Influence Archives - Florida Politics

Jimmy Patronis: Banks need to give a break to hurricane victims

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis urged financial institutions on Tuesday to waive late fees and charges for using ATMs in the Hurricane Michael impact zone, among other forms of disaster assistance.

“It is absolutely essential that financial institutions support those impacted by Hurricane Michael by waiving fees and penalties to aid the victims,” Patronis said in a written statement.

“Many financial institutions have already announced they are taking these steps to help families in the Panhandle, and I encourage all banks and credit unions to follow suit and help these communities recover.”

Areas suggested for leniency include late fees for credit cards, auto and personal loans, credit lines, and insufficient balances.

Patronis also suggested banks and financial institutions find other ways to assist customers with the recovery or limit financial hardship during the next 90 days.

Additionally, Patronis wants reports from all banks and credit unions about what they’re doing along these lines.


Florida Retailers endorse five fresh faces for Florida Senate

The Florida Retail Federation on Tuesday endorsed five non-incumbent Republicans running for Florida Senate seats in November’s elections, including one who is looking to unseat an incumbent Democrat.

Among the five candidates getting the nod was Tommy Wright, the newly anointed nominee for Senate District 14. The New Smyrna Beach businessman was selected for the nomination after longtime lawmaker Dorothy Hukill died earlier this month at the age of 72.

FRF’s Tuesday announcement also reiterated its endorsement for former Clearwater Republican Rep. Ed Hooper, who is competing against former New Port Richey Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy to take over the vacant SD 16. FRF originally endorsed Hooper, who faced a light challenge in the primary, back in early July.

“We’re excited about the positive impact these new candidates will have as senators in supporting Florida’s retail industry and encouraging business growth in our state,” said FRF president and CEO R. Scott Shalley. “Our team has met with each of these candidates, many of whom we’ve worked with in the past, and we feel confident they’ll have the best interests of our members and business owners at heart during their time in the Florida Senate.”

The other candidates earning an endorsement: Republican Rep. Ben Albritton, who is running to replace Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley in SD 26; Hialeah Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., who is up against Democrat David Perez, a former firefighter, in SD 36; and Marili Cancio, who is looking to oust first-term Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo in SD 40.

Of the five candidates, Albritton and Wright are running in two of the friendliest districts for GOP candidates — Trump carried both seats by double digits two years ago.

Hooper, meanwhile, is in a dogfight with Murphy while Diaz is running in a district that has favored down-ballot Republicans but went plus-14 for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Cancio’s bid may be the hardest, however, with Taddeo having the both the benefit of incumbency.

The new batch of FRF Senate endorsements follows the trade group’s bulk endorsement of Senate incumbents last week. Making that list: Republican Sens. Dennis BaxleyAaron BeanGeorge GainerTom LeeKathleen PassidomoKeith PerryWilton SimpsonKelli Stargel, and Dana Young, as well as Democratic Sen. Bobby Powell.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

felon voting rights (Large)

Voter restoration amendment backers spend another $1.8M on ads

The committee sponsoring the “Voting Restoration Amendment,” which would restore voting rights to Florida felons who have completed their sentences, spent more than $1.8 million of its reserves pushing the proposal on the airwaves, online and via direct mail between Oct. 6 and Oct. 12.

Floridians for a Fair Democracy, which led the drive to get Amendment 4 on the ballot, received just $113,600 in contributions during the weekly reporting period with nearly all of it coming in via a $100,000 check from ex-hedge fund manager Michael Novogratz.

The bulk of the action in the new report was found on its expenditure sheet, which showed nearly $1.81 million in spending. Topping the ledger was a $1 million media buy through Screen Strategies Media, followed by a $400,000 digital ad buy through Mercury Public Affairs and another $400,000 payment for direct mailers from Mission Control.

The $1.8 million spent by Floridians for a Fair Democracy was augmented by nearly $150,000 worth of “in-kind” contributions, including a $112,000 digital ad buy from ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s, which has been pitching in on the Amendment 4 effort for weeks, and another $11,000 or so in printing via Organize Florida.

Floridians for a Fair Democracy set up shop in 2014 but didn’t begin raising money in earnest until after the 2016 general election. Since then, it has reeled in more than $17.7 million in contributions, with about a quarter of those funds coming from the American Civil Liberties Union.

The committee had $3.58 million left in the tank on Oct. 12.

