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Anna Eskamani clears $500K raised for HD 47 flip

Orlando Democrat Anna Eskamani has hit another major milestone in her bid to flip the seat held by exiting Republican state Rep. Mike Miller blue.

The Planned Parenthood exec and first-generation American has long been the fundraising leader in Orange County’s House District 47, and through Oct. 19 she said she had gathered more than $500,000 in support of her candidacy.

Eskamani’s new reports haven’t been uploaded to the Florida Division of Elections website, though she said in a Tuesday press release that she’s now raised $426,891 in hard money and another $73,850 in soft money through her affiliated political committee People Power for Florida.

“Our campaign is fueled by everyday people — Democrats, Republicans, and those with no party affiliation — who are ready to redefine politics in Florida, and elect a first time candidate that is vocal, authentic, and effective,” Eskamani said.

“We offer a compelling vision for the future of our state, one that is grounded in our passion for public education, environmental protection, health care access, and gun safety. As a first time candidate with no personal wealth, I am thrilled to have raised $500,000 and will continue to do my part in creating community, building leaders, and facilitating meaningful change,” she concluded.

Though her campaign didn’t list how much of that cash is still in the bank, Eskamani’s financial reports covering Oct. 6 through Oct. 12 showed her with about $63,000 banked between the two accounts.

Her general election opponent, Winter Park Republican Stockton Reeves, had amassed $237,551 through the same date and had $84,371 banked on Oct. 12. Eskamani’s mention of personal wealth may have been a jab at Reeve’s comparatively lackluster fundraising prowess — 40 percent of his bankroll has come from his own checking account.

The HD 47 contest has taken a negative turn in recent weeks as Reeves and the Florida GOP have slammed Eskamani as “unfit for office” based on her using a handful of four-letter words during public appearances.

Those incidents weren’t enough to scare off former President Barack Obama and Orlando mega attorney John Morgan from joining the 70-plus local leaders and orgs already lined up behind her House campaign. She has also brushed off the criticisms by putting out her own ads painting the campaign tactic as a sign of fear among “political insiders.”

HD 47 covers north-central Orange County and is vacant due to Miller opting to challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 7th Congressional District rather than seek another term in the state House.

The seat has a slim Democratic advantage in voter registrations and it was held by now-Democratic Sen. Linda Stuart before Miller edged her out by four points in the 2014 cycle. He followed that up with a 6-point win over Democrat Beth Tuura in 2016, when the seat voted plus-11 for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Mark Kelly proclaims progress in gun law campaign

Former astronaut and retired U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, who started a gun law reform political action committee “Giffords PAC” with his wife, Democratic former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, after she was shot in a 2011 assassination attempt, said in Orlando Monday night that believes he has seen the country’s and Florida’s political mood moving toward reforms.

Kelly, speaking at the University of Central Florida with several Democrats that his group has endorsed, recalled the mood before and in the first years after Giffords was shot by a gunman who also shot 18 others at her rally, killing six, and how that has evolved after the subsequent massacres at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, Las Vegas, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

“It took a change of politics, which has happened, right? You go back to 2009, even the Democrats didn’t want to do anything on this. There were no meaningful pieces of legislation that were debated on the floor of the House and the Senate. Really nothing,” Kelly said.

Kelly said the mood has changed in Washington to the point where Winter Park’s Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy drew bipartisan support for her effort to end the 22-year ban on gun violence research and got it signed into law. And he said the mood has changed in Tallahassee to where Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Republican leaders in the Legislature shepherded through Senate Bill 7026, the Marjory Stoneman High School Public Safety Act, bringing in gun law reforms Kelly praised Monday.

“Look what happened after the Pulse nightclub shooting. We’d been working on this for five years. Pulse was two years ago. So after about three years, it got to the point where even then,” no one in Congress wanted to talk about gun law reform, Kelly said. “Look what [Georgia’s Democratic U.S. Rep.] John Lewis did after Pulse. They had a sit in on the floor of the House of Representatives because they wanted some meaningful legislation.”

