraising

The latest example of Richard Corcoran’s expanding power in Tallahassee came in this little news nugget: He raised $53,000 last month, despite the fact he has already been re-elected to the Florida House without opposition.

As incoming House Speaker, Corcoran’s reach extends far beyond his campaign. One of the biggest ways is in serving as a magnet for contributions. He may not need the money himself, but he knows candidates and causes that might.

“For lack of a better word, it becomes a war chest of sorts,” Republican operative Mark Proctor said.

That war chest becomes a critical part of the legislative process.

Donors basically tell the recipient — in this case, Corcoran — here’s some money, dole it out where you see fit. So if you’re a Republican candidate a little short on funds in a tough race, the soon-to-be Speaker might direct a few bucks your way. It’s a common practice in politics.

Much of that money is funneled through Corcoran’s political committee “Florida Roundtable,” which according to state campaign documents has raised $2.041 million since it was founded in 2013. Since Jan. 1 of this year, it has raised $371,000.

That, of course, is a great way to consolidate power because nothing ensures loyalty for the Speaker’s agenda like a helping hand in the campaign.

And what might Speaker Corcoran’s agenda include?

He’ll hold the line on taxes. He’ll fight attempts at gun restrictions, like he just did when House Democrats tried to schedule a special session on guns following the massacre in Orlando. Any attempt to revive Medicaid expansion for the state’s estimated 800,000 people without health insurance will be met with a continued cold shoulder.

He also has set his sights on ending taxpayer support for Enterprise Florida on the grounds that it amounts to corporate welfare. That could lead to a showdown with Gov. Rick Scott, who wants to expand greatly the taxpayer contribution to the agency created in the early 1990s to attract businesses to the state.

During Corcoran’s rise to power, he was often considered the most powerful man in the House — even ahead of then-speaker Steve Crisafulli. As House budget chairman in the last session, Corcoran helped shepherd through an $82 billion spending blueprint.

Now as Speaker, Corcoran has a chance to shape the landscape in Florida for many years to come. Months like the one that just ended help provide the needed cash to do just that.


Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He has covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons — Ben and Patrick.


Chuck Clemons picks up endorsements from past Florida House Speakers

House District 21 candidate Chuck Clemons announced Tuesday he has picked up endorsements from the past three speakers of the Florida House.

Former Republican House Speakers Larry Cretul, Dean Cannon and Will Weatherford backed Clemons’ campaign in the Gainesville-based seat currently held by Republican Rep. Keith Perry, who is running for Senate in the newly redrawn District 8.

“Chuck Clemons is a committed conservative who will be an excellent state representative,” said Cretul, who served as House speaker at the beginning of the decade. “His outstanding track record as a public servant in a variety of capacities combined with his deep personal roots in District 21 makes him uniquely qualified to be a strong leader in Tallahassee.”

Cannon and Weatherford, the House speakers directly preceding Steve Crisafulli, both praised Clemons for his leadership, with Cannon adding Clemons “has the right experience and perspective to be a very effective member of the Florida House.”

“To have the support of these great Florida leaders means the world to me,” said Clemons. “Speakers Cretul, Cannon, and Weatherford have all served our state very effectively and with great integrity. I look forward to serving the residents of District 21 with their same commitment to increasing opportunity for all Floridians.”

Clemons, an administrator at Santa Fe College, currently faces Gainesville businesswoman Wenda Lewis as well as pharmacist Tim Rogers in the Republican primary for the Alachua County seat.

Through the end of May, Lewis held a substantial lead in campaign finance with more than $172,000 in her campaign account, though $100,000 of that money came in through loans. Clemons had about $79,000 in the bank through the same date, none of it through loans, while Rogers has just shy of $10,000 on hand three months into his campaign.

The GOP-leaning seat also attracted Democrat Marihelen Wheeler, who has just over $1,000 on hand, as well as a pair of write-in candidates who filed shortly before the June 24 qualifying deadline.

