Tampa Bay Archives - Florida Politics

Ray Blacklidge up 25 points over Jeremy Bailie in HD 69 GOP primary

Madeira Beach attorney Ray Blacklidge holds a better than 2-to-1 lead over St. Petersburg attorney Jeremy Bailie according to a new poll of the two-way Republican primary for Pinellas County’s House District 69.

The St. Pete Polls survey found 48 percent of likely Republican primary voters were backing Blacklidge, while Bailie came in behind “undecided” with 23 percent support. The poll was conducted Aug. 13, just a few days after Bailie made negative headlines for swiping hand tags placed by Blacklidge canvassers.

Bailie has since apologized for the incident, which went semi-viral after a video recorded by Blacklidge volunteer was posted to Facebook and YouTube.

The survey also found that 39 percent of Republicans had already cast their ballot in the primary race, and among that subset Blacklidge’s lead expanded to 35 points with 13 percent saying they were undecided. For the 61 percent of voters who’ve yet to cast their ballot but plan to vote, the spread is 42-21 in favor of Blacklidge with 37 percent unsure.

Blacklidge’s lead carries across both genders, and among young voters, boomers and seniors. The lone bright spot for Bailie came from 30- to 49-year-old Republicans, who favored him 36-27 with the balance undecided.

The pair are competing to fill the southern Pinellas County seat being vacated by Republican state Rep. Kathleen Peters, who is leaving the House after three terms to run for the District 6 seat on the Pinellas County Commission.

To date, Blacklidge has posted the better fundraising reports in the Republican primary, with more than $200,000 raised between his campaign and political committee, Friends of Ray Blacklidge. Including about $34,500 in self-funding, Blacklidge had more than $78,000 in the bank on Aug. 3.

Bailie, through the same date, had raised more than $76,000, including $6,125 in candidate contributions, and had a little over left $32,000 in his campaign account.

HD 69 covers part of southern Pinellas County including coastal communities from Redington shores southward as well as a piece of mainland Pinellas. The district has a slim Republican advantage.

The winner of the Republican nomination will go up against Democratic nominee Jennifer Webb, who holds the overall  cash lead with $160,000 raised and about $114,000 in the bank.

Webb was also the Democratic nominee in the 2016 cycle but lost to Peters by 13 points on Election Day. Peters, a former mayor and commissioner in South Pasadena, ran several points ahead of Donald Trump, who won the district by 3 points.

The automated phone poll took responses from 303 registered Republicans who said they planned to vote in the Aug. 28 primary election. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.6 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

Bob Buckhorn goes all-in for Gwen Graham

Speculation has been out there for months that Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn would make an interesting candidate for Florida’s Lieutenant Governor. That’s not likely to subside when he formally endorses Democrat Gwen Graham at a news conference Thursday afternoon in Tampa.

But do endorsements matter in statewide races?

I mean, OK — this is a political site, so this ought to be a layup. But honestly, name the state’s second-in-command without resorting to Google.

Pssst …. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

So, does Buckhorn’s thumbs-up to Graham really help her campaign, regardless of what is or isn’t in it for him?

Maybe it helps a little bit, but Graham has to stand on her own and the polls show an increasing number of people believe she is doing that. She is widening her lead, she is bringing in money, and at this point ,her candidacy for the Democratic nomination seems to be taking on an air of inevitability.

Obligatory disclaimer: Since the 2016 election, I will not only wait until the final votes are cast, it might be a good idea to wait until the election is certified before declaring a winner.

But if Graham is the nominee, does Buckhorn help her?

Well, he has been a popular Mayor during his two terms in Tampa. He got a lot of good things done in his city.

He is a gifted public speaker, capable of soaring oratory. However, his endorsement would be tantamount to speaking to the choir in Tampa, which is reliably Democratic. It also wouldn’t matter two hoots out in suburban eastern Hillsborough County, where the political sentiment is reliably red.

Buckhorn was a solid foot soldier for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but he could be a bit of a maverick when he believed it suited the city’s purpose. He drew some criticism from Democrats for his willingness to work with Gov. Rick Scott on issues that he believed benefitted Tampa.

That led to this statement from Scott’s office to the Tampa Bay Times on their relationship: “I have appreciated working with Mayor Bob Buckhorn and all of Tampa’s elected leadership to take the bay area’s economy to the next level. By focusing on transportation, public safety and education, we’ve been able to find real solutions for families and deliver results.”

