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Anna Eskamani TV ad links tribute to mother and commitment to health care

Democratic Florida House candidate Anna Eskamani has released her first television commiercial of the campaign season, focusing on her mother’s story and then on the House District 47 candidate’s commitment to health care coverage.

The 30-second television commercial, “Fighting for Our Health”, starts out covering much of the same ground as the biographical video Eskamani launched last week on the internet, telling of her mother Nasrin Vishkaee Eskamani‘s story working hard at multiple minimum-wage jobs and then getting cancer, battling it for five years but dying when Anna Eskamani was 13.

The commercial then turns to public policy.

Eskamani faces Republican Stockton Reeves in the Nov. 6 election for the open seat for HD 47, representing central Orange County.

The commercial will begin airing Tuesday on cable in in the Orlando market.

“Countless families like mine struggle to pay for health care,” Eskamani says, as the video turns from reflections on her mother to shots of the daughter in campaigning mode. “So I won’t stop fighting for quality, affordable health insurance, including coverage for preexisting conditions.

“My mom is the reason I fight, and I won’t let her down,” she concludes.

Linda Chapin, Harold Mills to lead Jerry Demings transition team

Orange County Mayor-elect Jerry Demings has announced his transition advisory team to be lead by Orlando entrepreneur Harold Mills and the last Democrat to hold the post he won in the August election, Linda Chapin.

The bipartisan, 37-member team is full of leaders of Central Florida businesses and nonprofits including those from Walt Disney World, Adventist Health System, Orlando Magic Youth Foundation, Tavistock Group, the Mental Health Association of Central Florida, and Full Sail University.

Also on board are some major political and public policy influence leaders such as Tim Giuliani, Derek Bruce, Angel de la Portilla, Jim Pugh, Wayne Rich, and Kelly Cohen.

Their focus will be to provide counsel to Demings as he lays the groundwork to reorganize the Orange County Mayor’s Office and the county administration in advance of his December swearing-in to succeed eight-year Mayor Teresa Jacobs.

“My vision is to achieve a safer, more prosperous and stronger Orange County that is sustainable for generations. I am pleased to announce the transition team and am thankful to the co-chairs, former Mayor Linda Chapin and Harold Mills, for their leadership and commitment to moving our region forward,” Demings stated in a news release issued by the transition team.

“I am looking forward to working with this experienced group who will assist my administration in building an organizational structure for Orange County which is inclusive, where all residents have a seat at the table and an opportunity to participate in our county’s growth and prosperity,” he continued. “This effort will also focus on how we can take Orange County to the next level as we explore innovative approaches to help us grow as a global destination, diversify our economy, improve our infrastructure and attract the best and brightest to our backyard.”

While Demings will become the first Democrat to hold the post since Chapin left office in 1998, the transition team includes several notable Republicans including former Orange County Commissioner Scott Boyd, lawyer Marcos Marchena, and developer Allan Keen.

Chapin and Mills will serve as co-chairs after working as crucial players for the past year in the gubernatorial campaign of Winter Park businessman Chris King, who is now the running mate of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum. Their leadership should offer close ties between the Demings transition and that of the Gillum-King ticket, should it take the governor’s office in the Nov. 6 election.

“Harold and I are privileged to work with Mayor-elect Demings and this prestigious group of community leaders,” Chapin said in the news release. “I am confident that their advice will be invaluable. With their diverse backgrounds, this group will be able to assist the Mayor-Elect in fulfilling his vision that Orange County remains a competitive, vibrant economy, a place that protects its most vulnerable and, most importantly, a community where we can successfully raise our families and grow our businesses for years to come.”

Mills added, “I am excited to serve on the Mayor-elect’s team and assist him in working with our citizens, our education facilities, our nonprofit organizations, and our business leaders to move this community forward in unprecedented ways.”

