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Jimmy Patronis triples Jeremy Ring in June fundraising for CFO race

Campaign finance reports covering most of last month show sitting Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis continuing to build his cash advantage over his challenger, former Democratic Sen. Jeremy Ring.

Patronis brought in $167,500 during the past two reporting cycles, which cover June 1 through June 29. The Panama City Republican raised $92,100 of that money through his campaign account, with the balance coming in through his political committee, Treasure Florida.

Ring brought in $56,590 over the same stretch, including $26,590 in hard money and $30,000 in soft money raised through his political committee, Florida Action Fund.

Patronis’ campaign account received more than a dozen checks for $3,000 last month, the maximum contribution for statewide campaigns, while Treasure Florida’s biggest contribution in June was a $25,000 check from the United Association, a labor union for plumbers and pipefitters.

His two accounts spent a combined $61,000 for the month, with the single biggest check heading to the Florida Department of State to cover his qualifying fee.

Ring’s campaign account notched just three $3,000 checks, with the bulk of his funds coming in from small-dollar donors. Florida Action Fund’s largest contribution of the month came in from the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teacher union. They sent a $15,000 check on June 29.

Patronis has now reeled in $3.8 million for his 2018 campaign and had $3.28 million banked on June 29. Ring has raised $1.15 million for his bid, including money he raised for his committee prior to becoming a candidate, and has $472,000 in the bank. His total also includes $150,000 in candidate loans.

Though Patronis has a clear lead in fundraising, recent polls of the CFO race have been split.

A Public Policy Polling survey commissioned by Democratic consultant Christian Ulvert of EDGE Communications last month showed Ring with a 39-34 percent lead over Patronis. A separate poll released by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which has endorsed Patronis, found the incumbent with a 40-31 percent edge over Ring.

Ring and Patronis are the only two major party candidates running for CFO, though write-in candidate Richard Paul Dembinsky has also qualified for the race.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Internal poll shows double-digit lead for Ron DeSantis

An internal poll from Ron DeSantis’ gubernatorial campaign gives him a 19-point lead over Adam Putnam.

The new poll backs up findings of a survey released Friday that also showed the Ponte Vedra congressman with a double-digit lead over the Agriculture Commissioner in the Republican primary. If true, the data shows a marked shift in voter preference.

Why the sudden DeSantis surge? Internal data shared with Florida Politics by the DeSantis camp shows major impact from the reinforced endorsement of President Donald Trump.

Polling firm 1892 surveyed 800 respondents on July 2.

The poll found 47 percent of respondents would vote for DeSantis if the election were held today, while just 28 percent would support Putnam. Another 25 percent said they were undecided. No other candidates were included in the poll.

But when pollsters asked if respondents were more supporters of Trump or the Republican Party in general, 68 percent called themselves Trump voters while just 23 percent identified primarily with the GOP. Another 9 percent supported both equally, with the remaining 1 percent unsure.

Additionally, the poll found an 89/8 percent favorable-versus-unfavorable rating for Trump.

That’s important, as 68 percent of those surveyed knew Trump supported DeSantis, compared to 9 percent who thought the president supported Putnam and 23 percent who thought the president was staying out of the race or were unsure who he favored.

Trump on June 22 tweeted his full endorsement of DeSantis.

The poll found just 35 percent of respondents watched a June 28 televised debate between Putnam and DeSantis, but 53 percent considered DeSantis the winner; just 14 percent thought Putnam did the best while 30 percent thought the candidates did equally well.

Respondents view DeSantis more favorably than Putnam. The poll shows the lawmaker enjoys a 53-15 favorable/unfavorable rating, while Putnam holds a 41-24 favorable/unfavorable.

A plurality of voters considered both politicians to be “somewhat conservative.”

Headlines also drove movement in DeSantis’ direction. Among respondents, 54 percent say recent news about DeSantis made them more likely to vote for him, and 23 percent said they were less likely.

By comparison, 44 percent of said news about Putnam made them more likely to support his candidacy, while 34 percent said they were less likely to support him now.

The survey also emphasized the 1-4 corridor. Geographic cross tabs show 26 percent of those surveyed hail from the Tampa-St. Petersburg area (including Sarasota) and another 23 percent live in the Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne area.

Of course, all the numbers should be viewed through the prism of an internal, publicly released poll. And the Remington Research Group poll released Friday that showed DeSantis with a 17-point lead comes from a firm that also showed DeSantis with a lead in December.

The Real Clear Politics Average still shows Putnam with a 7-point lead.

