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Richard Corcoran’s political committee tops $750K in November

House Speaker and likely gubernatorial candidate Richard Corcoran’s political committee had a healthy stint in November, raising $753,700 – the fourth-highest monthly total since the committee’s inception last June.

From law firms and attorneys alone, Watchdog raised $208,000 last month. The Land O’ Lakes Republican’s committee also received a combined $35,000 from Swisher International and Dosal tobacco companies.

Also dumped into the Speaker’s committee: $100,000 from Voice of Florida Business PAC, $95,000 from Citizens Alliance for Florida and $20,000 from Missouri-based Isle of Capri Casinos.

While Corcoran hasn’t announced a bid for the governor’s mansion, his committee’s expenditures reflect spending indicative of a campaign ahead.

Watchdog spent $106,320 in November, nearly $25,000 of which going to Rapid Loop Consulting and almost $15,000 to Jacksonville-based fundraising consultants Political Capital. The committee also paid out more than $30,000 to Go Big Media, which advertises on its site that it delivers “big wins.”

To date, Watchdog has raised $5.4 million and has $4.6 million banked. November spending saw a dip from the two preceding months.

Corcoran’s fundraising numbers are good enough to put him in the fourth-place spot among declared candidates if he throws his name in the mix for governor.

Far out in front is fellow Republican and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who added nearly $1 million in contributions between his campaign and committee accounts in November and has about $15.35 million on hand.

Next in line is former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a Democrat, who also raised $1 million in November, putting his total fundraising at around the $7 million mark.

Embroiled Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala, the only other major Republican who has declared, has seen his contributions slow to a halt since six women accused of sexual harassment in early November, but he still about $4.8 million on hand between his campaign and committee account.

Poll: Gwen Graham leads Democratic gubernatorial primary

Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham is improving her standing in the early stages of the 2018 gubernatorial race, leading the three other Democratic candidates, according to a new poll out Monday.

She holds a seven-point lead over second place over Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

The poll, released by Associated Industries of Florida, a GOP-leaning business lobby, shows Graham with 24 percent, while Gillum is at 17 percent.

While the poll points to a Graham-Gillum race at the moment, the money does not favor the Gillum team, which has struggled to raise cash. By the end of October, he had raised $1.6 million total for his campaign.

“Always would like to have more, but it’s far from the whole story,” Geoff Burgan, a spokesperson for the campaign, said. “Florida history has borne that out.”

In that same time period, Graham’s raised $4 million and Chris King, a newcomer in Florida politics, pulled in $2.7 million for his campaign. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, though, has raised the most: somewhere in the ballpark of $7 million.

King and Levine each have 4 percent of the vote in the four-way race, according to the poll. Both trailing rumored Democratic gubernatorial candidate, prosecutor Katherine Fernandez Rundle, who has 6 percent of Floridians’ support in the poll.

Levine’s deep pockets are not to be underestimated, though. Money could soon boost Levine’s statewide name recognition in the race, and he is already working to do so by paying for bilingual TV advertisements.

To keep the momentum, Gillum is betting on the vote of African-Americans, a demographic with which he is leading, according to the new numbers. But as the 38-year-old runs on an “unapologetic progressive” platform, very liberal voters are narrowly favoring Graham (25-23) — not him.

“Name ID is higher for her, for now. Gillum is building real momentum on issues and clearly growing in his race,” Burgan said.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King wants to reform committee week meetings

If Chris King becomes governor, he wants committee weeks to be held throughout the state — and not exclusively at the Capitol.

The Democratic gubernatorial candidate says he will champion legislation that would mandate committee weeks be held in “as many regions as possible” across the state to give constituents better access to state government.

“The location of our legislative process benefits individuals and organizations with the financial means and time to travel,” King said in a statement.

Historically, committee weeks have always been held at the Capitol, making this change a departure from the norm. But King said the “remoteness” of the Legislature is one of the reasons unethical behavior continues to occur in state government.

King envisions committee weeks being hosted at Florida public schools or universities ahead of Session, and once they are done, lawmakers will once again flock to the state Capitol to begin Session.

The Orlando entrepreneur also wants to push policies that support and protect victims of sexual misconduct. He wants to make sure any settlement made in a sexual misconduct case against an elected official is subject to a public record request, but the names of victims are confidential.

He also wants to have an eight-year lobbying ban for former members.

King is trailing former Congresswoman Gwen Graham and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the four-way 2018 Democratic primary. His campaign said Friday it raised $100,000 in November and that it has more than $1.6 million on hand.