Personnel note: Michael Williams to Core Message

Michael Williams is departing the Florida House Speaker’s office as communications director and heading to Tallahassee PR shop CoreMessage as managing director of media relations.

The firm announced the move Tuesday.

“CoreMessage is thrilled to add Michael to our team,” said Cory Tilley, the president of CoreMessage and former top communications aide to Gov. Jeb Bush.

“Bringing someone of Michael’s caliber and experience on board will have an immediate positive impact on our clients,” he added. “He will be an enormous asset as we continue to provide our clients with the best public relations services in Florida.”

Williams, 36, has been a spokesman for Speaker Steve Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican, since 2014.

Before that, he was deputy communications director for the House Majority (Republicans) Office. He’s also worked at Xcel Energy and the Florida Manufactured Housing Association.

During the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions, Williams was a consultant for Ramba Consulting Group, a governmental relations firm.

“Michael brings the perfect kind of experience to our firm,” said Jennifer Fennell, vice president of CoreMessage. “His extensive background in media relations, digital media, and public policy issues will only enhance our current team and our ability to deliver results for our diverse group of clients.”

Williams – who enjoys “golf, reading and playing with my kids” – starts with CoreMessage July 18.

Florida LWV wants Legislature to convene special session to address gun control issues

Eight days after the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando left 49 dead and an additional 53 injured in the single worst shooting incident in modern U.S. history, the Florida League of Women Voters is calling on state leaders to hold a special session to deal with two specific gun control issues by the end of the month.

Specifically, the LWV wants the Legislature to make it a crime to knowingly import, sell, manufacture, transfer, or possess a semiautomatic assault weapon or large capacity ammunition feeding device.

“There is simply no reason for private citizens to have access to weapons like the MCX Carbine firearm used to murder the 49 people in the Pulse Night Club in Orlando on June 12, 2016. These weapons have immense destructive power and do not belong in civilian hands,” writes Pamela S. Goodman, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, in a letter addressed to Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner.

The LWV of Florida also wants the state to implement universal background checks.

“Both nationally and in Florida, legal access to guns is still too easy — and this tragedy is only the latest in a long line of examples, ” Goodman writes about the massacre in Orlando. “In particular, the state should require private parties (i.e., non-federally or state licensed dealers) to conduct a background check before selling any firearm. Simultaneously, the state of Florida should ensure that all relevant records are provided to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check.”

In a conference call Monday afternoon, Goodman said the purpose of the letter was to get a response and begin a discourse from the people of Florida to their lawmakers.

Forty-nine different individuals and groups signed on to the letter, including Nadine Smith with Equality Florida and Maria Rodriguez with the Florida Immigrant Coalition.

Goodman said it was important for state lawmakers to hear from so many different organizations and individuals who are calling for specifics, “be it business, be it faith-based, the LGBT community, the Hispanic community, civic organizations, residential organizations, small businesses, entrepreneurs all around the state, from the north, the south, the east, the west, that feel quite strongly that fewer weapons in this state … is common-sense legislation.”

Gov. Scott said in an interview with WESH-TV in Orlando on Monday that he doesn’t believe gun control is the answer. “Let’s be realistic, the Second Amendment didn’t cause this,” he said when asked about the gun control proposals going before the U.S. Senate. “It didn’t shoot innocent people. I mean, evil did. ISIS did. Radical Islam did.”

Gardiner also has expressed his lack of interest in entertaining any discussion of what to do about guns in reaction to Orlando. His spokesperson, Katie Betta, reacted last week when several state Democrats similarly called for a special session on guns to be convened.

“The President does not support expending taxpayer dollars on a special session unless there is definitive support within the Senate for a concrete legislative proposal that requires time-sensitive action,” Betta said. “Absent those elements, the President has a hard time viewing press conferences calling for a special session three days after the worst act of terrorism in this country since Sept. 11 as anything more than political posturing by two senators who have declared their intention to run for Congress.”

