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Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer casts his vote for Gwen Graham

One of Florida’s top mayors officially cast his primary vote Saturday for former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham in the Democratic primary for Florida governor.

Buddy Dyer, Orlando’s mayor since 2003, appeared with Graham today at a rally in Orlando outside the Orange County Supervisor of Elections’ Kaley Street office. He then voted early himself.

“Together, we are going to restore Florida’s public schools, protect our environment and finally pass commonsense gun safety,” Graham said in a statement.

Graham’s campaign announced Dyer’s endorsement yesterday, when Dyer said Graham put particular effort into understanding the needs of the City Beautiful.

“Gwen Graham has spent her life bringing people together to solve problems,” Dyer said. “She has spent a tremendous amount of time here in Orlando over the last year, and she understands how the state of Florida can be a true partner to help Orlando grow into the future.”

Graham called Orlando a model city in the Sunshine State.

“Orlando is a real example of what Florida can be, a place with a growing economy, shared prosperity, and a community open to a diversity of ideas,” Graham said.

“Mayor Dyer has accomplished these goals by bringing together people from different perspectives, forcing compromise to solve problems, while at the same time never backing down from his progressive values. I am honored by his support and eager to work with him to move Florida forward.”

The endorsement also shows the strong support Graham has received so far from some of the biggest Democratic leaders along Florida’s I-4 corridor, an area that has become critical in winning statewide races.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn endorsed Graham earlier this month, and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has publicly defended Graham in the face of primary attacks.

(Notably, Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry went another way, endorsing Andrew Gillum.)

Graham’s campaign hopes her edge with the endorsement from the state’s most notable mayors will move voters into her camp come Tuesday’s primary.

The support seems particularly impressive as the Democratic primary field this year includes two candidates with experience as mayors of major cities—former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Tallahassee Mayor Gillum.

The most recent polls show Graham and Levine running neck and neck, with Gillum enjoying a surge in support in advance of Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

Former Puerto Rico Gov. Sila María Calderón Serra to join Philip Levine for Orlando tour

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is planning a whirlwind tour of Central Florida’s Puerto Rican communities with the isaland’s former Gov. Sila María Calderón Serra this weekend.

She endorsed Levine Friday in the Democratic gubernatorial primary election, his campaign announced.

That seal of approval adds to the endorsements Levine already has received from San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto and Ponce Mayor María “Mayita” Meléndez.

Calderón served as the eighth Governor of Puerto Rico from 2001 to 2005. Calderón also served as mayor of San Juan, and as Puerto Rico’s secretary of state.

On Saturday she will be joining Levine for three stops in Orlando and Kissimmee on Saturday evening, and one in Kissimmee Sunday morning.

“As a former governor myself, I was upset with the Trump administration’s handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. In a moment of crisis, Mayor Levine demonstrated true leadership, putting together relief efforts immediately and working to support the people of San Juan, and all of Puerto Rico,” Calderón stated in a news release issued by the Levine campaign. “Floridians deserve a compassionate leader like Mayor Levine, with a clear track record of action and a reputation for standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. Puerto Ricans have an incredible opportunity to decide this governor’s election, It is important that we stand with Philip in the way he stood with us after Hurricane Maria.”

Levine is courting Central Florida’s robust Puerto Rican community heading toward Tuesday’s primary showdown with Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum, Jeff Greene, and Chris King for the Democratic nomination to run for governor.

On Saturday, Levine and Calderón plan to start with a rally at 11331 Cypress Leaf Dr. at 4:15 p.m. They plan to join a Boricua vota caravana, a political parade, at the El Ponceño Restaurant in Kissimmee by 5:30, and then appear at an early voting center at the Kissimmee Civic Center by 6:30 p.m. On Sunday they will visit the Melao Bakery at 11:30 a.m.

