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Not Just A Body Of Water — A newsletter about Tampa Bay politics — 4.13.18

Has the ol’ Ronda Storms magic lost its spark? Too soon to tell.

Three candidates have filed for central Hillsborough’s HD 59, which is opening up early due to Dover Republican Rep. Ross Spano’s Attorney General aspirations.

Republican Joe Wicker leads with just shy of $30,000. He has $27,500 banked, including $4,000 in candidate loans.

He faces Storms, a controversial former county commissioner and state senator, in the Republican primary. Storms took herself out of political retirement in March – she hasn’t held an elected office since 2012 – and showed $3,550 in her first report.

Democrat Adam Hattersley joined the fracas April 2 and, depending on his fundraising prowess, he’ll have a shot if the “blue wave” hits HD 59. The seat voted plus-1 for Trump in 2016, while Spano won re-election with 54 percent of the vote.

Toledo gears up for re-election

Republican Rep. Jackie Toledo hasn’t gotten her fundraising apparatus back online post-Legislative Session, but she socked away plenty of cash last year. After $2,750 raised and $16,500 spent in March, the Tampa Republican has $71,300 banked as she goes for a second term in the coastal Hillsborough district.

Shortly after New Year’s, Democrat Debra Roberts Bellanti filed paperwork to challenge Toledo. She’s brought in a bit of cash, too.

Her new report brings her to $18,412 in total fundraising, with $8,200 on hand

HD 61 candidates struggle to raise coin

Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw is vacating this Tampa-based district to run for Attorney General. Five Democrats have filed for the majority minority stronghold: Sharon Carter, Norman Andronicus Harris, Dianne Hart, Byron Keith and Karen Skyers. Hart took Shaw to the wire in the 2016 cycle, losing by 101 votes in the primary, but Skyers is the candidate to watch – the former public defender left her job at lobby firm Becker & Poliakoff in March and filed for the seat on April 3, so it’ll be another month before Hart’s front-runner status can be legitimately reevaluated.

As it stands, Hart leads with $20,000 raised and $17,300 on hand, including $15,000 in loans. Carter has $100 in her account, while Harris has $25 and Henry has $0.

Alvarez in driver’s seat to succeed Cruz

Two Democrats have opened campaign accounts to succeed termed-out House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in HD 62, a Democratic stronghold in inland Hillsborough. Michael Alvarez, a Marine veteran and party activist, leads the race with $37,600 raised and $29,800 on hand. His only income last month came via a $1,500 campaign loan, making for $21,648 in self-funding thus far.

Alvarez is running against Carlos Frontela, who showed $1,075 raised in his first month but has since refunded every dime. His only contribution is that stuck is a $200 loan, and he only has $80 of that in the bank.

Power continues to self-fund long-shot bid

Republican Rep. Jamie Grant didn’t have a lot of time for fundraising in his quest for a fifth term in the HD 64, which straddles the Hillsborough-Pinellas border. Grant added $600 and spent $5,600 last month, leaving him with $42K in the bank in what’s now a five-way race.

Grant’s primary challenger, Terry Power, is no fundraising all-star but he’s been willing to subsidize his campaign with plenty of his own cash – $70K so far after putting in another $5,000 in March.

Pinellas Tax Collector endorses DiCeglie for HD 66

Pinellas County Tax Collector Charles Thomas is backing Nick DiCeglie for HD 66. “More than ever, it’s vital that we vote our values,” Thomas said. “Nick deeply cares about our community and is committed to fight for our best interests.” Thomas served as Chief Deputy Tax Collector for 16 years before becoming Tax Collector in 2017. During that time, the office received the Governor’s Sterling Award in 2013 and the Governor’s Sterling Sustained Excellence Award in 2016.

Before that, Thomas was the program manager for Gordon-Darby, Inc., overseeing 11 emissions testing centers. He is past chair of the Pinellas Federal Credit Union, a board member of the Florida Sterling Council, and a member of the Government Finance Officers Association.