Overall, there are about 1.7 million convicted felons in the Sunshine State. Amendment 4 would restore voting rights to the vast majority of those individuals with the only carveouts being felons convicted of sex offenses or murder. Constitutional amendments must earn 60 percent of the vote to pass, and recent polling shows Amendment 4 on track to pass with 71 percent support.

The current voting rights restoration system requires felons to wait up to seven years after their conviction to apply for restoration, which is handled on a case-by-case basis by the Governor and Cabinet.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Meet Cynthia Brown, Democrat running for Florida House District 32

Just like in 2016, we’re again asking every candidate, including incumbents, to complete a questionnaire we believe offers an interesting, albeit, thumbnail sketch of who they are and why they are running.

If you are a candidate and would like to complete the questionnaire, email

 Significant other? Kids?

I have no significant other, and no two-legged children, but plenty of four-legged ones.

Education background?

Political Science Degree from University of FL.

Professional background?

Upon graduation, went to Washington, DC to work for Congressman Bill Young, a Florida Republican, from St. Petersburg. Served as his aide on Defense and NASA appropriation matters.

What was your first job?

Elevator operator at the Citrus Tower in Clermont, FL, when citrus was as far as the eye could see. Gave elevator speech to tourists.

In 25 words or less, why are you running for office?

I am running to give back to the community that raised me. I have had a very successful career. My only purpose is to do good for the people of the 32nd district.

Did you speak with anybody in your political party before deciding on running? Receive any encouragement?

I met with the Democratic Party of Lake County. After making a long list of the reasons to not run versus why to run, I can say that my above answer is the only one on the list for running. The negative list was very long. My nephew was a strong advocate for me running because he thought I was the only Democratic candidate that had a chance of winning this district.

Who do you count on for advice?

I know my district, and I have a good sense of what the people need and want. I also rely on my nephew, family, and friends for advice.

Who is your political consultant? Campaign manager?

Deliver Strategies is my direct mail company.  I have multiple campaign advisors and managers.

Who was the first person to contribute to your campaign? Why did they donate?

I reached out to my former clients and associates in the shipbuilding industry. They came through big time. I also reached out to my family members who also came in big.  They all respect me for my accomplishments and know that I will do a good job for district 32.

Who, if anyone, inspires you in state government?

As you know, the state government has been run by Republicans for more than 20 years.  They have passed terrible legislation regarding our environment and public-school funding. So, no one inspires me.

Why do people mistrust elected officials and what are you going to do about it?

People mistrust public officials because they think they are all bought off by big business and special interest. I can assure all 32nd residents that no one will buy my vote. I have had a very successful career and am doing this only for the people of the 32nd district – not special interests where they conflict with my agenda of reinvigorating our public schools, giving our teachers the pay raise they deserve, protecting our environment, supporting our agricultural community, and working for high paying jobs in the district.

What are 3 issues that you’re running on? (You’re not allowed to say education or “improving the schools”) 

Please see above answer.

What is a “disruptive” issue (i.e. ride-sharing) you are interested in?

I don’t understand the question.

What does your legislative district need from Tallahassee? 

More school funding to give our public schools the resources they need to exceed and to pay our teachers what they deserve. Infrastructure funding to make sure we have the roads to keep up with explosive growth. Environmental cleanup funds to keep our lakes clean.

Who was the best governor in Florida’s modern history?

Lawton Chiles

If you could amend the Florida Constitution, what would you change?

Support amendment #4 to reinstate felons voting rights once they have served their time and probation. This amendment doesn’t apply to murderers or sex abusers. It is a shame what Gov [Rick] Scott has put these people through – many times 10 years and lots of money in legal fees – it is criminal what Tallahassee is doing to the people who have served their time for their crime.

Are yard signs an important part of campaigning in your district? 

I don’t know. I had very few yard signs in the primary. I am putting out a lot more in the general because I do believe it helps with name recognition. But who knows the ultimate value.

What’s the first thing you read each morning?

The lower third on MSNBC.

Where do you get your political news? 

Daily Commercial, CNN, MSNBC, and local news channels.

Who do you think will be the next President of the United States?

Donald Trump

60 Minutes or House of Cards?

 House of Cards is why I subscribed to Netflix.  Love 60 Minutes.

Social media presence? Twitter handle? 

Facebook, cynthiabrownfor32, twitter is @brownfor32.

In 140 characters, what’s a Tweet that best describes your campaign message?

 Raised in the 32nd district, a champion for public and vo-tech schools, our teachers, our environment and agriculture.


