Walter Dartland – Florida Politics

Endorsement watch: National Right to Life, Sierra Club, Florida Retail Federation and others issue endorsements

With just a few weeks until the election, organizations across the state are rolling out endorsements for state and federal candidates.

Neal Dunn has earned the support of the National Right to Life.

The organization endorsed Dunn, a medical doctor, in his campaign for Florida’s 2nd Congressional District.

“This endorsement reflects your commitment to strengthening a culture of life throughout the nation and in the U.S. Congress,” said David N. O’Steen, executive director, and Karen A. Cross, political director of National Right to Life, in their endorsement letter. “We look forward to working with you to protect the most vulnerable members of the human family — unborn children and medically dependent or disabled persons, whose lives are threatened by abortion or euthanasia. All voters who are concerned with the right to life … should vote to send you to Congress, so that you can work to advance vital pro-life public policies.”

Dunn faces Democrat Walter Dartland in the Nov. 8 general election.

Brian Mast has received the backing of the National Federation of Independent Business.

The organization endorsed Mast in his campaign for Florida’s 18th Congressional District.

“Brian Mast is committed to being a strong voice for Florida small business owners,” said Sharon Sussin, the national political director for NFIB, in a statement. “He knows that taxes, regulations, and the expense of health care are holding back small business. NFIB members want to see him in the U.S. House next year once again serving his country.”

Mast also received he backing of the Yes! Israel Project.

“We need leaders in Washington who support and defend Israel, and we are confident that Brian Mast will be that leader,” the group said in its endorsement. “The Yes! Israel Project thanks him for his exemplary service to his country. We look forward to hosting him in Israel, as a U.S. Congressman, very soon!”

Mast faces Democrat Randy Perkins in the Nov. 8 general election.

Randy Perkins has received the backing of Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay.

McKinlay endorsed Perkins in his campaign for Florida’s 18th Congressional District.

“Too much is at stake this election cycle, especially for women’s issues,” she said in a statement. “In the 18th Congressional seat, Randy Perkins will fight for a woman’s right to choose and equal pay for equal work for women. As a single mother raising three children, including two daughters, we must support the candidate that will protect their future, their healthcare, and their choice. Therefore, my choice for the 18th Congressional District is Randy Perkins.”

Perkins faces Republican Brian Mast in the Nov. 8 general election.

Bob Buesing has received the backing of the Sierra Club Florida.

The Sierra Club endorsed Buesing in his Senate District 18 bid. In a letter announcing their endorsement, the Sierra Club Florida said Buesing earned their support through his “demonstrated commitment to protecting Florida and America’s environment.”

“Protecting Florida’s drinking water from big polluters is essential to ensuring a healthy future for our state, both environmentally and economically,” said Buesing in a statement. “I’ll work hard once elected to ensure we ban environmentally dangerous practices like fracking and any expanded drilling that could potentially endanger the health and well-being of our communities.”

Buesing faces Majority Leader Dana Young in the Nov. 8 general election.

Joe Gruters has earned the backing of the National Federation of Independent Business.

The organization endorsed Gruters in his House District 73 bid. The endorsement was made by NFIB/Florida SAFE (Save America’s Free Enterprise) Trust, which is comprised exclusively of NFIB members.

“Joe is a true believer in free enterprise, and will support policies that help small business owners grow and prosper,” said Bill Herrle, the executive director of NFIB/Florida.

Gruters faces Democrat Steve Vernon in the Nov. 8 general election.

Rosy Palomino has received the backing of the Florida Retail Federation.

The statewide trade organization endorsed the Miami Republican in her House District 112 bid.

“Rosy is small retail business owner, a community leader and someone who truly understands the struggles faced by Florida businesses,” said Randy Miller, the president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation. “Her goals of reducing taxes and regulations that hinder small business growth are exactly what we need as the House Representative in District 112.”

Palomino faces Democrat Nicholas X. Duran in the Nov. 8 general election.

Mary Thomas bails on CD 2 debate in Tallahassee

There was a conspicuous absence during a debate Tuesday between the candidates for Congress in Florida’s second district — Republican Mary Thomas pulled out just minutes before the festivities were to begin.

