Tampa Bay Archives - Page 2 of 194 - Florida Politics

Attorney, political appointee refused to take ‘You’re Fired’ for an answer

A Tampa landlord says a Land O’Lakes attorney mishandled a foreclosure case, then wouldn’t stop negotiating the settlement after she got fired.

Two companies led by Anton Ludwig Philipp allege in a lawsuit that attorney Chandra Hosler provided incompetent counsel in a commercial foreclosure case.

North Tampa MHP previously hired Hosler to represent the company when creditors sued to foreclose on a mobile home park on 142nd Avenue in Tampa.

Over the course of that case, North Tampa MHP officials say Hosler delayed a resolution to the matter while pressuring the company to meet her own monetary demands. Philipp in January filed a complaint against Hosler with the Florida Bar.

A new lawsuit filed on behalf of North Tampa MHP and Sunbuild Phase I, another company headed by Philipp, says Hosler’s delays in the case cost the company and led to “severely excessive interest and fees.”

The complaint says after being fired, Hosler sent a $30,800 bill to the clients, and when that wasn’t paid, she refused to withdraw from the foreclosure case.

Moreover, she continued to participate in settlement discussions while running up more bills, the suit says. She eventually filed a lien on the North Tampa MHP property at the center of the case, and began “making rampant threats about legal actions and Florida Bar complaints” on opposing counsel, according to the suit.

Hosler has practiced law in Florida since 2002 and works as an in-house attorney for Geico. She remains a member in good standing with the Florida Bar and has a clean 10-year discipline history.

She’s also enjoyed appointments by Gov. Rick Scott to the Hillsborough County Civil Service Board, originally getting tapped to fill a vacancy in 2016, then being reappointed to the position for a full term starting in 2017.

North Tampa MHP and Sunbuild Phase I now seek damages from Hosler for malpractice, tortious interference and breach of fiduciary duty.

Dana Young vs. Janet Cruz race contentious now with more to come

Everyone knew Florida’s Senate District 18 battle between Democrat Janet Cruz and Republican incumbent Dana Young would be contentious. Both women are strong, smart, battle-tested, and play to win – just what we want from candidates.

There is no middle ground here. Voters have a clear choice, and that’s always good.

Democrats targeted the Hillsborough County district as a must-win if they want to take control of the Senate, and Republicans responded accordingly in what will be one of the most-watched races in the state.

So, here’s what we have so far: The Young camp said Cruz was “caught red-handed” cheating on unpaid property taxes, while the Cruz camp basically said Young hates public school children and teachers.

My guess is they’re just getting started.

Young was already scorched by Democrats for being absent from the Senate floor last spring for three votes on three amendments related to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre – including requiring armed security officers in every school.

Young later recorded her vote later in favor of the proposals. She explained that she had to step away from the floor during the eight-hour special Saturday session for quick meetings. She called it a non-issue.

I’m sure it won’t look that way if, or when, the ads roll out.

Cruz, the House Minority Leader, also released a Facebook video, then doubled down with a mailer, that slammed Young over the issue of air-conditioning breakdowns and lead problems in Hillsborough County public schools.

Republicans have been blamed for slashing the public budget in favor of funding charter schools and, well, Young did vote in favor of those budgets that cut $1.3 billion from state public schools – a charge PolitiFact rated “mostly true” in 2013.

Republicans say the money has since been more than restored, but Democrats say the original cuts put public schools in a hole they have been unable to escape.

In the video shot in front of Tampa’s Plant High School, Cruz points to the building where repairs are being made on the cooling units and shouts: “Dammit Dana, tell the truth. Stop telling lies.”

Young’s camp isn’t backing down.

The attack ad over Cruz’s tax issue has played relentlessly on local television. Cruz had unpaid property taxes from 2004 through 2008 for a home she owned in Tampa.

It misrepresents what really happened, of course, but isn’t that true of most attack ads, if not all of them?

Cruz has explained she self-reported a mix-up after she got married to a man who owned his own home and had a homestead exemption. Cruz had one as well on a house she owned.

Florida law allows only one. She paid a $32,000 penalty – or, as the ad says, “was caught red-handed.”