Kelly’s intention Monday at UCF was largely partisan, to encourage more political activism and to promote the election candidates who support Giffords’ organization and its political action committee agenda, which includes regulating semi-automatic weapons and requiring universal background checks for gun purchases.

“The problem is, we’ve got to get the leadership. So, you’ve either got to change [Republican House Speaker] Paul Ryan‘s mind and change [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell‘s mind, which probably isn’t going to happen, or you’ve got to flip control of the House and Senate,” he said.

Kelly was joined Monday night by three Democratic candidates his group has endorsed: Murphy, who is running for re-election against Republican state Rep. Mike Miller in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, covering Seminole County and north and central Orange County including UCF; state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, who is running for re-election against Republican Ben Griffin in Florida House District 49, covering northeast Orange County including UCF; and Anna Eskamani, who is running against Republican Stockton Reeves for the open seat in Florida House District 47, covering north and central Orange County.

Murphy, too, spoke of change in mood, and she credited the activism of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students for helping bring that about. She cited her bill seeking to end the ban on federal support for gun violence research which drew zero interest from Republicans and consequently was dead from the start, and “it was after Parkland happened that Republicans started joining on to the bill. I got Republican co-sponsors.

“It moved it right into negotiations for the budget. And because we were able to demonstrate Republican support in addition to Democratic support, we were able to get that bill inserted, language similar, inserted into the appropriations bill, the budget bill,” she said. “So I think that is an indication that there are Republicans willing to have a common sense gun safety conversation.”

Democrat Sanjay Patel launches TV ad in CD 8 contest

Democratic congressional candidate Sanjay Patel is launching the first television commercial of his campaign Monday to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey in Florida’s 8th Congressional District.

Patel, a business consultant and activist, pushes an upbeat, progressive-politics message in the ad, quickly mentioning such issues as toxic algae, economics, and health care from a progressive activist’s point of view, concluding, “Our movement is stronger than their money.”

And then he borrows one of the most famous campaign slogans of Republicans, Gov. Rick Scott‘s, “Now let’s get to work.”

Posey, a five-term congressman, and Patel are battling in CD 8 which covers Brevard County, part of east Orange County, and part of north Indian River County. The district has a strong Republican lean in voter registration. Patel, however, is putting on the strongest challenge, at least financially, that Posey has yet seen.

The 30-second commercial, “People over Politics”, follows a much longer digital ad video his campaign released last Friday, and uses some of the same footage and messages.

“It’s time to prove that the power of the people is stronger than the people in power,” Patel declares as images show him at a campaign rally, and out meeting with voters in various settings. “When our water turns toxic, when a child doesn’t go to college because her parents don’t have enough money, when someone dies because they couldn’t afford to go see a doctor, that’s an injustice for all of us.”

Sanjay Patel launches digital ad in CD 8 race

Democratic congressional candidate Sanjay Patel has launched his first video commercial, a digital ad that talks about how his brother’s death from cancer has inspired him to seek better, and how for him that includes affordable health care, a fairer economy, environmental protection and investments in schools and infrastructure.

The two-minute, 17-second video, released on the internet Friday, offers a montage of images of Florida’s Space Coast and Treasure Coast from Kennedy Space Center rocket launches to beaches;  of struggles, of someone suffering health problems in a bed, dead fish, and toxic algae; and also of Patel himself, in contemplation, and meeting with voters.

The video has a distinctive progressive Democratic theme of the powerless against the powerful, summed up with his observation, “It’s time to prove that the power of the people is stronger than the people in power.”

A grassroots organizer and business consultant with an economics degree from UCLA, Patel is facing five-term Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey in the Nov. 6 election. Patel has managed to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars and still has most of that left to spend. In addition to the digital ad, his campaign intends to begin television advertising next week, and to run it through the Nov. 6 election.

The district covers Brevard County and parts of east Orange County and north Indian River County.