The two remaining Republicans, Panama City urologist Neal Dunn and attorney Ken Sukhia, were left to compete for the mantle of the true conservative in the race. Meanwhile, Democrats Walter Dartland and Steve Crapps said they would stick up for the little guy.

“What distinguishes me is that I have already fought for the issues we all hold dear,” Sukhia said, mentioning his participation in litigation on the state’s behalf against the Affordable Care Act, his activism in opposition to abortion rights, representation of small business owners challenging government regulation, and intervention in the Terri Schiavo matter.

Dunn agreed the country is on the wrong track, but said he hopes to cooperate with Democrats within limits.

“You have to be able to work together. Maybe I’m not right on some things. Maybe they’re right.” Still, he came down hard on the ACA, which he likened to a “cancer,” plus government regulations. He described the military as “under attack” by the Obama administration. “We need to get the government off our back,” he said.

As for Thomas, she telephoned debate organizers for the Network of Entrepreneurs & Business Advocates in Tallahassee “a few minutes” before the scheduled start, said Barney Bishop, the group’s president.

“We got a call saying she was in Lake City or Live Oak” and wouldn’t attend, he said. “I think she had another appointment.”

The Thomas campaign did not reply to an email seeking comment. Thomas works in the Rick Scott administration as general counsel for the Department of Elder Affairs.

Sukhia is a former U.S. attorney who, while in private practice, represented George W. Bush during the 2000 Florida recount. He was active in anti-abortion advocacy and intervened in the Schiavo matter.

“The problem for the past eight years has been the unwillingness of Republicans we sent to Congress to do what we sent them there to do,” Sukhia said — that is, stop the descent of the United States into a “socialist-secularist state.” He denounced the Republicans in Congress who voted for the last budget resolution despite its inclusion of money for Planned Parenthood. Compromise is fine, he said, “but there are some other things I won’t compromise on.”

Dunn supported former U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland when he represented the district. He has taken heat for donating $1,000 to Charlie Crist while Crist was still a Republican, and to Democratic Rep. Allen Boyd and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s campaign against Connie Mack in 2012.

The two Democrats appeared to understand they were the underdogs in the race. The 19-county district, as recently redrawn, gave President Obama only 34 percent of its vote.

Dartland, who served as deputy state attorney general and as general counsel in that office, focused on vocational education and defended regulations to protect the public. “We have regulations for a reason,” he said. He called for a single-payer health care system.

Crapps, a tree farmer from Live Oak, described himself as “an old-school conservative Democrat.” He said: “You have to be with the people, not the party.”

Personnel note: Jennifer West joins Consumer Federation of the Southeast as executive director

Longtime consumer advocate Jennifer West is joining the Consumer Federation of the Southeast (CFSE) as executive director.

West, who will succeed CFSE founder Walter Dartland, brings an extensive history of business, nonprofit and campaign work in California.

Dartland will take a new role as director emeritus of the not-for-profit consumer advocacy group, which has worked since 2003 to establish a pro-consumer agenda built on public awareness, consumer education and coalition-building.

“I’m excited that this new opportunity enables me to work to improve the lives of consumers across the Southeast,” West said in a statement. “Under the expert leadership of a true consumer legend, the Consumer Federation has built a deserved reputation for fighting for consumers, identifying and solving problems and building public awareness. It’s a privilege to follow in Walt Dartland’s footsteps and continue this important work.”

CFSE, the leading voice for more than 98 million consumers in the nation’s fastest growing region, advocates on behalf of consumer interests across 11 Southeastern states. It is a member of the Consumer Federation of America, but operates independently and sets its own advocacy priorities.

West previously served as owner of the California-based J. West Group, an independent marketing, public relations and political campaign consulting firm. West served as a representative to numerous local planning commissions, city councils, School Boards, County board of supervisors, the media and the public. She led award-winning campaigns that led to improved schools, roads and infrastructure. She is also a past chairwoman of the board of directors of the Merced (CA) Chamber of Commerce.

“I’m tremendously proud of what we have built at the Consumer Federation, and I am most eager to support Jennifer as she guides it in new ways to best benefit consumers,” Dartland said. “I know her experience, leadership skills and commitment to excellence will carry our vision for years to come.”

West will be based in Tallahassee, where she and her husband have two grown sons.

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