Drew Wilson – Florida Politics

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for SaintPetersBlog and FloridaPolitics.com. While at the University of Florida, Wilson was an editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and after graduation, he moved to Los Angeles to cover business deals for The Hollywood Reporter. Before joining Extensive Enterprises, Wilson covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools.

Dana Young lands firefighter support in SD 18

Two firefighter unions announced Monday that they were backing Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young in her re-election bid for Senate District 18.

The Florida Professional Firefighters and Tampa Firefighters Local 754 are the latest first responder groups to endorse Young, who had previously earned the support of several other first responder groups, including five police unions.

“The 25,000 men and women of the Florida Professional Firefighters and Paramedics are proud to endorse Senator Dana Young for re-election,” said Rocco Salvatori, vice president of the Florida Professional Firefighters. “She stands up for Firefighters in the Florida Senate, and we proudly stand with her.”

“We as representatives of Tampa Firefighters, Local 754, take great pleasure in endorsing your candidacy for 2018 Florida State Senate, District 18,” said Tampa Firefighters President Stephen Suarez and secretary Ken Huff in a joint statement.

In accepting the endorsements, Young said, “Floridians around the state and in our Tampa community depend on Florida’s first responders to be the first on the scene when there is an emergency, and as a lawmaker, it is my duty to ensure we have their back as well.

“During my time in the Florida Legislature, I have supported measures to benefit the men and women who are committed to the safety and protection of our state, and I am proud to have earned the support of both the Florida Professional Firefighters and Paramedics and the Tampa Firefighters, Local 754.”

Young is up against House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in November, and recent polls show the pair in a dead heat with Cruz holding a slim edge.

In fundraising, however, Young is far outperforming her challenger.

Young currently holds a better than 3-to-1 lead in cash on hand, with more than $315,000 of hard money in the bank and another $1.05 million on hand in her political committee, Friends of Dana Young, as of July 6. Through the same date, Cruz had $400,472 between her campaign account and political committee, Building the Bay PC.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Florida Retailers back Mel Ponder for re-election

The Florida Retail Federation announced Friday that it was backing Destin Republican Rep. Mel Ponder’s re-election bid in Okaloosa County’s House District 4.

“Representative Ponder is a successful small business owner and fought on behalf of the thousands of other small business owners throughout Florida during his first term in the House,” said FRF President/CEO R. Scott Shalley. “His efforts to protect Floridians and fellow small business owners by supporting pro-business legislation are issues we look forward to him continuing to work on in his return to the Florida House.”

Ponder runs a business that trains local business leaders and individuals, as well as ministers and others of faith to make a difference in their communities. He also works as a real estate agent.

The FRF endorsement comes the same week that Ponder made the Florida Realtor’s list of lawmakers it’s backing in the 2018 cycle.

Ponder is currently in his first term representing HD 4, which covers all but the northern reaches of Okaloosa County. He faces Valparaiso Democrat Rebecca Koelzer in the Nov. 6 general election.

As of July 6, Ponder was far ahead in fundraising, with more than $105,000 raised and nearly $65,000 in the bank for his re-election campaign. Koelzer, who filed in just ahead of the qualifying deadline, has raised $70 and kicked in another $2,000 via candidate loans.

HD 4 is a safe Republican seat. Ponder’s only opponent in 2016 was write-in candidate Christopher Eugene Schwantz, who holds the distinction of being the only candidate to compete against the Republican nominee in the district since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections.

The seat also voted plus-44 for President Donald Trump two years ago.

Stephen Sevigny

Stephen Sevigny adds $350K, union endorsement in CD 6

Ormond Beach Democrat Stephen Sevigny said this week that his campaign for Florida’s 6th Congressional District reeled in another $350,000 during the second quarter.

Sevigny’s haul bests his first-quarter fundraising numbers by $100,000 and brings him to around $600,000 in total fundraising since he entered the race in midway through Q1.