FL GOP Primary Topline Report 20180703

Jeremy Ring criticizes Jimmy Patronis’ ‘racist’ clemency questions

Democratic challenger Jeremy Ring, in his bid to unseat Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, tore into the Cabinet member for posing allegedly racist questions during a clemency hearing in June.

But Patronis’ re-election campaign dismissed the criticism as name-calling and signs of desperate campaigning by his opposition.

A number of Democratic officials statewide called into question Patronis’ judgment during a June 14 hearing for Erwin Jones, an applicant seeking clemency, about how many children he had and how many mothers there were to those children.

Former state Sen. Ring, a Coral Springs Democrat, issued a letter to supporters labeling the remarks as “intolerance and ignorance” while demanding Patronis recuse himself from clemency hearings in the future. “It is unconscionable that applicants would be asked in a public hearing how many children and how many different mothers of those children,” Ring said. “Not only should that have zero to do with Mr. Jones ability to have his rights restored, but smacks of racism, intolerance and ignorance.”

Additionally, Democratic state Rep. Sean Shaw of Tampa, a candidate for Attorney General, said Patronis’ line of questions sounded “racially biased.”

“If having a child by more than one or even two mothers were the standard, President [Donald] Trump wouldn’t be eligible for clemency for crimes he may have committed,” Shaw said. “The CFO should apologize to Mr. Jones and to the African-American community for even considering, lest uttering such a question.”

The critiques came on the same day the newly launched Florida Phoenix published an article about Florida’s subjective process for restoring rights to ex-felons.

But Patronis’ spokespeople say accusations of racism remain baseless, and specifically said Ring’s use of the issue to further his campaign showed signs of desperation. “Jeremy Ring stooped to a new low today to try and distract from the fact that he’s being heavily out-fundraised and outworked by CFO Patronis,” said Katie Strickland, campaign communications director for the incumbent.

Strickland said a study of the full transcript shows Patronis only raised the baby-mother issue because Jones had a history of violence with multiple mothers of his children. “In one case a woman was sent to the hospital and in another case, a child was harmed,” Strickland said. “The focus of the conversation was about how to best protect all involved and the community from a convicted felon with a decades-long history of arrests.”

The CFO’s office referred all questions about the controversy to the Patronis campaign.

Rick Scott urges justices to stay out of appointment battle

Attorneys for Gov. Rick Scott on Friday argued the state Supreme Court should not step into a legal dispute about whether Scott can appoint a Northeast Florida circuit judge or whether the judge should be elected by voters.

Scott administration attorneys filed a 30-page response that fired back against a request for the Supreme Court to block the appointment until underlying legal issues can be resolved. The case centers on whether Scott should be able to appoint a replacement for retiring 4th Judicial Circuit Judge Robert Foster.

Jacksonville attorney David Trotti filed a lawsuit arguing that the replacement should be elected in November. A Leon County circuit judge agreed and blocked the Scott administration from moving forward with an appointment process.

But the Scott administration immediately appealed, and the 1st District Court of Appeal kept in place a stay on the circuit judge’s ruling. That effectively allowed the appointment process to advance while the case continued.

Trotti, who tried to qualify to run for the seat in November, then asked the Supreme Court to step in and halt the appointment process.

Foster was expected to leave office Jan. 7, 2019, which would be the end of his term, because of a mandatory retirement age. But on April 2, Foster sent a letter to Scott making the retirement effective Dec. 31, four business days ahead of schedule.

The Scott administration takes the position that the governor’s acceptance of a judicial resignation before the start of an election-qualifying period creates a vacancy that will be filled by appointment, rather than election.

“Here, the undisputed facts establish that Judge Foster’s resignation was tendered and accepted by the governor before the election process commenced at the beginning of the candidate qualifying period,” Friday’s response said.

“The governor is therefore constitutionally authorized and obligated to fill the vacancy by appointment, and the secretary of state is prohibited from qualifying candidates for a judicial seat that will not be filled by election.”

The 4th Judicial Circuit is made up of Duval, Clay and Nassau counties.

Rick Scott, Robert Foster, David Trotti, 1st District Court of Appeal, Florida Supreme Court, judicial

Jeff Greene, Philip Levine continue self-funding spree

Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene pumped another $3.5 million into his gubernatorial campaign last week, and fellow South Florida Democrat Philip Levine threw another $1.1 million into his, according to newly filed campaign finance reports.

Greene has now put $7.1 million of his own cash into his campaign. The late-entry into the race has yet to show any outside fundraising, though he has stated that is by design.