That didn’t stop Buckhorn from direct criticism of President Donald Trump’s recent appearance in Tampa though, referring to it as the “venom and vitriol tour.”

Although Buckhorn likes the limelight and rarely shies away from a microphone, he has a lot of experience working behind the scenes as a member of Tampa’s city government.

He can break legs if needed, cajole when it’s called for, and he has a gift for making the person he is speaking with feel like they are the most important person in the room.

Graham might find that quality appealing in a running mate.

His endorsement probably isn’t a difference-maker at this point, but it does telegraph his readiness to suit up and put on his game face.

And if Graham is looking for a strong running mate with an eye toward making things happen in the Legislature down the road, Buckhorn checks a lot of boxes.

He had been mentioned as a likely candidate for Governor before announcing he wouldn’t run. That was a good decision because the groundswell he needed to have wasn’t happening.

But as his endorsement confirms, Bob Buckhorn still has the itch to play politics at the state’s highest level. I’ve known the guy for a long time and I’ll just say this — he’s got game.

Dana Young endorsed by Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

A pro-business group that represents the interests of more than 604,000 Hispanic-owned businesses in the Sunshine State said Wednesday that it’s backing Republican Sen. Dana Young’s re-election bid in Tampa-based Senate District 18.

“Senator Dana Young has the full endorsement of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and its statewide membership,” said Julio Fuentes, founder and president of FSHCC. “Senator Young’s leadership has benefited not just her constituents in her Tampa district, but Floridians across the state.

“Our chamber is very selective when it comes to endorsing candidates for office, but in Senator Young’s case, we were impressed with how she represented a diversity of interests and diversity of people,” Fuentes continued. “Dana Young has our support for re-election to the Florida Senate. We look forward to working with her on behalf of thousands of Hispanic business owners across the state.”

The Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is indeed selective in backing candidates, with the only other recent endorsement from the group heading to Rob Panepinto, a candidate for Orange County Mayor.

“To receive the backing of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and all of its members, is a true honor and I am extremely thankful to receive their overwhelming endorsement,” Young said. “Representing Senate District 18 in the Florida Senate, I have always taken into consideration all interests of our diverse community, and this is something that I will continue to do if re-elected to serve our area.

“I look forward to continuing to work with the FSHCC and the thousands of Hispanic business owners they represent to make sure their voices are heard and represented in Florida’s Capitol,” she concluded.

SD 18 covers northwestern Hillsborough County, including much of Tampa. According to the 2010 demographic profile of the district, about 30 percent of the district’s residents identify as Hispanic.

Young was elected to the seat in 2016, taking 48 percent of the vote in a four-way race against Democrat Bob Buesing and unaffiliated candidates Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove. In 2018, she faces a lone challenger: House Minority Leader Janet Cruz.

A poll released last month showed Young and Cruz in a tight race, with Cruz holding an inside the margin of error lead over the incumbent.

When it comes to fundraising, however, Young has gone gangbusters.

As of Aug. 3, she had more than $334,000 in hard money in the bank, with another $1.18 million at the ready in her affiliated political committee, Friends of Dana Young. Cruz, through the same date, had raised $169,500 in hard money and $273,200 in her committee, Building the Bay PC.

Neither Cruz nor Young face a primary opponent. The pair will go head-to-head in the Nov. 6 general election.

He was a H.S. band teacher. She was his student. Later they had a baby. Now he’s running for Pasco School Board

Before Kenneth Mathis launched his candidacy for the Pasco County School Board, he was under investigation into whether he had a sexual relationship with a student while serving as the band director at Land O’ Lakes High School.

A review of Mathis’ personnel file reveals he was being investigated in 2015 after a new teacher hired by the district told officials she had had an inappropriate relationship with Mathis. Amarilys Barbosa was a member of the high school band from 2003-2007, the same period Mathis served as band director.

Mathis and Barbosa later had a child together, but Mathis told investigators the relationship between the two never turned physical until years after she graduated.

[Ed. Note: Florida Politics is naming Barbosa because she is no longer a minor.]

Mathis told investigators the relationship between the two never turned physical until years after she graduated.

However, uncovered messages exchanged by the two reference an intimate relationship dating back potentially to her time in high school.

On Dec. 6, 2012, the two discussed a maturation of their current relationship in a lengthy online conversation, which included one revealing exchange:

Barbosa: “I think we needed the four years apart to get us where we are now … I just didn’t feel this way the first time around.”

Mathis: “Was I your sex toy?”

