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Victor Crist leads all candidates in HCC District 5 fundraising

Republican Victor Crist is the closest thing to an incumbent in the District 5 race this fall, as he has served on the Hillsborough County Commission for the past eight years in District 2.

He’s now switching to District 5 to run countywide for the first time, and has taken in $76,905 so far.

Among those contributing the maximum of $1,000 to his campaign in January were Tampa business leaders Ron Christaldi and Charles Sykes, the two men in charge of Tampa Bay Rays 2020, a privately funded non-profit organization behind the effort to bring a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark to Tampa.

Sykes’ wife, Rebecca, also dropped a $1,000 check to Crist in January.

On the Democratic side, Mark Nash leads in what is now a four-person field, but environmental activist Mariella Smith is gaining on him after entering the race last month.

Smith brought in more than $39,000 in January, her first month as a candidate in the countywide seat that will become vacant after Republican Ken Hagan vacates it later this year (Hagan is running again for commissioner in District 2).

Smith received contributions from 195 individuals in January. She also has the backing of U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor and County Commissioner Pat Kemp.

Nash filed to run in the seat last fall, and has had a three-month head start in terms of fundraising over Smith in the race. He raised $6,063 in January, and has now a total of $51, 378 in the race.

Next up in terms of fundraising is Elvis Pigott, a Riverview based pastor who has now raised $16,538. Activist and military veteran Jae Passmore has raised $2,245,

Corey L. Reynolds, the fifth Democrat in the race, has just withdrawn from the contest.

An earlier version of this story said that Ed Turanchik was also endorsing Smith. Though he was in attendance at her campaign kickoff, Turanchik tells Florida Politics that he has not endorsed anyone in any race.

Two Democrats in HD 69 race raise more than $20K in January

With Republican incumbent Kathleen Peters leaving the House District 69 seat in south Pinellas County, Democrats in Tallahassee are targeting it as a possible November pickup to boost their depleted forces in the state capitol.

But which Democrat?

While Jennifer Webb has better name recognition after a 2016 bid for the seat and currently with more cash on hand than any of the candidates in the race, she’s being challenged by St. Petersburg-based attorney Javier Centonzio, who is making a statement (of sorts) with a strong first month of fundraising.

In the first week of the year, Centonzio entered the race, and has raised $21,125 in January.

However, Webb surpassed him by bringing in $25,351 for January with $60,282 raised overall since entering the contest in November. Webb also has spent very little cash to date, and now has $57,951 cash on hand, the most of any candidate.

Meanwhile, two Republicans in the contest have more modest numbers for January.

Attorney Jeremy Bailie raised $6,600 last month, for $35,659 overall.

Entrepreneur Raymond Blacklidge raised $7,171 in January — having the most in the race to date with $89,047. He also spent $33,835 since entering the contest last summer.

Combined with the $21,500 cash on hand in his political committee, Blacklidge has the most cash on hand as well, with $76,714. Webb has $57,951.

Centonzio is working with consultant Meagan Salisbury with Blue Ticket Consultant, a favorite with Tampa Bay area Democrats to help fundraise. The question observers of this race will now look at is how well he does in fundraising next month.

Webb lost to Peters, 57 percent to 43 percent in 2016.

House District 69 covers south Pinellas beach communities from Redington Shores to Fort DeSoto, as well as portions of St. Petersburg, Gulfport, Kenneth City, and Pinellas Park.

Final poll of HD 72 special election shows an upset in the making — or not

All eyes are on Tuesday’s special election in Sarasota County’s House District 72 where Republican James Buchanan, Democrat Margaret Good and Libertarian Alison Foxall are running to replace former Rep. Alex Miller.

The latest poll indicates that an upset is in the making — if Good beating Buchanan can be viewed as an upset.

However, the race remains very close and the Republicans could pull it out with a strong turnout on Election Day.

St. Pete Polls has Good at 48 percent, Buchanan 45 percent, with Foxall taking 4 percent and “unsure” coming in at 3 percent. That’s a six-point swing for Good since January 24, when Buchanan led her 49 to 46 percent.

Diving into those numbers, it gets interesting.