And then, the ad says ominously, she voted against a controversial increase in the homestead exemption because Democrats argued it would strip local municipalities of desperately needed cash. Or, as the ad says, after “cheating” on her taxes, “she voted to up yours.”

Interesting choice of those last two words in the previous paragraph.

Cruz said that Young’s step-out, combined with the massive march in Tallahassee by students and others demanding tighter gun laws, was what pushed her into the race.

That works both ways, of course. Young has an A-plus rating from the NRA, an organization that has been known for rallying support for candidates it likes.

That’s another way of saying people should stay tuned to what’s happening in SD-18.

They’re just getting started.

Bill Galvano (Left) and Wilton Simpson (Right)

Top Senate Republicans raising cash for Tampa Bay candidates on Monday

State Senate President Bill Galvano, Majority Leader Wilton Simpson and Fort Myers Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto will be in Tampa next Friday to help four area Senate candidates boost their campaign accounts ahead of the November general election.

The Sept. 17 event will be held in the Snowy Egret Room on the second floor of the Grand Hyatt, 2900 Bayport Drive, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The invitation doesn’t list a suggested contribution for attendees, though it does ask that they send their RSVPs to Myost@FRSCC.org or call (813) 965-1043.

The reception will benefit the re-election efforts of incumbent Sens. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, Tom Lee of Thonotosassa and Dana Young of Tampa, while also providing a boost to former Republican Rep. Ed Hooper, who is the party’s nominee in the race for Pinellas- and Pasco-based Senate District 16.

Lee, Brandes, Young, and Hooper are all running in seats being targeted by Florida Democrats in the fall, though Brandes is likely safe because the candidate initially recruited by the party, trial lawyer Carrie Pilonwithdrew because of the unexpected health problems of a close family member.

He now faces Lindsay Cross, and recent polls show that he has a 39-19 percent lead with 42 percent of voters undecided. He also has more than $890,000 on hand between his campaign and political committee, Liberty Florida, while Cross has managed to build only a $44,250 war chest since tagging in for Pilon at the end of July.

Young and Hooper face much tougher battles, however.

Young is up against House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in Senate District 18, and though she holds a strong fundraising advantage, polling has shown the two Tampanians neck and neck with Cruz holding a slim advantage.

To give Young a boost, the Galvano-chaired Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee recently stepped in with a new TV ad dogging Cruz for her past property tax blunders.

It’s the same situation in Senate District 16, where Hooper is up against former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy — despite a sixfold money advantage and hitting TV early on, Hooper trailed Murphy by two points in an early August poll of their general election showdown.

Lee’s Senate District 20 is the safest of the bunch. He won re-election without opposition two years ago, when the seat also voted plus-8 for President Donald Trump. Through the end of August, Lee had $122,500 in hard money while his opponent, Wesley Chapel Democrat Kathy Lewis, had virtually exhausted her $17,850 in campaign fundraising during her primary contest against Tampa Democrat Joy Gibson.

Election Day is Nov. 6. The fundraiser invitation is below.

FRSCC fundraiser invitation

David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez among speakers at March For Our Lives concert today

Parkland shooting survivors David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez will join other gun control activists today at a political rally organized by Tampa Bay high school students.

March For Our Lives Tampa will host a “Band and Ballots” concert at Curtis Hixon Park to raise gun violence awareness.

“The event is a night of local bands bringing the community together as we reflect on gun violence, not as a partisan issue, but as an American issue affecting children and people everywhere every day,” said Alyssa Ackbar, a Robinson High School senior and one of the organizers of the event.

The event will include performances by local musicians, including Natalie Hernandez, a contestant on The Voice’s third season, and Tomorrow’s News, a Tampa rock band with teenage members.

Ackbar and classmate Macy McClintock organized the Tampa event, which is part of the March For Our Lives movement formed in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland in February.

Some of the most prominent members include survivors of the shooting, notably Hogg, who got Publix to cease political donations with a protest this summer, and Gonzalez, who has directed pointed attacks at President Donald Trump and other leaders.