In an interview with Florida Politics last month, the one-time U.S. Senate candidate said he may open his campaign up to small-dollar donors down the line so supporters can have some skin in the game.

Along with the seven-figure check came seven figures worth of expenses.

A $2.77 million ad buy through Fortune Media of Redondo Beach, California, accounted for the bulk of the $3.63 million spent by the campaign between June 22 and June 29. Also on the ledger was a $740,000 payment to Street Smartz Consulting and about a dozen smaller expenses, mainly for consulting.

The campaign also received a $350,000 refund from New York City-based MV Digital Group. That company had received $537,000 from Greene during the first three weeks of June to manage and develop his social media presence.

The campaign had $730,000 in the bank at the end of the reporting period. White that’s the least of any major gubernatorial candidate, Greene has committed to spending “whatever it takes” on his statewide bid and is sure to show another several million of self-funding in his next weekly report.

Levine, the former mayor of Miami Beach, raised $162,000 in addition to kicking in another $1.1 million of his own money. He has loaned his campaign $8.4 million thus far and has put another $2.8 million into his affiliated political committee, All About Florida.

The campaign account received $57,000 of the outside money raised last week. A handful of max checks topped the sheet, while more than 150 donors checked in with contributions of $100 or less.

All About Florida raised the other $105,000, with half of that cash coming in from a political committee chaired by Christian Ulvert, a senior adviser to the Levine campaign.

Levine’s campaign and committee also spent a combined $1.62 million last week, including a $1.2 million TV buy and a $350,000 contribution to the Florida Democratic Party.

The two accounts combined to $1.1 million on hand on June 29.

Greene and Levine are two of the five major Democrats running for Governor, the others being Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham and Orlando-area businessman Chris King.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

Shock poll has Ron DeSantis up 17 points over Adam Putnam

A new poll is challenging the conventional wisdom that Adam Putnam leads Ron DeSantis in the Republican gubernatorial primary, showing DeSantis with a 17-point lead.

Is this new poll a sign of a big change? Or a mere outlier?

The survey shows DeSantis earning 43 percent of support among Republican primary voters. Putnam pulls in 26 percent, with 25 percent undecided. No other Republican candidate earned more than two percent support.

The poll was conducted by Remingtion Research Group on behalf of the Tenth Amendment Project. Nearly 2,900 Republican primary voters were surveyed from July 2 to July 5, shortly after the candidates’ recent debate, which aired on Fox News. The margin of error given was 1.84%.

“The latest survey of Republican primary voters in Florida shows the race continues to be a two-man contest between Ron DeSantis and Adam Putnam,” said Remington Research Group President Titus Bond.

“DeSantis has seen a dramatic increase in ballot share while Putnam’s support has been static.”

Remington’s track record is questionable, however. The group earns just a “C” rating from FiveThirtyEight’s comprehensive pollster ratings, putting them toward the bottom of the list.

Those ratings are formulated by judging the pollster’s methods, as well as its past predictions as compared to actual election results. A “C” rating calls into question Remington’s accuracy.

And indeed, a 17-point lead for DeSantis would fly in the face of other pollsters’ recent findings.

In fact, Remington’s findings are the inverse of two recent polls from last month, with surveys from both NBC News/Marist and the Florida Chamber of Commerce showing Putnam up 17 points instead.

A recent internal poll by the DeSantis campaign also showed him with a huge lead over Putnam. 47 percent backed DeSantis, 28 percent supported Putnam, and 25 percent were undecided.

The DeSantis campaign points to increased support by President Donald Trump, who has endorsed DeSantis, as well as a ramping up of their advertising as possible explanations for DeSantis pulling ahead. Internal polls, however, are notoriously faulty as well.

That’s not to say that the race hasn’t changed since previous outside polls were released, or that the debate performance of DeSantis may have changed some voters’ minds. But as of now, this poll appears to be an outlier when it comes to outside evaluations of the race.

Only time, and more polling, will tell if it’s a sign of something more.

‘Obscene’ and ‘ridiculous’: Matt Caldwell calls out Bullsugar

As Matt Caldwell continues his campaign for Agriculture Commissioner, he wants to make one thing clear: he’s no fan of BS.

Bullsugar, that is.

The environmental advocacy group is focused on political activism surrounding algal blooms in and around Lake Okeechobee.

However, the group has come under fire in the past for false claims about the blooms and a failure to disclose its donor list.

As part of the Ag. Commissioner race, Bullsugar reached out to Caldwell to fill out a questionnaire regarding his stances on the bloom problem.

