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Florida’s statewide Primary elections have arrived, and there’s as much uncertainty as ever over who will serve in the state’s delegation in the 118th Congress.
Some questions will remain unanswered until November, but the biggest fights should be settled this evening as results roll in across the state.
Incumbents including Vern Buchanan, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, Matt Gaetz and Daniel Webster all face Primary opponents of note.
And others drew intraparty challenges — so they won’t be able to simply spend late August enjoying the recess.
Additionally, four delegation members — Charlie Crist, Val Demings, Ted Deutch and Stephanie Murphy — chose not to seek re-election this year, launching a feeding frenzy for rare open seats.
Two seats are deep blue, making Tuesday a key day for naming the front-runners in Florida’s 10th and 23rd Congressional Districts — once the Democratic nominee is throned.
But two other races — Florida’s reconfigured 7th and 13th Congressional Districts — changed from Democratic-leaning to Republican-advantage seats.
And those Republican Primaries have turned bloody.
On top of that, Florida picked up a new congressional seat this year, resulting in a no-incumbent Florida’s 15th Congressional District, where intense primaries have played out on both sides.
And the congressional map also created another open seat, pushing Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee to duke it out in November with Republican U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn. There are no Primary fireworks in that race, but there will be battles settled this evening on both sides of the aisle in Florida’s 4th Congressional District.
This warrants a special Primary Election edition of Delegation. Watch these races as results come in tonight.
Meanwhile, Rubio in Washington filed election-related legislation this week aimed at stopping foreign donations through small donation sites. He accused progressive fundraising site ActBlue of breaking from industry protocol and not requiring a customer verification value (those numbers on the back of credit cards used to validate purchases) for political donations made through the platform.
“Cracking down on credit card fraud and foreign political donations used to be a bipartisan idea,” Rubio said. “This is a common-sense reform that should pass by unanimous consent. If not, those in opposition should be forced to explain why they support allowing foreign money into U.S. elections.”
A release from Rubio’s office characterized ActBlue as a tool “for progressive candidates and woke causes.” The site launched in 2004 to facilitate donations to Democrats, much in the same way as WinRed for Republicans.
Sen. Rick Scott, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is watching watch elections nationwide, though he need not worry about his home state colleague Rubio. The incumbent Senator is running unopposed in the Primary.
Rather, Scott’s attention is turning to other swing states.
Days after an explosive report in The Washington Post that questioned spending decisions by the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, Scott started to show a commitment to contests in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
About $10 million in ad buys in those states were canceled last week, but $2.2 billion in new ads were announced Monday.
“Despite inaccurate reporting from multiple media outlets, the NRSC has spent tens of millions of dollars in our target races and will continue to spend to support our Republican candidates and define the Democrats and their radical agenda,” read a release from the NRSC.
The new ads paint Democrats running in those target states as dangerous socialists who are soft on controlling spending.
A lifeline may have come in for Gaetz, as he runs on a heavy MAGA message.
While former President Donald Trump seems to be keeping a (slight) distance from the Fort Walton Beach Republican after accusations of sex trafficking a minor surfaced last year, he just offered a full-throated endorsement of the Congressman.
“(Gaetz) is a relentless Fighter for the incredible people of Florida’s 1st Congressional District!” Trump posted on Truth Social. “Matt is a Champion of our MAGA Agenda, who tirelessly works to Drain the Swamp, Secure the Border, Support our Brave Veterans and Law Enforcement, Defend the Second Amendment, Stand Up to the Woke Mob, and Fight the Never-Ending Witch Hunts from the Radical Left that are destroying our Country!”
That message came the same day Gaetz’s Primary opponent Mark Lombardo released an attack ad questioning why Trump’s son Don Jr. is stumping for Gaetz in Pensacola.
Lombardo’s new ad is a “sequel” to an earlier spot linking the Congressman to the Mar-a-Lago raid.
Back in action
Two congressional candidates booted off the ballot have fought their way back just in time for the Primary.
A state appeals court reversed a Leon circuit court ruling that kicked Democrat Rebekah Jones off the ballot in the Democratic Primary for Florida’s 1st Congressional District.
Jones was removed from the ballot due to her not meeting party registration requirements in state law governing candidate eligibility. Her removal was later stayed by the court pending appeal.
