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More questions than answers after Rays commit to play in Ybor City

After a decade searching for a new home, the Tampa Bay Rays officially committed Friday to build a new ballpark in Tampa’s historic Ybor City entertainment district.

That wasn’t much of a surprise, considering Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan had revealed that information last October. And Friday afternoon’s press conference didn’t provide many more specifics other than the proposal now has the official imprimatur from Rays owner Stuart Sternberg.

“The Ybor City location represents the finest opportunity for Major League Baseball to thrive in the Tampa Bay region for generations to come,” said Sternberg. “We are excited to explore ways to weave Ybor’s rich history into a next-generation, neighborhood ballpark.”

The proposed site is between East Fourth Avenue and Adamo Drive to the north and south and 15th Street and Channelside Drive to the east and west. Most of the area is currently industrial, and officials said that they did not believe that anybody was living in the parcels needed to construct a ballpark.

Joining Sternberg and Hagan at the press conference were Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and two members of the business community: Chuck Sykes, CEO of Sykes Enterprises, and Ron Christaldi, a partner with the white-shoe law firm of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick.

They’ll lead a new organization called Tampa Bay Rays 2020, designed to build community and business support in bringing the club to Hillsborough County.

While the Rays’ performance on the field has been uneven since their creation in 1998 (the high-water mark coming a decade ago when they played in the World Series), their recent home attendance has been nothing short of atrocious, as they have finished last in that metric for the past several years.

Sternberg had wanted out of Tropicana Field for longer than a decade, beginning in late 2007 when the team floated the idea of playing in a refurbished Al Lang Stadium along the waterfront.

After that proposal went nowhere, the team tread water for several years, hoping that the city of St. Petersburg would amend their lease that runs through 2027 to allow them to negotiate for a possible stadium in Hillsborough County.

Led by Mayor Rick Kriseman, it finally happened in January 2016.

News that the team had chosen a site in Ybor City was announced by Hagan last October. Buckhorn praised Kriseman for having the “political courage” to negotiate the deal with the St. Pete City Council to allow the Rays to negotiate, something that previous Mayor Bill Foster refused to do and something that Kriseman’s 2017 opponent, Rick Baker, also said he would not have done. The agreement with Hillsborough ends at the conclusion of 2018.

The overarching questions of how much the stadium will cost and who will pay for it were left to be answered for another day. Sternberg stunned longtime followers of the stadium saga when he said last year that the Rays’ contribution could be only around $150 million.

With a final price tag of potentially $800 million, the comment appeared to be out of touch with expectations.

When asked at the press conference if he was willing to adjust that number on Friday, Sternberg was vague, saying “we anticipate to be putting up a good amount of money to this project.”

When asked how much he believes the Rays should commit, Buckhorn said essentially it could (or should) be as much as half of the ultimate costs.

“That would be nice,” he said to a reporter who mentioned the $400 million figure.

Regarding how to finance the public portion to pay for the park, nobody came up with any specifics on Friday. Options previously discussed include funding from hotel bed taxes and car rental fees that are mostly paid by tourists, as well as Community Redevelopment Area funds collected through the district.

“I don’t at this point see a light at the end of the tunnel yet, but that’s because we really haven’t crunched the numbers yet,” Buckhorn said, adding that there will probably be more “equity partners” and developers who might want to develop around the project. He also speculated that there could be an additional entertainment tax within Ybor City.

“So we don’t know what those revenues are,” he said. “We know some of the tools that we have available, and we can crunch those numbers, but it’s about doing the math.”

Putting a possible dent in those plans is legislation (HB 13) that passed the Florida House that would prohibit sports franchises from building or improving stadiums on public land.

Buckhorn responded by saying that Richard Corcoran, who backs the bill, will no longer be Speaker in just a few months (technically he will be until the fall), and that he and other mayors in Florida are working hard to kill that bill now that it’s with the Senate.

 “(W)e appreciate the Mayor’s recognition that one man stands between Hard-working taxpayers and a bloated government that is looking to give their hard-earned tax dollars to billionaire sports owners and charge illegal taxes, but I can assure him, it is an an overwhelming majority of the Florida House, Corcoran spokesman Fred Piccolo said.

Patrick Manteiga, the editor and publisher of the Ybor City-based weekly La Gaceta and a champion of all things Ybor, said it’s “fantastic” that the Rays are considering pulling up stakes in the historic district.