The team includes Chapin, former Orange County chair; Mills, Former chairman and CEO of ZeroChaosOwusu Amaning, president of GCI InternationalAdam Babington, vice president of external affairs at Walt Disney World; Boyd, former Orange County Commissioner and vice president of McKinnon Groves; Bruce, shareholder at Gunster; Stuart P. Buchanan, partner at Swann Hadley; Cohen, managing partner, Southern Strategy Group OrlandoCandice Crawford, president of the Central Florida Mental Health Association; Jay Galbraith, vice president of public affairs at Valencia College; and Linda Landman Gonzalez, vice president of Philanthropy and Multi-Cultural Insights, and president of Orlando Magic Youth Foundation.

The team also includes Giuliani, president of Orlando Economic Partnership; the Rev. Terrance Gray, Saint Mark AME Church Orlando; Michael Griffin, vice president of advocacy and public policy at The Adventist Health System; Martha Haynie, retired Orange County Comptroller; Paula Hoisington, vice president at Net Communications; the Rev. Joel Hunter, retired pastor; Garry Jones, president of Full Sail University; Keen, chairman and CEO of the Keewin Real Property GroupFred Kittinger, senior associate vice president of university relations at the University of Central FloridaKen LaRoe, founder, chairman and CEO of First Green BankJay Leonard, general manager Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort; and Bill Lutz, retired deputy police chief.

In addition, the team features Marchena, a shareholder at Marchena & Graham; Didier Menard, area manager at Jacobs; Bill Miller, of Moore Stephens LovelaceJeffry A. Miller, of Seifert MillerDan T. O’Keefe, co-managing partner of the Orlando office of Shutts & BowenGaby Ortigoni, president of the Hispanic Chamber of CommerceDennis Pape, managing director, Catalyst Spaces; de la Portilla, Central Florida Strategies; Pugh, CEO, owner and chairman, Epoch ResidentialMarc Reicher, senior vice President at Rida Associates; Rich, Nelson MullinsJoe Rivera, a UCF student; Jason Siegel, CEO of Central Florida Sports Commission; and Rasesh Thakkar, senior managing director of Tavistock Group.

Seminole County schools unions back Lee Mangold in HD 28 race

Democratic Florida House nominee Lee Mangold has received the endorsement of a coalition of unions representing teachers and other employees of Seminole County Schools for his quest to be elected in House District 28, his campaign announced Monday.

Mangold has been endorseed by UniServe, the umbrella organization for the Seminole Education Association, Seminole Education Clerical Association, Seminole County School Bus Drivers Association, and Non-Instructional Personnel of Seminole County.

“Seminole UniServ wholeheartedly endorses Dr. Lee Mangold for Florida House District 28,” UniServe stated in a news release issued by Mangold’s campaign. “Lee possesses a commitment to public schools and its employees. We have no doubt that he will be a great asset to Florida’s public schools and serve the people of the 28th district well.”

Mangold, a professor and member of he United Faculty of Florida from Casselberry, faces business consultant Republican David Smith in the Nov. 6 election. HD 28 covers northeast Seminole County and the seat is open because incumbent Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur is running for the Flordia Senate.

“There’s a reason I talk about education so much. Better education leads to more jobs, better jobs, safer communities, and even healthier communities,” Mangold stated in the release. “Unfortunately, many in the legislature fail to understand the critical role that education plays in our world. I am a strong advocate for our public school system, our public school teachers, our public school support staff, and our students. Protecting the rights of our teachers and staff, paying them a living wage, and protecting their collective bargaining powers are fundamental issues that everyone should support in our education workforce.”

Orange County, UCF announce campus early voting site for general election

Fresh off July’s federal court ruling that Florida’s college campuses can host early voting sites, the University of Central Florida announced one will be open on its campus for the Nov. 6 election on the Orlando campus.

UCF and Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles announced Monday the Live Oak Event Center on the UCF campus will be used as an Orange County early voting center, starting Oct. 22 for the Nov. 6 election.

The campus center is the first since an order from state officials after 2014 to stop counties from running early voting centers on college campuses. State officials argued that the state-owned buildings could not be used. In July U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled otherwise, re-opening the state’s college and university campuses to county-wide early voting activity.