Similarly, lower courts removed Jerry Torres, a Republican running in Florida’s 14th Congressional District. In a lawsuit, the Florida Democratic Party and other plaintiffs alleged Torres’ qualifying papers were wrongly notarized while he was out of the country.
While the Leon circuit court agreed, the appellate court ruled Torres followed the law.
Now, Torres is back on the ballot and votes for Torres will count, since his name appeared on ballots that have already been sent out by mail to voters in CD 14.
In announcing the decision, both candidates’ names have already appeared on Primary ballots in their districts. The appellate rulings affirm votes for them will be counted.
Just mail, no TV
In Florida’s 4th Congressional District. It’s all over but the shouting.
State Sen. Aaron Bean is expected to walk easily to the Republican nomination.
Like most of Florida’s other Congressional Districts, the new CD 4 is drawn to make any GOP nominee a virtual lock on winning the General Election, barring unlikely circumstances — like a massive, party-imploding scandal.
Based on the independent expenditures over the past week, this race was already an afterthought.
Keep Florida Red PAC reported to the Federal Election Commission earlier this month three independent expenditures — the largest amount spent in late July, nearly $292,900 to SRCP Media of Alexandria, Virginia, for media placement for Bean. The PAC dropped another $7,119 Tuesday for the same. A new ad for the PAC went up the same day.
Keep Florida Red also placed more than $32,400 on Aug. 4 with Storytellers Group of Tennessee for printing and postage for mail pieces.
The PAC came back on Aug. 16 and 18 with more than $64,900 paid to Storytellers for printing and postage for pre-primary mail drops in two installments. They were the only independent expenditures in the district for the week before the Primary.
On Tuesday, Vern Buchanan and Dan Webster will test how decades of service will stand up to online incitement.
Both Republican incumbents face social media provocateurs, Martin Hyde and Laura Loomer respectively; each have a knack for sparking controversies — and the Primaries could challenge the axiom that all press is good press.
Hyde, a Sarasota activist, built a profile on Facebook and a reputation for bullishness at the dais of local School Board and City Commission meetings, sometimes earning national attention as a result.
But his campaign reached a whole new level when bodycam footage of a February traffic stop went viral showing Hyde threatening a police officer’s career over a ticket.
This week, Hyde went a bit further — sparking fresh attention with a video expressing a desire to shoot FBI agents.
Meanwhile, Loomer is now a couple of years past her own dustups on social media — which caused her to be ‘de-platformed.’
Loomer’s been banned by Twitter, Facebook, and even Uber. But she still maintains enough of a network of national support that she takes on Webster two years after losing to Democrat Lois Frankel in her district (that included Mar-a-Lago).
Her best attack on Webster? He’s old.
Loomer proves she can still garner earned national media by releasing an attack against Webster’s health.
“We don’t need members of Congress who are walking around wearing Life Alert necklaces, too sick to vote,” she told The Daily Beast.
Turns out she was looking at photos of Webster’s air ionizing necklace and not a health alert device at all. Regardless, she’s going with this line of attack while running for office in The Villages, a well-known retirement paradise that is also notable for high voter participation.
Central Florida landslides?
Pre-Primary polling shows the possibility of a pair of blowouts in CD 10.
Data For Progress released survey results showing 34% of likely Democratic Primary voters intend to vote for 15-year-old activist Maxwell Alejandro Frost. That’s a significant base of support in a 10-Democrat field, and a sizable lead over his next closest competitor, Randolph Bracy, who earned 18% of the vote.
Frost, an activist connected to the March for Our Lives movement, has managed to build up momentum and financial resources despite facing a number of established political leaders.
While he is known as a state Senator, Bracy is hardly the only prominent figure in the race.
Former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson took third in the poll with 14% of the vote, the only other candidate to crack double digits. Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown picks up 6% of the vote.
There’s also a crowded Republican field.
An internal poll confirms Calvin Wimbish’s position as a GOP favorite. Conducted by Victory Insights for Wimbish’s campaign, the poll asked Republicans who already voted early and likely GOP voters who intend to vote on Primary Day.
Pollsters found 30% of likely Republican voters in the district backing Wimbish, and that held true for both those whose votes were already cast and those waiting to vote in person.
Tuan Le comes in second place in the poll at about 14%, with Lateresa Jones in third place at almost 13%. But notably, Le was not the second-place choice of either early voters or those in waiting. Rather, Jones came in second among those who already cast ballots to only Wimbish.