Good is crushing Buchanan among those who say they have already voted, 57 to 39 percent, but the opposite is true among those who say they plan to vote, with Buchanan leading that cohort 53 to 38 percent.

Fifty-three percent of voters say they’ve already voted, while 47 percent said they still planned to vote.

As the race winds down, Good is doing very well with Democrats (more than 85 percent), while Buchanan is receiving slightly weaker support from Republicans (76 percent).

Buchanan, son of Sarasota Congressman Vern Buchanan, enjoys an advantage with white voters (47 to 46 percent) and voters aged 70 and up (52 to 41 percent). However, Good now leads among all other demographics — including a double-digit lead (50 to 39 percent) with voters aged 18 to 29 and a 13-point lead with voters aged 50 to 69 (54 to 41 percent).

Interestingly, Good gets about 17 percent of GOP voters, compared to only 11 percent of Democrats pulling for Buchanan. Independents are solidly breaking toward Good 56 to 33 percent.

For years, HD 72 has been a reliably Republican district, which covers a significant portion of Sarasota County and has a GOP advantage of nearly 40,000 registered voters over Democrats.

These numbers — for a relatively unknown state House special election — are earning national attention for HD 72, with many seeing a Good victory as bolstering Democratic hopes, both in Florida and nationwide, for the 2018 midterms.

Margaret Good campaign fueled by Democrats from across the country

If Margaret Good does triumph in House District 72 race tonight, it will be in no small part due to the support she’s received from Democrats and progressives throughout the country.

Not only has Good, a Democrat, received campaign contributions from around the nation — especially liberal redoubts like the New York, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. — but groups from some of those same communities were also phone-banking for her Monday, less than 24 hours before the polls open.

Good is competing for the northern Sarasota County seat against Republican James Buchanan and Libertarian Alison Foxall.

A St. Pete Polls survey released on the eve of the election shows the Siesta Key attorney holding a slight lead over Buchanan, 48 to 45 percent, with Foxall taking only 4 percent; 3 percent said they were “unsure.”

If Good were to maintain that lead and win Tuesday night, it would be considered a significant upset as well as a further indication of a potential Democratic “blue wave” in this year’s midterm elections.

What’s considered surprising (by some) is that Good outraised Buchanan in campaign contributions, taking in $484,372 to $353,320 for the Republican. Good raised an additional $176,000 for her political committee, New Day Florida.

In the latest fundraising report issued Friday, Good reported 2,977 individual contributions — with a vast majority donating less than $100 — from all across the country.

Many came from people residing in “Blue America,” and a substantial number of small donations coming from places like New York City, Philadelphia and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Contributions also flowed in from Washington D.C.

On Jan. 28, three groups based in the nation’s capital — Sister District DC, Ward 3 Democrats, and Turn it Blue, DC — held a fundraiser for Good.

A phone bank to contact HD 72 voters was being held Monday afternoon in El Cerrito, an enclave in San Francisco’s East Bay. It’s part of the Sister District Project, which raised more than $350,000 in small-dollar donations to support Democrats in state legislative district in 2017.

Katrina Boratko made a $10 contribution to Good’s campaign. The San Francisco resident told Florida Politics she learned about the Sarasota Democrat’s campaign through Sister District.

Caroline Nassif volunteers for Sister District in San Francisco, which she said raised a total of $5,000 for Good’s campaign. Nassif’s frustration with gerrymandered federal congressional districts made Democrats like her prefer to give to candidates in state legislative races where small contributions can make a real difference.

“These smaller races with real people you can definitely relate to are to me the most exciting ones,” Nassif said.

Over the weekend, POLITICO reported that the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee contributed $10,000 to the Florida Democratic Party last week and also sent out an email on behalf of Good.

Buchanan’s campaign previously criticized Good for receiving so many out-of-Florida contributions.

“Margaret has run a campaign of lies funded by out of town progressives from New York and California who want to fundamentally change our state through higher taxes and sanctuary cities,” said Buchanan campaign manager Nick Catroppo. “That’s why this race is so important. James will always do what’s right and put Sarasota first.”