Barbosa: “Sometimes I felt that way”

The investigation never determined conclusively the relationship turned inappropriate while Barbosa was in Mathis’ band program, but investigators spoke to the band’s Color Guard sponsor at the time, Andrea Szarowicz, who said she confronted Mathis during Barbosa’s sophomore year.

Szarowicz noted to investigators that Mathis “almost daily” took Barbosa home alone after football games and practices, despite his insistence he had never spent time alone with any student. The Color Guard sponsor also noted the student had baby-sat for Mathis and his then-wife, Christina “Chrissy” Mathis.

Mathis held the high school band director job, professed early in work documents as a career ambition, through the 2006-07 school year.

Then in August 2007, he began teaching music at Pasco Middle School.

During the 2012 electronic exchange between Mathis and Barbosa, he indicates being unhappy with his marriage and discusses a potential divorce. Kenneth and Chrissy divorced in July 2014, according to Pasco County Court records.

The two also discuss potential professional complications in a relationship.

Barbosa: “Teacher-student accusations.”

Mathis: “Not at this point … we haven’t been around each other … especially that know (sic) else knows about.”

Szarowicz noted Barbosa, a top musician in the band, was part of leadership as early as her sophomore year, and she stressed to investigators that was because of musical talent, not any type of favoritism. The leadership position meant she often had to stay after most students had left practices.

Mathis said in interviews with investigators that his relationship was always an appropriate teacher-student connection while Barbosa was in the band. A friendship started years later, when she was a senior in college. He did acknowledge to investigators the relationship evolved from friendship to something intimate.

Pasco County court records show Barbosa and Mathis had a romantic relationship that lasted at least until January 2015, when Barbosa and Mathis had a child together six months after Mathis’ divorce finalized. A court in 2016 determined Mathis was the biological father and ordered he pay thousands in back child support.

Hernando court records show the two reached a custody agreement with their child.

But investigators expressed great concern for several reasons, including the fact he had reached out to Szarowicz, having a 30-minute conversation about the investigation with her when he was supposed to be supervising students in class. He also admitted to talking with other potential witnesses during the course of the investigation.

In January 2016, Employee Relations Supervisor Kathy Scalise notified Mathis that a report would be filed with the Department of Education’s Office of Professional Practices and that his actions could threaten his education certification.

Mathis two years later resigned his teaching position at Pasco Middle School “due to personal reasons.” He gave one day’s notice. A few weeks later, he filed for School Board against incumbent Allen Altman.

Violent Outbursts

The potential relationship certainly proved the most scandalous piece of information in Mathis’ personnel file with the Pasco County School District, where he served in various capacities for more than 20 years.

Through the early part of his career, he generally received high marks during employee evaluations and progressed up the teaching ranks.

But in later years, students and parents started to complain about loud outbursts and confrontations.

In November 2015, a student reported Mathis shouted at him while he was cleaning a trumpet, and the music teacher eventually took the instrument apart and threw it in the water.

Then, in May 2016, he got in trouble for multiple instances, including spreading a false rumor at Pasco Middle School that Pasco High School had gone on lockdown after heroin was found on campus; it turned out a drug search yielded a marijuana arrest instead.

He also got suspended without pay for three days after officials found out he had been using the school gym during work hours and had left campus while school was in session on multiple occasions.

Around that time, he also had problems in his personal life. He and girlfriend Darinda Dimick, another teacher on campus, had been living together but an altercation at their house resulted in both filing injunctions against one another. Mathis accused Dimick of violence against him and his ex-wife. Dimick countered that Mathis had cursed at her son and had routine outbursts.

“I believe his aggression and acts of threatening behavior are induced by his steroid abuse,” Dimick alleged.

Dimick’s name also shows up in Mathis’ file when he gets accused of one time asking Dimick to cover his class and her own in the band room.

At one point, Mathis sent a letter to school officials suggesting the trouble with his relationships contributed to his problems at work.

“There have been several false accusations made toward me by the other party that have been deemed unfounded, but still cause stress and tension for my family,” he wrote. “This has turned into a non-positive custody battle that the other party chose to bring to my place of employment.”

It’s unclear whether he’s talking about Dimick or Barbosa at that point.

Regardless, his problems just may now interfere with his political ambitions as well.

Mathis faces incumbent Allen Altman and challenger Brian Staver in the District 1 race

Mike Alvarez rolls out new digital ads in HD 62 primary

Tampa Democrat Mike Alvarez has launched a new digital ad campaign that contrasts his record against that of his chief rival in the Democratic primary for House District 62, School Board member Susan Valdes.