Jimmy Patronis to host CFO campaign fundraiser Tuesday in Tallahassee

Sitting CFO Jimmy Patronis is holding a fundraiser in Tallahassee Tuesday for his bid to take over the CFO position for a four-year term.

The Dec. 12 fundraiser – not an interim committee week for those wondering – will be at the Governor’s Club, 202 S. Adams Street.

The event kicks off at 5 p.m. and runs until 7 p.m., and the invitation lists Joe Harper as the host. Those looking to attend can RSVP with Paige Davis by sending an email to paigejdavis@gmail.com or giving her a call at 904-219-7322.

Patronis, a Republican, got the CFO job in June when Gov. Rick Scott appointed him to fill the unexpired term of former CFO Jeff Atwater, who left to become a vice president of Florida Atlantic University.

The former lawmaker and member of the Public Service Commission announced at the beginning of the month that he would seek election to the Cabinet seat.

Before officially announcing his campaign, Patronis opened up a political committee, Treasure Florida, and has so far raised $653,850, with $642,639 of that money on hand. That total puts him leagues ahead of Margate’s Jeremy Ring, who is currently his only Democratic opponent for the job. Also in the race is Republican Antoanet Iotova of Hollywood.

Brandon Republican Sen. Tom Lee has said he’ll run for the job as well, though he is in no rush to file, which could set up a tough primary battle. He has more than $2 million in a political committee ready to go when he makes the call.

The invitation to Patronis’ fundraiser is below.

Official Florida House photo

Frank White touts raising $195K in November for AG campaign

The big-money, high-stakes race for Attorney General isn’t slowing down in December — at least not for Republican hopeful Frank White.

White, per a campaign press release, has accumulated $1,956,000 since announcing his candidacy in October. Of that sum, the candidate fronted $1.5 million.

In November, White raised over $195,000: $143,000 into his campaign account, and $52,000 into his political committee, United Conservatives.

The political committee received donations from the Florida Jobs PAC (a committee affiliated with the Florida Chamberthe GEO Group, and Pensacola’s Gulf Power company.

“Our message of consistent, principled conservatism is resonating with the voters of Florida,” said White. “I am humbled and encouraged by the outpouring of support I have received throughout the state. Our fundraising numbers are a direct manifestation of support for an Attorney General with a clear and consistent conservative record and vision. We look forward to the months ahead.”

Campaign account numbers for White and his Republican opponents — retired Hillsborough Judge Ashley Moody and fellow State Reps. Jay Fant and Ross Spano — are unavailable as of this writing Monday morning.

Political committee numbers for Moody were underwhelming in November, however.

Moody brought in $10,000 total, via a check from Florida Jobs PAC. Moody closed October with just over $1.1 million on hand between her campaign account and that of her political committee, “Friends of Ashley Moody.”

In what some observers think indicate a slower month than usual, Moody rolled out her finance committee on Monday. The group includes lobbyists Brian Ballard and Michael Corcoran, the brother of the Speaker of the House.

The filing deadline is Monday at midnight, so there should be a clearer sense of where the other candidates are at in the next few hours — but barring some developments, Frank White is winning the money race.

Heavy hitters in Ashley Moody’s finance team

A former U.S. Senator, a former U.S. Attorney, several former state lawmakers and a host of other Republican insiders are on the 34-member state financing team for Republican Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody.

The team’s membership was released Monday.

The 42-year-old former Hillsborough County circuit judge is one of four Republicans vying for the nomination to succeed Pam Bondi as the state’s chief legal officer.

Bondi is term-limited from running again and has already endorsed Moody.

Former lawmakers serving on her finance team include George LeMieux, who served as an interim U.S. Senator from 2009-2011 and is now the chairman of the board of the Gunster law firm; former House Speaker Dean Cannon, former Jacksonville state Sen. Jim Horne, Panhandle state Sen. George Gainer and former Hillsborough County state Rep. Trey Traviesa.

Other notables include former U.S. Attorney Paul Perez, St. Petersburg businessman Bill Edwards, and lobbyist Michael Corcoran, brother of House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

“It’s humbling to have the support of so many business, civic and legal leaders from around Florida,” Moody said in a press release. “Each and every individual on our finance team is not just accomplished professionally, but well-respected in their community.”

“Our team also recognizes and understands the importance of having an Attorney General who can lead the office on day one and keep Florida safe,” Moody added.

“The security of our state depends on having an Attorney General who understands what it takes to put criminals behind bars and strengthen our criminal justice system. With the help of our finance team, grassroots leaders, and campaign supporters we’ll continue sharing our conservative message with every voter throughout the state.”