Another survivor of the Parkland shooting, Sofie Whitney will also speak at the rally. She has spoken to national media including NPR about prioritizing human lives over guns.

Suicide prevention activist Khary Penebaker, a speaker from Everytown for Gun Safety, will also speak. Everytown played a critical role in crafting legislation passed by Florida lawmakers in the wake of the Parkland shooting this year.

While gun politics in Florida can prove sharply divisive, Ackbar says the important thing with today’s event will be having a nonpartisan function to raise awareness of the issue.

“The two main focuses for the event are to create an open, constructive conversation on gun violence that isn’t nominated by political party and to encourage people to get registered and vote,” she said.

And since the February tragedy, youth voter registration has soared. Target Smart in July found Florida registration of voters ages 18 to 49 jumped 8 percent after the shooting.

DCCC and David Shapiro drop $900K on ad blitz in CD 16

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is joining with Democratic candidate David Shapiro on a $900,000 ad campaign against incumbent U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan in Florida’s 16th Congressional District.

Both Shapiro and the DCCC will put $450,000 toward the new ad campaign. The 30-second spot, titled “Rig,” focuses on Buchanan’s purchase of a yacht on the same day House Republicans passed the first version of their tax cuts bill last year.

It was later reported that Buchanan received a loan for that purchase from a company who was also lobbying in support of the bill.

“Vern Buchanan and Washington Republicans have rigged the system for billionaires,” the ad’s narrator begins.

“Washington Republicans voted to give wealthy insiders like Buchanan a tax handout of up to $2 million, but raised taxes on seniors and families. And that same day, Vern Buchanan bought himself a $5 million yacht with a loan from a foreign bank that was lobbying Republicans in Washington.

“Vote against Vern Buchanan and the Washington Republicans who help billionaires, not families and seniors.”

The ad cites a New York Times editorial for the claim that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act “raised taxes on seniors and families.” But the reality isn’t as clear-cut as the spot makes it seem. How the bill affects seniors and families varies on a case-by-case basis, with some paying more in taxes while others receive a cut.

Buchanan campaign manager Max Goodman responded with a statement painting Shapiro as a hypocrite for lobbing these claims against Buchanan.

“This race offers voters a clear choice between a congressman who reduced taxes on the middle class and liberal David Shapiro who wants to raise taxes even though he was delinquent paying his own,” Goodman said, referring to records cited in a previous Buchanan ad showing Shapiro had made late payments on property taxes in the past.

“This is part of a pattern of deceit and hypocrisy where Shapiro says one thing publicly yet privately does another, such as claiming to be for a clean environment while he financially invests in Halliburton and the world’s top greenhouse gas polluters. And he publicly calls for a ban on assault weapons while privately invests in the very company that manufacturers them.”

Again, Goodman is referring to previous reporting on Shapiro’s many investments. Shapiro’s camp has said those stocks were purchased as part of a retirement fund, and were not selected by Shapiro individually.

State challenged over Pasco hospice approval

A preliminary decision by the state to approve a new hospice program in Pasco County faces legal challenges from two companies that were turned down.

The state Agency for Health Care Administration, which gave approval to Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care of Pasco County, received challenges from The Hospice of the Florida Suncoast and Compassionate Care Hospice of Pasco. The companies are challenging the preliminary decision to authorize Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care’s proposed $719,500 project and the state’s decisions to deny their license applications.

Florida uses what is known as the “certificate of need” process to regulate new health-care services and programs such as hospice. AHCA on March 30 published a need for one new hospice program in Pasco County beginning in July 2019. Ultimately, eight companies filed CON applications to provide the services.

On Aug. 17, the agency gave preliminary approval to the application filed by Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care. In its application, Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care told regulators that, if the application was approved, the company would ensure access to hospice care for homeless people. The application said the company initially would provide $10,000 to provide hospice services to homeless people and would incrementally increase that funding. By the fourth year of operations, the company would commit $30,000 annually to support homeless services.

Jeff Brandes TV ad

Jeff Brandes recalls ‘Right to Try’ law in new campaign ad

St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes released a new ad Thursday touting his successful legislative effort to give patients more options in to fight terminal diseases.