The digital ad covers a lot of ground, starting with Patel recalling how his brother spent most of his last days at the beach. “After my brother died, I knew how fleeting our lives were,” he says. “It can all change in the blink of one diagnosis. Health care should be a human right. Folks who are struggling shouldn’t have to worry about how they are going to pay those bills while they’re going through some of the hardest ordeals of their lives.”

From there he introduces himself, and then goes on to talk about those left out of the economy, declaring, “Money in politics has poisoned our political system. The people in power aren’t listening to or representing us. They’re representing the big businesses and billionaires who donate to their campaigns, to big banks who led us to the brink of economic collapse.”

The video then moves on to his views on the environment, public education, infrastructure, sustainable energy, and struggles of the middle class.

“I’m doing this for my brother. For my family,” he says. “If we can reach the stars, I know that we can deliver hope, freedom and opportunity for all Americans.”

Stockton Reeves’ new TV ad paints Anna Eskamani as radical

Republican Florida House candidate Stockton Reeves has launched another TV commercial attacking his Democratic opponent, this time painting Anna Eskamani as a radical, complete with stock footage of rioting somewhere, as he offers himself as an independent leader.

The new commercial, running on Orlando cable, draws stark contrast, depicting Eskamani with chaotic shots of her speaking at a rally, and of other people rioting; and then of himself with shots of him with his wife and two young children, and calm pictures of happy people.

Reeves and Eskamani are battling for Florida House District 47, covering north and central Orange County, from Winter Park through downtown and into the south-side suburbs.

“This district isn’t home to extremists. But it is home to independent leader Stockton Reeves,” the commercial states.

Eskamani dismissed the commercial as “laced with lies and dog whistling.”

The contest has been sometimes brutal, as Reeves and the Republican Party of Florida have been trying to stop the progressive Eskamani, who has rolled up a huge campaign fund and national attention, and who has been campaigning relentlessly for 16 months, seeking to flip the district now held by Republican state Rep. Mike Miller.

The commercial begins with grainy, purple-tinted shots of Eskamani. As a narrator says, “Anna Eskamani thinks she can fool you,” those shots change to footage of a riot, and then back to Eskamani wearing sunglasses at a podium, with her arm raised in what looks like a gesture of protest. “She can’t hide the truth.”

The commercial then turns to specific issues, declaring that “Eskamani and her radical donors” opposed school choice for bullied kids, law enforcement in schools, “and shut down businesses if you don’t agree with them,” the latter a reference to Eskamani’s participation in a statewide protest at Publix stores last year after reports of how much the company was donating to Republican Adam Putnam‘s gubernatorial campaign.

Then comes the switch to full-color, pictures of Reeves, children, and others in the district.

“Reeves will invest in our children and education, restore civility in politics, and reject radicalism,” the narrator says.

Eskamani responded by charging that Reeves’ “entire campaign has been a prolonged distortion of my record of standing up for this community whether it be women’s rights, gun safety, public education, the environment, or health care. Stockton is everything wrong with politics today.

“All of this is not only insulting to me, but it’s also insulting to the voters of House District 47,” she added. “There is too much at stake on November 6 for this race to come down to such lame, tired, and untrue attacks.”

Steve Scalise pitches economy to help Mike Miller’s congressional run

It’s all about the booming economy, low unemployment, and cutting taxes, and keeping it rolling, Louisiana’s Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise told a rally Friday campaigning for Republican state Rep. Mike Miller‘s attempt to oust Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

Well, maybe a little about baseball too.

Scalise, a candidate for the U.S. Speaker of the House position when Speaker Paul Ryan leaves at the end of this year – and also the victim of an assassination attempt last year as Republicans were wrapping up a baseball practice for an annual charity game – pushed hard Friday for the Republicans’ economic policies, including last year’s tax cuts, arguing that the country’s booming economy now is the critical reason Republicans like Miller need to be elected and Democrats like Murphy need to be ousted.