“We need strong leadership in Tallahassee to get us on the right track to fix this mess,” read an email to Caldwell from the group.

Bullsugar, as its name suggests, has particularly targeted the sugar industry, blaming farmers for contributing to the blooms.

Caldwell did not hold back in his response, taking the group to task for inflammatory rhetoric.

He first posted his letter on Twitter, saying “One of the most obscene groups in Florida sent me a ridiculous questionnaire yesterday.”

In it, he wrote: “From the base vulgarity of your name to the harassment and abuse hurled toward fellow Floridians to the constant stream of twisted misinformation spread to the public, your organization has all the hallmarks of a hate group.

“Having your organizing principle as the hatred of the ‘other’ is a wholly unacceptable premise for any organization, whether the ‘other’ is Jews, migrants, or, in your case, farmers.

“Your continual suggestion that all of the flood water that historically sat west of I-95 in Wellington, Davie, and Miami Lakes can somehow be shoved into a farmland area less than half that size is so patently ludicrous, it only serves to prove your organization’s adherence to the ‘Big Lie’ strategy so typical of hate groups.”

This is a continuation of barbs between Bullsugar and Caldwell. In the past, the organization has called Caldwell a “champion of polluters” due to his advocacy on behalf of farmers.

Still, Caldwell argues he will be focused on solutions as Agriculture Commissioner.

“I will continue to collaborate with those groups who are truly interested in a restored and ecologically functional Everglades.”

Dike repair money coming amid algae woes

As calls grow for state action to deal with toxic algae blooms in Southeast and Southwest Florida, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced funding is in place to speed repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee.

The Army Corps’ Jacksonville office said Thursday that $514.2 million is heading toward repairs of the dike, which is basically a 30-foot-high earthen structure that surrounds the lake. An overall $17.4 billion in funding for the Corps includes additional money for beach restoration and coastal flood control in Florida.

Gov. Rick Scott and other state and federal officials from Florida have been clamoring for increased funding for the dike project, which had been scheduled for completion in 2025. The state approved $50 million in each of the past two years to speed up the federal project, which, with the newly announced money, is now expected to be done in 2022.

The dike money has become a political issue as Scott challenges Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in November.

Through his campaign, Scott took the opportunity of the Army Corps’ announcement to criticize Nelson.

“In April 2017, I announced my goal of fixing the Herbert Hoover Dike by 2022,” Scott said in a statement from his campaign. “I’m glad to see that Bill Nelson finally supports my plan.”

Nelson, who in May 2017 was among Florida lawmakers pushing legislation to speed Everglades-restoration projects, spent Thursday in Fort Myers and Stuart talking about the algae issue and in a tweet called the Army Corps’ new dike timeline “huge news.”

The repairs are considered an essential step in allowing the lake to hold more water, which would reduce the need for discharges into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee river estuaries to the east and west. Residents on both coasts blame polluted water releases from the lake for what has become an annual summer outbreak of toxic algae blooms in the rivers.

Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney tweeted that fast-tracking the dike repairs is “great news for FL waterways.” U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, another Florida Republican, said the funding “clears the deck” for officials to focus on other efforts to improve South Florida waters, including a planned reservoir in the Everglades Agricultural Area that is also aimed at helping prevent harmful discharges into the waterways.

On Thursday, state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, a Fort Myers Republican, wrote a letter to Scott requesting a state of emergency in the Lee County area due to red tide and blue-green algae blooms in the Caloosahatchee River and along the Southwest Florida coast.

“We must warn our residents and unsuspecting tourists of the potential risks of swimming, fishing, consuming fish caught from the Caloosahatchee or the Gulf waters and of any other recreational water sports during this outbreak,” Fitzenhagen wrote.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor, on Friday urged Scott to issue an executive order hiring companies to remove algae on the lake’s surface.

The dike repair money is part of $3.348 billion in federal disaster recovery funds the Jacksonville office is getting to reduce flooding risks in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Florida is expected to see about $815 million of the federal money, with the bulk — more than $2.5 million — headed to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

Florida is also getting money for coastal flood risk management in various areas, including Miami-Dade County, $158 million; St. Johns County, $36.8 million; Palm Beach County, $25 million; St. Lucie County, $20.3 million; Flagler County, $17.5 million; and Manatee County, $14.3 million.

Also, federal beach-hardening projects in Brevard, Broward, Duval, Lee, Nassau and Sarasota counties will each get $2 million.