The last time UCF hosted an early-voting center was in 2014, when the university’s Barbara Ying Center was used. While that building may have provided convenience to voters outside the campus community, because it was right near a campus gate and had its own parking lot, university officials raised concerns that it was less convenient to students. This time UCF officials said they preferred a location in the heart of the campus so that it would be more convenient to students.

Cowles and UCF President Dale Whittaker announced last month they would work together to establish the new voting center in time for the general election, and the UCF Student Government Association worked with Cowles to find the location and sort out details.

Orange County-registered voters in the UCF community and others from outside campus will be able to vote there Monday, Oct. 22, through Sunday, Nov. 4.

“Engaging in our democracy is critical to becoming an educated, impactful citizen. Removing barriers for our students and staff is the right thing to do,” Whittaker stated in a news release issued by the university.

Parking spaces for outside voters will be set aside and marked with signage in Garage B, which is across Gemini Boulevard from the UCF Recreation and Wellness Center. A university official said parking attendants and signs would direct outsiders to the proper locations.

Three other Orange County early-voting centers nearby will remain in use, at the Alafaya, Chickasaw and Winter Park libraries, Cowles said.

The UCF campus abuts Seminole County, and many students and others live on the Seminole side of the county line. Many other students and others also might be registered to vote in their home counties. However, only those voters registered to vote in Orange County may cast ballots at the UCF center or the other early-voting centers in Orange County.

The renewal of early voting on the UCF campus ends a four-year ban that came from a 2014 advisory opinion by state Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews, which advised elections supervisors that a 2013 law expanding early voting sites to a variety of public facilities didn’t apply to college or university locales.

The League of Women Voters of Florida, the Andrew Goodman Foundation and six University of Florida and Florida State University students filed a lawsuit challenging the prohibition this year, leading to Walker’s ruling.

Jerry Demings weighing in on Orange County Commission race

Orange County Mayor-elect Jerry Demings is setting out to help shape the Orange County Commission with which he’ll work.

He’s hosting a fundraiser set for next week to support Mayra Uribe‘s quest to be elected in District 3.

Demings, currently the Orange County Sheriff, was elected Mayor of the county in the Aug. 28 election, when he bested two opponents and managed to top 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff. He takes office in December.

Uribe came out of the Aug. 28 election headed for a runoff election with Pete Crotty. They finished first and second, respectively, among six candidates.

Although the Nov. 6 election is officially nonpartisan, and the positions of Orange County Mayor and Orange County Commissioner are both nonpartisan, there are major partisan ramifications. Demings is the first Democrat to be elected county mayor since Linda Chapin left office [then called Orange County Chair] in 1998. The Orange County Democratic Party now is eyeing the potential to place a majority on the commission for the first time since 1998, needing to flip one of three seats open on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Uribe is a Democrat and Crotty a Republican. The other two Orange County Commission elections feature Democrat Patricia Rumph against Republican Orange County School Board Member Christine Moore in District 2; and Democrat Maribel Gomez Cordero against Republican Susan Makowski in District 4. They also emerged from multi-candidate Aug. 28 elections, headed for runoffs.

The new Orange County Commission also will be seated in December.

The fundraiser hosted by Demings is set for Tuesday, Sept. 25, at the law office of Nelson Mullins Broad and Cassel in Orlando. Chapin is among other listed hosts for the event.

Outside groups spent $1.2 million to help Darren Soto defeat Alan Grayson

Eight outside political committees and groups provided almost $1.2 million support to U.S. Rep. Darren Soto‘s defeat of his predecessor former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary for Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

Apparently highlighting the outside help for Soto was the George Sorosbacked Latino Victory Fund, which claimed on primary day that it had pumped more than $500,000 into media buys to support Soto on Spanish-language media.

FEC records of independent expenditures through Election Day do not show that much spending by Latino Victory Fund, but almost, and there may be spending yet to report.