Scalise is criss-crossing the country now campaigning for Republicans with the recognition that polls show Democrats could take the U.S. House of Representatives. Miller already has pledged bhis own support for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy as the next speaker. But Scalise told a rally at an airport hangar at Orlando Executive Airport Friday that the issue of concern is Republicans desire to make sure House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi doesn’t become the next speaker.

“What’s at stake is a whole lot about how we are going to keep our country moving forward, or are we going to go back to the days of when Nancy Pelosi was speaker,” Scalise declared. “Go back especially to the period of 2008-2010, in that two year period they wrecked our economy with higher taxes, higher regulation, things like Dodd-Frank.”

Scalise also pushed Miller’s commitment to the military and veterans, and tore at Murphy for opposing the Right to Try Act, which Congress passed last year making it easier for patients with life-or-death diseases to get experimental drugs, and said Miller would have supported it.

Miller stressed the economy.

“He told me, you’ve got to remind voters, Stephanie Murphy voted against that stuff,” Miller told the gathering of about 100 people. “She voted against the tax cuts that led to this economic recovery. She wants to bring us back to where we were eight years ago, when we had 1 percent growth. Now there are literally hundreds of thousands of jobs that can’t be filled. Think about that, we have full employment.”

Yet in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, Miller is running from behind against Murphy, who has far more campaign money, and a record of centrist politics. The district covers Seminole County and north and central Orange County and once was reliably Republican, but that has changed, as Murphy demonstrated when she upset 12-term Republican U.S. Rep. John Mica two years ago. This year, little outside money has come into the contest, signaling perhaps that national partisan groups don’t think it’s worth investing in.

But Miller said that is about to change, and Scalise said he wouldn’t have come if there were not indications that the race was tightening up.

“I love this guy. I want to serve in Congress with this guy, but this is a winnable race. You all know this. That’s why you’re out,” Scalise said told the rally. “This race is tightening up to where we can win this race, Mike can win this race and serve in Congress.”

Scalise had been the starting second baseman for the Republicans for their annual charity Congressional baseball game against Democrats, wrapping up a practice in Virginia on June 14, 2017, when James Thomas Hodgkinson, who had expressed rage against Republicans, opened fire on people there, wounding him and three others. Scalise was shot in the hip, lost a lot of blood, suffered organ failures, and nearly died. He has since had nine surgeries. And though he now walks with a cane, took the field for the Republican’s first practice scrimmage this year.

“I’m doing really well,” Scalise told Orlando media Friday. “I’m getting better every day. I still do about two days a week of rehab to build strength back up in the left leg. Otherwise I’m going full bore. This is the ninth district I’ve been in in four days.”

Miller is a former left-handed pitcher for the University of Florida, a motif he uses in numerous ways in his campaign, including campaign baseball cards that declare he throws left and votes right. He thanked Scalise for campaigning for him by presenting him with a bat inscribed with “Team Scalise Mike Miller U.S. Congress Play Ball!”

The Republicans could use some more pitching. Everyone knows that: the Democrats scored 21 runs off them this year, and 11 last year.

“I tell you what, this guy, when I heard he was a pitcher at the University of Florida, I’m an LSU guy, but I said, ‘We’ll take the Florida Gator!'” Scalise said.

Stephanie Murphy goes after Mike Miller on climate change

Two days after she and her Republican election opponent drew a clear distinction on climate change, Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy ridiculed him Thursday for dismissing that humans might have a role.

“My opponent, state Rep. Mike Miller, he refuses to recognize that humans contribute to climate change. And making matters worse, he dismissed concerns about climate change stating recently that, ‘Unfortunately, none of us is going to live 10,000 years to see what it’s like in 10,000 years,'” Murphy told a small gathering of environmental protection leaders gathered for a roundtable discussion in Orlando Thursday.

“For Mike Miller to dismiss the families, the businesses, that are, right now, today, being adversely affected by rising sea levels, stronger hurricanes, and red tide and toxic algae, it’s not only irresponsible, it’s morally reprehensible, and it threatens our way of life. Florida deserves better, our economy deserves better, and our children deserve better,” she continued. “And my record on combatting climate change is clear and my commitment to a clean future is firm.”