Sample ads provided by the campaign say that “District 62 has a choice,” with the one half of the ad featuring a full-color shot Alvarez and a caption saying he “hired people from our own neighborhoods,” and the opposite half featuring a red-tinted picture of Valdes and a caption saying she “fired people to protect her political career.”

The Alvarez campaign said the Valdes portion of the ad relates to a lawsuit filed by a former Hillsborough Schools employee who said she was fired after refusing to go along with an effort by Valdes’ to get one of her friends a district job. The Alvarez campaign also highlighted Valdes’ role in closing the school district’s construction department to avoid questions on shoddy work performed by campaign donors she steered contracts to.

Alvarez, by contrast, says he’s spent the past several years building up and making hires for Westfall Roofing, where he works as the director of operations.

“When I’m walking our neighborhoods and talking with voters, they want to know what I stand for and how that compares to my opponent,” said Alvarez, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. “This is another way we can inform voters about our records so they can make their own choice about who represents our Democratic values.

“We’re making sure that voters know that I’m the real Democrat in the race,” he continued.

The Democratic primary for the Tampa-based seat has been contentious, not to mention odd, since Valdes entered the race shortly before the end of the candidate qualifying period.

Her paperwork to run for the seat, was of questionable legitimacy and emails show she pulled strings to have it accepted by the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections office. Rather than address questions surrounding her candidacy, she went on the attack, accusing Alvarez of mudslinging.

Weeks later, her campaign was again embroiled in scandal after a video surfaced of her dodging a question about whether she would accept campaign contributions from charter schools. In the wake of that video going semi-viral, the Valdes campaign threatened to pull strings and have the man who recorded it fired from his job at the State Attorney’s office.

Again, Valdes’ response to the allegations only raised further questions, as she claimed the man who made the threats — a consultant that had sent out official communications for her campaign — was not affiliated with her and was merely “a supporter who is incredibly passionate.”

And two weeks ago, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor weighed in on the race by endorsing Alvarez and offering a scathing rebuke of Valdes, whom she accused of breaking the law and misleading voters by falsely claiming to have the Congresswoman’s endorsement.

She ended her endorsement by undercutting Valdes credentials on the School Board, saying that “if you support public schools, if you share our Democratic values, and if you want honesty from your elected officials, vote for Mike Alvarez.”

Alvarez and Valdes are running alongside Chris Cano in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary for HD 62, currently held by House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, who is running for state Senate and has endorsed Valdes as her successor.

The district is one of five state legislative seats, including three in the Tampa Bay area, to have its primary election locked down by a write-in candidate.

One of Alvarez’ ads is below.

FMA PAC backs James Grant re-election bid

State Rep. James Grant has earned the support of the Florida Medical Association (FMA) PAC in his bid for re-election in House District 64.

The FMA is one of the state’s strongest pro-medicine organizations. Its political arm gave Grant the nod in a statement released Wednesday.

Dr. Mike Patete, the group’s president said the FMA “has worked closely with Rep. Grant on many health care issues including those related to Health Information Technology, and looks forward to continuing these efforts to help make Florida the best state to practice medicine.”

Grant helped found 

“I’m humbled to have the support of the Florida Medical Association,” Grant said.

“Like the FMA, I believe that improving healthcare begins with embracing innovation and market-driven solutions. I’m proud to have worked with the FMA in this effort and hope to continue the fight in the coming years.”

Grant is facing a challenge in the Republican primary from Oldsmar certified financial planner Terry Power.

Teacher Jessica Harrington is running as a Democrat, while entrepreneur and journalist Andy Warrener has filed to run as a non-party affiliated candidate.

HD 64 covers parts of northern Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Greg Steube - CD 17 Campaign Photo

Greg Steube leads Julio Gonzalez by 23 points in new CD 17 poll

Sarasota state Sen. Greg Steube holds a commanding lead in the Republican primary for Florida’s 17th Congressional District according to a new poll commissioned by Club for Growth Action, which is backing Steube in the contest.

The poll, conducted by WPA Intelligence, found the first-term state Senator with a 39-16 percent lead over Venice state Rep. Julio Gonzalez, with 5 percent favoring Charlotte County activist Bill Akins and 40 percent undecided.

The survey also measured name ID for Steube and Gonzalez, and found the former was known by nearly four-fifths of voters in the district and was seen favorably by a margin of 41-17 with the remainder not offering their opinion. About three-quarters of voters were familiar with Gonzalez, an improvement of 28 points since July 16, but his favorability has risen along his recognition. He was underwater 19-33 in favorability.