The FEC records also show Latino Victory Fund also was not alone in spending to either support Soto or oppose Grayson, and perhaps not even the most generous toward Soto’s candidacy. FEC records show Latino Victory Fund spending $415,000 through the primary, while Progress Tomorrow Inc. spent $544,000.

There are no FEC records reporting any outside groups making any independent expenditures that supported Grayson or opposed Soto.

Grayson had set up what was to be his big political comeback this year after he unsuccessfully sought the Democratic primary nomination to run for the U.S. Senate in 2016, and lost his congressional seat to Soto by default. But that comeback required him to take out Soto, and Grayson crashed badly, in an election landslide.

The total for outside spending to support Soto or oppose Grayson was $1.18 million, potentially more than Soto might have spent through his own primary campaign fund, though the final numbers are not yet in for his official campaign’s account. Through August 8 his campaign had spent about $886,000. In that Aug. 8 report, the most recent available, Soto had just $251,000 left in the bank.

Grayson had spent $540,000 through Aug. 8.

Soto now faces Republican Wayne Liebnitzky, who has far less money available, only about $29,000 on Aug. 8, heading toward the Nov. 6 election.

For the Aug. 28 Democratic congressional primary outside spending, the FEC reports show:

Latino Victory Fund, described by the Center for Responsive Politics’ website OpenSecrets.org as a hybrid of a political action committee and a super political action committee, largely but not entirely funded by Soros, spent $415,184 on various kinds of advertising, from pushed text messaging to television.

Progress Tomorrow spent $272,000 on digital and mail advertising supporting Soto and another $272,000 on digital and mail advertising attacking Grayson.

The super PAC has a curious combination of resources, according to records made available through OpenSecrets.org. All of Progress Tomorrow’s money has been donated by two other PACs. The first is Forward Not Back, whose principal benefactors are New York businessmen Peter May and Nelson Peltz, who each have been big supporters of Democratic candidates, and New York businessman Louis Bacon, who has supported both Democrats and Republicans, including Rudy Giuliani. The other PAC is United Together, principally funded by News Corp. Chairman and Republican rainmaker Rupert Murdoch, and by Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, a big backer of Democrats.

United for Progress, a super PAC entirely funded by Soros, spent $123,000 on radio advertising to support Soto.

Alianza for Progress, a dark-money 501(c) committee that does not have to disclose its donors, reported $41,555 worth of door-to-door canvassing to support Soto.

Organize Now, the progressive 501(c) grassroots group put together by former organizers for Barack Obama, reported $35,062 worth of printing and canvassing efforts to support Soto.

Boricua Vota Inc., an Orlando-based group, reported spending $22,590 on billboards, radio advertising, and event expenses to support Soto.

The Humane Society Legislative Fund provided $1,386 worth of support through a list rental and a text message platform for Soto,

The Center for Popular Democracy Action, a dark-money 501(c), offered $1,411 worth of canvassing labor and transportation to support Soto.

Ron DeSantis to campaign in Central Florida on Saturday

With the Republican nomination fight for Governor behind him and having officially resigned from his U.S. House seat, former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis will travel Florida in a series of campaign stops today.

DeSantis will start his Saturday in Casselberry at the Seminole County Victory HQ at 10 a.m.

Then he heads to the Hispanic Heritage Month Kick-Off at La Casita Azul Del Elefante Sabio in Orlando. That event starts at 11 a.m.

He then heads to Orlando Brewing for a GOP Vets Military Appreciation barbeque from 12:30 to 2 p.m.

DeSantis will then high-tail it south to Vero Beach for a First Responders Fall Cook-Off from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Indian River Fairgrounds.

The heavy day of campaigning marks one of the most active for DeSantis the entire campaign cycle. In the Aug. 28 primary, DeSantis upset early favorite Adam Putnam, Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner, not so much with hustle as with prestige, winning a coveted endorsement from President Donald Trump.

DeSantis also made himself known to much of the Republican base with numerous appearances on Fox News, sometimes showing prowess on national issues in major debates—and other times making gaffes on national television.