“I’m honored to earn the support of Governor Calderón, a strong public servant who has stood up for what’s right, and has advocated for working people both while in office and after her tenure. As Governor, our state will stand with our Puerto Rican neighbors, strengthen our economic and cultural ties, and ensure that our state is accepting to those who came here after losing everything.”

Anna Eskamani

Meet Anna Eskamani, Democrat running for Florida House District 47

Nearly 350 candidates are vying for state House and state Senate seats in 2018. Try as we will, Florida Politics can’t interview all of them.

Just like in 2016, we’re again asking every candidate, including incumbents, to complete a questionnaire we believe offers an interesting, albeit, thumbnail sketch of who they are and why they are running. If you are a candidate and would like to complete the questionnaire, email Peter@FloridaPolitics.com.

Today’s feature: Anna Eskamani, a Democrat running for Florida House District 47.

Significant other? Kids?

No, very single. Sometimes I feel like I’m marrying the State of Florida. I hope the voters say “I do!”

Education background? Professional background?

I went to Orange County Public Schools, K-12. I then went to the University of Central Florida (Go Knights!) for all of my degrees. I hold two BAs, one in Political Science with a focus in International Relations. My second BA is in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on Women’s Studies. I also hold an undergraduate certificate in Service Learning. From there I continued my academics while working full time, and completed a dual Master’s Degree program, earning myself a MA in Public Administration and a MA in Nonprofit Management. I also hold a graduate certificate in Gender Studies. Today I am pursuing a PhD in Public Affairs, and am very close to taking my qualifying exams.

My Dad, brother, and twin-sister all went to UCF. We are a family of Knights, and I am forever grateful to this incredible institution.

What was your first job?

My first paid job was a summer at Ross in east Orlando. Before my Mom passed away she worked at K-mart as a department manager and we would help her clean the shelves and put clothes away on the weekends.  

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

I care about people, and Tallahassee is deeply disconnected from the lives of everyday Floridians. It’s time for a change.

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

Not really, no. A community Facebook page was launched, encouraging me to run for Orange County Mayor. Some major Democrats threw their weight behind that idea but I felt like my heart and purpose was more in the Florida House. I did meet with former Orange County Comptroller Martha Haynie (a Republican) for advice, and she also encouraged me to run for the Florida House. I actually sought advice from Democrats, Republicans, and NPAs. I am really lucky to have friends from all political persuasions in my life.

Who do you count on for advice?

My twin sister. She is one of a kind. I like to tell people we are “womb to tomb” but she hates it when I say that.

Who is your political consultant? Campaign manager?

Our campaign does not use a general consultant. We instead built our movement from the ground-up. We did use the support of Dave Plotkin and Renata Głębocki of You Should Run to design our logo and website, but our manager is a first-time campaign manager; our team intergenerational and heavily volunteer driven.

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

The now retired CEO at Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, Barbara Zdravecky. She is a warrior, and wanted to be my first donor.

Who, if anyone, inspires you in state government?

I admire Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith greatly. He is authentic, bold, does his homework, and focused on doing good for his community each and every day.

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

Politicians are too concerned about using poll-tested talking points versus just being themselves. Constituents deserve someone who is authentic and accessible to them. I do my part to always be myself – you know what you get with me, and even if you don’t like it, at least you know where I am coming from, and maybe from that place of honesty we can strive to find common ground.

I am also a very empathetic person. That helps to draw connections with constituents and find common ground.  

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

So many but here are three that instantly come to mind: Enhance the growth of Central Florida’s tech and entrepreneurial community; ensure every person can access a positive educational experience via K-12 and beyond; push to expand access to Medicaid so we can finally close the coverage gap – I have been fighting for this issue since 2013!

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

Driverless vehicles, and especially its impact on public transit. I want the public to be safe and our workers ready for this disrupter.

What does your legislative district need from Tallahassee?

We need mental health resources, affordable housing funds, and competitive salaries for our teacher.

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

I have a lot of respect for Lawton Chiles.

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

People love yard signs and we always love seeing them!

What’s the first thing you read each morning?