Miller is challenging the freshman congresswoman from Winter Park in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, covering Seminole County and north and central Orange County, in the Nov. 6 election.

In her remarks, and in much of the question and answer that followed, Murphy discussed environmental matters ranging from environmental justice issues that most affect poor communities, particularly minority comunities, to the red tides ravaging Florida this summer and fall.

But for re-election purposes, she focused squarely on climate change, and her commitment that human activity is at least accelerating it, and that Florida is at great risk if something is not done soon.

“We can’t begin to earnestly address all of these challenges without first recognizing the human contributions to our changing climate and identify common sense solutions,” she said, referring to Miller.

Miller, who has a strong Republican record in the Florida Legislature on environmental protection issues such as water, responded by agreeing that something could and should be done, and then challenged Murphy’s opportunity to do so.

“There are bipartisan solutions we can consider to reduce our carbon footprint and do our part to preserve our valuable resources and protect our environment. It’s unfortunate Congresswoman Murphy is unlikely to be a part of these bipartisan solutions because she votes with Nancy Pelosi 90 percent of the time,” he responded.

Murphy is a member of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus in Congress, cofounded and cochaired by her Florida colleagues, Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch. On Thursday she also called for bipartisan efforts to address climate change.

She also touted her endorsements by the League of Conservation Voters of Florida and the Sierra Club, which both had representatives at her roundtable.

In a moment of mild awkwardness, Murphy even politely changed the subject after one of the activists at her roundtable suggested she join the Democrats’ Congressional Progressive Caucus. Murphy has joined several centrist caucuses and generally has sought to avoid being associated with her party’s progressive wing.

At the discussion Thursday, Murphy also called for building the reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, restoring the Everglades, putting more money into studying the issues of South Florida, increasing standards on water pollution, and promotion of sustainable energy. She also said the United States needs to beome a world leader in addressing climate change.

She recalled with a mixture of grief and frustration that she recently took her children to a Gulf coast beach to hunt for shark’s teeth, “and my kids started coughing, and having a hard time breathing. And we realized it was the red tide, so we got off the beach.

“And now it’s a part of their vocabulary. It breaks my heart that my kids are 4 and 7, growing up in the most beautiful state in the country, and can’t enjoy the beaches.” Murphy said. “And all these other families in Florida can’t enjoy the beaches because what’s happening to our environment.”

She also contended that no state has more on the line than Florida, with its vulnerability to rising sea levels, stronger hurricanes, natural resources destruction, and because of its tourism industry, saying that Florida leaders need to take leadership toward immediate action.

“This year alone Florida faced, red tide, toxic algea, one of the most powerful hurricanes to ever to hit our state; we’ve dealt with extreme heat, damaged citrus crops, and king tides, and other problems resulting from rising sea levels, not to mention sunny-day flooding in South Florida,” she said.

“You know, climate change isn’t a theory. You can look around the state of Florida alone and put that false idea to bed,” she said. “Disingenuous attempts to deny the very real threat from climate change is an affront to families and small businesses all across our state that are dealing with these kinds of changes first hand.”

Bob Cortes shares son’s story, his commitment to free-market health care, in Spanish radio ad

Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes is sharing his painful struggle for his son’s health and life and vowing it has made him a health care advocate, in a new Spanish-language radio ad being launched in the Orlando market.

In the 60-second radio ad, Cortes, a New York native, speaks in Spanish about how he and his wife Virginia were living in Puerto Rico when they realized their son needed more medical help than he could receive on the island. So they moved to Central Florida where he received such care, although he eventually succumbed. The story is of the Cortes’s first son, Bob Jr., who was born with cerebral palsy and died in 1990.

Through the struggle, Cortes became appreciative of the free-market health care system and quality of care his son received, and the struggle has led to his commitment to it, he says in the commercial. The ad also is an homage to family.