The new ad, titled “Right to Try,” features St. Petersburg osteopathic physician Rob Proietto speaking about Brandes’ role in passing a 2015 bill that authorized the use of experimental treatments and medications for terminally ill patients.

Though Gov. Rick Scott signed the House version of the bill into law, Brandes was instrumental in shepherding the Senate companion, SB 1052, through its committee stops.

“For a long time, patients fighting a life-threatening illness were also fighting a system that wouldn’t give them a chance,” Proietto says in the ad. “That’s why Jeff Brandes passed Florida’s ‘Right to Try’ law. Now, eligible patients with a serious medical condition can get access to experimental drugs or clinical trials.

“Critically ill patients have the right to try because Jeff Brandes is keeping hope alive,” Proietto concludes.

A narrator then says, “Giving patients the right to choose the treatment they need. Jeff Brandes for state Senate.”

Specifically, the “Right to Try” law allows dying patients to access experimental medical treatments that have passed a Phase One Clinical Trial but have not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

“Floridians deserve to have access to medical treatments that could extend or improve the quality of their lives,” Brandes said of the proposal in 2015. “It often takes three years or longer for medications to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. We can save lives by speeding up access to these treatments for patients who don’t have other options available, and I look forward to strong bipartisan support of this legislation.”

The new ad was paid for by Brandes’ campaign account, though as of Thursday afternoon no details of the media buy backing it up had been posted by the Federal Communications Commission.

Brandes, a lifelong resident of St. Pete, is running for his final term in the Florida Senate. He was first elected to the Senate in 2012, but due to redistricting has been forced to run for re-election every two years since taking office. He was also a member of the Florida House from 2010 through 2012.

This year, he faces Democratic challenger Lindsay Cross, an environmental scientist who recently resigned as executive director of the Florida Wildlife Corridor to run for the SD 24 seat. Cross was recruited after the Florida Democratic Party’s first pick, Carrie Pilon, withdrew due to the unexpected health problems of a close family member.

Since entering the race, Cross has failed to gain traction in fundraising, have raised just $58,588 through the end of last month with $54,121 in the bank.

By comparison, Brandes has raised $822,170 in hard money, including $300,000 in self-funding, and had $525,000 in his campaign account on Aug. 31. He also had more than $375,000 at his disposal in his affiliated political committee, Liberty Florida, on Sept. 7.

SD 24 covers most of southern Pinellas County except for the tip of the peninsula, which is included in neighboring SD 19. According to the most recent bookclosing report published by the Florida Division of Elections, Republicans hold a 4-point advantage in voter registrations within the district, which voted in favor of Barack Obama twice before going plus-7 for Donald Trump in 2016.

A recent poll of the race showed Brandes with a 39-19 percent lead over Cross with 42 percent of those polled unsure of who they’ll vote for come Election Day.

Brades’ ad is below.

Shawn Harrison

Frank Reddick crosses the aisle to back Shawn Harrison’s re-election bid in HD 63

Tampa City Council Chairman Frank Reddick has endorsed state Rep. Shawn Harrison in his re-election bid for Hillsborough County’s House District 63.

Tampa City Councilors are chosen in non-partisan elections, though Reddick is a Democrat and Harrison is a Republican. HD 63 is a swing seat that Harrison has held for three non-consecutive terms. In 2018, he faces Democratic attorney Fentrice Driskell.

“I have known and worked along-side Shawn Harrison for 12 years. Representative Harrison is a true bipartisan leader. He doesn’t just talk the talk. When Shawn was Chairman Pro-Tem of the Tampa City Council, he supported my efforts to make East Tampa a stronger community. When we asked for help to stop the evictions from Tampa Park Apartments, Shawn contacted HUD on our behalf and together we were successful,” Reddick said.

“He was the only Republican in the State to support my efforts for a special session on Stand your Ground. And when needy families had an opportunity for expanded Medicaid, Shawn once again crossed party lines to support the people back home. As a Representative in Tallahassee, he has shown the courage to stand up for what’s right for his constituents, even if it meant voting against his party,” he continued.