Moody is running against state Reps. Jay Fant of Jacksonville, Frank White of Pensacola and Ross Spano of Dover for the GOP nomination. Tampa’s Ryan Torrens is the lone Democrat in the race.

Here’s the entire list of those on Moody’s finance team:

Carlos Alfonso, Brian Ballard, Rodney Barreto, Bennett Barrow, Glen Blauch, Dean Cannon, Doug Cone, Mike Corcoran, Bill Edwards, Elizabeth Marie Fago, Blake Fletcher, George Gainer, Robert Gidel, David Heekin, Jim Holton, Bill Horne, Jim Horne, Justin Kaplan, Cody Khan, Frank Kruppenbacher, Ron LaFace, Rhea Law, George LeMieux, Roberto Martinez, Randall McElheney, Paul Mitchell, Paul Perez, Ed Pozzuoli, Wayne Rosen, Domingo Sanchez, William Merrill Stainton, Trey Traviesa, Dr. Peter A. Wish, Jordan Zimmerman.

Chris King adds $100K to governor campaign in November

Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Winter Park businessman Chris King announced Friday that his campaign raised $100,000 in November and has more than $1.6 million on hand.

The November money brings King’s total fundraising to $2.77 million and gives him the third-place spot among the Democratic candidates vying to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine announced last week that he had raised another $1 million in November, for a total of more than $7 million raised to date, while former congresswoman Gwen Graham surpassed the $4 million mark in October and has not yet announced her November numbers.

The fourth major Democrat in the race, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, had $1.6 million in total fundraising at the end of October.

According to documents on his committee website King raised $45,250 last month through his committee, “Rise and Lead Florida.”

The largest donation to the committee came from one of the properties owned by King’s business, Serenity Towers on the St. Johns.

King’s campaign has not yet uploaded his November campaign finance report to the Florida Division of Elections, though through the end of October, King had raised $1.76 million through his campaign account and had about $1.15 million of that money on hand.

Terrie Rizzo is the new Florida Democratic Party Chair

Terrie Rizzo, who began her political career as a campaign volunteer a little more than a dozen years ago, was selected Saturday by Florida Democrats to lead their party for the next three years.

Rizzo, chairwoman of the Palm Beach County Democrats, easily beat Brevard County Democratic Chairwoman Stacey Patel in an 830-291 vote by the party’s executive committee at the Rosen Centre Hotel.

Rizzo replaces Stephen Bittel, who was elected as the party’s chairman less than a year ago but abruptly quit last month after being accused by female workers and consultants of creating an uncomfortable work atmosphere.

Rizzo has been the chairwoman of the Palm Beach Democrats since 2012. In her acceptance speech, she said she began her journey in the state party as a volunteer on John Kerry‘s presidential campaign in 2004. She later won election as precinct committeewoman and then as the county vice chairwoman, before becoming the leader of the Palm Beach Democrats shortly before the 2012 presidential election.

“This is what the Democratic Party should be like, where people can start at the bottom and rise to the top,” Rizzo said, adding she was “overwhelmed and very humbled” by her election.

At one time, four major candidates, all women, were vying to replace Bittel.

But within the last week, Monica Russo, the statewide head of the Service Employees International Union, dropped out, criticizing the byzantine party rules governing the process. Russo endorsed Patel.

On Saturday the field narrowed to two candidates, when Alma Gonzalez, a state committeewoman from Hillsborough County, threw her support to Rizzo.

With the Democrats trying to reclaim the governor’s office and defend U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson‘s seat next year as well as contend for state Cabinet seats and a host of legislative races, Gonzalez said party unity is critical for success.

“The reality for us is to recover and re-engage and regain our momentum. We cannot be divided in this party,” Gonzalez said. “There are external forces coming at us and we must be focused on that rather than on the inside.”

The margin of Rizzo’s win over Patel does not obscure the fact that party activists remain divided, going back to division between the two Democratic presidential candidates in 2016, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Patel, a Sanders delegate to the Democratic National Convention, said she looks “forward to talking to Terrie and figuring out the road forward.”

“This is our party and we’re not going anywhere,” Patel said, saying she ran for the leadership post to make sure “the voice of the people is heard and not just the voices of the people who have been given power in the party.”

Rizzo, who in her prior role as the head of all the county Democratic party leaders has worked with Patel, said she will reach out to all the factions in the party including the Sanders supporters.

“We need that voice moving forward,” Rizzo said in an interview. “We all have common values. It’s just a matter of how you get there.”

As for taking over a party organization after the last leader was accused of inappropriate behavior, Rizzo said: “There will be zero tolerance for sexual harassment moving forward. We will review it and institute policy procedures to handle that.”