But today’s heavy schedule in certain ways shows an earnest shift to campaigning on the ground and pressing the flesh with voters. It’s part of why DeSantis resigned his House seat earlier this week to focus on the campaign full-time.

“As the Republican nominee for Governor of Florida, it is clear to me that I will likely miss the vast majority of our remaining session days for this Congress,” he wrote in a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

Under these circumstances, it would be inappropriate for me to accept a salary.”

Of course, the aggressive campaigning also comes as a number of polls, even notoriously right-leaning ones, show DeSantis trailing in polls behind Democrat Andrew Gillum.

This week, new polls from Rasmussen Reports and from the Florida Chamber of Commerce showed Gillum winning by six and four percentage points respectively.

Jose Oliva to lead investigation of misspent state money at UCF

Incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva will take over chairmanship of the Public Integrity and Ethics Committee “to investigate the misuse of funds by the University of Central Florida,” term-limited Speaker Richard Corcoran announced Friday.

The university’s chief financial officer, William Merck, stepped down Thursday after an audit revealed the school improperly used $38 million in state funding to construct a campus building.

UCF President Dale Whittaker told the state university system’s Board of Governors on Thursday that the school has replenished the state money, while taking steps to investigate the problem and to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

The use of state operating funds to build the 137,000-square-foot Trevor Colbourn Hall, which opened this semester at UCF, was in violation of state policy that restricts that money to activities like instruction, research, libraries, student services or maintenance.

Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican who leaves office in November, released a letter he sent to Whittaker. He’s made a reputation for bird-dogging state spending during his 2-year tenure as leader of the House.

Whittaker took over Florida’s largest state university in July. The issue could have ramifications for the entire university-system budget, as it will provide fodder for lawmakers who have been skeptical about the universities’ control of large reserve funds.

“Unfortunately, this occurrence is one more example of mismanagement of taxpayer funds by public entities, and it has tarnished the reputation of UCF,” Corcoran told Whittaker.

“I am baffled by how the actions of one irresponsible officer’s effort at flouting the Legislature’s and State University System’s budget controls could result in a four-year-long unauthorized endeavor of this magnitude.

“There are only two possibilities: That others within UCF were aware of and conspired in this misuse of public funds, or your administration lacks the necessary internal controls to manage its fiscal responsibilities. Either scenario warrants an internal investigation and correction,” Corcoran wrote.

Copies of the letter also were given to Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, State University System Board of Governors chair Ned C. Lautenbach, State University System Chancellor Marshall M. Criser III, and Marcos R. Marchena, chair of the UCF Board of Trustees.


Background provided by The News Service of Florida, republished with permission.


Updated 4:30 p.m. — The University of Central Florida issued a response below:

The university will hold a special meeting of its Board of Trustees on Sept. 20 at 1 p.m. to further discuss the issue with the independent, external investigation team. A formal meeting and agenda information will be available soon.

A review of actions the university has already taken follows these statements.

Marcos Marchena, UCF Board of Trustees Chairman: “We welcome this action, and agree that this serious matter deserves a thorough review. I pledge UCF’s full cooperation, as this will add to the independent, external investigation we have already begun. Although the decisions that led to this issue took place several years ago, I applaud President Whittaker for taking strong action to address it immediately as his presidency begins.”

Dale Whittaker, UCF President: “Speaker Corcoran is correct that UCF and the state need to get to the bottom of this. We’ve taken immediate, aggressive action to thoroughly and transparently investigate this matter, how it happened and who was involved. Our Board of Trustees will hold a special meeting on Sept. 20 with the external investigation team to discuss the process moving forward in cooperation with the Board of Governors and Florida House.”

The decision to inappropriately use about $38 million in state funds to build Trevor Colbourn Hall was made several years ago. The State Auditor General flagged this in a preliminary finding that was shared verbally with UCF in August President Dale Whittaker and Board of Trustees Chairman Marcos Marchena have acted swiftly to make corrections and ensure this will never happen again.

