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Frank White hauls in $23K in latest round of HD 2 fundraising

Pensacola Republican Frank White brought in another $23,700 last month in his campaign to take over the open House District 2 seat.

White’s May report, which also includes $10,914 in spending, shows the first-time candidate with an impressive $164,345 on hand after just two full months in the campaign.

His donor list also shows support from some influential Republicans, including former House Speaker Allan Bense, former ambassador John Rood and Gulf Power CEO Stan Connally.

White, who serves as vice chairman of the board of trustees for Pensacola State College, is currently the only Republican in the race to take over for Rep. Mike Hill, who is running for Greg Evers’ seat in the Florida Senate.

Though he faces Democrat Raymond Guillory, who has $11,309 on hand, White will certainly benefit from the heavy Republican advantage in HD 2, where Hill dispatched Democrat Jeremy Lau with more than 65 percent of the vote two years ago.

White’s prodigious fundraising skills, and the safety of the seat, could make him someone to watch for House leadership positions over the next few years.

‘Yes for Jacksonville’ political committee gets Shad Khan, Jaguars money in May

In its second month of fundraising, Lenny Curry’s “Yes for Jacksonville” political committee broke the half-million mark in money raised.

New money totaling $303,450 took the committee up to $528,450 raised, with over $514,000 on hand.

The big donor in May was Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, who put $50,000 of personal money and $100,000 more of Jaguars’ money into the sales pitch for the 1/2 cent pension tax, which, if an August referendum passes and collective bargaining allows one of the city’s three pension plans to close, will take effect once the Better Jacksonville Plan obligation is paid off, in or before 2030.

Gary ChartrandJohn BakerEdward BakerFirehouse Subs, and Harden Certainty all donated $10,000 or more.

Naples Mayor Bill Barnett endorses Kathleen Passidomo in SD 28 race

Naples Mayor Bill Barnett is throwing his support behind Kathleen Passidomo in the Senate District 28 race.

“I’ve worked alongside Kathleen Passidomo for years and have seen her conservative solutions to the problems facing Southwest Florida,” said Barnett. “It’s clear that she is the only candidate who knows how to get things done in our community, and I’m proud to give her my full support.”

Barnett was elected earlier this year to the mayor’s post. A longtime Naples resident, Barnett was the city’s mayor from 1996 until 2000, and then again from 2004 until 2012. Earlier this year, Naples residents once again elected him mayor.

The endorsement doesn’t come as a surprise to many Southwest Floridians. Barnett has known Passidomo and her husband, John, a well-known land use attorney, for decades. John Passidomo was the city’s vice mayor from 1990 until 1992, when Barnett served on the city council as a councilman.

“I’m honored to have the support of a leader like Mayor Barnett,” said Passidomo. “He’s created jobs for Southwest Florida as a successful entrepreneur and been a dedicated public servant to our community.”

Passidomo faces Republican Matt Hudson in the race to replace Garrett Richter in the Florida Senate.

While Passidomo, a state House member since 2010, has received the backing of several Southwest Florida Republican leaders — including Richter and former state Rep. Dudley Goodlette — Hudson continues to have a fundraising lead.

Hudson, who currently serves as the House Speaker Pro Tempore, is term limited and can’t run for re-election in House District 80. Hudson has raised about $1 million between his official campaign and the political committee backing his campaign.

No Democrat has announced a run in Senate District 28. Passidomo and Hudson will square off in the Aug. 30 primary.

Rod Smith raises $168K in May for SD 8 bid

Rod Smith posted another strong fundraising month, his campaign announced Friday.

The Alacuha Democrat raised $168,695 in May. Smith raised $52,695 for his campaign fund, and an another $116,000 was raised by “Independent Leadership for Florida,” the political committee backing Smith’s Senate District 8 bid.

“I appreciate the continued support from people across North Central Florida and the state,” said Smith in a statement. “We are working hard to build a strong grassroots campaign that will get out our message of responsibility and of prioritizing our families and small businesses all the way to the Florida Senate.”

The May numbers bring his total fundraising haul to a combined $624,780.

Smith served in the Florida Senate from 2000 to 2006, where he earned a reputation for working across the aisle to get legislation passed for his district.