Rizzo also acknowledged other problems, including lagging finances for the state party.

“There are obviously some challenges,” she said.

Rizzo’s supporters note that when she took over the Palm Beach organization, the local party was in debt. In the 2016 cycle, Rizzo helped raise over $600,000 for her county party operation, without using paid staff or consultants, according to the state party.

Christian Ulvert, a veteran Democratic strategist, said he has been impressed by Rizzo’s work in Palm Beach, which has the third highest number of registered Democrats in the state.

“She can replicate a successful (county) model at the state level,” he said.

Ulvert, who is advising Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine, said Democrats have been successful in 2017 races, including a state Senate seat in Miami-Dade County, by “tapping into the anxiety voters feel over President Trump’s agenda.”

“I think Terrie is well positioned to understand that strategy and also offer a forward-looking vision that Democrats can really rally around,” Ulvert said. “She’s done it in Palm Beach.”

Rizzo, 70, spent more than four decades working in health and fitness fields, including managing health and fitness education programs at Stanford University.

She and her husband, Mike, have been married more than 45 years. They have a married son and two grandchildren, who live in California.

As part of the election process, Florida Democrats also made history on Saturday by electing Judy Mount, the former vice chairwoman of the state party, as the interim party chairwoman. Mount presided over Rizzo’s election.

Mount is the first African-American woman to lead the Florida Democrats, said Johanna Cervone, a spokeswoman for the state party.

“We are grateful for her dedication and leadership,” Cervone said.

Bill Nelson backing Terrie Rizzo for Florida Democratic Party chair

The most powerful Democrat in the state has endorsed Terrie Rizzo to be the next leader of the Florida Democratic Party, giving her a clear path to the chairmanship.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson publicly backed the Palm Beach County Chair on Friday, a day before elected party officials get to elect the next party chair.

Nelson has 42 votes toward the next chair. While it is not the most of any other members — Committeeman Stephen Bittel and Committeewoman Francesca Menes each have 62 votes — Nelson definitely has the most sway.

In a press release announcing the endorsement, Rizzo said his support “seals the deal in the bid for chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party.”

“I’m honored to receive the endorsement from such a diverse group of electors. It means a great deal to have the support of both the grassroots and current and former elected leaders like Alex Sink, Senator Bill Nelson and Congresswoman (Val) Demings,” Rizzo said.

Miami-Dade Democrats have a very big influence on who gets elected, and on Friday an electronic vote was opened to members. The results of that electronic vote will be published early Saturday morning.

DEC member JeffreyDocSolomon will be casting Bittel’s 62 votes.

Solomon said in a Facebook post he’d be “honoring the vote of our Miami-Dade DEC membership.”

Hillsborough County Democrat Alma Gonzalez and Brevard County Chairwoman Stacey Patel are still in the race and will face Rizzo at the election in Orlando.

Monica Russo backs Stacey Patel for Florida Democratic Party Chair

Two days after bowing out of the race, Monica Russo of the Service Employees International Union is endorsing Brevard County DEC Chair Stacey Patel in the election for Florida Democratic Party Chair.

“We are at a moment where we need to embrace our young leaders and bring them into the fold to help us reach that finish line together and united,” Russo wrote on Facebook.The grassroots energy we have across the state should be uplifted, not sidelined.

“The values that guide Stacey Patel’s #OurParty movement exemplifies this vision. The history and heart of our party lies in the grassroots organizing. We must build bridges across our communities in order to have the strongest movement for justice, dignity and respect for all.

“We will live or die by these principles. Twenty years of Republican leadership has left Florida near the bottom in national rankings around affordable housing, access to health care, education, incarceration and more.

“Clearly, twenty years of the current Democratic strategy has been ineffective and has not brought Floridians together. It is time for a new path to victory.

“Together we Rise!”

“Unbelievably honored and humbled to have earned the support of Monica Russo, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Florida and executive vice president at 1199 SEIU. Her decades of grassroots organizing and advocacy for workers’ rights and gender justice is an inspiration,” Patel responded later on Friday.

I look forward to standing with Monica and working people across Florida to elect Democrats who are deeply committed to creating economic, social and environmental justice for all. The time has come to build a grassroots movement that unleashes the power of the people to transform #OurParty, our state and our country.”

Patel is running against Palm Beach County DEC Chair Terrie Rizzo and Hillsborough County State Committeewoman Alma Gonzalez in the race for FDP Chair that will be decided Saturday in Orlando.

Earlier on Friday, Florida Senator Bill Nelson announced his support for Rizzo. That vote represents 42 votes in the weighted system that the FDP uses to elect a chair.


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