UCF has taken several actions, including:

— Accepted the resignation of the Vice President for Administration and Finance and Chief Financial Officer who made the decision to use the inappropriate funds for Trevor Colbourn Hall.

— Ordered an external review by Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, an Atlanta-based law firm specializing in corporate internal investigations. This will review UCF’s processes, delegations of authority, procedures and personnel. Representatives of the firm will visit campus on Sept. 20 to start the review.

— Called a special Board of Trustees meeting for Sept. 20 to begin the external review.

— Held a specially called Board of Trustees meeting on Sept. 6 for immediate approval of:

• Replenishing with eligible state funds the state dollars improperly used for construction, with no impact on services to students.

• Requiring future approvals of capital projects to include written certification by the President, the Vice President presenting the item, the General Counsel, and the new CFO. The certification will identify the source of all funds and certify that they are appropriate for the purpose sought.

President Whittaker appointed UCF’s Associate Director of University Audit to serve as the Interim CFO, who will report directly to him. He appointed the UCF Foundation’s Assistant Vice President and CFO to serve as the university’s interim Vice President for Administration and Finance. Splitting these positions will separate the financial responsibilities from facilities planning.

Central Florida house district election debates: four on, three off

Updated with news of a House District 50 debate.

A Central Florida organization teaming with WFTV Channel 9 to produce elections debates for Orlando-area Florida House districts has firmed up four and has three others falling through because of lack of commitments from Republican candidates, an organizer said Friday.

Gregory Eisenberg, chief executive officer of The Commission on Local Debates, said Friday his group and Channel 9 had secured commitments allowing them to produce debates for House District 30, between Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes and his Democratic challenger Maitland City Councilwoman Joy Goff-Marcil; for House District 44 between Republican state Rep. Bobby Olszewski and his Democratic challenger former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson; for House District 48 between Democratic state Rep. Amy Mercado and her Republican challenger George Chandler. and for House District 50 between Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia and his Democratic challenger Pam Dirschka.

The debates will be filmed in the TV station’s studios and made available to other media. Dates and times are yet to be announced.

Efforts to organize debates for three other races, in House Districts 31, 47, and 49, have fallen through, Eisenberg said.

In HD 31, the Democratic challenger Debra Kaplan said yes, while Republican state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan said no, he said.

In HD 47, Democratic nominee Anna Eskamani said yes, while Republican nominee Stockton Reeves did not respond to requests, he said.

In HD 49, Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith said yes, while Republican challenger Ben Griffin said no, he said.

“It is very disappointing for me personally as a former candidate,” said Eisenberg, who ran unsuccessfully for the Orange County Commission in 2016. “I’m of the opinion that if you are going to run for office, you should be willing to air your viewpoints.”

Mike Miller signs balanced budget pledge

Republican congressional candidate state Rep. Mike Miller signed a pledge Friday to vote for a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, his campaign for Congress announced.

The pledge, to “Let Us Vote for a U.S. Balanced Budget Amendment,” re-affirms Miller’s support for a balanced budget and for a Constitutional amendment to require it, and he criticized his election opponent, Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, for not voting for a proposal earlier this year.

“I am proud of my vote to balance the budget in Tallahassee and will support the same effort in Washington,” Miller stated in a news release. “This requirement reigns in overspending and cuts down on waste. Unfortunately, my opponent, voted against requiring the federal government to ‘live within its means’ while state governments, like Florida, are required to balance our checkbooks.”

Miller and Murphy are facing off in Florida’s 7th Congressional District covering Seminole County and central Orange County.

“Rep. Stephanie Murphy sided with Nancy Pelosi and voted NO on the Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution [House Joint Resolution 2],” Miller’s campaign manager Alex Bolton added. “Rep. Murphy claims to be a bipartisan moderate, however, she time and time again chooses partisan politics over sound policy.”

Murphy’s campaign replied that she does support balanced budgets, but not just any old bill for it, charging that HJR 2 could have forced cuts in Social Security and Medicare, which Murphy could not support. Her campaign noted that in 2017 Murphy introduced her own balanced budget amendment.

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