“For decades, Shawn has proven to not only me, but the thousands of constituents he’s represented over the years, that he is willing to tackle big problems and fight for what is right and fair for our community, regardless of political party,” Reddick said.

“Shawn Harrison fought to make sure our children have access to better schools and a brighter future with his support of Hope Scholarships. And Shawn even went so far as to donate hundreds of family books to the kids at Kimbell Elementary with his ‘Read Little Cougars’ challenge. Representative Harrison is there for us when we need him most and I’m excited to endorse him and continue my work with him to move our community forward and create better opportunities for all,” Reddick concluded.

Harrison was grateful for the resounding endorsement from the influential Democrat and former colleague.

“Chairman Reddick is a friend and former colleague on the Tampa City Council. He is one of the true statesmen of our region. He has been a leading voice in our community for decades. I welcome the chance to support Frank whenever I can, and I’m truly humbled to have his support,” Harrison said.

This isn’t the first time Reddick has endorsed Harrison in a state House election. Two years ago, when the Tampa Republican was up against Tampa City Councilor Lisa Montelione, Reddick was in Harrison’s corner. Other endorsements for Harrison have come in from the Florida Realtors, the Florida Police Benevolent Association and the Associated Industries of Florida.

To date, Harrison has raised $180,511 in hard money and has $106,890 of that cash in the bank. He also has another $130,410 on hand in his affiliated political committee, Committee for an Innovative Florida, for a total war chest of $237,300 at the end of August.

Driskell, meanwhile, has raised $146,650 for her campaign account and had $100,525 left to spend on Aug. 31. Her backers include Ruth’s List, an organization that helps Democratic women get elected.

HD 63 covers part of Hillsborough County, including portions of northern Tampa and the communities of Lutz, Pebble Creek, Lake Magdalene and Carrollwood. Democrats make up about 39 percent of the swing seat’s electorate, while Republicans hold a 32 percent share.

Harrison served in the House from 2010 to 2012, when former Democratic Rep. Mark Danish beat him by about 700 votes to flip the newly redrawn HD 63 despite raising less than $20,000 for his campaign compared to nearly $300,000 for Harrison.

Harrison reclaimed the seat in the 2014 cycle with a 5-point win over Danish, and in 2016 he emerged victorious in a tough re-election battle over Montelione. His sub 2-point victory came as Democrat Hillary Clinton carried the seat by double digits.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Jennifer Webb passes Ray Blacklidge in total fundraising, cash on hand

With her end-of-August campaign finance report, St. Petersburg Democrat Jennifer Webb has officially surpassed Madeira Beach Republican Ray Blacklidge in campaign fundraising.

Webb and Blacklidge are vying for the House District 69 seat currently held by state Rep. Kathleen Peters, who is now the Republican nominee for a seat on the Pinellas County Commission.

The small-business woman raised about $7,900 from Aug. 24 through the end of the month, bringing her fundraising total to about $181,500 since she entered the race to succeed Peters late last year. That puts her ahead of her opponent by about $3,500 in campaign fundraising.

“It’s clear that voters are attracted to our community-centered campaign, and they understand what’s at stake with this election,” Webb said in a press release touting her fundraising efforts.

“I’m grateful for the voters that continue to support our campaign. I’m committed to creating an environment where hardworking families and local businesses can thrive together,” she continued. “I will fight for clean waterways, shore up our schools and infrastructure, and ensure that families suffering from mental health or substance use can access much-needed treatment.”

Thanks to one-time Democratic candidate Javier Centonzio stepping aside, Webb was able to make it through primary season without facing a challenger. Blacklidge wasn’t as fortunate.

The Madeira Beach attorney went up against St. Petersburg attorney Jeremy Bailie in a head-to-head that ended up being a 58-42 percent rout, but it took nearly all of his war chest to do so — Blacklidge spent nearly $71,000 in the two weeks leading up to the primary election, most of it heading to Front Line Strategies, a Tallahassee-based consulting shop that offers an array of advertising and campaign services.

His final August report showed a single $1,000 check, bringing him to $178,082 in total hard money fundraising. Excluding self-funding, he’s brought in $142,284. Either way you slice it, he only had $2,500 of those funds left to spend heading into September.