Bridge, Horse-back riding.

Favorite sport and sports team? 

Tennis player and NFL, go Gators!

DeSantis Florida Chamber

Workforce quality tops small biz agenda in Florida Chamber survey

Florida’s small businesses are most concerned about the quality of the state’s workforce as voters prepare to pick their next governor Nov. 6, according to survey results released Monday by the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

At the same time, the Chamber issued a guide showing that Republican Ron DeSantis ticks every box on the organization’s issues checklist.

Democrat Andrew Gillum doesn’t check any.

“With Florida small and local businesses creating one out of every 11 new American jobs, the Small Business Index Survey shows that job creators will be looking for a governor who further eliminates outdated regulations and further strengthens Florida’s workforce to ensure the available 245,300 jobs in Florida can be filled with quality employees,” said Marian Johnson, the chamber’s senior vice president for political operations.

The Chamber already had endorsed DeSantis in the race.

It was the eighth quarter running that workforce skills ranked as small business’ top concern. And it led by a considerable margin — 26 percent, compared to the next ranked concern, government regulations, at 9 percent.

Access to capital and economic uncertainty tied, at 8 percent each; followed by “lawsuit abuse,” taxes, and health care costs, all at 6 percent.

Confidence in the state’s direction was up compared to the third quarter, to 59 percent.

Some 48 percent of respondents expected to hire in the next six months, up from 45 percent last quarter.

Forty-three percent expected to invest in plants or equipment, down from 49 percent one year ago.

The Chamber conducted the survey electronically between Sept. 6 and Oct. 11. Of the respondents, 39 percent employed fewer than five employees, and 43 percent have five to 49 employees.

The money race: Ed Hooper double-plus over Amanda Murphy

Republican Ed Hooper continues to out-raise his Democratic opponent, Amanda Murphy, in the battle to replace former state Sen. Jack Latvala for Senate District 16 (north Pinellas County).

Hooper has raised more than $1.1 million between his campaign and affiliated political committee.

Murphy has raised just $445,000 between her campaign and Taxpayers for Responsible Government political committee.

That’s not including fundraising from Working Toward Florida’s Future, an inactive political committee whose funds were used for campaign activities benefiting Murphy and distributions to the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee that support Murphy.

From Oct. 6-12, the most recent campaign reporting period, Hooper’s campaign raised $72,000 and his committee raised $6,500. Murphy’s committee out-raised Hooper’s with $30,000 in contributions. Her campaign raised just $15,000 during the most recent campaign period.

Fundraising trends among Democrats and Republicans continue to hold true in the SD 16 race with Hooper raking in cash from outside groups and special interests including from the sugar, pharmaceutical and insurance industries.

Hooper’s campaign collected 57 individual contributions averaging more than $800 each. Murphy brought in 44 contributions averaging $341 each.

Hooper’s campaign spent more than $160,000 during the most recent report with most of that going to Strategic Media Placement for ads and $22,000 to Direct Mail Systems for mailers.

An outside group supporting Hooper, the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, put out an ad earlier this month calling Murphy a “spoiled child.” Some Democrats criticized that ad for being sexist. Hooper declined to comment on the ad.

His campaign has spent $577,000 to date.

Murphy’s latest spending mirrors her fundraising lag compared to Hooper with $28,000 spent from her campaign coffers this report. Most of that went to Deliver Strategies for campaign mailers.

The district includes Clearwater, Dunedin, New Port Richey, Oldsmar, Safety Harbor and Palm Harbor.

The race is considered competitive. A St. Pete Polls survey in June put the race at 47-45 percent with Hooper holding the advantage, though his edge falls within the poll’s 3 percentage point margin of error.

SD 16 is, however, a “red” district. Republicans make up about 38 percent of the district’s electorate while Democrats account for about a third. The district went plus-12 for Trump in 2016.

Murphy lost her previously held House district by fewer than 700 votes to now-Republican Rep. Amber Mariano. The race was considered a huge loss for Democrats despite the narrow majority in a district that went against Hillary Clinton in 2016 by double digits.

Hooper left the house to run for Pinellas County Commission in 2014. He lost to Democrat Pat Gerard who was re-elected this election cycle unopposed.


Florida Realtors endorse four more state legislative candidates

Florida Realtors PAC, the political arm of the state’s largest trade organization, announced Friday that it had endorsed four more candidates seeking election to the state legislature this year.