“I’m sure there’s going to be bumps on the road,” he said, referring to the design process which will include discussions about the height of a proposed park, as well as traffic and parking concerns.

“But at this moment, I don’t think it’s time to talk about the difficulties. I think it’s time to talk about how we need to get behind this effort, because there is going to be some heavy lifting.”

(Photo credit: Kim DeFalco)

Two more file to succeed Richard Corcoran in HD 37

The fourth Republican and the second Democrat have entered the race to take over for term-limited House Speaker Richard Corcoran in House District 37.

Odessa Republican Ryan Boney opened a campaign account on Jan. 26, joining Bill Gunter, Elle Rudisill and Ardian Zika in the GOP primary for the Pasco County seat.

Boney is a Navy veteran and was briefly a candidate for the Pasco County Commission earlier this year, though he backed off that campaign to avoid resigning his county job in order to run.

Despite having an open campaign account for the last few days of January, Boney opted to file a waiver rather than pound pavement to raise money. His first full-month report if due in mid-March.

Zika is by far the frontrunner in the race. Through January, the Land O’ Lakes businessman had more than $155,762 in total fundraising with about $148,000 on hand. He’s also managed to snag plenty of endorsements for his bid, including nods from Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson and former House Speaker Will Weatherford.

Like Boney, Gunter posted no contributions for the month, making it his fourth report in a row where he neither raised nor spent a dime. He has about $3,400 in the bank.

Rudisill, the first-in candidate, added $1,075 in January and has nearly $13,000 in the bank.

Also filing in late January was Democrat Tammy Garcia.

“I think that the issues we are facing are bigger than party affiliation,” Garcia’s campaign website reads. “When we reach across the aisle, we can accomplish more. It’s you, the citizens of Pasco and of Florida that we need to put first and fight for.”

Garcia and fellow Democrat Tyler Sambucci were both in the race for about a week, before Sambucci  withdrew. Garcia is now the only non-Republican running for HD 37.

Primary challenger or no, Garcia faces an uphill battle in the fall.

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.

Immigration advocates slam new ICE-sheriffs detention agreement

Speakers from Tampa Bay’s faith-based, immigration and progressive communities condemned a recent immigration detention agreement between 17 Florida Sheriffs and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE).

At a Friday news conference held in front of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office annex in Ybor City — which depicts a sheriff protecting the community — Father Peter Ruggere from Corpus Christi in St. Petersburg said service is the image expected from local law enforcement, not handing off undocumented immigrants to the federal government.

“We do not expect them to be handymen, cleaner-uppers for ICE. That’s not their job,” he said. “Their job is to serve and protect this community, and that’s why we’re here.”

Under the agreement announced last month at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office in Largo, law enforcement agencies now will have “housing agreements” with ICE that allow agents more time to pick up arrested undocumented immigrants from local jails.

Sheriff’s offices will hold undocumented immigrants under arrest for up to 48 hours after their scheduled release time — a policy called “basic ordering agreements.”

This new protocol calls for ICE to send a booking form that transfers custody of the detainees from local jails to federal immigration authorities.

In 2014, state and federal judges dismantled ICE detainer processes taking place, primarily because probable cause wasn’t explicitly established in requests to detain specific incarcerated people living in the country illegally.

Leading the recently enacted agreement was Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, and it has been embraced by Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister, who said the deal is something the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office had already been doing.

The protest took place as the number of arrests made by ICE climbed to a three-year high in fiscal year 2017, which according to data from the agency is the most substantial percentage increase in Florida.

“It’s a scary moment to be undocumented,” said Nancy Palacios, a beneficiary of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival) program and an organizer for Faith in Florida.

Approximately 690,000 people in the U.S. are in the DACA program, but it expires in less than a month unless Congress intervenes. DACA shields some illegal immigrants from deportation, but those protections will begin to evaporate in mere weeks if nothing is done to alleviate the program.

Many of the speakers Friday decried breaking up families.

One of the more high-profile local DACA incidents has been Plant City resident Luis Blanco, who was deported initially from the U.S. to Mexico in 1998 but returned in 1999.

On Thursday, Blanco was deported to Reynoso, Mexico, said Reverend Andy Oliver from the Allendale United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg.

“What happened to the Blanco family is evil, ” said Oliver. “What happens to families every day is evil. The actions of Sheriff Chad Chronister and Gualtieri are evil and unconstitutional. Detaining immigrants without cause isn’t their job.”

