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Nick DiCeglie adds $10K for HD 66 campaign in February

Republican Nick DiCeglie was the top fundraiser in the House District 66 field last month with $10,560 raised.

The February report brings the Pinellas County businessman’s campaign total to $90,354, with $72,216 on hand.

The new money came in across 29 contributions, including a half dozen for the primary campaign maximum of $1,000.

Max donors for the month included ASG Consulting Group, RSG Consulting Group, Florida Farm PAC, FTBA Transportation PAC, LEMA Construction and accounting firm Sams IV.

Expenditures for the month totaled $2,114 and included a $1,000 payment to Jacksonville-based Political Capital for fundraising consulting and a $998 payment to Tallahassee-based Supernova Digital Communications for social media consulting.

Though DiCeglie posted the highest total for the month, he trails Republican primary opponent Berny Jacques in overall fundraising. The pair are competing to take over for termed-out Republican Rep. Larry Ahern.

Jacques added $1,175 in February and spent $8,291 between his campaign and committee, Protect Pinellas.

The St. Petersburg attorney finished the month with $138,545 in total fundraising since entering the race in March 2017, and had $100,701 in the bank.

Jacques’ February money came in through seven contributions, all to his campaign. Top contributors for the reporting period included Samuel Bright and Sandra Hutton, each of whom gave $500.

Spending included more than $7,000 in payments to Gainesville-based Data Targeting Research for printing and consulting work, with $700 paying for accounting costs through Robinson Hanks Young & Roberts and $500 heading to campaign staff.

Also running for HD 69 are Democrat Alex Hereen and Reform Party candidate Paul Anthony Bachmann.

Hereen raised $3,556 in February and spent $3,939, leaving him with about $5,600 in the bank, while Bachmann reported just $345 in contributions since filing for the seat in August.

HD 66 is a safe Republican district. It covers part of western Pinellas County, including Clearwater, Belleair, Indian Rocks Beach and Indian Shores.

Pasco police back Mike Moore’s county commission bid

The Fraternal Order of Police announced on Monday endorsed Republican Mike Moore for re-election to the Pasco County Commission.

William Lawless, president of Pasco County FOP Lodge 29 Labor Unit, said it gave him “great pleasure” to endorse Moore, who is running for second term on the commission.

“We are grateful for your support of public safety. You have been a strong voice for not only law enforcement officers, but all public safety personnel in Pasco County. Your strong leadership has brought more opportunities and a more prosperous life for our members and their families. We value your professionalism and commitment to both the citizens of Pasco County and those who put their lives on the line on a daily basis to make sure Pasco is a safe place to live”

“Thank you again for your commitment to public service, public safety, and our members.”

Moore was first elected to the District 2 seat on the Pasco County Commission in 2014. He filed for re-election to another four-year term in April 2017, and has since secured endorsements from a host of state and local officials, including Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco and Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson.

Democrat Kelly Smith is currently the only candidate challenging Moore in his re-election bid. He has raised more than $185,000 for his campaign compared to about $6,000 for Smith.

“I am honored by the endorsement of Pasco County’s Fraternal Order of Police,” Moore said. “These dedicated women and men put their lives on the line each and every day to serve and protect our community and keep each of us safe and secure.  I am honored to have their support and endorsement and am grateful for their service and commitment of each and every woman and man who wears the badge, and their families, who sacrifice greatly for our community.”

The election is Nov. 6.

Jeff Brandes loses a couple of priorities, but brings home other wins

Sen. Jeff Brandes promised criminal justice reforms, a sweeping transportation bill, banning fees on consumer report security freezes and “merlot-to-go,” but only half of those came true by the time the 2018 Legislative Session wrapped up.

As the process moved toward the 60-day finish line, the Pinellas County Republican was optimistic about his bold proposals.

His criminal justice reforms were sailing through committees, along with their companion bills in the House. His proposals would have created a council to oversee the criminal and juvenile justice systems, prohibit issuance of attorney’s fees in proceedings for a protective injunction for repeat sexual offenders and allowed judges to depart from mandatory sentences in drug trafficking cases.

A transportation bill he championed landed on the full Senate floor with a week left to go in Session. And Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis was helping him champion a consumer report bill that ultimately passed the Legislature.