The nods went to four Republican candidates for the state House: Chuck Brannan, who is seeking to replace term-limited Rep. Elizabeth Porter in HD 10; Anthony Sabatini, the GOP nominee for HD 32; Mike Beltran, who is looking to replace exiting Rep. Jake Raburn in HD 59; and Ray Blacklidge, who is in a tough contest with St. Pete Democrat Jennifer Webb in HD 69.

The announcement marks the “fourth wave” of state legislative endorsements handed out by the Florida Realtors. The group has previously endorsed 108 legislative candidates running in the 115 elections that were not decided at the close of the candidate qualifying period in June.

Florida Realtors PAC has had to make some adjustments to its list of endorsements. In the “first wave” the trade group backed Marc Vann for HD 10 and Jeremy Bailie for HD 69, and in the “second wave” the PAC endorsed Shannon Elswick for HD 32. Sean McCoy earned the Florida Realtors backing in the “third wave.”

The trade association has also issued recommendations for four contenders in the statewide races for Governor, Agriculture Commissioner, Attorney General and Chief Financial Officer.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Hardee County ballot blunder could impact statewide races

A series of election complications, outright errors and now multiple ballots in the field has created chaos in the House District 56 contest.

Worse, it remains possible controversy could spread should any statewide races end with results close enough for Hardee County voters to swing the outcome..

“I’ve been in politics close to 30 years, and I’ve never seen a snafu like this,” said Jeff Mann, one of two Republicans running in the race.

Mann faces Republican Melony Bell in the race to succeed state Rep. Ben Albritton. The Republicans face off in a universal primary scheduled for Nov. 6, and yes, that’s abnormal in itself.

The first Democratic complication arrived when David Joseph Patzer filed as a write-in candidate. With only Republicans filed, this closed what would have been an open primary in August to determine a new representative.

But write-ins closing election are nothing new to Florida politics. Things turned messy, though, after Patzer abruptly dropped out in July. Patzer’s wife later told The Ledger he had been pressured by Mann, whom he considered a father figure, to file.

Mann disputes this but acknowledges his son and Patzer went to school together.

Regardless, Secretary of State Ken Detzner in July ruled that without a write-in opponent to challenge the Republican primary winner, the primary must be open. With the window for sending absentee ballots already passed, Detzner rescheduled the race for September.

But another problem occurred. Hardee Supervisor of Elections Diane Smith’s office made a mistake and listed Mann as a Democrat in the race.

Bell figures the unusual circumstance caused the human error. “I guess the Hardee Supervisor, having never had two Republicans in a general election, put my opponent as a Democrat and me as a Republican,” Bell said.

Bell would appear first on the ballot in alphabetical order in a Republican primary. In most general elections, the nominee for the party controlling the Governor’s mansion, right now Republicans, appears first on the ballot.

Some 800 to 900 vote-by-mail ballots already shipped to voters in Hardee and overseas before anyone noticed the glitch. Now, yet another irregularity enters the mix.

Smith decided to reorder ballots and send out vote-by-mail ballots to everyone who already received them. Those contain a note explaining Mann had incorrectly been identified as a Democrat, and that the older ballots would be discarded if voters sent in the new, corrected ballot.

“This could hurt him, it could hurt me and help him, I just don’t know,” says Bell. “His name has a special notice now about the mistake.”

Yes, but then Hardee County isn’t the most friendly territory for Democrats, likely a reason no Democrat decided to run.

“I ain’t happy about it,” said Mann. “I’m the most conservative person in the race so to be listed as a Democrat really set me back a little bit. But it’s more the election.”

In 2016, almost 69 percent of Hardee County voters supported Republican Donald Trump for President and Republican Marco Rubio for Senate. So party line voters on the bad ballots may break for Bell.

The false ballots may not matter, so long as the winner in District 56 wins by more than 900 votes.

But now a cog gets thrown into every race on the ballot, from county commission contests straight up to the year’s U.S. Senate and Governor’s race.

A recent St. Pete Polls survey found both those major statewide races essentially tied. And Florida has a history of narrow election margins. Like, razor-thin. The most notorious close call of them all came in 2000, when Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush won Florida by 537 votes, and in turn captured the White House. That hints at potential catastrophe in Hardee County on a butterfly ballot scale.

Of course, Bell and Mann just hope the margin runs wider than the votes in question. Bell likes to note she won the August primary anyway. Well, sort of. She won the vote in Polk County, which is just a part of the district, with 67 percent of the vote, according to results erroneously reported by the supervisor of elections there.

