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Anna Eskamani clears $350K in her fundraising for HD 47

Democrat Anna Eskamani has raised more than $350,000 in her bid for Florida House District 47, her campaign announced Tuesday.

The amount, according to her campaign, is an extraordinary total for a first-time candidate to a Florida House seat. It speaks to both her campaign’s fundraising prowess and to the unusual phenomenon of her campaign, which has drawn national attention as a 28-year-old progressive, landing Eskamani on the covers of national magazines for her run for a relatively obscure political position.

Yet, it does not necessarily reflect her chances of victory in a purple district in which she’s facing an experienced political hand in Republican nominee Stockton Reeves VI, who last week dispatched his Republican primary rival Mikaela Nix in tough and highly contentious battle.

The two are battling over a seat held by Republican state Rep. Mike Miller who is running for Congress. It has flipped twice in the past three elections, serving north and central Orange County including downtown Orlando.

Eskamani’s declaration that she has topped $350,000, from 2,200 individual donors, includes at least $309,000 into her official campaign and another $36,000 into her independent political committee, People Power For Florida, according to the latest posted state campaign finance reports. Those totals do not include her most recent contributions since Aug. 23 for her official campaign.

“I never thought I would run for office one day,” Eskamani stated in a news release issued Tuesday. “My drive to hold politicians accountable and fight for Florida families is grounded in my lived experiences and the personal loss of my Mom when I was thirteen years old. I want to build a state where no kid loses their parent, and no parent loses their kid. This is personal for me, and I am honored to be paving the way for the next generation of leaders in Florida.”

She emerged from last Tuesday’s primary season — she was unopposed after a Democratic challenger dropped out — with more than $254,000 in the bank. Reeves, who donated $94,000 to his own campaign, entered the post-primary period with about $41,000 in the bank.

E-ZPass coming to Orlando area

E-ZPass will arrive Saturday in Florida, with users of the toll-collection system in 16 other states being able to use their transponders without facing extra fees on Central Florida Expressway Authority roads.

“The more than 35 million E-ZPass users can now drive in metro Orlando and avoid having to fumble for change at CFX toll gantries,” the Central Florida Expressway Authority said Friday.

For the nearly 400,000 account holders of the Central Florida Expressway Authority’s E-Pass system, the change will be one-way for now.

The authority continues to work on a new transponder to be called E-Pass Extra — expected to be introduced in the fall — that will combine the systems.

Also, E-ZPass customers traveling on roads operated by Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise under the SunPass brand will continue to be invoiced for tolls via Florida’s “toll by plate” program.

E-ZPass is a network of toll agencies operating from Maine to Illinois and south to North Carolina.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Central Florida hoteliers back Manny Diaz, Dana Young, Stockton Reeves

The Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association announced five new endorsements following Tuesday’s primaries, including state Sen. Dana Young and state Rep. Manny Diaz for the Florida Senate and Stockton Reeves VI for the Florida House.

The association, a powerful interest group in Central Florida’s tourism-based economy, also announced endorsements of Pete Crotty for the Orange County Commission’s District 3 seat and Melissa Byrd for the Orange County School Board District 7 seat.

On Tuesday neither Young nor Diaz, both Republicans, had primary opponents, and neither are running in districts in Central Florida, yet the area’s hoteliers offered their backing. Young now faces Democratic state Rep. Janet Cruz in the contest for Senate District 18. Diaz will go up against Democrat David Pérez for the Senate District 36 seat.

Reeves defeated Mikaela Nix in the Republican primary and now faces Democrat Anna Eskamani in the House District 47 race.

In the county elections Tuesday, Crotty finished second to Mayra Uribe. Since neither got a majority of votes on Tuesday, the two are headed to a Nov. 6 runoff election.

Byrd finished first in the Orange County School board election Tuesday. Since she did not get a majority, she and second-place finisher Eric Schwalbach move on to the Nov. 6 runoff.

This past spring the hotel association announced earlier endorsements including Jerry Demings for mayor and Teresa Jacobs for school board chair. Those two and others won Tuesday while most backed by the hoteliers moved on to the Nov. 6 election. The group said there may be more post-primary endorsements coming.

Mike Miller starts CD 7 campaign in striking distance of Stephanie Murphy

Republican state Rep. Mike Miller is starting his campaign within striking distance of Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy.

A new poll from St. Pete Polls taken Thursday shows Murphy with 47 percent of voter support and Miller with 46 percent, with just 7 percent undecided. Miller’s competing to unseat Murphy from her Congressional District 7 seat.

The poll puts the gap between the congresswoman and the state representative, both from Winter Park, inside the poll’s margin of error of 4.7 percent.

Miller, the two-term state lawmaker, easily won a contentious primary to run in CD 7, which covers Seminole County and north and central Orange County stretching through downtown Orlando. Murphy is the freshman member of Congress who won an upset victory in 2016 in a district that Republicans had held forever, then easily brushed past a left-wing challenge in the Democratic primary Tuesday.