By Sine Die though, most of his criminal justice priorities were dead, as was the broad transportation package.

Senate Bill 1218, the criminal justice package with seven measures tucked in it including some of the efforts mentioned above, did not make it past its last committee stop. And a key risk assessment tool that accompanied that bill was stripped of funding when Senate leadership gave a good chunk of the money to fund Vivitrol, a medicine used for drug treatment.

Senate Bill 1287, the broad transportation package changing various commercial motor vehicle regulations and creating tougher penalties for those who commit cargo theft, died in messages on the last day of Session.

But it was not all bad for Brandes.

Some of the measures he championed that passed the Legislature included those seeking to prohibit state agencies and local governments from entering or renewing contracts with companies that boycott Israel, adding new protections to health care sharing ministries, and barring consumer reporting agencies from charging a fee for security fees on a credit report.

The Legislature also passed a bill that reduces the minimum age for someone to work as a correctional officer from 19 to 18 to fill in personnel shortage at correctional facilities, even though 18-year-olds would not be allowed to supervise inmates.

As the Senate’s top budget writer for criminal justice issues, Brandes got money for programs in the Department of Corrections and cameras at the Department of Juvenile Justice even though it was not as much as he initially wanted.

In initial budget proposals, for example, Brandes wanted to get $8 million to buy DJJ cameras to increase accountability on abuses that go on in the facilities, but in the end, legislative leaders only approved the project at $1 million.

Other member projects he pushed for that got funding include $1 million for the Pinellas County Lake Seminole Sediment Removal and Restoration Project; $1 million for USF St. Petersburg STEM programs; and $150,000 for the Florida Automated Vehicle Driver Education Initiative.

Pinellas schools superintendent slams proposed funding for public education

The superintendent for Pinellas County public schools is slamming the proposed state budget that lawmakers are poised to pass Sunday because he says it will leave his school district with a nearly $3 million funding deficit.

“It’s clear that the additional safe schools and mental health funding has come on the backs of teachers and students,” Michael Grego wrote in an open letter.

The $88.7 billion state budget proposed for the 2018-19 fiscal year includes a significant funding boost for mental health services and school security in response to the Valentine’s Day school shooting in Parkland that left 17 dead.

Gov. Rick Scott signed the $400 million “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Act” into law on Friday.

Grego is in favor of the Legislature excluding most teachers from being armed, but has yet to determine if Pinellas County will participate in the program. And while he has been for expanding mental health services and safety measures, Grego said the money allotted to public education is not enough to cover operational costs like utilities, health care coverage for employees and other areas impacted by inflation.

“We will not be able to cover the cost of providing students the education they deserve if elected officials approve the state budget as currently proposed,” Grego said.

Grego says his district will get $2.2 million. From that, he says, $2.9 million must be spent on school resource officers and $2.2 million must go to pay for mental health services.

“Increased spending on safety and mental health needs to accompany sufficient funding for the heart of our work  — educating our students,” Grego said.

Read Grego’s letter below:

Pinellas superintendent Mike Grego blasts education budget. by Peter Schorsch on Scribd

Jeff Vinik scores legislative win with passage of Water Street Tampa bill

A bill that would create a special taxing district for the Water Street Tampa development in Hillsborough County made it through the Legislature Friday with near-unanimous votes in the House and Senate.

The special improvement district created by HB 1393 would allow an appointed board to levy assessments on commercial properties and charge property tax of up to one mil – $1 per $1,000 of assessed value – on property within in the district.

Water Street Tampa, a private development, seeks to bring the first new office towers to Tampa in a quarter century, as well as retail, educational and entertainment space.

The building project will clock in at 9 million square feet once completed.

The measure cleared the House Monday and the Senate passed it with a pair of amendments cleaning up the language before kicking it back to the House with a 37-1 vote on Thursday. Sarasota Sen. Greg Steube was the lone no-vote on the bill.

The House concurred with the amendments and greenlit the bill with a unanimous vote on Friday evening.

It now heads to Gov. Rick Scott for a signature.

The bill was sponsored by Tampa Republican Rep. Jamie Grant and was a priority of the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation.