“The Sheriff and ICE  collaboration is unconstitutional, draconian and immoral,” said civil rights coordinator Aida Mackic of the Council on American Islamic Relations Florida. “Victims of crimes of all statuses will be afraid to approach the police and report crimes, thus making our communities less safe.”

At last month’s news conference in Largo, Gualtieri said the agreement was not a legal mandate, but a partnership. He hoped other counties throughout the state — and soon, other areas throughout the country — will join.

The 17 counties in Florida that are part of the agreement are Pinellas, Lee, Manatee, Bay, Walton, Hernando, Brevard, Polk, Indian River, Charlotte, Monroe, Sarasota, Columbia, Santa Rosa, Suwannee, Hillsborough and Pasco.

Danny Alvarez, a spokesman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Dept., said the organization would not comment on today’s protest. Alvarez has briefed Hispanic media markets in recent days about the department’s disagreements with the protesters, and says he will speak more to the local media about the issue in the coming days.

Meanwhile, immigration rights groups are suing ICE for allegedly targeting immigration activists for possible deportation. The lawsuit, reported by The Intercept, claims ICE was targeting outspoken immigration activists for surveillance and deportation “in order to silence them.”

(Photo credit: Kim DeFalco.)

April Griffin won’t seek another term on Hillsborough School Board

April Griffin will not run for re-election to the Hillsborough County School Board, ending her tenure after more than a decade in office.

If she were to run later this year, Griffin is confident she would win. But after 12 years on the board, she believes she has done her duty.

In a statement Friday, Griffin said she believes that it’s time to move on with her life and career.

“Even when I accomplished my goals I always knew there is never an end to the battle to make our public schools great for all of our children,” she said.

Griffin is not enamored with any of the seven candidates who have already filed to run for the District 6 seat, so she is holding off endorsing anyone at this time.

She is making the announcement early in the election cycle “to give good candidates time to file and campaign for my seat.”

In the fall of 2013 Griffin also announced she would not run for re-election, leading to a flood of candidates then filing to run for what was perceived to be an open seat. But she later changed her mind, eventually winning that year by defeating Dipa Shah, despite Shah breaking fundraising records.

Griffin insisted she was sincere in opting not to run that year, but after whistleblowers emerged to criticize the leadership of then-Superintendent MaryEllen Elia, she felt an obligation to them, which fueled a desire to return to the race.

Upon learning of Griffin’s decision, Kelso Tanner — one of the most outspoken would-be opponents who has filed for the District 6 race — expressed skepticism.

“We’ve all heard that before,” he wrote in an email. “Ask me again when qualifying week has ended.”

In her statement, Griffin listed many accomplishments achieved during her three terms on the board, including an increase in the graduation rate from 64 percent to 83 percent; “doggedly” advocating for and being successful in closing the achievement gap with minority students; and adding more protections for special-needs children.

She also listed less-specific achievements, such as “making the tough decisions” and “woke up, shook up and broke up the good ol’ boy network.”

Always outspoken, Griffin frequently made news headlines, but it was her criticism of Elia which brought her the most attention, coming at a time when Elia had a sterling reputation among the media, political and business establishment.

After the 2014 election, Griffin had a few more allies who agreed with her questioning of the superintendent, leading to the stunning decision by the board to oust Elia in January of 2015. The move ignited intense criticism from the media and local officials like Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Despite that pushback, only two members of the board have been up for re-election since — Cindy Stuart and Susan Valdes. Both won in 2016.

In a post on Facebook, Griffin wrote, “I have been living outside of my comfort zone trying to do what the powers that be say I need to do to be a good board member and I am not comfortable with that. I will no longer bend to that pressure. I have tried to ‘get along’ with people who are do not have the best interest of children and this district at heart and are creating manufactured chaos under the cover of darkness. I will accelerate my effort to shine a light on these toxic people and practices.”

In an interview this week with Florida Politics, the 48-year-old Griffin said she has opportunities and options, but did not say definitely what her plans will be.

Libertarian Alison Foxall touts fundraising, new endorsement in HD 72 race

Libertarian Alison Foxall is reporting she has now raised more than $30,000 in her bid for the House District 72 special election.