The campaign didn’t say whether the Q2 report includes any candidate contributions — the Q1 report was bolstered by $50,000 in loans from Sevigny — but it did say that it had more than $350,000 banked at the end of June. That indicates campaign spending measured in at around $225,000 between April 1 and June 30.

Sevigny, a physician, took to twitter to celebrate the fundraising success as well as a recent endorsement his campaign picked up from a local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

IBEW 756 said its membership voted to endorse Sevigny for the First Coast congressional seat after hearing from all three Democratic contenders — Sevigny, former U.S. Ambassador Nancy Soderberg and John Upchurch — at the labor union’s monthly meeting.

“Steve earned our support with his passion for healthcare, education, and our community. Working families need a friend in Congress they can rely on to put people before profits, and Steve Sevigny is that person,” said Dan Hunt, IBEW 756’s business manager.

Sevigny’s fundraising puts him firmly in the No. 2 spot, fundraising wise, in the race for the Democratic nomination.

Soderberg, who has been in the race since July 2017, announced this week that she had nearly $1 million in the bank at the end of the second quarter. Her campaign has raised close to $1.5 million so far. Upchurch had raised about $258,000, including $40,000 in candidate loans, at the end of June. He has about $172,000 on hand.

CD 6 is a Republican-leaning seat, though the odds of it flipping went up significantly after current U.S Rep. Ron DeSantis announced he would seek the Republican nomination for Governor rather than run for re-election.

Three Republicans are vying to succeed DeSantis: Former state Rep. Fred Costello, Fox News personality Michael Waltz and businessman John Ward.

Waltz broke the $1 million mark with his Q2 report. He’s put $400,000 of his money down so far, and has about $617,000 in the bank. Costello tacked on $43,000 in contributions and $100,000 in loans in his Q2 report, which showed him with $51,000 banked on June 30.

The only report still outstanding is Ward’s. Ward, who has the capacity and willingness to self-fund, had raised over $900,000 with over $700,000 on hand, back at the end of March. His total includes $555,000 in candidate loans.

CD 6 covers a stretch of Florida’s east coast, including southern St. Johns County, northeastern Lake County and the whole of Flagler and Volusia counties.

Jeff Brandes holding ‘Super Saturday’ canvassing event

Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes is gearing up for his re-election bid with a “Super Saturday” canvassing event in St. Petersburg-based Senate District 24.

“Come show your support for Jeff Brandes! Join us on July 14 at 9:00 a.m. at Crisp Park in St. Petersburg for coffee and donuts. Help Senator Brandes spread his message by knocking on voters doors in nearby neighborhoods. Then at 12:30 p.m. we’ll meet at Green Bench Brewery for lunch and drinks,” the event listing says.

Crisp Park is located at the intersection of 37th Avenue NE and Poplar Street NE in St. Petersburg; Green Bench Brewery is located at 1133 Baum Ave. North. Those looking to attend can sign up to volunteer on the Facebook event listing.

Brandes, a lifelong resident of St. Pete, is running for his final term in the Florida Senate. He was first elected in 2012 and was a member of the Florida House for the two years prior.

Democratic trial lawyer Carrie Pilon was slated to be his opponent in the Nov. 6 general election, though she recently withdrew from the race, citing serious and unexpected health problems of a close family member.

With Pilon’s exit, the Florida Democratic Party must now recruit another nominee to pick up the baton for the last four months of the 2018 cycle — a tough task only made tougher by Brandes’ prolific fundraising.

SD 24 covers most of southern Pinellas County. The GOP has a 4-point advantage in voter registrations within the district, which voted in favor of Barack Obama twice before being carried by Donald Trump in 2016.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Greg Steube - CD 17 Campaign Photo

Greg Steube swamps Julio Gonzalez in CD 17 fundraising

Sarasota state Sen. Greg Steube said Friday that he brought in more than $337,000 for his congressional campaign last quarter — half again more than his Republican primary rival, Venice state Rep. Julio Gonzalez.