When the delegation discussed the bill ahead of the 2018 Legislative Session, Tampa Sen. Dana Young said Water Street Tampa developers could use the taxes they levy to “install and operate and maintain upscale amenities and infrastructure within the district that are far above and beyond what the city of Tampa would be able to do.”

Young added that the amenities would come at no cost to Tampa taxpayers, and said they could include bus shelters, enhanced landscaping and bike paths.

Ronda Storms announces HD 59 bid

Republican Ronda Storms, whose controversial career has included two terms each in the Florida Senate and Hillsborough County Commission, has decided to attempt a political comeback.

Storms announced Friday on her Facebook page that she will run for HD 59, a seat currently held by Ross Spano, who is running for the Republican nomination for Attorney General.

“After much prayerful consideration, my family and I have decided to step forward and make the personal sacrifice necessary to run for public office, this time for State House, District 59, Republican,” she said.

She dropped out of public life after losing a race for Hillsborough Property Appraiser 52-43 percent against Bob Henriquez in 2012.

In her Facebook announcement, she said those who “stopped me on my way about my business, stopped me in stores, contacted my family, called us on the phone, all encouraging me to run for public office.”

Storms frequently made headlines during her eight years on the County Commission. She advocated sterilization for men or women convicted of child abuse and led a movement to cut off county funding for Planned Parenthood.

Her most controversial moment came when she took the forefront of a commission decision to abstain from any involvement with Gay Pride parades or celebrations. She even stipulated the ordinance would be labeled “little g, little p.”

When Commissioner Kevin Beckner years later led a charge to overturn that decision, he declared the ordinance would be written “capital G, capital P.”

So far, Republican Joe Wicker is the only other candidate to file.

The Brandon businessman and veteran filed for the seat a day after Spano announced his Attorney General bid, and was able to seal an endorsement from Spano in the first few days of his campaign.

HD 59 covers most of Brandon, as well as Valrico, Dover, Seffner, Riverview, Palm River and Clair-Mel City. The district has more registered Democrats than Republicans, though Spano had no problem holding on to the seat after the one-point victory that put him into office in 2012.

Aakash Patel adds another $25K in Hillsborough Commission race

Aakash Patel kept his foot on the pedal last month, tacking on nearly $25,000 for his Hillsborough County Commission campaign.

“I am extremely humbled by the outpouring of support and I am very excited about moving forward as our outreach to donors continues to bring diverse participation from our community,” Patel said.

“It is an honor to meet so many interested, caring, and concerned citizens across District 1. Our #Patel2018 campaign team is reaching out to voters daily, consistently picking up new supporters.”

The new numbers bring Patel’s total fundraising to $378,751, including $288,601 for his campaign account and $90,150 for his political committee, Elevate Tampa.

The bulk of the February money, $19,886, came in through the campaign, which received donations from 60 contributors last month. February spending came in at $8,773, leaving the account with $157,222 on hand heading into March.

Elevate Tampa brought in an even $5,000, including a $500 check from Jeff Vinik’s Strategic Property Partners. The committee didn’t burn any money last month and has more than $90,000 on hand.

The first-time candidate is far ahead of his competition in the District 1 race, which includes fellow Republican Todd Marks and Tampa Democratic Rep. Janet Cruz, neither of whom have posted their February reports.

Through the end of January, Cruz had about $61,000 on hand in her campaign account while Marks had $49,275.

The trio are running for the District 1 seat being vacated prematurely by Commissioner Sandy Murman.

Murman intends to leave the seat she won re-election to in 2016 so she can run in the countywide District 7 in 2018. Since Murman’s decision is not official yet, the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections office lists Patel, Cruz and Marks as running in  the 2020 cycle.

Kelli Stargel gets pushback over ‘thoughts and prayers’ remark

Sen. Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican, said she’s been inundated with angry and hateful messages after she said “thoughts and prayers” were the best way to stop the evil behind mass shootings like the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

“The pushback has been incredible. As my daughter called it, it was the quote heard ‘round the world,” Stargel told The News Service of Florida.

Stargel said her son, who lives in Chile, told her it showed up in his news feeds.

The senator called the reaction “unfortunate.” Lawmakers have passed a $400 million “comprehensive piece of legislation” that addresses firearms, mental health, school resource officers and school hardening, she said.