Both parties desperately want this district, which is now solidly purple but trending toward a slight Democratic lean in voter registration. National Democratic and Republican organizations and donors will be weighing in heavily heading toward the Nov. 6 election.

StPetePolls, commissioned by Florida Politics, conducted a random telephone survey of 435 registered voters Thursday.

According to the poll, Murphy actually has a lead in Seminole County, the district’s most reliable Republican base, while Miller leads in Orange County, where the district’s Democratic base is strongest. Murphy leads among Seminole County voters 50 to 44, while Miller leads in Orange County 48 to 43.

Miller’s House District 47 is entirely inside Orange County, while Murphy has been representing both counties for the past two years.

Each has strong favorability ratings in both counties, with Murphy having an edge with stronger name recognition. Overall, 50 percent of the voters said they have favorable opinions of the congresswoman, while 29 percent said they have an unfavorable view, and 21 percent have no opinion. For Miller, 42 percent said they have a favorable opinion of him, 24 percent said they have an unfavorable opinion, and 34 percent have no opinion.

The poll shows Murphy solidly leading Miller among independent voters: 57 percent favor her, 34 percent favor him. Otherwise, both of them are holding within their parties. Murphy has 78 percent of Democrats’ votes in the poll; Miller gets 77 percent of Republicans.

Within the small demographic subsamples, there weren’t many significant differences between the two, but there were two groups showing dramatic preferences: 88 percent of black voters want Murphy; 68 percent of young voters, under age 30, want Miller.

Florida Police Chiefs Association backs John Mina in Orange County sheriff race

Florida police chiefs are backing one of their own, Orlando’s John Mina, in the election for Orange County Sheriff, calling him a role model in law enforcement.

The Flordia Police Chiefs Association, which represents more than 900 of the state’s top law enforcement executives, backed Mina over former Florida Highway Patrol Chief Jose “Joe” Lopez and Darryl Sheppard, according to a new release issued Thursday by Mina’s campaign.

In backing Mina, the police chiefs’ group referenced his leadership during and after the 2016 massacre of 49 people at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. That year the organization awarded Mina its top declaration, the “Outstanding Chief Executive Award.”

“Chief John Mina has been tested in a way no police chief should ever have to be tested during the Pulse tragedy and its aftermath,” FPCA Executive Director Amy Mercer stated in the release. “His professionalism and steady hand showed what kind of leader he is. In those moments of doubt, John Mina and the Orlando Police Department served as the rock the community needed to find peace and feel safe again.

“Mina is recognized as a role model in law enforcement for the community policing standards Orlando implemented to build stronger relationships between officers and the communities they serve,” Mercer added. “The FPCA is proud to endorse John Mina for Orange County sheriff.”

FPCA serves municipal police departments, airport police, college and university police, and tribal police, private business and security firms, as well as federal, state and county law enforcement agencies.

The Orange County sheriff election and office are partisan, but partisan distinctions are complicated this year. Both Mina and Lopez changed their party affiliations from Republican to Democrat in 2017, but they each did so too late to qualify to run for office this year as Democrats. So both are running as independents. Sheppard then won the Democratic nomination by default. No Republicans are running this year.

“The Florida Police Chiefs Association is one of the most respected law enforcement organizations in the United States. To be endorsed by the great men and women who make up the FPCA is an honor,” Mina stated in the release. “As the next sheriff of Orange County, I will continue to uphold the ideals and professionalism of the Florida Police Chiefs Association.”

Bill Posey gets behind Wayne Liebnitzky in CD 9 race

U.S. Rep. Bill Posey is endorsing fellow Republican Wayne Liebnitzky in his campaign to be elected to Florida’s 9th Congressional District, which includes a broad swath of voters Posey once represented.

Liebnitzky is taking on Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto this fall.

Posey’s Florida’s 8th Congressional District covers Brevard County, Indian River County, and east Orange County, while CD 9 covers south Orange, Osceola and eastern Polk counties. Before redistricting, much of what is now in CD 9 was inside Posey’s district.

In a letter to Liebnitzky, Posey recounts that when he first ran he lost the vote in Osceola County, and he was told residents there were not satisfied with the representation they had received over time from their previous representative. “Over the next years, I worked very hard to properly represent them and earn their trust. In the next election, Osceola County voters gave me 4,849 more votes than my opponent!

“Because I know you will work just as hard to represent my former constituents and friends in Osceola County,” Posey wrote, “I am pleased to give you my most enthusiastic endorsement.”

Stephanie Murphy launches her first commercial of general election

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy is launching the first television commercial of her re-election campaign Wednesday with an ad that is largely introductory while presenting her in moderate, aisle-crossing terms.