Steube touted his second round of fundraising numbers in the race for Florida’s 17th Congressional District while throwing some shade at Gonzalez, whom he labeled as a “Never Trump” Republican earlier this week for negative tweets he made about then-candidate Donald Trump in March 2016.

“The events of this week reveal the yearning Floridians have for sending conservatives to Washington that don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk,” Steube said. “Our strong fundraising numbers and growing list of conservative endorsements have given our campaign enormous momentum as we approach the August 28 primary election. I look forward to continue sharing our conservative vision with the voters.”

Those endorsements include a nod from the National Rifle Association rolled out by the Steube campaign Thursday, as well as endorsement from Florida Right to Life that the campaign bundled in with the fundraising announcement. Steube said the conservative group, which opposes abortion in all circumstances, gave him an “A Rating.”

Steube has now raised more than $400,000 in hard money, but another deluge of funds rolled in shortly after the campaign made its fundraising announcement.

Outside groups Liberty and Leadership Fund and Club for Growth PAC announced Friday that they were lining up behind Steube with $627,000 already in the bank to back his primary bid — and more than $400,000 of that cash has already been anted up for a broadcast, cable and satellite TV buy ahead of the Aug. 28 primary election.

“Greg Steube is a trusted conservative who has been a consistent fighter for freedom throughout his time in the Florida legislature,” said Club for Growth PAC President David McIntosh. “We can count on Steube to support President Trump’s pro-growth agenda.”

Gonzalez, for his part, has brought in about $458,000 for his campaign, including at least $150,000 in candidate loans.

He and Steube are running alongside lesser-known Republican Greg Akins in the Republican primary for CD 17, which is open this year due to the U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney deciding to forego re-election.

CD 17 is a safe Republican seat that sprawls across parts of Sarasota, Lee and Polk counties as well as the whole of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee counties. Rooney has held the seat since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections.

In 2016, Rooney won re-election over his Democratic challenger 62-34 percent while Trump carried the district by nearly the same margin.

Janet Cruz and Dana Young, SD 18

Dana Young expands cash lead over Janet Cruz

New fundraising reports show Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young continued to pile on to her fundraising lead over House Minority Janet Cruz during the last week of June and the first week of July.

Young’s campaign said it brought in $22,900 in hard money between June 23 and July 6 but did not say how much it had on hand at the end of the reporting period.

Finance reports for her political committee, Friends of Dana Young, show another $79,000 raised during the same stretch for a total haul of $101,900. The committee had $1.05 million in the bank on July 6.

Cruz, meanwhile, added $11,145 in hard money and tacked on another $5,000 for her political committee, Building The Bay PC. She has now raised more than $433,000 since entering the race in mid-April. She had $400,472 on hand between the two accounts at the end of the reporting period.

The Cruz campaign also Friday that her campaign bid had picked up an endorsement from EMILY’s List, the progressive organization that supports women candidates for office. Cruz was one of a dozen candidates included in a bulk approval from the group.

Cruz and Young are the only candidates vying for Senate District 18, which covers part of western Hillsborough County.

SD 18 is the only district Florida Democrats are targeting for a flip that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and a recent poll shows the two Tampanians are neck-and-neck.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Nancy Soderberg nears $1M on hand for CD 6 campaign

Democrat and former U.S. Ambassador Nancy Soderberg announced Friday that she’d raised another $540,000 for her campaign to flip the Florida’s 6th Congressional District, currently held by exiting U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

“We’re seeing incredible support and energy for our campaign to bring real leadership to Central Florida. We’ve continued to build on our broad base of supporters, and day-by-day, people are joining our movement,” Soderberg said.

“Time and again, I hear Florida families in this district voice their concerns about being forgotten and ignored. They want a real leader who will stand up to the special interests in Washington and get results. I’m proud to have their support to bring and be the change that this district needs.”