“We believe the flood of small donations from around the country reflects the excitement on our side, as Democrats continue flipping Republican-held seats in special elections on a weekly basis,” said Ryan Ray with the Good campaign. “If you dig into the report, a strong plurality of the contributions is from Sarasota residents, many of whom don’t typically give to campaigns.”

Ray also noted that while Good had almost 3,000 individual contributions in the last fundraising period, Buchanan had just 142.

Sunday afternoon, Corey Lewandowski made note of the Democratic intensity in HD 72 and across the country. Lewandowski served as Donald Trump‘s campaign manager for a spell in 2015 and 2016.

“The Democrats are highly motivated,” he told a crowd who gathered at Dolphin Aviation in Sarasota, reported the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “They are winning elections in places where they shouldn’t … 50 seats have already changed hands from the Republicans to the Democrats since Donald Trump was elected.”

Lewandowski continued: “That should be concerning for us. Dave and I are here to make sure that one thing happens: That Buchanan goes to the state House and we don’t have another Democrat in office.”

USFSP students ‘apprehensive and confused’ over consolidation

“Concerned, apprehensive, and confused.”

That’s the mood on the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus over the proposed consolidation of the USF System, USF St. Pete student government leaders say.

In a letter to GOP lawmakers who are pushing consolidation legislation, student body officials set out their concerns over the proposal to phase out the separate accreditation for the St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee campuses, which had been under the radar till last month.

“We represent a Student Body that is concerned, apprehensive, and confused as to what the accreditation consolidation of the USF System means for the future of this campus,” wrote Student Body President David D. Thompson, Senate President Emilie Morris and Chief Justice Richard Marini.

That was in a letter to state Rep. Chris Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican, and state Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican.

The initiative, which has roiled the business and political establishment in St. Petersburg in the past two weeks, will spread the benefits of the Tampa campus’ rising reputation and funding to St. Pete and Sarasota, Sprowls has said.

Further, USF System President Judy Genshaft says the consolidation could help students graduate faster and with less debt by providing a wider variety of course options and majors, including those in health care and engineering.

As the legislation moves through committees on both sides of the Legislature, the USFSP student body leaders want the Campus Board to be retained and expanded to include a student representative with voting rights; that there be student representation from USFSP in a transition task force that will make recommendations for the future of the USF System, and that leadership on the St. Pete campus “must be empowered to honor and continue to make commitments to sustainability,” among other things.

“We believe that all current parties are working in what they believe is the best interest of the students at USFSP,” Thompson, Morris and Martini write.

“Moving forward, it should be clear that if there is any suggestion or inclination that this consolidation will be used to hamper the progress of USFSP or hinder student success, we will not only vocalize our opposition but use the powers vested in us by the State of Florida to actively oppose this legislation.”

Joe Biden cuts robocall for Margaret Good in HD 72 special election

HD 72 Democratic candidate Margaret Good picked up an endorsement from Joe Biden last week, and the former Vice President followed up the nod by recording a robocall that will start going out to area voters Monday.

Biden opens up the call by reminding voters to get to the polls Tuesday, before delving into a similar message from the endorsement statement he released last week.

“Margaret’s been a champion for you and she’ll continue to be in the fight for affordable health care, public education for our kids, and protecting Florida’s vital coastline,” Biden says in the recording.

Biden then reminds voters that polls are open until 7 p.m. before closing out by saying “go vote please, and vote for Margaret Good.”

Good is squaring off against Republican James Buchanan and Libertarian Alison Foxall in the special election for HD 72, which opened up last year with the abrupt resignation of Republican Alex Miller. Election Day is Feb. 13.

Biden’s not the only national figure weighing in on the race.

Corey Lewandowski, a former campaign manager on for Donald Trump, stopped in Sarasota Sunday evening to pick up a “MAGA Champion of the Year” award from the Sarasota GOP and to stump on behalf of Buchanan.

Trump carried HD 72 by 5 points in 2016, and while Buchanan is the favorite heading into Election Day, Democrats believe they have gained some ground in the Sarasota-based seat.

A recent poll showed Buchanan with a 3-point lead over Good, 49-46, but that edge falls well within the margin of error. Foxall had about 3 percent support in that poll, while the remainder said they were unsure.