Greyhound racing-ban group releases first wave of endorsements

The Protect Dogs-Yes on 13 campaign Friday announced endorsements from over 20 local animal groups.

The group is promoting passage of Amendment 13, put on the November ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC).

The proposal, which needs no less than 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution, aims at ending commercial dog racing in the state. In Florida, live dog racing is still conducted at 12 tracks.

“These organizations serve as animal welfare first responders throughout the state, from the Panhandle to Key West,” the campaign said in a statement. “They rescue homeless animals, save lives, and provide an invaluable service to both animals and people in every community.”

“The animal sheltering community is united in our support of Amendment 13,” added Rich Anderson, Executive Director and CEO of Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League in West Palm Beach. “Greyhound racing is cruel and inhumane and should be phased out.”

The local animal shelters who announced endorsements are:

Alaqua Animal Refuge

Brevard Humane Society

Cat Depot

Flagler Humane Society

Florida Keys SPCA

First Coast No More Homeless Pets

Gulf Coast Humane Society

Halifax Humane Society

Humane Society of Tampa Bay

Humane Society of the Treasure Coast

Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County

Justin Bartlett Animal Rescue

Leon County Humane Society

Last Hope Rescue FL

Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue

Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League

Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando

SPCA Florida

SPCA Tampa Bay

St. Augustine Humane Society

Tampa Pets

Now, back to Florida

Expect more questions involving Florida-centric issues when the two Republicans running for governor meet again next month.

The lack of Sunshine State topics — from education and the future of citrus to offshore drilling — was a sore subject at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center after last week’s Fox News Republican gubernatorial debate between Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Congressman Ron DeSantis.

It also wasn’t missed by Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo, who expressed confidence that her party will retake the governor’s mansion after two decades based on what she heard during the debate at the Osceola County resort.

“This debate was a right-wing circus brought to you by Fox News and inspired by Donald Trump,” Rizzo said. “Before a nationwide audience, Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis made clear that they only have one message: Trump, Trump, Trump.”

The direction of questions was a choice of the moderators. But that focus on more national and international issues drew a reaction from Putnam, who after the debate made a point of noting how he tried to steer responses to the importance of knowledge of the state.

“I care more about the schools in Washington County than what’s going on in Washington, D.C. I care more about what’s going on in Ruskin, Florida, with congestion and infrastructure and the quality of our water, than I care about Russia,” was Putnam’s go-to line. “And I care more about the other St. Petersburg — St. Petersburg, Florida.”

His campaign kept up that theme as this week began.

“Adam Putnam ‘Florida’ mentions triple DeSantis in Fox News debate,” the campaign said in a news release Monday.

“During last week’s Fox News debate, Adam Putnam mentioned Florida 75 times in the one-hour debate versus Congressman DeSantis who only mentioned Florida 28 times,” the release began.

DeSantis, who represents a Northeast Florida district in Congress and grew up in Dunedin, did well in covering the cable channel’s issues before the national audience and in his post-event responses.

However, in an appearance Friday by himself at the state GOP’s “Sunshine Summit” — Putnam also had time on stage that day — DeSantis’ team showed it had monitored the reaction to the debate by coming equipped with a laundry list of how he cares for Florida.

“There were at a lot of issues that I wanted to get to last night that we didn’t,” DeSantis said.

Many overlap national issues, such as opposing “common core” education standards and calling for more classroom time spent studying principles in the U.S. Constitution. But DeSantis also said he would sign legislation to require that Florida businesses use the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Employment Authorization Program, known as E-Verify, to determine if newly hired employees are undocumented immigrants.

That has been a red-meat issue for conservatives for more than a decade but has been opposed by farm and business groups who contend the federal program would make it more difficult to find workers.

DeSantis also tried to draw a contrast with Putnam in discussing support for coastal communities impacted by toxic algae blooms blamed on releases from Lake Okeechobee.

“We will clean up the water. We will restore the Everglades. And I don’t care what special interests say. I’m not going to do their bidding,” DeSantis said. “I’m going to stand with the fishermen and the boaters and the property owners that populate those great parts of our state. Adam obviously will not do that. He’s tied at the hip to the industry that is involved with destroying so much of what makes Florida great.”

Sugar farms in the Everglades Agricultural Area have been blamed for contributing to pollution in the lake.

Putnam and DeSantis are expected to debate one more time, an Aug. 8 event hosted by the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute and WJXT Channel 4. In announcing the debate last month, WJXT Vice President and General Manager Bob Ellis noted the importance of “how each candidate views the important issues to our local community.”

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