As for those waiting to go to the polls, Le came in behind Wimbish, Peter Weed, Thuy Lowe and Willie Montague.
Eyes on insurance
Crist of St. Petersburg and Demings of Orlando may be focused on their runs for Governor and Senate, respectively.
But the two Democrats also promoted legislation that could lower Florida homeowners’ insurance premiums. The Fueling Affordable Insurance for Today’s Homeowners (FAITH) Act (HR 7643) would provide a federal backstop to reduce reinsurance costs.
“I am honored to be joined by my Florida colleagues in this effort to lower property insurance premiums for Florida families,” Crist said. “Homeowners insurance is now three times higher in Florida than the national average. Insurance companies are leaving the State, reducing or dropping coverage, and homeowners are paying the price. Over the last four years, rates have doubled. As the market teeters in the middle of hurricane season, we need an immediate and effective solution. And this bill will do just that — lowering insurance premiums and providing peace of mind, without costing taxpayers.”
Demings added, “As the daughter of a maid and a janitor I saw how hard my parents worked for their home and their property, and right now millions of Florida families are looking at rising insurance rates and thinking ‘how will I make this work?’ I’ve co-sponsored this legislation to bring down your homeowners’ insurance because working families need a break. Big storms mean big losses for insurers. Big losses mean big rate hikes for working families. This bill is us stepping into the middle with a new firewall to stop the losses and stop the rate hikes and stop companies from passing on those losses to hardworking families.”
Kissimmee Democrat Darren Soto and Lawson also co-sponsored the bill.
A super PAC opposing Kevin Hayslett made a $661,859 television ad buy in the week leading up to the Republican Primary in Florida’s 13th Congressional District — and it’s not the only committee spending big on the race before Election Day.
In the week ahead of Primary Day, political committees spent thousands on media supporting and opposing the two Republican front-runners in CD 13 — former prosecutor Hayslett and Air Force veteran Anna Paulina Luna.
The largest single spend comes from the Conservative Outsider PAC, which dished out $661,859 on televised attack ads on Hayslett. The ad, purchased by the committee last Monday, started running on Wednesday, according to the Federal Election Commission. With the addition of this ad buy, the committee spent more than $1 million since the start of August on Hayslett attack ads.
A political committee backing Hayslett — Stand for Florida — spent $341,000 across several days on ads opposing Luna and supporting Hayslett. The committee’s biggest single spend was a $225,000 media buy on an ad supporting Hayslett, which started running last Tuesday.
That same day, the Stand for Florida began running a $25,000 ad buy against Luna.
In another buy last week, Stand for Florida spent $48,500 on media placement for an ad supporting Hayslett, and $7,500 on an ad attacking Luna.
Another $35,000 was spent by the committee, split between text services for the two candidates.
Another poll is showing Republican Laurel Lee to be the heavy favorite to win the Primary in Florida’s 15th Congressional District.
Victory Insights released a poll commissioned for one of Lee’s opponents, Demetries Grimes. The internal poll shows Grimes performing better than some other polls indicate, but still in third place.
Pollsters found nearly 36% of likely Republican voters favor Lee, a former Secretary of State.
State Sen. Kelli Stargel is in second place with about 17% but Grimes, an Afghanistan veteran and diplomat, close behind at just under 17%. Another veteran, Kevin ‘Mac’ McGovern, shows at fourth place with 6% of the vote and state Rep. Jackie Toledo comes in last with 5%.
“Clearly, there are three tiers of candidates,” the polling memo says. “First, Laurel Lee is the obvious front-runner with 35.8% of the vote. Then, Stargel leads Grimes by 0.7%, but both candidates are squarely within each other’s margin of error. Then, McGovern and Toledo make up the final tier of candidates, each garnering a vote share in the single digits. Just under 1 in every 5 voters remain undecided. How these voters break could change the dynamics of this race (e.g.,, Toledo’s incumbency could give her a boost due to sheer Name ID), but there’s no question that Lee is the extremely heavy favorite.”
Miramar Democrat Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick stepped away from the campaign trail to discuss the situation in Haiti with Luis Almagro, the Secretary-General for the Organization of American States.
“It was great meeting with the Secretary-General to discuss his recent public statement on the crisis in Haiti and possible regional solutions,” tweeted. “I look forward to strengthening multilateral relations with the region.”