Prior to joining the Florida Legislature, Smith was State Attorney of the Eighth Judicial Circuit. In that role, he successfully secured the death penalty for serial killer Danny Rolling after a series of heinous murders that shocked the college community in Gainesville.

The Alachua County Democrat faces Gainesville Republican Rep. Keith Perry in the Senate District 8 race.


Ritch Workman references his battle to remove ‘pro-Muslim textbooks’ out of Brevard County schools in new ad

In the summer of 2013, Melbourne GOP Rep. Ritch Workman made an issue out of a textbook used in Advanced Placement history classes in Brevard County, claiming it displayed a pro-Islam bias.

In a new ad promoting his run for the Senate District 17 contest, the Republican refers to that opposition.

A narrator references Workman’s sponsoring $500 million in tax cuts, boasts about getting rid of the Department of Community Affairs, supports ethics reform, leads the fight to abolish Common Core and then says: “Ritch Workman is currently leading the battle to remove pro-Muslim bias and propaganda from our Brevard children’s textbooks.”

Florida Public Radio reported in August 2013 Workman brought his concerns about Prentice Hall’s “World History” textbook to the Brevard County School Board, which was reviewing the book. A spokesperson at the time denied the textbook was biased toward Islam and said the company treats all religions fairly. Workman said the book dedicated 36 pages to Islam and only several paragraphs to Christianity. He also said the book “sugarcoats the rise of Islam.”

In August 2014, the Brevard County School Board voted to create a “supplemental guide” for the textbook, but did not remove it.

Workman is running against Vero Beach House Republican Debbie Mayfield and health care professional Michael J. Thomas in the Aug. 30 primary.

U.S. Sugar pushes back over claims cane industry is to blame for postponed water projects

U.S. Sugar officials are pushing back after a guest editorial in a Southwest Florida newspaper said sugar producers are part of the reason why efforts to build reservoirs south of Lake Okeechobee have been postponed.

“At no point has anyone representing U.S. Sugar ever said anything about opposing scientifically and technically proven storage projects throughout the Lake Okeechobee system,” said Malcolm “Bubba” Wade, Jr., the senior vice president for corporate strategy and business development for U.S. Sugar, in a statement Thursday. “We have and continue to support the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), Restoration Strategies, the Modified Water Deliveries projects, and the South Florida Water Management District’s priority projects.”

In a guest editorial for the Fort Myers News-Press earlier this week, Eric Draper, the executive director of Audubon Florida, said following through with commitments to build large reservoirs south of Lake Okeechobee “will allow progress toward reducing massive discharges of polluted water to coastal estuaries.” However, Draper said state agencies have delayed planning.

“By postponing storage plans, the agencies leading Everglades restoration have caused a frustrating Catch-22 characterized as ‘no plan, no action,’” he wrote. “It’s time to move past delays and get together on a plan for storage and sending water south.”

Draper continued by saying: “Opponents of building reservoirs to store water that would otherwise be harmfully discharged to the estuaries are EAA landowners — primarily sugar producers. It is in their interest to do nothing for the Everglades and estuaries other than minimally comply with court-imposed water quality standards.”

In a statement, Wade said his company “has not only supported scientifically and technically proven solutions, but also provided land for the storage, treatment and movement of water” into the Everglades Agricultural Area.

“What we have said is that state scientists will not know how much additional storage will be needed until currently planned projects are built and operating,” he said. “This may be an inconvenient truth to activists whose mantra is ‘buy the land, send the water south,’ but the fact is, there are already 120,000 acres of formerly productive farmland that are now in public ownership for water storage and restoration efforts, and the use of these lands has not been maximized by the government yet.”

Draper said environmental groups, like Audubon Florida, are just trying to encourage the South Florida Water Management District to begin planning storage projects south of Lake Okeechobee. The planning process would be the first step in a years long process, but Draper said agencies have said they don’t plan to begin planning until 2020.

“It’s such a small ask,” said Draper.

There has been renewed debate in recent months about the best ways to limit the discharges into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers. Earlier this year, the Army Corps of Engineers began releasing water from Lake Okeechobee into the rivers for about a month, after a wetter-than-normal January.

Environmentalists have said the discharge water is polluted with high levels of sulfur and nitrogen from farms around the lake.

“We encourage the activists attacking our business to join us in being part of the solution,” said Wade. “Instead of slinging mud, we welcome our critics to propose any ideas that are scientifically and technically proven and will stop the harmful discharges.”