While Webb has taken the lead when it comes to hard money, Blacklidge also has an affiliated political committee, Friends of Ray Blacklidge, that has brought in $52,210 this cycle. The committee’s cupboard is just as bare as his campaign account’s with about $2,600 at the ready.

Those figures also give Webb a massive lead in cash on hand. She started September with $88,820 in hard money in her account while Blacklidge had $5,123 between his campaign and committee.

The one advantage for Blacklidge: Since he faced an opponent in the primary, all the donors chipped in max contributions during the primary — 104 at last count — may do so again for the general election according to the state code governing campaign finance.

Webb hasn’t relied as heavily on $1,000 checks; they make up about a third of her total fundraising, with the average of her 1162 monetary donors chipping in about $158.33, leaving plenty of room for those supporters to keep up with small-dollar donations. By comparison, Blacklidge’s average donor has given $483.95.

HD 69 includes part of St. Petersburg and the communities of Redington Beach, Madeira Beach, Treasure Island, South Pasadena and Gulfport. Republicans have a slim lead in voter registrations in the district, which voted plus-3 for Donald Trump in 2016.

Webb was also the Democratic nominee two years ago, but lost by 13 percentage points on Election Day. The lack of an incumbent, the possibility of a “blue wave” and her strong fundraising — she’s outdone her 2016 tally and has $37,000 more banked than she did at the same checkpoint two years ago — will lead to the Pinellas County district flipping blue.

The next round of campaign finance reports, covering the first two weeks of September, are due to the state on Sept. 21.

Chris Hudson: Transit hounds are barking up the wrong tree

It’s back, and it’s worse than ever.

A coalition of local activists and big businessmen in Hillsborough County just got a $280 million sales tax hike placed on November’s ballot to fund transportation projects.

If that sounds familiar, there’s a reason.

Voters already made their feelings perfectly clear on sales tax hikes years ago. In 2010, Tampa residents voted down a similar sales tax hike by 58 to 42 percent.

That should have been the end of it. But tax-and-spend advocates weren’t interested in what taxpayers had to say. They were already making plans to get the transportation tax hike back on the ballot the day after the election, and they’ve been trying to do so ever since, including a failed attempt in 2016. Maybe they think that if they reintroduce the idea often enough they’ll just wear residents down.

Making the ill-conceived tax hike worse is the fact there are no detailed plans as to how the money would be spent. Supporters are essentially asking voters to hand the county a blank check and hope the money is spent responsibly.

Transit tax advocates seem to have forgotten the biggest reason for the Sunshine State’s recent economic success — low taxes. Thanks to a friendly tax climate, Florida is booming. Our state’s unemployment rate is at a nearly two-decade low, and Florida’s economy is expected to hit $1 trillion this year. Our state ranks fourth in the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index, making it a great place for businesses big and small to open up shop.

But the team behind this half-baked ballot initiative acts like undercutting all of this progress with a tax hike is the only option for funding our region’s transportation needs.

It isn’t.

Before trying to take money out of families’ pockets, they should take a good hard look at how taxpayer dollars are currently being used. They probably won’t like what they find.

Take, for example, the county’s spending on sports teams. In 2014, Hillsborough County lawmakers spent nearly $29 million so the Buccaneers could improve things like their luxury boxes and jumbotrons. Earlier this year, they signed off on over $60 million in taxpayer-funded upgrades to the Lightning’s arena. And now they’re considering spending at least $600 million on a new stadium for the Rays.

Instead of trying to get yet another referendum on the ballot, transit-loving activists should be asking why sports team owners are getting taxpayer funding over transportation projects.

Americans for Prosperity-Florida and our thousands of activists in the Tampa area and across the state believe responsible budgeting should come first. Florida families have to live within their means, so it shouldn’t be too much for them to expect their local governments to do the same.

Making up for irresponsible spending by hiking taxes on hardworking Tampa residents isn’t the solution to our region’s transportation needs.

The sales tax hike was a bad idea in 2010, it was a bad idea in 2016, and it’s still a bad idea today.

 ___

Chris Hudson is Florida state director of Americans for Prosperity.

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