In his re-election bid in Florida House District 30, Cortes, of Altamonte Springs, faces Democratic Maitland City Councilwoman Joy Goff-Marcil in the Nov. 6 election.

You can hear the ad below:

Nancy Pelosi Orlando visit brings charge from Mike Miller, denial from Stephanie Murphy

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is expanding her South Florida trip on Wednesday to include a stop in Orlando Thursday; and since little is being disclosed about it, Republican congressional candidate Mike Miller charged that Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy is doing something with her. But Murphy’s campaign said, Nope, not us.

The issue is a little raw in the congressional race for Flordia House District 7 covering Seminole County and north and central Orange.  Republicans particularly Miller, a Republican state representative from Winter Park trying to take her seat, have been trying to paint Pelosi as the ultimate liberal, out of touch with Central Florida values, particularly on the Seminole County portion, and trying to tie her to Murphy.

Pelosi did campaign for Murphy in 2016, and even helped get her selected to run for the CD 7 seat in the first place. But since getting into Congress, Murphy has carefully sought to set a course away from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

In a Tiger Bay debate on Tuesday Murphy went so far as to say she could not, as of now, support Pelosi for House Speaker if the Democrats win control of the U.S. House of Representatives, not unless Pelosi agrees to demands that a bipartisan congressional group called the Problem Solvers Caucus, which Murphy joined, has set forth.

Yet here comes Pelosi on a still publicly-unidentified mission to Orlando Thursday, after a roundtable meeting with Parkland students and a couple of private events Wednesday.

“Leader Nancy Pelosi is not scheduled to participate in any public events during her limited time in Orlando,” was all her spokesman Jorge Aguilar said in a brief inquiry from Florida Politics about why she was coming to Orlando.

Miller’s campaign fired a charge that Pelosi was coming to raise money for Murphy, and that the Democrats were keeping the visit secret.

“Why would Stephanie Murphy hide the fact her party’s leader will be in town raising money that will benefit her campaign?”  Miller inquired in a news release issued by her campaign.

Because it’s not true, Murphy’s campaign responded. Murphy has a couple of events set for Thursday, including a public roundtable discussion in Orlando on environmental issues in the afternoon, and a keynote address to the Seminole County School Administrators Legislative Dinner in the evening. Neither of them involve Pelosi.

Even if Pelosi is just generically raising money for the party or one of its principal political action committees, so far in this election Murphy hasn’t received much support from any of those entities for her re-election effort.

“This is another swing and a miss from Mike Miller,” responded Murphy’s campaign spokeswoman Christie Stephenson.

Bobby Olszewski TV commercial promotes community pride, unity

Republican state Rep. Bobby Olszewski is launching the first television commercial of his re-election campaign pushing upbeat messages of Floridians coming together for each other and pride in the community.

The 30-second spot features images of Central Florida points of pride including theme parks, the University of Central Florida, Kennedy Space Center, and of happy people, as the freshman Florida House member narrates a message of unity in divisive times.

“While there are some who try to divide us, there is so much that can unify us,” Olszewski starts.

As he speaks and the images of Central Florida roll through in rapid fire, so do text messages highlighting some of Olszewski’s work, Republican Florida Legislature’s talking points of policy achievements, and other statements, such as “Record K-12 Education Funding”, “Record Tourism Numbers”, “Florida is #1 in Higher Education”, “Florida Records the Largest Net Job Gain in the Nation”, and “Fighting for Our Veterans and Seniors.”

Olszewski faces Democratic former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson in the Nov. 6 election for House District 44, which covers southwest Orange County.

The video offers a positive look at Central Florida, then turns to Olszewski.

“That is what we were going for,” he said. “We wanted something that would stand out.”

As the commercial’s images and texts roll, Olszewski says, “We are an international destination, and the home of national champions. We reach for the stars and bring our feet back to the ground. We honor the heroes of the past and care for those who gave us life.

“I’m Robert ‘Bobby O’ Olszewski,” he concludes as the video finally shows various images of him. “Florida is strong because her people are strong. And only together will we build a better future.”

 

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