Good also surged past Buchanan in the fundraising race with more than $370,000 raised over the past five weeks compared to $104,000 for Buchanan, including about $33,000 in loans.

A recording of Biden’s robocall is below.

Ardian Zika

Ardian Zika crosses $150K fundraising mark in HD 37

Republican Ardian Zika announced Monday that his campaign to succeed House Speaker Richard Corcoran in House District 37 crossed the $150,000 mark in total fundraising last month.

Zika raised $8,325 in January and has now raised $155,762 since filing for the Pasco County-based seat in August. He had just shy of $148,000 in the bank on Jan. 31.

“I am humbled by the strong outpouring of support and am grateful for the trust and confidence so many contributors from across our community have placed in our campaign,” Zika said in a press release.

“As we share our story and our vision for the future of Pasco County, more and more people from across our community are joining our team. I am grateful for the outpouring of support and look forward to continuing to build on our campaign’s momentum as we race toward the primary election.”

The new report showed 14 contributions including a half dozen for the primary campaign maximum of $1,000, while spending came in at $1,831.

Top donors included law firm McGuire Woods, real estate group Mar-Lil, Tampa-based business capital group B & B Capital Ventures, Wesley Chapel auto dealer Patrick Abad, and political committees Florida Acre and FAIAPAC.

Expenditures included a $1,520 payment to Tampa-based Farmore Marketing for web development, $220 to the West Pasco Republican Club, and a handful of fees paid to online fundraising platform Anedot.

Zika is up against Elle Rudisill, Bill Gunter and Ryan Boney in the Republican Primary for HD 37, and so far none of his opponents have put up much of a challenge when it comes to fundraising.

Rudisill filed for the seat back in June and has about $13,000 in the bank after tacking on $1,075 in January. Gunter posted no contributions for the month, making it his fourth report in a row where he neither raised nor spent a dime, while Boney filed for the seat at the end of January and has not yet reported any contributions.

Democrat Tammy Garcia, who also filed in late January, posted a waiver in lieu of a campaign finance report for her first few days in the campaign.

Republicans dominate the voter roll in the west and central Pasco district. Corcoran didn’t face any Election Day opposition in his three re-election campaigns since the seat was redrawn.

Kathy Castor to host panel discussion on how to prevent sexual harassment Tuesday

As revelations of sexual misconduct continue to dominate headlines, Kathy Castor is seeking a way for those who have been harassed to know their rights.

On Tuesday, the Tampa U.S. Rep. is hosting a community forum with a panel of experts to discuss resources for preventing and reporting sexual harassment. The event is between 10 a.m. and noon at the Hillsborough Community College Dale Mabry campus’ Student Services Building, 4001 W. Tampa Bay Blvd.

A featured guest on the program will be Tanja Vidovic, a former Tampa firefighter who was awarded $245,000 in damages by a federal jury in December after suing the city, claiming she was the victim of repeated discrimination and harassment during seven and a half years with the fire department.

Also part of the forum will be representatives from the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, Centre for Women, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) labor law.

In November, Castor introduced legislation to end taxpayer-funded awards and settlements for workplace discrimination in Congress, including sexual harassment. That provision was included in the “Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act,” a bill the House passed last week in direct response to reports and allegations of lawmakers from both parties sexually harassing female staffers.

The bill will streamline the process a House employee must go through to report a workplace claim, including eliminating the mandatory 30-day counseling and mediation period.

The new law also requires that within 90 days, members of Congress must repay the Treasury fund controlled by the Office of Compliance. That includes members who left office and would require each claim resulting in an award or settlement be referred to the House Ethics Committee — something that is currently not automatic.

In December, Castor also co-signed a letter — joined by more than 100 of her Democratic Party colleagues — calling on Congress to open an investigation into the multiple sexual misconduct allegations against President Donald Trump.

At the time, the congresswoman told Florida Politics the movement to call out those guilty of sexual misconduct that began in the fall was “an extraordinary moment of social change.”

“I think about my daughters, who are 20 and 18, and what this means for them and other women,” Castor said. “I think we’ve got to take great care now to make sure that this movement applies to every sector of the workplace, not just entertainment and politics but folks working on farms, folks working in domestic situations in the retail and hospitality industries.