Also, the Foxall camp is touting a recommendation from YourObserver.com, which covers Sarasota, Longboat Key, Siesta Key and Lakewood Ranch. HD 72 includes northern Sarasota and parts of southern Manatee counties.

“Given the exasperating, depressing climate that engulfs elections and the making of public policy, and given the bromidic, banal dogma of the major party candidates,” writes Observer editor and CEO Matt Walsh, “it would be refreshing to send an independent alternative to Tallahassee.”

“Perhaps District 72 voters will have the courage to embrace that message.”

Whether the endorsement moves any votes in Tuesday’s election is anyone’s guess, but every ballot could very well count in what is expected to be a tight battle between Democrat Margaret Good and Republican James Buchanan. 

Recent polling on the race has Buchanan with a slight lead over Good, 49 to 46 percent; Foxall is at 3 percent.

In a statement, Foxall waxed rhapsodic over the recommendation:

“Thank you to The Observer for evaluating all three candidates equally and ending with a bold statement.

“In 2018, the stakes are high with many people tuning in ‐‐ not just in Sarasota County, but around Florida and even the country. Libertarians are not stuck on the old way of doing things, and The Observer picked up on it.

“This election isn’t a referendum on [Donald] Trump; this is a referendum on the old two‐party system. I’m grateful The Observer ‐‐ the only media outlet that has endorsed a candidate ‐‐ saw through the big money, the attack ads and the big names from D.C. politics that have shown up in the 11th hour.”

The special election was called after Republican incumbent Alex Miller stepped down from the seat unexpectedly last September.

Foxall’s campaign is saying she has now raised $30,847 in the race, which they claim surpasses the previous record for any Libertarian candidate running for the House or Senate.

Libertarian Carl J. Strang raised $27,767 in a bid for the state Senate District 17 race in 1998.

Neither Buchanan nor Good have reported the latest updates in fundraising. Including contributions from her political committee, Good has raised the most money in the race with $290,314, compared to Buchanan’s $282,630.

The election takes place Feb. 13.

Shawn Harrison draws Democratic challenger in battleground HD 63

Rep. Shawn Harrison has drawn a Democratic challenger as he seeks another term this fall in the Florida House.

Tampa Democrat Fentrice Driskell opened a campaign account Tuesday to run against Harrison in Hillsborough County’s battleground House District 63, according to the state Division of Elections website.

House District 63 includes portions of northern Tampa, Lutz, Pebble Creek, Lake Magdalene, University, and Carrollwood.

Driskill has an impressive resume. The Florida native is an attorney at Carlton Fields. She received her law degree from Georgetown and her undergraduate degree from Harvard University, where she was the was the first African-American female student government president. She also serves the community by volunteering on the boards of the Athena Society, Tampa Crossroads, the Hillsborough Education Foundation, and the George Edgecomb Bar Association.

“Tallahassee is broken – the tables are tilted in favor of the powerful and politically connected instead of our hardworking Florida families, small business owners and seniors,” said Driskell. “We need to focus on common-sense solutions to the challenges we face every day in Hillsborough from investing in education and transportation to protecting access to healthcare.”

Not soon after filing her paperwork, several members of the Democratic Party establishment endorsed Driskell, signaling to any other possible candidates to give Driskell a clear shot at Harrison.

Among those backing Driskell are House Democratic Leader Rep. Janet Cruz, former Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp, and former University of South Florida President Betty Castor.

“Fentrice Driskell is the type of leader we need in Tallahassee that will put the priorities of Florida families ahead of big special interests,” said Cruz. “She will bring integrity to public office and advocate for public schools, affordable health care, and smart public transit.”

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

The following cycle, Danish failed to repeat despite vastly improved fundraising numbers. Harrison took 53 percent of the vote in 2014, and in 2016 he held on to the seat in a tough re-election battle against Tampa City Council member Lisa Montelione.

So far this cycle, Harrison has raised $95,778 and has $73,466 cash on hand.

No other candidates have emerged for the race.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this post.

Florida Cabinet recognizes Mark Ober, David Gee in Tampa

After losing a bid for re-election in fall 2016, Mark Ober‘s career as Hillsborough County’s State Attorney didn’t end on his terms.

So during a Florida Cabinet meeting Thursday in Tampa, Ober took the opportunity to deliver a valedictory speech he was denied a year and a half earlier.