My email.

Where do you get your political news?

Why Florida Politics, of course! (Seriously, I’m a long time reader.) I also love visiting my local NPR station and Orlando Sentinel.

Social media presence? Twitter handle?

All day, every day. Find us at @AnnaForFlorida on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and of course Facebook My snapchat is @Anna_V_E.

In 280 characters, what’s a tweet that best describes your campaign message?

Orlando native, daughter of immigrants, authentic, and unafraid Democrat who cares deeply about people, and has proven herself as a community leader who gets things done.

Hobbies?

I love writing, and dream about publishing my own book of poetry one day.  

Favorite sport and sports team?

I will always cheer for my UCF Knights, and love supporting or women athletic teams when I can.

Buddy Dyer endorses Gwen Graham

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer has endorsed Gwen Graham in the governor’s race, her campaign announced Friday.

Dyer, mayor of the City Beautiful for 15 years and with with enough statewide recognition that he was considered a possible strong candidate to run for governor himself this year, matches up well political with Graham’s more moderate Democratic views.

“Here in Orlando, together we have transformed our community by creating an inclusive place, where people from all walks of life have united behind the shared goal of creating opportunities for everyone.” Dyer stated in a news release issued by Graham’s campaign. “Gwen Graham has spent her life bringing people together to solve problems. She has spent a tremendous amount of time here in Orlando over the last year, and she understands how the state of Florida can be a true partner to help Orlando grow into the future.”

Dyer, the dean of Florida’s big-city mayors, was elected in 2003. He is the longest-serving mayor in Orlando history, and is popular enough that he is in line for what likely will be another easy re-election in 2019.

“We want to make sure our Orlando community has a loud voice in selecting our next governor, and I hope people will join me tomorrow in casting an early ballot for Gwen,” he stated in the release.

The Central Florida Democratic political leaders’ endorsements in the governor’s race have largely been split between Graham and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, with Chris King and Philip Levine each also picking up a couple of key backers.

Dyer is the the biggest available.

Graham also has gotten the backing of state Sens. Victor Torres and Linda Stewart; and state Reps. Amy Mercado and John Cortes, among others. Gillum’s endorsements have included those from State Attorney Aramis Ayala, Orange County Commissioner Emily Bonilla, state Sen. Randolph Bracy, and state Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Kamia Brown. King’s most notable Orlando backer is former Orange County Chair Linda Chapin. Levine has Kissimmee Mayor Jose Alvarez, plus the mayors of San Juan and Ponce, Puerto Rico, who have considerable influence in Central Florida’s large Puerto Rican community.

Graham, Gillum, Levine, King, and Jeff Greene have a showdown Tuesday for the Democratic nomination. Orlando, as always, is a key swing area in the election.

“Orlando is a real example of what Florida can be, a place with a growing economy, shared prosperity, and a community open to a diversity of ideas,” Graham stated in the release. “Mayor Dyer has accomplished these goals by bringing together people from different perspectives, forcing compromise to solve problems, while at the same time never backing down from his progressive values. I am honored by his support, and eager to work with him to move Florida forward.”

Democrats’ Florida House Victory backs Brendan Ramirez in HD 30

The Democrats’ Florida House Victory political committee is backing Brendan Ramirez in the three-way Democratic primary to run in House Disrict 30.

The endorsement, from the campaign arm of the Florida House Democrats, comes in a highly-contested primary that includes a sitting city councilwoman from Maitland who’s been campaigning for six months, and a cyber-security expert who’s been running for nine months. Ramirez, of Orlando, entered the race in late June.

Ramirez, who runs a mental health care clinic, faces Maitland City Councilwoman Joy Goff-Marcil and Clark Anderson of Winter Park, in a party battle for a shot at Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes.

Anderson expressed mild frustration Friday that the party was weighing in a few days before the primary after, he said, he had received assurances early on that it would treat all candidates fairly. Goff-Marcil’s campaign declined to comment.