WPAi included crosstabs on how informed voters were leaning. Among Republicans who had heard of both lawmakers, Steube’s lead expanded to 46-19 percent, while Republicans who offered their opinion on both candidates preferred Steube by an even larger 54-25 percent margin. Akins didn’t cross 5 percent in either measure.

The Steube campaign touted the results in a Wednesday email, saying they showed he was “dominating the field” and highlighting some other recent successes.

“These results follow two recent straw poll victories for Greg Steube, including a win at the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce Political Hob Nob and an overwhelming 44-point victory at the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce that saw Steube garner 63 percent of the vote,” the campaign said in an email.

Steube and Gonzalez are competing for the seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, who announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election in the fall.

Gonzalez held a cash lead at the end of the first quarter, though Steube flew by him in the months that followed, raising more than $400,000 in hard dollars while Club for Growth and another outside group, Liberty and Leadership Fund, announced raising more than $1 million in support of his campaign.

In July alone, outside groups spent nearly $1 million in CD 17 with most of that cash pushing either a pro-Steube or anti-Gonzalez message.

The primary season has also seen a couple of stinging hits on Gonzalez.

The first uncovered some 2016 tweets where he expressed some negative opinions of then-candidate Trump — Gonzalez supported U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in the 2016 presidential race and has earned his endorsement for Congress this year.

The second, which came this week, hits Gonzalez over a campaign ad that insinuates that Gov. Rick Scott has endorsed him, something Scott campaign manager Jackie Schultz plainly stated was not true. Depending on the language of the ad, that misrepresentation could be a violation of state elections law.

Steube launched his campaign with dozens of backers already in tow, and has since added an official thumbs up from the National Realtors PAC and several conservative groups, including the National Rifle Association. Gonzalez landed a major coup with an endorsement from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but has fewer orgs backing up his bid.

CD 17 is a safe Republican seat that sprawls across parts of Sarasota, Lee and Polk counties as well as the whole of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee counties. Rooney has held the seat since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

The WPAi poll conducted 300 live telephone interviews (30 percent cell phone) of likely Republican primary voters on Aug. 8-9. Respondents were selected at random from the Florida voter file using Proportionate Probability Sampling based on turnout probability scores for each voter. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.7 percentage points.

The poll is below.

WPAi poll of the FL CD 17 Republican primary by Andrew Wilson on Scribd

Tommy Gregory looks to erase primary divisions following Melissa Howard’s exit

A nationally-watched credential scandal apparently fast-tracked Republican Tommy Gregory as the winner of his party primary before a single vote gets counted.

Now the Sarasota attorney says he spoke with Melissa Howard, who announced she was dropping out of the primary following the revelation she’d mocked up a fake college degree and distributed pictures on social media, and he’s ready to put party division in the past.

“I just called Melissa Howard a few minutes ago, and we had a great conversation. She apologized for what she did and for the rancor in this campaign and offered her full support for my candidacy,” he said.

He alluded to a contentious primary battle in state House District 73, even before a FLA News Online story last week first called into question whether Howard had graduated from Miami University in Ohio.

“Melissa worked hard in this race. I wish her all the best and I’m sure she will continue to do things in the community through her non-profit work,” Gregory said.

Howard on Monday admitted she had wrongly claimed to have completed her degree—she did attend the university from 1991 to 1994—but initially said she would continue in the race.

““What I did was wrong and set a bad example for someone seeking public service,” she said in a Facebook message on her now-removed Facebook page. “I am staying in the race and intend to win and lead by example from now on.”

Gregory made clear in a statement Monday evening that he considered that a bad move. “Instead of withdrawing gracefully, she is doubling down on her deceit even to the detriment of other Republicans,” he said yesterday.

But today, Gregory’s focus was on party unity. Howard’s name will still appear on the ballot, but once she withdraws with the Division of Elections, votes for her will not count. That means Gregory will advance to the general election contest against Democrat Liv Coleman.

Coleman last night was uncertain who would win the Republican primary and said she was prepared to fight either opponent.

“I offer a strong alternative to what we’ve seen the last few days and I look forward to the general election contest in November,” she said.

Gregory says he’s ready to carry the Republican banner in a deep-red district.

“Now we need to move on, and I will be focused on earning the trust of all the voters of District 73 as I lay out our plan to accelerate job and wage growth, invest in world-class schools, and protect our quality of life.”