“So we’re not just thinking and praying. But I think the pushback is indicative of the hate and anger that’s going on in our culture,” Stargel said.

Stargel remains unapologetic for her comments, delivered during debate on the school-safety measure this week.

“I don’t know when it became inappropriate to pray for our country, pray for people, have compassion, common decency, kindness,” she said.

Former St. Pete City Council candidate going to court on resisting arrest charge

Akile Anai learned Monday she would be going to court March 27 on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest without violence.

Better known as Eritha “Akile” Cainion, Anai had recently run under the Uhuru banner for St. Petersburg City Council District 6 last summer. On December 20, 2017, the 21-year-old former candidate was arrested in front of her house on Dr. Martin Luther King Street in South St. Pete.

As Anai explains, it all began when a corner store merchant started yelling at a black woman, prompting one of her friends to verbally accost the merchant, saying that’s not how he should treat customers.

After police arrested one of those friends, Anai left her house to inquire what was going on; “very hostile” St. Petersburg police officers met Anai, admonishing her to walk away.

When police arrested a second friend, Anai said she walked toward her house to make a telephone call, speaking out loud about what the police were doing.

The officer “didn’t particularly like what I was saying on the phone,” Anai continued. He then pulled her hair and slammed Anai against a car before she too was arrested and detained.

According to the arrest affidavit, Anai approached police officers as they were interviewing a suspect and “began yelling and using profanity disrupting the interview.”

It was then she was asked by all three officers present to step back. Despite that, Anai continued to approach and yell at the police in a nonviolent way.

Anai was offered a diversion program to cancel out the arrest but refused to participate, claiming to be completely innocent of “bogus” charges.

That the city is continuing to proceed with the case proves she’s being singled out, Anai argued.

“The police don’t operate in a vacuum. They work for the Kriseman administration,” she said. “The police know who we are. I ran for City Council. They understand I’m part of the Uhuru movement that has been under political assault since it’s birth, and especially after we get done waging these intense campaigns, and it’s clear the organizing won’t stop.”

Anai, running as “Akile Cainion,” took seven percent of the vote in the District 6 primary last August, placing sixth out of the eight-person field. In tandem with Uhuru-backed mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel, the two ran campaigns heavily critical of incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, former Mayor Rick Baker, and the St. Petersburg Police Department.

Since the election, Anai and Nevel formed the group Communities United for Reparations and Economic Development (CURED).

Lawsuit seeks to remove Jamie Grant from 2018 ballot

Rep. Jamie Grant’s Republican challenger in the House District 64 primary has filed a lawsuit demanding Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner remove Grant as a candidate, saying he has violated the state’s term limits.

“I believe that Rep. Grant, who was first elected to the Florida House in November 2010, is ineligible to run for reelection in the Florida House in 2018 due to his having served for eight consecutive years,” Terry Power said Wednesday in a news release.

Terry Power

“I believe the courts will agree with me on this important issue.”

Florida voters approved term limits of eight years for members of the Legislature back in 1992; they did not generally become effective till 2000.

Grant was first elected in 2010, and has been re-elected three times to two-year terms. But he did not serve those four terms consecutively. (A separate recounting of that history is here.)

His 2014 GOP primary was postponed when the husband of Republican candidate Miriam Steinberg sued to have write-in candidate Daniel John Matthews removed from the race.

A circuit court ruled that Matthews did not meet the requirements to run and postponed the primary between Grant and Steinberg until November.


Grant defeated Steinberg easily that fall, but the House voted to invalidate the results because an appellate court found that Matthews was wrongfully withdrawn from the contest.

That meant HD 64 had no representative for several months, until April 2015, when Grant defeated Matthews to finish out the 2014-2016 term.

“To rule against us would have a chilling effect on our term limit laws and open the door to even more shenanigans by career politicians,” Power added.

Grant was on the floor of the House Wednesday, and not immediately available for comment.

The 59-year-old Power is an Oldsmar-based certified financial planner. He has said that if elected, he’ll donate his House salary to charities in the district.

House District 64 covers a northwestern section of Hillsborough and some of eastern Pinellas County.

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