The $540,000 Q2 performance is her best yet and makes for nearly $1.5 million in total fundraising since she entered the race in July 2017. The campaign finance report is not yet viewable on the Federal Elections Commission website, though the campaign said it finished the quarter with “nearly” $1 million cash on hand.

The campaign had $595,360 on hand at the end of the first quarter.

The fundraising announcement also touted some of Soderberg’s major endorsements, including those of AFSCME Florida and former Vice President Joe Biden, as well as her addition to the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” list back in March.

Soderberg faces Stephen Sevigny and John Upchurch in the Democratic primary for CD 6, which covers a stretch of Florida’s east coast from southern Jacksonville to New Smyrna Beach.

Sevigny has not yet announced his Q2 numbers, though he posted $250,000, including $50,000 in loans, during the first quarter. He was only a candidate for the final six weeks of that reporting period. Upchurch raised $68,865 in Q2 for a to-date total of $257,728, including $40,000 in loans. He has $171,875 on hand.

Running on the Republican side are former state Rep. Fred Costello, Fox News personality Michael Waltz and businessman John Ward. None of the three have filed announced their Q2 totals, though Waltz and Ward have relied on self-funding to keep pace with Soderberg, who was the fundraising leader at the end of Q1.

CD 6 is a Republican-leaning seat, though the odds of it flipping went up significantly after DeSantis announced he would run for Governor rather than for re-election.

Nick DiCeglie ready to ‘clean things up’ in Tallahassee

Belleair Bluffs businessman Nick DiCeglie is rolling out his first ad in the race to succeed term-limited Rep. Larry Ahern in Pinellas County’s House District 66.

The 30-second spot, titled “Cleaning Things Up,” is already out digitally and the campaign said it will begin running on cable networks next week. The ad begins with the Pinellas GOP chair on the job with his waste management company Solar Sanitation.

“I’ve made it my business to clean things up in Pinellas County, now it’s time to clean things up in Tallahassee,” he says in the ad before a narrator takes the reins and touts DiCeglie’s conservative credentials.

“Conservative small-business owner Nick DiCeglie knows government must be held accountable. DiCeglie is a Republican leader, husband and father who knows the value of faith, family and service,” the narrator says. “DiCeglie stands with President [Donald] Trump, stopping illegal immigration, cutting taxes and protecting life. DiCeglie, the true conservative who will clean up Tallahassee.”

The ad marks the first TV spot in the three-way race for HD 66, a coastal Pinellas seat that covers part of Clearwater as well as Belleair Bluffs, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores and Seminole.

DiCeglie is running against Seminole attorney Berny Jacques in the Republican primary, while Democrat Alex Heeren, a schoolteacher, has already locked up the Democratic nomination without opposition.

Jacques is the current fundraising leader with more than $200,000 raised for his 2018 effort, including $121,565 in hard money and another $81,100 for his affiliated political committee, Protect Pinellas. He has $139,600 in the bank. DiCeglie is even with Jacques in hard money fundraising with $121,656 raised and $80,406 banked, but he has not started up a political committee.

The pair are also competitive in landing endorsements, though DiCeglie’s stack has some bigger names including the Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association, Pinellas County Commissioner Dave Eggers and Pinellas County Clerk Ken Burke.

The winner of the Republican nomination is likely to succeed Ahern in Tallahassee. He’s held the district since it was redrawn and his closest election was a 6-point win in 2012. He followed that up with a 14-point win in 2014 and a 16-point win in 2016, the same year Trump carried the district with 55 percent of the vote.

The primary election is Aug. 28. The general election is Nov. 6.

The ad is below.

Greg Steube - CD 17 Campaign Photo

Greg Steube earns endorsement, ‘A+’ from NRA

Three Republicans are running to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney in Florida’s 17th Congressional District, but only one of them is a straight shooter according to the National Rifle Association.

The group sent a letter to state Sen. Greg Steube of Sarasota this week telling him he’d earned their support in the race for the expansive and solidly Republican district.