Representing a region rich with Caribbean Americans and nationals from Haiti and other nations, U.S.-Haiti relations have been a significant focus for Cherfilus-McCormick since she took office earlier this year.
Almagro characterized the meeting as productive in his own tweet.
“We agreed to continue working together to bring solutions on security, democracy and development for the country and to enhance the role of the Haitian diaspora,” he posted.
Jared Moskowitz earned universal praise for his work as Florida’s Division of Emergency Management Director for Gov. Ron DeSantis through the peak of the pandemic.
But he has also been labeled DeSantis’ “favorite Democrat” as he runs for Congress in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District. But DeSantis may oddly have made statements last week that put some distance between the polarizing Governor and the would-be-Congressman.
At a news conference, DeSantis mocked the use of masks to limit the spread of the coronavirus causing COVID-19. “People would put in their Twitter profile a mask and a syringe and that was, like, their identity. And it was ridiculous,” he said.
The comments drew immediate allusion to the publicity campaigning by Moskowitz, as the face of the DeSantis administration’s pandemic response, to encourage mask use. He appeared on the cover of INFLUENCE Magazine wearing a medical grade mask in the summer of 2020, for example, and for an extended period changed his Twitter username to Jared MASKowitz.
As he campaigns for high office, the regular spelling of his name now adorns his social media.
He didn’t publicly address DeSantis’ comments, and the same day encouraged a different type of activity: voting.
22 on 22
On Aug. 22, Primary Election Day eve, state Sen. Annette Taddeo announced 22 new endorsements from Miami-Dade, the county she has represented in the state Senate and hopes to continue representing in Congress.
Taddeo’s campaign for Florida’s 27th Congressional District received nods from County Commissioners Jean Monestime, Kionne McGhee and Eileen Higgins, County Commissioner-elect Micky Steinberg, School Board Member Lucia Baez-Wallis, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, South Miami Mayor Sally Philips, South Miami Vice Mayor Leanne Tellam, North Miami Vice Mayor Alix Desulme, Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Gongora, Miami Beach Commissioner Joy Malekoff, South Miami Commissioner Josh Liebman, Pinecrest Council Member Shannon del Prado, Pinecrest Council Member Anna Hockhammer, Miami Shores Village Council Member Katia Saint Fleur, Aventura Council Member Gladys Mezrahi and Community Council Member Wilbur Bell.
Several formerly elected officials also threw support behind Taddeo, including former South Miami Mayor Phil Stoddard, who previously endorsed Taddeo’s CD 27 opponent, Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell.
Others included former Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner, former Coral Gables Mayor Raul Valdes-Fauli, former Pinecrest Council Member James McDonald and former Hialeah Council Member Paul Hernandez.
Voters will decide Tuesday whether to send her, Russell or Democratic socialist candidate Angel Montalvo to face either incumbent Republican María Elvira Salazar (or her Republican Primary challenger, Frank Polo) in the General Election.
On this day
Aug. 23, 1996 — “Osama bin Laden declares war on the U.S.” via the Foreign Policy Research Institute — At the time, few people paid much attention. But it was the start of the war between the United States and al-Qaida. During the 1980s, bin Laden fought alongside the mujahedeen in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. After the Soviets withdrew, he returned to Afghanistan in 1996 to live under Taliban protection. Within a few months, he issued a 30-page fatwa, “Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places,” which was published in a London-based newspaper, Al-Quds Al-Arabi. It was bin Laden’s first public call for a global jihad against the United States.
Aug. 23, 1864 — “Union Navy turns tide in Civil War” via the Library of Congress — The Union Navy captured Fort Morgan, Alabama, breaking the Confederate dominance of the ports of the Gulf of Mexico. As the Union fleet of four ironclad and 14 wooden ships sailed into the channel on Aug. 5, one of the lead ships, the Tecumseh, hit a mine, at the time known as a “torpedo.” In reply to the warning, “Torpedoes ahead!” given by the forward ships, commander Admiral David Farragut called out, “Damn the torpedoes!” and, taking the lead with his flagship the Hartford, sailed over the double row of mines and into Mobile Bay.
Best wishes to Rep. Scott Franklin, who turns 58 today, Aug. 23.
Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles, edited and assembled by Phil Ammann and Ryan Nicol, with contributions by Kelly Hayes, Aimee Sachs, Jesse Scheckner and Wes Wolfe.