“I am absolutely overwhelmed to be in your company this morning because, in large part, of the high esteem that I hold for each one of you,” Ober said, speaking directly to Gov. Rick Scott, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, CFO Jimmy Patronis and Attorney General Pam Bondi.

For over a decade, Ober and Bondi worked closely together in the State Attorney’s Office (2000-2010); Ober said she had “always been a shining star in my life and in my career.”

With friends and family members in attendance, Ober called the Cabinet resolution honoring him “the pinnacle of my career.”

A Republican, Ober was elected in 2000, facing only token Democratic opposition in 2004, 2008 and 2012.

While remaining the odds-on favorite to win in 2016, Ober faced a challenge from Democrat Andrew Warren, a former federal prosecutor running on a platform of criminal justice reform.

Soon, the race turned bitterly divisive, as Warren accused Ober’s office of fumbles in two separate sex crime cases, which put the incumbent on the defensive during the campaign’s final months.

Any enmity between the two seems forgotten, however, as Warren cheered Ober on as part of the audience at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center inside the Florida State Fairgrounds.

Also honored by the Cabinet Thursday was David Gee.

In September, Gee retired as Hillsborough County Sheriff, less than a year after winning re-election for a fourth term. He chose not to make any remarks.

As is tradition, the Cabinet held its monthly meeting on the first day of the Florida State Fair, which runs now through Feb. 19.

Evan Longoria’s wife sues Tampa strip club for misappropriating images

Jaime Faith Edmondson, the wife of former Tampa Bay Rays star Evan Longoria, is suing a Tampa strip club for misappropriating her image on its Facebook page and promotional material, suggesting she is a part of the “strip club lifestyle.”

St. Petersburg resident Edmondson, 39, is a former Playboy model and one-time Playmate of the Month. She and Longoria have been married since Dec. 31, 2015; the couple has two daughters.

Since 2008, Longoria played third base for the Rays before he was traded to the San Francisco Giants in December 2017.

According to a lawsuit filed Feb. 2 in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, Edmondson says she has a degree in criminology from Florida Atlantic University, once worked as a police officer, and was a Miami Dolphins cheerleader.

Edmondson, a native of Bartow, is a “professional model who earns a living by promoting her image and likeness to select clients, commercial brands, media and entertainment outlets, as well as relying on her reputation and own brand for modeling, acting, hosting and other opportunities.”

When Tampa strip club Deja Vu, located at 6805 E. Adamo Dr., appropriated images of Edmondson for its Facebook page without permission or compensation — including a promotion for its 2014 Super Bowl party — she claims they not only stole her intellectual property but created an impression she is endorsing or participated in the “strip club lifestyle.”

The suit says Deja Vu’s conduct “creates the false and misleading appearance and impression” that Edmondson either works for the club, “appeared and participated or will appear and participate in activities or events at Deja Vu, and/or has agreed and consented to advertise, promote, market or endorse Deja Vu or one or more Deja Vu’s events or activities.”

The suit, filed with two other professional models — Los Angeles residents Eva Pepaj and Heather Rae Young — Edmondson is demanding $650,000 in compensation, a figure based on an estimate provided by modeling expert Stephen Chamberlin.

In 2016, an attorney representing Edmondson and her two co-plaintiffs issued a cease-and-desist order and settlement offer to Tampa’s Deja Vu — one of the dozens across the U.S. owned by Las Vegas-based Deja Vu Consulting — but failed to reach a settlement.

During campaign kickoff, Bob Buesing gets aggressive versus Dana Young

No more Mr. Nice Guy.

That was the message Bob Buesing conveyed to a crowd of Democrats with checkbooks in their pockets Tuesday night at his campaign kickoff event at Mise en Place in Tampa. The attorney and civic activist will need the financial support as he takes on Republican state Senator Dana Young for the second time in three years.

Some Democrats in Tallahassee and Hillsborough County thought they could end the Tampa Republican’s legislative career when they rallied behind Buesing, a first-time candidate, to challenge her in what was then a newly created Senate district.

But Young proved victorious, taking 48 percent of the vote to Buesing’s 41 percent. Independent Joe Redner received 9.5 percent.

Redner won’t be a factor this time around, announcing last year that he would sit this race out and back Buesing in this year’s rematch.

Although Redner is willing to rally behind Buesing, some members of Senate Democratic leadership weren’t convinced that he was the right candidate, believing that the urbane attorney might not have the fire in his belly to win against a Republican strongly backed by her party leadership.