“On behalf of our six million members across the country, the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) is proud to endorse your candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives in the August 28, 2018, Republican primary for the 17th Congressional District of Florida,” said NRA spokesperson Chris Cox.

The letter continued, “Thank you for standing strong for freedom and defending NRA members and law-abiding gun owners in Florida. Based on your leadership on Second Amendment issues in the Florida Legislature, you have earned the highest attainable rating, an “A+”, from NRA-PVF.

“An ‘A+’ is reserved for a legislator with not only an excellent voting record on all critical NRA issues, but who has also made a vigorous effort to promote and defend the Second Amendment.”

The endorsement should be no surprise for Steube, who earned the NRA’s support over four other Republicans in his 2016 Senate bid and has been a stalwart advocate for NRA-backed policies during his time in the state Legislature.

“This endorsement unequivocally shows that gun-rights advocates want someone who doesn’t just talk about supporting the 2nd Amendment, but someone who has an actual record of defending our rights when they had the chance to. I will stand with President [Donald] Trump in supporting the gun rights of law abiding citizens in this country,” Steube said.

“I am honored to receive the endorsement of our country’s largest citizen-led group. Conservatives know they have someone they can trust when it comes to defending their Constitutional rights.”

The NRA nod adds to a long list of supporters for Steube, 30 of whom announced their support the same day he announced his bid for Congress in late February.

That announcement came less than a week after Rooney announced he would not run for re-election in 2018. State Rep. Julio Gonzalez joined him in the primary shortly after the 2018 Legislative Session wrapped, making for two sitting state lawmakers in the race. Little-known Republican Greg Akins is also competing for the Republican nomination.

Gonzalez held a large fundraising lead at the end of the first quarter thanks in part to $150,000 in candidate loans, though his $84,000 in outside fundraising still bested Steube’s $63,550 Q1 haul. Earlier this week, Gonzalez said he’d reeled in another $225,000 in Q2, while Steube has yet to announce his tally.

Steube did, however, hit Gonzalez with a ton of bricks this week by publicizing some anti-Trump tweets he made prior to the president locking up the Republican nomination. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, whom Gonzalez supported in the 2016 presidential primary, was still in the race when Gonzalez made those statements.

CD 17 sprawls across parts of Sarasota, Lee and Polk counties as well as the whole of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee counties. Rooney has held the seat since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections.

In 2016, Rooney won re-election over his Democratic challenger 62-34 percent while Trump carried the district by nearly the same margin.

Dana Young holding ‘super weekend’ canvassing event

State Sen. Dana Young is looking for supporters to turn out next weekend to help her spread the word about her re-election campaign in Senate District 18.

To give the campaign a spark heading into the final three months before Election Day, the Tampa Republican has planned a “Super Weekend” of canvassing events to be held on July 20 and July 21 within the Hillsborough County district.

Both canvassing drives will see volunteers check in with the campaign at 800 S. Albany Ave. in Tampa to grab their clipboards before fanning out to knock on doors. The Friday event will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., while the Saturday drive will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Those looking to pitch in on the effort can contact Nick Alvarez at 786-390-1736 for more information or to RSVP.

Young, elected in 2016, is facing a serious challenge this year from House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, who currently represents House District 62. SD 18 is the only district Florida Democrats are targeting for a flip that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and a recent poll shows the two Tampanians are neck-and-neck.

This week, Young got a boost by way a three high-profile endorsements. On Monday she earned an endorsement from the Florida Realtors, followed by the Florida State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police on Tuesday and the Florida Medical Association on Wednesday.

The Florida FOP was the fifth police union to back Young, following the Florida Police Benevolent Association and the Tampa, West Central Florida and Suncoast chapters of the PBA.

Neither Cruz nor Young faces a challenger in the Aug. 28 primary. They will go head-to-head in the Nov. 6 general election.

The canvassing invitation is below.

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