It’s not been a good week for either of them; earlier this week a political committee backed by New York billionaire George Soros jumped in, backing Ramirez.

One reason the party might be getting behind Ramirez: an internal poll conducted by Change Research early this month showed Ramirez leading Cortes by seven points.

“Brendan Ramirez understands the importance of expanding health care resources for hard working families,” incoming Florida House Minority Leader Kionne McGhee stated in a news release issued by the Victory Fund. “His record of delivering critical mental health resources to Floridians is needed in Tallahassee.”

Democrats hold a two-point voter registration advantage in the district, which covers south-central Seminole County and north-central Orange County. Florida House House Victory stated in the news release that it has identified the seat as one that can be flipped to Democrats.

“I’m thrilled to have earned the support of Florida House Victory,” Ramirez stated in the news release. “I’m committed to fighting for affordable healthcare, housing, and stronger environmental protections for the families of House District 30. Now more than ever, this district deserves someone they can count on.”

Rich Crotty elected Orange County’s Republican state committeeman

Former Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty is the new state committeeman for the Republican Party of Florida from Orange County.

The Orange County Republican Executive Committee elected Crotty Thursday night to replace Paul Paulson, who resigned in disgrace last month after a lawsuit settlement revealed that his charity for wounded veterans was a sham charity enriching him.

Crotty, who turns 70 on Aug. 30, served as Orange County Mayor from 2001 to 2011. Before that he had served in the Florida Legislature and as the Orange County Property Appraiser.

His brother Pete Crotty is running for the Orange County Commission District 3 seat in an election set for Tuesday.

Photo courtesy of Frank Torres.

Stockton Reeves files reports on challenged campaign mailers

Republican House of Representatives candidate Stockton Reeves VI has filed new campaign finance reports showing expenses for campaign mailers that his primary opponent claimed he had not accounted for in the state House District 47 battle.

The filing, for Friday’s campaign finance reporting deadline, shows Reeves paying $66,952 to Strategic Image Management to cover consulting and mailers.

The report appears to negate the ethics complaint Republican candidate Mikaela Nix filed against Reeves earlier this week with the Florida Commission on Ethics, charging that Reeves was trying to hide expenses for at least 13 mailers that have gone out in the past couple of weeks, many of which attacked her directly.

Reeves maintained he did not get the invoices from the mailers until after the previous filing deadline, Aug. 10, and the expenses would show up in his next report. The filing Reeves sent in Friday shows the expenses being paid on Aug. 18.

The two are in a heated battle for Tuesday’s Republican primary nomination to run in HD 47. The winner takes on Democratic nominee Anna Eskamani.

Mikaela Nix gets Carlos López-Cantera’s backing in HD 47 primary

Republican Florida House candidate Mikaela Nix has been endorsed by Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos López-Cantera for House District 47, her campaign announced Thursday.

“I admire Mikaela because she has a passion for helping people and a love for the law,” said López-Cantera in a prepared statement. “There’s no doubt that she would be an effective leader for the citizens of District 47.”

Nix, a lawyer from Orlando, is battling with Winter Park businessman Stockton Reeves VI for next Tuesday’s Republican primary nomination. The winner takes on Democratic nominee Anna Eskamani to represent HD 47, covering north and central Orange County, including downtown Orlando. Incumbent state Rep. Mike Miller, a Winter Park Republican, is running for Congress.

“I am honored that the lieutenant governor reached out to me and volunteered his support,” Nix said. “I have worked hard to get to where I am today, and I am proud that it is recognized by leaders of our state.”

Chris King calls for ‘universal condemnation’ of Joel Greenberg remarks

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King called Thursday for his election rivals to join him in denouncing Islamaphobia and Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg for promoting it in social media.

King, the Winter Park businessman running, in most polls, fifth among five Democratic candidates heading toward Tuesday’s primary election, has turned his attention toward Greenberg this week while pushing his campaign theme of racial and ethnic equality.