One more error, Mann notes. He feels the race will be very close.

Of course, he blames the Mann camp for pressuring Padzer out of the race. Bell blames Mann for tricking Padzer into the contest in the first place.

And the rest of the state sits wondering what this middle-of-the-state election irritation could mean for the entire Sunshine State.

How will Will Robinson or Tracy Pratt fund Florida Forever?

Both candidates running in Florida House District 71 say the state must properly fund Florida Forever, but would raid different programs to pay for it.

Democrat Tracy Pratt says private prisons should pay the price for preserving more land. Republican Will Robinson would gut Enterprise Florida to elevate the environment.

The topic came up at a Tiger Bay forum in Sarasota in Thursday, where the House candidates both stressed their environmental credentials.

“I’m not an election year environmentalists,” said Pratt. “If we can’t address our environmental problems we’re in some serious trouble.”

Robinson stressed a long commitment to the land as well, noting his family donated the property for the Robinson Preserve in Sarasota.

“I think that’s something that irritates voters a lot,” he said. “And I hear it on the campaign trail. We vote on stuff, and then you guys in Tallahasee or you girls in Tallahassee do different things.”

Both noted that when voters approved Amendment 1 by an overwhelming majority. Some 75 percent of voters statewide approved the measure in 2014. But lawmakers haven’t held to that. This year, the Legislature budgeted $101 million for Florida Forever, half what the Senate proposed. The year before, no money made the final cut.

But when Tiger Bay moderator Morgan Bentley asked the candidates how to pay for the program, the two offered different solutions.

Robinson said he sees funding that can be pulled from business incentive funding still.

“I’m not a big believer in turning over government handouts to companies,” he said.

Robinson expressed particular irritation that Florida funded incentives to lure Wawa gas stations here.

“Wawa is a great company, but it’s not fair we paid x millions of dollars for one to come down here and compete across the street from a Racetrac,” he said.

Pratt, a champion for criminal justice reform, said she sees savings in slashing the prison industrial complex.

“The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world and Florida is in the top 10,” she said. “We incarcerate people at a higher rate to the tune of $20,000 per person per year.”

Meanwhile, she said, the state cuts opioid funding and leaves people with no support to cycle in and out of the system.

Tony Mowry confronts James Buchanan about district-hopping

Democrat Tony Mowry started off a Tiger Bay forum in Sarasota by attacking Republican opponent James Buchanan’s perpetual candidacy.

“He’s a wealthy politician looking to buy his way into office,” said Mowry. “It makes me angry he thinks he can run in multiple parts of the county after trying his hand in multiple districts.”

The swipe referenced the fact Buchanan in February lost a special election in Florida House District 72 to Democrat Margaret Good. Buchanan ran in that race after initially filing to run in District 71, but then changing seats after the resignation of state Rep. Alex Miller.

Now he’s running in District 74.

But Buchanan, who grew up in the district, said he never expected to find himself running in three districts within two years.

“When I ran in District 72, it was a humbling experience, an incredible experience,” he told Florida Politics. “I wasn’t planning on running again.”

But after incumbent state Rep. Julio Gonzalez made clear intentions to run for retiring U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney’s Congressional seat, Buchanan said people asked him to run again.

“This isn’t something I was planning to do,” he said. “It’s something I was called to do.”

Mowry’s choice to open the debate with an attack drew boos in the Michael’s On East ballroom, but the Democrat says the issue comes up regularly when he greets voters in the district.

He noted the district saw outsiders in the past move to the region just because it had a decent Republican make-up, specifically noting former state Rep. Doug Holder, who now owns The Legis Group in Tallahassee, and former candidate Richard DeNapoli, a Republican who moved to the area, ran, and quickly moved back to Broward County afterward.

“Those who did this in the past used this as a political opportunity and never ingratiated themselves into the community,” Mowry said.

The forum also touched on such issues as red tide—Buchanan wants to fund more research and Mowry wants to restore pre-Gov. Rick Scott era regulations—and gun control—Mowry wants universal background checks while Buchanan remains concerned about raising the gun purchasing age to 21.

Also on the stage, no-party-affiliation candidate Robert Samuel Kaplan stressed his own message of keeping tax rates low in the state while doing more to lift incomes in the middle class.

“I’m running for office so I could be a representative to make sure people don’t take money out of your pockets,” he said.

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