David Shapiro owns stock in nine of study’s top 100 greenhouse gas emitters

David Shapiro has made climate change an issue in his campaign for Florida’s 16th Congressional District. Yet despite that focus, it appears Shapiro has invested in several companies pegged as some of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, according to one study.

That study, summarized by The Guardian, shows a numbered list of 100 companies ranked by the percentage of global greenhouse gas contributions. According to Shapiro’s financial disclosure forms filed with the U.S. House, the Democratic candidate is invested in nine of those companies. That includes ownership of stock in ExxonMobil (ranked 5 on the list) and Chevron (12), two of the top 12 emitters.

Shapiro’s financial disclosure shows he owns between $1,001 and $15,000 of stock in each of those companies, along with ConocoPhillips (ranked 21 on the list) and EOG Resources (84).

Shapiro also owns between $1 and $1,000 of Anadarko Petroleum (47), Occidental Petroleum (55), Devon Energy (62), Marathon Oil (64), and Murphy Oil (96).

“Sneaky Shapiro says one thing publicly but privately does another,” said Max Goodman, campaign manager for Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, who occupies the CD 16 seat. “He cannot be trusted.”

But Alex Vuskovic, Shapiro’s campaign manager, told Florida Politics these stocks were purchased as part of a retirement fund, and were not selected by Shapiro individually.

This follows previous reporting by Florida Politics that showed Shapiro owned stock in Walmart, AT&T and Kimberly-Clark. He recently bashed all three companies in an op-ed for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, despite that stock ownership.

Buchanan also released an ad hitting Shapiro for ownership in Halliburton, gun companies and drug companies, calling Shapiro “two-faced.”

Subsequent reporting by ThinkProgress showed Buchanan owns mutual and index funds which also invested in some of those companies.

It turns out those mutual funds also invest in all nine companies on the list of greenhouse gas emitters than Shapiro is invested in as well.

However, unlike Shapiro, the Buchanan campaign contends that Buchanan did not decide to invest in these stocks individually. Rather, the stocks inside the funds are pegged to the market’s overall movement and are not selected by Buchanan himself.

“Congressman Buchanan is so desperate to cover up the fact he’s using his position in Washington to line his own pockets, including voting for a tax bill that helped finance his new $3.5 million yacht, that he’s attacking David over stocks he also holds,” Vuskovic added.

“That might be normal for Washington politics, but it does nothing to patch the $1.9 trillion hole in the deficit that Congressman Buchanan created, which will put our social security and Medicare at risks.”

Gwen Graham raising campaign cash Thursday with past Dem. Gov. nominee

Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham will be in Tampa on Thursday to raise some cash to help her finish strong in the closing days of Democratic primary for Governor.

The fundraiser will be held at The Italian Club in Historic Ybor City, 1731 E. 7th St., from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. According to the invite, the suggested contribution is a relatively light $25. For those looking to attend, RSVP’s can be sent to Lark@GwenGraham.com.

Tampa businessman Charlie Brink, whose current project is a medical cannabis company, is serving as chair of the host committee, with a couple of high-profile Democrats listed as “Gwen’s Friends” on the invite.

Top on that list is former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, who was the Democratic nominee for Florida Governor in 2006. He and Lt. Gov. nominee, former state Sen. Daryl Jones, lost 52-45 percent in the general election to then-Republican Charlie Crist.

Also showing up are St. Petersburg state Rep. Ben Diamond, former state Rep. and state Sen. Pat Frank, former U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce Francisco Sanchez, financial adviser John Few, developer and St. Pete for Good co-founder Jared Meyers, major philanthropists Frank and Carol Morsani, and Tampa attorney Crystal Whitescarver.

Graham is fresh off the release of fundraising reports that showed her campaign and political committee, Gwen Graham for Florida, reeling in nearly $1.5 million for the week of July 28 through Aug. 3. She also recently landed endorsements from musician and environmentalist Jimmy Buffett as well as former state Sen. Arthenia Joyner.

Graham faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene, Central Florida businessman Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine in the Aug. 28 primary election.

After months of polls showing Levine leading the race, the past several weeks have seen Graham rocket to the top in polls of the five-way race, with her lead sometimes hitting double digits. Her late momentum has brought attacks from her rivals, notably Greene, who has hit the airwaves with attacks on her environmental record, the Graham campaign and its surrogates have harshly rebutted.

The winner of the Democratic nomination will move on to face one of two Republicans on the November ballot — U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who leads most polls on that side of the aisle, or Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

The fundraiser invitation is below.

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