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Not Just A Body Of Water — A briefing about Tampa Bay politics — 5.20.18

Hundreds of people – including U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Congressman Charlie Crist – held hands on Florida beaches Saturday in protest of proposed nearshore oil drilling.

“Hands Across the Sand” was held in Pinellas County, one of nearly 120 events taking place on beaches nationwide. The annual protest first started during the Deepwater Horizon explosion seven years ago, which led to the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It became the largest single maritime oil spill in U.S. history – impacting every Gulf state, including Florida.

Besides Nelson and Crist, Saturday’s Clearwater Beach protest drew a large group of local and state elected officials. Other beaches throughout Pinellas held similar events. Speakers at the various local events included Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos; Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard; and Frank Jackalone, Florida Sierra Club director. Also attending protests were state Rep. Kathleen Peters of South Pasadena, Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long, School Board Chair Rene Flowers and representatives of Sea Shepherd, Environment Florida, the Suncoast Surfrider Foundation, Center for Biological Diversity, and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Hands Across the Sand is taking a special urgency is 2018, as the Trump administration proposes opening new offshore regions for oil and gas drilling. Despite that, federal officials are promising that drilling will not be allowed close to Florida.

Saturday’s protesters remain unconvinced.

“The vampire is still alive,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. “And we still need to put that stake in its heart.”

Levine campaign expands in Tampa Bay

The Philip Levine for Governor campaign expanded its Tampa Bay footprint with the addition of Ella K. Coffee as regional deputy director and Matt Byrd as Tampa Bay campaign coordinator.

Most recently, Coffee worked with the Florida Democratic Party, serving as the West Central Florida Community Engagement Director. Previously, she was an education, recruitment, and training specialist with the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections. She has worked on several campaigns in the region over the past election cycles.

Byrd worked on St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s re-election as a campaign coordinator in 2017, coordinating outreach with the African-American community. He currently owns and operates a contracting business, rehabilitating properties throughout the Tampa Bay area.

DiCeglie fundraises in HD 66

Republican Nick DiCeglie is holding a fundraiser for his House District 66 campaign Wednesday, May 30, in St. Petersburg. The event begins 5:30 p.m. at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, 11 Central Ave. in St. Pete.

The host committee includes former St. Petersburg Mayors Rick Baker and Bill Foster, City Council Member Ed Montanari, former Council candidate Justin Bean, attorney Brian Aungst Jr., Mike Mikurak and more.

DiCeglie is seeking the seat currently held by term-limited Rep. Larry Ahern, who is running for Pinellas County Commissioner. He faces St. Petersburg attorney Berny Jacques in the Republican primary.

Also running for the seat are Democrat Alex Hereen and Reform Party candidate Paul Anthony Bachmann.

Bailie qualifies by petition

Republican Jeremy Bailie is the first GOP candidate to qualify by petition for the 2018 House District 69 race. He is facing Raymond Blacklidge in the Republican primary for the seat currently held by state Rep. Kathleen Peters, which covers Redington Beach, Madeira Beach, Treasure Island, South Pasadena and Gulfport.

The winner will face Gulfport Democrat Jennifer Webb, who also qualified by petition.

“We’re extremely proud of the hard work this campaign and our volunteers put in to reach this important grassroots goal,” Bailie said.

Endorsing Bailey are Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Commissioner John Morroni, Property Appraiser Mike Twitty and Court Clerk Ken Burke, among others.

Webb fundraises for HD 69

Democrat Jennifer Webb will join a large group of Tampa luminaries for a fundraiser Tuesday supporting her bid for House District 69.

The event will be from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the office of Johnson Pope Bokor Ruppel & Burns, SunTrust Financial Centre Building, 401 E. Jackson St., Suite 3100, Tampa.

The host committee includes former Democratic gubernatorial candidate and state CFO Alex Sink, former Congressman Jim Davis, former state Sen. and USF President Betty Castor and her husband Sam Bell, Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp, Tampa City Council Members Harry CohenGuido Maniscalco and Luis Viera among others.

RSVP with Jennifer Gordon at or (850) 841-9020.

Ruth’s List endorses Smith

Ruth’s List Florida, dedicated to recruiting and aiding Democratic women candidates, is supporting Mariella Smith in the Hillsborough County Commission District 5 race, praising her ongoing commitment to stand up for Florida women and families.

“Mariella Smith is a small-business owner and a dynamic leader who supports equal opportunity for all and stands up to powerful special interests,” said Pam Goodman, Ruth’s List Florida Executive Director. “The Ruth’s List community — now tens of thousands of members strong — is excited to support her candidacy.”

District 5 is being vacated by Republican Ken Hagan, who is now running for District 2.

Smith is one of three Democrats in the race, following Elvis Pigott and Mark Nash.

Peters Pasadena wine taster

Treasure Island Republican Rep. Peters is hosting a South Pasadena wine tasting reception Tuesday, May 22, supporting her bid for Pinellas County Commission District 6.