Maybe that’s why Buesing was so aggressive during his first official campaign event.

“For Dana, her service in Tallahassee has been all about self-service. For me, it will be all about public service,” Buesing said about halfway through his 12-minute speech, which began with a strong denunciation of President Donald Trump.

Buesing blasted Young’s support for last year’s controversial omnibus education bill, HB 7069. That legislation included measures that forced school districts to share construction money with charter schools and created financial incentives for new charters to open and compete with low-performing public schools. It was pushed in the House by Speaker Richard Corcoran, who Buesing invoked several times as being Young’s “buddy.”

Referring to the fact that HB 7069 passed the Senate by just a single vote, Buesing said it was Young who made the deciding vote (of course that comment could be made about any Senator who voted for it), and joked that if he had been in the Senate, ” I would have pushed that ‘no’ button so hard I would have broken it.”

“Gutting public education is a disgrace and Dana, we are going to hold you accountable for that vote,” he promised.

Buesing also took verbal shots at Young for failing to support Medicaid expansion and claimed that his strong opposition to fracking during the 2016 campaign led her to craft her own bill opposing the controversial process, which has been condemned by environmentalists (Young maintained throughout the 2016 campaign that she had voted against fracking in the Legislature. PolitiFact Florida later ruled that statement “half-true”).

Demonstrating how he is ready to get more personal, Buesing also brought up an issue that he never talked about on the campaign trail in 2016 — Young’s personal wealth.

“Isn’t it interesting that in her first six years (in the Legislature) her net worth went from $452,000 to more than $4.7 million?” he asked, drawing some gasps in the crowded room. “That’s more than a tenfold increase. The average portfolio went up about twice. Something’s going wrong in Tallahassee.”

As he stated in 2016, Buesing says if elected, he will donate his legislative salary to the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA.

Young is sixth-generation Floridian who was raised in Tallahassee. An attorney who represented clients in regulatory compliance, permitting, zoning, and administrative law proceedings, she made her first bid for political office in what is now considered House District 60 in 2010 when she defeated the late Stacey Frank in a highly partisan race. She easily won re-election in 2012 and 2014 with virtually no Democratic opposition, before she opted to run for the newly created Senate District 18 seat (created after redistricting) in 2016.

Contacted in Tallahassee where the Legislature is in the middle of its regular session, Young’s political team is opting to stay above the fray — for now.

“Senator Young is focused on doing her job for her constituents who elected her to serve over Mr. Buesing,” said Sarah Bascom, a spokesperson for Young. “Right now is not the time for politics, but rather focusing on the needs of her community. There will come a time to address his comments, but right now she is focused on her job over political rhetoric.”

Young is a formidable fundraiser. She currently has more than $700,000 cash in hand in her political committee, Friends of Dana Young, and another $192,000 in her regular campaign account.

Senate District 18 includes South Tampa, Westchase and Town ‘N Country.

County Commissioner Dave Eggers backing Nick DiCeglie in HD 66 race

Republican Nick DiCeglie announced Tuesday that Pinellas County Commissioner Dave Eggers had endorsed his campaign for House District 66, currently held by term-limited Republican Rep. Larry Ahern.

“Nick has such high energy, high character and high aspirations for our community and our state,” Eggers said in a press release. “As a family man, business owner and an American patriot, I support Nick DiCeglie as our next leader in the Florida House of Representatives in Tallahassee.”

DiCeglie, who runs Clearwater-based trash removal and recycling company Solar Sanitation, said he was “honored” to have Eggers’ support in the race.

“He is a business-minded leader, with over 30-years in the private sector – something we need more of in our elected officials. His experience and vision for our community has been a breath of fresh air and I look forward to working with him to get things done,” DiCeglie said.

DiCeglie is running against St. Petersburg attorney Berny Jacques in the Republican Primary for the seat. Also running are Democrat Alex Heeren and Reform Party candidate Paul Bachmann.

Through the end of 2017, DiCeglie had raised $72,714 and had just shy of $60,000 on hand in his campaign account.

The total puts him behind Jacques, who has been in the race six months longer than DiCeglie. At the end of the year, Jacques had $71,500 in his campaign account and about $35,000 on hand for his political committee, Protect Pinellas.

Heeren has not filed a campaign finance report since entering the race on Jan. 9, while Bachmann has raised just $345 since opening his campaign account in August.

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

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