Webb dominates in HD 69

HD 69 is another seat that’ll bid its incumbent adieu before term limits kick in, as Republican Rep. Kathleen Peters is foregoing re-election to run for Pinellas County Commission. The seat has a Republican lean, but its completive, and so is the Democrat looking to flip it. Jennifer Necole Webb led the field in March with $19,400 in new money. She has $83,000 on hand and is – as of last week – the only Democrat in the race. Republican Ray Blacklidge, the overall fundraising leader, tacked on $9,100 in March. He’s raised $135K thus far, with $78,600 in the bank.

Blacklidge’s primary opponent, Jeremy Bailie, raised just shy of $10,000 last month, bringing his total two bucks shy of $50K with $36,650 banked.

Money scarce in HD 70

Freshman Democratic Rep. Wengay Newton could be in for a tough re-election battle in HD 70, a Dem stronghold that includes parts of Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties. Newton, who faces two primary challengers, added $2,175 to his campaign account last month for a to-date fundraising total of $21,596. He has $15,362 on hand. Keisha Ann Bell took the No. 2 spot this month. She added $2,000 last month, her second in the race, and spent nearly all of that on marketing and advertising. Bell has about $4,000 in the bank.

The third candidate, Vito Sheely, brought in $1,050 for March, putting him on the cusp of the $10K mark in total fundraising. He’s been dumping money into consulting since he entered, leaving him with about $2,100 in the bank. 

Temple Terrace Chamber supports Rays move to Ybor

The Greater Temple Terrace Chamber of Commerce is the latest community group to support the Tampa Bay Rays staying in the Tampa Bay region. “Representing over 500 businesses in the community, the Greater Temple Terrace Chamber believes that the Tampa Bay Rays enhance the community and together, with other local professional sports teams, provide an economic engine to enhance our region,” said Chamber President and CEO Lee Bell.

“We believe the Ybor City site is the best possible location for a new state of the art ballpark. The new park will enhance an urban core allowing Tampa Bay to compete with other communities throughout the country as an ideal location for businesses and talent.”

Moore fundraises in Pasco County

An extensive list of local Republican leaders is helping Mike Moore in a fundraiser Wednesday, April 18, for his Pasco County Commission re-election bid. The host committee includes House Speaker Richard Corcoran, former Speaker Will Weatherford, state Sen. Wilton Simpson, state Reps. Danny Burgess and Amber Mariano, former Sen. John Legg, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco, Pasco Court Clerk Paula O’Neil and others.

Reception begins 6 p.m. at Buttermilk Provisions, 2653 Bruce B Downs Blvd., Suite 117 in Wesley Chapel. Suggested minimum contribution is $30 per person; RSVP at Moore faces Democrat Kelly Smith.

Pasco-Hernando College faculty votes to unionize

The Florida Public Employees Relations Commission said faculty at the school, in a 64-62 vote, decided to join the United Faculty of Florida, the higher-education union affiliated with the Florida Education Association. Caitlin Gille, an associate professor of natural science at the 12,000-student school, expects “many positive changes … We can now participate more effectively in shaping the policies that affect our work of facilitating student success.”

Pasco-Hernando is the third state college where the faculty has decided to unionize in the past two years. The union stands for faculty at 11 of the 28 state and community colleges and at all 12 state universities.

Clearwater tennis employee accused of stalking sues

Clearwater’s McMullen Tennis Complex employee Steve Talner developed a texting friendship with tennis player Danielle Armstrong in 2017. After Talner sent a list of questions, some risqué, Armstrong responded but asked Talner to end contact. Despite repeated requests, Talner continued to try to rekindle the friendship, leading Armstrong to file stalking complaints.

Talner resigned after a city investigation concluded he sexually harassed. Clearwater then banned Talner from all city recreational facilities for a year, later reduced to three months. Talner filed suit, claiming violation of free speech; his calls were “as a private citizen,” not a city employee. He seeks damages for wrongful termination and an overturn of the ban.

Tampa executive appointed to Enterprise Florida board

On Thursday, Gov. Scott named Gregory Celestan to the Enterprise Florida, Inc. board of directors. Celestan, 55, is the owner and chief executive officer of the Celestar Holdings Corporation, a privately held, veteran-owned defense contractor based in Tampa with a satellite office in Reston, Virginia. He served in the United States Army from 1984 until 2004.

Celestan succeeds Julius Davis for a term ending Sept. 30, 2020. The appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Dan McAuliffe, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
Phone: (727) 642-3162
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St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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