Congressional Candidate Bob Poe: ‘I have HIV’

Democratic congressional candidate Bob Poe of Orlando announced Thursday that he has HIV, though he is healthy and has been so since first being diagnosed 18 years ago.

Poe, a Democrat running in Florida’s 10th Congressional District, said he struggled all year trying to decide whether, when and how to come out to voters and the public that he is HIV-positive.

Thursday he said he just could not live with himself keeping it secret any longer.

Human immunodeficiency virus, if untreated, causes AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Poe does not have AIDS.

Poe said his personal struggle included an encounter he had with a woman he met while he was canvassing on Orlando’s west side. She confided to him that she had just been diagnosed with HIV and thought she received a death sentence.

Poe said he assured her she did not have a death sentence, that with early intervention and treatment she could live a long, healthy life. But he didn’t tell her about himself. He didn’t yet have that courage.

Until now.

Poe, who is openly gay, released his revelation about his HIV diagnosis Thursday afternoon through Watermark, an Orlando-based magazine serving the LGBT community, in a note to supporters, and in a Facebook post, attached to a video in which he explains his condition and why he is going public with it.

“I’d like to share something deeply personal with you today, something that in the past I’ve only shared with a few family members,” Poe begins.

No member of Congress has ever publicly acknowledged having HIV or AIDS. Poe said he checked and found only two candidates for congress ever did so, one in New York in the early 1990s, and one in Massachusetts a few years ago. Both lost.

Poe faces a tough Democratic primary contest on Aug. 30, with former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings, state Sen. Geraldine Thompson and lawyer Fatima Rita Fahmy. Republicans running are led by Thuy Lowe.

He said he now will use his campaign as a platform to talk about HIV and AIDS and encourage people who suspect they might be at risk to get tested as soon as possible. HIV is spread by sexual contact or blood contact, as with shared intravenous needles.

After he left that woman’s porch, Poe said, he told FloridaPolitics.com, he “felt fear and guilt and shame and all the things that go with the [HIV] stigma. I just can’t allow myself to do that any more. I regret that. That was what sort of tipped things over for me.

“Then, as I talked to health professionals, they tell me that infection rates are rising at an ever-increasing rate, and there’s a big concern that with this heroin epidemic that there is going to be another spike with HIV rates because of that, ” Poe said.

“They tell me that people aren’t getting tested and diagnosed because of their fear. And that’s not a health thing. So I began to see an opportunity and a responsibility to bring this news out. And let’s have a discussion and see if we can start taking the stigma away,” Poe said.


Jeff Moran flaunts outsider cred in first CD 2 campaign ad

Jeff Moran has hit the airwaves in a hotly contested GOP primary in the 2nd Congressional District race to replace U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham.

In the Ft. White businessman’s first ad — a one-minute spot entitled “Hands On” — Moran seeks to grasp the mantle of consummate outsider in a 2016 election cycle where polished, traditional politicians are out of fashion.

The ad portrays his opponents as business-as-usual pols while emphasizing his own downtown background as a former policeman and owner of an automotive body shop.

“Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: two lawyers and a lobbyist are running for Congress,” opens Moran in a dig against former U.S. Attorney Ken Sukhia, former Scott administration lawyer Mary Thomas, and Panama City urologist Neal Dunn, who once lobbied on behalf of the Florida Medical Association. “Unfortunately, that’s no joke.”

The ad was filmed inside Moran’s shop and includes sweeping shots of American muscle cars. It portrays Moran taking a break from working on a red Ford Mustang to talk about his run for Congress.

“Yes, I actually produce something,” says Moran.

The ad is in keeping with Moran’s “back to basics” campaign theme.

“I’m a blue collar conservative,” Moran told fellow Republicans at a campaign stop in Bay County. “I live this.”

The campaign to take back the redrawn CD 2 seat — now one of the state’s most conservative — has focused as much on identity as on issues. While Sukhia and Thomas have tussled over who is more conservative, Moran’s gambit seems to be an appeal to social class.

The sprawling Panhandle district’s next representative will all but certainly be decided in the Republican primary. Term-limited Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda has floated the possibility of running as a Democrat, but would face steep odds in a seat experts say favors Republicans by 20 points or more.