The freshman congresswoman from Winter Park easily brushed back a Democratic primary challenge Tuesday from progressive Chardo Richardson. She now is focusing on the Republican primary winner, state Rep. Mike Miller, also of Winter Park, for the Nov. 6 election for Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

In her 30-second spot, “Working”, Murphy briefly mentions her backgrounds as a former businesswoman, educator, and national security specialist, and adds that she also has, “run this place too,” as the video shows her at home with her husband and children.

“Through it all, no one cared if you were a Republican or Democrat,” she declares. “You just focused on getting the job done.”

Murphy then stresses her record in Congress, mentioning, without any specific detail, bipartisan efforts she pursued for laws for such causes as improving veterans care, making communities safer, and investing in Florida’s schools.

The Murphy campaign said it is also launching a similar 15-second digital ad.

Candidate withdrawal notices spark concerns over HD 47 primary results

Were some Republican voters put under the impression that one of the two Republicans running in Florida’s House District 47 primary Tuesday had dropped out?

And might that impression have confused some voters to the point that they didn’t vote, possibly changing the outcome of the election?

Mikaela Nix, who lost that primary to Stockton Reeves VI, is raising those concerns, and her campaign is pursuing the questions – short of any formal actions at this point – with the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office.

In at least some precincts, all voters, Republican or Democrat, apparently were handed paper notices informing them, “A candidate in the race for the office of State Representative District 47 has withdrawn resulting in an unopposed candidate race. A vote cast in this race will not change the outcome as the remaining candidate is deemed to be ‘nominated’ for that race,” according to Nix’s campaign.

That initial written notice from the elections office did not say whether the candidate who dropped out was on the Democratic side, or the Republican side. In fact, the candidate who dropped out, Lou Forges, was a Democrat. That left Anna Eskamani as the unopposed Democratic nominee, though Forges’ name remained on Democratic primary ballots. Nix and Reeves still were in competition for the Republican nomination Tuesday.

Nix’s campaign consultant, John Dowless, reported the matter to Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles.

On Wednesday Cowles confirmed, saying only, “We have heard from the consultant on the issue and we are going from there.”

Dowless also indicated the campaign has taken the concerns to a private election attorney.

According to a Facebook post from Nix, someone complained about the non-partisan candidate withdrawal notice on Tuesday. She writes that the elections office then began distributing a new, partisan notice clarifying that the drop-out was in the Democratic primary. But Nix wrote that was she understood that the new notices apparently did not get distributed into all precincts in the district.

There were 1,785 undervotes in the HD 47 contest, meaning that many Republicans took ballots but did not mark a vote in the HD 47 Republican primary. Undervotes are common, but the undervote counts in three other contested Orange County Florida House primaries ranged from 406 to 857, Dowless noted.

Nix lost by 1,309 votes.

“Not a sore loser or anything, but this official ‘election notice’ caused a lot of confusion at the polls. We had about 1,700 undervotes (meaning people skipped voting in my primary), which was double the number of undervotes to other House races,” Nix wrote on Facebook.

Tyler Sirois, Thad Altman win House primaries in Brevard County

Tyler Sirois easily won the Republican primary for Florida House District 51, putting him in position to try to keep a fairly safe Republican seat while state Rep. Thad Altman had a little more trouble but prevailed against a Republican primary challenge for his seat next door.

Sirois defeated Cocoa Mayor Henry Parrish 62 percent to 38 percent Tuesday night.

That clears the way for Sirois to meet Democratic nominee Mike Blake, a teacher who is himself a former Cocoa Mayor, in the Nov. 6 election in a district that has a strong Republican voter base in northeast Brevard County. Incumbent Republican state Rep. Tom Goodson is leaving because of term limits.

Meanwhile, Altman defeated Matt Nye 56 percent to 44 percent to end the primary challenge in House District 52 in central Brevard County. Altman moves on to meet Democrat Seeta Durjan Begui in November.

Stockton Reeves grabs Republican nod in HD 47

In what became in the closing weeks a bruising Republican primary battle, Winter Park businessman Stockton Reeves VI defeated Mikaela Nix to win the chance to try to hold onto the Florida House District 47 seat for Republicans.

Reeves, largely representing more traditional business interests in Winter Park and Central Florida, defeated upstart Mikaela Nix, a lawyer, 55 percent to 45 percent Tuesday after the two had battled for weeks about each other’s police records, voting records and past histories in elections.

Reeves, a longtime fixture in Central Florida politics and a former political consultant who now runs a company that helps first responder agencies plan their facilities, gets a fresh start now heading toward the November election.

The seat represents north-central Orange County, including most of Winter Park, the downtown Orlando area, and surrounding neighborhoods. The seat is held by Republican state Rep. Mike Miller, who Tuesday won the Republican primary nomination to run for Congress in Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

But the district is trending Democrat.

And up next for Reeves is Anna Eskamani, a Democrat whose fundraising prowess has been almost unmatched among first-time candidates in Central Florida, and rivaled only by the national publicity she’s been able to gain, identified as a rising star in progressive politics in cover stories in magazines like Time and Atlantic.

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