Co-hosts include Pasadena Mayor Max Elson and Commissioner Gail Neidinger.

The event begins 5:30 p.m. at Pasadena Liquors & Fine Wines, 1100 Pasadena Ave. S. and South Pasadena. RSVP with or (727) 434-0221.

Peters faces state Rep. Larry Ahern and Barb Haselden, both Republicans.

District 6 includes the communities of Indian Shores, Redington Beach, Redington Shores, Madeira Beach, Pinellas Park, Seminole, Treasure Island and St. Pete Beach. John Morroni, who is retiring after four terms on the commission, currently holds the seat.

Flowers earns Gulfport leader endorsement

Gulfport Ward 4 City Councilmember Michael Fridovich is endorsing Pinellas County District 7 School Board member Rene flowers for re-election.

“Recruiting mentors, introducing creative programming, and expanding professional development for staff of the tools needed to move our students forward — not more testing,” Fridovich said in a statement. “A vote for Rene Flowers is a vote for our future.”

Flowers, who was first elected in 2012 to serve out the remainder of the late Lew Williams’ term, is running for her second full term on the board, said she was “elated” for the support.

“Councilmember Fridovich is a dedicated local elected official focused on improving our schools and our community one student, one family, one day at a time.”

Conservative author visits Tiger Bay

Conservative author Jonah Goldberg enters the St. Petersburg Tiger Bay’s Den Thursday, June 14, to discuss his new book.

Goldberg is a Senior Fellow at the National Review Institute, Senior Editor at the National Review and syndicated columnist for the Los Angeles Times. His new book “Suicide of the West” argues that the rise of both liberal and conservative populism threatens to undermine America’s fundamental ideals.

Goldberg has written for The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, The Weekly Standard, The New York Post and Slate.

The event begins at 11:30 a.m. with networking at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, 11 Central Ave. Reservations online, the deadline is noon Monday, June 11. Tickets are $25 for members, $35 for guests.

Surterra opens in Largo

Medical marijuana advocates Florida for Care announced that Surterra Wellness opened a new Wellness Center in Largo, at 10761 Ulmerton Road a grand opening event Thursday, May 17, where interested parties could to “mingle, learn more about their products, and ask your questions about MMJ.”

Surterra, one of seven firms currently licensed by the state to operate medical marijuana facilities, offers transdermal patches, vaporizers, vape pens, oils, lotions and sprays.

Products include both low tetrahydrocannabinol and high THC. With a recommendation from a doctor, Florida patients can get a Compassionate Use Registry Identification Card, which allows them to purchase medical marijuana legally. There are more than 100,000 Floridians on the state registry.

Death sentence upheld in 1982 murders

Florida Supreme Court justices unanimously rejected arguments by attorneys for Jason Dirk Walton, now 59, who was sentenced to death in the 35-year-old Pinellas County murders.

A court document filed last year said the three victims were found lying face down with wrists bound, each shot at close range with a shotgun. An 8-year-old boy was found unharmed locked in a bathroom.

The ruling said the shootings were part of a robbery and burglary. In the appeal, Walton’s attorneys pointed to issues related to the 2014 resentencing of a co-defendant to life in prison.

But justices, in a 14-page ruling written by Justice Peggy Quince, upheld a lower-court decision that rejected the arguments.

Nielsen, property appraiser tangle again

Nielsen Company is once again tangling with Pinellas County Property Appraiser Twitty.

In a new lawsuit filed April 23, the market research firm takes issue with the $909,835 actual tax bill for 2017, saying the appraiser’s assessed value of the property “exceeds the market value” and thus is invalid.

Nielsen’s Tampa Bay area office is at 501 Brooker Creek Blvd., Oldsmar.

Nielsen wants the court to overturn the assessment as “excessive” and direct the property appraiser to issue a “proper” assessment. In March 2018, a judge dismissed Nielsen’s 2017 lawsuit against Twitty claiming it was filed after the statute of limitations. Nielsen subsequently appealed the ruling to the 2nd District Court of Appeal.

Celebrating Karen Aungst

A celebration of the life of Karen Aungst will be held Friday, June 15, at 10:30 a.m., Calvary Baptist Church, 110 McMullen Booth Road in Clearwater.

A tribute film will be played at 10 a.m. before the service.

Aungst, 63, died May 3 at Suncoast Empath Hospice after an 18-month battle with brain cancer. She was married to former Charter Communications director of Government Relations Brian Aungst Sr., who is a former Clearwater mayor.

The couple’s son Brian Jr. is an attorney with MacFarlane Ferguson & McMullen.

In 2017, Brian and Karen were named “Mr. and Mrs. Clearwater” by the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce.

After the services, there will be a reception immediately following at Island Way Grill, 20 Island Way in Clearwater.

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

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