Greenberg’s comments, King declared Thursday, “deserve our universal condemnation.”

Greenberg entered the sights of King’s themed campaign stretch-run message Saturday when he posted a comment on Facebook that many took as anti-Muslim, sarcastically contending that Muslims had contributed nothing to civilized societies. Greenberg then engaged in a Twitter storm Monday night defending it, while threatening and insulting others.

Greenberg, a Republican, has declined to comment about the matter to Florida Politics.

On Tuesday King and fellow Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum denounced Greenberg. On Wednesday King joined a protest rally outside Greenberg’s Lake Mary office.

The other Democratic candidates, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene had not released any statements on Greenberg’s comments or Islamaphobia since the the matter broke.

Until now. Greene quickly joined King’s call Thursday.

“As we end one of the holiest weeks for Muslims across Florida, this moment demands more than just conventional politics – an apology isn’t enough. The Seminole County Tax Collector needs to resign and today I’m calling on my fellow #FLGov candidates to join my call,” King tweeted Thursday afternoon.

“I agree with @ChrisKingFL, and I’m joining him in calling for Joel Greenberg to resign,” Greene tweeted back a few minutes after King’s tweet.

King, who vowed Wednesday to complete his gubernatorial primary campaign by campaigning on racial justice issues, declared in a news release: “This moment demands more than just conventional politics from the political establishment, and I’m calling on my fellow candidates for governor to condemn these hateful comments and demand the Seminole County Tax Collector resign his office.”

Mikaela Nix files new ethics complaint against Stockton Reeves in HD 47 primary

Republican Mikaela Nix has filed an ethics complaint against Stockton Reeves VI, charging that he is hiding expenses in his campaign finance reports.

The two will face off in next Tuesday’s Republican primary for House District 47.

The complaint is the second filed against Reeves on Nix’ behalf. Earlier, it was from an Orange County Republican, who questioned where Reeves’ money was coming from, noting that he lent his campaign $90,000 last year but his personal financial disclosures did not show he had that much available in liquid assets.

Reeves has maintained he would clear that up with addendums, which he has not yet filed. He has until the end of the month.

The winner of Tuesday’s combustive primary battle will face Democratic nominee Anna Eskamani in the November election.

The new complaint charges that there appears to be no record in Reeves’ campaign finance filings to cover at least 13 campaign mailers Nix’ campaign says Reeves has sent in recent weeks to voters in Florida House District 47.

Reeves said all the appropriate invoices came in after the most recent filing deadline, and he has paid them, and they will be itemized in the next campaign finance report.

Reeves campaign expense reports through Aug. 10 show some small expenses for printing and postage but nothing that could cover wide distribution of mailers to Republican voters throughout HD 47, which covers north and central Orange County.

“It does not appear that the reported expenses include any amounts for any mailers — let alone 13,” Nix wrote in her ethics complaint.

Reeves replied by email that the mailers’ expenses will be appearing soon, because they were only just paid last Saturday, after the Aug. 10 campaign finance filings, the latest available through the Florida Division of Elections.

“Last Friday, I received 14 invoices from Strategic Image Management. On Saturday, I went down to my office, printed them out and took a check totaling almost $67,000 to the FedEx office on Fairbanks and sent that check to their office in Tampa for 2-day delivery,” Reeves wrote in a reply to Florida Politics. “They received it Tuesday.”

The mailers have themselves been an issue, in a campaign in which both Nix and Reeves have complained about the fairness and accuracy of content in mailers attacking them. Reeves’ mailers have included information about Nix’ voting record and about old criminal cases — which had been dropped, never litigated, and expunged — involving Nix as a young woman, stopped for shoplifting and driving offenses.

Attack mailers about Reeves were sent by the third-party political action committee Floridians for Fiscal Responsibility, which is run by Nix’ campaign consultant, John Dowless. They raised questions about his financial reports, and a previous ethics complaint sustained against him in a campaign in the 1990s.

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