“This has to have real meaning; we’ve gotta make sure this movement is as widespread as possible.”

In HD 72 special election, Democrats try to tie James Buchanan to Jack Latvala scandal

A new Florida Democratic Party mailer showing up in Sarasota mailboxes blasts Republican James Buchanan for not speaking out against or publicly disavowing powerful men accused of sexual harassment such as former Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala.

Buchanan is running against Democrat Margaret Good and Libertarian Alison Foxall in the Feb. 13 special election for House District 72.

The front of the mailer depicts Buchanan, son of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, wearing a t-shirt adorned with the heads of Latvala, former film executive Harvey Weinstein and President Donald Trump. The top of the mailer says “James Buchanan will never stand up for women.”

On the flipside, the ad blasts the Sarasota Republican as “more of the same” and as a candidate who would “perpetuate a culture that attacks.”

“He’ll never stand up to abusers like Jack Latvala, Harvey Weinstein or Donald Trump, and he’ll never work to honestly end sexual harassment and abuse against women… And he’ll support Republican attacks on our health care,” the mailer states.

The mailer was timed to hit mailboxes ahead of a Sunday stop in Sarasota by former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who is set receive a “MAGA Champion of the Year” award from the Sarasota GOP and is also expected to speak on behalf of Buchanan.

While Buchanan has not been accused of sexual harassment, FDP believes the candidate has been chummy with too many people who are complicit in covering up or protecting those who have.

Buchanan is the favorite heading into Election Day, but only slightly.

The district voted plus-5 for Donald Trump in 2016, and a recent poll showed Buchanan with a 3-point lead over Good, 49-46, but that edge falls well within the margin of error. Foxall had about 3 percent support in that poll, while the remainder said they were unsure.

Good surged past Buchanan in the 11th hour of the fundraising race, and had substantially more cash at her disposal heading into the final leg of the campaign.

Margaret Good surges past James Buchanan in HD 72 money race

Democrat Margaret Good took a firm fundraising lead in the House District 72 race just days ahead of Tuesday’s special election for the Sarasota-based seat.

Good raised $257,058 for her campaign account during the reporting period running from Jan. 5 through Feb. 8, more than doubling her fundraising during the first three months of her campaign. The total includes $61,000 in contributions from the Florida Democratic Party.

The Siesta Key attorney also tacked on another $113,400 for her political committee, New Day Florida, last month, giving her a combined total of about $660,000 raised for the special election to replace Alex Miller, a Republican who resigned less than a year into her first term.

Good spent loads of money down the stretch as well – nearly $329,000 campaign dollars and another  $133,000 in committee cash – leaving her with just shy of $103,000 on hand ahead of the Feb. 13 special general election.

Her chief opponent, Republican James Buchanan, raised $70,690 through his campaign account and chipped in $33,625 of his own money for a combined $104,315 during the reporting period.

Buchanan, the son of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, spent $186,846 over the five-week stretch leaving him with about $43,000 to spend in the final days of the campaign.

Buchanan had led in fundraising throughout the campaign until Good dropped her new report.

The runup to Election Day was also lucrative for Libertarian Alison Foxall, who posted her best report to date with $15,643 raised and $16,093 spent. The report accounts for more than half of the $30,304 she’s raised since filing.

Foxall had $3,133 left in her campaign account on Feb. 8.

Both major party candidates also received substantial in-kind support over the past month.

Buchanan got $88,153 in assistance, mainly in the from of staffing paid for by the Republican Party of Florida, though his wife, Lea Mei, and direct-mail advertiser John Hamlin each chipped in $1,000 for advertising, while Cafe Baci provided $1,000 worth of food and beverages for an event.

Good took in $53,192 in non-monetary support, including nearly $40,000 in staff costs and $7,000 for polling paid for by FDP. Catering and office space from Sarasota attorney Theodore Eastmoore made up the balance.

Buchanan is the favorite heading into Election Day, but only slightly.

A recent poll showed him with a 3-point lead over Good, 49-46, but that edge falls well within the margin of error. Foxall had about 3 percent support in that poll, while the remainder said they were unsure.

The district voted plus-5 for Donald Trump in 2016.

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