The Florida LWV will be hosting a conference call with reporter at 2 p.m. to discuss their proposals.

Personnel note: Kristen McDonald headed to H+K

Kristen McDonald, who’s been communications director for the Florida House Republicans, is heading to Hill+Knowlton Strategies‘ Tallahassee office.

The move was announced Wednesday.

She joins another House staffer now there: H+K vice president Ryan Duffy, who was chief spokesman for former House Speaker Will Weatherford in 2012-14.


McDonald was communications director for the Office of the Majority Leader in the Florida House of Representatives from 2012-16, serving under three different leaders: state Rep. Steve Precourt, current House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, and current Majority Leader Dana Young.

Before that, McDonald was press secretary for the Republican Party of Florida during the 2012 election cycle, including the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

“By bringing Kristen on board, we are further bolstering Hill+Knowlton’s strong presence in Florida,” said Harry Costello, H+K Florida general manager and executive vice president, in a statement.

“Kristen’s experience in the Florida Legislature and previous work with the Republican Party of Florida broadens our public affairs footprint in the state,” he added.

She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science from Florida State University.

In 2014, McDonald was named a “30 Under 30 Rising Stars in Florida Politics” in SaintPetersblog.

McDonald joins a public affairs team led by Alia Faraj-Johnson, senior vice president and Florida public affairs practice leader.

She also will work with Ron Bartlett, deputy general manager and former public affairs leader; Susan Thurston, senior account executive; and Bob Lotane, senior consultant.

Other hires include Julie Borm, a former health industry communications director, who joins H+K Florida’s health and corporate communications practice.

Two new H+K fellows are Trip Farmer, based in Tallahassee, who’ll provide “support for research, media outreach, and legislative issue tracking for public affairs clients,” and Alison Spiegel, based in Tampa, who most recently worked as an intern at Bascom Communications & Consulting in Tallahassee.

Plaintiffs seek summary judgment in Amendment 1 suit

Advocacy groups suing the Legislature over environmental funding now are asking a judge to hand them the win.

Florida Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club and others filed a 57-page motion for summary judgment Wednesday. Granting such motions allows parties to win a case without a trial.

They filed suit last year over Amendment 1, the constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2014 that mandates state spending for land and water conservation.

The measure requires state officials to set aside 33 percent of the money from the real estate “documentary stamp” tax to protect Florida’s environmentally sensitive areas for 20 years. This year, that number is expected to total more than $740 million.

But the suit and Wednesday’s motion allege House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, Senate President Andy Gardiner, and other state lawmakers aren’t following through. The Legislature opposes the motion and will file a response soon.

“Plaintiffs are entitled to summary judgment because Amendment One prohibits the Legislature from appropriating land acquisition and restoration funds for any other purpose, but the Legislature appropriated most Amendment One monies to salaries and ordinary expenses of four state agencies,” the motion says.

Those agencies are the Department of Environmental Protection, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Department of State and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The standard for summary judgment is “that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”

The motion says: “That the Legislature appropriated funds for those purposes is not in dispute, and as a matter of law those appropriations are unconstitutional.”

The amendment, which needed a minimum of 60 percent to pass, got a landslide of nearly 75 percent, or more than 4.2 million “yes” votes.

“Florida voters did not vote for salaries and operating expenses … Amendment One allows only for acquisition and restoration of conservation lands,” the motion adds.

“State officials have misused these funds, plain and simple,” said David Guest, managing attorney for Earthjustice, the nonprofit environmental law firm representing the groups.

“Floridians put an amendment into the Constitution directing the state to use these tax dollars to buy and restore conservation land,” he added. “With this legal action, we are asking a judge to hold up the intent of Florida voters.”

The case is in Leon County Circuit Civil Court and assigned to Circuit Judge George Reynolds III.

Jim Rosica ( covers the Florida Legislature, state agencies and courts from Tallahassee. 

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