The GOP primary is Aug. 30.

See below for Moran’s new ad in full:

Todd Wilcox talks career pols, Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump

Is Todd Wilcox too honest for the 2016 United States Senate race?

His speech Thursday to the Republican Women’s Club of Duval Federated suggested that may be the case.

In a room full of career politicians, Wilcox began his remarks by discussing a “movement underway … fueled by disgust with career politicians.”

Wilcox described himself as running out of “frustration” and “desperation,” not “aspiration,” unlike the three “career politicians in this race who have positioned themselves for this moment in time.”

Wilcox, who is in single digits in most polls, mentioned his “opponents are taking jabs at [him].”

For his part, Wilcox believes there is a “white noise” machine from his opponents, serving up “poll-tested rhetoric” about the iniquities of the Barack Obama administration, talk which distracts from the “stark contrast in experience in those issues that will define this election — national security and the economy.”

Wilcox’s concerns are tangible: a “new phase of the Cold War with Russia,” “Pacific Ocean threats from China,” a $19 trillion national debt and $100 trillion of unfunded liabilities related to Social Security, Medicare, and retirement for federal employees.

Democrats take a “tax-and-spend” approach, said Wilcox.

Republicans? A “borrow-and-spend” model.

Another issue: “we don’t have enough natural-born children for our tax base.”

Indeed, says Wilcox, the current tax base looks bad too. Of the 119 million people filing tax returns, 75 million actually pay out.

This, said Wilcox, will be the “death of the country.”

So, despite not getting major traction in the polls, Wilcox is in the race for the duration, even if Marco Rubio gets in.

Online advertising starts this week, and he urged those on hand to pick up a bumper sticker, “unless you drive like a jackass.”


After his remarks, Wilcox spent a few minutes with FloridaPolitics.com.

One salient question: is he worried about the polls?

Wilcox says no, pointing out “40 to 60 percent of voters are undecided.”

Citing strong straw poll wins in Brevard and Hillsborough Counties, Wilcox notes that when people “hear the message, polls turn around.”


Another question: how would Wilcox campaign against Marco Rubio, should the senator reject private sector opportunities to re-enter the race?

“The same contrast [with career politicians] applies to Rubio,” said Wilcox, who sees his motivation, life story, and substance as superior to Rubio.

And regarding Carlos Beruff, the Manatee home builder who had some active weeks of TV ad buys, Wilcox was no more complimentary.

Describing Beruff’s “poll-tested talking points,” Wilcox called Beruff the “consummate insider,” spending seven figures to sway politicians on both sides of the aisle with his brand of “crony capitalism.”

Wilcox noted that he has put “more than a million dollars” of his own money into the race, and has the second-most cash on hand.

“When the time is right,” said Wilcox, “I’ll get my message out.”


As is obligatory at this point, Wilcox faced questions about the latest gaffes of Donald Trump.

“I’m going to support whoever the party’s candidate is,” said Wilcox, because the “alternative is disastrous.”

That said, he’s “not spending time worrying about other candidates,” and therefore is not endorsing Trump’s comments on the so-called Mexican judge.

Even with Trump’s baggage, Wilcox says it would be “foolhardy” to choose a different candidate at the convention.

The “base has spoken,” and the establishment “picked the wrong side.”

It would also, said Wilcox, be wrong to push Rubio back in the race.


Wilcox closed the conversation reiterating his call for all candidates to debate, any time before the election.

And he repeated his latest message to Beruff: “Man up.”

Tommy Hazouri among ‘bipartisan finance team’ for Jax pension-tax referendum sales pitch

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry announced his “bipartisan finance team” for his “Yes for Jacksonville” political committee, designed to market the pension-tax referendum.

“This group of community and business leaders come from both political parties and bring an incredible depth of experience,” said Curry. “Their dedication to the city’s future and commitment to a victory for this reform ensures we have the resources to demonstrate the importance of a ‘yes’ vote in August.”

Some members are to be expected, such as Marty Fiorentino of the Fiorentino Group, former General Counsel Fred Franklin, and stalwart Curry backers Tom Petway and John Rood.

One member is surprising: Councilman Tommy Hazouri, who famously battled with Curry on the human rights ordinance expansion issue months back.

Clearly, the former mayor and the current mayor have found a common political cause.

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